Prologue (Age 23)
I am perched atop my throne of bones, bones that belonged to the monsters who tried to strike fear into my heart and consume me. A metal crown sits a top my head, a crown that sticks into my scalp, piercing the skin, one I am forced to wear time and time again without explanation.
For what purpose?
I wear tattered robes, robes which have seen war too many times. My cold blue eyes glance over the destruction, eyes that have seen too much too soon, things no-one should ever have to have been subjected to.
So why was I?
They could never give up, even when they were obviously beaten. For a time, I considered sparing them… I retreated, seeking peace… but they couldn’t just leave it alone. They underestimated me. They didn’t take into consideration my determination and deep running hatred for what they did to me and the people I love.
Love… a funny concept. Most would associate it purely with the good times… the brief brushing of hands, the cold nights of shared warmth, the small stolen kisses, the undisclosed declarations meant solely for your ears…. Love is not so simple, at least it hasn’t been for me. It’s been a path strewn with obstacles and sacrifices, all just for the simple desire to find a small sanctuary in this apathetic and unforgiving world created by perjurers with silver tongues who entice with pretty yet hollow words. If there is no safe haven to be had… you carve one out. You cut away the infectious disease in the hope that underneath… underneath is something untainted by their grubby hands.
Does such a place exist?
I preside over my kingdom, a kingdom built on betrayal, deception and revenge. So much was sacrificed to get to this point, excruciating pain and suffering had to be endured. The rivers run red with the blood that has been spilt on the journey to reach this destiny, both others and my own.
Why did this happen?
They know me as ‘usurper’, ‘insurgent’… all I want is my freedom, a freedom they are not willing to grant me. They tried to control me, like so many others, keep me on an unbearably suffocating leash, rip me apart and use me to their own depraved ends… but they underestimated me. They dabbled with forces they did not understand and gave me something to fight for, someone to lose. Once they failed, they tried to destroy me. If they couldn’t have me… no-one could. I belong to no-one. I am not property to be traded. I am a person with feelings, hopes, desires… something they just didn’t get, couldn’t comprehend.
Why couldn’t they just leave me be?
I stand on the precipice, teetering over the edge.
Do I succumb to the urges to fall down into the abyss? Do I risk it all for my freedom? Was it worth it? All the death and destruction they caused…
I’ll leave that up to you to decide…
Chapter One: Never Over
Broken (Age 22)
Forest Police Station
I sit in a small run-down office opposite a man I assume to be a police officer given his uniform. He is trying to interrogate me, find out who I am and where I come from. Even I don’t know who I am anymore. This man does not know what real interrogation is… not that anyone should have to.
He gives me a long hard stare as he paces the length of the room, “I found you by the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere… was there an accident?” he questions, his eyes piercing me with an intense stare.
What happened to me was no accident, it was very much intentional… and that is the part that terrifies me.
My mind wanders back to that time…
A forest clearing, distant figures and flashing lights.
He wants me to tell him… but I can’t. I’m sure he has the best intentions in mind, but good intentions can get you killed. If I tell, he will die. I don’t want any more blood on my hands. I’ve had more than my fair share.
I sit there, my face stoic so as not giving anything away. At my silence, he leans forward in his chair and clasps his hands together, “Did someone try to hurt you…?”
Not only tried, but succeeded.
I am running frantically through the forest, away from the lights, away from the dogs, away from the murderers. A voice ahead of me calls me forward, “Max, turn left here!”
He leans back in his chair for a moment, rubbing his temples and then stands up, “How about a name? Someone I could contact?” he walks around the desk and perches himself on it, “You must have a family… friend… someone who could tell me who you are?”
Blue eyes stare back into mine, a mischievous glint in them, eyes I have stared into so many times...
Yes. I do, but I am not telling anyone. I am not putting them at risk. I have very few people I can trust and I would never tell.
He sighs and runs his hand over his balding head as I refuse to meet his eyes, “You don’t talk much, do you?”
I continue to stare past him at the wall, hoping that if I ignore him long enough, that he will leave me alone… at least that is what I hope. He shakes his head and sighs deeply, “Well, if you don’t help me, I can’t help you…”
I’ve heard that before. Usually just before they stick needles in me and perform other horrible experiments… I don’t need help, I need to leave… run far away from here and never come back.
He removes himself from the desk and sighs in exasperation, “We’re getting nowhere.”
That’s right. We aren’t. Let me go.
He stops abruptly when he reaches the door, then stops in his tracks. He turns back and stares at the back of my head. I feel his eyes running over the long healing scar and know that he’s going to ask. I hear his footsteps coming closer and closer behind me as he hesitantly asks, “Is that a scar?”
No… just leave. Don’t look…
He is now only a few inches from me, examining my shaved head, “Is that recent?”
He reaches out to touch the scar and as he does, the cup of coffee he was drinking flies off the desk and hits the wall with enough force to shatter it. The dark liquid oozes down the wall, leaving a trail as it drips onto the floor. The shattered shards scatter the floor, jagged and sharp. His eyes widen in shock and his mouth agape as he stares at me in disbelief and fear.
This is nothing. If you think that’s crazy, you haven’t seen anything.
A ghostly whisper reverberates in my mind, “Max, they’re coming to take us back.”
No… no they aren’t. I am never going back there, not after I have tasted my freedom… never again. Not after I’ve finally found something to live for.
The Experiment (Age 8)
I sit there playing with my toys, trying to stop myself from feeling bored. I’ve played with these toys so many times before and it gets boring quickly, especially when you aren’t allowed outside on your own.
They got me so many when I came here. Probably to keep me out of trouble.
I drop the doll I’m holding, once again growing tired of my own company.
It’s no fun if you don’t have anyone to play with though. Rachel plays with me sometimes if I ask. At least I have her.
I look up at the camera in the corner of my room and stare at it, narrowing my eyes. The small red light blinks on it, showing that someone is watching.
I know they are watching me, I’m not stupid. They think that just because I’m a kid that I don’t understand.
I turn back to my doll and move its arms to forget about the camera. The door creaks open and a man with short greying hair and goatee, blue overalls and glasses enters the room. I ignore him, hoping he’ll leave me to my playing.
I don’t wanna go. It’s scary and I don’t like it.
I see him out of the corner of my eye, getting closer and closer.
I pretended I was sick once to get out of it. They didn’t believe me so I had to go.
“Good morning, young Max,” he mutters in a quiet voice, “It’s time.”
Samuel is a bit weird, but he’s fun. I help him feed the squirrels and birds in the grounds. He always has time to talk to me. I don’t get everything he says, he kinda talks funny. Really quiet and mumbled. At least he’s nice… not like a lot of other people.
I stop playing and turn to Samuel, “Do I have to go?”
He walks over slowly and crouches down to my level, “If you don’t, how will you learn how to get out of here?”
Samuel never makes sense.
I stare down at the doll in my hands and place it back on the floor with the others, “I don’t get it?”
He smiles sadly at me, his eyes almost apologizing to me, “One day, you’ll understand. You’ll be happy you listened to old Samuel. Learn everything you can, who knows what you will become.”
I don’t have much choice.
I reluctantly get up and start to follow Samuel out of my room. As I walk past my desk, I pick up my camera and look through the viewfinder, scanning over the piles of unused toys.
It’s full of stuff… stuff I don’t really play with. I don’t get why they gave me all this. It just sits there.
The viewfinder settles on Samuel, who stares at me intensely, “You see the world differently to most, Max. Samuel does too. Don’t let them change that.”
I see a guitar propped against my bed, the one I had spent hours practising.
The only other thing I actually like in here, apart from the camera.
I pick it up, turning it over in my hands and give it a strum.
Maybe one day I can be a rock star. Might need to practise a bit first.
I place it back down on the floor gently and look up at Samuel, giving him my best puppy dog eyes. He shakes his head and sighs, “Samuel wishes he could help you more, Max. Maybe one day Samuel can. For now, you have to learn.”
It was worth a try.
I drag my feet out of the room and down the bright white corridor, swinging my arms
It’s really bright here. It hurts my eyes.
People in white coats stand in the corridor. They stop talking and stare down at me as I go by. Some of them smile, others look scared like I’m some caged animal who hasn’t eaten for a while, ready to attack them.
Why do they always do that?
A woman crouches down in front of me and beams, “Hello precious! Don’t you look pretty today?” although she smiles, her eyes don’t show it.
I follow Samuel down the hallway, still wanting to run away from this. It’s no good though, they’ll just catch me and take me back. He points to an ajar room just up ahead to his right, “Go on now, learn.”
I want to go back. This place is really scary.
I scrape my feet along the floor and enter the room. It’s really empty in here apart from a gray metal table and a black swivel chair. I sit down on the chair, moving it from side to side as I wait for this all to be over. Two men stand in the room who go quiet as I sit down. One is a tall big man with dark skin and a bald head. His name is Ray Wells. I don’t recognize the other man wearing a suit with brown hair, a short beard and glasses.
Must be one of the big boss people.
When I’ve got settle, he strides over to me, “Hi, Max. I’m Mr Jefferson, but you can call me Mark,” I don’t say anything, but he smiles and presses on, “I’ll be helping Ray today.”
Samuel walks in behind me and gives me a small reassuring smile as he leans against the wall.
I feel safer with him in here. I know he won’t let them really hurt me.
He gives Mark a weird look, one that seems kind of angry. I haven’t ever seen Samuel angry before, it’s not in his nature. He never shouts and always has a smile on his face. It makes me feel worried about what kind of person Mark for Samuel to act like this.
Mark crouches down and takes a metal thing from the table, “Okay! We’re going to put this on now. Just like a crown.”
They always put it on. I don’t know why.
He puts the metal thing on my head, “Oh yeah! Oh. Now you’re a little princess!”
I don’t like it. It hurts my head. It’s too tight.
I reach up to loosen it, but it doesn’t work. I sigh and stare down at my feet.
Princesses are trapped too, at least in the story books they gave me. Maybe one day someone can come save me.
Mark smiles at me with that same fake smile I’ve seen a hundred times. His eyes are dull and emotionless, not like when Samuel does it. When he smiles, it’s like his whole body brightens up and his eyes sparkle with genuine happiness, “Don’t worry. Everything’s going to be fine.”
I dunno if he’s trying to convince me or himself.
They all exit the room to the one next door. I glance down at the desk, seeing cards on it. A booming electronic voice comes from a speaker on the wall, “Hey Max, can you hear me?”
I shrug in response, knowing that I’m not ready but that my words won’t change anything.
“Okay, let’s start. Kathleen is next door…”
I dunno why they always tell me. I know what I have to do. I’ve done it loads of times. I dunno why though.
“… and she has the same cards as you. Now, she’s going to choose one and we’ll see if you can tell us which one she chose,” I swing my legs under the table in silence, the chair moves a bit, “You think you can do that?” I shrug again and the voice echoes out again, “Alright, let’s go for it. First card.”
I turn around to see a ghostly figure standing next to me. She must be about my age and is kind of glowing a kind of blueish color. She has long flowing blonde hair and mischievous hazel eyes. She smiles at me sadly, “It’ll be over soon, Max. Then we can go play again.”
Only I can see Rachel and talk with her. She helps me do stuff I shouldn’t be able to do, like move things and see things I’m not supposed to see.
I nod as she disappears through the wall to look at the cards in the other room. I can see them through her eyes and tap the right one. We do this a few times.
We always do it so many times. It gets boring.
The voice speaks again, “Very good, Max. Let’s try something else. There’s some building blocks on the table in the other room. You think you can make them fall over?”
Rachel pushes the blocks, causing them to crash to the floor. The woman sat at the table gasps in shock and moves away.
“Good, Max. Anything else in the room you can move?”
Rachel pushes a plastic cup off the table, the water inside spilling onto the floor. She then moves the woman’s chair across the room with her still sat in it.
Rachel kind of enjoys messing with people. At least she’s having fun.
The lights start to flicker and the woman in the other room stands up abruptly, “That’s it… I’m sorry, but… I’m done…’ she goes over to the door and pushes on it, but the door doesn’t open. She begins bashing on the door in panic and screams, “GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!”
The voice from the speaker sounds desperate and firm now, “Okay, Max, the experiments over.”
The woman rattles the door handle desperately, “It’s locked. Get me out of here, NOW!”
I hear loud banging on the door behind me as if someone is trying to break down the door, “Max, you need to STOP!”
Black shadows seep underneath the door, threatening to get me.
Rachel rushes to my side, ready to stop the monsters from hurting me, “I’m scared too, Max. But we can go play soon.”
I feel the tears run down my cheeks as the door flies open behind me. Samuel moves faster than I have ever seen him do before over to me and scoops me up in his arms. I lunge at him, wrapping my arms around his frame and burying my head in his shoulder as I sob. He strokes my head comfortingly and whispers, “There, there, Max. The monsters are gone for now. You were very brave, you and Rachel.”
Samuel is the only one who believes the monsters are real. Just because other people can’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I think he can see Rachel too. He talks to her sometimes and she really seems to like him. He’s the only one in this place that treats her like a person and not a monster.
Mark crouches down beside me, “It’s over, Max, it’s over.”
I hear the woman in the other room screaming, ‘freak’ and ‘devil’.
I don’t wanna do this anymore.
I clutch on tighter to Samuel and bury my head further into his shoulder, “It’ll never be over.”