BLACKBIRD

Prologue

The sound of a scream echoed through the four corners of her small cell. But because the shrieking of tortured voices was an everyday serenade, she dismissed it from her thoughts and remained lying on her bed, waiting for it to subside. She knew that as soon as it was over, they'd come for her next.

She was locked in a facility somewhere below the earth in a room no larger than a tiny shed. The only furniture inside the room was an iron bed where she was chained to by the wrists and ankles. It was dark inside the chamber and the only light that entered it came from the small peephole by the door. So most of the time, she was left staring at complete nothingness.

When the screaming finally stopped, she couldn't restrain herself from quivering with fear. Because no matter how many times the doctors "treated" her, she could never get used to the pain. She doubted anyone could.

She listened as the footsteps clanking along the iron floors grew louder and louder with each step. Then, a sharp pang resonated and in a second, the door flew open and the room was filled with light. She winced, temporarily blinded by the abrupt shift in illumination.

"Where's the progress sheet on this one?" A male voice asked.
Another man replied, "Check the files under 'Red Room 201 – Female',"
A sound akin to that of shuffling papers filled the silence.

"Ah, here it is!" The first voice declared. "Alright. Get the needles ready, Joe."
"On it," 'Joe' replied.

As they went about their business, the girl slowly opened her eyes. Everything was blurry at first, but after a series of rigorous blinking, it all came into focus. Yes, the color of the room was blood red, but as she stared more intently, she noticed that it was rather intricately detailed with red vertical lines of a lighter shade. The floors were indeed made of iron, but they were clean and without rust.

When she thought about it, the room looked rather decent and even a little vintage. It was difficult to imagine it was a prison cell that housed a girl living a tortured existence.

"Hand me the Serum, would you, Joe?" The first voice said, moving in to block the girl's view of the wall. He looked tall and dark against the light. His hands were gloved and half of his face was concealed by a sanitary mask. He stared down at her and in his right hand, he held an injection.

Joe piped in from right above her, and she noticed that he had a little speck on his nose. It was probably a mole.

Joe let out a low whistle. "Damn, Bob." She winced as he drew her face in his gloved hand. "The meds did a good number on her face. Look," He pulled her chin up. His touch felt cold against her skin. "There are bruises everywhere."

'Bob' let out what sounded like a snort. "You know those are only temporary. You've seen the records haven't you? This girl's been suffering from asthma and bronchitis as far a time as her birth. But since the first treatment of The Cure, her immune system has only gotten better. And at rapid speed, might I add." Bob placed a hand on his companion's shoulder. "Joe, a medical breakthrough like this… it's… it's… " he dazedly struggled for a word.

"A little odd, don't you think?" Joe let go of her face. Shrugging off Bob's hand, he then pointed the small cylinder he held towards him, as if it were a magic stick. "Don't get me wrong. I like the money I earn from the rich folk who bought our research… but to go to the extent of taking in human test subjects just for us to perfect our drug for them—what makes you think they'd want immunity that bad?"

"Everyone wants to live forever, Joe. That isn't even a question." Bob then took the small vial and emptied its content into the injection. The needle glimmered in the light. She felt her heart temporarily stop in unease.

"Ah, enough coffee conversations, Joe," Bob said rather hoarsely. He stared at the girl, a calculated and cold expression in his eyes. "We're wasting daylight. I want to get to the harbor before the last boat leaves."

"Going home to the family?" Joe quipped. As Bob nodded in response, Joe carefully moved to stand beside him.

Joe put a hand on the girl's forehead, almost affectionately, and said, "Don't worry, this won't take long." She wasn't sure if he was speaking to her or to his friend, but it didn't matter because his words failed to convey the comfort they were designed to give.

Bob leaned towards her and took her left hand. At the nook by her elbow, he inserted the needle swiftly into her skin. In a second, she felt the serum enter her blood stream. She felt a shivering cold pulse through her. Then, in a torturously slow pace, the numbness was being consumed by immeasurable pain; the way a forest fire burns with stead. At that moment, she couldn't hear how loud her heart pounded in her chest. She couldn't even see Bob and Joe's expressions because her pupils rolled back against her eyelids. She was only vaguely aware of her own voice which, for the next 10 minutes or so, filled the halls with anguished cries.