His head hurt like hell. Then, again, what else was new?
Two eyes fluttered open, eyes of an unusual sort, his sclera were pure black, the kind of black that swallowed the beholder whole, drawing them deeper and deeper, but the iris? They were crimson.
At first, he couldn’t make out anything, his eyes were blurry but he knew he was lying down and there were bright lights shining down on him, the kind of lights he associated with the dentist only he knew that he wasn’t in the dentist because it had been several years since he’d been to one of those.
He felt groggy, like he’d drank a quart of vodka the night before, and his arms felt heavy, so heavy he could barely lift them. He tried not to panic but he could feel his breath increasing as, slowly but surely, his surroundings began to come into more focus.
He was lying on some sort of operating table, he could feel the overstuffed plasticky material beneath him and shifted uncomfortably, and there were lights shining down on him, like a headlight.
Shit, was he dead?
No, he decided almost immediately, he imagined death wouldn’t hurt like a hangover but that did raise the question of where the fuck was he? He strained his memory, biting his lip, only able to recall flashes.
He remembered an explosion.
He remembered a jail.
He remembered that he himself had been in that jail.
He remembered a punch to the head.
He didn’t really remember much more.
He started to get feeling back in the top of his fingers and it slowly spread to the rest of his body, he was able to flex his fingers, curl his toes and, then, soon enough he could lift his head a little. He managed to look around the room he’s found himself in.
It was metallic and full of tables just like his, maybe seven or eight all in a line, all with bright lamps above them, his was the only one switched on. There were computers, advanced and expensive looking computers on the walls and medical equipment he couldn’t even guess at the function of.
Shit, had he been abducted by aliens?
He squirmed a little before making a sudden, terrifying realisation; he wasn’t alone.
Standing in front of one of the computers was a figure, definitely female, with reddish brown hair. She was wearing a long, white lab coat and seemed to be inspecting an x-ray projected on one of the screens, muttering quietly to herself.
He wondered for a moment if the x-ray was his but, no, it was someone else’s, or something else’s, he was sure of this because, even though he’d never been to high school, even someone with the vaguest sense of biology, or anatomy or whatever, would be able to tell that what she was looking at wasn’t quite human.
He managed to lift his head, then his arm, eyes darting around for the door. He wasn’t sure what kind of sick place this was, but he knew he needed to get the hell out of there as quickly and painlessly as possible.
He shut his eyes once again and feigned unconsciousness as the woman stepped away from the computer and walked towards him, he felt the coolness of her hands on his forehead as she checked for signs of fever, then his vital scenes. She had an accent he didn’t recognise, it definitely wasn’t American.
“You’re awake.” She said calmly, “Why didn’t you say?”
He wasn’t sure what made him do what he did next, perhaps it was fear, or just pure adrenaline coursing through his body, but he managed to leap up off the table and, quick as a flash, maneuvered himself so he was behind the woman, gripping her neck in a choke hold.
“Where the fuck am I?”
“Y-You-” She spluttered, her eyes opening wide in surprise.
He didn’t even wait for her to catch her breath. In the corner of the room there was an open metallic door and he pulled her roughly towards it, pulling it open to reveal a store closet of some kind – full to the brim with scientific equipment, vials of blood and other stuff that told him this was not a place he wanted to be.
He pushed her in roughly and slammed the door shut behind her, quickly closing it. There was a keypad on the side of the door, presumably to lock it which he slammed his fist into roughly and it let out a satisfying sound of electric static – broken.
“Let me out and I’ll explain-” The woman banged on the door angrily, she didn’t sound scared, just irritated.
“Not a chance, I’m not a fucking lab rat.” He snarled back and twisted around, his eyes falling on a large rectangular pair of purple-grey doors, each emblazoned with a sideways V.
“Oh, honestly. ” The woman cried, as he reached the doors which both slid open on his approach.
Outside he was faced with more metallic walls, dark at first but, as he stepped out into the corridor the lights seemed to kick in, making him jump violently. He could still hear the woman with the strange accent kicking against the door angrily, but mingled in with these cries were… sobs?
“Today of all bloody days…”
He stepped forward and the doors clicked shut behind him, plunging the corridor into silence.
“That wasn’t very polite.” The voice was stern but there was a hint of amusement playing at the edges of it, as if whoever had said it was trying to be serious but didn’t quite have it in them.
That gave him pause for thought though, and he widened his eyes, staring down the empty corridor. There was no-one there. Had it come from microphones in the ceiling perhaps? He looked up but he couldn’t see any cameras although, he reasoned with himself, just because he couldn’t see any didn’t mean there weren’t any.
“Hello?” He whispered quietly.
No-one responded and he raised a hand to wipe his nose free of the liquids that had run down while he’d been unconscious before wiping them on his, he peered down bemusedly, orange jumpsuit? That did make sense, though, he had flashes, flashes of being in jail, of an explosion. Shit. Had he done that?
He wasn’t in The Raft, was he?
“No, you’re not there, not yet anyway.” The voice told him and this time he was sure it definitely hadn’t been a microphone in the walls, it had been in his head. Which was, well, it was something. He’d only known one other person to be able to do that and, well, something told him that the man speaking inside his head wasn’t the same person.
He was sure it was a man, though.
This was a development and, he decided, probably not a good one.
As light as he could manage, he sprinted down the corridor, passed more and more of those rectangular doors, careful not to get too close in case one should open and reveal people, people that might be stronger than him.
Was he underground, was he in a spaceship? He’d never been anywhere quite like this before, at least outside of the occasional sci-fi movie he’d sneaked into at the movies. He felt the floor shake a little and reached out a hand to grab the wall, steadying himself, he still didn’t feel 100%.
Further on, down at the end of the corridor, he heard the sound of doors opening and spun his head around, afraid that the woman had escaped the closet he’d trapped her in but, no, it was the doors at the end of the corridor.
Quick as a flash he leapt around the corner, out of sight and watched as a tall man emerged. He was incredibly muscular and was wearing a tight, white vest stained with what looked like oil and, perhaps, blood. His long black hair was tied up in a ponytail and he appeared a little disgruntled, rubbing his thick mustache in agitation.
Behind this man, in the room he was leaving was a sight enough to make the boy gasp audibly before clapping a hand to his mouth, furious with himself.
The room beyond was huge, bigger than any room he’d ever been inside, at least. It was metallic, just like the corridors, but inside there were… what could only be described as things crawling around on the floor, small metallic spider-like robots with glowing red eyes that were shooting some kind of energy beams at a woman standing in the middle.
Illuminated under a pale blue light in the otherwise dim room, she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever laid eyes on. She was slender, incredibly so, and tall with skin a dark umber colour and a shock of white cloudy afro hair that was whipping around her ferociously in an invisible gust of torrential rainfall. She was screaming in anguish.
It was only a momentary glimpse, however, as the doors quickly shut behind the man with the moustache just as low rolls of thunder started to rumble from within this room.
“… as if I built it for anger management, it’s not The Therapy Room…” He was muttering as he walked up the corridor – towards the boy hidden just around the corner.
“Behind you.” The voice said again, this time it sounded as if it were whispering in his ear and he spun around to find… no-one but this door was different, it was rounded as opening up into a cylinder – an elevator he thought suddenly and jammed her fingers against the button, calling it down.
A soft ding rang down through the corridor as it arrived, the two doors sliding open and he jumped inside, quick as a flash – just in time to see the man peer curiously up the corridor.
“Alex, is that -?”
The doors slid shut before he was able to finish his question.
He leant against the walls, also a cool, metal colour but, somehow were warm to the touch. He looked around for the keypad and pressed the top button instinctively, figuring he must be underground and that was most likely to take him up, there were only four buttons he was unlikely to be taken too high up. At least he hoped so.
The doors dinged again and slid open and he blinked in surprise as sunlight poured in through the open doors. He stepped out cautiously – he was definitely no longer underground, at least. The doors slid shut after him, as he peered around.
He was in what looked like a sitting room or, even, a study hall? There were discarded books left out on desks in front of him and a large blue sofa facing a large television in front of one of the huge windows lining all the walls, which themselves were panelled with a deep mahogany-coloured wood.
“Whaaaaaat the fuck?” He muttered to himself in an undertone.
“Yes, I’m rather fond of the decor.” The voice commented idly, he sounded a little bored.
On the wall opposite the elevator was a large portrait of a woman in a blue dress, holding a green parasol in front of a cloudy blue sky. It made him feel a little uncomfortable.
“Ah, you’re admiring my Monet. It’s just a replica, of course, at least if anyone were to ask…”
“Who are you?”
But the voice, of course, didn’t respond. Somewhere, outside of this room, he thought he could hear music, a mournful tune.
Taking a deep breath, he looked out the windows, he was on the second floor of what was presumably some kind of stately home, outside he could see a huge, perfectly kempt green lawn and, in the distance, a crop of trees and, maybe the edges of a lake, he didn’t take too much time to distinguish before hurtling, full pelt towards the door.
Opening the door, he peered out. Another corridor, with panelled walls, a light maroon carpet and very dim lighting faced him as the music became clearer.
“Why does the sun go on shining?” A voice crowed sadly, “Why does the sea rush to shore?”
He stepped out, looking uncertainly into the gloom, there were doors up and down both sides of the corridor, most of them shut tight – like the one the music appeared to be blaring out of.
“Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?” The song continued. “‘Cause you don’t love me anymoooooooore.”
He plodded down, a feeling of dread in his stomach, he passed the first set of doors without incident. There were paintings on the walls between each door and some of them had signs on, with names, while others stood bare and empty.
One such door, however, suddenly flew open and he froze as a sliver of light from the room beyond emerged, closely followed by the face of a young girl, no more than twelve or thirteen. She had bright red hair, tied up into a no nonsense bun on the top of head and appeared to be wearing a plain, black dress.
“I wake up in the morning and I wonder, why everything’s the same as it was.” The song continued.
She peered suspiciously out at him and gave an accusatory sniff, looking him and down and her eyes narrowed almost animalistically when she spied his eyes, his unusual red and black eyes;
“Ye have the devil’s eyes and smell like whore.”
She had a weird accent too, he noticed.
She gave another reproachful sniff and told him solemnly; “I’ll pray for ye.”
Then she abruptly slammed the door shut, leaving him, yet again, in the gloomy darkness of the corridor.
“She means well.” The voice told him, matter of factly. “She just struggles to socialise.”
The song continued as he passed the door, emblazoned with the name Jean on a white sheet of paper blue-tacked above the handle, right beneath a sepia poster of some stuffy old white guy he didn’t even care to know. There was a quote beneath the picture;
I felt that I breathed an atmosphere of sorrow
He continued down the hall, passing more closed doors until there was one that was just slightly ajar, enough that he could see inside; plants and ferns covered every surface he could make out; a tie-dyed duvet was was crumbled up on an un-made bed and he could smell the distinct aroma of… pot?
Things were getting even weirder.
At the end of the corridor, he turned left, past a door that said Women’s Bathroom and found himself at the top of a grand staircase, overlooking an incredibly grand entrance hall with, he breathed a sigh of relief, a huge front door and, hopefully, his escape.
He jumped down the first set of stairs three at a time, before pausing atop the main flight that would take him down into the hallway. He peered around because the dichotomy between where he was now, this hallway, and where he’d been before, below ground, was astounding.
He shrugged and ran down the stairs as quickly as possible but, just as he was about to reach the front door, pull it open, he heard shouting on the side of the door, angry shouting.
“Psst, come back here.” The voice called from over his shoulder, somewhere to the left, and without even thinking about it, he obeyed, dodging narrowly through a solid looking wooden door and peering out into the hallway as the front door slammed open.
A blonde boy came in first, he was tall and wiry with suntanned skin. He was wearing a red vest and grey cargo shorts and he sped towards the stairs as, not long behind him, came a shorter boy with bright orange hair and freckles all over his otherwise pale skin. They appeared to be in some sort of argument.
“Alex ye daft sod, are you gunna ignore me forever?” The ginger’s boy’s accent was weird too, he didn’t recognise it, it kinda sounded American in some parts, but then there was also something altogether different about it.
“Yes.” The blonde boy (Alex?) responded flatly, stopping at the bottom of the stairs.
From his vantage point in, he glanced around, a reception room – he recognised how these kinda houses worked, it reminded him of… well it reminded him of somewhere – the boy could just about make out Alex’s hand on the bannister at the bottom of the stairs, watched it clench and unclench.
“Look man, Jean made me promise and-”
“Since when have you ever cared what that prissy bitch thinks?”
“True.” He could see the ginger’s boy face clearly, staring at the back of Alex’s head, his face the picture of anguish, “But, you know, she was going to see Max and, like, I couldn’t just not go with her and-”
“We should have gone with her. We!” Alex screamed loudly, banging his fist down on the bannister, hard, so hard that even the boy winced a little as he watched. “Everything’s gone to shit, Shane!” His voice broke and the boy imagined that tears were beginning to fall down his cheeks.
“I know but-”
“I hate you!” Alex turned around suddenly and damn right socked the ginger boy across the face, sending him flying to the floor, before running back up the staircase behind him.
He watched as the ginger boy sat up on the ground, looking stunned and brought a hand up to hesitantly touch where Alex’s fist had connected with his face.
“Now that, I wish you hadn’t seen.” The voice said sadly only, the boy slowly turned around from where he’d been crouched in the doorway, because that time, the voice had been real.
In the doorway, there was a man. He was completely bald, not a hair on top of his head, but he was smartly dressed in a black turtleneck under a blazer which, in the boy’s opinion, the weather outside seemed much too hot for.
“Come now, we should give them their privacy.”
He was in a wheelchair and, behind him, the boy could see a large office with a big, expensive looking wooden desk in front of a big bay window. There was a large driveway outside of the window and, in the distance, he could make out a large set of iron gates.
“Who the fuck are you? Where the fuck am I?”
He smiled kindly and beckoned the boy to follow him into his office;
“I’m Charles Xavier and, if you’ll let me, I think I might be able to help you…”