- Age / Gender:
- n/a, Male
- London, Uk.
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I change my mind too quickly to really know. I'm bad at grammer.
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Level 3 Blank Slate
Ranked as Civilian
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He kept his back to the windows because what was outside never changed. There would always be the empty houses, burnt out cars and the ravages of a war lost. No, Colin kept his gaze on the metal floor of the transport vehicle. Every so often it would turn sharply one way or the other and he would grip the lip of his chair to keep himself still. When it hit the frequent potholes he would bounce. He felt like a package and in a way he was. Colin Forbes, special delivery for recycling.
"Almost there Col," the driver, a young woman whose name he couldn't remember called over her shoulder.
"Couldn't I have just come here myself?" He asked pinching the bridge of his nose. He was getting a headache again and the worst of it was there wasn't a chance of a drink.
"Would have been I bet and there's been little to no activity lately, but," and then she stopped. Colin looked up and saw her shift uncomfortably in her seat. Her eyes flicked a look at him in the rear view mirror.
"Don't worry, I get it," He mumbled.
Glenda Porter had started with a house. After sixth months she invested in a warehouse walking distance from where she lived. One year later she has two tower blocks: Jenner House and Grumley Court. They had never been the places you could have worked around at night and felt safe. Hell, Colin wouldn't have moved there if he had been paid too, and yet here he was on his way to the old estate right now.
In the back of armoured Land Rover Colin pressed his hands together, locking his fingers he squeezed till it hurt. There was an ache behind his eyes that was threatening to push them out. The heavy price of a hangover, he told himself. For a long time now he'd developed a set routine that hadn't let him down; go to sleep drunk and wake up the same way. The route to addiction for him had been avidly pursued. That wasn't to say he didn't have his lucid moments, but on the whole he tried to avoid them - they came with hangovers after all. Time was when he would have been the designated driver more often than not, but times change. When the dead walk rules clean living seems a waste of time.
Another lurch and Colin's stomach followed suit.
"You alright back there," the driver asked.
Colin grunted and concentrated on holding his breakfast down, "Just travel sickness."
The woman made a noise that made it clear she didn't believe it for a moment. There was also the stink he was giving off. It was clear to Colin that no matter how much he ate mints are guzzled mouthwash if you drink whiskey like water people will know.
He was relieved when the Land Rover squealed to a halt and the door popped open.
"Hope it goes well," said the driver.
"Don't bet on it," he replied, before stepping out into the shadow of the two tower blocks.
A high wire fence was right next to him and a gate was ajar. Standing beside it, leaning so that the fence bowed slightly was a man with an automatic rifle. His foot was in the gate keeping it from closing.
"Come in Mr Forbes," the man said to Colin, although he never looked at him. His eyes kept scanning the houses and streets beyond.
Pushing through Colin was surprised to see the owner herself making her way towards him.
"Welcome!" Glenda called, waving. She was a spry old woman with thick black rimmed glasses and bobbed iron grey hair. For a moment he was going to ask how she knew he was here, but then he noticed the CCTV cameras on poles and didn't bother.
"Thanks for meeting me," he managed and shook her hand.
"Well, you're on the Needed List. A programmer of some kind?" Gently she gave his hand a squeeze and then let go.
He shrugged wearily, "Not that I think it's any use."
"Well, those in charge beg to differ. They believe you are worth keeping in one piece. That being said I make it a point to have a good look at those the government deem so important to our continued existence." She examined him for good measure, resting one hand on her hip and the other holding the frame of her glasses. "Despite your...excesses, I believe that there's a good chance we can help."
She was dressed like what he imagined a secretary from the eighties would be wearing. A clean white shirt, buttoned to her neck and a cold blue skirt. The skirt almost brushed her tiny black shoes when she walked.
Gravel crunched under his feet as they walked across the car park. It was almost empty, only a few cars left in the spaces. There were large black words above the well-lit entrance, they said Jenner House. The windows, stretching up for twenty floors were all lit, and all had the curtains drawn. Behind these shapes moved in most of them, while some looked to be standing still. He couldn't help but wonder if some of the owners were still in their rooms behind those curtains. The thought made him shiver.
If he squinted Colin wondered how it would all look. With the grey clouds and the wan light the bricks and mortar could be just as they had always have been. Maybe that was the secret - squinting at life? He half grinned at the thought. That could be what a double whiskey was for. The thought of that made his tongue squirm in his mouth. It also made him realise the state he was probably in. He began fussing with his shirt and making sure it was all tucked in. There was sweat under his armpits and between his shoulder blades, but that he couldn't help.
Two burley guards in blue caps, weapons slung across their chests appeared in front of them as they approached.
"Hello Roger," Glenda said, "Steven."
The muscle nodded and retreated back out of the way. One of them had a limp.
"Sorry about that," she made a face. "The EU have stuck their nose in deeper than ever. I need a certain amount of well trained types on site at all time. You wouldn't believe the bill, and the checkpoints!" She waved a hand in the hair like she was getting at a bad smell.
Another member of security was behind doors that Colin was certain weren't so secure back when the flats were council run. Tugging on his blue cap before he got up the guard hot stepped over. Brown hair sticks out in tufts from under its corners of his cap. He didn't smile and Colin wondered if he was so professional when the boss wasn't around. Was he getting special treatment?
The youngster shuffled in a drawer affixed to the wall beyond the glass. As he worked Colin couldn't help but be impressed by what Glenda had done. DNA coded locks and the glass has been replaced by the type of stuff that could stop cars. She's made a freak show into a government sponsored project.
Glenda showed her ID and then Colin fumbled with his passport. The security guard held up a barcode reader and scanned the offered document. For some reason that he couldn't figure out Colin was holding his breath, and then he thought about the first sweeps. Colin had been sealed into the Majestic sports stadium when it all happened. No one was allowed to leave. They had said that. There was no way to get out and it was suicide. That was why he couldn't get back to them. Why they died.
A small flap opened and the guard put a thin sheet of glass on a stand that Colin hadn't even noticed. Behind him Glenda sighed and apologised again.
"Spit," the guard said.
Colin shook his head confused and angry. He felt his face flush. The memories of the checks were stirring the ones he ignored. "But, there's nothing wrong with me," he snapped. If there was an outside chance he was infected he would have blow his brains out long ago.
"Spit," the guard repeated.
He couldn't see them, but he knew that the guards behind him would be giving him a good look now. The weapons were probably not so casually held either. He sighed and then spat. Some of it got on his jumper and he wiped at it irritated. The angrier he got the more he felt how uncomfortable he was. The sweat on him seemed to cover him in a film that was attracting every piece of muck in the air, and the thirst for anything alcoholic made him want to weep.
Taking the sample the guard disappeared into what probably would have been where the concierge would have sat. A rectangle of wood and glass in the middle of the entrance lobby. It probably never had a nest of anti-personal motion activated cannons on top before though. His face was bathed in a green light as he waited in front of a small black plastic monitor. He didn't move or even blink. His eyes did flick up to watch Colin though. In the centre of Colin's chest a band tightened as he began to worry.
Throwing the fear away with a thumbs up the guard jumped to his feet smiling, "All clear." He flicked a switch opening the door. It smells like a swimming pool inside.
Glenda took a book from the guard and began flicking through the pages.
The walls in the lobby were pastel green, there were two double seater leather sofas and one single gathered around a small glass table. On the table was a pile of magazines. Colin picked out the cameras in the corners of the room and wondered about the other glass eruptions of monitoring equipment that studded the roof.
"Do you really need all this space?" Colin looked up as he said it imaging the shuffling feet above him. The closeness of so many bodies forces him to undo his top button. If he had only managed to sink a mouthful of something before he got here. He's sure that he would have felt a least a little more relaxed than this.
"Mr Forbes," Glenda starts and then stops, "there are a lot of people out there who lost someone. I read what was sent to me; I read all my correspondence personally. In these two buildings are countless lost souls who can meet your needs and the various needs of others. There needs to be this many here."
"And the training?"
"On site also; it keeps the costs down if we keep it in-house. I wouldn't trust another company if I'm quite honest. I've developed methods..."
"I know Pavlovian conditioning."
Glenda nodded, "Yes, I suppose everyone knows about it by now."
"Do you get them drooling like dogs faced with a muffin?" The words just came out. He cursed his fuzzed head. He's repeated something he had heard on a late night news show.
"A bit more advanced than that Mr Forbes," Glenda said steadily.
Of course, everyone will look past the horror if the results bear fruit. And they did. Colin wanted to say it. He wanted to snap at her, force her away, but he knew that she wouldn't be going anywhere. Not at least till she had shown him what was his.
He stayed quiet for a moment and then, because Glenda kept staring he managed to mumble, "Sorry."
"Of course there are limitations," she continued apparently unperturbed, "Like all sciences things are never exact, but we aim to get as close as possible with the training."
The image of Heath tilting his head to the side when he asked questions came to him then. It made him look all of his eight years and more. The sudden intrusion felt like a slap to the face. There were too many things for him to remember. If there had been a bottle of meths he would have had it and taken a bullet if needed. This was why he didn't stay sober - too many things triggered his memories. Colin wanted to be the do or die type, but for most things he couldn't even raise his voice let alone get angry. The breath in his lungs sawed in out of his chest. They shouldn't have kept them locked up, should have let them out and back to their families. But you wouldn't have gone. The icy bastard voice he couldn't shut up wheedled at him.
"I want to show you someone Colin," Glenda had edged up close to him. She steered him by the elbow towards the middle of three elevators. "I'm going up, Shaun."
Shaun settled himself back into his chair, nodding, "Yes, ma'am." He rested his gun on his lap. His face again cast in a green glow. He must have seen the broken down types that passed through Jenner House all the time. Having been cleared of the virus Colin's twitches would have been nothing to get excited about.
Glenda called the lift down with a swish of her ID. The original button long removed. Far away the deep thrum of the machinery starts up.
"Has anything ever gotten out?" Colin asked as they waited. Static in his head made him want to fill the silence with any questions he could think off.
"Never; we have a guard on every floor and motion sensitive gun placements. I like to boast that there are more guns and cameras than bricks in this place." She gave him a tight smile.
"Anyone ever infected?"
The door opened and they both got in, he let the old woman in first and she thanked him with a bob of her head. He noticed she didn't have any jewellery on. There may have been something in that, but he was aching now. A corner of his mind told him that no matter was about to happen here he'd been was getting pissed when he got back to base. If they threw him out, well, he'd deal with that when it happened.
The scrunched lips of the old woman moved, but Colin was oblivious. His thoughts were locked onto the places he had stashed his drink. Behind the boiler, under towels, were a couple of bottles he could easily get at. It would be warm, but put it in the freezer and hey presto.
Suddenly she said something that caught his attention, "children."
"Sorry?" Again he wiped at his forehead.
"Floor eighteen; children and adolescents."
The metal doors whisked open.
Again another guard. The same nod.
Tiny handprints covered the walls of the corridor. Colin studied them for a moment and shuddered. He really didnt want to think of anything here painting like that; it felt wrong. A banner read Tiger Ward.
Glenda must have noticed his expression because she spoke then, "I believe that these children are sick. They are not monsters."
"Terminally," he answered stiffly.
Glenda acknowledged that, "But not monsters. The decor helps people to be more receptive to this philosophy."
"Fine," Colin gulped air and the tang of disinfectants made his throat tighten. "Sorry, I think I've made the wrong decision. I want to go back down. I want to leave."
The Needed List could burn for all he cared. There was no way he would be taking anything home with him. There was a bang from one of the rooms and a moan like wind pushing through leaves. It was desperation. That's why he was there. Colin fumbled in his pockets for his cigarettes, remembered he had left them at home and then dropped his chin. He heard the lift doors shut behind him.
"I understand you never saw your son when it happened?" Glenda's voice was quiet. Colin shook his head. "It is a hard thing to do isn't it, to live on when they're gone?"
His first words got stuck in his mouth, so he took a moment before answering, "I lost a piece of my heart when Heath died. I was outside, away on business. I ended up in the Majestic and that was that." He wouldn't cry. He wouldn't tell the truth either. The files were there for anyone to read.
"Terrible, so very terrible." Her hand touched lightly on his shoulder, "What we offer can never replace what you have lost," Glenda said. There was no questioning of whether he had tried to get out and Colin was thankful for that. And then her voice changed. "But, if you want to leave I can't stop you."
Colin stared at his shoes. He lifted his head and looked into the hard eyes of Glenda, the work on the walls and the guard who stood relaxed by the lifts. The woman gave him a friendly smile out of place with the weapon she held. The pain in his chest bloomed then died. He would never run from help, he would never leave safety behind.
"You loved your son Mr Forbes. No one can take this from you, yet in the room I am going to take you to is a little boy who you could grow to love also."
"But, he won't be him."
"No, and you knew that when you came. I can train our residents and some have the ability to learn more than others. The little boy you will see has an extensive range of abilities."
In his mind he saw Heath crying over a spilt ice-cream, talking with his mum, drawing outside and inside the lines when was a toddler. "I don't think this is the right thing for me to do."
Glenda batted that away with the same move of the arm he'd seen earlier, "Nonsense. How many times have you fallen in love Mr Forbes?"
The question took him surprise, "I don't know."
"More than once I imagine?"
He shrugged, "Ok, yes more than once. I was married twice if that's what you're getting at."
Glenda pointed a thin finger at his chest, "And do you still love your ex-wife?"
"But you did?"
He thought about it slowly, "Yes, of course I did."
Nodding Glenda turned and walked a short way from him and then stopped. She turned on the tip of her black shoes. "I often wonder what happens to that love. Is it brushed away forever or does it simply dim to a point that we can no longer see it? Whatever the answer is what I know is that we can love again. There is a saving grace for us all. We don't have to end up like the fools who end themselves by their own hands. No, the saving grace means that we can move on."
"I could never forget him."
"And yet you stayed in the Majestic?"
He lurched forward before he knew what he was doing. Glenda hopped back and held an arm out warding him away.
"Mr Forbes!" Someone shouted and then he felt the muzzle of a gun in the small of his back.
His took big gulps of breath and glared at Glenda who shrugged. With a start he realised he was growling. He wanted to tear him to pieces, or shove her in a room with one of her children.
The old lady seemed less than impressed and smoothed her skirt down, cleared her throat and then started speaking again, "You stayed in the Majestic?"
All the muscles he had groaned with the effort to stay still. Colin's jaw bunched and he spat out the word, "Yes."
"And yet you could have left."
"I was quarantined. I was tested. I was trapped."
A rueful smile spread across her face and Colin's stomach heaved, "No, I don't believe that Colin. I, and you, know that you could have got out with the others who were freed to go find their families. A misguided Captain I believe thought this only fair." Shaking her head, her earlier composure back she continued, "No, you had the chance to leave and you didn't. Why?"
Light flashed at the corner of his vision and there was an echo to every noise made. The face of the Captain telling people to leave, the open door and the people who rushed out. The door closing.
"You didn't leave because you knew it was too late - isn't that right Colin?"
The floor moved beneath his feet and staggered sideways. "I, I," he stammered and flapped feebly at the wall and then turned to rest his forehead against the cool bricks.
"I am telling that you have a chance to start something fresh. You have been sent here because the government feel you would benefit from our services. It is a chance for closure if you like. Possibly it will give you the reason to stop harming yourself."
The weight of his thoughts almost buckled his knees. There was something in what she was saying, but it felt wrong to admit that. It felt like a betrayal to his son. His son who had died while he was safely locked away. The child that he had abandoned when he said he had 'No family' to those who asked in the Majestic.
"I want to feel normal again."
He heard her sigh, "You never will Mr Forbes. No one does, but you can rebuild and this can be a first step. You never had a choice Mr Forbes, you know that."
Shoulders sagging he cleared his throat, "Ok." He was a coward and he knew it, Glenda knew it and anyone else who read his file knew it. The problem was he wanted to live.
She took him by the forearm, just below the wrist and led him down the corridor. He only lifted his eyes when they reached a white door with the number 23 on it.
"Here she said," She ran her card over the reader and the locked clicked. "This little boy is in superb condition. He has a bite mark on the back of his calf, but that's it. An excellent learner he has seven routines, including getting into bed, dressing and undressing and amazingly he can pass a football."
Colin couldn't say a word. All he could see was the little boy with the long blond hair perched on the end of his bed. He looked like Heath and next to the spotless trainers he wore was an equally clean football.
"The cosmetics we apply are professional as you can see. Bring him back for regular checks and needless to say he'll remain in excellent condition for a very long time. Of course, as with all behavioural therapies, conditioning has to be enforced regularly - we can do this for a fee that the government are happy to subsidise if you have any troubles. I'd take up this option. We have very low rates of regression in our residents, but it always pays to be on the safe side."
The boy on the bed lifted his head and his hair shifted slightly so that Colin could see his eyes. They were brown where Heath's had been blue, but that didn't matter.
"Do you have a name in mind?" Glenda asked quitely over his shoulder.
"I'd like to call him Heath."
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