Midnight. They always came at midnight. The chimes from the old grandfather clock in the den jolted Daniel out of his restless dreams. It wasn't the chimes that woke him so much as the knowledge that They were coming. It was the same horrifying ritual, every single night.
The room was illuminated by an eerie pale green glow. Three figures in haz-mat suits stood around his bed. One of them held a large briefcase, another held a gun, and the third--the apparent leader, from the way he acted--was making entries into a large handheld computer. Daniel tried to escape, to run, to even move, but some unseen force held him in place, as immobile as the bed itself. The leader looked up from his computer and signaled to the one holding the briefcase, who set the case down and began to open it. Daniel strained to see its contents, but couldn't from his position. If only he could move...
The leader reached forward, grabbed the bedcovers and--
The shrill blast of Daniel's alarm clock filled the room. He'd had that dream again, the same one he'd been having every night for nearly a month. Except that it didn't feel like a normal dream. It felt more like a memory, but one that had been partially forgotten. Anyway, Dan had more important things to worry about, so he pushed whatever it was aside for the moment. Today was the last day of school, finally. All he had to do was survive his last few final exams, and he'd be home free. He wasn't about to let a creepy dream get him down.
Dr. DiCaoz glanced over his biology classroom. "Is anybody still working on the final?" he asked tiredly. He paused for a moment, then said, "If everybody is finished, you may talk quietly amongst yourselves for the remainder of the period." As the class erupted in chatter, he went back to nursing his hangover.
Daniel loved his biology class. It wasn't just that he was good at it, or that it was the last class of the day. By some bit of luck or fate, he happened to be in the same class as his four closest friends, Gassan, David, Pammy, and Jake. Gassan, David, and Pammy had become absurdly popular since coming to high school. Gassan was Lebanese and therefore "exotic," David was a star swimmer, and Pammy was a cheerleader. In retrospect, popularity was an inevitability. To the other popular kids, Jake an avid follower of the Furry subculture (he called it a craze, but nobody else did) and Daniel, the introspective writer, were social liabilities. Still, Gassan, David, and Pam never let their newfound "friends" keep them away from Jake and Dan. Privately, Daniel was grateful that he had managed to befriend the four people who appeared to be immune to high school drama.
"So, what'd you guys think?" Pammy whispered.
"I'm pretty sure Dr. Di is a nutcase," Gassan answered quickly. He was met with a chorus of approval from his companions.
"Anyway," Pam continued, "are we having our annual Thank-God-The-Schoolyear's-Over party tonight?"
"I can't go," Jake said, "I've got a convention."
"I can't go either," said David, "My dad's taking me camping. He's on a back-to-nature kick."
"I'm visiting my grandma," Gassan said. Pammy rolled her eyes.
"Alright," she sighed, "when do you guys get back?"
"Sunday, but it'll be late."
"So," Pammy continued, "is Monday night alright with everyone?"
The days passed quickly. By the time Monday arrived, he had gone an entire weekend without his mysterious dreams. He was mostly relieved, but part of him wished the visitors would come back so he could find out what they were up to.
The streets were charged with an eerie calm. A summer storm was coming. As Daniel reached Pam's door, he couldn't help but feel a strange foreboding. Something was decidedly wrong. He rang the bell.
"Come in," called Pammy. Dan opened the door and found friend sitting on the floor in a tidy circle. They were all staring at him, an unsettling hunger in their eyes. "We are playing Truth or Dare," Pammy intoned mechanically. "Please, join us. Truth or Dare?"
"Please choose Dare," Gassan said, in the same unearthly voice.
"The Truth is never any fun," agreed David, still in the same tone. Throughout the exchange, none of the four took their eyes off of Daniel.
"Is everything alright?" he asked. "You all seem...different."
Pammy answered in the same monotone as before: "We are collectively unnerved at a series of recurring dreams we have been having. Perhaps you too are experiencing these visions?"
"Yeah," Dan said, "but I'm not acting that weird about it."
"Perhaps," Pammy said, "All will be made more clear if you answer this simple question: Truth...or Dare?"
Written by Zodiac on 31 May 2008
"Dare," Dan said shakily.
"Very well," Pammy responded, "your dare is to go to Area 50. You are familiar with Area 50, I trust?"
Jake jumped in: "It is a military complex on the outskirts of our town. It has been abandoned for a long time, though, so it will pose no immediate threat to you."
"It is nothing to be afraid of," said Gassan, "consider it to be something of a rite of passage."
"If you are truly afraid," said Pammy, "then we will accompany you."
Daniel stared at his friends incredulously. They had never acted this strangely before, and they had certainly never gone for childish dares before.
David appeared to sense his hesitation, and added, "perhaps Area 50 is somehow related to...Them."
Dan knew what that was about, and David was right. There seemed to be some connection between his nightly visitors and the military base. He couldn't quite place it, but the link was there. "Actually," added David, "all this talk of Area 50 has sparked my curiosity." He didn't sound the least bit like his curiosity has been even remotely sparked."
"I, too, am interested," agreed Pammy disinterestedly.
"As are we," said Gassan and Jake in eerie unison.
"Perhaps," Pammy went on, "we should go to Area 50 ourselves, whether or not Daniel is interested." The four of them stood to leave. Pam stopped for a moment, and asked, "Are you joining us, Daniel?"
Written by Zodiac on 02 June 2008
Daniel looked at his friends nervously. "Al...alright," Daniel said reluctantly, "I will go..."
"Nice to have you coming David," Pammy exclaimed. All David could do is let out a sheepish smile. "We will meet at Area 50 at 9 P.M. tonight, everyone can run by their houses and grab anything we may need. Flash lights, snacks, etc."
"I am just going to relax at my house until it is time" David said
"We'll I will see everyone then," Gassan said. Everyone soon dispersed and left to their respective houses.
Later at 9 Daniel met his friends at the base.
"Everybody ready to go in?" Pammy inquired.
"Yeah!" Gassan shouted.
"Let's do it!" As did Jake.
"Sure am" David said
"Unfortunately..." Daniel murmured.
David looked around and saw the front entrance directly ahead.
Far down to his left a hole in the fence could be seen.
And to his right a large tunnel could be seen. Though it was pitch black, so somebody better have a flash light.
Written by Shuusuke on 03 June 2008
Daniel headed toward the front gates of the sprawling complex. Curiously enough, they had been left wide open, presumably because any military secrets worth plundering were long since gone. The other four followed Dan a half step behind, in a perfect crescent. Daniel pulled a flashlight from his backpack and scanned the base. Directly ahead of them was a large, hangerlike structure, with an enormous double door out front. Behind the main building were rows of barracks, and beyond them, guard towers. There was also, off in the shadows, the silhouette of a staircase leading underground.
"Are you guys sure about this?" Dan called over his shoulder. "Guys?" No answer. He spun around, only to find that his friends had vanished. The distant, echoing thunder served only to amplify the silence. A dull panic began to rise in Daniel's throat. His friends were gone. He was alone in a creepy military base, and his friends were gone. Maybe they had chickened out and gone home...but he didn't hear them leave. Maybe he had gotten turned around in the darkness, and they were ahead of him somewhere, already within the vast base.
"Guys?" he called again, this time louder. For a moment, there was no answer, but then a noise came from the hulking arch of the main building. The doors shrieked open, and there were his friends again, standing against the building's illuminated interior.
"Took you long enough," called Pammy. "We've been waiting for half an hour."
Dan rushed to the open doorway. In his relief, he wanted to throw his arms around his companions, but Pammy's irritation made him change his mind. "What do you mean," he said, "you guys were right behind me."
Pammy's face quickly changed from irritation to confusion. "No," she answered, "we weren't. You called me and told me to have everyone meet here at 8:30."
Gassan cut in, "We were waiting outside, but we went in here when we heard the thunder. We called you, like, 8 times."
Daniel checked his phone. It was on, had plenty of battery life, and the display showed no missed calls.
"Hey," he said, "when I called you, was I talking funny? Like...like a robot or something?"
"Oh, that's smooth," David jeered, "Blame your jerkiness on your secret robot clone."
"No," Pam interrupted, "You did sound funny."
"Because I thought I was just with you guys," Dan said, "and you were all talking weird. Pammy, were you at your house at all today?"
"Not since about noon. I've been shopping, why?"
"Because, I was at your house. And I thought you guys were all there too, but if--"
"None of us were at Pammy's," Jake said, "as soon as you--or your evil twin, or whatever--called her, she called us and said we were moving the party here. Which I was totally cool with, but now I think something weird is up."
"You don't suppose," Gassan began, but then stopped. "Nevermind, it's stupid."
"Well," said Pam, in an obvious attempt to salvage a ruined party, "as long as we're here, why don't we poke around a bit? C'mon inside, I'll show you what we found so far."
Daniel stepped into the building, and was momentarily dazzled by the lights inside. "Whoa," he muttered, "How'd you get the power back on?"
"We flipped the light switch," Pammy answered nonchalantly.
They were standing in a sort of vestibule, a cramped space that belied the enormity of the building itself. Ahead of them was a small, unmarked door. To their left was a rickety-looking spiral staircase. It came up from an unseen basement, and disappeared into the floor above. Directly below them was a red square, painted onto the room's concrete floor. Stencilled onto the square, in white block letters, was simply "PROJECT ZERO." The line moved straight ahead for a bit, then turned abruptly and vanished under another pair of double doors.
Written by Zodiac on 03 June 2008
"What's 'Project Zero?'" Daniel wondered aloud.
"There's only one way to find out," Pammy laughed as she pushed open the doors and walked into the room beyond. Gassan and David followed at her heels. Jake and Dan hesitated for a moment, then went in.
As soon as the five were all in the room, the door slammed shut behind them. It was a small room, featureless except for the vents along the floor, the doors they had come in by, and another door at the room's far end. Pammy immediately walked to the far door.
"It's locked," she grumbled, trying to force the door open.
Jake tried the other door. It didn't move. He tried again, harder, but the door stayed shut. "We're...trapped," he whimpered. There was a metallic click from somewhere within the ventilation system, followed by a low, steady hum. "I can't open this," he screamed, shoving all his weight against the doors.
At that moment, a bluish vapour began pouring out of the vents. It quickly filled the room, enveloping its five unfortunate occupants. Their panic at being locked in a gas-filled room quickly subsided as, one by one, they dropped to the floor, unconscious.
Written by Zodiac on 19 June 2008
Daniel slowly emerged from his mind's fog. He knew he was waking up, but strangely couldn't remember falling asleep. The last thing he remembered was being in Area 50 with his friends, and that seemed like an odd place to have dozed off.
The first thing he was conscious of were voices, three of them, speaking in rapid whispers. He was lying flat on a reasonably soft surface, with straps across his wrists, ankles, chest, and hips, keeping him firmly in place. He realised, at that point, that he was naked. He tried to move to cover himself, but was trapped by the straps.
His eyes slowly opened, and he could see an eerie pale green glow, the same one that he had seen in the dreams he'd been having. There were three figures in the room, wearing lab coats. He assumed they were also the same from the dreams, but now that the haz-mat suits were gone, he could see their features far better.
The one holding the briefcase was a young-looking man. His eyes darted around the room nervously, and he clutched the briefcase tightly, even though his companions barely even seemed to notice it. The one holding the gun was a prim and almost dainty woman. The apparent leader was a shortish, balding middle-aged man. "Welcome," the leader said smoothly, "to Project Zero."
Daniel struggled against the restraints, in vain. "You can't do this to me," he mumbled, "I demand...I demand," but in his drugged stupor he forgot what it was he was demanding.
The leader pushed a few buttons on his computer, which apparently was also a remote, because the surface Daniel was lying on folded upward to become a slightly reclining chair. Apparently, he noticed, he was bound to a complicated sort of dentist's chair, not that such information would really be useful to him.
"You'll demand nothing," the leader cut him off, pressing another button on the remote. At this point, a large flatscreen monitor directly across from Daniel blinked to life. The monitor displayed another room, presumably elsewhere in Area 50. The room was dominated by five floor-to-ceiling clear tubes, surrounded by complex machinery. Daniel screwed up his eyes; surely, he was mistaken...but he wasn't.
He would have recognised them anywhere. In the tubes were the four friends he had gone to Area 50 with and, second from the right, him. They were suspended in a reddish liquid, tubes connecting them to the machinery outside. But something was wrong...these versions of himself and his friends looked too young, like they had looked in middle school.
"Clones," the leader explained, "of you and your companions. They're a bit young now, but they'll grow...quickly." And before his eyes, the preteen clones grew and changed until they were perfect matches of Daniel and his friends. The leader turned off the screen, and went on: "We'll be using these clones to fake the deaths of you and the four others. As soon as their bodies are found in the morning, everybody will stop looking for you. That makes us entirely free to experiment on you all to our hearts' content."
"Why don't you just experiment on the clones?" Daniel asked groggily.
"Ah," smiled the leader, "You're quite clever. But you see, we only play God here at Project Zero, we do have some limitations. We can create clones, which are perfect replicas of you and your friends, physically, and we can make androids that are, while awkward, sufficiently convincing to lure you here. But what we cannot recreate, and what we most want to experiment on, is YOU."
"Me?" Dan faltered, "Why me?"
"Hmm," the leader said mockingly, "I think that's enough questions from you for a little while. Let me officially welcome you to Project Zero."
Written by Zodiac on 19 July 2008
The leader motioned to the man with the briefcase, and set Daniel's chair to a fully reclining position. Trembling, the man set the case down and opened it slowly. The inside was filled mostly with padding, save for a small silver object, roughly the size of a cherry. It looked like a squished spheroid, and appeared to be made of tightly wound wiring. The leader picked it up from the briefcase and set it on Daniel's chest, where it sat motionless as the man closed the briefcase.
The leader pressed more buttons on his remote, and the object sprang to life. The wiring shifted for a moment, then six insect-like legs burst from the machine.
"This," the leader explained, "is the Override Device."
At that moment, a shrill synthesized voice came from the device: "Initiating scan, please stand clear." The device began to slowly flash red.
The leader went on, "As a precaution, the device is installed in all of our subjects."
"Installed?" Daniel screamed, "What does that mean?"
"Oh," the leader smiled, "you'll see."
The device's flashes became faster and faster, until it sprang up and back, hovering over Daniel. It paused for a moment, then emitted one last pulse of light, this one far brighter than the others had been. Then, seemingly finished, the device landed nimbly on Daniel's abdomen.
The monitor reactivated, this time with no input from the leader. In his position, Daniel could barely see it, but he could tell it was a computer-generated image--remarkably detailed--of him.
"Scan...complete," the device said. Dan thought he detected a note of pride in the voice, though he might have been imagining it. "Target," the thing continued, "acquired." The image on the screen changed at that point, to a cross-section of Dan's head.
The device crawled quickly up Dan's body. When it reached his neck, it ran around to the back and finally came to rest on the back of his head. The thing paused for a moment, then Dan felt six distinct jabs as the device's legs dug through his hair, into his skin.
Then the real pain began. A hair-thin spine came out of the center of the device, and forced its way into the soft flesh at the back of Dan's head. He screamed, and instinctively tried to pry the thing off, but the straps held him fast. As the spine ran deeper, hot jolts of pain ran down his spine. A convulsion ran through him as his entire body broke out into a sweat and tears filled his eyes. The spine ran deeper as his screams intensified. His heart raced. He tried to beg his captors to call off the thing and end the torture, but the words caught in his throat and came out as garbled nonsense. A final convulsion racked his frame, and then he was still. Deathly still.
The pain, hellishly intense only a moment ago, was gone. His heart rate had returned to normal, and his breathing was slow and rhythmic. The rest of his body was completely still. Even his eyes didn't move, staring glazed and unfocused into the ceiling.
The leader looked Daniel over. "Daniel?" he said calmly, "can you hear me?" Daniel could hear him. He could hear him clearly. He tried to open his mouth to speak, but his muscles wouldn't obey him. "Can you feel this," the leader went on, stroking Daniel's shoulder. Daniel could feel it. He could feel ever disgusting moment of the man's touch, but he couldn't do anything to react. He couldn't even panic--his entire body was trapped in an artificial calm.
At once, Daniel gained a sense of his intense vulnerability. He was lying there, completely immobile, naked, in a room full of strangers. He was entirely at their mercy, and he guessed that they wouldn't be showing him any.
The leader took on a mocking tone: "If you don't want us to perform unspeakable experiments on you, please say so." The leader waited for a moment, listening to Dan's silence. He tapped the remote, and the straps binding Dan disappeared into the chair. "You can leave," the leader smirked. "Look, I'll even open the door," There was a low creak, as the leader opened a door to the side of the monitor, revealing darkness beyond. "Please," he went on, with mock urgency, "give us some sign that you're alive, anything!" Then the leader leaned down, close to Daniel's unresponsive face. "That's alright," he said, "I know you are. I know how the Override Device works. You're still fully conscious. You can see, and hear, and feel everything that's been going on. You can still think perfectly clearly, and have full comprehension of your...situation." At this, the leader straightened up and began pacing up and down the length of the chair. "The casual observer," he said, with special emphasis toward the man in the briefcase and the woman with the gun, "might assume you to be unconscious. That, however, is merely because you don't control your own body any more." He tapped his computer again, and Dan's left arm shot straight up, then bent at the elbow and waved cartoonishly, all completely involuntarily. "I do."
Daniel was horrified. Not only could the scientists do anything to him, they could have him do anything they wanted. And, since they had faked his death, there was no hope of rescue. The leader spoke again: "I could, if I wanted, make you spend the rest of your life as our little puppet. But I know you don't want that. In a moment, I'm going to deactivate the override. If you cooperate with us throughout the experimentation, we'll leave it off. You'll still be our test subject, but you'd have your free will, and good subjects generally get some say in their own experiments. Perhaps you'll even be...happy. On the other hand, if you try to fight us, or make any attempt to escape, I will turn this right back on, and never turn it off."
The leader pressed the remote. Daniel screamed and sat bolt upright in the chair. He had never known how great it felt just to be alive! He flexed his fingers tentatively. Yes, he decided, he really was controlling them. He looked around the room. The door was still open, and nobody was blocking it. Maybe he could make a break for it! On the other hand, he had already been under the scientists' control, and he didn't want to go back to that. Still, freedom was sitting just across the room. Maybe it was worth the risk...
Written by Zodiac on 25 July 2008
As tempting as escape was, Daniel knew it was impossible. Instead, he sat calmly at the edge of the chair. "Alright," he said, "I'll cooperate."
"Excellent," the leader said, leading Dan to the open door. "By the way" the leader went on, "only an idiot would believe that the door I opened was an exit door." As Dan crossed the threshold, he saw only a small room with what appeared to be a cage made of glass and metal standing in the centre of it. "This," the leader explained, "Is a teleportation chamber. It will send you to our central facility. We don't do all of our experiments here at Area 50, after all."
The cage door slid open, and Dan walked in. A computerised voice said, "Teleport coordinates entered: Project Zero central facility, Wing A." There was a pause, accompanied by the hum of the machine turning on. A bright light filled the cage. "To cancel these coordinates," the voice said, "press the emergency stop button." The button was a big, flashing red button set into the door frame, only inches from Daniel's hand. It was tantalisingly close, but he guessed that pressing the button would constitute a failure to cooperate, and get the Override Device turned back on. "Five seconds until teleport," the voice said, "Four...three...two...one,"
"Have a nice life," called the leader from outside the cage.
Written by Zodiac on 29 July 2008
Welcome to Project Zero Central Facility, Wing A
Daniel waited tensely for the bright light to go out, not daring to push the abort button. There was no way in Hell he'd get the Override turned back on.
Suddenly the room that the three 'scientists' were in changed, and instead of the dentist's chair and the monitor, it appeared to be the average doctor's office. On the walls, interestingly enough, were posters of animals.
Daniel stepped in and took a seat, trembling in fear and stress. "Why couldn't I have just had plans for Monday night?" he sobbed. He just wanted to go home and see his loving parents again. He began pinching himself on the arm several times, thinking that this may be just another dream. Of course it didn't work, and he ends up with angry red marks on his arm.
"So, you must be Daniel." Says a voice from in the room. He quickly looked up to see another scientist about in his early thirties, wearing a doctor's costume. Daniel deemed it a costume, because these people were way too evil to be real doctors.
"What do you want with me?" Daniel says, on the verge of tears.
"Oh, nothing. I'm just here to give you a check-up and see if you're healthy. You know, like a doctor's appointment. I'm Dr. Smith. Pleased to meet you." He puts on a pair of latex gloves. "So, how have things been going in school?" He asks.
"I... what does it matter to you?"
"Just trying to make small talk. It's what we doctors do. Say 'Aaah'." He says, holding up a popsicle stick and a small flashlight.
Daniel opens his mouth but says nothing, not having the heart to fight back. The fake doctor holds down Daniel's tongue and inspects his tongue, uvula, and tonsils.
"Umm... c-can I please have some clothes?" Daniel asks, suddenly feeling self conscious.
"Clothes? Oh... of course. But in a few hours you won't need them." He opens a drawer and tosses Daniel a patient's smock.
"Great... thanks..." Daniel says sarcastically and puts it on, wishing for a decent pair of pants.
"It's no problem." The 'doctor' beams. The minutes pass as the doctor performs average doctor's office check-up things on Daniel, checking his breathing, reflexes, and even some unorthodox things like checking for nits and fleas.
"You're in good condition. That's quite good. You qualify for the more advanced tests. Congratulations!" He claps his hands in a one man applause.
"Bite me..." Daniel replies.
"What was that?"
"Very good. You don't want me to... 'Override' that bad personality of yours, do you?" He winks.
Daniel whimpers. "N-no sir... I'll behave..." A single tear hits his lap, being absorbed into the smock. Suddenly, a whole week in detention seemed a lot better than this.
The room is filled with bright light, and Daniel is forced to close his eyes. Not only because the light's intensity, but also for decency reasons. Pammy had just been teleported in, and she was just as naked as Daniel had been.
"It's time for you to leave, Daniel." Dr. Smith grabs him by the shoulder and steers him towards another door, pushing him out. "Wait here, please, until all your friends have arrived. He closes the door behind Daniel after going back in the room with Pammy.
The next room was an average waiting room lobby. There were security cameras in each corner of the room. The receptionist's desk was empty behind the glass people-wise.
Daniel realised he was hungry... oddly, he could smell food. He looked towards the smell and saw what appeared to be a hot-meal vending machine. He approached it, considering breaking it open since, even if he DID have any money, the scientists wouldn't care the tiniest bit about taking it from him. Fortunately, there was a small envelope on the table next to the machine, open with money sticking out.
There were five of them, actually. Each labelled with his and his friend's names and the message "For food" written on them.
Daniel takes his and inserts a few quarters into the machine. It opens up for him and he takes a miniature single-serving pizza. The door behind him opens and Pammy comes out, tears streaming down her face, wearing a smock like Daniel's.
Daniel abandons his pizza and runs to Pammy, thankful for her being alive, and pissed at the scientists for kidnapping them all.
"Are you okay!?"
"Th-they... put... something in my body... I couldn't... move... they teased me...!" She says breaking down. Daniel does his best to comfort her, knowing another of his friends was in the checkup room at the moment going through the same thing that he did.
"I know... it's okay, Pammy..." He hugs her and rocks back and forth, crying with her...
Eventually they get themselves under control, and Gassam and Jake appear from the door, both wearing smocks. They greet each other solemnly and sit together, huddling in a corner.
After they had found the money and eaten, Dr. Smith comes into the room. "So I see you're having a pleasant reunion. Very good. Jake, you may be the most agreeable to what we will do. I hear you like... what was it?" He looks at a clipboard.
"Ah yes... 'Furries'?"
To the other four's horror, Jake perks up.
"Hehe, that's very good. You're first."
Written by Kibaoftheleaves on 17 August 2008
Wait A Minute!