Chapter 1

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  • Dedicated to Matthew

The building had originally been a prison and the company that had bought it had sustained many of its original features, such as the cramped cells, the high-tech surveillance system, and the army of ominously armed guards. Some of the cells had fallen into a state of disrepair, with poorly painted walls and rusted bars adding to the eerie atmosphere. All that could be heard was the shallow breathing of the prison’s occupants and the rhythmic footfall getting closer and closer to cell four hundred and one.

   The door creaked open noisily, waking the man lurking in the corner of the cell. His breathing accelerated as he saw Eric; the rise and fall of his chest was clearly visible through his thin linen shirt. Eric lifted a syringe from the pocket of his white laboratory jacket along with a small vial of murky grey fluid. He stabbed the needle through the lid of the vial and smiled as the liquid seeped into the syringe.

   “Come here,” Eric ordered, his voice echoed through the cell, “Now.

   The man moved from the shadows and looked over Eric’s shoulder at the two guards who were stood menacingly on either side of the door. Escape was impossible, and so Eric advanced on the man with the needle. Upon approach, Eric took a video recorder from his other pocket and positioned it in a small hole in the wall.

   “Come here,” Eric repeated, “Stay within range of the camera.”

   The man took a step forward and held out his arm to Eric, he was trembling helplessly, with beads of sweat glistening on his forehead. In a single, ruthless motion, Eric slipped the needle under the man’s skin and – ignoring his cry of pain – forced the fluid into his bloodstream. Then he stood back to watch the effects of the serum, and these effects began extremely quickly.

   First, the man began to groan in pain, before collapsing to his knees. Then his eyes became bloodshot, looking grotesque against his paling skin. The man scratched at his own flesh, leaving pink marks along his arm, which – after another few seconds – began to bleed. Eric seemed mesmerised by the man who had flopped forwards and started to convulse on the floor. His body pulsed helplessly against the cold concrete ground, his cries getting louder and more haunting with each passing minute.

   “Cell four hundred and one, the subject has been exposed to strand twelve of leopard DNA.” Eric reported to the camera, “This strand has been rejected by the subject, resulting in numerous side effects.”

   Eric reached for the camera, carefully angling the lens at the man on the floor to record each of his bizarre symptoms. The man paid him no attention, preoccupied with the urge to rip his skin from his body with his fingernails. The blood was beginning to form a small pool beneath the man’s body, continuously growing with each drop that fell from his arms, neck and torso. Then Eric reached out of the cell and pulled in a small machine with a flashing screen and a bundle of cascading wires. He untangled two of the wires and connected small grey pads to the ends, before pressing them to the man’s chest.

   “The subject appears to have an accelerated heart rate, although it is unclear as to whether it has been caused from anxiety or from the strand itself.” Eric said.

   He continued to watch as the man’s back arched up, his hands clawing at the floor. He slipped in his own blood, falling onto his side and whining in agony. There were deep marks in his chest, many of which were still bleeding. His shirt was torn and hung limply from his tiny waist, dangling into the puddle of crimson. The man coughed hoarsely, spitting a mouthful of blood out and onto the floor, only adding to the mess that was already present.

   “H-help me...” he croaked, “P-p-please.”

   Eric watched the man and for a fraction of a second, his eyes seemed pitiful, but as quickly as it was there, it had gone. He looked away from the man at the monitor, showing the heart rate that was dropping severely. Eric knew what was going to happen next, after all, he’d seen it a hundred times already – maybe more. The subject was dying, completing the final stage in the rejection process. He turned the camera away from the man who was now lying flat on the floor, gasping loudly.

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