Slinker waited. The bonds around his wrists looked tight, but they weren't; he had cut them, and retied them loosely. Now, he lay back, pretending to be asleep as he always was.
Ever since he had started remembering things – real remembering, not the disturbing half-fantasies, half-illusions, all nightmares he had when he was drugged – ever since he had started remembering properly, about a month ago, he had been carefully paying attention to what went on around him.
Inside that small and claustrophobic room that was both barely big enough to hold the bed with enough room to walk around on either side and everything he could remember, he had quietly formulated an escape plan.
He didn't really know why he wanted to escape. All he felt was that he didn't belong in this room, with these men in white coats walking in and out, sometimes cutting him, or stabbing him with a needle. The men hurt him and he wanted to get away, that was only natural - but somehow it was deeper, like he was yearning for a thing he could neither remember nor describe...
The first step had been to get a knife. He had noticed the men leaving scalpels near his bed, and all it took was to wait for some subtle diversion when they weren't looking to grab it between his toes and conceal it under his foot until he was alone. Then he had the task of manoeuvring his feet to deposit the blade to his hand. He had managed it far easier than he should have done, and then it was mere minutes to slice the cords and loop them around his hands to keep the pretence.
Now for the next step.
Footsteps approached his room from the right. The man strolled in with the same casual manner as if he was strolling through a park, not in some illegal experimenting facility. The footsteps went round to his feet, then up to his left side. A risky peek out of his eye told him that the man was facing the wall to Slinker's back, engrossed in some files or other. Most importantly, he was also alone.
Stealthily, Slinker dropped the false ropes around his right hand. They fell away with a soft slither, but the man didn't turn. He didn't turn, in fact, until a fist impacted the side of his neck with the strength and precision of a ballistic missile. At that point, the man had no choice but to turn; he swung around, flailing his arms, and collapsed against the wall a few feet to the side of the bed.
Slinker leapt out of the bed and began to drag the man onto the bed, intending to tie him up, but voices approaching the room stopped him in his tracks. Frantically, he looked around, seeking an escape he couldn't find. Already, many footsteps were coming this way. Out of fear, he pressed himself against the wall opposite his own bed, next to the door. He wished he was invisible...
Several men came into view. Two of them were armed with sub machine guns, and probably more of them had concealed guns. Three of them walked into the cell, the others flanked the door. Slinker cowered, silently. It was surely only a matter of time before they glanced behind the door, and then he'd be recaptured and almost certainly killed. He had probably seconds left, and no way out without them seeing him.
The men surrounded the prone figure, and after a long, excruciating while... walked away, bearing him on their shoulders. The others outside the doors followed them. As if they hadn't seen him pressed behind the door in almost plain sight.
He looked down, and had to bite his tongue down to stop him yelping in surprise; he wasn't there any more! He felt around quickly to check his body was still there, and hadn't dissolved into the air and left only his conscious behind. But no, he could feel his body still exactly where it was meant to be – But why couldn't he see it then?
Slinker didn't hang around to find out more. He ran out of the room, and down the cold oppressive abandoned corridor.
He didn't understand. All he remembered was the room, the bed, the man with the needle and... what? There was something, tugging at the back of his mind, telling him he ought to know more. It was from there that his desire to escape was driving him relentlessly, telling him to seek a way out, a way to find the people he loved...
He stopped. What was that thought? He didn't remember anyone else apart from the men with the needles and the knives, and he certainly didn't love them. What even was love?
He turned left and into a door, completely at random, and opened it. It looked like an office, and thankfully it was empty. Darting inside, he shut the door behind him and collapsed against it, breathing heavily.
After a few minutes rest, and careful listening to make sure he wasn't being followed, Slinker staggered up, and moved to lock the door. He paused, hand extended to the latch. He could actually see his hand again; the invisibility was gone. And he was still holding the scalpel, its long thin blade reflecting the dim light through the spotless window. He locked the door anyway, and looked around cautiously.
This room was much nicer than the room he had always remembered. It had red wallpaper, a nice wooden desk with a cushioned seat. Even the floor was carpeted, the fabric felt soft and warm on his bare feet. The desk had a name in a stand - “Dr. T. C. Wallace” - and sheets of type-written paper in front of the chair, and it was these that held his gaze, for one main reason.
It had his name on the head of the paper.
He walked carefully around the desk, and picked up the paper, reading the contents.
“Specimen 4713 – 'Slinker'. Experiment into natural camouflage through genetic modifications and specialised virus carriers.”
He flicked through the papers, his eyes drinking every detail of what had happened. His fingers started trembling as the cold, unemotional words described the violent testing, the numerous operations, the memory erasing...
Suddenly, he looked up and jumped. A movement had flickered in the corner of his eye. There, by the door where he had walked in, was a mirror. He relaxed, but was drawn to examine the figure in the mirror.
Slinker saw a boy, probably about ten or eleven, but the demeanour of someone much older. He wore only a pair of long shorts, showing the well-defined muscles across his torso and over his thin limbs. He looked closer, though, and scars of all shapes and sizes pocked his chest. He turned around, and his eyes widened.
Down the length of his spine, was a massive surgical scar, opening up to expand across his shoulders and pelvis like a giant letter I. Along either side of the scar on his back, and flaring across his shoulder blades, was something, some different material attached to his skin. It looked freakish, ridged and tough... almost like scales.
He moved to go back to the desk, but he stopped, and leaned closer to the mirror. His eyes – his eyes were fascinating. The iris wasn't the constant colour it should be, it was shifting. It resembled a dense shoal of colourful fish seen from very far away, or a thick circular bank of smoke, swirling and rippling constantly, flowing from the centre to the edge and almost seeming to drag him into their depths. They were as yellow as a cat's for the most part, but as he looked closer, he saw hidden within the yellow were hints of a vivid red.
He went back to the papers, riffling through them until one phrase bounces back at him. He checked the calender on the wall, the date was marked for exactly a week ago.
“Grafted synthetic chameleon skin to subjects back. Will test improvements at later date.”
He growled silently, the rage slowly building in him, and he impatiently went through the papers again, then went through the desk. Coming across a chocolate bar, he unwrapped it and devoured it ravenously. It hurt his stomach as it descended but the pain helps to focus his mind.
He carried on riffling until he saw a folder. He seized it – and he froze. The folder was marked “Specimen 4713 – 'Slinker'. PERSONAL HISTORY”
This was it. This was what those half-remembered dreams meant - it must be! These pages in the dull, light brown card folder contain his entire forgotten existence. His fingers trembled, his mouth went dry. He fingered the edge of the card, half hoping and half dreading what he would see...
The door shuddered. Fists thundered against the wood. Slinker turned and, leaping into the air, seized the edge of the tall filing cabinet and clambered on top of it. Again, he wished he was invisible, remembering how it had worked in his initial escape. He looked down. He was still there.
Panic started to take hold as the thumping turned to the jingling of keys. It had worked earlier, why wasn't it working now? He concentrated as hard as he could on just melting out of sight, vanishing, becoming invisible. Sweat started to bead on his skin with the effort.
There was a gentle click and the door swung open. A man strode in, saw the disarray on his desk, and immediately started sorting through the papers. What he didn't see was the now invisible Slinker relax from the effort, and slump slightly forward.
Slinker, crouching in his space, still clutched at the papers of his mysterious past. Desperate not to make a noise that could be heard over the man's sorting, he opened the folder and carefully slid out the paper. The man didn't hear him. Slinker began to read down the page, clutching at every detail like a drowning man would clutch at his life-vest.
And as he read, the memories flooded back. He almost gasped in shock as his mind drowned in the sudden flood of recollection induced by the words reading. It was like the world dissolved in front of his eyes, and he was taken back into those memories...