This is chapter 4 of my novel, Foreign. I post a new chapter each Friday.
“Everything is under way”
“Perfect. Nothing will stop us now.”
-From the office of the Secadoma
Shaking and clutching himself, Mark had pressed his body against the back corner as much as he could. He could not get any further from these things than this. There was no way he would let them take him. He would do anything so long as he wasn’t captured by these things.
Silhouetted by the scarlet glow, four humanoid figures began to close in on him. They appeared to be at least a solid six feet tall, but Mark had no real way of knowing. Broad and bulky, the four of them formed a rather impenetrable blockade. It looked as though Mark’s cell had been designed to just perfectly fit four of these creatures, side by side. The wall of figures was steadily moving closer to Mark. Whatever he was going to do, he had about five seconds to do it.
“Who are you? What do you want from me?”
The guards didn’t even flinch, change their pace, or in any other way acknowledge him. They were even closer now. With no other option, Mark pressed his legs against the back wall and dove down toward the gap between the third and fourth guard, hoping to dive right between them. With lightning reflexes, they lowered their stance and caught him. Each one grabbed a shoulder, their grip like a vice.
He yelled out in pain. While they grasped his shoulders, the other two guards came in behind him and each grabbed one of his legs. Mark began to kick as hard as he could, but it was no use. They hardly noticed as he tried flailing his legs with all of his strength. Trying to writhe himself free, the first two guards moved their grip from his shoulders down to his wrists. Now they had each of his limbs under control and his body hung right above the floor, like we has an animal on his way to be roasted.
With Mark kicking and screaming, the four guards began to march out of the cell in step. They exited and began to walk left, down the long corridor from which they came. Even though the door had been opened, once he was out in the hallway, the running lights were too bright for his eyes to see much else. In the midst of his world of red, he could make out that these figures appeared to be wearing some sort of protective suit. There was no way that the pain he was feeling on his wrists and ankles was caused by a person’s skin. Their grips were so tight and rigid that they couldn’t have been from human hands.
Craning his neck so that he could look up ahead, about fifty feet in front of him, he saw a hexagonally shaped door. Each corner of the hexagon had a red light at it. Looking to his left, he saw that they were passing other empty cells.
Now he was certain that there had been other people here who had seen these guards as well. Where had they all gone? What was on the other side of that door? Mark wasn’t sure wanted to find out. He continued to shake his arms, and kick his legs, but all of his efforts ended in futility. The guards marched on, undeterred. Not one of them had even looked in his direction.
They came to a brief halt about five feet away from the door. After a momentary pause, the door began to open from the middle, like an iris. Once the door was opened, Mark could see nothing terribly different inside the new room – that same deep scarlet glow from he edge of the floor, casting a dark red hue to the entire featureless room. Inside, he noticed that there was another set of four guards. They looked identical to the first set. He was passed off to the next group of guards and they carried him in the same manner as before. After parting with his first set of captors, he was escorted through a second hexagonal door that was right next to the first one that he had entered.
Another long, dimly lit corridor like the first, with a row of closed doors along the left side. This one seemed to be the symmetrical opposite of the first one, as long as his sense of direction was still working in his favor, which definitely could not have been the case.
But this room was grossly different than the first. The difference was immediately discernable. Mark’s terrified screams were not the only sound to be heard, as it was in the first room. In this second hall, he could distinctly hear some of the most grotesque sounds he had ever heard. As he was carried past each room, he heard a unique voice, yelling out in it’s own way.
The sickening screams brought back memories Buck Mountain. He would never forget the sounds of that man as he fought for his life against Justin. But these cries sounded different. There was a terror and fear in these cries that gave them a sound he had never heard before. Not only did these people sound like they were in pain, but they sounded terrified.Fully grown men, women, children, it didn’t matter. In the five or six rooms that he was carried past, each one wailed as if they were about to die.
Mark’s instinctive reaction when he heard these noises was to try to somehow escape from the clutches of the four guards. With all his might, he tried to sprawl his legs and arms, hoping to break their grip on him. No matter how hard he tried to move his limbs, nothing changed. He could squirm with his body, but the guards constantly kept a firm grip at the end of each appendage.
I can’t let them take me into one of these rooms. Anything that happens out here can’t be as bad as what will be on the other side of that door. But whatever he was going to do, he had about fifteen, maybe twenty seconds to do it, assuming this corridor was equally as long as the first.
“Oh! My stomach!” he suddenly exclaimed. Meanwhile, he pulled with all his might away from the guard holding his right arm. Yelling and moaning, he started to force his body to convulse, acting like he was going to vomit again. Coughing, moaning, and squirming, he hoped to convince the guards that he was going to throw up on them. They continued to march, undeterred. Mark’s efforts had no visible affect on the guards whatsoever.
He could see that they were approaching the door to a room that ought to be his. They came to a halt right in front of it. Mark quit his vomiting charade so that he could see what was happening. Accepting his fate, he would rather know what to expect. Just like the very first door that he saw here, it appeared as though the walls were parting, slowly, smoothly, but never stopping. Out of the center came a blinding white light. With a gasp, he shut his eyes tight and jerked his head away, toward his body. With the door completely open, he felt a hot vapor flood out of the door and roll past his body, diffusing out into the corridor.
The guards carried Mark through the doorway and into a hot, humid room. Mark finally gathered the will power to open his eyes to see what he was about to encounter. The white, sterile light burned into his eyes. He had no idea how long it had been since he had seen this much light. Eyes watering and squinting, he quickly scanned the room while he was carried to the center of it.
Right in front of him was a flat, featureless metal table. All of the walls looked as though they were made of this metal as well, but one looked different than the others. It appeared to be more reflective than the others, almost like a giant mirror. Above the table was the source of that awful light. A round floodlight was shining straight down onto the table, and surrounding the floodlight there were various tubes that dangled like the tentacles of some twisted, mechanical squid. The horrid apparatus looked utterly foreign and malicious to Mark. He had a feeling that he would discover its purpose soon.
Each holding one of his limbs, the guards lifted Mark onto the table and turned him over so that he was lying on his back. For the first time, he caught an authentic glimpse of his captors. Unless they were robots, it looked like they were wearing some sort of black protective suits. Every inch of their skin was covered like they were astronauts. Their heads were underneath helmets that connected to the suits. Tinted glass shields obscured their faces. They continued their work in silence.
As he was laid on the table, the hot metal stung his bare skin and he was reminded of his distorted appearance. His eyes beginning to adjust to the bright light, he examined himself, trying to figure out what had happened to him. His hands and chest were covered in dry vomit. He had a bruise the size of a golf ball on his right arm and an even bigger one on his right thigh. However, the most perplexing thing was that he was completely bald. There was not a single hair that he could see anywhere on his body.
His self-examination was interrupted by one of the guards who grabbed his forehead, and thrust his head down onto the table. A searing, hot pain shot through the back of his head as it slammed against the hot metal. Each guard was holding one of his limbs to the table and the one by his right arm also had his head. One of the guards on his legs left and came up to hold his right arm. The one who had been there first let go of his arm with one hand and put both on his head.
During this interchange, Mark tried to utilize their momentary weakness, but the best he could do was get his arm off the table by a few inches. The new guard was already there and overpowering his arm, forcing it back onto the table.
The guard who was at his head let go with one hand and reached under the table. There was a quiet beep from somewhere in the room and a retracting metal bar started to extend from the table, right next to Mark’s jaw. The bar continued to grow and snaked its way over his neck to the other side of his head. With immediate panic, he yelled out in rage. Thrashing his limbs with all his might, he would not let this table strangle him. The guards did not seem to be startled by his reaction. Instead, they just stood forward, using more of their weight to hold his hands and feet on the table. They didn’t appear too concerned if he moved the rest of his body; they just wanted to keep his hands and feet still.
The bar by his head attached itself to the table. It was completely wrapped around his neck from right to left and now connected to the table at both ends. The guard let go of him. Mark instantly drew his head away from the surface. Immediately, it was stopped by the solid and now stationary bar. He gasped for air and let his head fall back down on the table. Now he understood why the guards were only concerned with holding his hands and feet.
The one free guard next went to his left hand and reached under the table. Mark heard the same beep and another serpentine bar started growing out from the table, coiling around his wrist. With one last-ditch effort, he tried wrenching his arm from the guard, hoping that maybe his grip was less tight. His efforts did nothing for him. The free guard then went to his feet and did the same thing. Finally he came around to his right arm, and attached it to the table. There was nothing more that Mark could do. He was going to stay in that room as long as they wanted him to.
The guards had let go of him and appeared to be busy doing something else. While lying on the table, the only thing that Mark could see was the glaring light, beaming down on him from above, like he was in a twisted dental exam. Lying there in the silence, he noticed faint sounds from the room next to him. A shrill voice slipped through the walls like a ghost. It sounded like it was coming from a little girl. He thought of his younger sister, Sarah, who was only eleven. The idea of torturing a young girl outraged him. Unfortunately, there was nothing that he could do.
His thoughts were abruptly brought back to the present when he heard the door open. Though he tried craning his neck for a better look, he couldn’t tell what was going on. A moment later, the door closed with the familiar thud, and he saw only one guard looking down over him. The silhouetted figure reached up toward the center of the ceiling, by the brightest part of the light. Mark couldn’t even look at him. It hissed as he brought it down to the level of the table.
Mark had a feeling that whatever was going to happen to him was about to begin. The guard adjusted a knob at the end of the hose and it started to steam. Holding it away from the table, it started to vibrate and make a gurgling noise. Water started flowing out of the end of the tube.
Oh this can’t be too bad. It’s just water. The water pressure looked to be getting higher and higher while the guard was holding out the hose. Not only that, Mark noticed that the room was starting to feel even warmer than when he first had entered. Where the water was colliding with the wall, steam was billowing away, turning the room into a lifeless, tropical cell.
With the water now rushing out like a fire hose and as hot as a geyser, the guard began to turn the hose toward Mark’s table. Flinching from the miniscule droplets of near boiling water that were landing on his bare skin, he began to reevaluate how painful this experience could turn out to be. Without any change of stature or appearance, the guard lifted the hose and started to spray Mark’s feet.
Mark shrieked as a wave of immense pain rolled through his legs. He tried to pull himself away from the scalding water with all his might, but he was completely trapped. The hose slowly began to move its way up his right leg, methodically dowsing every square inch of skin it passed over. Clenched fists, teeth gritted, Mark was arching his back. Every part of his body was tensing up because of the unfathomable pain.
After finishing his right leg, the water went back down to his left leg and repeated the procedure. This guy was thorough! As the hose was moving up his thigh, Mark realized that if this water were to cover his whole body, his legs would be the least of his worries. Sure enough, the beam of water left his leg and moved to the middle of his body. He found this was even more painful than before, though he didn’t know such a pain existed.
All the while, the guard’s austere posture was exactly the same. Mark’s constant screams bounced right off of him. He continued to shower Mark’s body just like it was another day in the office. The stream got to Mark’s neck, which hurt excruciatingly. This unexpected increase of pain caused the intensity of his cries to reach a level he didn’t know he was capable of. The water continued moving up, leaving his neck and hitting his chin.
Once the water started rushing into his mouth, his gurgling cries abruptly cut out. Mark felt the most acute pain of his life as the water was scalding his face, melting it, it felt like. Although he was squeezing his eyes as tightly as he could, there was nothing he could do to prevent his eyes from burning. The water pressure was just too high. It felt as if a steamroller were slowly pressing against his face. All he wanted to do was open his mouth and yell out because of the pain, but that would have made it even more painful.
Unable to hold his breath any longer, he had to take a breath, even though the water was still covering his face. When he inhaled, scorching water rushed into his lungs. Reflexively, he opened his mouth, gasping for air, which was instantly filled with water as well, sending another searing spike of pain down his throat and into his lungs. Coughing, he gasped for air again, sending yet another stream of scalding water down his windpipe. At this point, he had almost forgotten about the unbearable pain on his skin because he was drowning.
I am going to die.
And just when he thought he could endure nothing more, the hose stopped. Coughing, and wheezing, gasping for air, Mark began to cough up the water that was burning the insides of his lungs. The world around him was nothing more than a blurry, bright white. He wasn’t even sure if his eyes were open or closed. It didn’t make a difference. All he knew was that his entire body was in pain, inside and out.
While Mark was catching his breath, the guard was retracting the water hose and reeling out a second hose, similar in appearance and size to the first one. He opened this hose and another clear liquid started to pour out. Mark had been oblivious to all that the guard was doing until he heard the liquid splashing against the metallic floor. This time, the guard did not wait for the fluid to get warm or for the pressure to increase. Once it was flowing, that was enough. He brought the hose toward the table. At once, Mark knew that it wasn’t water. It smelled like rubbing alcohol.
The cool, soft flowing liquid stung immensely the moment it touched his scalded skin. Mark’s muscles contracted again from the now-familiar pain. This wasn’t as intense of a pain as the hot water, but it was a more subtle feeling. A constant sting, or burn, nothing more, not the feeling like before, the feeling that his skin was being torn off by a hot iron. Though subtle as it was, it was enough to make him want desperately to be anywhere else. The pain reached its worst when it got to his face, just as it did with the water. As the alcohol ran through his nasal cavity, it flushed out his already disrupted sinuses. At least this time around, the stream of liquid wasn’t so intense that he was drowning in it. However the guard was purposely kept the stream over his nose long enough that he had to open his mouth for a breath, and as he did so, the guard shot it into his mouth. Once the fluid got to his eyes, he had almost completely forgotten about his mouth. He wondered if the experience would permanently blind him, the pain was so intense.
When the alcohol bath was done, Mark felt as though he couldn’t move even if his life depended on it. Lying on the table, completely limp and eyes practically swollen shut, he heard the guard put the alcohol tube away and then step back from the table.
Oh thank God this is finally over!
The guard came back to the table and leaned even closer. One hand gripped Mark’s arm and he yelled out. The other hand jabbed a syringe into his right shoulder. Normally, a shot would have felt like nothing, but with his bruised, scalded arm, any sort of contact, especially that of needles, was agonizing. This experience seemed to go on forever. Needle after needle until his arm started to feel like somebody had punched it repeatedly. And then it stopped.
“W. Wh. Why. Why you doing thi?” Mark managed.
“Pla. Pleas. Please stop.”
Nothing. The guard continued to go about his work, as if Mark had said nothing at all. While he was putting the used syringes away, Mark started to feel nauseous. Whatever he had been injected with was starting to take its effect. The onset of his nausea hit him like a semi truck. His forehead started aching profusely, and though he already had nothing in his stomach, he felt like vomiting again. He could feel his stomach churning like a stew, and with each passing moment, he came closer to throwing up. Finally, there was nothing more he could do to keep it in. Leaning his head over on his side, he began to violently heave up what bile was left in his stomach.
Lying on the table, he felt utterly defeated. All he wanted to do was close his eyes and let everything fade away. He heard the guard reach up for another hose above him.
Oh, God, I can’t handle another round of this!
As the guard was preparing his next method of torture, Mark distinctly heard the high-pitched cry from the next room. He remembered that the little girl had been enduring every pain that he had. A hatred that Mark had never known began to well up within him. The thought of somebody else, multiple other people, experiencing the pain he had felt filled him with rage. Whatever might happen to him, he would do all that he could to make these monsters pay for the pain that they were inflecting upon innocent people. He resolved to survive, if for no reason other than this, to avenge the pain of those who had suffered alongside him.
Tubing in hand, the guard opened the nozzle and more steaming water started to pour out again. Wincing from the sound of what he knew was to come, Mark received one more treatment of water, cleaning off the vomit that was all over his face.
The second round of water torture did not last nearly as long as the first. It was mainly on and around his face, which admittedly, was the most painful part. The guard retracted the hose and pulled down a thicker and more robust pipe near Mark’s left shoulder.
It was much less flexible and bent at a right angle near the bottom, pointing straight at Mark’s side. It slid to him until it was flush with the tormented skin of his shoulder. Out of the end of it, metal rods, like those around his neck and limbs extended from the top and bottom of the tube, clasping onto Mark’s body. The grip was excruciatingly tight. With the metal pipe clutching his left shoulder, the tube started to shake violently. He heard a whirring noise from the console that was above him. Without any warning, the tube shook, and made a pop like a thunderclap. Unimaginable pain pierced through his arm as his entire body jolted from the powerful blow. Thinking the worst was over, Mark didn’t expect the almost immediate burning feeling that followed.
The claws disengaged from his arm and the pipe retracted toward the ceiling. Mark could smell something vile. To his horror, he realized that it was the smell of his own burnt flesh. Very shortly after the pipe was all the way in the ceiling, the guard approached him and gave him yet another injection. It took instant effect. His white, blurred vision began to darken. The edges of what he would see started to close in on him. What he had wanted for so long was finally given to him. The incredible pain that had been wracking his body was fading away, as was all else. His eyes closed and that terrible room became nothing more than a memory.
For chapter 5, click here.