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Chapter 15 by Osman Khan

Nadia awoke with a start.


Her skin felt clammy, covered with a light sheen of sweat. Stomach churning, she rolled over on her side. 3:42 am, the digital clock blinked back at her mechanically. Another sleepless night, another 24 hours in captivity, a familiar sinking feeling in her chest. Questions swirled around her mind. 


Why had Adi abducted her? What was the nature of the experiments they were running on her? What drugs had been pumped into her system, and which ones were to follow? Who was Ken? More importantly - who was Adi behind the mask?


Sighing, she sat up feebly with what little strength she had. Thoughts of escaping had plagued her since her imprisonment had begun, but Nadia knew that she would only get one attempt - it was truly do or die when it came to escaping this nightmare. Straining her ears, she tried to figure out who was on duty tonight, Ken or Adi. Fragments of voices drifted up from down the hallway.


“....going to get...this has to finish….Tara has no idea….Keep an eye on…”.


Adi. The smooth, husky voice was unmistakable. Nadia shuddered, recalling her childhood playing with Adi at his parents’ house.


“...don’t worry...I’ll make sure….the rest of the participants...Melissa, Sam and Rob are…”. 


This one was Ken. His oily demeanour made its way into his voice. Again unmistakable.


Wait a minute. He just mentioned Rob. Was Rob here? What was Rob doing here? And it sounded like Adi was on his way out. The door slammed a second later. Silence. Nadia knew this was it. This was her chance.


Heart thudding in her chest, she swung her legs off the bed and tip-toed to the door. Pulling it fully open, she peeked out, both ways. Empty. Slipping into the hallway, she crept along, eyes wide open, ears peeled, prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best. The tiles gleamed almost unnaturally, as if reminding her that nothing that happened here would ever be public knowledge. A sterile operation. Done and dusted. Shaking, she moved past the first doorway, not bothering to check who was inside.


Then the second doorway. 


Then the kitchen.


All of sudden, she heard the shuffling of footsteps coming up the stairs. Ken. He always dragged his feet when he was walking around, the Igor Strausman to Adi’s Dr. Frankenstein. Frantically looking around, Nadia knew she had to hide, and had few options. Jumping on her toes backwards, she grabbed the knob to the second room, opening it a fraction and slinking through the narrow gap, closing her eyes in pure terror at being discovered. Behind her, she heard Ken making his way up the stairs, and entering the kitchen. 


Opening her eyes, she saw that this bedroom didn’t house any trial participants or equipment, but seemed like a home office. Shining glass top on the desk, state of the art iCom. The screen was on; it seemed Adi had left in a hurry. It also seemed he had not anticipated Nadia walking into this room because on the screen, she saw...Lifalabs’ logo winked at her at the top, and below, a medical file with her face on it.


Trembling, Nadia crept closer, her own smiling picture staring back at her. She reached out with a shaking hand and moved the cursor down, taking in the contents of the research that had been conducted on her over the past days against her will.


Name: Nadia Drubber

Alias: Subject 62

Age: 27

Sex: Female

Budlyt-19 Status: Positive

Research notes: Subject 62 first identified by Adi Drubber on March 27th as a potential target. Brought in for testing to Lifalabs Remote Facility Alpha on March 30th. On April 1st, Subject 62 was injected with a lethal dose of Budlyt-19. So far, Subject 62 has exhibited none of the signs of infection. No slowing of lung operations, no loss of taste or smell, no cardiovascular irregularities. For reference, Subjects 1 through 61 had to be placed on ventilators, monitored 24/7 and eventually disposed of. Preliminary conclusion: She is the key to marrying the RNA of Budlyt-19 to human DNA and creating both a vaccine and a weaponised virus. Further testing is recommended.


Nadia felt her knees buckle beneath her. She gripped the side of the desk, to keep her balance and gazed in shock at the screen. Her world seemed to be turning inside out, her mind racing with questions behind her stunned silence; new questions that thundered through her mind and erasing the previous ones about Adi and Ken.


She was infected? But she couldn’t feel anything. She wasn’t displaying any symptoms. What about the Subjects before her, who succumbed to the virus? Lifalabs were trying to weaponise the virus through human DNA? And she was the key - was she...immune?


Footsteps. The door creaked open. She whirled around. 



About the author:
Osman is a 29-year old from Pakistan, currently living in Singapore. He is an avid reader, with his favorite genres being magical realism, science-fiction and horror. Apart from reading, he loves music from around the world, curating playlists that span everything from African blues to Japanese jazz. Osman has dreams of being a published author, and this is one small step towards getting there!
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