Eighteen. One and Eight. A dark slash and two gaping holes in black. The number hung over her like a tombstone but she was happy here. They'd done what they'd promised, made the voices stop. Then they gave her new voices, better ones. Ones that didn't tell her to do the terrible things the other had.
The dream was dark and black, the number hanging overhead like a huge lamp. Even when she dreamed now, she was awake, listening. Her hand hurt and she was wandering amongst dirt and rust, it was bleeding out of her. The voices were afraid, desperate , another was angry, determined, vengeful. They overlapped and washed back and forth like waves.
A sharp stab of pain, a rush of darkness and warmth and she realised the voices had come back. The old ones. They wanted to take the good people away, punish them for helping her. She couldn't let the old ones back in, she wouldn't.
She dreamed of spinning pendulums, twisting crazy patterns in front of her eyes. They were eating her up. The old ones and the new ones, they fought in her head like dogs in a pit.
Finally, waking. True waking.
She found herself standing, her restraints hanging open, impotent on the bed. Alarms were ringing but that was part of the tests and so she ignored them and focused. She had to warn the doctors, get them to stop the old voices again before they made her do things. They said they would help. They promised. Suddenly she felt the cold prick of a needle in the back of the neck and slumped to the floor.
"They came back." She whispered. "You promised."
The doctor just heaved a heavy sigh.
* * * * *
Schizophrenia. They called it schizophrenia.
Eighteen had been one of the few to volunteer, one of the few for which the term volunteer was not a euphemism. Normally one of the worker caste exhibiting symptoms like that would be sent away for liquefaction but the project was in it's early trials back then. The doctor remembered those days with a tired fondness. A memory of simpler times. Eighteen had practically begged for them to cut the voices out of her head and so they had obliged in the name of science. The interaction of her condition and the process was something his team had been eager to study and a willing subject was altogether far more pleasant to work with.
He tightened his night gown as Rees entered the room, her dark reddish hair dishevelled and her eyes bruised from lack of sleep. She was still wearing her clothes from yesterday but they were creased and slightly yellowed around the armpits. She must have slept in them more than once.
"Lau, I came as soon as I heard the alarms..." Her voice trailed off as noticed the hypodermic. "Eighteen? Is the subject damaged?"
They're all damaged. "No. Help me lift her onto the table."
Rees slipped her arms under subject eighteen's armpits and together she and the doctor lifted her unconscious form back into the restraining harness. Rees quickly and methodically reattached the restraints while the doctor self-consciously tightened the cord on his gown. When she was done, she turned her tired gaze to the doctor.
"What did you give her?"
The doctor chewed his tongue in thought. "Just a mild sedative. Phenobarbital sodium."
Anger flared up in her tired eyes. "That's above the recommended dosage." She said in a warning tone. "Lau, if you've compromised her."
"I was in a hurry." He sighed, shrugging. "Besides, the effects might have some interesting lessons to teach."
Rees considered this for a moment. "That may be but you should of consulted me."
The doctor felt the muscles in his neck tighten. "This is my project Rees."
The stared at each other and eventually it was the doctor that looked away first. He was too tired to deal with these games.
"The active half-life could effect her for days. You've ruined my schedule."
"Make a new schedule. There are more important things to worry about such as how she got loose in the first place."
"I'll check the video logs now."
"Now? Go and get some rest, this can wait."
"Progress never sleeps, Lau."
The doctor shook his head. "Good night Doctor Rees."
Tightening his gown again he headed back to his room, just off of the lab. Climbing back into his cot and lay down and stared upwards into the darkness. They came back, she had said. He wondered what it might mean. No doubt Rees would discover it by the morning. Competent, hard-working Rees. She had too much ambition, that one.
He dreamt nightmares. Dreams of being crushed under the weight of cogs turning, their teeth grinding him to dust.