• 17 Mar - 23 Mar, 2018
  • Kiran Ashraf
  • Fiction

Sam, although was a soldier but wanted to opt out from any further expedition. Not to doubt his valour or courage, this forest was giving him ultimate creeps. The land had a weird ghostly ambiance. No owls were hooting, no rustle of animals rooting in the underbrush. Just constant noise of buzzy cicadas.

It’s been few minutes since he wandered around the desolate woodland surveying the area and now even his puttees have wet thick mud sticking on them. Fellow officers Chad and Aldon had vanished hours ago. They spotted some mislaid enemy troopers passing by late evening unaware of Unit 13’s battalion’s presence. Smelling of adventure, both officers decided to capture the enemies and cause them some grief while Sam waited by. The fire outside the tent burned brightly as he strode through the area waiting for the return of his companions. It had been an outcry coming from a distance that had first caught his attention. Curious, he decided to take a chase. Just to make sure it wasn’t someone from the enemy regiment.

The trees lashed and crashed against each other like drumsticks along with the twigs snagging at his hair. There was no doubt that whoever he was after wasn’t a fighter as there were no signs of military boot tracks. Hiding behind a rather old tree, Sam peeked into the bleak darkness to decipher the mysterious figure hiding in the black beyond. Hunched behind a bush just in front of him sat what he thought was a female figure. Holding his breath, he hunkered down as low as he could and began to walk towards the brambles as unnoticeably as he could possibly manage. The unfamiliar woman hadn’t noticed him coming towards herself and he hoped that she would be too taken with the view in front to hear him approach.

Gabby was keeping her sharp eyes stoically ahead while keeping her breath shallow. It was a foolish mistake to scream for scaring away what she thought was a ferocious animal. It turned out to be a deer mouse creaking over dead leaves. In her mind, she had finally managed to outrun the soldiers leaving fake trails to hide her footprints. Now, all that needs to be done is to jump over the barbed wiring and sneak inside that heinous Unit 13 research lab. There was scant noise around, so she was certain to hear if anyone was galloping by. Suddenly, all breath left her lungs as a solid grip trapped her from behind. In that very moment, her shoulders shook in fear as she bit her lip to stop herself from panting. ‘Lord have mercy’ is all she could utter as her feet rose above the ground. Never to give in that easily, she tried to give him a fight back as her body flailed around in utter darkness while the male figure dragged her backward. She wrapped her nearly frozen fingers around the captor’s wrists trying to scratch through his skin, but her hand touched a wristband which seems to have an inscription on it. With a pounding heart in her chest, Gabby solidified her feet on the ground and decided to remain as unruffled as she could.

The sudden calm of his victim was astonishing for him. She seemed a harmless young girl but don’t know from where she inherited her combative traits. “What are you doing here roaming around in the dark?” Sam growled out in her ear. Gabby shook her head in disappointment. She had the chance of pulling herself with all her might to flee. The urge grew exponentially in her chest, but she had to stay. She might not get a second chance at this. Now she at least knew for certain that it wasn’t that crazy scientist Theodore and neither any of those war-driven soldiers who held her captive. All she had to do was make sure she would be able to talk her way out of it, if only he let go of her.

She felt herself go limp as he loosened his grip on her arms a bit. “Now spill it out,” he demanded, “Who are you exactly and what are you doing on this land?” She smiled on his unknown naivety. Having spent those dreadful weeks imprisoned in Dr. Theodore’s lab, she had no desire to end up back at that horrifying place again. Her explanation and choice of words would mark her freedom or incarceration. With this fact settling in her bones, Gabby opted to voice the only thing she could, the truth.

Calmly she replied, “I was taken a prisoner here at Unit 13 center last year and couldn’t remain trapped any longer. I planned my escape,” Irritation was seeping into her tone as she tried to relax the tremble slowly holding her voice hostage. She knew it was safe to stick to the basic facts and not ramble about the entire take. “I have done nothing wrong, but they are still after me, so I have to keep going or it would not end up well for me.”

Sam still can't get her story around his head. “You do have a name, or it hasn’t been decided yet,” he inquired. She lifted her head and looked him straight in the eyes, more with a surprised expression as if his question was mediocre. “Gabby it is. I have an important mission to take care off and you are doing nothing except wasting my precious time,” she protested.

Sam’s lips quirked into a smile as he began to process the sudden change in her demeanor. As per he knows, Unit 13 was designed to cure people with viral diseases spread in the region. It is more known for keeping people out rather than locking them in.

“You were held captive? How did a fragile girl like yourself manage to elope?” Never in his life had he met a woman who made such obnoxious claims. It was hard to agree with them.

“They were engrossed elsewhere, and I managed to run away through the back door,” She explained angrily. An annoyance in her words that he couldn’t quite interpret. Walking towards the nearest tree, he shifted his weight so that he could steer his captive towards his tent. He knew that if he is going to get any information out of her then he would need to have a proper communication. Sam tied her to the smallest tree as she gazes up in the cool air and notices how beautifully the trees are covered in flurry blankets. With wrist bound tightly, she leaned her head against the hardwood and in a matter of a second, a tiny flake rolled carefully down her raw cheeks turning into a bead of water. He was hoping the magnificent scene to last a little longer, but Gabby had to interrupt. “Am I here for you to ogle upon?”

“I am unable to fathom how the research lab officials were so off guard as to let you dodge and later exit with such ease,” he said while finishing his task of binding her up well without hurting her arms. She looked up with breath caught in her throat. Her mouth opened with a mix of shock and insecurity as the cold rendered her speechless. He watched the mist land on her beautiful bronze hair as she looked directly into the eyes of a man who so advertently tried to save her. His brows scrunched together as he saw emotions passing through her godforsaken face. The light from the bonfire nearby lit her up as if watching a blade of sun catching the snow. Sam felt his goosebumps rising. What scared him was the fact that she seemed to know him too well and he had no clue of her real identity. Curls swirled around her temples and vengeance turned her eyes into orbs of illuminated glow. He surely would have remembered someone as enchanting as her.

“Who are you?” Sam asked, almost desperate to learn her identity now. “Your real name this time please.”

“You don’t know me at this moment,” she responded breaking her ever-expanding silence. But the sadness was very much visible in his intense stare. “My name is Gabby Lane Ackerman if that is what you want to know.”

He replied disappointed, “Gabby Lane Ackerman, hmmm… of course, I have never heard of you before but how do you know me? Don’t lie. I have a feeling you have met me before.”

Their eyes were still locked as she spoke while her heart thrummed madly, “You… you saved my life,” she was unable to concoct a lie. Her unblinking stare was solely focused on him now. The man she encountered over a year ago screaming for his life, all helpless and drowsy. The hope of meeting him was lost long before and now he is glaring into her soul. It’s like standing apparently in the middle of a hailstorm while all ice chunks are cutting into her skin like a frosted dagger. She stood waiting for his move.

“No,” he replied. “I am Sam, the soldier at 13th Regiment. I have no memory of you whatsoever, but you confessed of encountering me before. I would like to know, Ms. Ackerman that how did you save my life?” He asked feeling queasy at the mere thought of her answer.

She inhaled sharply and scrutinised his wristband with her eyes. “Ever felt like someone invoked something in you that you weren't aware of having? The growing emptiness inside of you upon their leaving just increase instead of shrinking with time?” Visions from the past started swirling in Sam’s mind. They sat impatiently on the tip of his tongue, but Sam still couldn’t make sense of them. They were just bottled inside vague flashes. Gabby remained silent, waiting for him to utter something.

“LIAR!! And a thief too trying to sneak into Unit 13 to rob precious medical equipment. We were hoping those scoundrels would send a capable man to do the job and all they sent is a flimsy dame,” he raised his voice.

“Huh, you don’t remember me at all. Do you even have any inkling of what your name is? Your middle and last name? Nobody comes to this world as ‘Sam Unknown’ now don’t they? And your petty 13th Regiment… do you have any idea why you are protecting this vile place while the rest are training for the oncoming war? Answer me!” Her last sentence sounded more of a muted plea rather than harsh.

The night was unusually calm, the silence interrupted only by his words, “I don’t understand what you are trying to imply here.”

“Remember the time we met at the farm after the world war?” Her voice seemed quieter with every word escaping her lips. “You returned from the war zone and pledged to never be a part of this vicious ferocity again. We planned to live a quiet life and migrate if the city comes under much turmoil, but fate had other plans. You were abducted by Unit 13 officials for their inhumane experiments. They had to take me along as I refused to let you go and offer them my services as a human lab rat if they tag me along. We tried escaping and succeeded but… it was me who ran free but you… you sacrificed your freedom for me by distracting the guards while I found a way out. I thought you would have been dead by now, but I think you are more use to that crude Theodore because war rumours are propagating again.”

“First you said that I saved you and now you have a whole story weaved around it. You don’t look like a con but why are you acting like one. What are you really after?”

“I don’t blame you, Samuel. Yes, that is who you are. Samuel B. Christopherson, a soldier who ran away never to be part of killing innocents again. After several tests, they choose you for memory erasure where they could erase and fabricate incidents in your mind. I have been gathering my courage and skills to execute Theodore and destroy the lab. Your wristband says my name Samuel… it reads Gabby.”

Surprised, Sam looked at the wristband intricately and found her speaking the truth. His eyes felt cold and distant, falling in and out of focus. He closed them for a moment feeling suspended in his own void remembering the day vividly as if it happened hours ago when Gabby first gifted him that wristband; how her words filled the air, he could almost breathe in the sweetness of her tone. A smiled appeared bitterly from corners of his mouth as he proceeded to open his eyes, but the place he found himself in, the way he felt, awoke deeply rooted dissatisfaction. Revenge encompassed his mind. “Gabby! come along, I know a way to the staircase where that wicked doctor spends his evenings,” Sam’s tone was affirmative.

With one clear blow of knife, Dr. Theodore’s jugular vein was slashed. Gabby’s laughter grew louder and more frightening as it began to crescendo, filling the room with its evil presence. Sirens started blaring minutes later as guards barged into the room grabbing Sam and Gabby swiftly. “Oh God!” the nurse shouted in disbelief. “Doctor is dead!! Take these two to the padded cell NOW!!!”

Search for the two runaway patients finally ended as the Unit 13 mental asylum staff stood in mourning while their acclaimed doctor was laid to rest. “We shouldn’t have left them out of our sight Aldon. I don’t know how they found their way to the bushes.” Remorse not leaving the face of attendant Chad, as he continued, “Guard saw Sam running with the missing key bunch. Gabby must have given her dead lover’s wristband to Sam earlier and look what happened. We all know how Gabby loves role-playing. Poor Sam, his mind consistently implants memories that never occurred. Makes him so vulnerable.”

“But who gave them the knife?” Aldon asked curiously. Chad flinched. “The same person who deliberately lost the keys and led them as bait to that notorious hidden experiment lab… our late Dr. Theodore,” Chad replied without blinking. “After all, It was an experiment gone wrong.” •