Suss felt a sudden urge to rise. It was so powerful she thought it must be nothing far from one of her dreams. She must have dreamt about her son in these few days more than all the dreams she ever had her entire life combined.
Beside her on the bed was Theo. He must have fallen asleep trying to wonder what in the world he could do to bring his wife back to life, to the usual enthusiast that she was. For to him, it seemed he had lost more than a son- he had lost his wife also. This meant his whole world was entirely crumbled, because she was his last wall of defense.
Suss watched in the dark, how he slept, and felt great pity for putting him through the emotional quagmire. He lay sprawled as though slain in his sleep; his suit hanging on to the mattress by the sinewy thread of the sleeve. Theo was strong-hearted, but how long would he hold himself, and then the entire family together without getting support from her. She was sorry.
Quietly, she rose from the bed, and bore to the burden that had woken her from sleep. She wrapped herself with a thick negligee, and walked towards the door. She knew her way even in the dark. She was familiar with it.
Down the stairs she went, after overcoming the impulse of checking in on her daughters. Somehow, her home had grown to be something close to a haunted house. The melody she used to know that brimmed over the estate now seemed to have been locked up in some dungeon.
The tile under her feet was cold, and the wind that blew by the window made the linen curtains billow up like ghosts escaping from the sight of a mortals. She walked on, slowly but steadily till she pushed open the double-doors that led to the huge patio, which would for the rest of her life be a reminder of how the years have turned out, however beautiful or dreadful.
She stood still under the starless sky, like she was on a stage, having the wind as her only audience. Her hair flapped lightly behind her, and she could feel the tears begin to roll down her face again.
This was the spot she always received her Sam. When he came back from boarding school; then when came back home with the numerous trophies he won from competitions. She remembered just a few months ago when she stood right here on this spot, watching her son walk a lady up the stairs. The lady he had proposed to. It had been so beautiful. Her heart had swelled with immeasurable joy. Tears had flowed. Then, they were tears of joy. Now, the story wasn’t the same. The joy she had had been snatched away before she could enjoy it.
This was the same spot the terrible news of Sam’s accident had been received. She had been standing right here with Theo. They were supposed to be at the gala hosted by William Colt. She had thought Theo had never looked that handsome. And she had said so to him. No, she never hid how she felt. Not from her husband.
Just as he was saying how beautiful she looked and was taking her hands in his, did the news come on the phone about the accident. In one second, their whole lives had changed.
She let the gust of wind that blew remind her of the happy days instead. She stepped down to the first landing. And then the next. She walked around the empty fountain, ignoring the sculpted image of Narcissus staring down at, well, an empty pond.
She kept walking even as the night slept on. On and on and out of the estate, she walked. The breeze was soothing; it worked wonders on her body. Maybe she should have tried this earlier, rather than stay up in her room.
The wind blew away pain, and dried the tears, she mused. She was sure anyone would find her if there was a need, but the security men watching knew better than to disturb her privacy. She was sure they would be at arm’s length, she prayed they remained so.
Her mind began to soar high over the mountains beyond the river. The clouds were thick and heavy but not with rain. She was sure. She followed her nudging and ambled down towards the lake.
The wooden gangplank swayed gently under her bare feet, and the whining sound of the ungreased hinges cut in louder than the whistling wind.
There she sat on the edge of the plank, allowing her feet wade ankle deep in the water.
This was where she brought Sam to when he was younger and easily angered. She had thought him one of life’s lessons using the water beneath them. That was the day she knew her son would one day be great, because he was corrigible.
Just then she remembered the calls that had come to her pamphlet within the past few days, and made a mental note to check through when she got back to the house.
The emotional stress she and everyone else in the family were going through wasn’t something that would pass easily. Just as the chances of Sam making it back the second time increased, did he stop struggling to survive. He let go. He had given them much hope; and then he had taken it, leaving them worse than they ever were. She had come to the hospital that evening on her usual visit, but had met her husband there. Waiting. Apparently they had called Theo to come down to the hospital before anyone notified her. This was a final nail in her coffin.
She didn’t wipe the tears off her face. What was the point? She looked up at the moon striving to make relevance despite the encroaching dark clouds. With her mind she attempted to clear away the clouds, like she used to when she was little. She made a stiff laugh from her throat, just as the memory of her friend, Hannah came to mind. They did this together. They did everything together. But time had separated them. Or was it marriage. She should go visit. It mightn’t be a bad idea, she thought.
Was it possible Hannah never heard of her son’s demise? Just after the death of her husband she had relocated to an Amish society somewhere up north. They had kept in touch only for a few years after, and when life got busier for her in the city, it took the yuletide seasons for them to exchange gifts and cards.
She rose from the dock, turned around in her wet feet, and walked back all the way to the house.
Not that she would remember anything she thought of when she fully awoke from her sleep.
Eli wasn’t in the mood for games. The excitement he felt only lasted the euphoric minutes of experiencing something new. The state of gaming had advanced deep into the tech world. Or was it the other way round?
The rift over his head permitted him to experience the virtual gaming happening in cyber space. A soccer game that had over a million people in attendance was in full swing. Abati and Isaaci had decided to time their own console experience to end as soon as the main game had begun.
Now, the three of them were part of the crowd that cheered from different parts of the world. In the virtual space provided, they were seated on the stands and watched the players right there on the pitch. It took Eli some time, added to the explanation from Isaaci, to realize that the players also were remotely connected, and in the real sense, there was no tangible field or structure.
Eli heard the commentator speak so rapidly and enthusiastically about the players and the clubs. This was a Champions League game going on. A virtual one, he reminded himself. He watched with his breath hitched.
The virtual world ran at par if not greater than the physical and material world. Immense energy and vibes, and apparently more stakes and more money. Eli thought of the gambling industry, and how much they would have made from this virtual venture. This was the life now.
Virtual gaming was a game of mental strength and balance than of physic. It was truly appealing. The players were the frame of their physical builds, only that this was an entirely mind game. He relaxed and allowed the whole scenery settle in.
The commentators were a couple of affable folks accentuating the tension and pace of the game. It was electrifying. One of them made mention of Dan the Sniper, and how his absence to his team, the Ode Warriors, was really felt. Eli looked up at the distance to see the fans of one of the teams playing wave a huge banner. RIP, Sam. We Love Dan’s Brother.
‘Dan’ll be back. He’s a strong dude, we all know.’
‘Sure, he his. We all miss his sniper shots.’
‘This won’t break you, it will only make you stronger.’
And they were immediately back to the game at hand. The crowd cheered on as though nothing was said that mattered that much.
He turned at his side. Abati and Isaaci didn’t act like they heard the ‘announcement’ on the rifts. The game played on below, but for him, he was done.
He felt goosebumps swell on his skin, and he fumbled till he finally got the drill of taking off the helmet.
Abati and Isaaci were lost to the virtual world of entertainment, totally oblivious of what went on in their lab.
Actually, nothing was wrong in the lab. Everything seemed usual like he last saw it, except for the amber light that blinked incessantly on a desk device. Eli tried to check what it could mean, but decided not to be drawn any deeper in the present world of technical advancement. It was brain-draining.
He took a few steps across the lab to stretch his muscles, and make sense of what he had heard from the commentators. It was in plain English, and hence didn’t pose any difficulty understanding. His brother, Dan was a football player. A virtual football player. But he was conspicuously missed in his team’s line-up. Was he still mourning him? Or was he asked to go on compulsory compassionate leave?
Apparently, everyone knew he was dead. That Sam was dead. But he was back to life. Well, not as Sam, though.
He moved away, farther into the other side of the lab, observing high tech laboratory equipment. He observed the equipment where his body had been put. Dr Islo had said they were extracting vitals from his organs, and couldn’t explain how it was possible that he made it back to life.
Whatever terms they had used, it was apparent the procedures done here were on dead bodies. Maybe ‘nearly’ dead bodies. Was it possible that organs could still be useful even after the collapse of the brain muscles and the lungs?
Eli put the thoughts aside and walked even deeper into the lab. He was beginning to understand the arrangement of the lab. Every scientist had private work sections and ample space to themselves, not necessarily having to share with others. So work and research here could be in teams as well as private.
The sudden feel of unease wasn’t something he could explain. It was the kind of windy feel he had experienced when he spoke with the woman in his dreams. Except now he was sure he was no longer dreaming. He hoped.
The haziness made him want to sit, but as he found a metal stool, his sudden dry throat demanded that he got a drink. Preferably water, he thought.
At the distance he could see the casted images of Abati and Isaaci on the white sterile tile. He needed their attention. The dryness in his throat was quickly becoming a heartburn down his chest. He coughed out for attention, but it was apparent the two robots were lost in their virtual gaming world.
He thought of getting to the huge storage refrigerator, and made a mental count of steps he would have to take to get there. Abati had pulled out a drink for him only an hour ago; if he was lucky, he could still gain access to it.
He shuffled quickly towards the section, keeping his weight on the stainless steel tables that carried some equipment. He stood before the giant fridge, not sure what command to give it. He hit the button that reflected a pale red color. Nothing happened. He looked through the misty glass and was able to mark a water bottle in the midst of all the reagents that needed near-zero temperature degrees for their safe storage.
Eli stamped his palm on the handprint device. He did it the second time, and the third, rubbing his burning chest with his free hand. Nothing bulged. He punched on the red button with his thumb, and then decided to rest his back. It seemed the pain was reducing. He was sure. He screamed for help, but was sure it was only a futile effort. Was this refrigerator also a vending machine? He couldn’t recall Abati slotting in any coin anywhere. He looked around the huge machine. He sighed and gave up.
Just before he decided to get the attention of either or both of the robots, he heard a humming sound from the fridge. The door slid open right before him. It was like a miracle. Thick frost escaped at once, clouding his vision for a moment. As soon as the coast became a little clear, he leaped forward into the coolness of the giant refrigerator, aiming straight for the bottle of water. With a bit of extra care, he succeeded in getting it out. A few seconds later, the door slid shut, just as it was before.
Not until Eli had screwed opened the cover and gulped down more than half the content did he stop to read the label on the bottle. It was ionized water. Pausing his mind for a brief second to allow his brain think, Eli scanned his memory up to his days as an undergraduate. Ionized water? He kept drilling his head for an answer. Any answer that would allay his fears on the danger to consuming such liquid.
This is simple chemistry na. He almost shouted at himself. Ionized water na just ionized water na… Abi? Water wey get ion. Hydrogen ion and hydroxide ion. Shebi? Ehn na. Wait o. Wait make I sure.
Now, he wasn’t sure if the heartburn he felt had subsided or was just taking a new turn. He shook his head vigorously.
Yes. Yes. I’m right. He nodded this time.
He decided to drink from the bottle the second time. It didn’t matter whether he had already consumed almost half of the liquid, he had to be sure now. Ignorance was bliss. Now that he knew, he had to be sure.
He shut his eyes, muttering something indecipherable from his lips before the bottle touched down again. The liquid slowly flowed past his pouty lips into his mouth. He dropped the bottle and gave the litmus test with his tongue, and then allowed only a sip down his throat. The ionized water had every physical property of potable water. Eli fine-tuned his taste senses and checked for any other hidden feel. An after-taste, anything. He wasn’t so sure anymore. With resolute determination, he gulped what was left of the cold liquid. He waited. It worked. The pain in his chest had considerably lessened.
He stood forlornly before the closed fridge, wishing it was still opened. Eli was sure there was another clear liquid bottle in there. If only the fridge gave him another chance. He punched rapidly on the button a few times, but nothing happened. He wasn’t even sure what command the ultra-smart fridge had responded to the first time.
Eli felt he could manage till his two game-freaked friends were done with their game. He began to stroll back towards the end of the lab where he left his robot buggies. That was the word they used for him. Dead Man, also. He shook his head.
His peripheral vision must have first recognized a green light blink by his far left. Maybe once, maybe twice, but Eli almost ignored it. He was still trying to get the last jot of water out of the bottle into his gaping mouth. The blurry green light registered as he stared through the bottle hole. He dropped the bottle from his face, and there it was the green EXIT sign beaming at the top of an opaque door.
Without much effort, he realized he moved towards the sign. Had it been there all along, or had the light recently come on? If the latter was the case, and it answered the curious question that plagued on his mind right now, then he had better spring towards it before the light went off.
He gently placed the bottle on a stainless steel slab, and dashed towards the exit sign. Without any prior practice, he tiptoed like a professional ballet dancer till he was standing before the door. He realized he had to push this opaque door ajar. The green sign above the door illuminated the metal frame of the threshold.
Eli pushed. Nothing happened.
Perhaps the effort exacted was light.
He pushed with both hands now, and suddenly, the door swung out, almost taking him off balance.
His hands still held the door from shutting behind him. His feet on a carpeted corridor, his eyes, glancing back into the lab. Was he not supposed to let Abati and Isaaci know of this exit?
Was this exit supposed to be opened at this time?
He knew that was the most ridiculous question. What did it matter? This was supposed to be his exit. His ‘exit strategy’. He wasn’t sure he was meant to go through this door, and walk on this corridor, but here was a chance for him to escape. The word ‘escape’ didn’t sound right, though.
He looked up and down the corridor. It was surprisingly covered with expensive Persian carpet, something more befitting to a five star hotel. Not a lab.
The light holder than hung on the wall seemed to be increasing in intensity. Eli looked at himself. He was wearing the clothes Dr Islo had handed to him when she came in the morning. No, that was yesterday. Or was it two days ago? He sighed.
He finally let the opaque door to the lab shut behind him, and it was apparent, he was on his own onward. He didn’t move a foot. He tried the opaque door, it was still open. Now the choice was his to make, but where to, was the biggest challenge. He was like an inmate newly released from prison after twenty years. Only that his was sixty-five years. The world had changed, and he was unsure where he should go. Where he should turn to.
He stood in the middle of the long lit corridor, deciding which way to take. Down either directions were bends that would lead to more unknown options.
He looked back at the opaque door. There was no ‘enter’ sign on this side. He thought of his friends again. Abati and Isaaci. Sometimes in life, you don’t get the chance to say goodbye.
He knew he would miss his two buggies. He knew. But here was an open door, and he had to take the chance, even though he had to do with no help.
He turned to his left, and began marching purposefully. He would need for all of his senses to be inept, and more, he would need luck. He didn’t know what was around the bend, waiting to meet him. One thing he was sure of. There was no going back to that shadowy lab.
At the end of corridor, he felt an urgent need to move faster than he was, but then, he had another set of paths before him. The signs on the wall were coded. RWP/AS Left Wing and RWP/AS Right Wing.
Two unlabeled doors stood directly opposite him, adding to his options and posing a bigger challenge. Four options: two paths, on the left and on the right, and then two doors almost at arm’s reach.
He turned on the knob of the door to his right. It bulged. He pushed. It swung. He peeped in. It was a seating area, like a private chalet in an airport. He pulled back, went to the other door, and placed his hand on the knob to open.
He changed his mind, stepped back, and decided to go for the other door he had already opened. There was no apparent rationale behind his decision. He just felt an impulse to withdraw.
He entered into the lobby-like room, quietly shutting the door behind him. He took two steps forwards, and decided to lock the door behind him. He pressed what he expected to be the tiny lock button in the centre of the knob. He tried it. It was locked.
Scanning the room for doors, he began exploring his next option. His purpose was to get out of the facility, but he had no idea how big it was; if he was close to the main exit, or if he was in a maze.
He ventured forward.
He pulled open the door, and stood before it. He didn’t need to scan up or down the corridor, he had been briefed. He knew exactly where he was headed, but he thought he just heard a sound. A click from a door, or something. Another door. One was to his immediate left and exactly five more along this long corridor. So said the map. He didn’t look, neither did he turn. All he had to do was listen. He paused to be sure. McDen listened like a professional would.
As soon as he felt satisfied, he walked across the corridor right opposite him. The map was perfect. Everything was as it was. Timing was paramount in the accomplishing of this goal. And if he had to be out of this place with his prize, he had precisely ten minutes to pick it up.
A ten-minute margin had been opened for him to get through. No cameras would be watching, no data would be stored for these few minutes. His digichap, a young lad named Zeal, had successfully slowed down the UI of the building’s system, thereby creating larger error margins and loopholes that would be automatically erased when there is a refresh. That loophole was his key for all the doors he needed to go through. He didn’t need to bother about going out. The key would be here any minute from now.
She was already in the building, and anytime soon she would be stepping out of the elevator. They had tracked her from the moment she had logged in her information on the facility space site. As soon as Thomas had called him, he and Slone had split up. Slone had headed straight for the next possible destination Ethel Islo could have gone, while he had come here.
He was glad he would be the one to bring home the prize. He stood before the opaque door and did the cross sign before he pulled it open.
Inside the APIT lab was barely habitable. The air was thick with chemicals. It had the heaviness and denseness of a ghost town. Well, wasn’t it some sort of morgue anyway? Souls of dead men refusing to depart to the land beyond hung from the ceiling, McDen could tell. He wondered why Ethel Islo had decided to come back to her workplace when it would have been a sure guess by even the dumbest of people. Was there something she was here to pick up? Was there a sanctuary, and safe house for her here?
He would have preferred to complete the work at Ethel’s place but Thomas was still there at 10 pm. That wasn’t part of the plan. An hour later, he had called that the damn white lady had escaped. And from the hissing in Thomas’ voice, it was apparent he had messed things up. This was the reason he was called up here tonight; reason for change of plans.
McDen was a success at pulling things off in little time margin. That was one of his unique selling points. He also possessed a see-no-evil do-no-evil kind of face, a feature that once was his weakness now brought him a livelihood.
Tonight, he had fancied the name Dode Banije. But he knew the character would be playing a very short role: Dr. Dode Banije. It was just for the effect. As soon as Ethel enters into the lab, he would take her down, and that would be it. He loved such easy jobs. More like a deliveryman, with the paycheck of a professional killer. He wiggled his mouth, humming at the song that played in his head.
He walked down, into the inner section of the lab, heading for the source of masked noise. He needed to eliminate any form of surprise other than from himself.
The tears that flooded her eyes didn’t drown her thoughts for one second. As emotionally weak as she was, her mental capacity became significantly heighten. The resolve in her was strong to attempt the most daring or even unimaginable feat.
One thing was evident: There was more than meets the eye about Thomas. And from that phone conversation she overheard, he wasn’t alone on this.
The questions that now plagued her mind was to what course this near death drama was? This would probably answer why Thomas had attempted to kill her. Something was more important to him than having a fiancée, or rather having her in his life for that matter. In the real sense, she was better dead now that alive.
She recalled his hushed response on the phone. It echoed for too long in her head. He had mentioned that the whoever was on the other line should wait till tomorrow before he came over. But then, he had discovered she’d overheard him, and concluded that she didn’t deserve to be privy to such info and still be allowed to live. She couldn’t have her cake, and eat it.
She’d replayed the whole day’s activities in her head, retrieving mental pictures of things that didn’t seem in place. Like Thomas’ cold stare when he felt she wasn’t looking, and most times his absentmindedness. She had made excuses for him then, but now, the dots were connecting.
I was there this morning, I saw it all for myself. It’s all taken care of…
I said I saw it by myself… Evidence? You know who to ask for evidence, not me. I know what I saw. They are gone past that.
His vitals have been extracted, what remains of him wouldn’t even be enough nutrients for the worms waiting six feet be-… . I saw the bodies. In fact, she was going to…
…I have done my best, but it can’t be tonight. I need to cover my tracks. You can come in early in the morning, or something.
The chiming sound of the elevator door pulled Ethel out of her thoughts. She prayed that she made it out of here on time before anyone tried to stop her.
He cussed as she remembered the state she had left Sam. She had promised him she would have to speak with her boss to know the right approve for his reintroduction to his family. She had allayed his fears, but now it seemed she was his doom.
She cussed through clenched teeth for falling into the charade that had happened today. She had fallen for a script Thomas had succeeded in playing out well.
As soon as the door clicked open with the aid of her poke, she knew that something wasn’t right inside the lab.
Her instinct heightened as she walked across the cold tile towards her section of the lab. Where were the legis? What were they up to this time? Her thoughts were on Sam. She increased her pace into a sprint, heading towards her Light Room, her lips visibly muttering words of prayer.
The doors slid open as she made contact with. With one glance across the room, her fears became real. It was empty, except for the sofa and the table. Sam was nowhere to be found.
Her heartbeat increased as she neared panic mood. It was crazy how she hadn’t felt this way when she had the near death experience with Thomas. Now she was panicking. Sam was not where she had left him. This meant a bridge of security, not just into her personal space, but into the systems in the lab.
Where the heck were the legis?
She sprinted out of the room and was already screaming out loud.
Only that her scream was promptly stopped midair by the sight before her. There was a lot to register at once. Her eyes first focused on the single metal nozzle pointed at her. Then it panned out and focused on the man behind the gun.
Second time in one night.
This time, there was no shield between them. Thomas sure had this covered. He sure wanted to leave no stone unturned. She stared at the man that pointed the gun.
“Hello, Dr Islo.”
Ethel swallowed a lump in her throat. She didn’t reply. Instead, she tried to calm my trembling hands.
“My name is McDen, but you can call me Dr Dode. Dr Dode Banije.” A sardonic smile creased past the strangers face.
“I’ve always fancied being a scientist when I was growing up. Truth is, well, I am a scientist of some sort.” He paused for a sec, perhaps enjoying his intro.
Ethel tried to observe him. He was a talker. She knew that already.
“But let’s cut to the chase.”
Ethel lost her only point there.
Before the armed stranger began talking again, he tossed a gadget to the floor. One look at it and Ethel knew exactly what if was. Smoke rose from the enforced plastic the legi intel was clad in.
“Sorry, but there goes your robot.” The stranger who called himself McDen really loved to see the result of his torment on the faces of those he inflicted his pain on. Ethel was narrowing the stranger down to his personality traits.
“Since it’s no longer news to you that Thomas sent me, I mean, yes, Thomas is who you know, so let’s keep it at that.” He wiggled his mouth.
Ethel just stared at him, thinking, getting right out of her shock state, and applying some sense. One of her legis had been roasted by this stranger.
“He said you will be headed here. He was right. That’s the problem with you scientists. You are so freaking predictable. So stereotyped. It’s really sickening. I bet if I let you go now, it would only take another five minutes to find you. You guys are so programmed, just the way you programme you damn robots.” He made a scuff from his throat and spat right on the remains of one of the legi
“Ok, time up,” McDen said. That was the second time he had failed from cutting straight to the matter. It was apparent he loved the sound of his own threat than executing the threat itself.
Ethel was yet to say anything sensible apart from the panic and trepidation in her voice. Her thoughts were on the whereabout of Sam. It seemed that this psycho was yet to know of the existence of Sam, and the other robot as well. Where were the two of them? Had they escaped, or something?
“Hey, I’m going to let you out of your misery. It’s all over your face, you wonder how, or why Thomas could have done this to you. Naaa, I will tell you. But one thing is that I will have to kill you.”
An unexpected bullet tore into her chest, just over the complex wiring of her heart circuit. It threw her to the floor, splattering thick crimson fluid against the wall.
Ethel was shaken more from the suddenness of the gunshot than from the pain it caused.
She laid motionless on the floor for a while, her fear becoming very legit. Even if this man walked away now, she sure was going to die from the loss of blood. She tried to reduce her panic by thinking of nothing at all.
“Sorry, I know that was unexpected. Once again, I’m sorry.” McDen wiped his mouth. He bent down to retrieve the poke than was hung over the head of the bleeding scientist. He pulled it off, and stood on his feet again. That was his ticket of out here.
“So, where were we?” He paused, as he cleaned the barrel of the silencer of blood stains. “Aha, listen up; this whole thing is a family shit, okay? You should have stayed away, but you thought this was love. Even Thomas has no idea what the big picture is. You were a pawn. He is a pawn. I am one too. We all are. Only that it’s fun to me, and I make a lot of money catching fun.”
Ethel Islo was trying hard to hear what the stranger was saying, but the thumping of her veins filled her ears. She tried reading his lips but her sight got more blur, even as she lay helplessly in a pool of her blood. She attempted to place a good hand over the gush in her chest. The pain reaped her senses apart.
She could see still him through the blurriness as he moved closer to her in one final stretch of his gun. He leveled it on her. He spoke. He said something. A name perhaps. He smiled broadly for her to see. A parting smile for her to take home. Then he pulled the trigger.
The man definitely loved talking. That was his weakness. Perhaps his strength as well. But not on this day. Just as he willed his index finger to pull on the trigger, his body jacked vehemently. He fired at the scientist all the same, but he wasn’t allowed anymore shots. The gun dropped from his grip, while he kept shaking, like he was being electrocuted.
The shaking didn’t stop until his body began to smoke, and his hair got lit.
He dropped on the tiled floor. Dried and dead. Just above his desiccated body was one of the lab legis. Isaaci.
He stood under the shade of the waiting area. The rain was most likely going to fall, because the sky was thick with threatening clouds. He was sure he was going to make it. If he had come this far, he would make it out of here.
He looked at the green digital clock over the empty counter. It counted down to zero. 2:45 to go. He figured out that was the time the next train would be coming. Time was the slowest thing tonight.
The facility which he had miraculously escaped from was about three hundred yards behind him now. That was about three football pitches from the train station. He prayed that no one came in search of him. He’d been looking over his shoulders a lot. For now, the train station was empty safe for an old woman who stood some distance away. She must have wondered about him.
He saw the first sight of the train, blinking a deep blue light at the distance.
He watched the digital countdown. He turned his head again, as if to look at the facility building.
He looked at the woman now. She held her bag tight to her chest. Ready to get into the train.
Eli felt he was ready too. 30 seconds, and the train engine had slowed considerable, almost to a stop. By the time its exit door opened, it was exactly 0:00.
The doors hissed open, and he stepped in. A few people slouched on their seats, spending the minutes to get a little night rest before they got to their final destination. Work must have been tedious today.
Eli chose a spot and sank his body on the seat. He took a last look outside the window at the empty train station. His reflection of his face on the window reminded him who he was. Inside he was Eli and lost; outside he was Sam and homeless.
The train became to gather speed as it left the station.
He looked up at the sign that appeared on the screen up ahead. It said ‘Tickets please.’
Eli was confused now. He had no money. He had nothing. He looked around, he saw the spot he was supposed to swipe his ticket across, just as the other passengers had done.
He looked confused. He had nothing to swipe. He stared ahead of him, and at that moment he locked eyes with the old woman. She was a few seats from him, and was staring right at him as though she expected him to pull out a gun. Her frail shoulders shook lightly. Eli decided to smile at that instance.
She jerked back as though she wasn’t expecting the gesture. Eli’s smile broadened. She smiled back. Yes, the old woman smiled back at him.