Today’s Throwback Thursday story was written over five years ago and for some reason it came to my mind today. I’m presenting it without any editing, just as I wrote it down the first time.
The room contained only three people, but the machines crowded them together. Artificial light reflected off their white masks. Their silence had continued unbroken for half an hour.
“She’s stable. All intravenous lines are connected and functional. Oxygen level is normal.” The man hunched over the glass containment unit straightened. His back popped audibly. He sighed and swiveled backward in his chair to the metal door at one end of the room. “At last.” He removed his mask, revealing a hard line of a mouth, a chin covered in three days’ worth of stubble.
One of them remained standing at the side of the case, staring down at the girl’s body. The other jerked off her mask as she followed the faintly squeaking chair. Strands of black hair had crept out of her bun down her shoulder. She blew upward to get the bangs out of her eyes. “Can we go now? I’m damn exhausted. And she’s got more than she deserved.” Arms folded tightly, she glanced at the glass case where the girl lay. “We could’ve chosen someone else. She wouldn’t have survived long anyway—”
“Shut up, Cygnet.” The man ran his fingers through his hair. He leaned back, his eyes on the dark ceiling. “It’s done. I’m going. Now.” His chair shot back as he jumped up.
The third figure didn’t move. His gloved thumb traced a small circle on the glass lid.
“Galen?” The older man paused, his lab coat halfway off his shoulder.
Galen’s eyes gleamed faintly as he looked up. He still hadn’t removed his mask. “Sorry. Lost in thought. First time I’ve done something like that.” His faint shadow moved over the wall as he moved.
“Bit alarming, yes, the first time.” The man had his back to him. “You’ll get used to it.”
“Come on, Virgo.” Cygnet’s whine had a hoarse edge. “We still have to report—”
“Shut up, I said.” His fingers flew over the key pad; a second later the door disappeared into the wall. Red lights illuminated the corridor outside. “Half a minute and you’ll be caught,” he said to Galen. Coatless, they walked out and were enveloped immediately in darkness. The young man followed their retreating backs with the corner of his eye. He had thirty seconds before the room would sense an intruder.
In the unit the girl’s face looked grey. Intravenous oxygen meant she didn’t need to breathe normally, that her body was utterly still. Dead people looked like that. He drew close to the class, close as he dared. His palm hovered over its surface, not touching it. Two years since he had looked at her this closely, and she didn’t even know. He might have been examining the face of a stranger, for all that he remembered the details of her eyes, the way they slanted slightly, the dimple in her left cheek.
“What made you do it, Alis? Why did you run?” He spoke so close to the glass that it fogged, blurring his view.
The room began to hum. He made it out just as his thirty seconds were up. Halfway down the corridor he came to his senses. His mask, now useless, scratched his face. He tore it off and it floated ghostly-white to the floor. Her crime hadn’t been disclosed to him. It had to be something major to land her in the wing of the prison, the wing they chose their subjects from. Perhaps they thought she’d last longer than the others, when they eventually revived her. His head pounded with speculation. All that for someone he hardly knew anymore, someone whom he’d closed over. She was dead to him.
Before you go: should I continue doing Throwback Thursday posts? Do you enjoy reading what I’ve written in the past?