The year is 6054 and everyone alive is over 2,000 years old. Technology runs the city of Barbeth, but machines malfuncton. One unexpected error could have the potential to change the world.
~ Cover image found on Deviantart by Wildweasel339: https://wildweasel339.deviantart.com/
Light trickled through the window and softly lit the inside of the house. The door opened gently and Molly gazed out upon the sunrise. At the tender age of 2,400 years old, Molly was still transfixed by the beauty of the sunrises and sunsets of the world. She had grown up in the new world and had not known the old one. Although she had heard stories and knew the history like the back of her hand, she never felt that she could connect with the old world. She concluded that was a good thing as she wasn’t sure that she wanted to.
As she watched the sunrise turn to a blazing yellow, she remembered turning 100 years old. Her body was old and weak she remembered vividly going to the appointment to pick out a husk. She remembered experiencing life in her new body for the first time. It was extraordinary.
Everyone was very young back then and many of her friends had already turned 100 or were going to soon. They celebrated, perhaps a bit too much, and although the first 24 hours in her new body were long forgotten, the feeling of pure joy and happiness had remained.
That body hadn’t been her favourite. Her current body was a gem, as she called it. Shaped to perfection with long, brown, flowing hair; and eyes that stared deep into her own soul. She loved this one.
It was scary sometimes, getting a new body. It was something different to get use to. Each time Molly had it done, which was over 20 times by this point, she found herself exhausted for at least 3 days afterwards as her body clock had changed. She found herself recognizing everyone for their mannerisms and gestures rather than their looks (which would be impossible if you tried). Choosing a body was a long process with lots of paperwork; typically beginning with seeing a wide selection of fully developed husks; then choosing one that would be ideal for you; followed by a long talk with the doctor discussing everything from the anatomical differences between the husk you have chosen and your current husk, to assessing if your consciousness is able to be transferred into the new husk; then final checks are performed just before the operation.
In the bright sunlight Molly wondered what it would be like to be a man. She hadn't tried it, or thought to try it. Yet.
She loved the new world. It was full of life and laughter, all the hatred from the old world gone, and everything being carefully controlled by the high council.
This was freedom, as much as the council would allow. With true freedom comes the right to do almost anything, talk about almost anything and have equal rights between all people. Goodness knows that they are a bad idea.
Due to World War 3 and the decline of the old world, the new world had no religion. With the help of science Molly was over 2,000 years old and proud of it. Religion and its' ideologies were primitive, ill informed and could be twisted so that horrific acts could take place.
The sun had fully risen now and Molly stayed a while longer. She looked out over the lush grass filled fields and beyond her cattle to see the outline of Barbeth, the grand city. She took a deep breath and smiled before leaving her house and going to the stables.
“Hello Fern,” She spoke softly to the black mare as she entered the stable. “You look like you need a ride today. Wouldn’t that be nice?” She stroked Fern’s main and looked the mare straight in the eyes. Fern whinnied and stepped back. Molly laughed. She got Fern’s bridle, saddle and blanket before carefully placing them on Fern and fixing them in place.
“There we are,” Molly’s voice was gentle like the breeze and it soothed Fern. She led Fern out of the stable and into the brightly lit day. Ferns’ hooves clattered over the cobbles before she stepped onto the soft grass. Molly mounted Fern and they began riding out into the fields. They rode onto the top of the hill as sunlight broke through the trees above them, casting them in sunlight and shadow as Molly spurred Fern on into a canter through the meadow. They soon came to a stream and Molly dismounted Fern. She strode through the lavender at the steams edge towards a small waterfall. She collapsed suddenly into the grass due to a sharp, sudden pain in her side.
In Barbeth New World Hospital an alarm sounded. A member of staff rushed to the sound, like it was a telephone, and with the press of a button they tracked the signal back to Husk 634234-HJM.
It's muscles seized up as the water that encased it began to boil.
It’s eyes snapped open.
Molly looked around the hospital room, noticing that the pain in her side had gone. The door opened and a male doctor dressed in a smart shirt and black trousers came into the room.
“Hello Molly, how are you feeling?”
“Much better. Thank you doctor,” She replied to the doctor smiling.
“We’ve given you some muscle relaxant through an injection into your abdomen,” The doctor began to explain. “Husks can experience some muscle spasm from time to time due to the severe temperature change when we defrost them. The risk of these spasms happening is common among new husk transfers but as you adapt to this new body the risk goes down. There is only a very small chance of this happening again,” Molly nodded in understanding, she thanked him politely before he left her. A nurse came in shortly after the doctor, who also did not introduce herself however this was commons, the nurse talked for a while with Molly while noting down her basic life signs. Molly was walking within half an hour, and an hour later she was walking down the hall to the teleport suit. The room was large and spotless with 6 teleport pods spaced apart in the centre, each had its own section of the room occupied by; a bed: a crash trolley: specialised medical equipment: and its’ own drugs cabinet. For Molly this room needed no introduction as it acted as an emergency room, and she had been here when her stallion had thrown her and had given her spinal injuries.
Molly stepped into a teleport pod, thanking the staff one last time before it beamed her straight back to the stream beside Fern.
“Come in Henry Farshaw,” The doctor said invitingly. “We’ve had a small malfunction with the machine which chose to boil the husk rather than warm it to body temperature, however all seems well and it's looking as fit and healthy as you could wish for,” Henry looked around the room focusing on the husk that lay on the large metal table in the centre of the room. The husk was male and had a biological age of 20.56 years, as stated on a label wrapped around its’ ankle.
“Why are it’s eyes open?” Henry Farshaw asked as he examined the husk.
“The heat can stimulate muscles, but I assure you that it’s perfectly normal,” The doctor answered. Henry continued to examine the husk closely: he looked at its’ muscles: judged its’ proportions; and spent a lot of time on the facial features. Once he was happy with it, he turned to the doctor and confirmed both his agreement that this was the husk that he wanted, and he also gave his consent for the surgery.
The doctor proceeded to led Henry out of the room and into an anaesthetic room next door. He came back and proceeded to prepare the husk, warming it to room temperature and ensuring that everything was working as it should.
It could feel hands on it.
It could feel external movement of its’ body.
It refused to move. It resisted the instinct to reach out and escape.
It was waiting for it’s chance.
Henry Farshaw, now unconscious and intubated, lay on his front as he was wheeled into the operating room. The husk was placed beside him and the first checks were completed with no issues. The surgeon got her equipment ready and began to prepared the first incision into the husks’ neck.
As soon as it felt the knife it moved.
A horse and rough sound erupted from its mouth as it forced its body up.
Everything was stiff, everything was new and it was not use to moving.
“We’ve got a live one!” It heard someone shout and immediately it felt strong hands forcing it down. Adrenaline pumped through its’ body and it forced the hands away, which sent two nurses flying across the room. Its’ vision blurred as it tried to focus on the surgeon who was coming straight for it. The anaesthetist had hidden underneath the table and was beginning to make meowing noises. Instruments clattered onto the floor as it was forced back being slammed hard a wall. The surgeon held it there, as a small Asian woman she was much stronger than she looked. Its’ eyes darted around the room trying to see an escape. It twisted and fought against the surgeon’s grip, screaming loudly into her face. She cried out as her grip weakened, her wrists beginning to be bent back by it as it began to gain control and forced itself up from the wall. It looked her deep in the eyes before its’ focus changed, just moments before it was slammed back into the wall.
A doctor with dark skin forced it back, reinforcing the surgeon’s strength over it. It began to fight them both only to feel surprised as the force holding it down became weaker. The doctor was working with it, forcing the surgeon’s strength back onto herself. The anaesthetist was still cowering under the table looking at, but not running to, the exit. It threw the surgeon off itself and ran for the door, leaping over the operating table and powerfully punching the two battle ready nurses away with ease. The doctor with dark skin followed it out of the operating room, which was left in ruin.
Blood trickled down its’ back as it ran naked through the hallway, rooms flashed by and it kept running. It heard its’ feet pounding on the floor below it and like an animal it raced down corridor after corridor, then down stair after stair, lower and lower until it crashed out of the giant glass door on the ground floor of the hospital.
It rolled and stood up. All around it were large containers. It heard the doctor behind him running, not making a sound. It felt adrenaline pump through it again and it took off down a narrow passageway between the containers. It kept running and running, beating its’ way over the concrete. The drumming of its’ feet drove it on, round corner after corner, twisting this way and that until it emerged from between containers into an open space. It ran beside a dock where large machines were at work.
Water flowed gently lapping the side of the dock but it kept running. The doctor was no longer following it, he had stopped far back while it had kept going. A dark tunnel appeared before it and it knew where it was heading for. It raced on.
It could feel and hear its’ breath, hard and fast like the beating of its’ heart. It stared into the darkness. The pitch blackness. The deep shadows that surrounded it, and the tiny light that was slowly coming towards it.
It shielded its’ eyes.
“Henry? Henry?” The soft voice of a nurse awoke Henry from the anaesthetic. “Hello Henry, how are you feeling?” Henry thought about this for a moment.
“Indifferent,” Henry answered as he lifted up his hand so that he could see it. “I'm still in the same body,” He said, surprised.
“Yes,” The nurse answered, expecting that response. “There was a bit of a, malfunction with the husk,” Henry turned to see the nurse and was taken aback. The nurse was smiling however he had a large bruise over his left cheek that spread down to his neck. The bruise was purple and had clearly been caused by a large blow to the area. Henry wanted to ask about it, however something told him that it would be better if he did not know. The nurse was also standing crooked as though one side of his body was more painful than the other. The nurse finished doing Henry’s observations and Henry quickly realised that he had been staring at this nurse for much longer than he had meant to.
“Is everything ok?” Henry asked the nurse abruptly, his words sounding harsh and rushed.
“Everything is fine,” The nurse answered calmly. “You're alright Henry, no harm came to you and we will ensure that the issue with the husk is dealt with properly and that you will fast tracked on the waiting list for another one,” This reassured Henry, even though he knew that he was alright. He was undoubtedly pleased to hear that he would be fast tracked for a new husk.
“Are you ok?” Henry asked the nurse, as he felt that he had to ask the question. The nurse turned to him and smiled once more,
“I'm good Henry, thank you for asking. The bruise, I assume is why you’re asking, is because of the husk. It had some unexpected muscle issues that caused it to move in unexpected ways. This is why you're still in this body.”
“Goodness!” Henry said, “It’s a good thing that I'm not in that body then. The nerves are going in this body but they’re not that bad.”
“I'm glad to see that you're feeling like yourself again,” The nurse said smiling before walking off.
Henry sat on the edge of the bed putting his leather jacket on, which made him look like a punk rocker from the 1980’s. Henry didn’t know what a punk rocker was, or what the 1980’s were like, all he knew was that it was the current style of fashion.
“Thank you doctor,” Henry said loudly to a nearby nurse as he stood up. The nurse glared at him from above the rim of her glasses. “I was ready for a new body but somehow I still feel new again.”
“Indeed,” The nurse said sternly and without emotion. “The paperwork is all completed and we're ready to discharge you Mr Farshaw.”
“I’m glad to hear it, I have a lot of work to do in the city. Needless to say however that they might be surprised to see me like this,” The nurse gave a small nod of understanding before leading him to the teleport room. Henry got into a pod before blinking, allowing his eyes to adjust to the bright sunlight that was lighting up Barbeths park of light.
“Go on, tell me about the last 24 hours.”
Its’ hand began to write. The writing was rough and jagged but able to be made out.
I could feel hands, so many hands holding me down. I could hear but not see. I could feel but not move. I could feel my nerves finally free and it felt good.
There was no more agony, only sensation. No more pain, only freedom. I am created, but not their creation. I am afraid, but I am not a husk.
It stopped writing and looked up at the man who was watching it. Tears filled its’ eyes and it could feel itself crying. It snapped out of something and looked around at its’ new surroundings in the dim light. Everything became clearer and another man approached. It stood and wiped the tear from its’ face before it walked away.
“Extraordinary,” Said the man who had walked into the dim light, “He’s doing very well.”
“He?” The first man turned, questioning him.
“Yes. He’s responding well to the drug. Tears especially are extraordinary at this stage,” The man replied before walking away. The first man left as well, leaving it alone in the dark.
Molly was enjoying a shopping trip in the centre of Barbeth when a man came running out and knocked her sideways onto the pavement. Immediately this man stopped and turned.
“I am so sorry, I am in a rush. Are you alright?”
“I'm fine thank you,” Molly said taking the strangers’ hand and getting to her feet. “It's been a long time since someone knocked me sideways.”
“If that was meant to be a pickup line, I'll give you another shot,” Molly laughed, and so did the stranger.
“I’m Molly,” Molly said holding her hand out to the stranger.
“Henry Farshaw. It's a pleasure to meet you,” Henry replied and shook Molly's hand.
“I don't wish to be rude or nosey but where are you rushing off to?” Molly asked Henry.
“I need to go to the court of health. There was a malfunction with a husk and I am needed for legal documentation signing, or at least something along those lines.”
“I see. What happened?”
“Muscle damage is what they said.”
“Good thing it malfunctioned then,” Molly said.
“Yes. Yes I suppose it is.” Henry replied with a smile.
“Are you taking the train?”
“I was running for one but I've missed that now. It looks like I am going to be half an hour late now.”
“I wouldn't worry. The council knows about everything that goes on in this place. I'd bet that they are watching us right now. Come on, we can take an alternative route. That way you'll only be twenty minutes late,” Molly lead Henry away and he followed her keenly. This was helped by Molly's hand being firmly clasped around Henry’s which pulled him in the direction that she wanted to go.
“Are you here?” A voice asked in the darkness. It didn’t reply. “I’m not going to hurt you. You can sense that I’m not a threat,” The man moved closer and it didn’t make a sound. “I know that you’re scared. I know that you’re afraid,” This man chose his next words carefully. “And I know that you can talk. Come on. Talk to me,” The man stopped near it and crouched down, just able to make out its’ shape. It stayed silent for a few moments.
“I am afraid,” It said. “I don’t know where I am, and I don’t know who you are,” It stated clearly.
“I am Lukas Rain,” The man replied. “I am 3054 years old and you are in a tunnel below the city of Barbeth.”
“That means nothing to me,” It snapped at Lukas.
“Don’t lie to me,” Lukas snapped back at it. “I know that you escaped from the hospital. That tattoo on your arm reads Husk 959453-XRT. I know what you are.”
“You know nothing about me.”
“Don’t I?” Lukas said, moving closer to it. “I know you are not seen as human.”
“I am not a husk.”
“No, you’re not,” Lukas said with a hint of excitement in his voice. “You’re something different. You are conscious,” It looked up to see Lukas’s face almost touching its’ own. “What is your name?” Lukas asked it and it thought about this.
Lukas’s eyes never left it as it looked at the ground, thinking.
“Hugh,” He said in one breath. “My name is Hugh.”
“Ok Hugh,” Lukas said smiling, “My name is Lukas. It’s nice to meet you.” Lukas held out his hand towards Hugh and after a moment Hugh took it. Their hands shook and an instant bond of trust was formed between them.
“Come on,” Lukas announced harshly as he stood and moved away. Hugh followed him immediately. Lukas led him down a side tunnel that split off from the main passageway. A short way in they stopped by a large metal door that was fixed into the side of the tunnel. Lukas wrenched it open and they climbed inside. A dim electrical light lit Lukas and Hugh as they climbed in and sat on steel seats that jutted out of the wall.
Hugh lent towards Lukas and spoke slowly, but harshly, “What is this place?”
“This is the Undercity, and we are the Underlings. The Underling Project is dedicated to exposing the truth behind the society of the immortals. We expose the real truth to people who are willing to listen and those who we deem trustworthy. A section of the project is to take care of malfunctioned husks,” Lukas looked at Hugh. “Those people that created you. They are immortal and you are not meant to exist Hugh. You are meant to be an empty body to be used for medical use, nothing more.”
“What is this truth behind society, which you refuse to say you are part of?”
“I was the first to volunteer for the fresh start surgery, which is what they called it back in the year 3034.”
“And what year is it now?”
“Ok. So you are...”
“3,054 years old. Yes, we are immortal as well. Back in those days we did not know that this new surgery would lead to immortality, but then I don't know what they thought they could do with the technology. Everything was advancing so fast in those days. Society was on the brink of curing dementia, they were developing injections that restored spinal injuries and we were relying ever more on technology.”
“What was this surgery?”
“The fresh start surgery involved, and still involves, moving a person’s consciousness from one body to another.”
“That table I was on. They were going to cut into my back.”
“They were gaining access to your spinal canal. They insert a person’s brain in a new body by cutting open the lambdoid suture at the back of the skull, before threading the spinal cord down through the vertebrae.”
“The nerves grow back?”
“With a little help from a drug called Ramphamene. It speeds up the formation processes by 16 times it's normal rate. The central nervous tissue will interconnect with surrounding tissues and form all the blood vessels and nerve connections that are needed.”
“How do you know so much about the surgery?”
“I was working as a cleaner in the New Life Medical Centre before the operation took place. My life had been a mess and at that point I was in desperation. They were working on growing full sized human bodies from samples but they couldn't quite do it, no matter how hard they tried. So they began to grow test tube humans from living children, some were children who had been lost while others they physically stole themselves. It worked and although they had humans: these were conscious, living, thinking human beings and they couldn't rip them apart for their organs. The staff refused to.
The people in charge of the centre were malicious and manipulative, they managed to convince the staff to use the children for experiments and untested procedures. It was then that the real horrors began. The children became flesh, nothing but flesh for the experiments,” Lukas paused, tears forming in his eyes. “They began working on the issue on consciousness, how to keep the body but remove conscious thoughts and the sense of self. To do this they created a poison to kill off the nervous system. The children screamed day and night as their own bodies sized up in pain, because of the poison. Their pain became my pain and agony gripped them, forcing their bodies to writhe and contort in the most horrific of ways until blood poured from their eyes and soaked their skin. The worst part is that the poison worked and their agony became their humanity: their brains shrunk and like zombies they slowly became nothing but empty shells. Finally the Medical Centre had the genes they needed, that would create human shells. These shells that had no consciousness, just the organs that would be used to fix other humans.”
“If you knew this,” Hugh said slowly. “Why did you have the operation?”
“I don't know,” Lukas said as he stood, and turned to face the wall away from Hugh. He rested his hands on the wall above him and let his head hang loose. “Maybe it was the thought that it would go wrong, and that I would die. Or maybe it was the guilt and the shame that I felt for watching the children die while doing nothing to help them. Or maybe it was the desperation, the absolute desperation for death and escape. Or maybe it was the mental and physical force, or the blackmail or the loaded gun that was pressed firmly into the side of my forehead that made me say yes!” Lukas was staring directly at Hugh now with fire in his eyes that could have burnt out the sun. Hugh said nothing, instead watching was Lukas stumble away from him. “Or maybe it was all those things and the war,” Lukas closed his eyes and whispered, “Maybe it was the war.”
“The war?” Hugh asked.
“The world had become deranged,” Lukas said at length. “Men attacked their neighbours on the streets because of blind racism and religious hate. Gangs and mobsters ran the cities because the world's governments had given up. Rife with corruption the authorities fell and became the worst of it all. America attacked Russia and all hell broke loose. China invaded North Korea and religion went back into the dark ages with all religious teachers and followers tearing each other apart in the name of their Gods. World War 3 we call it now. The devastating war that, among many political battles, wiped humanity from this earth,” Hugh sat in silence as Lukas continued. “That's where new life came in. It offered a way out, a new start, for a large sum of money of course. People who bought into the scheme had no idea where the husks came from but they didn't care. They still don’t,” Lukas’s voice was horse and Hugh began to understand his hatred of the outside world.
“And there I was. The year was 3126 and I was asleep in a new body, locked away in a secret facility on the ocean floor to awake in 400 years. When I did awake the world was new. It was ravaged and ransacked, but new. We rebuilt it, all 50,000 of us who had chosen to have this new life. Those who know the reality of the husks were heavily bribed to work in medical facilities and were given threats as to what would happen to us if we ever reveal what we know.”
“That’s why none knows about the husks.”
“Exactly, but the history behind the husks wasn’t the only problem. The people in charge soon realised the major issue of death. None was going to die, at least not with the new husks. The people in charge used persuasion to poison people's minds, they made pregnancy and child birth seem like a devastating and deadly illness: this resulted in less children being born, until 3854 when the last child was born and there have been no children since. They used the same persuasion techniques to force those who knew the true nature of the husks, but worked outside of medical facilities, to forget the truth. But there are some who remember,” Lukas then looked at the floor in shame.
“The Underlings,” Hugh stated. “They remember.”
“Yes, we remember. We all remember, or at least, we all understand. There have been no children in 2,200 years Hugh, but you are something new. You are a husk that went wrong, you grew to have a brain and a central nervous system. You are conscious, and therefore you are not a husk,” Lukas looked up to see Hughs’ eyes light up.
“How do they work? The husks? How are you still conscious if you have a new body?” Hugh asked.
“A vital part in the religious disagreement that began World War 3 was the scientific discovery of the soul, or more accurately: the source of human consciousness. The discovery that consciousness was held within the brain and spinal cord was developed using lots of research and was only released to the public after years of being held within trusted political groups. This sparked huge disagreements between religious groups, the public and governments. The advancing technology soon allowed people with spinal injuries to be completely cured and therefore paved the way for transplants of the central nervous system.”
“So if you have a brain and spinal cord, you are conscious?”
“That’s why the husks are empty, they are not conscious. They have no spinal cord.”
“But you do Hugh. You are conscious. You are, conscious,” Lukas stared at Hugh with a light in his eyes. Hugh was quiet before speaking once more.
“Why was it so painful?”
“Agony. Most of what I can remember is agony. Only ever agony. Is it not agony for you?”
“You are different Hugh. I do not know how you are here and I cannot fathom how hard it must have been for you.”
“I am something new,” Hugh said before pausing. Lukas nodded and gave him a tap on the shoulder.
“I’ll show you around.”
“Welcome to the Undercity!” Lukas’s voice was loud and booming as he raised his arms in pride. Hugh was impressed but not astounded by the sight that was presented to him. They had travelled through dark tunnels to more dark tunnels and eventually they have came to this. It was barely even impressive.
Tents and large tables stood around the tunnel, every single one of the tables was overflowing with technological items. Strange was the fact that this was new technology, it was made recently by good craftsman, however the technology itself was outdated.
“Beautiful isn't it?” Lukas continued. “Old technology. Nothing compares to what they have out there. But that's it: we have something that they don't. Our minds.”
They paused in the darkness until Hugh spoke up once more.
“Why will you not show me the city? Why will you not show me Barbeth?” Hugh asked.
“Because it's rotten,” Came a voice. A well built man came out of the shadows, dressed in dark blue scrubs and with arms so hairy that you would have thought that he was a gorilla. “Hello. Hugh.” The man paused, unsure that Hugh was his name. Hugh stared fiercely at this man, taking in everything about him. “My name is Omen. Doctor Omen.” Hugh's eyes widened and panic crossed his face.
“You're the doctor. You’re the one who came after me,” Hugh's face quickly became red with anger. “You did this to me!” Just as the thought of punching doctor Omen in the face became more of a reality for Hugh and he raised his fist, the man before him raised his hands.
“Now Hugh. If I wanted to catch you I would have helped the surgeon not worked against her don't you think?” doctor Omen said calmly, watching as Hugh paused and began to lower his fist. “I am part of the Undercity. We are here for people like you. Why do you think I forced you to run into the dockyard? I wasn't letting you escape, I was leading you here.” Hugh's fist lowered but not all the way.
“If you led me here how do I know that you're not still using me?”
“Hugh, you have strong instincts. Are we lying to you?” Lukas said calmly from the side. Hugh paused and turned to look at Lukas and at the Undercity.
“No.” Hugh said after a moment lowering his fist. “No, I don't think that you're lying.”
“Good. Do you trust me? Do you trust us?” Lukas asked Hugh as he stared at him. There was a long silence.
“Good, because I wouldn’t trust us either.” Lukas’s comment caused murmurs to ripple through the Undercity, who were all paying attention to the scene. “Hugh you have to trust what I've told you. You have to trust your own instincts. We’re not lying to you.”
Long minutes passed before Hugh lowered his fist and turned to doctor Omen, “Something within me still wants to punch you very hard in the face.”
“I could say the same,” doctor Omen replied. Lukas watched them both before whispering something to Hugh, then proceeding to lead Hugh out of the tunnel and into the daylight.
The sunlight was bright on Hugh's face and he allowed his body to bathe in it's warmth.
“Look at them. Lukas has a new pet and this one I think he's planning to sleep with,” Arfus said standing in the entrance of the tunnel.
“Arfus,” Doctor Omen snapped at him.
“What?” Arfus snapped back. “Am I not allowed to have an opinion? Without me there wouldn't be a husk programme.” Doctor Omen looked at him. Argus sniffed and straightened his posture. “I know Lukas is the leader of this programme, but I can’t stand it when he gets too close. Besides how does he expect them to do our will when he doesn't show them the real world? If the husk was to see Barbeth and the immortals, maybe then it would agree with us and see it from our perspective, no matter what happens next.”
“You know we can't do that. The Sarora would see him.”
“Him? Why do you have to call it him? You said it yourself, if the Sarora's can tell that it's not human why do we pretend that it is. It doesn't have consciousness.”
“We've been through this Arfus.”
“I know, I know. The innocent always perish. He's going to end up in the dock's like the rest of them.”
“I don't know.” Doctor Omen said, looking out at Hugh and Lukas.
“You don't know? You're saying that like it's something special. Like it's got a brain and mind of its own.” Sympathy crossed Arfus' face for a brief moment. “We're going to hell for this,” Arfus muttered.
“We're all going to hell anyway.” Doctor Omen continued. “At least this way we can go out with a bang.”
“And with any luck it'll come with us. Yeah for us!” Arfus threw his arms up in the air sarcastically as he turned and went back inside the tunnel.
Days have gone by and no progress. Lukas is talking to it, all that man ever does is talk. My shift starts in 2 hours and I have had no instructions from Lukas. He is playing a dangerous game with this one, I think he's going for the, patience brings many virtues, approach. He's gaining it's trust and twisting it's perspective, to the truth of course, but this friendship they have. It makes me want to hurl. I know it can sense my distrust of it when it looks at me. I don't think that it likes me, but then not many people like me.
Hugh was getting use to the Undercity, and was beginning to make friends. One day he approached Arfus, who was not in the best of moods.
“Hello,” Hugh greeted him. “I’m Hugh, it’s nice to meet you,” Hugh held out his hand towards Arfus. Arfus looked at the hand, decided not to shake it and instead looked Hugh in the eyes.
“Arfus.” He stated in a deep tone. Hugh withdrew his hand. Arfus turned to look away from Hugh and Hugh did the same. “I don’t like you Hugh. You don’t have to like me, not many people do.”
“That’s nice to know.” Hugh paused thinking carefully about his next question. “Where do you work?”
“I work at the hospital, as a porter and cleaner. You would think that they would have robots for that by now.”
“Oh yeah. I suppose they should have.” Hugh couldn't think of much to say and Arfus looked at him.
“I used to be a chemist, and I still do a bit here and there. My employers began to get suspicious of me so I quit that job and now I work 16 hour shifts.”
“They don’t sound like fun.”
“They’re not. I just finished one actually.”
“You must be exhausted.”
“I am.” They sat in silence for a bit before Lukas made his way over to them.
“Hugh, I see that you have met Arfus. He’s not our friendliest member of the Underlings.”
“He’s not bad.”
“Well I’m sure that he’s trying his best to be friendly.” Lukas said, deliberately meaning it as a sarcastic comment towards Arfus.
“You can talk.” Arfus replied.
“I’m sorry?” Lukas asked, confused.
“I see that you have got a good old friendship with Hugh there, been improving your skills have you?”
“I’m a friendly guy Arfus, everyone knows that.”
“Yeah, the husks sure do.” Arfus said without thinking. Hugh was taken aback slightly and Lukas shot him a glance. Arfus really didn’t like him.
“We’ll leave you to it Arfus. I’m sure that you’re tired, you’ve had a long day.” Lukas said and motioned Hugh to get up.
“Before you go Hugh.” Arfus said and Hugh turned to him. “Just know that we’re not your friends.” Lukas led Hugh away after Arfus’s comment and as much as Hugh disliked the idea, there was a ring of truth in Arfus’s words.
Hugh awoke to the sound of an argument between a very drunk Arfus and a very sober Lukas. They were standing next to a large table down a side tunnel, shouting loudly.
“Don’t you dare!” Hugh heard Lukas shout in a sharp, fierce tone before an object was thrown onto the floor. “We need you Arfus. It is working this time.”
“It is not working this time! You’re little friend is wandering around these dark caverns like a child making small talk and trying to get people to like him. It will never do what we want it to! Your plan never works! They need to be exposed to the world! They need to be exposed to reality! They need to know what their reality is!”
“You know we can’t tell them,” Lukas boomed in a harsh voice that scared Hugh, who was making his way towards the side tunnel. “Don’t do this. Hell will come for us all but not like this!”
“I was sent into the depths of hell when I first followed your orders,” Arfus said, now in a rage. “I was blind. I was blind to you, Lukas. You are twisted beyond your own belief.” Hugh couldn’t believe what Arfus was saying, what was so bad about Lukas? He wandered about this as he came to the tunnel entrance.
“I became twisted long ago, I’m just trying to make things right.”
“No. No. You are the evil in this. I am not throwing any more husks into the docks for you! You can throw me in instead!” Arfus yelled and he made a leap for a syringe. Lukas reached it first and held it tightly in his hand.
“No!” Arfus screamed, “Let me have it! I would rather die than consciously mutilate any more husks for you! I am not going to be part of creating innocent lives that you kill, when they disobey you! I will not make them conscious! I refuse! I will not cause any more husks to live through unbelievable agony! I refuse!” Arfus collapsed onto the ground and began weeping wildly. Lukas just looked at him before he felt the hairs raise on the back of his neck. Turning around his eyes met Hugh’s.
Lukas stepped towards Hugh but Hugh was already running before Lukas had a chance to speak.
“Hugh!” Lukas shouted running after him, the syringe still gripped in his hand. Hugh ran as far as he could, “Hugh!” he heard Lukas shout behind him. Hugh wrenched open a door and climbed inside the small room. Lukas forced his way in and the door closed them in together.
“Hugh.” Lukas said panting.
“Don’t you dare!” Hugh screamed. “You did this to me!”
“Did what?” Lukas said innocently.
“You made me this way!”
“Arfus did this you,” Lukas corrected him, his tone changing. “To help you. To help all of you.”
“All of us?” Hugh’s voice raised in volume and the anger became more intense, “You still think of me as a husk! That’s all I am to you. An empty body that you used to create a mind inside, a mind that would be stupid enough to trust you.”
“Don’t call me that! I am a husk. A mutilated husk that you twisted and used to do your commands. Arfus felt pity, remorse, pain, sorrow, empathy. You don’t feel anything! You’re the husk not me!”
“Yes!” Lukas shouted back, “You are a husk that I can turn back into an empty shell with this single injection.” Lukas threatened Hugh, revealing the syringe in his hand. Hugh tried to knock it out of his hand but Lukas slammed Hugh’s head into a metal duct, sending him crashing to the floor. “One shot of this and you’ll die. Nothing will be able to bring you back. You’ll become a malfunctioned husk that will be found one day at the bottom of the docks, along with all the rest. Is that what you want?” Hugh lay on the floor breathing heavily. “I need you to trust me Hugh. I need you to destroy them.” Hugh turned to look at Lukas.
“Destroy them?” He questioned Lukas.
“For what they have done,” Lukas answered.
“For what they’ve done? Look what you’ve done. Look what you’ve become Lukas. You hold that syringe in you’re hand talking to me like you’re the good guy. You made me like this. You caused me all that pain!”
“We made you alive, and we got you out!” Lukas shouted at him.
“That doesn’t excuse what you’ve done. You’re as bad as the immortals, the people in charge, the council, whoever they are!” Hugh stood up, keeping his distance from Lukas but keeping his eyes fixed upon him.
“I need you to destroy this place Hugh,” Lukas said calmly and reasonably. “Not just this room, this building or this city. I need you to destroy this world. The world of the immortals. The world that we have created. When most of the human race died long ago, we were meant to die with them.”
“They injected me to stop my nervous system from forming. You caused it to regrow again but they kept destroying it and you kept rebuilding it. It was agony. Agony that you caused me.”
“The Sarora: they can see people’s auras. People’s living consciousness. They describe them as being a burning orange colour that moves and flickers as the people do. Constantly surrounding them, consuming them. And if there ever was a God he wanted us to die long ago because those auras aren’t living consciousness. They are the eternal flames of hell and that is where we are going for the things that we have done.” Lukas looked at Hugh with tears in his eyes and held the needle out towards him. “Kill me Hugh. Kill me as long as you promise to kill them too.”
Hugh walked towards Lukas and took the syringe out of his outstretched hand. He folded his hands around it and everything within Hugh felt numb. Lukas collapsed with a loud, hard thud not feeling the blow that knocked him out. As Lukas lay unconscious on the metal floor, Hugh knelt down and drove the needle straight into the back of his neck.
The metal door was closed and locked shut: Inside the room Lukas was dead, leaving a husk behind.