Read Tabitha Online

Authors: Andrew Hall

Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Superheroes, #Science Fiction, #Alien Invasion, #Genetic Engineering, #Post-Apocalyptic, #Superhero

Tabitha (44 page)

BOOK: Tabitha
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The doctor was
taking a scalpel to the strip of grey flesh, cutting it into thinner strands.
Silently Tabitha swung her legs over the edge of the table, disconnected her
tangle of leads and tubes, and set her cold feet down unsteadily on the tiled
floor. The doctor was decanting a flask of acid into a glass beaker, to see how
a strand of her grey flesh would react. Tabitha loomed at his shoulder, unseen.
Unheard. She could reach over right now and crush his hand around the beaker,
she told herself. Acid and shards of glass seemed like a good way to start with
him. But wait. He’d scream, and she’d be caught. She waited for him to put the
flask down, and then wrapped her arm tight around his neck from behind. She
felt her thin bicep press hard into his throat. She squeezed with every ounce
of her hate, glaring at the back of his balding head as he collapsed back on
the floor. She tried to lift him, and had to stifle a scream at the pain. Her
left hand wasn’t going to be good for anything just now, especially not lifting
bodies. The answer jumped out at her like instinct. Putting her hands on the
bipping
monitor, Tabitha felt the voltage inside. She felt it
rise up from the wires at her touch, drawn to her body. The current was coming
from a big battery over in the corner, like a car battery. Tabitha reached in
for the current, and the current reached out to her. The entire charge in the
battery surged up the cables and leapt into her, curling around her organs and
stroking her skin. It tingled in her like wine and good sex. She looked down at
her mangled hand, and saw the flesh and metal skin knitting together. Healing.
She flexed her fingers like new.

Tabitha dragged
the doctor towards the operating table and lifted him up onto it. She snapped
the cuffs shut on his arms and legs, and around his big head. She filled his
gaping mouth with gauze and cotton wool, and tied it up with bandages to stifle
his screams. When he blinked at the surgical lights above and came around, she
was staring at him. He had a look of pure terror, trying to shake his head and
move his limbs. Struggling frantically against the restraints. She just stared
into his eyes.

‘Hi,’ she said
quietly, savouring his panic. All her thoughts had been coming back to her. All
those dosed-up hazy memories that had been swimming around vaguely in her head.
They were clear again; falling into place. Tabitha remembered. The doctor
stared in terror. Tabitha’s sympathy was dead. It was that way he’d looked at
her, when he poked that first needle into her arm. How many times had he cut
her open and dived straight in, despite her endless kicks and screams? Not once
had he looked at her and seen a human being. All he’d seen were possibilities.
Weapons. Living armour. Strange organs and superhuman healing. To him she was
only Test Subject.

‘Do you remember
what I said when we first met?’ she asked him, setting out the instruments on
the trolley beside her. ‘I said I’d get free and then I’d strip the skin off
you. Well, here we are.’ He writhed and struggled afresh, with tiny muffled
screams coming from the clump of gauze in his mouth. She watched his staring
eyes, huge behind his thick glasses. She showed off her healed hand to him. She
wanted him to see how little damage he could do. How little pain she could
feel. She had to prove that to him. Before she showed him how much pain he
could feel in return.

‘You’ve got no
idea what I am,’ she told him, picking up the cruellest scalpel from the
trolley. ‘Or what you’ve done to me.’ She tapped her temple. ‘I used to be a
nice person, once. Shy. But that was before everything happened.’ The doctor
could only stare, trembling in fear on the table. ‘You’ve changed me,’ she told
him. ‘You all have.’ She rested the scalpel blade on his hand, and watched his
eyes. A bead of sweat rolled down his forehead. She heard his breaths, quick
and shallow and nasal. She pressed the scalpel into his palm, popping the skin.
Dragging, slicing. Peeling. He was screaming. Ruby-red flesh and peering white
bone.

 

‘Hearts are
quite weak, really,’ Tabitha observed, holding her hand to his chest. ‘Human
hearts, I mean.’ His heart beat fast; faster than she’d ever thought possible.
She could feel the muted electric pulse through his breastbone that jerked that
rubbery muscle, flushing red blood to his raw dripping hand. Tabitha felt
upset, frustrated.

‘I really wanted
to skin you alive,’ she told him, disappointed in herself. She’d gone back on
her word to him. All she could manage was his hand, shining wet and red under
the surgical lights. ‘Maybe it takes a certain kind of person to torture
another human being,’ she said softly, pricking his side with the scalpel. He
yelped. ‘I wish I had your stomach for torture, I really do,’ she whispered in
his ear. His eyes widened as she placed a cold grey hand around his throat. ‘I
wish I could strip all the skin off you and wait hours for you to die. But I
couldn’t do that to a person. I’ll never be like you. And I’m glad.’ She
tightened her grip around his neck, tighter, strangling the life out of him. He
threw his body against the restraints, rattling the metal table in his panic.
He stared into her yellow eyes, pleading silently for life. Tabitha hesitated.
She finally saw something human in him, and she hated him for it. Why couldn’t
she do it? How could so much hate crumble away so easily? She remembered all
her pain, and gripped his throat hard again.

‘I can’t,’ she
mumbled, loosening her grip altogether. He stared at the ceiling, gasping for
breath through his nose. ‘There’s been too much death,’ she said, backing away
to the wall. She’d already taken more revenge than she could stomach. Seeing
the mangled ruin of his hand proved that to her. She’d done that to him. Only a
minute ago, she’d felt like she could have done so much more. But she couldn’t
take his life away. That would have made her the monster they expected; a feral
creature who deserved her restraints. Killing him would be their victory, not
hers. There was a knock at the door.

‘How’s it going
in there doctor?’ came the husky woman’s voice. The door edged open slowly.
‘Any developments?’ she said, stepping inside. It took her a moment to take in
the scene and realise that doctor and patient were in the wrong places.

‘Hi!’ said
Tabitha brightly, and laid her out on the floor with a punch on the jaw.
‘Where’s the way out?’ Tabitha demanded, gripping the dazed woman by the
throat.

‘I… I,’ the
woman stammered, terrified. Tabitha pressed the bloody scalpel against her
neck.

‘Tell me or I’ll
cut you open,’ Tabitha growled, staring into the woman’s wide eyes. ‘Tell me
now.’

 

Tabitha peered up and down the white
corridor and edged her way out from the operating room. Her bare feet slapped
against the cold tile floor on her way down the silent old hallway. Then it
struck her. The lights were on. Electricity. It couldn’t have been coming from
a battery; maybe there was a generator here. She reached her grey fingers out
to a socket in the wall, and voltage leapt out into her hand. It felt like hot
water, soothing and intense. It wanted to be inside her. She knelt down and
pressed her lips against the wall socket, and drank voltage. The lights
flickered down the corridor as she drained the wires. There was a distant shout
of panic at the sudden gloom, somewhere off to her left. She put her mouth to
the socket again, and drank deep. The blue light oozed into her waiting mouth.
The voltage coursed through her like an orgasm. She felt wired, intense. Superhuman.
When she breathed the voltage back into the socket, all the lights blew in a
sudden sparking racket. She’d never heard a more beautiful sound.

‘What’s happened
to the power?’ a soldier shouted down the dark corridor.

‘Get downstairs
and try the fuse box!’ shouted another. ‘We need to get the floodlights back
on, right now! We’re fucked if they come for us now!’ Tabitha grinned at their
frightened voices, revelling in their panic. She ran off down the corridor.

‘We’ll be fine,’
said another voice. ‘We’ve got night vision cameras outside.’

‘Yeah, but they
won’t work if there’s no bloody power on, will they?’ the first man screamed
back. Tabitha ran her hand along wall as she went, feeling her way in the pitch
black. Suddenly there was no wall against her fingers. She turned the corner,
and heard more voices behind her in the dark.

‘Get outside!’ a
man yelled to another. Running footsteps echoed up the corridor. Tabitha ran on
and turned a corner at the end, and ran into someone in the darkness.

‘Who’s that?’
said a woman in the dark. Tabitha felt for the woman’s shoulder, grabbed it,
and slammed her fist into her face to drop her to the floor. Thoughts, plans,
mercy, she didn’t have time for them. This was escape. This was survival.
Suddenly red lights flickered on down the hallway; a backup generator.

‘Thank god for
that!’ came a distant voice.

‘They’re
coming!’ another voice screamed. ‘They’re on the moors!’ Tabitha ran from the
sound of sprinting boots, deeper into the maze. Breathless, she reached a
barred window in the corridor. She saw spotlights moving outside in the inky
night, and soldiers shouting and massing on the yard. A military base, bigger
than she expected. An old siren had started up. As the spotlights swept over
the moors beyond the big chain-link fence, Tabitha glimpsed things reflecting
the light. Swarming shapes in the dark. She stood away from the window, still
gasping for breath. The distant voices behind her forced her to run. She had to
get out. She had to survive this.

 

Even with the dim red backup lights on
it was impossible to find a way out. The base was a labyrinth, a sprawl of
concrete corridors. Every corner brought more corridors, more turns. Barefoot
and hospital-gowned, Tabitha sprinted down an empty hallway. She tried the door
at the end, rattling the handle open; it was a store room. The siren wailed
outside in the yard, and she heard gunshots and screams. Down the next corridor
on her right a fire exit glowed to her in green and white, her salvation. Far
up the corridor behind her, a soldier shouted at her and shot. Tabitha ducked
away from the shots and ran. The gunfire was deafening on the concrete walls.
She didn’t stop to look back; just ran for the exit. She’d never run so fast in
her life. Bullets punctured the tiled floor around her feet, shattering with
ceramic snaps like broken cups. She zig-
zagged
from
one wall to the other as she ran. He was running close behind her. Closer. She
banged against the fire exit but there wasn’t a metal bar to push. It was a
lever at the top. Breathless, she tried to grab at it. Desperate to escape
outside.

‘Get on the
ground! Now!’ the man yelled. He was coming closer with his pistol aimed.
Tabitha turned to face him. Stared at him. She saw fear there in his eyes; it
was unmistakeable. He had the perfect shot, and he wasn’t firing.

‘You need to
reload,’ Tabitha told him.

‘Get on the
ground or I’ll kill you!’ he roared.

‘If you had any
bullets left you would’ve shot me,’ she replied. The soldier hesitated and
quickly took the empty clip from his gun, reaching desperately for another clip
on his belt. Tabitha ran for him and burst his nose with a punch. He dropped
like a sack. She took the gun from his hand and the spare clips on his belt,
and reloaded it. She was all but deaf from the gunshots. She thought about
taking his clothes, but there wasn’t time for that. She heard more soldiers
running down the corridor in the gloomy red distance, shouting and searching
for her. Tabitha reached up for the lever at the top of the fire exit, and
punched it open with a clang.

It was dark
outside, and the air was warmer. The base was full of shouting. Soldiers were
rushing out into the yard; machine guns rattled glowing shots into the moors.
Tabitha kept to the wall and edged around the corner, looking for the quietest
way out of the base. Her eyes were drawn to a pale shape blowing beside her,
caught under the lid of a metal dumpster. It was her mum’s ribbon, still tied
to her ruined belt. Inside the dumpster her clothes and boots had been burned
to ash. In the scorched ruins of her bra she saw a pale corner; her mum’s note.
The paper crumbled away to nothing when she tugged it free, breaking her heart.
She pulled her charred belt from the dumpster and fastened it around her waist,
tucking her pistol into it. Checking around her, she crept around the corner to
find a parked jeep on the yard. The door wasn’t locked. She ducked down inside
and looked around for a way out of the base. A searchlight flicked past and
blinded her for a second, and she ducked back down with a gasp. Had they seen
her? She waited for shouting, frozen in the jeep’s
footwell
.
They must have missed her. She crept up from the
footwell
and looked around through the windows. The whole base was ring fenced, and the
only way out was manned and barricaded. Would the jeep smash the barricade, or
the barricade smash the jeep? Whatever she was going to do, she’d have to do it
fast. She couldn’t stay parked here so close to the fire exit. Even now
soldiers were bursting out of the door and running round the corner. She
fumbled for the jeep’s ignition in the dark, but felt only flip switches
instead. She tried the switch where the keyhole should have been, but nothing
happened. The jeep probably wasn’t running any more, just like everything else.
Soldiers were fanning out from the fire exit, searching and shouting in the
dark beneath the racket of machine guns and the air-raid siren. Tabitha
switched seats, opened the passenger door and climbed out as quickly and
quietly as she could. She started running for the fence, hoping to climb over
before the searchlights found her. The shock of the solid tarmac jolted hard
through her bare feet. Her every footfall seemed to land on a sharp stone,
stumbling her as she ran. Before she made it to the fence though, the
searchlight on the tower caught her. A machine gun rattled rounds into the
tarmac around her. Blinded by the light she ran for the distant barricade, but
the soldiers there were already yelling and firing at her.

BOOK: Tabitha
10.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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