I sat huddled close to the fire sipping at tomato soup trying to avoid any eye contact. I could feel their eyes burning into me. I felt like melting ice. There were quiet whispers all around, with the main question being, "Who is she?"
I placed my mug on the ground beside me and picked up a small half broken mirror lying on the floor. I could hardly recognize the person looking back at me. The tangled knotted long black hair and eyes that weren't even mine. The once dark blue of my eyes was all but gone leaving a dark brown almost black shade. I ran my hand through the knotted mess of hair untangling it the best I could and then ran my hand down my now rigid jaw line. "I don't even know you" I quietly mumble to myself and put the mirror back on the ground not being able to take it any longer.
I look around warily trying not to be noticed. Small groups of people huddled together. Families, children playing games and then the there are the men with guns sitting around a small lamp looking at maps and taking notes. One of them catches my eye, I quickly look away, but it's too late. He gets up and walks over and stands above me for a minute and then sits down beside me.
"My name's Tillman. Apologies about the rough treatment but we can't be too careful. What's your name?"
Hesitantly I look over. It's the man from the basement who got me let free. He looked much better in this light; short dark hair strong facial features and welcoming eyes.
I sat for a minute or two trying to formulate an answer to what is a simple question. But I was pulling nothing but blanks. My memory was but a dark void of nothingness for which I didn't know why. Then I finally got it, "My name is..."
He sat staring at me, his gaze set heavily upon me.
A small smile crossed his face, "Nice name, well Willow get yourself cleaned up and then come see me as there is a lot we need to discuss. There is a washroom down the hallway on the left. Some clothes have been put out for you".
I couldn't help but feel warm inside, I no longer felt like melting ice. I slowly made my way down the dark hallway. Paint peeling off the wall, water dripping from the roof and what seemed to be the growth of mould and moss on some parts of the floor. The gentle flicker of the bathroom light illuminating it in short bursts with the gentle sound of a dripping tap echoing around the room. The clothes left for me were not my usual style, but they seemed quite fitting considering the situation and they were much better than these torn clothes I now had. So I couldn't complain too much. A pair of army leggings with frayed bottoms, black socks, shirt, an off white towel and dark gray jacket with a few stains on it that had been washed many times but still couldn't rinse out what looked to be blood.
I ran my fingers over it trying to imagine whose blood it must have been and where the owner of it now was. It sent chills down me. Beside the clothes there lay a half bar of soap and a two little bottles with a note under them.
"It's not much but I hope it helps. Sorry about the blood stains on the jacket, we did the best we could. At least it will keep you warm. Oh and also, nothing but cold water here. But it'll do the trick. Enjoy.
I folded the note and slid it into the army pant leggings so it wouldn't get lost, and this time a small smile crossing my face. I picked up the little bottles, "shampoo' "conditioner'. These would be a rarity. I felt like a spoilt girl.
I closed the door and slowly and painfully took off the tattered rags I called clothes and threw them aside, my bones cracking and creaking through it all. I turn the taps and with a loud shudder and bang water made its way through the pipes. As I stepped under I let out a loud shriek as the water hit my skin instantly creating goose bumps and turning my blood to ice. As quickly as I could I washed my hair and body and turned the taps off before it turned me into an ice sculpture.
The light continued flickering like it were trying to communicate in Morse, I walked to get my clothes, the door behind me creaking away like it were moaning. But moaning it wasn't. As I turned to look I was slammed against the wall with a knife gently pressed against my neck, the tip digging in enough to break the skin.
"Get the fuck off me!!" I demanded.
He pushed himself closer to me whispering in my ear, "I don't trust you, and when I get the chance your fucking dead. You hear me bitch, dead". He ran his tongue up the side of my face and then stepped back looking me up and down. "Looking good"
I quickly grabbed my towel covering up as he walked away smiling at me and out into the hallway. I dabbed the blood up onto the towel and quickly put on my newly acquired clothes.
I walked back into the main room zipping up my jacket; Tillman was sitting by the fire, the light dancing on his face. He sat hunched forward with his hands together, fingers intertwined and looking into the flames deep in thought. I start to walk towards him just and as I do he springs back to reality. He looks at me and smiles,
"please, sit" he says with a slight tiredness in his voice. I sit across from him on a small wooden crate, "Thanks for the.." he cuts me short and waves his hand at me "don't mention it. So, I'm guessing you're wondering what in the hell is going on, huh?" he says to me while cracking his fingers. I sit looking at him and just as I go to reply he chimes in,
"It's been at least six months since the bombs started falling. We've been fighting since the beginning. We thought nothing of it at first; no one did until claims of people going missing or turning up dead came to light. There have been reports in newspapers, well, the final reports that they made anyway, alerting people to experiments going on at the Facility in the Bardines forest" he paused for a moment leaning down beside himself grabbing a piece of wood and throwing it into the fire. He goes to continue so I quickly fire a question.
"But, how did they know about the experiments if the facility was a secret?"
He lets out a small tired laugh. "Just like anything that's secret, someone tells another someone. In this case it was a professor by the name of Gary Sills. If he hadn't of told whoever it is he did, the lives lost by now would be who knows how high"
"What happened to this Gary Sills?" I ask, feeling it a stupid question.
"No one knows for sure, some say he was executed while others say he was their first live test subject" He gets up and walks to a small cabinet taking out a bottle of whiskey and pouring a two shots, he looks at me tilting his head in an offering. I shake my head in reply as he quickly one after the other downs both shots and returns to his seat and continues.
"Crime rates were getting out of control, curfews imposed on people did nothing, alcohol bans did nothing more than enrage people, same with making gambling illegal. They thought by eliminating such vices they could create a more pure society. All it manage to do was create more crime in forms of underground gambling and alcohol trafficking. So they took a military approach, soldiers on the street keeping people in order, brutally attacking those that tried to rise above it"
I sat there, my hands trembling softly, feeling shocked at what I was being told. But none of it explained why I could hardly remember so many details, even things as simple as my name.
He held his hand up. "I'm getting to it, I'm sure" he says. "People began to go missing. Some disappeared for weeks and came back, but not as themselves" He stopped for a second and looking straight into my eyes before continuing with what seemed to be directed at me like it were something I should know of personally, "they came back as if they had been completely brainwashed of every single memory of their lives".
He sat staring at me for a minute or two then carried on "But many of those who came back all but died shortly after. We don't know why. When the news came through about the experiments pockets of Resistance began to pop up throughout the city taking on the army. Many tried to flee the city in any way possible. Others stayed to fight; those of us lucky enough to remain undetected have been formulating plans to infiltrate the facility. We have nightly recon teams go out and scout for any changes. I haven't told you everything yet, but that will all be given to you in due time. There was just one thing that I don't understand, Willow"
I sat there nervous as to what he was going to say, like a spotlight was shining on me with a thousand people huddled around staring. I looked at him.
He looked straight at me like he was trying to get his answer from my face then said, "Ever been brainwashed?"