So here it is. The third and potentially final part! This was a story that stemmed from an amazing prompt by K.J Chapman and turned into something much bigger. This is the longest short story I have written and the most fun I have ever had writing. The characters wrote themselves, the story guided itself and the process seemed effortless.
I have been toying with a fourth part (also during writing I thought of a novel concept to continue with) but have left it in a position that I am happy with.
If you would like a fourth part let me know. If you think my idea of turning it into a novel is ludicrous, please let me know that as well. As ever, your feedback and comments are most welcome.
The Operation: Jest
Jest woke with a start and in an intense amount of discomfort.
A pain pulsated behind his left eye, his temple throbbed and his ribs and sternum felt as if they had been set on fire. His left arm rested in a limp fashion against his side and he was unsure if he could move any part of his body without causing anguish and suffering to himself.
Jest laid back down on to the hard surface and laughed. And laughed.
It was out of exhaustion, pain and surprise. He did not expect to survive and had no recollection of how he did or where he had been taken, but there was nothing but relief. He tilted his head to the left and to the right but both views gave the same outlook; white walls. There were no adornments, no smell or anything else that would give anything away. The only source of light emitted from a dull bulb above.
Jest lifted up and felt his rib cage burn. He winced in agony but fought through the pain. He surveyed the parts of the room and there was nothing but white and a concrete floor. He twisted to the side just enough so it would not cause any more discomfort and spotted a white door in the corner of the room. The floor was cold to touch beneath the light clothing he wore and his legs were numb from the position he was placed. If he was to find out where he was he would need to move and risk the pain it would cause. He needed to do it for Fer, too. Everything in his life for the past few months were about keeping his sister and himself safe, but he had failed her. He needed to rectify that and get her from the grip of Logan.
He rolled on to his side and a sharp shooting pain ran down his left side but he fought through. His head continued to pound and his left eye started to blur but it would not deter him. Jest placed the palms of his hands on to the cold surface and pushed up with all the effort he could muster. He groaned in agony without a care of who could hear him as he arms failed him and he crashed to the floor, his head narrowly missing the concrete and his chest taking the impact. A pain rippled through his whole body and he rolled on to his back as it felt like his ribs had caved in. After a splutter and a cough, he slid back on to his front, determined to push himself up. This time he screamed as he heaved his body up and slipped his legs underneath him. He was on his knees. It wasn’t perfect but it was a start.
He clenched his fists, placed them on the ground and groaned as his left leg fired with pain, thoughts of Fer pushing him through. After a moment he found himself standing, his weight solely on his right leg with his left foot an inch off the floor. He lowered it and tested some pressure on it before almost falling and catching himself against the wall. Jest felt sweat running down his cheeks, his clothes damp and tight against his skin and the pain over powering his senses. He coughed and spluttered, wiping saliva from his lips and checking for any sign of blood. He sighed with relief as it was clear.
Jest needed to get out of the room but was in no way capable of defending himself or even walking. He tested his left leg three times until the pain from the pressure was bearable. He used the wall as support as he edged his way towards the exit. Jest made one more glance around, just in case he had missed something, and when satisfied he hadn’t, pulled on the door handle slowly and let it open by itself. He pressed his fingertips against the edge and pushed it the rest of the way open as his body was flush against the wall.
Jest leant over and turned his head out towards the opening and darted back in. The door led to a narrow hallway that appeared to be empty. There were no guards, there were no sounds and no movement. He gingerly stepped out into the doorway, rested his hands against the frame of the door and hobbled out into the hallway.
Dim lights without any form of shading spread out through the white narrow hallway. Much like the room, there were no adornments. The place reminded him of a psychiatric ward he had seen in a horror film once, when time did not seem so precious. Several doors were placed intermittently throughout, all with small viewing windows that allowed little privacy. Jest turned to the door he had opened and it was the only one without any form of screening. When Jest looked at either end of the hallway he noticed solid black doors.
He had no idea where they would lead, but the viewing windows were too tempting to pass up. He limped down the hallway, the walls offering support and stopped at the nearest door. Jest took a deep breath and peered in, concealing as much of his face as possible. He had every intention to pull his head back after sneaking a peek, but what he saw was so surreal that he could not remove his eyes from it.
A young woman in blue coloured scrubs sat crossed legged on a seat at the centre of the room reading a book, her reddish hair flowing around her shoulders and her pale skin blending in the with the white walls. The room had no adornments, a common theme Jest noted, and the chair was the only form of furnishings. The strangest part that kept his eyes glued on the room was the aura encasing the woman. A light blue mist touched her skin and hair by a whisker and the sight gave Jest a chill. It was something he had never seen before and it took a couple of minutes for him to pull himself away. Jest looked at the other rooms and wondered what those doors would reveal. Jest hobbled over to the next room and peered in. He would do the same for each of the remaining three rooms and they all revealed something extraordinary.
A group of young adults, three boys and three girls between the ages of thirteen to nineteen played with a yellow square object that they passed around from person to person without actually touching the square. A young man with a dishevelled appearance, smeared make up and tattered hair sat in the corner of one room rocking back and forth muttering incoherently and producing a green mist from his mouth. A young boy, dressed prim and proper, sat in a chair at the centre of one room staring ahead with eyes that held no pupils.
The last room was the most disturbing of all for Jest. It was the largest and most utilised. Around twenty incubators had been set up all with newborn babies in them, machines hissing and pumping a red spray into them. Jest looked around for any sign of surveillance system but found there was none. He took a step into the centre of the hallway, contemplating his next move when something odd struck him. All of his pain had faded away, leaving nothing but a slight numbness.
Jest took three steps forward without a shooting pain, his ribs did not feel as if they were on fire and his temple and eye pain had gone completely. The peculiarity of the whole situation was too much; his heartbeat rocketed and his chest tightened, making it harder to take in air. He had suffered anxiety attacks when he was younger but had kept them at bay for many years. This was not the time for them to return.
Breathe, breathe, he told himself. Breathe.
He took deep breaths and controlled his thoughts. His heartbeat returned to normal and his chest relaxed. He had everything under control.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end and the sense of impending doom filled his mind. Despite the pain disappearing, he continued to walk with a limp and his arm hung loose to his side as he headed for a black door. As he reached it, he slid into the corner of the wall without thinking and waited.
Jest held his breath as the handle of the black door turned but was relieved to see it open inwards. He had no idea how he knew someone was going to enter and it gave him a chill. His heart hammered against his chest as if it was ready to burst through. The door swung shut as a short chubby man in an ill fitting suit walked through talking to a petite blonde girl in a lab coat. As they walked up the hallway he remembered he had left the door of the room he occupied open and closed his eyes waiting to for the pair to notice.
“There are still no reports on why technology has failed over the months. The lack of internet connection and phone signal are still under investigation. There could be many plausible explanations but we don’t work on hypothesis. We work on facts, Darla, and without facts we do not work,” the chubby man said to the petite girl.
“Any word on the Diseased?” Darla, the petite girl asked.
“No, but my team are running tests. We still cannot fathom why ages from four to twenty one are the most affected, and anyone older only exhibit symptoms for a short period of time and then are brought back to a normal status. Our answers could be within the information held by the Operation but who knows when that will be retrieved, if ever.”
Jest heard a door handle turn from the other end of the hall and risked opening his eyes. The man and girl had passed through the door and Jest saw it close behind them. He breathed.
He did not know how they had missed the door to the room open but was thankful for such a blessing. He turned his thoughts to their conversation. At first he had wondered about his whereabouts, ninety nine percent sure that he wasn’t under the Operation’s protection but could not be positive. Eavesdropping had served him well and he now knew he was not, but that didn’t mean that whoever had brought him to the strange place with stranger people were not in connection with them.
What did they mean by the symptoms of the Diseased? What happened to all communication outlets?
These were questions that he wanted to investigate but Fer was his first concern and he needed to find out where he was and what side of the fence they were playing for, if any. He needed to take risks to gain any answers.
Jest took a hold of the door handle, pressed down and pulled. The door opened and Jest felt cool air hit his body. It was refreshing and revitalising. He took a step outside, this time learning from his previous mistake and closing the door behind him. The room he walked into was a large dimly lit area with very little adornment as far as Jest could tell. The flooring was made of concrete and every step Jest made an echo reverberated off the walls. He noticed an area with extra lighting at the far end of the room but it was concealed by a corner and stopped, standing motionless for a moment as he heard voices coming from the source of lighting.
He crept forward, looking around for any unexpected surprises but couldn’t see any. Every step Jest took, an ounce of pain returned to his body. First it was a shooting pain down his side, then his ribs started to burn and by the time he reached the corner close to the source of lighting the pain behind his eye had returned.
Jest stopped and held tight against the wall as he listened to the voices from the faceless strangers.
“Are we sure they are held there?” a commanding voice spoke.
“As far as we could tell, that can be the only place for them to be stored. Anywhere else would be too much of a risk,” a nasal voice responded.
“The Operation will not be expecting this type of mission. There will be casualties, some from our base, some from theirs, but we cannot fail. They have what is ours, we cannot fail our families. They have taken our women, our yet to be born babies from us. We must exact our revenge!”
A group of six to seven cheered.
This filled Jest with hope. Could there be more women like his sister that had been captured? Was that why they hunted her? Not just for her, but for the offspring? Jest could not keep his composure and stepped out into the light to face seven men all in grey and blue camouflage uniforms standing around a table slapping each other’s backs. A tall bespectacled man stood to the left of the group grinning and a tall burly man with cropped hair stood at the foot of the table, arms folded and with an expression of determination and an air of authority. The burly man’s eyes flicked to Jest who stopped in his tracks like a deer caught in headlights. The man was not shocked to see him and lifted his hands to command the group to stop the commotion. Almost immediately they quietened.
“I did wonder when the stray would wake,” the burly man said as if to himself.
“My sister, she was taken by the Operation,” Jest started, his voice cracking and dry.
The burly man raised an eyebrow to this as the rest of the group turned to face him. Now he noticed the weaponry they held close to their sides.
“Was she young or pregnant?”
Jest managed a nod but was struck by a pain to the temple. “Pregnant,”He struggled through, unsure why young was added.
“Of course she was, they always are. She along with our loved ones.”
“You setting up a rescue mission to get them back, I want in.”
The burly man shook his head.
“You are wounded, or were, and found your strength return as if by magic only for it to fade away and the pain to consume your body. I know I am right. You are not fit to fight, you are not even one of us. We do not trust strays, and also, you are dearly mistaken.”
Jest was not shocked by the reluctance but was confused by the final words.
“We are not planning a rescue mission.”
Jest looked on in shock. “What’s the mission?”