Barbie and Ken, a Modern Love Story Ch1
With trembling hands, I pick up the phone the same as I always did. "Barbara-Ann Mercer for Master sergeant Kenneth Mercer."
"Relation to the patient?"
"Wife," I replied in my sweetest tone.
"I have to check with the doctor."
'Like hell you do!' Little did they know. I transformed from being a twenty-four-year old former waitress to an Army wife, the moment I accepted a binder of paperwork that sealed my fate.
I walked to the ward door, waiting for someone to exit. Janitors always let me in without question and it was only a matter of moments before I encountered one. "Thank you, Tomas." I blew the elderly janitor a kiss. "And Good morning Carol."
Carol rolled her eyes. She was on her computer. I knew she hadn't even gone to consult with a doctor.
I walked past the nurse's station, straight to my husband’s room making sure to slam the door. “Fucking bitches.”
That always made Kenneth laugh. “Good morning to you too, Barbie girl.”
On the flight over, I read the unclassified summary of the events.
Apparently, a bomb that went off next to where my husband's squadron was camped. In an act of heroism, he took a majority of the blow. He now had a chunk of metal in his brain and will likely never walk again. That's what it said anyway. I can't even remember what the delivery officer told me other than 'You can read the details at your leisure.'
From his classified place of injury, he'd been airlifted to the American Army base in Landstuhl. This was standard for all critically injured deployed personnel. Since there was little chance of survival, I was flown on the government's dime to be by his side during his last moments. Little did they know. It's now been over six months and he's still alive.
“Barbie girl?” Catching sight of my face in the reflective glass. My green eyes looked a little less gray. As for my blonde hair; well, in an act of depression I pulled it into a ponytail and cut it off, and it showed. My naturally curly locks fell around my face in a funky bob. I looked like a toddler, but a happy toddler. My husband, he thought I looked beautiful, and that's all that mattered.
My big strong Master Sergeant broke his neck just below the base of his skull. He lost all feeling below the clavicle, including the use of his chest muscles, making breathing difficult. He wasn't even supposed to be able to speak. He turned his head, smiling with his dreamy blue eyes. “Earth to Miss Barbara-Ann? You zoned out again?”
“I’m just lost in thought.” There was also swelling in his brain, the actual source of the quadriplegic condition. If I had to guess, there was some kind of disconnect between the mind and the nervous system. What do I know? I'm just a civilian with an online degree. "How are you doing today?”
His hands trembled. Fingers that were supposed to be completely paralyzed, were reaching for me. Maybe that was the power of love; for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. “I could use some of your special attention."
Kenneth had a feeding tube in his stomach but he insisted on not getting a catheter or a colostomy. If I was willing to take on the responsibility of cleaning him up (and sign an affidavit to that effect,) the staff would allow him the freedom and mobility of pissing and shitting in an adult diaper. "Do you need a shower?"
"I think I do."
The first time I had to get him out of bed for a shower I was genuinely nervous. He had a wheelchair that could transition to a shower seat, I just needed to move his 5’10" frame. I expected his body to behave like a limp sack of flour or perhaps clay. But that was not the case; his arms could hold his weight. There was no doubt his body was in horrific pain. But somehow, his muscles were strong.
I lowered the bed and then the railing. My husband placed his hand on the side of the bed as if he was already preparing to lower himself into his chair.
"I need to get you cleaned up first."
He groaned, leaning his head back. "But I've been dreaming about you all day."
"Babe, it's only nine." I leaned in and kissed his lips as he smiled.
In the nude, he maneuvered himself off the bed, into his chair. His breathing was labored but as soon as I reconnected the oxygen to a mobile tank, he seemed stable enough. He couldn't move the wheelchair on his own since it had no mechanical components.
I rolled him to the bathroom. I turned on the water, making sure it was a suitable temperature, before moving his chair into place. I took off my shirt, stripping down to my bra. I knew what I wanted to do; what I had to do.
I had the blessing of his medical team to engage in sex. It worked so well, in fact, I was currently three months pregnant with our first child. Avoiding the water proved futile, so I leaned back, letting the shower soak my hair.
"I love you so much, Barbie girl. You're so good to me."
I couldn’t help but laugh. They were wrong; the doctors, the medics, even his of chain-of-command, they were wrong about my husband and somehow, we'd prove it. I could feel the raw energy of his very soul. Kenny had lost weight and was often very sick, but he was still here and he was all mine.
When we were finished, I cleaned him up. "Good job, soldier."
"I think I need to get back to bed," he replied in an exhausted breath. "You'll stay, right?"
"Yeah, baby, of course, I'll stay."
We shared meals: take out for me and liquid nutrients for Kenny. I worked on applying for freelance jobs; research, editing, whatever Fiiver could get me.
At the end of the day, I went home to my base-hotel room. I would love to stay with Kenny, sleeping on a cot or even a chair. But I was always told no since he wasn’t a minor child; hospital policy or whatever. The hospital was a home away from home, as long as he held on.
The next day I awoke at my usual time and made my usual walk to the hospital. The moment I touched the doors my stomach sank. It was like my soul could feel the negative energy. I ran past the elevator, up the stairs to the ward.
I caught the door, shoving past a nurse who was trying to leave.
Fuck you! I entered the room to an empty bed. My heart nearly stopped. I cupped my hands over my face as I fell to my knees.
I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was large, male and wore a rubber glove. “Tomas? No, Kyle, right?”
“You’ve been here way too long, Miss Barbie.” It was one of the many janitors. He took off his glove and gave me a hug.”
I returned the hug even though I did not recognize the man. “Do you know my husband?”
“He got moved to the ICU last night. There was an incident but he’s alive.”
I nodded. “Thank you.”
“So, wipe those tears and put on your warrior face. You know how to get to the ICU?”
“Yeah, I do.” I turned away, to start walking towards the elevator. I quickly realized that the stairs would be faster.
When I reached the ICU, I was afraid of what I would find. Of course, there was an intercom system. I picked up the phone, fully expecting to have to explain who I was and who I was looking for.
“Hello, you must be Barbie Mercer,” said the female voice on the other end.
The door opened with a buzz. I looked around for cameras. There were a few round black cameras, like something out of a department store. There was a nursing station with a dry-erase board listing the patient rooms. Ken was in room 102.
I knocked on the door, but it opened as soon as I touched the faux wood.
Kenny appeared to be asleep, attached to several different IV drips. A young female nurse was by his side. "Hi, I'm Becca."
"His wife," she said with a kind, welcoming smile. "He told me so much about you." The nurse sweetly caressed Kenny’s cheek, motioning at the massive bandage over the top half of his face. “The poor dear, he hit his head on the nightstand while attempting to get out of bed on his own.”
That reeked of bullshit. “Really?”
“He'd gone into convulsions, prompting the move to the ICU and subsequent scans.”
“How do you know all that?”
Becca froze, her expression changed to one of panic. "I'll get the on-call doctor."
When she left, I rushed to my husband’s side. Touching his face, I could feel he was burning with fever.
I needed to see what exactly was under the bandages.
The door opened as if on cue. "Hello, Mrs. Mercer. An older female doctor who I'd never met stood before me with a sense of superiority. "I'm Dr. Rylan."
I wanted to scream, cry, curse but I kept my composure. “Um, Hello.”
"Last night, your husband attempted to get out of bed on his own, resulting in an unfortunate accident.”
“Yes, that’s what I’ve been told.”
The doctor continued without missing a beat. “He fell off the side, striking his head on the nightstand. When he was discovered moments later by the ward nurse, he was in the throes of a seizure. Upon stabilizing him, your husband was sent for a CT scan where they first documented the abnormalities, prompting a full MRI. The current results are inconclusive but we have reason to believe there are malignant growths throughout his body.”
"How was this not noticed when he first arrived?"
"At the time of your husband's initial injury, his mind was in a state of delirium so the main goal was to keep him stabilized."
"What about the months he had stayed in the inpatient ward?"
The doctor looked at her notes. "We have reason to believe the source of the infection is an overlooked medical abnormality. If that is the case, he would not be eligible for further treatment beyond hospice, palliative, care."
What the fuck was happening? This could not get any worse.
"The lab tested tissue samples from his bladder, kidneys, and liver, but the assigned medical team did not feel that the presence of cancer was enough of an incentive to overwrite his current treatment."
This felt like a scam, a ploy to destroy what little confidence he had left. "My husband has been in service for sixteen years.”
"He would be transferred to a veteran’s hospice clinic where he will receive end-of-life care at no cost to you or your family. Or are you concerned about whether or not you would be eligible for monetary compensation upon his passing, given that you've been married for less than ten years?"
And because my baby will be born after he's dead? “Money is not a concern,” I said with all the professionalism I could muster. “I’d like to speak to my husband. Alone.”
The doctor nodded. “Well, he should awaken shortly, as he was only given a mild sedative after last night’s events.
The doctor chuckled as if I’d made a joke. “Medically speaking.”
I knew I needed to play my next move carefully. “Please leave. If I need anything, I’ll notify the nurse.”
"The nurse?" the doctor seemed genuinely confused.
“Yes, the one who let me in.”
“Uh-huh,” she started to walk back out the door. “I’ll just step out for a moment, give you some time alone.”
Once she shut the door, I took a seat at my husband’s side. "Hey, Kenny?" My hands trembled, knowing this was my chance to see under the bandages.
He had a cut on his forehead that was so deep it'd required stitches. And there was already bruising beginning to form. This was consistent with falling out of bed. The surgical scars near his hairline were not.
Kenny’s eyes opened. His eyes seemed to sparkle with an inhuman glow, like cataracts made of metallic blue nail polish. “Barbie?” His voice was a whisper. He blinked a few times causing his left eye to bleed. There were surgical stitches above and below his eyeball, as well as a dark shape inserted into his cornea.
“Yeah, it’s me.” I waved a finger in front of his face, to see if I could garner any reaction. His eyes were moving. He could see me, at least a little bit. "So, how’d you hit your head?"
His lips opened as he struggled for breath. “I-I had a real bad seizure.”
“You had a seizure before you hit your head?”
He nodded slightly. “T-The pain. Oh god, the pain.”
“Where do you feel pain?” I could feel his heart beating slowly as I placed my hand upon his chest. Something was breathing for him, forcing air into his chest.
From behind the oxygen mask, he struggled to swallow the mouthful of saliva in his throat. “M-my head hurts, it hurts to open my eyes.”
When he closed his lids, I got a better look at his eyes. They seemed bloodshot, with thick veins and dark purple shadow.
“It was my fault,” his voice sounded suddenly clearer, like a recording. “I felt good, strong. I wanted to see what it'd be like to piss in a place other than my bed.” He blinked his eyes slower, each motion seemed to catch the light.
"You thought you could make it out of your bed, to the bathroom?"
"You have to admit I succeeded," he said with a laugh. "Now I get the honor of pissing in an ICU bed.”
I knew I needed to play along. “But I can't make love to you in an ICU bed.”
"You can do whatever you put your mind to."
This was the old Kenny. The boy who made me laugh, smile, before going in for our first kiss. This was the boy who felt like my truest friend. I bit my lip as my mouth formed an involuntary smile. And then I turned his hand over, revealing his palm. The veins were glowing; warm, electrical.
He folded his thumb over my fingers, rubbing my skin. “Do you remember what you said in the last letter you wrote?”
“I wrote you a letter?”
“Fine,” he said with a smirk. “Do you remember the last slutty topless pic you sent to my work email?”
“How could I forget. You allegedly passed it up to your chain-of-command.”
"No, I believe what I said was that I passed it around to raise the morale of my men.”
We were, of course, both joking. "You're too much, baby." As my finger pressed on his wrist, a spark started to form. The neon blue light was like a surge of power, looking for a proper outlet. I followed the light, tracing its path with my finger as he spoke.
“You said, if and when I came home to you," he paused, struggling for air as the energy settled on his throat. "Y-You’d…”
I pressed my lips to his ear, speaking with a breathy whisper. “I said I would let you lay on the recliner while I brought you a beer. I’d sit between your legs and worship you like the sexy, heroic, kind, amazing man that you are.”
“You can do that in an ICU bed.” Kenny moved his hand to his leg. But just as quickly he flinched with pain, the muscles in his chest going into spasm. "Please kiss me."
I wanted so badly to feel something, anything. But nothing about this felt real. It was like someone replaced my husband with a pre-programmed doll.
"Relax, just breathe." I gripped his hand tight until I felt his body calm.
“I need you to kiss me.”
"You want me to remove the oxygen?”
"It's just a mask,” he said with another forced laugh. “There's no machine breathing for me."
“I'm not so sure about that.” I moved the oxygen mask from his mouth to his neck trach so he could still breathe.
“Take the,” Kenny was struggling to move his arm, “–mask off!”
“Ok,” I said calmly, moving the mask to his chest.
It was only then he took a deep breath. “This was all a mistake."
He started to laugh as tears flowed down his cheeks. “I signed over my life.”
"Y-You’re not sick, are you?"
“That’s a long, fucked up, story.”
Every brain cell and muscle in my body was telling me to run. But where would I even go? "We're you even actually deployed?"
My husband flinched in pain. “I would never leave you of my own free will.”
Tears filled my eyes. I knew he was telling the truth. “Then what the fuck happened?”
“They wanted physically fit men and women close to retirement.”
I cupped my hands over my mouth, as I choked back screams. Why would he do this? For money? That was the only possible reason I could come up with.
“All I asked was for the chance to make love to my wife one last time. I was supposed to be erased. I was supposed to just disappear leaving behind a carbon copy. They’d use my consciousness for research while keeping my body around for experimental augmentation. But your love, having you close, it changed something.”
The sex saved your brain. Well, that’s just great. “But why? Why would you consent to being killed? Why would you abandon me?”
Kenny blinked tears from his eyes as he shook his head with disbelief. “About a year ago, I,” he struggled to speak over the blubbering of his sobs, “I was pissing blood.”
Seeing him in such pain, I couldn’t help but hold him. “It’s okay. You didn’t want me to worry, right?”
“I have late stage bladder cancer. It started in my liver, spread to my kidneys, my blood, my brain. Ironically, the only place it hadn’t spread to was my eyes.”
That explained... something. Did all the test subjects have metallic eyes?
“If I accepted a medical discharge, I’d forfeit my retirement pension.”
“The best I could hope for would be medical retirement.”
“That’s still something!” I took a breath to calm down. “I don’t care about money! I would live in a car with you.”
“For as long as I lasted? Even with chemo I would be lucky to have even a few years.”
“So, what do you want to do?"
“I want you in my arms.”
I slowly lifted his gown, kissing his stomach. His abs were hard, firm like someone who could still work out seven days a week.
He was reaching for my hair, all on his own. His finger stroked a blonde curl over my ear.
Air choked in my throat. I wanted to feel angry, scared. They did something to him. Was he ever injured? Was he even human? A deep wave of pleasure washed over me.
I don’t care. He’s mine. It was up to me to ignite his power. I kissed the tip, drooling down his shaft like a popsicle.
I could feel the electric surge, cracking like a sparkler on the fourth of July. It wasn’t enough to burn, just enough to sizzle across his clean-shaven hips. His cock was hard, throbbing, as it pressed against his stomach.
I looked at my hands. The blue energy was on my fingertips. it was neither liquid no solid. It was a connection. I rested my head on his chest, sobbing.
“Don’t cry, baby.”
“Why did they send for me? It would have been so much easier,” and so much cleaner, “to say you died overseas.”
“What can I say, I was insistent: I wanted the chance to say goodbye.”
“Do all the volunteers get a ‘one last wish’?”
“As far as I know most declined,” he said with a smirk. “I mean, most of the test subjects are NCOs in their forties who fucked their way through life. I met one guy who had six kids with five women. Given the choice, he was more than ready to die for his country and let his ex’s fight over his death benefits.”
“What was supposed to happen to you? I mean, if everything went according to plan?”
“I was supposed to let go. They were giving me drugs to start the process. If everything went according to plan, I would slip into a coma a week after you arrived, and within a few days, I would be legally dead: ready to live out the rest of my existence as a Ken doll.
“A Ken doll?” I couldn’t help but chuckle at his choice of words.
“A glorified mannequin. But because of you. I can’t let go and somehow, I fathered a child.” His voice went soft. I could tell, that was the part he was truly terrified about. "You need to escape, or they will cut the baby from your corpse.”
I nodded silently. He wasn’t wrong. “Do you know the gender of the baby?”
Kenny went quiet, his chest heaved as he came close to tears.
"Sorry," I muttered.
“I saw her in a dream," he said in a whisper. "She’s as beautiful as her mother.”
"Wow." I sat up to look at my husband's eyes. "Did she say anything?"
He started to close his eyes, drifting off to deep peaceful sleep. "She told me her name was Becca."
“What?” Kenny was asleep, or more accurately unconscious. Even violently shaking his torso did nothing to bring him back. I got up to lock the door. Looking around I could see other cameras. I laid in my husband’s arms.
I had to type this up, in case I’m meant to die here.
I don’t know what to do. I think the reason I'm still alive is because I'm not trying to leave.
Not without him.
Barbie and Ken, a Modern Love Story Ch2
Hi guys, I'm back, still alive.
I'd somehow managed to fall asleep in my husband's arms, cuddled next to him, in his ICU bed. After a comfortable few hours of much needed rest, I awoke to the sound of rattling, knocking, only it wasn't coming from the locked door.
Knock, bang, clank, bang. The noise was coming from the opposite wall. Screech. The large frosted window appeared to be welded shut. But someone or something was trying to get in.
From where my body rested, I could see a figure. It was slender, humanoid with long dark blond hair. The light of the new morning was too bright to allow me to make out features, but he appeared to be wearing jeans and a white t-shirt.
"Hey!" shouted a male voice as he banged on the thick glass pane. The sound was loud, somewhat metallic as if he was hitting the window with something other than his fist. The voice sounded young, possibly a teenager. "Can you hear me, Barbie girl? I'm coming in." He sounded happy, friendly; almost like this was all some kind of prank.
How the hell did he know my name? I regressed from a grown woman to a little girl and did the only thing I could think to do; I pulled the blankets over my head and held on to my husband's body like he was an emotional support plushie.
I could hear the window open, with an audible crack, followed by the crash of glass and possibly chunks of drywall falling to the ground. The stranger was in the room.
I couldn't help but sob. Why was he here? Where was hospital security? Was he hospital security? The man's footsteps sounded like combat boots; firm, strong, and more than a little terrifying.
"Barbie?" His voice was innocent, sweet."Barbara-Ann?" He cleared his throat like a nervous teen addressing a teacher. "Mrs. Mercer? I know you must be hungry. You have a life growing inside you." With the last sentence, a hint of an American southern accent started to slip through.
I turned my head just enough to catch a view of his face. What stood before me was a young man with my husband's blue eyes, blonde hair, distinctive nose, and jawline. The man was definitely older than eighteen. If I had to guess I'd say he was in his twenties, maybe a college student. But more than anything, he looked like he could be my husband's kid brother. Except Kenneth didn't have a brother. "Who are you?"
The man smiled, his blue eyes catching my gaze. "I would say you can call me Kenny or Ken, but I'm sure you're not going to be okay with that, given the circumstances." He took a step closer and motioned to my husband's sleeping face. "Just to be respectful, how about you call me K?"
K still sounded too much like Kenneth for my liking. "How about if I call you Kai?" It was the only other male 'K' name I could think of. I'd heard it from a videogame, and the fact that is rhymed with 'pie' made me slightly less uncomfortable.
"I like it." Kai reached into his jean pocket and pulled out a king-sized Snickers bar, the kind with two in the package.
"Wow." I'd only ever seen them, back home in America. And I was in fact very hungry.
"Here, Barbie, you need to eat," he said offering me the whole package. "If not for you then do it for the baby. You're what, two months along?"
I kept my hands where they were. Thoughts of food poisoning, drugging or worse raced through my mind; this was a setup, this was how I was going to die. But I needed to stay calm, Kai was acting friendly because I was acting friendly. "I'm three months pregnant, but how do you know that?"
"I only know what I've been access to. But it's more than enough." He opened the package, pulling out a bar. He broke off a piece, squishing the chocolate and caramel between his fingers. "I know all about you, Barbie, I want to be with you."
My eyes bulged in shock, as my lips hung open, unable to speak or even breathe.
Kai apparently took that as in invitation to put his finger in my mouth."Here, see, it's just a regular Snicker's bar."
I closed my mouth forcing myself to swallow the bite if only to appease him. It tasted fine. And If I was wrong, hopefully, I wouldn't suffer too badly. "Are you a clone?"
Kai laughed and shook his head, the way that Kenneth always did. "I'm more of a compilation album."
"Like, the best of...?" My eyes motioned to my husband, while my body remained paralyzed with fear.
"More like I'm what's left of him," Kai muttered. For a moment his voice changed; his southern accent disappeared, revealing something that sounded Eastern-European.
But he caught himself, just as quickly. "Look, Miss Mercer, can I call you Barbie?" Kai asked as he tried to finger feed me another piece of candy, like a lamb at a petting zoo.
You've been calling me Barbie for the last ten minutes. "Missus Mercer will be fine," I replied through gritted teeth.
Kai ate the remainder of the piece of chocolate, sucking his own fingers as he spoke. "The fact is, Ma'am, Master Sergeant Kenneth Mercer is not waking up. They've been harvesting him for months, he's been lucky to last as long as he did."
And now everything he owns (everything he was) belongs to you? No, I had a more pressing question. "Who's 'they'?"
Kai only chuckled. "I think you already know the answer to that."
I couldn't look away. His smile was familiar yet alien, terrifying, yet soothing. "Did they send you?"
Kai shook his head. He was glancing at his hands with a cocky grin. "Do I look like a product of the military, to you?"
"No, you look like some kind of genetic experiment," I said unintentionally out loud.
"Look, do you want this candy or not? If you're willing to leave with me, I can get you someplace safe." He walked his fingers down my face, to my jaw. "A place with food, water, and a nice bed."
I wasn't leaving, not without Kenneth. But if I couldn't wake him up, I was in a bit of a bind. "Will you stay with me?"
"Sure," Kai said, as he ran his fingers through his hair like a slacker-surfer. "I mean, I already went through the trouble of breaking in."
"Yeah, you did," I replied with a fake smile, to hopefully look more innocent and trustworthy.
Kai pulled up a chair, by the bed, facing me at eye level as he stroked my cheek. "Totally worth it."
I locked eyes with him, taking a moment to fully take in his demeanor. "Will you take your clothes off?" I asked in a surgery sweet whisper. Sure, Kai was handsome, but in truth, I needed to know what exactly I was dealing with. Was he a robot, a human or something else entirely?
"Will you get out of bed and eat candy with me?"
"Of course." I took a breath, gathering the courage to release my husband's body and sit up on my own. I could see Kai's arms, they were bruised and scared. But his skin tone was rather strange. Large sections of his skin were discolored. Some places looked like tan-lines while others look like surgical scars. I moved my hands under his shirt, expecting to feel six-pack abs and a toned chest.
But instead, my hands were met with something leathery, dry and held together with sutures of various sizes. It was what I imagined Frankenstein's monster must have felt like.
Kai held my hand, guiding me to remove his t-shirt. His body was a mess of scars; tissue that had been grafted, rejected and replaced. "Don't worry, Barbie-girl, it's just a touch of cancer."
I jerked my hand back. "You are a clone."
Kai growled in frustration. "I really don't care for that word." He somehow managed to hold on to his southern accent, even as his eyes filled with rage.
"Sorry?" I managed to squeak out.
Kai was gripping my wrists hard. "I'm superior to Kenneth Mercer in every possible way. When they gave me his cancer-laced DNA I beat it."
Because they cut the rotting flesh from your body and replaced it with new parts. He wasn't a clone, at least not just of my husband. I needed a closer look.
"I want to hold you."
"What?" Kai asked with more surprise than suspicion. He, of course, obliged, pulling me off the bed.
I placed his hands upon my hips, allowing him to embrace me the way my husband would. His eyes were clear, human, perfect copies of Kenneth's eyes. That's what made the next part easier. I kissed him on the lips. His mouth tasted like a bag of quarters; cold, metallic. But he had a normal tongue, that seemed to function the way one should.
Part of him was metal, perhaps robotic? And yet I could feel his heart beating.
Kai pressed his lips to my ear. "I won't hurt you." His breathy American accent was back and felt so good.
I looked deep into his eyes, falling into a hypnotic trance.
"How fucked up would it be if your scrap-heap of a husband woke up right now? Not that it'd matter since he's mostly blind. The first night in the ICU they took his corneas, to make sure he couldn't get out of bed even if he tried." Kai's lips caressed mine, as he released a soft breath. "He can't even kiss you. How can you expect him to be able to love you."
His words caused me to shed a single tear.
Suddenly, I fell from Kai's lap, landing on the floor. Clone-boy had dropped me.
Dazed, it took me a moment to realize, Kai was screaming.
I quickly got to my feet, adjusting my clothes. I managed to look up just in time to see Ken with his hands around Kai's throat. But that was just to hold his victim in place as he sank his teeth into Kai's neck like something out of a zombie movie.
There was blood, so much blood. But my eyes went straight to the streaks of blue energy. I just know it was the same energy I had seen on my own body, except Kai wasn't giving it up willingly.
With each mouthful of blood and shimmering energy, Ken was growing physically stronger. He could already sit up on his own. From his abnormally strong grip, I could see he had full use of his upper body. If that was the case, he was well on his way to getting out of the bed.
Of course, life is never that clean. Just as we locked eyes, Ken gripped his chest, struggling for breath. He appeared to have hit his limit on the consumption of electric lifeforce.
He released Kai, letting his body fall to the floor with a thud.
I took a few steps closer, to see if he was dead. He wasn't.
"Please, Mrs. Mercer, I'm so sorry!" Kai was shivering, crying. "My father is part of the cleaning crew. He helped me escape, told me where to find you."
"He's not my biological father." Kai turned his head as tears streamed down his face. They were not tears of remorse, but rather tears of pain. The stitching in Kai's back was coming apart.
That was I noticed the stripes. He was made of stripes of flesh; layers upon layers of flesh in all possible states of decay. "Kai, can you get us out of here?"
"On-only if he gives it back. He needs to give it back."
"Give what back?" I asked, although I already knew the answer.
"What he stole from me, what they gave to me."
It was clear, Kai apparently survived on the blue energy; the physical form of Kenneth's life force, perhaps even his soul.
"Take it from me," I offered, reaching out my hand. I was trembling, blinking back tears. I didn't even know if this would work. I felt the energy from Ken because we had a connection: a connection, I sure as fuck didn't share with Kai.
"No!" Ken shouted. He opened his mouth again as if to continue his thought, but no further words came out. Ken grimaced in pain as he used his arms to lift his unmoving legs. He was trying to get out of bed.
I pulled my hand back, willing to let Kenneth take control of the situation. I looked around the room; if we were to try for an escape we needed clothes, supplies. There were a few cabinets, where I found hospital scrubs, medication in iv bags, and needles.
"Now, you freak," Ken muttered. "Take back just enough to get us out of here."
"Um yeah, sure thing, Sir," Kai said, in an apologetic tone. In one swift motion, Kai grabbed Kenneth by the wrist and bit hard. with his metal teeth, it wasn't difficult for him to draw a significant amount of blood.
I was holding a fistful of IV needles. Not much of a weapon but it would have to do. "Stop it!" I punched Kai in the face as hard as I could.
He released Kenneth's wrist and stood up. Kai walked with a limp but seemed to have enough energy to make it to the window. "I-I climbed the wall to get up here."
Looking down the wall I could see how that was possible. There appeared to be notches in the brick surface, making for an easy climb. Easy for someone with fully functioning limbs, anyway. I turned back, slightly concerned about Ken's ability. "Kenny, are you okay to climb?"
Ken was out of bed, standing on his own. He locked eyes with me quickly, as if reading my mind. "I'll jump if I need to."
I could see he was limping. And unfortunately, Kai was correct: my husband was nearly completely blind. "Here, take my hand."
Kai went down first. I went second while guiding Ken. No alarms sounded until we reached the bottom. We started to run, making our way through the farmlands and eventually the forest.
I allowed Kai to lead the way. After all, we were in Germany. I knew nothing about the backroads.
As night started to fall, we came across an unoccupied cabin. It had no electricity but plenty of candles, and lamps. I just needed to make a fire.
"I can make a fire," Kai offered. "Go see if there's any food or water."
I agreed but only after I made sure Kenneth would be safe. After traveling for hours, he was able to stand on his own, siphoning energy from my exposed skin.
Outside I could see there was a well. It actually contained clear water. I gave it a taste, and for whatever reason, it tasted like hospital water. It had that chemical, tap water flavor. It was almost as if this was a setup.
I returned with a bucket filled with water. "We should probably still boil this."
Kai had made a fire out of a piece of newspaper and a lighter that he had in his pocket the entire time.
"That works, I found this." He opened a cabinet to reveal glass jars filled with dry goods. "I think it's flour and oats. But there's not much else."
I took down a jar of oats. They seemed to be stale but not too out of date. After a meal of porridge that tasted like wallpaper paste, we went to bed; Kenneth and I on the one bed and Kai on the floor like a dog.
I, of course, stayed with Ken. I stripped out of my sweaty clothes and rested my head on his chest. We were lucky the local weather seemed to be stuck in summer-mode, allowing us to sleep without keeping a fire going throughout the night. Maybe we could even find some clean clothes in this 'magical' cabin.
Ken's eyes were closed, his breathing was so peacefully calm. I reached for his hand, wanting to hold it close to me while I slept. "I love you, Kenny."
"I love you too, Barbie girl." He gently lifted my face, to look into his eyes. Ken seemed to focus on eye contact, staring without blinking.
Was that normal for a blind man?
After a few seconds, he collapsed into my arms suffering a seizure. "Ken!" I positioned his body on the bed, in the middle of the undressed mattress, so he could safely ride out the convulsions. Hopefully afterward he would comfortably drift off to sleep.
Sitting on the side of the bed, I snuck a peek at Kai. If he had been watching he wasn't watching now.
Kai had his arms over his chest, pulling his legs into the fetal position as he rocked himself the way a stereotypical mentally unstable person would.
I got off the bed, moving closer. "You okay?"
Kai nodded silently. I could hear him sobbing.
Something about seeing him cry true tears touched my heart. Both men were weak yet strong, kind yet frightening; the whole situation was like a scale; each of their bodies held a portion of life energy.
And somehow I had some too. Was it genetic? Was I hurting the baby? Or was it mine to give as I pleased? I sat at Kai's side, on the floor, stroking his back. "Did your father give you that lighter?"
Kai nodded. "Will you hold me?" he asked in a soft, innocent whisper.
"Sure." I put my arms around him, resting my head on his back. "Tell me more about your father."
"I met him maybe a year ago, maybe two. After all my treatments and surgeries I kinda lost my concept of time. I just know it felt like a long time but I know logically that it wasn't. I was getting pumped full of drugs, IV's, all while being kept awake for days at a time; it was prepping my brain, like formatting a computer. But when they started the process of re-modeling my jaw, I must have gone into shock. I awoke in a dark cell; freezing cold left to die. And I would have, if not for Father."
"Does he go by any other name."
"Not that I know of. I told me to refer to him as Father and he would call me Son." Kai wiped tears from his eyes. "He would bring me food and water, encouraged me to continue my training. He knew if I worked hard, I could prove to my superiors that I was strong, worthy."
"Worthy of receiving Ken's harvested parts?"
"Worthy of being made whole again." Kai flicked the lighter, holding the flame to his palm. "Through the process, I got really sick; developing cancer antibodies is a real bitch. Father gave me this lighter to divert my pain."
"The more I burn myself, the less pain I feel. It put me in control."
"I guess that makes sense."
"And that's kinda how I escaped."
Kai closed the lighter and turned to me. "My father told me you were kind. You would care for me like a mother."
"I'm not a clone. I know I was a child; I lived in an orphanage, in Russia or someplace like that." Kai wiped tears from his eyes. "But I-I can barely remember."
"But you can remember. You remember a life other than Kenneth's?"
"I know what I lost, what never had, and what got replaced. But mostly I have an archive of Kenneth's data; his childhood, his memories, his military training, and his brilliant mind."
"What about his face? Did you always look like him?"
"When I was thirteen, the people in charge of me, they broke my jaw, fractured my skull and rebuilt certain parts with metal implants.
"We're your eyes always blue?"
Kai nodded. "My eyes are my own." He closed his eyes, sobbing even harder. "Or maybe they were my mother's eyes."
"You know, I love Kenneth." My words had little context, maybe it was a question at the front of my mind. What would become of Kai if we made it to safety?
"You saw what he did to me. They changed him, he's savage, he'll hurt you."
I fell asleep holding Kai's back. It felt right, there was where I needed to be.
"What the fuck, Mom!" said a female voice, in a deep, breathy whisper. "Why is he still alive?"
"Kai is an innocent victim."
An innocent victim?" The woman moved closer, bathing her face in the moonlight. It was Becca, she was older, maybe in her thirties, wearing camo-gear and a pack. She reached her arm back and pulled out a live rabbit. It was a calm creature, like someone's pet. "Sometimes innocent victims need to die so others can live."She snapped the rabbit's neck with her bare hands. "For tomorrow's breakfast."
I awoke to the morning sun and one very dead rabbit.
I don't know what to do. I still have my cell phone and I'm typing this out while Kai and Kenneth sleep. I just feel so stuck, the only 'help' I have is already in this cabin. There's no one else. I think the best course of action would be to head south, towards France. Hopefully, my cellphone will still work. I can only assume I'm racking up a massive amount of roaming charges.
Barbie and Ken, a Modern Love Story Ch3
A strange thing happened when I tried to deal with the "gift" that my time traveling/dimensional hopping daughter left for me. Maybe the future me was some kind of outdoors chick who could field strip a wild hare. But the current me threw the dead animal in the outside bin.
We had to keep going; me, Kenneth and Kai. As my husband and 'new friend' slept, I gathered supplies. There were some suitcases, and packs that I filled with dry goods and other small containers that we could use for water on our journey. I also found some clothes. Although the sundress fit a little too loose, the men's size t-shirt and jeans seemed useable. Our group would look more like tourists and less like three patients who escaped a military hospital.
But back to the dead rabbit. I think it's following us.
We had to navigate our way south, on foot. Not even knowing if we would be safe. Ken could read in over a dozen languages and even spoke a little German, Russian and French. Of course, that meant Kai, as his clone, could as well. So I left it up to them to read street signs, towns, and other directions.
But every once in awhile, out of the corner of my eye, I would see that distinctly bright white creature. It was the size of a wild hare but with the coloring of a pet bunny, like something that a parent would buy for their child from the local Petco. Even in the daylight, I could see it staring me down with its red eyes and crooked glare.
"What are you looking at?" Kai asked as we traversed through a field of dry grass.
"So you weren't looking at the giant ghost-rabbit?" Kai replied as he started to walk faster. "I'm going to scout out ahead."
"What?" I turned to him, just in time to trip on a rock, falling hard on my side. "Ow! fuck!"
Ken rushed to my side. All while Kai kept walking. My husband, even with his weak, sick body and nearly blinded eyes, lifted me in his arms. "Are you okay?"
I tried to answer but I could only cry. I wasn't in a terrible amount of pain, but the stress combined with pregnancy hormones had driven me to my breaking point.
Kai groaned as he turned around, from twenty feet ahead. "We need to keep moving."
"Going where?" I asked, my voice breaking with tears. "I'm pregnant, my leg hurts, I need to rest!" Mainly, I was goddamn exhausted from walking the entire length of Germany.
Kai trudged on, disappearing into the dense shadowy forest.
"Well, fuck you!" I screamed. "We'll be just fine without you!"
Ken held me against his chest, rocking my body like a crying child. "You need to calm down, Barbie-girl. Kai's an asshole but he had a point, we can't stay in one place for too long. Getting found by the police isn't going to help anything."
I knew he was right, we had no passports, identification or anything. At the very least, I would get separated from my husband. Worst case, the local authorities would run our fingerprints, find out who we are. I would be sent to a mental asylum to die alone, but only after my baby was cut from my body.
I had no idea how much time had passed since we left the hospital in Landstuhl. We would walk until we encountered food or water, only then we slept. My belly felt larger, heavier. How far along was I? Would my baby even survive?
Ken was attempting to stand. By the position of his hands, I could tell he was going to try to carry me like a bride.
Oh, crap. I readied my legs to catch myself since I already knew I was too heavy and he was too sick.
"Ah shit," Ken groaned as he fell to his knees, clenching his chest. "I'm so sorry."
"It's fine. I'm okay to walk," I said, putting Ken's arm around my shoulder. We would need to share our weight, our pain. Both of us limping, we made our way to a nearby area of dense trees. We were so close to the Switz-Germany boarder. But did that mean anything? Would we be safe?
We found a place to sit, where the branches were so dark, it felt like the sun already set. I was grateful for the chance to take a break. But without the light, it was also unbearably cold. "This could not get any worse."
I closed my eyes when suddenly I felt the barrel of a gun pressed against my neck. Silent tears started to flow. I heard the sound of handcuffs, and several men speaking German, French, and English.
Something, something, "---American Military----" Something, something, "--Raised reward-----Dead or alive----"
I swallowed hard. These people weren't police, they were bounty hunters.
"But what about?---" One man, with a thick German accent, motioned to my stomach. "She is pregnant?"
Another man laughed. Something, something, "-----medical experiment-----harvest the little abomination."
A different man put me in handcuffs, and leg cuffs before putting an opaque black plastic bag over my head. It was just loose enough to allow me to breathe, but if I tried to scream I could easily cut off my air supply.
I reached my hand, trying to feel where Ken was, but I felt nothing. Was he already dead? Were they going to kill me? My chest heaved as I cried hard, panic-stricken tears. I could hear laughter, more words in a foreign tongue. I tried to make out words, trying to convince myself that they weren't going to kill me. But what I made out was much worse; they wanted to rape me, the 'cute, sexy American whore.' They would tie Ken to a tree and make him watch.
My body tensed, awaiting the inevitable. They were going to touch me, cut me, hurt me. All I could do was pray that it would end quickly.
But no one came. I heard grunts, cursing, crying, screaming. It all ended with a single gunshot. And then the world went silent.
I felt hands on my back, working their way down my arms. "Please don't, oh God please don't. My baby, please, don't hurt my baby."
The handcuffs unlocked, followed by the leg cuffs. The first thing I did with my newly freed hands was to tear off the plastic bag. Blinking my eyes, my vision cleared. There was blood, so much blood.
Kai was wielding a massive weapon that appeared to be covered in hamburger meat. He hacked at the bodies, which were no longer struggling. The bloody chunks wiggled with the slightest death twitch as they bled out. By the time he was finished, I could no longer tell how many bodies there had been.
Crossing my arms over my chest, I felt sticky. My arms and legs were covered in blood. Choking back vomit, I looked around for Ken. Much to my surprise, it appeared that Kai had freed him first. My husband was gathering weapons and other supplies from the chunks of what used to be bodies. Ken had so much blood on him, I could only assume he had fought alone side Kai.
"You came back, Kai," I said out loud.
Kai dropped his blade. I had not noticed it before, but it looked like nothing more than a large chunk of scrap metal. "You're all I know, all I have. I want to be with you, even if I'm just a third wheel."
Ken patted Kai on the back. "I can't say I'm happy you're here, but you did save my wife and child, and for that, I am forever grateful."
"Well, at least, now we have a vehicle," Kai said, twirling a set of keys in his hand. "And plenty of meat."
Uh, what? I raised an eyebrow. "Please tell me you're referring to their supplies."
"You wouldn't eat someone who tried to kill you?" Kai asked with a smirk.
"Let's get out of here." I turned to walk towards where Ken was loading up a vehicle. Part of me was glad he could see well enough to strip the corpses of our enemies but he was too visually impaired to drive.
Kai leaned in and kissed my cheek. "I'd eat you, Barbie-girl. I think you'd be delicious." He quit flirting just long enough to gather clothing and identifications. "Here, he tossed me a wallet, shirt, and pants.
I wondered why but then I looked at the ID. One of the bounty hunters had been female. of course she hadn't been pregnant, but I could make do with covering my exposed stomach with a jacket. Or whatever was not covered in blood. "Did you find an ID for yourself and Ken?"
"Yup, we're all good," Kai replied confidently. He shook a water bottle, revealing it's nearly empty contents.
I watched as Kai took off his blood-stained shirt. He splashed the small amount of water over his face. With the blood wiped from his eyes and cheeks, he looked presentable, even normal. Kai turned his back to me, as he pulled his long hair into a ponytail. My blood ran cold.
On his back was a massive rabbit tattoo that had not been there before. He flexed his shoulder, reaching into the vehicle. "Score!" Kai pulled out a clean leather jacket covered in colorful patches.
Even I had to admit it looked cool. I looked down at the wallet in my hands. Her name was Anna, she had been an American living in Russia.
Ken put his arm around my shoulder, guiding me to the vehicle. "We need to move quickly."
Instead of taking me around the carnage, we walked a diagonal line straight through the center, allowing me to take in the full extent of what we had done. I closed my eyes, burying my face in Ken's shoulder. When we reached the dark-green, military-style truck. I took a seat in the back and promptly vomited out the door with such force I nearly fell.
Ken had been sitting in the passenger seat so he was able to rush to my side. "You're okay." He held me close, not even wiping my mouth. "Just rest your head and try to get some sleep."
"Okay." I tried to look up, to get a glimpse at his face. But Ken sat next to me, pinning my face against his shoulder, so hard I could barely breathe.
"Let's roll!" Kai shouted.
I heard him slam the driver's side door as we sped off. After a few seconds, Ken released his grip, allowing me to sit up. I turned back to see a massive ball of flames. Oh, Dear God. I gripped my throat, trying to avoid screaming, crying or anything that would make me even more of a burden to my teammates.
Ken held my hand. "With any luck, the police will think we're among the bodies."
I forced myself to nod. "Yeah... um... sounds good."
We drove into Switzerland without incident. But according to Kai, our goal was still France. "France is a hub for illegal immigrants, all the people trying to get into the UK. No one will notice us."
His reasoning seemed a little too simplistic but I was in no position to argue. We drove in the direction of Lyon until we found an open pasture, to stop for the night.
"I'm going to grab stuff to start a fire," Kai said, jumping out of the truck. "You and Ken should sleep against the side of the truck."
"To avoid being seen, by anyone on the road," I replied. "Sounds good."
"There should be some extra clothes in the back if you're cold."
"Kai?" I reached for his hand as he left.
Kai only nodded.
Ken and I made a bed using two duffle bags filled with leaves and other spare clothing. The final result was surprisingly comfortable. We cuddled close under the light of the moon. It wasn't uncomfortably cold.
Wrapped in my husband's arms. I felt a calm soothing sense of peace. Even if someone was to come put a bullet in our heads at least we would be together.
I closed my eyes to sleep. After a moment of quiet darkness, I felt a strong warmth, followed by the sound of a crackling fire. "Kai?"
A young female chuckled, then sighed. "Why am I not surprised."
"Becca?" I set up, rubbing sleep from my eyes.
My daughter was sitting on a rock, looking at me over the light of a campfire. She looked like a teenage version of myself but wearing camo gear. "He's going to force you to eat human flesh." She blinked her eyes, like a doll, letting them sparkle with innocence as she spoke.
"If you can't help me, leave me alone!" I screamed.
The fire rippled causing her image to distort. "Oh, I'll help you alright."
I awoke to the spark hitting my arm and Ken coughing in my face. I quickly sat up. The fire was real but Becca as gone. Why was there a fire?
I had no time to think about that, as Ken's eyes were glazed over. He couldn't breathe.
I turned him on his side, to clear his airway.
"Give him the last of the water," Kai said. He was tending to a small fire while wrapping what appeared to be meat, in pieces of foil.
"Is it in the truck?"
"Yeah, I'll just use the fire to boil more."
"Thanks," I said quietly. My eyes were stuck on Kai's project. "So, what are you making?"
"Okay." I retrieved the canteen along with a bowl. I planned to pour out a small amount of water and attempt to get my husband to sip without choking. I worked quickly.
As soon as Ken took a few sips, he was able to breathe easier. "What's he cooking?"
Kai had placed the foil packet in the fire and it smelled horrible.
"Supper, I guess."
"Do you feel like vomiting?"
"I think I'll be okay. Can we go chill in the truck in the truck?" The truck bed was made of metal so we would have to move our 'bed' but it seemed safer than sleeping outdoors.
"You guys are seriously not eating?" Kai asked. He seemed genuinely disappointed. "Fuck it, more for me."
Somehow, I managed to get back to sleep. I was no longer cold. I felt so comfortably warm. As I shifted my weight, my eyes forced themselves open.
I noticed my hands were glowing. Rippled of blue energy stroked over my skin like a deep, tender massage with warm oils. I felt so good, I wanted to pull my hands to my chest. But they were stuck in place, around Ken's neck.
My body was siphoning energy out of Ken. No, it wasn't me, it was the baby.
"Why?" I asked out loud. But I knew why. Becca wanted me to make a move; murder Kai or watch my husband pass away. But there was a third option; I could give him my milk.
I couldn't get comfortable on my back, so I laid on my side. I had not worn underwear in a few days, making masturbation easier. There had been many nights when I 'took matters into my own hands' if only to be able to sleep. So I knew for a fact that when I climaxed, the liquid that expelled from my breasts held the strange blue, lifegiving energy.
So I got to work.
That was when I felt Ken's hand on my thigh. "What are you up to, Barbie?"
Touching led to kissing, kissing lead to us making love. We had a little privacy since the back of the truck was covered in a tarp, but I could still see the light of Kai's fire.
But where was Kai?
"Don't stop on my account." Kai was watching from a dark corner.
"This is my game if you want to play you have to come closer."
Kai came forward, crawling on his knees as he slipped out of his jeans.
Ken pressed his lips to my ear. "I want you to ride him, let the baby siphon his energy."
It made sense. With my husband's hands guiding my hips, I moved into reverse cowgirl position; sitting on Kai's lap, facing away.
I heard moaning, grunting, then one final sentence.
"She'll always be mine."
I don't even know which of the men said those words, but within the next few moments, it wouldn't matter.
I turned around before Kai could finish.
He was so still. Suddenly Kai's chest rose and he shot up like a zombie. His flail arms tore off the tarp, exposing our bodies to the moonlight. Kai's torso was covered in shimmery blue energy. But on closer inspection, I saw it was blood.
Ken was next to him, resting his head on the younger man's shoulder. He was holding Kai's hand.
"Ken?" my voice quivered. "Baby, what have you done?"
Kai started to cough. He raised his hand, pointing with a finger as if he was writing on a chalkboard. "T-The fact is," his voice was a quivery monotone, as his finger wrote out the letters of each word, "I was still sick. I need-ed to bind myself to Kai while I was still strong enough to do so."
I wanted to cry, or scream. I quickly moved to the far corner of the truck bed, which only put about two feet of space between myself and Kai.
Kai slowly moved Ken's bloody corpse, enough to be able to sit up. "D-Did y-you know about this? Was this your plan all along?" His voice broke with sadness.
"Are you crying?" I felt pissed off. He had no right. I had just lost the most precious person in my life. And Kai, or whatever the fuck his real name was, he was alive because I was too much of a coward to kill him to save my husband.
Kai sat in the opposite corner, still nude, his legs pulled to his chest. "I-I can feel him." He pursed his lips, as his eyes caught mine. "I-It's like he's a second voice in my head." Tears sparkled in his blue eyes. "I'm seeing memories that I know for a fact don't belong to me."
"You already said you were given his mind."
"But I never had his childhood memories before. I can see his mother's face. And..." Kai cupped his hand over his mouth. "His thoughts from the past few weeks, they're pulsing in my head. Oh God, it hurts!"
I felt pain, physical pain. A horrible burning sensation washed over my skin. The best I could compare it to would be a sudden sunburn or being locked in an oven.
The air crackled with energy, leaving behind a distinct glowing portal. "Fucking loser," said a familiar voice. Becca stepped through, wearing what appeared to be camo-patterned body armor. Her boots made a loud clank as she took a step towards me. "I guess this is goodbye."
"What?" The sound that came from my lips was nothing more than a breath.
"I'm nuking this world. Maybe in a different reality, my mother won't be a stupid damsel in distress." She hit a button on her wrist, causing a helmet to wrap over her face. She looked like something out of a video game. "It won't hurt for long. The last few versions of you died pretty easily."
I had an idea of what she was about to do. She came from a place with the technology to wipe out entire timelines. But I had one hope. Kai?
Kai was slowing standing up. "Can you see her?" From his current position, he was standing behind Becca. And in her armor, she didn't appear to be able to see or hear him.
I nodded, trying to avoid direct eye contact with him. If he was truly a supersoldier with two minds, perhaps he had a plan.
Of course, I couldn't be that lucky.
"I'm not stupid, where is he?" Becca asked, her voice digitized through her helmet. "Where is the fuckboy-clone that you chose over my father?"
Kai lunged at her from behind. "Grab her!"
Becca tried to fight him off, struggling under the weight of her armor.
Wait, why didn't she just shoot him?
I suddenly had a realization; Becca had no weapons. The armor's sole purpose was purely to be able to travel and activate the contained nuclear annihilation...and escape. We need to follow her through the portal!
I hesitated for only a moment; could I leave behind everything in this world? I had to try. It's what Ken would have wanted.
If you're reading this then something went right. But now it was just a matter of where the hell I landed.
Barbie and Ken, a Modern Love Story Ch4 (End)
When a butterfly flaps its wings, a new world is created. No wait, that's not right. When two paths diverge and you chose one over the other-- Right now I have a lot of time to think.
For starters, I somehow traveled from France to Mississippi. I landed naked in a field of grass just outside of Keesler Air Force Base. Yes, I've watched the Terminator movies. But before I had a chance to rob a biker gang for clothing, I was arrested by the local military police.
After being forcibly dressed in a hospital gown, I was strapped to a gurney (for my own safety). All before being loaded into an ambulance. No one told me where I was going, just muttering about me being a Jane Doe. I was tense, with thoughts of escape running through my mind. It was only when I saw the lights of the emergency room sign did I realize I'd been taken to the on-base hospital.
As I was taken past airmen and their families in the waiting room, I could hear the team of doctors tell the police that I was insane; possibly a danger to myself and others. Somehow, I went to sleep.
I could only assume I'd been drugged since my heart was racing too fast for me to actually rest. I awoke in an elevator. My mouth was unimpaired, but I couldn't speak or even scream. Vomit choked in my throat, as I struggled to breathe. My heart was racing so hard, I almost didn't notice how my vision was slipping in and out of focus. I could see I was surrounded by people; men, women, nurses, doctors, black, white, Asian, even Native American- all at once.
The image was layered, like watching a 3D movie without the glasses. I was expecting a headache, but none came. I could hear all the voices perfectly clear. They were talking to me, referring to me by different names; Fiona, Emily, Miss Davis, Mrs. Mercer, Patient Zero, the Female. But the one I kept hearing over and over was 'the Vessel.'
From what I could make out someone called 'the child' was still missing, possibly destroyed, but they were still looking. At least a few dozen voices were helpful for this individual's safe return.
As the elevator stopped in, what felt like, a sub-basement level. As my gurney was wheeled into a room, the conversation shifted. Someone called, 'the man,' 'male specimen', and 'Project K,' he was still at large. That had to be Kai or maybe even Ken. It had to be.
"We have to send her back," said a male voice with a Russian accent.
"There's no place to send her back to," replied a mousy female.
"What do we do?" the voices layered over each other, rendering them indistinguishable. "What will we do?"
One woman came forward, her silhouette seemed to stand out from the others, casting an oddly neon glow. "We do what we have to." She had the voice of someone who smoked a pack a day and drank herself to sleep. But this sound was layered over what sounded like my voice. This woman had my voice.
As she came closer, her figure came fully into focus. She wore a lab coat over military fatigues, with her blonde hair pulled back in a messy bun. Her face looked tired, weary, somewhat angry, but also young. She looked about my age. As she moved in close, leaning over me, it became clear; the woman had my face.
"Take samples of skin, hair, blood, tissue, and bone," she said with cold confidence. "Burn the rest in the incinerator."
My lip trembled as I started to cry.
This caused her to chuckle. "Oh, fuck you, Bitch." The woman pulled a black glove from her pocket. She snapped it hard as she made a show of putting it on.
"You killed my baby, now I get to return the favor." She pulled out a knife with a laser blade.
"Please no," I said in a whisper. "You can let me go. I'll run, I'll probably die somewhere on the side of the road."
"I know you will. But I can't wait that long."
I could feel the heat of the blade against my neck. blistered formed as the red light touched my shoulder.
My life flashed before my eyes. I could see my parents, the day my father died, the day I left home, the day I... graduated from college?
I was seeing visions of military training, combat training. And then blood.
The other version of me lurched forward, vomiting blood. The knife dropped from her hand with a clank.
I was still strapped to a gurney, as the other women's body started to bleed into me, but she wasn't bleeding, she was melting.
My eyes darted around, trying to see the reactions of the rest of the doctors. Were they going to help their boss?
My vision started to pixelate. They were transforming into something; a dark mass of shadows.
I blinked a few times, causing my vision to clear. The room was getting brighter.
Becca, in full armor, was engaged in hand-to-hand combat with a giant humanoid rabbit.
A wave of energy washed over me. Over and over. On instinct, I reached my arms toward my chest, pulling myself into the fetal position. My hands were free. My legs were free.
With each new reality, my clothes changed, as did my hair even my skin. My final form had tattooed hands and a massive, painfully swollen, stomach.
A furry hand grabbed my shoulder. The massive appendage felt like part of a mascot costume. But unlike the grip of Chuck-E cheese or Mickey Mouse, this hand was fully articulated and scary-strong.
"Get up," growled a male voice.
"I'm trying!" I couldn't stand up no matter how hard I tried. My legs were buckling under my weight causing me horrific pain in my back and hips.
The rabbit-man did not seem to care. He dragged me by my shoulder, pulling me through a portal. With a thud, I landed hard on my shoulder. I closed my eyes as pain shot up my arm. I couldn't move.
I rolled on to my back, as I struggled for breath. When I could open my eyes I saw a bright blue sky. I was outdoors? My shoulders felt wet and cold; I was in a field of green grass, wearing a crop-top and what I assumed were denim shorts.
I couldn't see my lower body over my massive belly. But I could feel the denim and I could feel that my shorts were soaking wet. "Please help me!" I shouted at the sky. I was in labor, I had to be. But I was alone; no rabbit, no Becca.
I moved like a turtle who had been placed on its back, struggling with my arms and legs. After much trial and error, I managed to wiggle out of my shorts. Gripping them in my left hand I rolled my shorts into a tube shape to bite down on. I needed to push.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I pushed with every ounce of strength. My body felt like I was being ripped in half. I could feel something coming out. I knew I had to keep going. I tried to lift my head, but I could barely move. The baby could have been stuck for all I knew.
Just when I felt like I had no more strength, I saw my husband's face. "Ken?"
There were wrinkles around his eyes as he smiled at me. He was older, like a kind father or grand-father. But he was alive. "Hey, Barbie-girl."
I tried to speak, but no words came out. My vision drifted, as the pain washed over me. 'Please help me.'
"This is your world now, Barbie-girl."
A massive boot struck me in the face, over and over. I needed to get up, or else I was going to die.
A familiar Lazer knife slashed me across the chest, leaving behind a cauterized wound. My body sat up all on its own, instinctively moving away from Becca.
I expected her to be in armor but she was only in fatigues and combat boots. Not that it made her any less deadly.
Becca spat on my face. "I'm taking the baby. It's mine anyway." With her gloved hand, she pulled the baby out, causing the afterbirth to follow.
The horrific pain caused my vision to blur. I rolled on to my chest, leaning on my forearms as I struggled for balance. Only then did I realize, the baby was still attached.
I turned in time to see Becca use the laser blade to cut the umbilical cord. Time went in slow-motion as she held the newborn by its ankle, letting the little girl cry.
"Such a pathetic little creature," she muttered.
"B-but she's you." Was she really going to kill her own form?
"I know." Holding the child by the leg, Becca swung it like a doll, moving it closer and closer to the laser, not unlike an executioner. "I figure, killing off my original form will reset this world."
"I'd rather die then-" Becca's sentence was cut off by a sudden burst of light. The rabbit-man grabbed the baby from her and teleported away. At least the baby would be safe or at least not dismembered by a laser blade.
I would not be so lucky.
Becca screamed an unholy roar. "I am sick of this trickster god bullshit! You and your stupid lighter!"
What about the lighter?
Becca charged at me, pinning my already weak body to the ground. Sitting on my legs, she plunged the laser blade into my chest.
I held my breath, waiting for the sweet release of death.
Becca looked into my eyes. "I could stay and watch you die, but I'd rather go rabbit hunting."
I closed my eyes, assuming that the next breath would fill my throat with blood, but somehow it wasn't.
"Get up," said a kind male voice.
Blinking my eyes I couldn't see anyone. But I felt something solid in my hand. It was a cigarette lighter. Was this Kai's lighter?
At that moment I missed Kai as much as Ken, if not more.
But it was also at that moment, I realized, Kai never told me how he 'escaped' the military medical facility using just a lighter. I flicked it a few times, letting the warmth of the flame burn my thumb. Only it didn't burn. the tip felt soft, like a marker, but the surface was translucent like a mirror. This wasn't a lighter this was a portal.
However, it was a portal the size of a small coin. I needed to figure out the next step towards finding the activation switch. I slipped my thumb in the portal, to see what I could feel. I closed my eyes. My mind slipped to visions of calm; apple trees, flowers, sunlight, my first date with Ken. Although I was still on the grass, my legs felt warm. I could feel the hood of Ken's car, the soothing sun-kissed metal under my bare thighs. My legs hadn't been completely bare; I'd just been wearing shorts. They'd just rode up my ass before Ken took them off with his teeth.
We'd made some memories.
The thoughts coaxed a smile across my face. For the first time in a long time, I felt genuine joy. My eyes opened and now my entire hand was in the portal. I tried to jerk my arm back but I was stuck.
I shook my shoulder, to see if I could get more of my self through the slightly larger opening. I couldn't.
Well, shit. I needed to figure out how to fully open the portal. I spat blood, my body in agonizing pain. I reached my hand through the portal as if hoping someone would grab me. I closed my eyes, trying to focus on what I wanted. Not Becca, not a monster. I wanted... I wanted to be safe.
Please let me be safe.
I looked at the portal, trying to see what was on the other end. Would I ever get to meet my baby? Or reunite with my husband? Or would I be fighting for my life for all eternity?
The portal rippled like water, so I took a deep breath before falling headfirst. I wanted to go through before I changed my mind (and I sure as hell didn't want to risk getting stuck halfway). I landed on the wooden floor of a cabin. "Ow!" The fall was not that bad, and next to me was a soft carpet that I easily rolled on to.
I could hear a baby's coo, followed by a male voice. "Shh, Daddy's here."
I entered the room to the sight of the rabbit man sitting on the rocking chair. He wore what looked like an open white bathrobe, with his muscular human chest clearly visible. He was holding a swaddled baby in his arms, rocking the little bundle gently against his sun-kissed skin.
"Shh, she's asleep," he said lifting his head. The rabbit took off his mask, revealing a human face. He looked like a younger version of Ken. But as he tossed the mask to the floor, his rabbit ears sprung up. apparently those were not part of the costume.
"What about your hands?" I asked.
"Is that really a deal-breaker for you?" he asked with a smile, as his paws held the baby comfortably.
"I guess not," I said nervously. "But, what are you?"
"A fantasy, a dream; I'm whatever you want me to be." He put the sleeping baby into a nearby cradle.
I was relieved that I could hear her softly breathing. "Is that my daughter?"
"Our daughter." The rabbit-man looked at me with his dreamy bedroom eyes. His lips were pillowy; soft and feminine. His blond hair, fell in a choppy cut, just shorter than shoulder length.
"Will you lie with me?" He reached out his hand, biting his lip in hesitation.
"Sure, okay." I took one step towards him, the light from a nearby window caressed over my body. I was naked, that was not unexpected, but the condition of my body was oddly pristine. I was completely uninjured; no blood burns or even scarring.
He cupped my face with his paws. His fur felt silky soft, and the pads of his hands felt like that of a kitten. He guided me to the bed, laying me down on the patchwork quilt made of floral nature patterns. He leaned in to kiss me, his nose touching mine.
I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. His nose was human, his face was human. I ran my fingers through his hair, catching my hand on his ear. It actually started where a human ear would.
He chuckled as he pressed his lips to my earlobe. "Do you like them?"
"Your ears?" I asked as I placed my hand upon his shoulder. I reached under his fur robe, undressing him down top his human body. His back and shoulders had a fine layer of grey fur, creating an elaborate pattern down his body. "What are you?" I asked again, this time more flirty than curious.
I awoke the next morning to the sound of my baby crying. I was naked but clean as if he had washed me in my sleep. Rolling over in bed, I could see I was alone. The room was comfortably warm, as the smell of coffee and cinnamon wafted through the house.
The rabbit-man came in, holding our daughter. Except this time, the child was at least a year old.
The little girl turned to me and giggled. She had her father's blue eyes and blonde hair. Her hair fell in soft curls but among the doll-like waves were two rabbit ears. She had her father's ears. She reached out her hand, revealing a paw; five fingers covered in white fur that crept up her arm. "Mama!"
I wanted to reach for her, I really did.
My hesitation caused my lover to take a seat by my side. "Does she please you?"
I happily got out of bed, looking in the closet for something clean to wear. Part of me was expecting to see a rabbit costume or maybe body parts. But there were just bed sheets and robes.
I picked out a white robe. On the hanger it felt like terrycloth; thick and warm. As I put it on, it felt like cotton; cool, comfortable. But as I took a step towards my husband and child, the material felt like shimmery silk.
Ken put the baby on the floor, allowing the toddler to stand.
"I think she's too young." I knew she wasn't, this child was a toddler. But to me, she was just a newborn.
I could see her face morph, growing with her body. Within moments she was standing tall, as a proper three-year-old. Her white dress even grew with her, making her look as sweet as a summer day. "Does this please you more, Mama?" her voice was southern, the way I always imagined it would sound.
The moment was adorable, beautiful, perfect.
Too perfect. It was like I was writing a story in my head.
It was all wrong.
I ran for the door, forcing it open. I didn't know what my plan was. But it didn't matter; there was no world beyond the cabin, only darkness. I cupped my hands over my mouth. I wanted to scream but no sound came out. It was as if this part of the world was unrendered.
From behind me, the rabbit-man reached around and closed the door. "You died. Becca killed you, just like the last time."
I could feel tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. "What do you mean by 'the last time'?"
The rabbit-man only smirked. "Last time, and the time before that." He put his arms around my waist, holding me close. "You're just not very good at this game."
In the position he held me in, I could not see his face. I pushed away from his grasp, forcing myself to turn and get a good look at the rabbit-man. "Oh, God."
His face was shifting, morphing. He was aging; transforming from the young, sexy rabbit-man to the battle-weary expression that I remembered on my husband. "You really don't remember?" His voice was deep, rough, like a smoker. "What you did all those years ago? You killed him."
This was hell. Somehow, I was fully conscious and aware, to experience my eternal damnation. "B-But I didn't kill him. Ken committed suicide. He even left a note."
My daughter looked up at me with her big blue eyes: Ken's eyes. "Do you remember what the note said?"
I wave of panic washed over me. It was like a dam had broken. "Yes, I read it. I remember everything." I'd been three months pregnant when Ken's kidneys started to fail. The cancer was stage two but there was hope if he received a multiple organ transplant before his liver shut down. "Since Ken was already so sick, he was unable to register for any state's organ transplant list. We needed to find a willing volunteer."
Becca glared, her eyes narrowing in a way that looked downright demonic. "Really, is that all he was?"
Though one of those DNA kits, I managed to come in contact with a young Marine from Florida: Lance Corporal Jack 'Rabbit' Mercer-Krane. According to the DNA results, he was a distant cousin with less than ten percent of genetics in common. But he was willing to fly to our state to get tested. "I have to admit, I was surprised when I saw a twenty-two-year-old man with your father's face step off the plane. He was a godsend."
"Humph," Becca said with a smirk. "Well, that I believe."
Jack was a match, but I knew organ donation was considered invasive surgery and would likely result in a medical discharge, ending any and all military career aspirations. "Jack volunteered. He wanted so badly to help our family."
In the next three months, Jack resigned from the military, moving into our apartment. He slept on a sofa while attending the local community college. He was going to be a nurse. He had such a passionate, soul. When I was in my third trimester I was too tired to help Ken. "Jack did everything."
"Everything but fulfill the promise he made to your husband, my father?"
"You're wrong!" This part of the story was physically painful. "Jack never backed down from organ donation. It was the doctors who kept claiming your father was too sick; no surgeon wanted to risk him not surviving long term, because no one believed him enough to try."
Jack was by my side when I went into labor. He held my baby before anyone else; before me, before Ken. Over the next year, we fell in love. We raised Becca together, as a family.
"Is that why you married him on the anniversary of Dad's death?"
"He told you it was fine, he said you shouldn't blame yourself for his death. I believe he even wished you well. Father was so kind, wanted you to have all the joy and happiness in the world with your new lover; his distant cousin, the scumbag soldier who conned his way into your bed! Father didn't blame you, but I did." Becca's voice changed, shifting from her childish tone to the menacing adult version. "I do. You robbed me of my real father. Do you even remember how he died?"
"He ate his gun." At least that's what the police told me. Jack had been the one to find the body.
"Oh, you do remember. Well, you can dwell on your memories for the remainder of your pitiful exist-
-end Transmission -
Dec 2455, the preceding information was drafted by Barbra-Ann Mercer, my biological mother. I'm somewhat impressed, given her lack of formal education, and the fact that she's nothing more than a copy of a copy of a brain in a box. Not only did this version of human consciousness manage to keep a detailed journal of her emotions; physical, emotional and even sexual. But she somehow managed to post the story to a primitive version of the world wide web. How quaint.
Oh well, on to trial number four, maybe this time the parameters will work. Maybe this time she'll do what needs to be done, and we can move on with the next stage of the project.
Memo from the desk of Rebecca Lynn Mercer, Brigadier General, US Military.
Written by Dourdan