The first thing I notice when I open my eyes is the light. Or, the lack of it. The next thing I notice is the slight cramp in my legs and the crunch of dead leaves as I manage to straighten up into a sitting position. I reach out to my legs in an attempt to massage some life back into them.
My mind is fuzzy; the events that brought me to what I suspect is a forest, jumbled within my head. Fragments of images swim as I try and make sense of them. A man in a white coat, brandishing a needle. A blade, sharpened to a deadly point. A scream, my own.
I am pulled from my confusion by the howl of a dog, around five hundred metres away. Without even knowing where I am or what I am doing here, I know there are more. And I know they are searching for me.
Adrenaline kicks in and I spring to my feet. Eyes scan the trees around me, plotting out an escape route. Still slightly stiff from an uncomfortable slumber, I set of, pushing smaller branches aside in a clumsy attempt to get away.
More leaves crunch underfoot with every step I take.
After only a minute or so, my breathing is laboured. The dogs howl again, much closer than before and I push myself to run faster.
I take not even five more steps and trip over a root. Palms forced to absorb the impact of my weight, I hear a snap. A stabbing pain followed by a dull thudding surrounds the bone in my left wrist. Knowing not to apply too much pressure to my wrist, I tentatively push myself to my feet one-handed.
By that point, it's too late.
Beams from the torches hit my face and I whimper. A little pathetic, but true nonetheless. A dart pierces my left forearm and it's almost as though I can feel the blood within my blood vessels slowing.
The illuminated woods around me spin and I black out there and then.
Around the clearly sterile room lie various metal instruments, on work surfaces and small tables. Wires lead to hospital machines; computers monitoring my blood pressure and heart rate and...
I frown, even the small movement hard to accomplish. A healing rate?
"She's awake," a nurse, dressed in blue scrubs says into a small, almost flat box on one of the work surfaces. "Statistics all as expected."
The reply comes from the box, a low and distinctly male voice purring his words, "Excellent. Bring her to me."
The nurse nods- although the man obviously cannot see- and moves to my side. For the first time, I try to move my limbs. Alas, the drug has no completely worn off yet and to aid my troubles, my limbs are strapped down by what feels like leather. As I wriggle my wrists frantically, the lines on the heart rate monitor lengthen and the harsh beeps become louder and more frequent.
"Stop struggling," she says gently, "I won't hurt you if you stay still."
I continue to struggle and her tone changes to a firm one, "Stop, now. Stop!"
Her final word is punctuated by a slap to my cheek and I fall silent, cheek throbbing dully. My body goes rigid and I clench my fists and curl my toes towards the soles of my feet. My mind also seems clearer, as if the slap pushed out the drug.
Her voice returns to its initial sickly sweetness, "See, that wasn't so hard now. Was it?" When I shake my head slightly, giving her the response she desires, she smiles, "I'm glad we agree. Now, Megan, I need you to promise you won't try and hurt anyone. Can you promise me that?"
I nod my head, mind reeling over one word. Megan? That must be me.
She moves to stand between my wrist and ankle and unclasps the restraints on both. Then she moves to the other side and does the same for the other side of my body.
I sit up, swinging my legs onto one side of the hospital bed, and look at my left wrist. No signs of it ever being broken.
Could it have possibly healed so quickly? No, of course not. Broken bones take weeks to fix and I can't have been out for that long. Which leaves only one other option; could I have imagined my entire time in the forest?
The details were too clear for it to have been a dream. The howl of the dogs, the scratching of low hanging branches, the crunching of leaves.
As I ponder over other possibilities, the nurse clears her throat and beckons for me to follow, the single motion patronising and somewhat derogatory. Devoid of all emotions but confusion, I follow her through the door and into the hall.
We take a sharp right turn and walk down the fluorescent-lit passage, the click of her heels echoing around the small space. The few people we pass- all dressed in the same blue scrubs- all stare at us, their wide eyes and agape mouths showing they are making no attempt to stop their gawking. The nurse ignores the, as if staring is completely normal and socially acceptable.
Self-conscious, I shrink to the wall, trying to hide myself.
The nurse stops and I do the same. The door we halted outside swings open and we enter. Again, I am following in her footsteps.
Unlike the passageway, there are no shadows for me to hide in. Luckily, there are also fewer people in here; me, the nurse and a man.
He stands from his seat behind a large wooden desk and for the first time I look around the room. It's an office, that much is clear. Large paintings little the walls, portraying the man from various angles at various ages. In all of them, he is wearing a business suit not dissimilar to the one he is currently wearing. The one hanging behind his desk is obviously the most recent.
"You like my paintings?" he asks, motioning to them all with a large, sweeping motion. He runs a gently hand along he wood of his desk, sapphire eyes trained on mine.
For reasons unknown, I am compelled to step closer to him. But I don't, forcing myself to stay rooted to the stop.
"I've never seen one actually work before," he mutters, almost to himself in a voice I recognise from the box. "You're a miracle. A living miracle." His words get louder until they reach a normal speaking volume.
"W-where am I?" I ask, the words coming out croaky from a throat unused for so long, "Who am I?"
"No damage to vocal chords. How is your wrist?" he asks and for the first time I fully take in and register his appearance.
At least six foot tall with blue eyes that seem to straight into my soul. His dark hair is receding and thinning, showing years of stress. The wrinkles and creases around his eyes and mouth place him at around sixty but somehow his eyes manage to maintain a youthful sparkle.
As I am studying his face, he takes my left wrist in his hands, turning it over and back again. Inspecting it. When he is satisfied, he uses a calloused finger to nudge my head up so my eyes are fixed upon his.
"I'm Doctor Vermados," he introduces himself, "Welcome to my sanctuary."
"Sanctuary?" I question, feeling one of my brows arching involuntarily.
"Sanctuary," Vermados nods, "A safe place or haven. I'm sorry for what happened to your wrist, but it was necessary. For the greater good. You don't mind a little pain if it's for the greater good, do you?"
I blink, unsure of what to say, and opt to stammer out the words, "I-I don't think I mind."
"Good. We have a few activities for you to take part in, but first allow me to explain everything. Does that sound okay?" When I give him no signs of understanding- or not understanding- he carries on. "You're probably wondering who you are. And where you are. And what you're doing here."
I nod, having had each question pass through my head multiple times throughout my walk and time in this room.
He reaches into his pocket and passes a small mirror to me, around the size of my palm, and I peer into it. Eyes the same colour as Vermados' greet me and I am unsurprised to find them widened in apprehension. Around my face fall tangled curls the colour of midnight. The face I am looking at seems around fourteen, although the slight amount of mud and dust on it makes me look older.
"You're a genetically modified human being. We've tried for years to successfully insert a vitamin K producing hormone into the human gene sequence and we've finally managed," his eyes light up, the glee he shows towards the subject scaring me slightly, "Vitamin K helps the blood clot and makes wounds heal faster. Hence the quick healing of your wrist."
The nurse continues, taking over from his mini-monologue, "We've tried with numerous specimens, working from insects to small mammals and further up the animal kingdom until we reached human children. Out of the fifteen children we've tried, you're the only one that has been successful."
"Of course, it isn't only the sped up healing process that has come from this modification. Increased brain activity, the ability to mimic noises that have been heard before, both mutations that have been found frequently in other mammals that have been modified," Vermados says. "Now, I have a proposition for you. As the first surviving human specimen, there is no guarantee you will be a success from here on. We were planning to merely take a blood test, carry out a couple of activities and experiments and then dispose of you."
I open my mouth to speak but find myself unable to form coherent words, let alone a full sentence, "Y-you... It's... You can't just kill me!"
"Au contraire," Vermados says in a softened voice, "We can do whatever we want. This... Sanctuary of mine is not on any map, no person outside of these four walls knows that we exist. And besides, you didn't let me finish. I was going to say, we were planning to take a blood test, run the activities and dispose of you but there is a way that you can be saved."
"Sir, this was not previously discussed within a board meet—"
"This is not a matter fit for board discussion," he interrupts the nurse, her feeble attempt at disagreement falling upon deaf ears. "If I wish for Megan to remain among us then she will." He turns to me, "We will still need the blood test and experiment results, but if you desire you can remain at this sanctuary as one of us, a scientist. I am certain that using your genetic information we can continue with the success of these modifications and with your assistance we could do it even quicker, with far more ease. So the simple question remains; stay as one of us or be disposed of?"
I bite my lip, conflicted. I don't want to die, what person would? But the idea of modifying other people, other children, makes me feel physically sick. I twist my fingers together and step back, flicking through the options in my head.
Of course, how bad could the modification really be? I've survived it and I must be valuable to the operation if Vermados if offering me the chance of survival when my death was planned before they knew if I would even survive.
But if I were the only one of fifteen to survive...
I nod, "Yes. Stay as one of you."
He smiles, and my stomach jumps, "Welcome to the K-Program, Megan."
A/N: Hey out there FictionPress. Hope you enjoyed the first chapter of Modified, if there are any major errors I'm really sorry. I'm currently searching for a Beta so if that's something you'd be interested in I would be eternally grateful as editing and proof reading really isn't my thing.
Anyway, I feel as if I'm rambling, so again I hope you enjoyed the first chapter and thanks for reading. Constructive criticism would be very much appreciated!