A couple people are on the beach, not as many as before. In fact, the beach is green on the left and there’s even a little blue house. Turning towards the water, I see dark green mountains and strips of green land on the water.
Where am I?
“How did I get here?” I murmur. Stepping onto shore, dripping and cold, I fold my arms over my chest.
“Excuse me,” I say to a man folding up his blanket. He doesn’t turn around. I tap his shoulder. “Hi.”
“Какие (What)?” My heart skips a beat, the chill digging deeper into my abdomen. I step back, his icy blue eyes questioning me.
“I- I think I’m lost.” He cocks his head to the side. “Phone?” I say, making a phone gesture with my hands. He shakes his head and walks away from me. My shoulders slump, a lump stuck in my throat.
A woman with dark hair, and a freckled face comes towards me. She has on a gray sweater dress with stockings and boots.
“Hi, you speak English?” she calls to me. I raise my hands, a rush of relief hitting me.
“Yes, yes I do!” I run towards her, the sand sinking my feet. “I need a phone, maybe a police station—”
“Clothes, you need something warm.” I nod, following her to the parking lot.
“I don’t know how I got here… where is here anyways?”
“Yuhzny beach in Samara, Russia. Quite a long way from America.” When we get to her car, she pops the trunk, pulling out pants, a sweater, and flats. “I leave a change of clothes in case of emergency.”
Ten minutes later I’m clothed, sitting in her car on the way to the station. The woman, whose name is Vera, hasn’t spoken another word to me. Her hands grip the steering wheel tightly, her knuckles white to the bone. Her face concentrated on the road as rain starts to pour down in heavy sheets. The road becomes blurry as the wipers drag the water away.
“So, Melanie, what are you studying?” she says, breaking the stone silence.
“Chemistry. I want to go to med school and become an ER doctor.” Her eyebrow raises.
“The medical field. My brother is actually a doctor,” she says, glancing at me. “You should meet him and he could, eh, give you some advice.” A smile spreads on my lips.
Maybe this trip will be worthwhile.
“That sounds incredible.” I pull the sweater sleeves over my hands, tucking them under my thighs. We continue down the bleak road, greenery on both sides, guiding our path.
“Okay, we will go to the local police first, and then I will take you home and get you something to eat. Then you can meet Fedor, my brother.” We reach the police station in no time. Vera reaches into the backseat, grabbing an umbrella. As she cranes her neck a vein pops out underneath a small thumb-sized burn mark. It’s reddish brown and seems recent.
“What happened to your neck?” I ask, pointing to the mark. Her fingers graze it, as she sits back up.
“Oh that, I was eh, curling my hair yesterday for an event,” she says, unbuckling. I do the same and open the door.
“I know that feeling.” We huddle under the umbrella, going up the slick, concrete steps. An officer leaving the building holds the door open for us.
“Спасибо (thank you),” Vera says, shaking out water from the umbrella. The air inside is warm and inviting. We walk up to a woman at a high desk, coming up to my chin. Her hair is tightly pinned back, pulling in the features of her face. Vera, who steps back because of her short height, starts talking to her and the woman’s piercing brown eyes glance at me periodically.
“You are lost?” she asks. I nod my head. She takes out a pen and paper, writing down whatever Vera is telling her.
“My name is Melanie Suarez.” I peek over the high desk, spelling it out for her. She says something to Vera, giving me a small grin. We leave after that, and again, Vera says nothing to me during the ride.
Maybe Russians don’t like conversation.
We drive for what feels like thirty minutes, before I break the silence.
“How far away is your home?”
“Oh, we are almost there, maybe eh, ten minutes?”
After ten or so minutes, we are still driving. My insides churn from hunger and fear.
This was not a promising idea, but what choice did I have? I mean, she did take me to the police station--
“This doesn’t look like a house,” I say hesitantly, clutching the door handle. Vera drives up a gravely, steep hill, passing by a sign staked into the ground.
“Oh! I wanted to introduce you to Fedor first. I forgot he is working late tonight and who knows how long you will be here—”
I smack my forehead lightly. “Of course, no that’s fine.” The storm in my abdomen dies down.
Okay, that makes sense.
“Vera!” A man in his late thirties, comes into the lobby of the clinic. His white coat flutters around his tall frame. He pushes up his wiry glasses, a smile spreading on his face. The siblings hug, and then Fedor turns to me, a hand outstretched. Vera tells him something in Russian and his expression changes to serious.
“It’s very nice to meet you, future doctor,” he greets. I shake his cold hand, sending shivers up my arm.
“Thanks, this is so cool, you don’t even understand.” I gaze around the orange colored clinic, pictures of recovered patients and their smiling faces decorating the walls.
“No, thank you,” he says, grasping my arm. He pulls me towards the double doors as Vera stands back watching with a wicked grin.
“No, stop! Help, help!” I yell to the receptionist. She laughs, walking the other way. A man in a nurse’s uniform meets us on the other side with a gurney, straps hanging limp on the sides. Bringing my foot back, I kick Fedor in the shin with all my might, the sound of my heart beat the only thing I can hear.
“Ahh!” My shoes squeak on the tile as I run. My palms touch the double doors, but I am taken into the air and over the back of the nurse. Flailing fists do no damage to his back.
“Please, don’t take me! Sto- ahh!” Something sharp pierces my neck, the coldness numbing my limbs. A lump is stuck in my throat, tears rolling down my cheeks, some into my frozen gaping mouth mixing with drool sliding down my chin.
I don’t want to die.
They strap me to the gurney, wheeling me down the narrow hallway. In the first several rooms, the set-up is like any other clinic or hospital. At the end of the hallway they pull open a hidden door, concealed by wallpaper. They take me through another hallway, this one less inviting with the stained gray walls. Yelps and wails of their other victims bounce off the walls the deeper we go.
Fedor and the nurse stop at an empty room. Fedor takes the clipboard from the table next to one of those dentist chairs. There are machines and wires attached to it.
They’re experimenting on people? I knew that woman was suspicious.
He wheels over an IV bag with bluish liquid inside. My straps come undone, the nurse grabbing my arms and Fedor tugging on my legs. They sit me on the chair strapping to it so I don’t fall off. They speak briefly, Fedor giving the nurse the clipboard. He leaves, winking at me.
How did this happen?
The nurse reads something off the clipboard, turning on the machines. He sets it down on the table nearest me and my eyes strain to read it. It’s a bunch of Russian words and numbers, but two things catch my eye.
Tate Morgan and Kyle Dean? Those are English names…
My eyes skim the rest of the paper. In the far-right corner in a small box with a label: A-44
“Today is your lucky day,” the nurse says. “I see you’ve read the clipboard. His black ponytail swishes above his neck. “Do you want me to explain?” He smiles, rows of crooked, white teeth.
“Well, it may seem like we are evil souls for experimenting on people, but really, we want to save the world from diseases.”
Why couldn’t they do this through legal means?
“You see, our dear doctor Fedor Orlov, was let go from his position as head doctor at a hospital three years ago. His ideas were… too innovative for their slow minds.” He clenches and unclenches his fingers. “Soon after, him and his sister Vera, founded this clinic.” He pulls my arm down, preparing it for the IV needle.
“Dr. Fedor is studying the possibility of a brain transplant.”
“If you can give someone a new heart, what about a new brain? Does it change their personality? With the brain function properly? Does the patient become like the former owner?”
“That is why you’re here. The ‘A’ stands for group A, the first group. The number after the eh, dash is the patient. You are our forty-fourth volunteer.” And with that, he sticks the needle into my arm, but I can’t feel anything. He wipes away tears from my cheeks, and closes my mouth. “This will help you sleep, dear.” Sizzling heat seeps into my arm, warming my body, slowly reversing the effects of the first drug, but also causing my drowsiness.
“You w-won’t get away… with this,” I mutter, eyelids closing.
“Oh, but we already have.” The room fades to black with the sound of beeping and his footsteps leaving me.
*Original photo by Mike Wilson from Unsplash.com