The following is a contribution I made to a crowdsourced story organized by M. M. Leonard and hosted on his blog: http://mmleonard.com/free-story-project-exploits-of-a-midnight-traveler/
My contribution is part 18, so if you like it, I encourage you to read all 17 of the preceding parts! I will post about my experience participating in a crowdsourced story separately; overall, it was exciting and fun but did cause some anxiety along the way!
Given the events of the evening, the doctor’s words were not surprising. Another death sentence.
I pushed my head back into my pillow, taking it all in. My head was throbbing; I had been prone to headaches for months before I had been diagnosed with a grade two glioma, as it progressed to grade three, and ever since; but tonight, the pain was a fork digging into the innermost parts of my brain, scrambling its contents.
There was something else, a profound sense of uneasiness washed over me. Yes, there were still questions that I needed answered – all to do with Lila and her involvement with the doctor and his team of cloned assassin women – but this was something else, something urgent and vital. My survival instincts kicked in; as adrenaline surged into my bloodstream, it came back to me.
“The man in the Mercedes…he saw the address,” I blurted.
“What?” The doctor looked startled.
“He had a gun,” I offered, a sheepish expression on my face.
“Why are you only telling me this now? It’s been over an hour since you arrived at the compound. That man in the Mercedes, he is,” the doctor paused, correcting himself “was, the second in command of the senator’s security detail. We have to assume that he got the word out…”
The doctor did not need to finish the thought; he darted out between the curtains. A second later, the scarred head poked back in, a fierce scowl furrowing its forehead: “What about the Russians?”
“The clean-up crew that Edward arranged. Genevieve found out that they were working for a Russian general. That’s what she came in to tell me before you fainted.”
“No, Genevieve’s…sister…took care of them. They never got to me or the address.”
The doctor’s head nodded, before retracting behind the curtains.
I lay there on my back feeling both bewildered and foolish.
I should have told them. But there had been so much to take in. No one can blame me.
A minute had passed as I wallowed in self-pity before Not-Exactly-Lila pulled back the curtains.
“Put these on,” she said, her voice icy, thrusting a change of clothes at me. “We are leaving in five minutes.”
“Where are we going?” I asked, sitting up and taking the clothes from Not-Exactly-Lila.
“To another safe house. Thanks to you, this one has been compromised.”
Not-Exactly-Lila ripped off the medical tape and cannula from my arm in one motion.
“Ow!” I yelped.
Not-Exactly-Lila gave me a withering glance before proceeding to switch off the medical equipment.
I wondered whether I should ask her to leave before I changed, but concluded that would be pushing it.
Damn, she looked so much like Lila, the love of my life…who had plotted to save me with bio-nanites.
A wave of dizziness hit me as I slid off the bed and I grasped the handrail to steady myself. Was that a look of concern from Not-Exactly-Lila? It was impossible to say as she looked away as soon as I caught her eye.
As I slipped on the pants over my bare buttocks, my back to Not-Exactly-Lila, I wondered if there could be anything of Lila’s personality, her soul, in Not-Exactly-Lila.
“Did you know Lila?” I ventured.
“Yes,” came the reply from behind me, the voice softer than normal. “In the eighteen months that I have been alive, she used to visit me once a month.”
How could that be? Lila used to visit her parents once a month. And eighteen months, that’s shortly after my glioma was diagnosed. The neuro-oncologist had told me the cancer was slow growing but too deep in the brain – surrounding my hypothalamus – to treat through surgery or radiation. Had Lila discovered the medication that I used to hide in my grooming kit?
I took in this startling revelation as I pulled on the black t-shirt over my lean body.
Then, I felt her touch on my arm. I shuddered involuntarily.
“She was my sister…” Not-Exactly-Lila’s voice wavered, her fingers lingering, “…and mother.”
I turned around to face Not-Exactly-Lila. She was wearing the same shade of ruby red lipstick that Lila loved.
“I’m sorry. Lila was the only real person I knew, from outside the lab,” Not-Exactly-Lila’s voice cracked.
I placed my hand over hers. “Lila…” I whispered.
In an instant, the hand was pulled away. I looked up at Not-Exactly-Lila, the emotion was gone; her face was a mask and her eyes steel. All business again, she thrust out her arm, holding two white pills in her hand: “Take these.”
“Another experimental medication?”
I took the pills and swallowed them without saying another word. My head was aching. I swore I could hear my heartbeat getting louder and louder as blood coursed through my gorged temples.
Not-Exactly-Lila looked up and around. Could she hear it too?
“Helicopters!” she shouted.