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For the Record, Episode 16: Doubling Up

[Tape clicks on]

Juniper: [Frustrated heavy sigh, pause for silence] It’s starting to feel pointless. It’s been months, and there’s been little progress both on our part and the X-7’s part. I trust Marcus to be on the lookout for anything to help further the investigation, but honestly, it’s starting to feel like a lost cause and a waste of time.

Well [paper shuffle] there’s still statements that need reading. The world can’t stop for a single mystery. [picks up paper and clears throat] Statement of-

Marcus: [doors burst open] JUNIPER! I found something! It’s horrible and answers everything and-

Juniper: Woah, hold on, Marcus. Slow down! Please, just take a deep breath and tell me what happened.

Marcus: I was looking through the archive, and I found a box in the back with a mess of statements and letters labeled “improbable”, and it caught my eye because I didn’t think anyone here would just dismiss statements without at least reading them through. So, I looked through it, skimmed through some statements, and… I found this letter. [paper unfolding] I read through it, and… and, I think you should see for yourself.

I already scanned the pages to the digital archives, all that’s left is to record it for the audio record. It’ll need a statement form, since it’s not properly formatted.

Juniper: I see… And I assume you want me to read it.

Marcus: Well, I did everything else. And… I can’t bear to read any more of it… I promise to fill out a statement form for it and archive it properly later.

Juniper: Alright. [sigh, clears throat and pauses]

Thank you for reading this, whoever you are. If you’re from SPOONY, please read on and use my statement to save whoever else you can. If you’re not, then please deliver this to them; I don’t think anyone else would be able to stomach reading any further.

My name is Leon Cortez. I am 34 years old, and chances are I am probably dead by the time you read this. The computer on the desk I’m writing from shows the date is May 12th, 2018, so I have been here for about two months now. I was fortunate enough to gain this opportunity to write to you as much as I possibly can, and no matter the risk it will be worth it if you can save the others contained here.

It all began with Dr. Ambrose. They’ve been my doctor for a few years by this point, and were very good at it. I didn’t go to the doctor often, just for bi-annual checkups and whenever I was unwell, and never have I had a doctor as helpful and precise as them. I don’t know how they did it, but they somehow always had the right answers for whatever troubles my body faced. A genius, no doubt; I didn’t understand how they only worked from a small home clinic.

On my most recent checkup, Dr. Ambrose asked me if I’d be interested in participating as a paid volunteer in a clinical trial for a new medical procedure. No details about the procedure were provided, only that I would be out of commission for a long time, possibly a few weeks, and I would have temporary living space to stay. I had nothing much to do, and I certainly needed the money, so I accepted. We set a date for the next appointment, and they thanked me for my cooperation.

I was a bit worried and nervous, but I trusted their words. Besides, the money I was told I would receive for this was worth it. I arrived at the doctors’ office, and they led me to a back room with a bed. Dr. Ambrose told me to lie down, and someone, who I assumed was one of their assistants, entered holding an injection needle in one hand and a clipboard in another. They looked oddly similar to Dr. Ambrose themselves, and I silently wondered if they were related.

Dr. Ambrose explained that they had some work to do, and their assistant would run me through the experiment. Once they left the room, the assistant began explaining that I’ll be given an experimental injection, along with a sedative to allow my body rest and adapt to the serum. And while I sleep, I’ll be moved to a private room where I can be studied while I go about my life. I nodded in understanding, and they handed me the clipboard with a contract to sign. I just signed and didn’t read through it. In hindsight, I probably should have. I lay down, the injection was administered, and I soon faded from consciousness.

As promised, I woke up after an untold amount of time in a room I was given to stay in, with a desk, TV, books and bed. I wasn’t allowed to bring my phone, oddly, but I didn’t question it at the time. On the desk there was a letter expIaining things further: they would study my behavior and functionality throughout the day, and I would be allowed to entertain myself as I wished. The only times they needed me to do something was when a light on the wall blinked, I had to take off my robe and stand naked in front of it. They noted that starting a few days from now, this may happen once or twice a day, and it was best for me to keep an eye out for it. Until then, I was to rest and let the injection take effect. These were very strange instructions, but I assumed it was part of the research and made myself at home.

Two days later the light blinked for the first time. I anxiously put down the book I was reading and stood up, untied my robe, and let it drop. I felt awkward, as one does, but they’re doctors, so I wasn’t worried.

I didn’t feel anything weird at first, save for a bit of worrying tingling. Then, the pains started. I felt my breath getting shorter, my chest bursting, and my insides moving and… expanding. My skin began to itch and tighten, and my joints ached. I doubled over my desk, and standing next to it I felt it was smaller than I remembered it. That’s when I realized something horrifying. I’d grown in size. These were growing pains.

My anxiety spiked as I feared what would happen to me, and when I would stop growing. But then my insides shifted. A wave of nausea overcame me as I heard muted squelching and clacking come from inside me. I instinctively felt my stomach and chest, and to my utter shock, my heartbeat… was doubled.

Then, my skin started bubbling. My skin stretched further, forming stretch marks right before my eyes. Before I could even utter ‘what the hell’, my insides didn’t just shift, they lunged in opposite directions. I screamed in pain and terror as my body tore itself apart from the inside. I now felt my two hearts beating furiously on opposite sides of my body, and four pairs of lungs panting through what might have been two noses and mouths. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was, or what I was sensing, my brain was swimming as if it too was stretching thin. My vision swam blurrily, I was disoriented with pain and perspective shifts, and all the while my skin was stretching, almost tearing apart. The only thing I could do was scream.

And then, faster than it began, it all abruptly stopped. My vision blacked out for a moment, and as soon as things came back into focus, I saw a writhing, vaguely person-shaped mass of flesh and bone at my feet. My flesh and bone. That’s the last thing I remembered from that time before I blacked out from the pain and shock.

I woke up some time later, and as the memories surfaced I vomited in horror and disgust at myself. I looked at my hands, arms, and body; all were now peppered with jagged stretch marks and raw red patches, all burning with mild and constant pain. I turned to the small yet obvious two-way mirror on the wall where the Doctor was likely watching from, and gasped when I saw my face. It was the same, yet so terribly different; It was like my whole face was put only a bit to the side. Along with the stretch marks and scars and raw red patches, I looked like a burn victim.

The flesh blob that had torn off of me was nowhere in the room, and I wasn’t sure if that was relieving or horrifying. I noticed a tray of food had been left for me by the door, and I realized for the first time how hungry I felt. I scarfed down the food, then lay in bed, still sore. I am not ashamed to admit that I cried from all this the first few days.

This is what I’d signed up for. I was stuck.

For several weeks this became routine - waking up, passing time with books and TV, going through this horrible procedure, fainting, and repeat. I tried hiding in the corners and under my bed, but no matter what I could not escape being exposed to whatever radiation was being used on me. Worse still, when I was curled up in a corner or laying under the bed, the pain substantially increased as my body bloated and tore itself despite whatever shape I was folded into. The best I could do to endure the pain was to comply; stand still or lie down on the bed, and let my body succumb to the inescapable malformation.

There was food, at least, and it tasted alright and was very nourishing. Strangely, it was always the same meal: meatloaf and vegetables, and a roll of bread. I hadn’t questioned it, but thinking about it now as I write, I am concerned where it came from.

As time passed, I could see the figures tearing off of me becoming more stable and independent with each split. Today’s time, the most recent one, the ‘clone’ actually turned to me and made eye contact before I fainted. That was when I knew I had to do something.

That day, I came up with a desperate escape plan. As a teen I was a tinkerer, and loved to take machines and gadgets apart. The next time food arrived, I unplugged the TV and used the knife and fork to delicately unscrew some of the parts off. I tampered and searched through the mechanisms until I found a couple of wires and metal bits that I could hopefully use to pick the lock on my door. I returned the dishes and hoped nobody would notice.

When the lights went out, I waited a few minutes before getting up and using the TV parts to try and pick the lock. It was dark and I was working mostly blind, and I didn’t even think this would work. But it did, the door miraculously clicked open. I heaved a sigh of relief and smiled for the first time in what felt like ages. I stepped outside to a dark corridor with doors all around, I couldn’t tell which way to go. I shuddered, realizing that behind any of these doors there may be other people going through this too.

Mustering my will, I decided to take a shot in the dark and go exploring. After some searching I luckily found what appeared to be the exit, but the exit door had a security camera and a laser trap. So I was forced to backtrack, and this led me to find another door near the exit, leading to the doctor’s office. I took a quick peek inside, and saw no cameras, and went in treading carefully. It was a standard office, with a computer, stationery, and blessedly, a pile of outgoing mail. If I can’t get myself out, I will get my story out.

I heard about you from one of my coworkers. He told me he had once sent a statement to you by email, but I don’t know your email address, so I figured a letter is my best choice. I sincerely hope Dr. Ambrose or whoever else manages the mail doesn’t look too closely at this one.

What I’m doing now is putting this in an envelope and writing that this should be brought directly to you, and mixing this in with the other outgoing mail. I hope I wrote enough, but I want to return to my room before anyone wakes up so as not to arouse suspicion. I’m sure you’ll be able to do more with my story than any other authority, or at least lead other Institutions to do something this crazy.

In writing this, I have come to accept that my fate is pretty much sealed. Even if this message reaches you and you act on it, the odds of me surviving long enough until then to taste freedom again are basically nonexistent. But please, I’m begging you, send help. Find and stop Dr. Ambrose from what they’re doing, so nobody else has to go through what I have. If you find my family, please tell them I love them.

Juniper: This… this changes everything. This is concrete evidence that links the zombie encounters to Dr. Ambrose! It’s disturbing, to say the least, but nothing should be outright dismissed… Are you alright?

Marcus: Why? Why was this even dismissed? This is clearly a desperate cry for help that reached us God knows when, and now this person and who knows how many others are likely dead!

Juniper: If I had to guess, whoever originally read this saw it as too far-fetched to even look into it. It’s highly unprofessional of them and against procedure, but… they lacked the knowledge we do now. Without the context of the other flesh encounters, this could be mistaken for a joke.

Marcus: Don’t you see? We could have done more! We could have saved them sooner if someone hadn’t just thrown this letter aside! This bout of unprofessionalism cost who knows how many innocent lives!

Juniper: What is done is done. Regretfully, we cannot change or fix what already happened. But this letter… It’s enough evidence to tie together all the clues we’d gathered and finally incriminate Dr. Ambrose. We may not be able to save the test subjects that already fell victim to the experiments, but we can save everyone who hasn’t yet.

Marcus: I… I suppose. It’s just that… [stressed assistant archivist noises and deep breaths]

Juniper: Do you want help filing a report to the X-7 department with your findings?

Marcus: I… yes, please… Thank you.

Juniper: Of course.

Marcus: Can we just… take a moment, before we do? I just need some quiet time to process everything and gather my strength.

Juniper: Certainly. Hell, let’s go make some tea, I think we both need a break. You did well, Marcus.

Marcus: [breathes deeply] Thank you. Do you mind if I… turn off the recorder?

Juniper: Oh right, sorry. Allow me.

[Tape clicks off.]

This episode of “For The Record” was written and produced by Shalhevet Ebner, Directed by Elena Truman, and edited by Jo mendacium, and starred Sivan Raz as “Juniper Powell” and Daniel Huras as “Marcus Knight”. It used sounds from, under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License. For full accreditation, see the show notes. To be kept up to date on new episodes, submit your statement, or to get involved in production, you can follow us on Twitter @ftrecordpod, on Tumblr at fortherecordpod, or view our website at Stay safe, take care, and don’t split too soon