She woke up with a start, all sweaty and bewildered from a dream that felt foreign and real at the same time, filling her with distress because nothing from it felt familiar to her. Though it wasn't a scary dream it had the effect of a nightmare on her body and soul. That lady from the dream couldn't be her; she wasn't married and had no kid to speak of. So who was that man who held her so affectionately and made her feel things she never dreamed she was capable of feeling? And the cute little angel? Who was she? She didn't recall birthing her. How could she forget such a lovely child? She had been happy in the dream, though subconsciously, she had felt it was too good to be true; too surreal, and not her life. She was just a lonely very single lady, with a good job in a prestigious tech company. She had only one good friend who was an ex. Nothing special about her life.
So where from the dream? Who was the man and kid? God, she needed something cold to calm her racing heart. Jumping out of bed, she strolled into the kitchen and opened the fridge to pour herself a glass of milk. Maybe the drink would help her sleep better and prevent her from having such weird dreams. Gulping down her drink, she sighed in contentment at the coolness; exactly what she needed to calm down. Rinsing her glass, she turned to place it on the dish rack and yelped in alarm at the man crowding her kitchen space making it feel suddenly too small.
"Sorry honey, I didn't mean to scare you. I didn't find you in bed and decided to come find you. Is everything okay?" he said his voice smooth and husky to her curious ears. Honey? Bed? He was here the whole time? The man from her dream wasn't just a figment of her imagination but a real person. Oh, this was too much?! Too much overload. He took a step closer, and she threw out her hands to stop him.
"Stay away from me!"
"What?" he sounded confused.
"Don't come closer! I...I don't know what this is but I don't want any part of it."
"What are you talking about? Are you okay?" he took more steps towards her, ignoring her warning look, and grabbed her by the shoulders, shaking her gently.
"Snap out of it," he commanded, making her groan at the assault.
"Who are you?" she managed to say, feeling trapped.
"Your husband," he said, pinching behind her ears. Suddenly she was assaulted by several images of him and her living in harmony, and doing intimate things that felt weird to her. Her mind felt at home with these memories of him; it remembered him. But her heart fought against it; it didn't recall him and felt he was a stranger and a threat too. She was conflicted and drawn in two different directions. Her body and mind were on two opposing sides; her heart and mind were at war. Which should she believe? Which should she trust? Against her will, she felt her body lean more into him, and he bent and carried her baby-style towards the bedroom. She was feeling drowsy and could feel the clutches of sleep grasp at her. She didn't want to succumb to sleep, for she needed to get to the bottom of things. She needed to...to...
"Don't worry about a thing sweetheart. I have got you. Just close your eyes and sleep. When you wake up, everything will be fine. I promise."
He sighed deeply as he watched her sleep. That was a close call. He had just left her for a minute to use the washroom and returned to find her gone. That had left a sour taste in his mouth. He didn't know how long he could keep this deceit up. Things were getting more complicated by the minute, much more tough than he bargained for. She wasn't easily deceived and had a good head on her neck, a strong will to match that made for a tedious job. Why couldn't they just kill her, and solve the freaking problem of her revealing the truth? That would have taken care of the problem easily without forcing him to babysit an annoying lady with a feisty mouth.
Ha, he hated this job. Why experiment on the very person who wanted to expose them? His bosses weren't thinking right. In his book, if a problem crops up, you nick it in the bud so it doesn't grow into thorns that would inevitably prick. She was trouble. He could feel it; she was trouble personified. Sexy trouble. Damn, where did that thought come from? He put some more distance between them. She was a job; just a job with a short lifespan. He mustn't believe in the make-believe he had created. This was all fake, a figment of his creation. He mustn't fall victim or find this attractive. He was not attracted to her. As he watched her chest rise and fall softly, he thought he was screwed. How could he find her attractive? Sweet? Innocent like a pure nectar of a flower? And why did the thought of killing her now taste bitter in his mouth? Was he sick or something? He needed out of this job before he lost his damn mind.
His agitation prompted him to make the call. He was only allowed to call when it was important. This was important to him. A matter of his sanity.
"Hello," he growled into the phone, his demeanor harsh and troubled. "How long do I have to keep this up? She's getting too hard to control. She just had another episode. I think she's fighting the memories implantation somehow."
"Explain," came the cryptic response.
"She's doubting what she's seeing and dreaming about. I don't know how she manages it, but she's too strong-willed."
"Give her time. It's only been a month since we planted I6 in her. She would come around."
"Why can't we just kill her?" he felt his heart constrict as he said the words. Why was he feeling suffocated at the mere thought of her getting harmed?
"That's not an option. She's the only subject who didn't die from the implantation, and I need to know why. I need to know how long she could hold out and survive. How I6 works on her. Besides, we control her this way while getting what we want. Just take care of her. Do not harm her unless asked to."
"Okay," he said cutting the call. This was indeed an annoying position to be in. He was a top-notch mercenary, a killing machine, not a freaking babysitter. This situation annoyed the hell out of him. And the worst part was he couldn't do a damn thing to get out of it. They owned his life; and bred him from birth, so he couldn't go against their orders– or could he?
Nothing was fine! Instead, it was fucked up. Nothing felt right. Not the pictures on the wall or the memories playing havoc with her mind. It was like she was another woman from another lifetime. Perhaps, she had a twin, and the memories clamoring and rushing through her senses belonged to her twin, that's why she felt so detached from them. Well, that sounded more plausible than the conversation she had overheard the night before. He had thought her asleep, but she was at the doorstep, not completely in the house of sleep. She had been conscious and had heard enough to make her wary and know something fucked up was up, and she was the bait somehow. A dispensable bait that could easily be disposed of. So he wanted to get rid of her? Just snuff her out like a candle right? Well, they would see who snuff out who.
She needed to get herself a gun or taser, anything she could use to defend herself. Seemed things weren't what meets the eye. There was more going on, and it was her duty to uncover the truth. Starting with finding out what they fucking did to her. They had done something to her mind, making her dream things she hadn't experienced or lived. Everything around her was a fancy lie. Even the cute little kid was a lie that was been used to keep her rooted in whatever evil mind games were going on. But why play with her mind? Why give her false memories? What were they trying to hide? She needed answers, and she needed to act cool as if she bought into whatever shit they were selling so she could get the chance to unravel the truth. She couldn't let her so-called husband get a hint of her suspicion, or else it would be game over for her. It wasn't above him to make her disappear. So she would act and pretend in her dealings with him. It was also time she reached out to her ex, maybe he would know something. He was her friend and confidant. Somehow she had to find a way to reach him. That would only happen if she earned her fake husband's trust. So, she would clean up nice and act like the sweet wife and mother she was supposed to be. Let's see how this game goes. She was going to beat them in this game they had unwittingly thrust her into or die trying. She smiled wickedly as she got up to use the bathroom. The space beside her was empty which meant he was up already. Not good, she would have to be up on time henceforth. One way or the other she would get the answer she needs and free herself.
Walking down the stairs, her mouth watered at the tantalizing aroma wafting up her nose and her stomach grumbled announcing she was famished and needed to feed her body if she was to be strong enough to face her enemies. She couldn't go into the battlefield with an empty stomach, now could she? She didn't think so. She smiled as she entered the open-spaced kitchen and saw her husband looking hot in an apron. Mmmm, who knew a man could work a kitchen and make it look sexy while at it? On a whim, she glided towards him and gave him a tiny kiss– well she intended for the kiss to be small and innocent, but her body seemed to have other ideas, and before she knew it, she was kissing him deeply, so deeply she felt scorched and a trail of hot liquid pooled in her lady bits, making her all squishy inside. It was shocking the connection she had with him and scared the hell out of her. She pulled away from the kiss stunned and breathing hard. Raising her shocked gaze to his, she found he was just as stunned and heated. He wanted her. He wanted her with a fierceness that rivaled hers and was bewildered by it. Talk of enemies attracting or fraternizing with each other. This was a new scenario that cropped up and might become messy. She needed to protect herself.
"Sorry, I just wanted to greet you. You took care of me last night and I wanted to thank you."
"There's no need to apologize. Your kiss is welcomed anytime," he said with a crooked smile that curled her toes. Oh no, she wasn't going to fall for her enemy, who wants her dead. No way.
"So where's Peggy? Has she left for school already?"
"Yes, the bus came for her."
"Sorry, I wasn't up early to see to her needs."
"Don't worry about it. I understand."
What did he understand? He knew nothing. Look at him pretending as if everything was normal. He thought her easy prey, wanted to replace her world as she knew it, replace her memories with fake ones. But they failed. They did a poor job of implementing their goal. She would undo whatever they did to her, and discover what they are trying to hide. She furtively glanced around, searching for any hidden cameras. Did he have her on surveillance? She certainly hoped not, for it would make moving about difficult. She needed to go out and implement her plans.
She thanked him when he placed a plate of succulent scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausages before her with a little basket of bread and a glass of orange juice. She didn't hesitate to dig in and let out a satisfied throaty groan at the taste.
"Wow, this is good. Thank you."
"You're welcome," he murmured, his eyes lowered to a slit so she couldn't read his emotions.
"Won't you join me?" she asked when he only stood there and watched her eat. It was creepy in a good way if that made sense.
"No, I already had breakfast."
"Oh okay," she smiled, then added softly. "I need a favor."
"What is it?"
"I need to visit the pharmacy–"
"Well, I need to get some things, a pad, mouthwash, among others."
"Make the list, and I will get it for you."
"No, I do not want to disturb you. I would get it myself–"
"Honey, it's no trouble at all."
"Well I insist," she said in an obstinate tone, glaring up at him.
"Fine, but I drive you there and bring you back."
"No problem," she smiled genuinely up at him then attacked her food with gusto. Things were going as planned. Thank God. She nodded when he excused himself and focused on finishing her food. She would stay strong and healthy for the battle ahead.
An hour later found her in the pharmacy alone, Lionel couldn't follow her in as he got a call allowing her to do what she wanted. She looked at the attendee behind the desk and asked if there was a back door. When he nodded and pointed her in the direction, she thanked him and rushed out, hailing a cab once outside at the curb. Settling into the cab, she ratted out the address of her ex, praying she would catch him at home. She was filled with anxiety, hoping and praying Lionel doesn't get a hint of her disappearance. She feared what he would do to her when he got hold of her. Finally, she reached her destination, paid for the cab with some of the money Lionel handed to her, and exited the cab. Rushing towards the house, she knocked furiously at the door sighing in relief when it opened and the familiar face of her ex Stephen stared down at her.
"Goodness! Jane, are you okay?" he grabbed her arm and pulled her inside. "I have been so worried about you. I didn't know what to do with the package you gave me. There are some scary shit on the drive you gave me."
"Drive? What drive?"
"You don't remember?" he asked sounding alarmed.
"That's why I'm here. I'm missing some dots in my real memory. Some bad people have planted some fake memories in my mind. Can you believe I have been living with a fake husband and a kid?"
"Oh no, they did it to you. No wonder you were off the radar. I couldn't find you anywhere. Your old place has been burnt to the ground—"
"Yes. I didn't know where you were or how to find you, so I stayed away and kept a low profile."
"Please tell me what's on the drive."
"It's a big dirty secret of the tech company you work for. You discovered their research, a deadly project they created called I6."
"Yes, it's a tiny chip implantation that manipulates memories, replaces them, or plants new memories depending on who has control of the software."
"You mean they can manipulate, replace, and create memories? That's serious and too grave a power for anyone to possess. Now I get how these memories were planted in my mind. But why me? Why do that to me? And why create such a powerful weapon?"
"To rule the world. For more money and power. Imagine being able to replace your painful memories with new harmonious ones, or erasing a bad one and giving you a new identity, some people would do anything to have a different life than the ones they are living. Criminals, psychos and those burdened with sorrowful memories would pay good money to have their memories rewritten or replaced. They are playing God, and if care is not taken the brunt of the side effects would be too huge to pay. Take you for instance, your life was snatched from you, and a new one given to you; If you had loved ones, what would become of them?"
"This is serious. I still don't get why they used me as a subject in their sick research."
"You're the only surviving subject. All the others died once I6 was implanted in them."
"What?" she exclaimed in alarm. "So I'm the only one standing. This is bad, really bad. We need to expose them for the world to see like now."
"Agreed. They didn't kill you when you found out the truth but used you to stop you. It's like killing two birds with a stone. They get to solve their problem with you while using you. Luckily you survived, now we need to make them pay."
"Yes. Those innocent lives need to be accounted for. Justice needs to be served. Come on, upload the video before they try to stop us. Hurry." She watched as he got the tools ready to expose the shady deeds of the prestigious company she worked for. Who would have thought they could be so ruthless? The world needs to know what they are up to and decide for themselves if they want I6 to exist. They had just uploaded the content online when they heard gunshots outside freezing them in place. She thought then it was the end. At least she would die knowing she did the right thing.
Suddenly, the door busted open and Lionel stood in the doorway looking bloodied and so anxious she felt relieved at the sight of him.
"Thank God you're okay," she was swept up in his arms and kissed to an inch of her life. "Never scare me like that again. Don't ever run away from me okay?" she nodded in response, her voice failing her at that moment. "We need to go now. They would be sending in more men to get you. You're the only evidence that can put them away for good. We need to get that thing out of you and get you to safety. Come on, get me a sterilized pocket knife and first aid kit. Hurry." he yelled at Stephen, who rushed to do his bidding.
"Why are you helping me?" she asked once they were alone. "Don't you want me dead like the people you work for?"
"God no! I would die if anything happened to you. I like how you make me feel. I love you Jane, and I would die protecting you."
"Hush now, don't ever say a thing like that again. Thank you, for fighting for me. You're my dark knight."
"I sure am. And I would get you out of this mess. We would go far away and start afresh. They would never find us."
"What happened to Peggy?"
"She's back with her real parents."
"That's good. We uploaded the files on I6. The world would know the truth by now."
"And that's why they want you taken out because you're the living proof of their evil deed. But fear not, for I'm here with you."
Stephen returned with the things, and Lionel gave her a wad of cloth to bite on while he cut behind her ear to get the chip out. She tried not to scream as the pain was searing. She spat the cloth out once he was done and stared at the damn chip like it was a snake from the pits of hell.
"Now all your old memories would be restored, and the implanted memories won't assail you again. You're free. Now we need to get the hell out of here. You," he looked to Stephen and cautioned gently. "Find a good place to hide till everything blows over. I'm afraid you can't come with us. Come on, let's go. They rushed out together but got into separate cars and headed in different directions. She would always be grateful to Stephen and prayed he stayed safe. Now though she was glad she had someone special at her side to fight with her and be by her side for always. She felt a deep sense of peace wash over her as they drove into the future.
Merci pour la lecture!
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