By Jonny Thompson



            “Claire?” said a low muffled voice over a loudspeaker.

            Claire struggled to open her eyes to the searing light that threatened to burn them with each miserable blink. She tried shielding the light with her hands but found them bound tightly around a chair, the cords burrowing into her wrists as she began fighting against her restraints.

            “Good of you to join us Claire.” Said the ominous voice.

            “Where am I.” the words feeling like sandpaper in her throat.

            “You’ve been a bad girl, Claire.”

            “Who are you? Why can’t I move?” Claire said, kicking her feet and finding the same tight cords holding them in place.

            “All in good time.”

            “LET ME OUT OF HERE!” she screamed, thrashing about in the metal chair, pulling so aggressively on her restraints they threatened to tear through her skin.

            “Careful Claire.” The voice spoke calmly as her chair rocked so far, its legs slid out from under her. She crashed to the ground, her body and head slamming hard against the cold concrete floor causing an immense amount of pain in both.

            Her vision filled with tiny bursting stars scattered throughout a black backdrop. Heavy footsteps sounded from somewhere beside her and stopped. A set of firm hands reached down and gripped her shoulders as both she and the chair were hauled upright.

            “Help me.” She offered weakly, but if she was heard, it was ignored.

            “Now, now Claire, we wouldn’t want you to…” The voice paused as Claire began to cough incessantly. “hurt yourself.”

            “Water. Please.” Claire fought to get the words out. A moment later the heavy footsteps returned holding a bottle of water up to her mouth. She guzzled the cool liquid down with a ferocity she never knew she had.

            “What am I doing here?” she asked as the bottle was pulled away from her face, spilling its contents over her.

            “Retribution. Justice. Call it what you will.”

            “I don’t understand,” Claire said, her voice trembling as a heavy sigh poured out from the loudspeaker.

            “Let’s not pretend I don’t already know you. Claire Knapp. Born February 12th, 1982. Married to Teresa Knapp. You live at…”

            “Don’t you talk about my wife!”

            “563 Everglen Crescent.”

            “So, you read my Facebook?” Claire hissed.

            “Teresa makes you a soymilk latte every morning.”


            “She adds cinnamon to the top and hands it to you as you walk out the door on your way to Navinto Pharmaceuticals.”


            “When she hands you the coffee, she gives you a kiss on the cheek and tells you to be cheeky, and” The voice holds for a moment.

            “Stay sweet,” Claire whispered.

            “Let’s agree I know more. Dr. Claire Knapp.”

            “What do you want?” Claire asked, as she rubbed her forefinger and thumb together softly, a technique that normally would help to steady her nerves.

            “We want you to help us.”

            “Help you to what? Who’s we?”

            “Unimportant. And it’s easy, just be honest.” The voice said steadily as Claire’s palms began to sweat causing her fingers to stick uncomfortably as they rubbed. “Come clean about what it is you’ve been doing.”  Her body was stiff as a board, and her heart pounded in her chest. “And then, destroy all of your research on project Honeybee.” Her left eye twitched insistently now, causing an irritable itch she wished she could scratch.

            The voice’s words hung uncomfortably in the air threatening to make her vomit.

            “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Claire’s voice trembling. She tried to squint through the cruel lights that felt like they would boil her. The silence that followed, did little to ease her nerves, her chest felt tight, suddenly feeling like a surfer trapped beneath the waves, gasping for air.

            “Wrong answer.” said the voice, drenching each word in pity.

            From the corner of her eye, she caught a hint of movement, but as quickly as it had appeared it was gone, replaced by the sharpened edge of a butcher’s blade which chopped down violently against her wrist slicing through the skin, tendons and bones like butter. Claire watched the hand fall lifelessly to the ground her mind weakly catching a glimmer of light bouncing off the diamonds of her wedding band. 

            A rush of emptiness filled her body at the shock of losing her limb, but the void filled quickly with a torrent of pain as blood leaked out from the missing appendage, the tight bands limiting the potential current of red gore.  

            Claire let out a guttural cry of shock and horror as her head, drained of all functionalities, collapsed into her chest and her world turned black.

            Claire woke to the rhythmic beeping of a heart monitor, her eyes blinked in rapid succession as they tried to adjust to the florescent white lights of a hospital room. She lifted her hand to shield them, which offered only brief respite from the harsh lights.

            Her mind felt foggy as she scrambled to grasp what little memories she could. She pressed her hands against the cot to sit up, shooting an excruciating pain up her arm into her neck. In a frenzy, she gaped at the thick blanket of white gauze where her hand used to be.

            Claire screamed as visions of her bondage rushed back, but this time, without restraints, she thrashed around violently in nothing but a hospital gown. She scrambled off the bed, her bare feet landing with a thud against the tiled floor.

            “Where are you!” Claire screamed as her legs wobbled. Though each step landed marginally less awkwardly than its predecessor. She tripped into a steel dolly, scattering its contents of bloodied wraps and used medical equipment across the floor.

            She attempted to steady herself in vain as another round of punishing spasms tore through her body. Her childlike legs were unable to catch themselves as she hurdled into the ground. The pain and agony filled her with the insatiable urge to curl up into a ball and cry.

            Somewhere in the recesses of her mind she knew she had to get out. Whoever had done this would come back, prepared to tear her apart piece by piece until they got what they wanted.

            Spotting one of the dispersed scalpels across the room, Claire crawled to it wrapping her good hand tightly around the weapon before driving her fist into the tiled floor and pushing herself first to her knees, then slowly to her feet. Each movement was a battle between excruciating pain and the will to survive.

            She slowly found her footing as she stumbled towards a set of swinging doors. Peering through one of their rounded windows she saw a dark and grimy hallway, in stark contrast to the clean antiseptic room she currently found herself in.

            Pressing her back against the doors they swung freely as she ventured out. Her feet peeled themselves of the filthy, once-white tiles with each new step.

            “I’m sorry about the hand. I would have preferred not to, but you left little choice.” Said a voice from inside her head Claire flinched at its abruptness  

            “Where the fuck are you, you bastard?” Claire said swinging the scalpel carelessly around her.

            “If you’d only listened to me this would’ve been easier.”

            “Fuck you.” The bodiless voice laughed.

            “I see you.”

            Claire spun around frantically, until she spotted a camera light, in the corner of the hall pointing directly at her.

            “I’m in your head.” It whispered.

            Claire rubbed her finger behind her ear feeling the bandage and the stitches it covered.

            “Ding, ding, ding.” The voice laughed, “I wouldn’t do that.” The voice said as Claire held the scalpel up examining it as if she might cut out whatever they’d put in. “Not if you want to Find Teresa.” 

            “If you hurt her!” Teresa’s name flared up Claires anger. 

            “I can confidently say that I will not touch her.” The voice replied enjoying whatever game they thought this was.

            “She’s in the room at the end of the hall. Though she may be a bit sleepy still.” It said as Claire hobbled down the hall glancing into the various side room along the way, stopping at one.

            Like everywhere else so far, this room was empty save for a gun resting on a desk. Disregarding her common sense, she ducked inside and grabbed it. It felt cold and heavy in her palm though it seemed to offer her a confidence she lacked before.

            “A gun is a better weapon.” The voice whispered. “Less intimate than the scalpel.”

            Claire ignored it, eyes focused on the swinging door at the end of the hall. She dropped her shoulder into it and barged through, her gun raised in anticipation, but she saw nothing except for Teresa who lay prone on a hospital cot, the room spotless except for the greasy footprints tracked in by Claire.

            “Teresa?” Claire said moving to her side, she looked unharmed still wearing the jeans and green shirt Claire had seen her in before this entire nightmare.  “Teresa, wake up!” she shouted, patting her cheeks which seemed damp and clammy and a little redder then normal. Seeing some movement under her eyes Claire assumed whatever sedative they’d used was wearing off.

            “Claire? What’s going on?” She asked groggily as she sat up clocking the gun, then the bandages, “Holy shit! Your hand—”

            “You need to listen to me love; you need to get up we need to leave here now. Okay?  Can you do that? Can you walk?” Claire asked ignoring Teresa’s obvious horror at seeing Claires’ missing hand. “Please love we need to move now!”

            “You need a doctor,” Teresa fussed as she slid off the cot, gripping the rail to catch herself from falling.

            “I’m fine.” Claire lied, turning to help Teresa but stopping when she caught sight of the bloodied gauze.

            “I’m okay.” Teresa said, as Claire moved back towards the swinging doors. “Where is everyone? Why are we here?”

            “We were taken. I’m not sure why.”

            “Lies.” Said the voice.

            “Shut up!” Claire snapped.

            “What?”  Teresa asked.

            “Nothing. We have to keep moving.” As Claire moved back into the hallway.

            “Lies are the reason you’re here. The reason she’s here.”

            “Teresa’s a good person!”

            “Claire?” Teresa said propping the doors open, her body silhouetted by the bright florescent lights of the operating room.

            “We need to move!” Claire shouted but Teresa didn’t budge.

            “She is great. I suspect better than you or me. But you need to learn. What you’re doing has consequences. You could be home, having dinner. Instead, you’re here.”

            “Not until you tell me what’s going on?” Teresa demanded.

            “You, and the people you work for. Act without consequence, thinking you’re above reproach.”

            “We help people!”

            “Is that what Honeybee is doing?”

            “It could save millions!”

            “More lies! Generating a virus so your company could cure it? Please, you have no interest in saving people Claire.”

            “I do!”

            “Then prove it.”

            “Claire, you’re scaring me.”


            “Save millions, by killing 1.” Claire’s face drained of what little colour remained. “Clammy skin, discolouration of the skin, tightening pupils?”

            “How?” But the question seemed hollow as she glanced down at her missing hand.

            “We have all your files.” The voice said quietly as Claire beat her fist against her the side of her head.

            “Get out!” Claire whispered as tears streamed down her face.

            “Do you think you find a cure before she kills millions?”

            “Claire, talk to me.” Teresa said, stumbling back into the operating room.

            “You say you help people Claire? What are you willing to do to help them?” The voice’s words lingered heavily as Claire walked slowly back to her wife.

            “What’s wrong with me?” Teresa said weakly.

            “You’re sick.” Claire said wiping the tears from her eyes, her gun now weak in her grip. Her body, void of all her pain as she suddenly felt empty.

            “You can help me, right?” Teresa coughed violently as blood speckled her hands. Claire shrank into herself.


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