MOONBEAM BOOK 1
Copyright © 2017 Casey West
I watched the overhead lights whizz past me as the gurney rattled down the hallway. The leather straps used to restrain me felt tight against my skin, and I couldn’t stop my heart from racing. To my right and near the foot of the gurney I could see the back of the nurse, her auburn hair tied neatly into a bun.
‘You need to try and calm down Embeth,’ the voice came from my left and I knew it belonged to DR. Wiles, because of its soft and emotionless tone.
‘Why do you keep doing this to me?’ I pleaded with him, tears trickling from my eyes.
‘Because we need to understand your biology better,’ if there was any concern in his voice it was masked beyond recognition.
What was there to understand?
I was a twenty year old woman. As far as I could recall I was just one of many millions and our biology wasn’t exactly a big secret. I couldn’t understand why I had to endure these painful procedures every other day for as long as I can remember.
‘I know I am a woman, but surely I can’t be that hard to understand,’ I cried, and the nurse at the front let out a giggle. I could see her shoulders shudder as she tried to suppress her laughter.
Wiles on the other hand didn’t seem to have a sense of humor. He simply sighed and rubbed at his eyes. I imagined they must be stinging from lack of sleep since he always seemed to be around in the cold, sterile place that had been my home for as long as I could remember.
‘Embeth, your biology is vastly different from other women. We’re doing these tests to figure it out so we can help you and any others who may be like you,’ I noticed the good doctor doesn’t look at me as he speaks.
I always assumed when he did that, he was feeling guilty about something. I could never understand why at first, but then as the years ticked on, I came to the realization that I was basically nothing more than his prisoner.
I had no idea where and when I had been born. My earliest memories were of the times spent in my little room playing with my toys. And then as I got older the toys turned to magazines, books and movies. The outside world was a mystery to me. The glossy magazines that were delivered to me on a weekly basis gave me only the briefest of glimpses into what could possibly be a normal life.
Well, a normal life according to the movie stars and singers, who filled the pages with their divorces and current love interests. What I would have given to just stand outside in the rain. To feel it splash against my skin and soak my clothes until they became heavy.
‘When can I get out of this place?’ I blurt, as my mind drifts back to the present moment. I felt pleased to note that my heart had stepped down a couple of gears, and I wasn’t breathing like a woman possessed.
Wiles sighed and rubbed at his eyes again. The nurse was bringing the gurney to a stop and when I looked up I could see the double doors leading into the laboratory. The site of those doors would have been enough to send my anxiety skywards once again, but I managed to keep it in check.
‘Embeth, I can’t make any promises. The U.S government has invested a lot of money in this place and you. I can’t just let you walk out of here, and even if I could, where would you go?’ Said the doctor as he removed his swipe card and moved to the scanner next to the doors.
Where would I go?
His question rattled around in my head and I realized that I wouldn’t know where to start, if I was allowed to walk free. I had no idea where the place was located and if it was near a city or maybe even in the heart of a city.
But still. The idea of having the freedom roam where I wanted was just too appealing to let go of.
‘Everywhere,’ I said, my voice more of a whisper.
For the first time, Wiles smiled and chuckled to himself as he swiped his card. There was a soft beep and then the rush of compressed air as the doors slid open. The smell of disinfectant came rushing to meet me.
The world began to swim before my eyes, and before I could stop it from happening, I passed out.
The only dream I can ever remember is one where I’m standing alone in a nameless street. All the houses have long since been abandoned, and even the handful of stores that I pass have been left to ruin. As I walk, I can sense that something is watching me. Following every step that I make so that it’s never far away.
Not once during this dream do I ever get a chance to see what it is that follows me. Instead, I have nothing but a sense that it’s big, powerful and not very friendly. I continue walking, my anxiety creeping up to a higher gear as I become more aware that I am alone with the unseen creature trailing somewhere behind me.
I take a moment to study the houses better. All the windows have been smashed. Curtains have been pulled outwards by the wind. Front lawns are littered with rusted toys and overgrown grass. The life that once brought the street alive, had long since left, and in a hurry by the looks of it.
A flagpole buried into one of the yards catches my attention and when I look up, I can see the American flag hanging torn and limp. Even though I had stopped, I could sense the unseen creature was still on the move. It kept coming towards me.
Its continuing movement created a fear inside me that I have difficulty putting into words. My legs start moving and before I know it I’m running as fast as I can. I glance over my shoulder, hoping to catch a glimpse of what chases me, but again I can see nothing.
The street eventually gives way to a dirt track which leads to another house propped up on stone pillars. It too has been left to ruin, and yet somehow, I feel like it could be a safe haven. So I keep running towards the opening where its front door had once been.
Damp rot is eating the house inside out as I burst into the living room. Wallpaper, black with mould, hangs from the walls, and the carpet squelches under my bare feet. I scream as the house rocks back and forth, caused by the weight of the creature bursting through the front doorway.
Beyond the living room lies a narrow kitchen which doesn’t seem to fit the design of the building. But when I burst into it from the other room, I scream again as my wet feet cause me to slip. I land on all fours on the dirty linoleum, and just when I try to get back on my feet I can feel the creatures’ massive claws grip my shoulders.
I let out a soft cry when the dream gave way to reality. It took me a few seconds to realize that I was back in my room, the softness of the bed taking the weight of my body. Just like the rest of the building, which everyone referred to as the compound, everything in the room was clinically white. Even the flimsy top and pants I wore matched perfectly with the walls.
There was no clock in my room so I had no idea how long I had been out for it. I wasn’t allowed anything that would allow me to communicate with the outside world such as a phone, tablet or computer. The strangest part is I had no idea who I would communicate with even if I did have them.
My whole life was based in this strange building where I had endure medical tests almost every other day. If I had parents or relatives of any kind then I had no memories of them. It sometimes felt like there was a blank space where my life should be.
Wiping away the fine layer of sweat on my forehead, I swung my legs off the bed and mentally checked myself over for signs the good doctor had gone to work on me. The previous two test had left me in pain for hours afterwards, but this time I was surprised to find there was no pain. There was a small red spot in the crook of my arm, which I assumed is where Wiles must have taken a blood sample, but that was all I could find.
Pleasantly surprised at the lack of pain, I took in my small room. There wasn’t much to see. A plain white set of drawers stood a few feet away from the bed and next to that was a tall mirror on a stand. A couple more feet to the right of the mirror was a door that led to the bathroom.
The small stack of glossy magazines sitting atop the drawers provided the only color in the room. Figuring I had time to kill before my next appointment with Wiles, I padded over to the magazines and as I reached for the one at the top, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.
Despite being twenty years old I still looked young. My blonde hair hung limply down past my shoulder blades and my skin was remarkably blemish free, although I assumed that would change quickly enough as I got older. My lips were soft and thin. One of the nurses had told me that I was stunning, but looking in the mirror I couldn’t see anything special about myself.
The only part I would say that set me apart from most people was my eyes. They were crystal blue all the way through to the centre. No pupils that could be seen. Other than that all I could see staring back at me was a young woman with very little hope of a normal life.
Shaking my head, I turned my attention back to the magazines and lifted the first one that came to hand. I was about to flip open the pages and read the same articles I had already done so numerous times, when there was a knock on the door.
My heart skipped a beat as I thought Wiles had come to do an extra test on me, but I was surprised when the soldier popped his head round the door. It was his smile that caught me off guard. Broad and genuine. His green eyes sparkled with mischief and I could see a mop of neatly cut brown hair under his cap.
‘Sorry to bother you Ma’m, but I’m here to take you for your dinner,’ said the soldier, his voice was like silk to my ears; deep and smooth.
‘Ma’m?’ I cocked an eyebrow at him, I knew I was getting old, but I had never been called that before.
I tried to hide my smile as the soldiers’ cheeks flushed a bright red, which somehow only served to accentuate his boyish features.
‘Sorry, no one told me your name. I only just got placed here this morning,’ he said, moving further into the room.
An unexpected rush of excitement coursed through my veins as I got a fuller view of him. His boyish looks belied a body that looked physically pristine. His shoulders where broad and I could see his biceps pushing against the sleeves of his shirt. He was every bit a man despite his youthful appearance.
‘My name is Embeth,’ I said, feeling my own cheeks grow hot for a different reason.
‘Oh, that’s a lovely name. I’m Jack. Jack Killborne,’ I was surprised when he stuck out his hand for me to shake it.
My own hand was dwarfed in his and I expected to have my arm shook off, but he was surprisingly gentle and a part of me was sad when he eventually let go.
‘It’s nice to meet you Jack,’ I said, stumbling past him and out into the hallway. Every direction I looked was the same. A never ending maze of hallways which led to parts of the building I had yet to see.
‘So, your one of the governments best kept secrets,’ said Jack, closing the room door and then motioning for me to follow after him. The canteen was only a short distance down the hallway, but a part of me was wished it was further away.
‘I didn’t know I was a secret,’ I said, genuinely amazed at his statement.
‘Oh, then I’ve probably said too much already,’ he stammered and his smile faltered for the briefest of moments.
In my heart I knew that I shouldn’t get too attached to him. Jack, like all the other soldiers who had been posted in the compound, would be moved on within a few months and I would still be there. But there was something about him that I felt attracted to. It wasn’t just his looks. There was something in the way that he spoke that felt comforting to me, like I already knew him.
‘Don’t worry about it, the only time I see anyone else is when they want to do more tests on me,’ I said and almost instantly regretted it because I could see he did not know what to say in response.
‘How long have you been here?’ Asked Jack, finally breaking the awkward silence as we neared the doors to the canteen.
‘All my life, as far as I can tell,’ I said, feeling that unforgiving sadness creep back in.
Jack looked at me with real surprise and I would be a liar if I said I didn’t enjoy the sight of his green eyes lighting up.
‘Seriously? You’ve never seen the world outside of this place?’
‘No. I wish I could but they won’t let me out,’ I said, longing to know what it would feel like to be out in the fresh air.
Jack stopped first at the doors and when I joined him I glanced through the porthole windows at the canteen inside. As always it had been cleared of any life before I was due to eat, with the exception of the chef who looked to be plating something for me. I had no idea what it would be, but it didn’t look very appetising.
‘Well, when they do decide to let you out, let me know, I’d be happy to show you around,’ said Jack stepping aside. I knew he was to stand guard outside and then escort me back to my room once I was done.
‘How about you tell me about the real world while I eat?’ I asked, certain that the answer would be no.
Jack glanced over my shoulder at the hallway beyond and then behind himself before returning his gaze on me. Satisfied that no one else was around, his smile broadened again and I could feel my heart lift.
‘Sounds like a date to me. Just don’t tell my superiors,’ he said and pushed open the door for me.
Under the watchful gaze of the chef, I listened as Jack regaled me with tales of his life in the outside world. Stabbing absently at my food, I found myself staring into his eyes. A strange fluttering sensation had begun to develop in my belly, and at first I thought it was hunger, but even after a few mouthfuls of food it remained.
Jack had been a marine for almost five years, and according to him it was one of the best and worst decisions he had ever made. On the one hand he loved to travel and got to see parts of the world, that for now, only the military have access to, while on the other was the death and carnage that he had personally had a hand in.
The latter was something that he preferred not to talk about and I respected his wishes. I had read about the great wars from books, but I knew nothing could compare to the nightmare that it was unless I had been involved in one.
‘I feel like I’m doing all the talking here, what about you, what’s your story Embeth?’ He said, as I forced myself to take one last mouthful of the foul goop the chef had conjured up for me.
The happiness I had been feeling as I listened to him began to shift as I thought about my own life.
‘There isn’t much to tell really. I think I was born and bred in this place. I feel more like someone’s possession than a human being,’ I said.
Every attempt I made to get answers was always met with an abrupt no or at the very least the bare minimum details needed to shut me up. Although I suspected that Wiles confession about my biology was more of an accident than anything else.
I expected some kind of witty comeback from the soldier I found myself growing more attracted to. There was an air about him that just seemed to create light within me and I didn’t want him to leave. Instead, he looked thoughtful for a moment before answering me.
‘How about this. I can’t make any promises, but what if I speak to my superior and try to get you out of here for a day. Just so you can catch a glimpse of the real world?’
I looked at him with nothing but surprise. He had known me for only an hour or more and he was already offering me the chance to get out of the compound, at least for a short while.
‘You would do that for me?’ I asked, trying to contain my excitement.
‘Well, like I said I can’t promise anything. But I’ll give it a try,’ he said, and I could see a knowing glint in his eyes. He had something in mind and it was probably best that I didn’t know all the details.
‘Thank you so much,’ I squealed, and quickly tried to compose myself when I saw chef cocking an eyebrow in my direction.
‘Ok then, I’ll see what I can do,’ said Jack, chuckling.
The walk back to my room felt even shorter than the journey to the canteen. Jack remained by my side and I wished inside that he could stay longer. My mind told me it was for the best that I don’t get to know him too well, but my heart was desperate for his company and the sense of familiarity came with it.
As he stepped back to let me inside, I did something that I never saw coming. Lifting myself up on to my tip-toes I planted a kiss on his lips which were softer than I had imagined. The fluttering sensation in my stomach grew louder as I stepped back and saw the look of shock on his face.
‘Sorry, I didn’t mean for that to happen,’ I said, feeling my cheeks burn red.
‘Well, I’m glad it did,’ said Jack, his smile returning, but even that didn’t stop me from feeling like a fool. After all, he was a world weary soldier who knew everything about the world and I was just a biological lab experiment with no experience at all.
‘I shouldn’t have,’ I stammered, heading for the safety of my room.
‘I promise I’ll get you out of here Embeth,’ said Jack.
Embarrassed and feeling sorry for myself, I offered him a wane smile and said good night before closing the door on him.
The butterflies in my stomach continued to put in an appearance in the days that followed. Jack only ever came for me when it was dinner, and I had to admit that he lit up my world every time I laid eyes on him. Each day he would sit with me while I forced myself to eat what the chef had concocted. As I ate he would tell me more tales about his life in the outside world.
‘How long do you have to stay in the army for?’ I asked, during one of our sessions.
He looked straight into my eyes as he thought about my question. If he had been anyone else I would have averted his gaze, but as it was, I found no end of pleasure in staring back at him. He felt like someone who had nothing to hide, and I loved him for that alone.
‘Good question. I still have another two years of duty before I need to decide whether to stay on or move on, but the problem is I’m not really sure what I would do as a career beyond the marines,’ he said, and I could tell he was seriously thinking about the question.
I had no idea what the career path of the average soldier was, although I figured in my head that he would most likely move on to law enforcement of some kind.
‘What about becoming a cop?’ I asked, offering it as my one and only suggestion.
‘Nah. I think I would try and move away from anything that puts me in the line of fire. Anyway, what you would like to do if you could get out of here?’
Surprised by his question, I choked on my food a little and had to cough it back up before I could speak.
‘I don’t know,’ was all I could say. And that was the truth. Like most things in my life at that point, everything seemed to be a blank space that I had no idea how to fill.
‘Ah there’s no rush. You’ve got plenty of time,’ he said as he got to his feet.
I felt disheartened that it was time to go back to my room. It felt like I had only just sat down. Leaving the plate and fork on the table I started towards the canteen doors with Jack following quickly behind me.
I was beginning to think that he had nothing left to talk to me about as he remained silent on the way back to my room. It wasn’t until he opened the door for me that he took me by surprise.
I could feel his grip on my arm as he gently turned me to face him and before I could react his lips were connecting with mine. My heart raced and my legs turned to jelly as he held the embrace, my body eventually loosened up enough to actually enjoy the sensation of such physical contact.
During that moment I finally understood what I was feeling. The fluttering belly and light-headedness every time I was around him or touched by him. I was falling in love with the soldier.
‘Remember what I said to you a couple of days ago?’ He asked, as his lips parted from mine.
‘You would get me out of here for a day,’ I breathed, wishing he would kiss me again.
‘Well, what if it was longer than a day. Would you be cool with that?’
It was my turn to break the embrace. I stared into his eyes, searching for something that would tell me he was lying to me, but I could see nothing but honesty in them.
‘Are you serious?’ I had to ask because there was so much confusion going on in my head. I was falling for this man who could leave me at any given time on the whim of his superior officer, and I knew that I shouldn’t hold on to him, but my whole body just screamed for his attention, for his embrace and more importantly his love.
‘Remember earlier when you asked me what I would like to do after the army?’
‘Yes, it was only a few minutes ago.’
‘Well, I didn’t want to say with the chef hovering around, but what I would really like to do is spend the rest of my life with you, Embeth,’ his words seemed to sweep the world away from under my feet. If he hadn’t been holding on to my arm I’m sure I would have fell to the ground in a heap.
‘But I’m stuck in here. They won’t let me out Jack,’ I said, pleading with my eyes for him to understand that I wanted nothing more than to be with him, but it just wasn’t going to happen.
Or at least that’s what I thought, until he told me what he had in mind.
‘I know, which is why I have something to put to you. If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine, I completely understand, but what I was going to say is that I can get you out of here tonight. The downside is we’ll be wanted by the military police and have to go on the run,’ there wasn’t a hint of humor in his voice. In fact it was the first time I could recall him being deadly serious.
It didn’t take me long to think of an answer. There was no life for me inside the walls of the compound. Not one that was worth living anyway. I began to nod my head as the idea of being free, and being with him, was looking more like a possible reality.
‘Yes. Get me out of here. I want to be with you Jack and I don’t care where we have to go,’ I said, kissing him again.
‘There is a big meeting with the medical staff tonight, which means we will have a clear escape route to the carpark. Now, the idea is we don’t want to raise any alarms at all. The longer they go thinking you’re still in your room, the more time we have to put as much distance between them and us. Do you understand?’
I could feel my excitement rise higher and higher and couldn’t stop myself from dancing on my tip-toes as he let go of my arm.
‘Okay, how long do we have to wait?’ I asked, bouncing like a little girl.
‘The meeting is scheduled for nine p.m, which means you still have a couple of hours to go yet. When the time is right I’ll come back for you, okay,’ said Jack, his smile growing broader as he kissed me on the lips one last time before heading back down the hallway and out of sight.
During the hours leading up to my escape, I could feel all sorts of emotions running through me. The biggest one of all was fear. I was not only putting my trust in a man that I had only known for a few days, but also my faith in myself that I would be able to cope with the world outside.
It was a shot at happiness that I might only get once in my life, so it was a risk I was willing to take.
I was pacing the floor of my small room, my thoughts rushing in all directions, when there was a knock on the door. Just like the first time I had met him, my heart skipped a beat as I turned expecting to see Jack’s handsome face. Instead I was confronted by the haggard and tired looking Dr. Wise. The man who had technically been my father for all those years, since he had been the only constant male figure in my life up until then.
When I saw his bleary eyes I could feel a knot of fear form in my stomach instead of the nice fluttering sensation I got when I was around the soldier.
‘Dr. Wise, what do you want?’ I asked bluntly. I was starting to hate the man with every passing week.
‘Don’t worry I’m just popping in to make sure you’re okay,’ he said, and for the first time I could hear something in his voice. It took me a second realize what it was; sadness.
‘I’m fine,’ was all I could think to say. Inside I was praying he would hurry up and leave in case Jack came to get me while he was still here.
‘Listen…umm…I’m not sure how to say this. But I am sorry for all the tests you’ve been put through kiddo. I know you probably don’t think very highly of me, but I just wanted you to know that I didn’t mean to cause you any pain,’ his words began to trail off into an awkward silence.
I had no real feelings for the man. He may have been there through most of my life, but I couldn’t recall one happy memory of a time we had spent together. Again, there was more blank space where those memories should have been.
‘It’s ok. You’re just doing what you have to do. I can accept that,’ I said, knowing inside that I couldn’t accept why he had to keep hurting me. I just wanted Jack to take me as far away from that horrible place as possible.
‘Yeah, well, that still doesn’t make it right. Anyway, I have a meeting so I better get going. I’ll stop by in the morning. There won’t be any tests tomorrow so I’ll try and get you some more magazines to read,’ he said, and the sadness in his voice matched the guilty look on his face.
‘Ok, that would be great,’ I said, offering him a weak smile.
‘Good night kiddo,’ was the last words he said to me before closing the door.
I stood there, frozen on the spot, listening to his footsteps disappear down the hallway. I knew there was a conference room somewhere past the canteen, but I had never seen inside it. And I had no plans to any time soon.
There was lots of things I wanted to see and that wasn’t on my list.
A list that was growing longer as I started to pace again. My thoughts about the world outside and how it would feel to enjoy such freedom soon gave way to thoughts of me being with Jack. I tried to imagine what it would feel like to snuggle close to him. To actually have him lying next to me with his arm pulling me close and the warmth of his body against mine.
I tried not to let those thoughts linger for too long because a part of me was still apprehensive that he would be able to do what he said. But for another hour, such thoughts came and went. My smile would grow with every thought I had of the two of us being together. Of course those thoughts began to turn into more passionate ones and I had to stop myself before my excitement overtook me.
Embeth! Get grip of yourself girl. You’ve only kissed the man a couple of times. I chided myself and then stopped my pacing when I heard something outside.
At first they were distant, but the more I listened the louder the footsteps became. Holding my breath I turned to face the door, hoping, praying that this time it would be Jack.
I wasn’t let down.
He knocked once on the door and then poked his head into the room.
‘You ready for your great escape?’ he whispered, mischief and delight dancing in his beautiful green eyes.
‘Of course I am,’ I said in a hushed tone as I raced to the door and planted another kiss on him.
‘Ok then, let’s get moving,’ he chuckled and stepped aside for me.
The compound, to me, felt like a maze. The warmth of Jacks hand around mine as I trailed behind him, felt comforting and stopped me from feeling overwhelmed by the unending hallways.
I was starting to think that we might be lost when the hallway we were in gave way to a mess hall for the soldiers. I could see vending machines that sold soft drinks and snacks as well as a few tables, all of which were empty.
‘This way, we can’t go out the front door,’ he whispered, as we cut a zig zag through the hall towards a door near the serving counter.
My heart was racing with excitement as Jack motioned for me to be quiet while he stuck his head through the doorway. Once he was certain no one was going to see us, he motioned me for me to follow after him again.
We moved quickly through the small stock room until we reached another door. Once again Jack quietly opened the door and checked to see if there was anyone there. As I waited, I noticed that there was an open box full of candy bars and I desperately wanted to grab one. I had never been allowed to eat chocolate, but the ads inside the magazines made it look so delicious.
‘Okay, let’s go,’ said Jack, as I dashed for the box and grabbed one of the bars before running back to him.
I could see the quizzical look on his face as I appeared by his side with the candy in my hand. I would save it for another time when I could enjoy eating it.
‘Seriously, candy now?’ He asked me, taking my hand again as we charged down another hallway. This one was different because the clinical whitewash had gone and instead only the grey breeze block was visible.
‘I’ve never had one before,’ I pouted.
‘Don’t worry, I’ll buy you as many as you want once we’re out of here,’ he said as his his pace slowed to a cautious walk.
‘What is it?’ I asked, sensing something might be wrong.
Jack put a finger to his lips.
‘Further down there is a guard booth. That’s where the supplies for this place come through. Stay out of sight for a minute,’ he said, nodding towards the glass panel built into the wall. It was then I could see the shape of another soldier standing guard.
I mouthed the word okay to him and watched as he moved quickly along the wall before reaching the door. I was in awe at how quietly he could move for such a big man.
‘What the…’ I could hear the guard in the both say in surprise before it was quickly followed by a heavy thud.
Seconds later Jack appeared in the doorway and motioned for me to come forward. As I got closer I could feel my eyes widen at the sight of the unconscious guard laying on the floor. Seeing the poor man like that made me think that maybe my escape wasn’t such a good idea. Not if people were going to get hurt for it. That was something I had never wanted.
But still, more than anything at that point, I wanted to be with Jack, and so I kept moving towards him.
‘Don’t worry, he’ll be fine. I just knocked him out,’ said Jack, offering me a tight smile as I took his hand again.
We carried on down the hallway for another few feet before we reached a set of fire doors. Jack pushed down on the metal bar and in an instant we were pouring out into a flat expanse of concrete.
‘That’s my truck over there,’ he said, pointing to the gleaming black mass.
Checking in all directions, Jack took out his keys and opened the truck door for me.
‘Climb in the back for now and pull the cover over you. We’ve got one last checkpoint before you’re free of this place,’ he kept his tone hushed as he motioned for me to climb inside.
The blanket smelt fresh, like it had been airing outside for most of the day, as I lay down on the back seat and pulled it over me. The world went black and I could hear Jack climb behind the wheel.
The sound of the trucks engine was like a thunderstorm erupting next to my head. Deafening to say the least. And yet I found the motion of the vehicle quite soothing.
‘Whatever you do, don’t make a sound and try to stay as still as possible. These guys can be really thorough when they want to be,’ I could hear Jack say over the noise of the engine.
When the vibration of the truck eased into nothing I guessed that we had come to the last checkpoint. I held my breath in anticipation, praying to myself that I wouldn’t do something to get us both caught.
‘Hey Jack, you signing off already?’ I could hear the guard ask, he sounded young.
‘Yeah, we’ve got plenty cover in there and I need the extra sleep,’ said Jack.
‘I hear ya, that’s fine. Have a good one,’ said the guard.
Then I could hear the electronic barrier being lifted and then we were moving again. A part of me couldn’t believe that Jack’s plan had actually worked, while another was a little ashamed to have doubted him in the first place.
‘You can take the cover off now,’ said Jack.
I didn’t hesitate to free myself of the blanket since I was beginning to feel claustrophobic trapped under it. Once I could push myself upright, my eyes opened in awe at the world I saw through the windshield of the truck. It looked like we were driving through an unending wheat field while the orange sun was just visible above the horizon.
‘Wow,’ was all I could say.
It took a few moments before I realized Jack was watching me. When I glanced at him his smile was broad and his eyes full of life. If I could have, I would have kissed him, but I thought that was not a safe thing to do while he was driving.
‘Welcome to Texas,’ he said cheerfully, turning his attention back on the road.
As the truck reached the crest of a small hill I could see the sprawling mass of a city in the distance. Huge towers of glass and steel jutted upwards like fingers reaching for the sky.
‘Is Texas the world?’ I asked, feeling intimidated by the sheer vastness of everything around us.
‘No Embeth, it’s just one state amongst many. And each of those states makes up one big country called America,’ Jack explained.
‘Oh, its huge,’ I said, finding myself at a loss for words.
‘Oh trust me, it gets a whole lot bigger,’ he said, winking at me.
I was informed by Jack that the city we were heading towards was called Nashville. I found myself sliding further back into my seat as the towering structures grew in size, and a small part of me, a very small part, wanted to be back in my room where I knew I would be safe.
Come on girl, you wanted this. You’re free! Enjoy it! The voice in my head cried out and it was right of course. I had wanted to be free and there was no point in being afraid now. That time had been and gone.
We had just made it to the outskirts of the city when Jack’s phone began to ring and vibrate. His smile faded as he looked at the screen. The number it displayed must have meant something to him because he tossed the small hunk of glass and plastic on to the passenger seat and glanced at me with a grave expression on his face.
‘Looks like they know your missing,’ he said with a sigh, ‘I was hoping we would have had more time to get organized.’
I slid forward again, bracing myself between the two front seats so I could lean as close to him as they would allow.
‘Does that mean their coming to get me?’
Jack glanced over at his phone again as it fell silent only for a brief moment before it started to ring again.
‘I’m afraid so,’ he said, and I felt my heart sink a little.
‘What do we do now?’ I asked, a nervous knot forming in my stomach.
‘Well, I knew they would come looking for you soon enough, so I made some plans to get us out of the way, we just need to swing by my apartment first so I can collect a few things,’ he said, and I felt relieved that he wasn’t going to just ditch me and leave me to fend for myself.
Everywhere I looked, the buildings seemed to tower over us. Cars of all types and makes seemed to be driving by at an alarming rate and when a buss buffeted the truck I almost jumped out of my skin.
‘Here we are, let’s make this quick. It won’t take long for the military police to catch up with us,’ said Jack, bringing his truck to a stop outside a modern looking apartment building.
The nervous knot in my stomach was turning to a strange, sickly feeling, as I climbed out of the truck and joined Jack on the pavement. Everything around me seemed impossibly large, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the sensation of the warm evening air brushing against my exposed skin.
Realizing that he was waiting for me at the main entrance to the building, I quickly joined Jack as he opened the door and led me up the three flights of stairs to his apartment. The interior of the building was immaculate to say the least. The stairs and landing had soft brown carpeting and each apartment door had a bronze handle.
I watched as he quickly unlocked his door and stepped into the darkness for a brief moment before he found the light switch.
Uncertain what to do next, I hovered near the doorway out in the landing. Peering inside I could see Jack unbuttoning his top as he moved from one room to another. When he realized I was still outside he stopped dead in the hallway and smiled at me.
‘You don’t need an invite to come in,’ he said with a chuckle.
Smiling I stepped inside and closed the door. The apartment felt warm and soothing much like its owners personality. I had learned from my previous guards that they liked to keep things neat and tidy. It was drilled into them from the minute they joined the marines and therefor it continued into their daily lives outside of the force.
Jack was no different it would seem. Making my way down the hallway, I could hear him strip off his shirt. I glanced into the kitchen and then the sitting room. Everything was clean, almost pristine in a sense. There was no pile of dishes sitting near the sink. No empty beers cans scattered on the table in the sitting room. No mess at all.
‘Embeth, I know you’re curious but we don’t have much time,’ said Jack, appearing in the bedroom doorway without his top on.
My cheeks flushed red instantly as my gaze took in his solid torso. Muscle seemed to ripple in every direction and I found myself fighting the urge to reach out and touch him. Then again maybe he wanted that. I wasn’t sure. But what I did know was that just the site of his body worked wonders for chasing away the sick feeling that had been growing on me.
‘Ok, what should I do?’ I asked.
‘Come in here, I’ve got clothes for you,’ he said, taking me by surprise.
Uncertain, I followed him into the bedroom. Once again there was no mess. The bed was neatly made and everything seemed to have an order to it. On the bed I could see a pair of blue jeans and a white and blue shirt, which was pinched at the waist, laid out for inspection.
‘I got your sizes from the guys in the laundry room. Don’t ask me what I had to say to get them, just know I’m not that kind of guy,’ said Jack, as he slipped on a black t-shirt and began to strip out of his fatigue pants.
‘Thank you,’ I said, turning my back on him. He didn’t seem to mind not having any privacy but I thought I should at least be polite enough not to stare as he got changed.
‘Well, you look like an escaped mental patient in those clothes. The MP’s would spot you a mile away,’ he said, pulling on his pants.
‘What’s a mental patient?’ I asked, frowning as I took a step closer to my new clothes.
‘Ah, that will take a while to explain, why don’t you get changed,’ he said as he was putting on a pair of sneakers.
In all my years at the compound I had never been asked, or forced, to get undressed in front of anyone. The idea of exposing my body to Jack, as strong as my feelings were for him, made me uneasy to say the least.
‘Do you want me to leave so you can get changed?’ Asked Jack, as he came up behind me and planted a kiss on the side of my neck which sent a tingle all the way down my spine.
‘No, it’s okay, I’ve just never had to get dressed in front of anyone before,’ I said, turning to face him and hoping that he would understand.
‘I understand that. But if you don’t want me to leave, then would you like me to help?’ I could see the twinkle in his eyes as the words left his mouth, and suddenly I was starting to feel more at ease.
‘Well, if…’ I managed to get two words out before Jack grabbed the hem of my shirt and began pulling it upwards. As nervous as I was, I put my arms up and allowed him to pull it off.
When I could see again, I noticed that he was staring at my exposed body. His eyes wide and his jaw slack. I didn’t know much about how men, or people in general, thought, but I took his look as a sign that he liked what he saw.
Before I could say anything, he placed his hands on my hips and easily drew me close to him until I could feel the heat coming from his body. It was a sensation that I never wanted to end, it just felt so good. So natural.
‘You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen,’ he whispered in my ear.
My heart was beating faster with excitement and a part of me wanted to undress him again, but I knew that our time was short and I would have to make do with what I could get for the time being.
‘You’re not bad looking yourself,’ I giggled, trying my best not to blush.
For what felt like an eternity, his eyes locked on to mine. Once again it felt like we were reaching into each other’s souls, testing the waters to see how much we both trusted each other. How much we both loved each other. During that moment I knew for certain that Jack was the only man I wanted to be with. The only man I would trust my life with.
I closed my eyes only for a moment as his lips pressed against mine. When they parted again Jack said something I never expected to hear.
‘I love you Embeth. I have done since the day I first met you,’ he said, his eyes locking with mine once again.
I could feel a surge of warmth all over my body as he leaned in for another kiss.
‘I love you too,’ I breathed.
However, the distant wailing of a police siren snapped us out of the moment. I felt heartbroken as he removed his hands from my waist and rushed over to the window which looked down at the street below.
‘We better get moving, you get changed and I’ll go collect what we need,’ said Jack, turning away from the window and rushing towards the hallway.
I wasted no time pulling on the shirt which was a perfect fit for me. The jeans followed and then finally my own pair of white sneakers, which I had just noticed at the edge of the bed. It seemed Jack had thought of everything.
Once I was ready I rushed out into the hallway where he was waiting for me with a duffel bag thrown over his shoulder. I could see his eyes trace the curves of my body which the shirt clung to and I would be a liar if I said it didn’t feel good to have his admiring eyes on me.
‘We all set?’ He asked.
‘Yep, ready to go,’ I said, feeling a little odd that I was dressed in real clothes.
‘Ok then, let’s make a move,’ he said, and we both headed for the street below.
By the time we reached the truck, the sirens had grown louder. Jack felt certain they couldn’t be any more than a couple of blocks away, so we quickly climbed into his truck, its engine roaring like a beast as he stepped on the gas and peeled out into the traffic.
Once again, cars and busses zoomed past us, but this time it was because of the speed the truck was going at and not the other way around. The sky was a brilliant light show of twinkling stars and as I looked up through the windshield I couldn’t help but feel a sense of belonging. It was a strange feeling, as if my home was not on Earth, but somewhere else in the distant galaxy. I assumed it was just my minds way of trying to compensate for finally being free of the compound.
I still had a lot to get used to, and it looked like that would have to happen sooner rather than later. Not that I would have changed any of it even if I could. The handsome man behind the wheel of the truck was bringing more happiness into my life than any magazine ever would.
Inside, I was harbouring a secret fear that I might become a hindrance for him, and I could only hope that I learned quickly enough to prevent us from being caught by the military police. I knew in my mind that I would go straight back to the room I had always known, but I had no idea what punishment would be waiting for Jack, and he was the last person I wanted to see get hurt.
For such a big vehicle, the truck seemed surprisingly nimble as Jack steered it through the city streets. The wailing sirens had grown more distant the further we drove, and I could feel myself begin to relax a little more.
But even as I did that, I could feel that horrible, sickly feeling begin to spread upwards from my stomach. It wasn’t the excitement of the moment that was causing it either. I was starting to realize that there might be something wrong with me.
The irony of finally being free for no less than a day and I start to feel ill. Someone in the heavens was having a joke at my expense.
‘Are you okay?’ There was no mistaking the concern in Jack’s voice and I could see the worried expression on his face.
‘Just feeling a little sick, I’m sure it will pass,’ I said, uncertain if that would be true or not, ‘where are we going?’
Jack gave me another concerned glance before turning his attention back on the road.
‘There is a motel a few miles outside the city limits. It should be safe enough for us to bunk down there for the night,’ he said, his expression unchanging, ‘are you sure you’re okay Embeth? I can pull over and stop if you want.’
‘No, keep going,’ I said, grimacing as a dull ache started to form in all my joints,’ what is a motel anyway?’
‘It’s basically a place where you can rent a room for the night. This one in particular doesn’t do any background checks, one of the few left actually, so we should be safe for the rest of the night,’ he explained.
I wanted him to keep talking. I needed to hear his voice and know that he was close, but as the pain and sickness set in, so did a tiredness that I couldn’t seem to shake. My eyes began to close as Jack steered the truck on to the highway.
When I opened my eyes again I found myself back in the empty street. The one that has been shelled of all and any life. I had no idea why I kept ending up in the same place, but even in the dream I got a sense that there was something I wasn’t seeing. Oddly enough, as I stood there taking in the battered houses once again, I realized that there was no unseen creature stalking me. I can sense nothing that would tell me it was nearby.
The house with the flagpole seemed to draw my attention the most. Cautiously, I stepped on to the path leading to its weathered white door, listening for any sounds that would tell me I was being watched.
I expected the door to be locked when I turn the worn bronze handle, but to my surprise it opened with a soft click and I found myself stepping inside. The light from the overcast sky outside was the only one to make it inside the house. Standing in the small space between the sitting room and the stairs which led upwards, I could see nothing but darkness beyond. And that didn’t faze me. Somehow I knew there was nothing up there that would mean anything to me.
Instead, I turned my attention to the sitting room and made my way inside. There was an old TV set in the corner, its screen smashed. The carpet was black with mould as were the walls. The ratty old sofa that took up most of the floor space was in the process of being eaten by the same bacteria from the bottom up.
It was the table, or more importantly what was on it, that caught my attention. Taking a few steps closer, I could see a plain vanilla folder, which looked like the kind spies would use to keep a dossier on their targets. A square white sticker had been placed on the front cover and neatly written in red letters was the word Moonbeam.
Frowning, I moved to pick up the folder, but as I bent over my body was wracked with a sudden surge of pain so much so that I thought I was going to buckle to my knees. Tears welled in my eyes as my shaking hands reached for the folder and grabbed it.
It was empty. If it had been a dossier there was nothing left inside it. No photographs of the mysterious subject. No neatly typed reports. Nothing at all.
The only meaningful thing I could see was that word written on the sticker. But even that didn’t seem to ring any bells, although I felt like it should. A part of me was certain that I had heard it being used before. Someone had said it while in my presence but I couldn’t for the life of me remember who.
The pain wracking my body was growing in intensity as I tossed the folder back on to the table. I had assumed by this point that the dream would end. But it didn’t until I reached the doorway of the house again and was about to walk back down the garden path.
Without warning my body began to shake and tremble as the world around me faded away. I felt something sharp pierce the skin on my forearm but I couldn’t see what had caused it.
I was still shaking and trembling when I opened my eyes. I realized I was lying down on a large bed, but what really startled me was the concerned expression of Dr. Wise right before my eyes.
‘Ah your awake, that’s good,’ he said, putting the cap back on the needle he had used to inject me and taking a step back.
‘Where am I, why are you here, where is Jack?’ I demanded through rattling teeth.
The room was small and darkly lit. I could see another bed just behind where the doctor stood, and I figured that I must have been in the motel room that Jack had intended us to spend the night.
‘It was Jack who called me,’ said the doctor.
I found that hard to believe, but as the words left his mouth, Jack stepped out from the bathroom and moved close to my bedside. His eyes looked raw as if he had been crying, and I desperately wanted to reach out and touch his face, but I couldn’t muster up the energy.
‘I’m sorry Embeth. But I was so scared. You were crying out in pain in your sleep. I had to call someone, and the doctor is the only person I know that knows you,’ he said, the sadness in his voice was unmistakable.
‘You’re lucky he called me when he did too, you almost died Embeth. Another hour and you would have been gone,’ said Wiles and I noted it was strange to see him standing there in his tweed suit jacket instead of his usual lab coat.
‘What’s the matter with me?’ I asked, as Jack kneeled by the bedside and took my hand in his. The warmth of his skin against mine felt so good and reassuring.
‘Your body isn’t accustomed to the bacteria out in the real world. All the time you’ve been in the compound you’ve been living in a sterile environment, or at least sterile enough to stop you getting sick. All those tests we had done on you really were for your benefit. You don’t share the same biology as us Embeth, but I learned enough to develop immune boosting anti-biotics that work only for you. That injection I just gave you should be all you need to fight off the most common kinds of infections, but I have no idea how long it will last,’ Wiles explained as he took a seat on the edge of the bed across from us.
‘What am I? Some kind of lab experiment,’ I asked, not expecting much of an answer. The one that I got only served to produce more questions.
‘Sort of. I can’t tell you all the details about your origin, not without being sent to prison for the rest of my life, but your friend here seems like a resourceful kind of guy, with his help you might be able to find out more on your own,’ said the doctor and this time it was Jack who turned to face him with surprise.
‘So you aren’t going to call the MP’s to take her back to the compound?’ He asked.
Wiles rubbed at his eyes, something he always did when he was trying to think clearly.
‘Embeth, I’ve starved you of a real life. Not by choice though. When you find out more about who you are and what you are, I hope you will understand. Also, I’m a year away from retiring which means soon enough they will replace me with another scientist and I have no idea what they will subject you to. At least when you were with me, I could run tests on you with as little pain as humanly possible. My replacement may not have the same feelings, so I think its best that we all pretend this meeting never took place,’ this time he offered me a smile that I couldn’t help but return.
I mouthed the words thank you as Wiles rose to his feet and headed for the door.
‘Will the MP’s still come after us?’ Asked Jack, and I could feel his hands tighten a little more around mine as he waited for an answer.
‘Embeth is a multi-million dollar government secret. Nothing I could say will stop them from wanting her back. Your best bet is to stay here for a few more hours until the drug kicks in, and then high tail it as far away as you can. That’s the best advice I can give you,’ said the doctor.
We watched as he stepped out into the night and closed the door on us. A part of me wondered if I would ever see him again.
The trembling and shaking had begun to ease off as Jack turned to meet my gaze. His expression softened and his smile returned as he leaned forward and kissed me on the lips. That alone was enough to make me feel better.
‘I really am sorry for bringing this on you Embeth. I had no idea the outside world would make you sick,’ he said, leaning in and gently pressing his cheek against mine.
‘How could you know if even I didn’t know?’ I said, enjoying the embrace.
‘Well, it looks like the good doctor has given us some time, where would you like to go from here?’
I couldn’t help but chuckle at his question. It was easy to forget I knew little about the world.
‘I have no idea and I don’t care as long as I’m with you, Jack,’ I said, kissing his cheek.
‘Well, I have a friend in Washington who may be able to help us find out more information about you, or we could go to California,’ he said, his eyes watching me expectantly.
I think in my heart I knew that both of us wanted to know who and what I really was. I looked every bit a human being on the surface, but what was underneath seemed to be something else entirely.
‘Washington sounds like a good idea,’ I said, offering him my best smile.
‘Sounds like a plan, tell me when you feel strong enough to travel and we’ll get going,’ he said, kissing me one last time on the cheek before he went to fetch me a glass of water.
I could only hope that I wasn’t leading him into more danger. He was and will probably always be the only man I would ever love. The last thing I wanted was to get him hurt in anyway.
It would be another two hours before I felt fit enough to travel. Even then my bones seemed to continue to ache. Jack could see that I was struggling and rather than leaving me to fight my own way into his truck, he took me by surprise and scooped me up into his arms.
I smiled at him as he gently placed me down in the passenger seat, our lips connecting for a brief moment.
‘Ok, let’s hit the road,’ he said with his usual enthusiasm.
I could feel myself drift towards sleep again as the truck peeled out on to the highway. I had no idea what to expect when we reached Washington. But I knew that as long as I had jack by my side, I could handle anything that came my way.
Born and raised as the sole occupant of the compound, a secret government testing facility, twenty year old Embeth longs to have a normal life in the outside world. Then one day, marine Jack Killbourne, is posted to be her guard. She finds herself falling for the soldier. But when she accepts his offer to escape, They unwittingly set out on a journey filled with danger.