Chapter 26: Test Subject

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This time, I was spared the horror of being shoved into Archibald's pocket, though the ride wasn't much more enjoyable while squished in his hand. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that I could literally feel the metal creeping up my leg. Maybe my other foot was already metal too. Breathing in quick, shallow breaths, I tried to curl my toes inside my gray sneaker. Nothing. Though admittedly, that could just as easily be the result of my getting squished problem.

Calm down, Jack, I told myself sternly; if I didn't slow my feverish thoughts, I would never get out of here!

When my breathing had slowed, though not deepened much, due to the flesh squeezing me to a pulp, I pulled up memories of the creatures I'd seen turning to steel and tried to pin down what I actually knew.

The spread of steel hadn't seemed very even. Some of the tigers had one or two legs completely turned, with the others still untouched. Would flying more cause it to spread faster? Or did the creeping metal have nothing to do with flight? I hadn't seen enough transforming creatures walking around to know.

Even through my panic, I couldn't help but notice that none of the halls we passed through had windows. Nor could I identify candles or torches or any other source of light. And yet there was light. Not a lot, but enough to show me how freakishly clean the current stretch of wall was. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that on the outside the entire palace appeared to be made of glass, while on the inside, every wall, ceiling, and floor looked to be made of rough gray stones cut expertly into blocks.

My thoughts were cut short when we arrived at our destination: back at the laboratory.

I struggled to collect enough breath. "Why did you lock me up in that cage if you were just going to bring me back here?"

Archibald chuckled, his deep voice sending vibrations shivering through me. I might have imagined it, but I thought I heard something faintly metallic- my foot?

"Ah, Test Subject 264, your stupidity amuses me. Can you not see the way my desk has been set up? I could hardly do that with you flying around loose, now could I?" He shifted. "There was also an unfortunate mishap I had to deal with, and we couldn't have you getting in the way, could we?"

I cocked my head at that. "But why not trap me here?"

"I was not equipped. I have had to retrieve my Specimen Glue from across the castle. And besides, I figured you would appreciate the irony of that particular cage."

I blinked. He was answering my questions! Quite helpfully, in fact. It was strange. I'd imagined someone trying to do experiments on me and ultimately kill me would be less civil. Either way, I intended to take advantage of his talkativeness.

"So what's the hurry, anyway?"


"You left me for what, twenty minutes?"

I might have imagined it, but I thought his movements suddenly became less smooth. "I'm anxious to start work on a human, as I believe it will be most revealing." I didn't like the wicked glint in his eye as he studied me.

Then, without another word, Archibald dropped me unceremoniously into a glass container of clear goo. I sunk up to my neck.

I had left my blood-soaked shirt in Colton's cage, so the sludge enveloped my bare chest, almost wriggling over me as I sank. It didn't feel much better while just floating there.

He pulled out a pair of tweezers for each hand, and told me I could either roll up my pants, or he could add them to his collection. As he did so, he lowered them toward me, giant metallic points that were undoubtedly brutally sharp.

I chose the former.

"Alright TS264, hold still," he said while busily mixing up a formula. I didn't want to think about what might have gone into it, much less what it was for. As for the holding still bit, I would love to have disobeyed, though I didn't have much of a choice. It had taken me several painstaking minutes of pressing my arms down slowly through the ooze to roll up my pants and (at his instruction) take off my remaining shoe and sock. Moving through the "glue" was basically like trying to hit something underwater, only with loads more pressure than I was used to, plus suction and the awful jiggling that made it feel almost alive. What I saw through the clear substance wasn't good, though it was far from my worst fear. The steel came up onto my calf. My other foot was fine.

Soon enough, the giant had completed his formula, taken extensive notes, and lowered a dropper towards me. I squeezed my eyes shut, feeling the goo jiggle with my quick breaths. This was it. I was about to die.

A/N: Thanks for reading! Comment below: what did you like? Dislike? I'd love to hear from you!

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