Well, here we go. The point of no return. Hope you enjoy the beginning of the end.
Devin Caldwin checked his watch. He was sitting in a small, white room. There were no windows, he had made sure of that.
He began tapping his middle finger rapidly on the table in front of him. The table was nailed to the floor, he noticed with distaste. Not distaste at that, but at the implications of it.
Finger still tapping, his right foot began tapping at a similar rate upon the floor. Up and down, the tip of the shoe never quite hitting the floor before it began its upward travel once more.
He had to make sure the timing was right, just right. He was going out on an extreme limb, here, and he couldn’t risk going much further. The consequences… He didn’t even know what the consequences were, fully, but that just made them all the more terrifying. Nobody knew the full extent of the consequences except those who had deserved them. He didn’t want to be one of those people.
He checked his watch again, and again, and again. It seemed the second hand was going slower and slower. Only a minute elapsed between each check, but it felt like an hour. There was still ten minutes before he was supposed to meet with someone, but it felt to him that the time was past already.
He couldn’t wait much longer. No, he had to get out of there. The door? Conspicuous, but the only way.
No, he couldn’t leave. One, it would ruin this chance, as risky as it was, and two, it would draw suspicion. Wouldn’t it? He didn’t know. Every move seemed like a suspicious move in his position.
The tapping of hand and foot stopped. He turned his head, slightly. Footsteps in the hall? Was the person finally here? Were those footsteps at all?
The footsteps faded, either further into the hall or further into his mind, leaving silence behind them. Devin bowed his head forward, slowly lowering it further and further until his forehead was resting on the table. He could feel the sweat on his forehead, and sat up, pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket, and wiped his forehead. He chuckled to himself, a shaky, nervous chuckle, and put the handkerchief back in his pocket. Damn, why did they have to be so late?
He checked his watch again. One minute had elapsed.
He felt like screaming. Maybe he did, he wasn’t entirely sure. He got up from the chair fast enough that it went skidding behind him and toppled over.
He walked around the room. Around the table, a few times, then over to the window. He looked out at the sunny day beyond. He saw cars driving past, and people walking by. His eyes reached the windowframe, an odd unpainted wood frame with scalloped edges and…
Fuck. A window. He had made sure there wasn’t a window, right? He didn’t know what to do. He was sure there hadn’t been a window. Sure. Bracing himself, he pounded at the glass of the window. It cracked, cracked more, and shattered in a sickening scream. There was wall beneath.
There was wall everywhere. Where had the window been? Was there a window? He took a breath.
Underneath his fist, there was a dent in the sheetrock.
He walked back over to his overturned chair, stood it up in front of the table, and sat back down.
He bent his head to check his watch, but before he even had a chance to read it, there was a knock at the door.
He told them to come in with surprising calm, and the door opened. A guard stood behind a scrawny young male, probably in his mid-twenties, a clump of disorganized red hair growing out of the top of his head like some ornamental grass.
The guard nodded at Devin, and closed the door behind him after the young man walked through.
Clyde had a bad feeling. He got these “bad feelings”, sometimes, and they were often warranted, if only in hindsight. He had tried to follow the urges he got from these “bad feelings”, and usually nothing bad happened when he did so, though that didn’t necessarily mean something would have happened if he hadn’t followed through. Why did proving a negative have to be so goddamn difficult?
He was sitting in his personal laboratory, his white rat walking around on the table in front of him. He had named it Andrew after someone he had once known, a faint living memory of that person tied up inside this rat that walked around to no end on the desk. Why didn’t the thing just stop walking already? It wasn’t going to jump off the edge or something, was it?
Jump off the edge.
Another memory flashed through Clyde’s mind, this one much less pleasant, though blurred and softened by age.
The bad feeling was still prevalent, but he didn’t know why or what it was he had a bad feeling about. There was nothing he knew of happening right now that he could have a bad feeling about, or was that just it? Nothing he knew of happening. People tried to keep things hidden around here, but he always found out what they were. At least, he thought he did, didn’t he?
Of course he did. No major incident had happened before he discovered it in some way.
That being said, he didn’t like this bad feeling. Along with it came a sense, now, that there was something familiar about it. Someone he knew, or someone he could know very well. Some trait he was all too familiar with, possibly.
He didn’t like it. Or at least he wouldn’t like it until he figured out what caused it. After that point, as always, he could use it to his advantage. He always found a way to use things – even things that “went wrong” – to his advantage.
How to figure it out, though. He decided he’d go for a stroll. Sometimes that helped by merely easing the mental process, sometimes he actually stumbled upon the cause of it, whether by chance (if that existed and a possibility at all), or by his subconscious, as it often did, working ahead of him and guiding him to what he sought.
He stood up from the desk. The rat stopped its previously-ceaseless scampering and looked at him.
Clyde picked up the rat, cupping his hand and resting the rat in it. When he had first chosen Andrew, he had writhed in his hand and tried to bite him. Now, after six months, he nestled into where Clyde held him, accustomed to the shape of his hand.
The thumb of the hand holding it stroking the rat, Clyde set out on a walk through Mind Pharmaceuticals. He would figure out what caused his bad feeling, and if necessary make changes to certain things to fit it in a way that would work well.
Yes, Clyde thought, this is a good bad feeling.
The guard opened the door and let Jem into the room. There was a man already in the windowless space, a very nervous man sitting in front of a table who looked up from his watch in shock when the door was opened.
Jem looked back at the guard, who gave him a serious look before shutting the door.
The man stood up, letting his chair skid back behind him. He extended his hand out to shake Jem’s – Jem could see it was slick with sweat -, but pulled it back when he realized Jem was in handcuffs.
He sat back down and gestured for Jem to take the opposing chair.
“I’m sure you’re wondering why you’re here, Jem Drake. To some degree, I am as well. That you are here, anyway, instead of someone else.”
He cleared his throat. “Sorry, I’m not expressing myself well. I’m Devin Caldwin. I’m a… a government worker, I guess. Though that has become a bit muddled in more current times, I must admit. That’s what I’m here to talk to you about, you see.”
Jem settled into his chair a little more, eased by the anxiety of the man before him. He knew he could use anxiety of any sort in other people, and that made him relax. He leaned forward, throwing both handcuffed hands onto the table and extending the right one slightly more.
“I’m Jem, but you already know that. Cut the shit already, Devin. Pull yourself together!”
Devin, somewhat unsure what to do, put his hand out and shook Jem’s. Jem shuddered internally at the dampness of Devin’s hand, wiping his hand on his pants once they had finished their handshake.
“What can I do for you, bud?” Jem said, smiling.
Devin took the smile as a sign of goodwill and spoke again. “Erm, well, yes, first I should give a bit of background. Technically, I work here, at the Keene State Correctional Facility. But that’s, uh, well, it makes up half of my paycheck, if you know what I mean?”
Jem cocked an eyebrow at him, “Moonlighting?”
Devin let out a nervous chuckle. “Well, no. No, not moonlighting. You know of the company nearby us here, I assume? Mind Pharmaceuticals?”
Jem nodded. He knew of it well, having sampled their wares many a time.
“Well, there are certain things that go on there that they need some… help in. And I’m one of the people who does that, or at least certain parts of it. They recruit people from Keene State Correctional Facility to test drugs. It’s easier and cheaper than other alternatives, and they find it works well I guess. But there are other things that go on there. Nothing illegal perhaps, or at least not so on the side of the company itself, but things they turn a blind eye towards. Whistleblowers are well compensated, but Mind Pharmaceuticals has its own way of dealing with, or preventing them. The consequences vary between the types of jobs here, but can range from implied death – that one, of course, is incredibly illegal and has never technically taken place, but I’m sure it has -, to addiction to substances that would be impossible to get if Mind Pharmaceuticals was closed or, in any case, you were fired, to any other number of lesser things. It’s all very complicated, and I know very little of it. Suffice to say, they have means of making people stay who don’t want to, and ways of keeping people quiet who would rather speak out.”
Jem was starting to get a bit interested. “Why are you telling this to me, though?” he asked.
“Well,” he said with a little laugh, his anxiety easing further, “I’m one of those people who would rather speak out. And they do have means of keeping me quiet, but we… Ah, I, have a possible means of getting around that. We’ll see. But we need to have someone from another point of view as well. And that’s where you come in. We need to get more documented evidence from the point of view as someone such as yourself to make our case more solid. So, that’s why you’re here.”
Jem leaned back against his chair. “Why should I?”
“Oh, I’m sure you can imagine. Decreased sentence, et cetera.”
“No. Why should I go to get myself tested on with who-knows-what just to help you all bring down a company that I, admittedly, enjoy in my own way?”
“Erm, well,” Devin began. “Exposing the secrets of Mind Pharmaceuticals would benefit, well, a lot of people. It would help save the people who have been locked into bondage with this company. If you helped us and we succeeded…”
Jem cut him off with a wave of his hand. “You’ve slipped up several times already here. You caught yourself the first time, too late, but then proceeded to mention it several more times. ‘We’. It started out as ‘I’, but then changed. Who is this other person, or people, and what roles do they play?”
Devin smirked at Jem, suddenly a bit more self-conscious. “Not going to tell you that. You might find out, eventually, if you join ‘us’, but you won’t find that out right now. So, what do you say? Still no? You can change your mind eventually, don’t worry. But starting now would be a great help? Yes, or no?”
“No, still no,” Jem said. He gave a coy look to Devin. “I didn’t get all the information I wanted or could’ve, but I think what I have will be enough.”
“What?” Devin asked.
“‘Oh, I’m sure you can imagine’. It will be easy enough to use the information you’ve given me, right? I feel that these actions you’ve taken would be enough to warrant that imaginary ‘death’ consequence, eh? I’m sure you wouldn’t want that?”
The blood drained out of Devin’s face.
“It would be easy enough to let some of this information slip, sometime, you know? But there will be an easy enough way to prevent that from happening. Sure, I might join your little group sometime, given that I get to choose some of the specific terms of our deal. But until then, I know how you can keep me happy and quiet.”
“How’s that,” Devin asked, his voice a hoarse whisper.
“Tripencorquine. You’re a detective, I’m sure you won’t have too much trouble getting it. My deal is this; get me a week’s worth, one-hundred milligrams, every week – I’m sure you’ll find a way, especially given the stakes we’re – you’re dealing with. Give me that, and I’ll make sure nothing slips out, you know?”
Devin nodded slowly.
Jem stood up from the table and extended his handcuffed hands towards Devin. “Do you think we have a deal?”
Devin stood up from the table and shook Jem’s hand. “Yes, Jem, I think we do.”
Jem smiled, turned, and walked towards the door cheerily. “That’s good. I’ll be expecting my first delivery tomorrow, Devin, don’t forget!”
And with that, he knocked on the door. The door was opened by the guard outside, who shot a look at Devin, trying to give an appearance of anything besides terror, then towards Jem who looked up at him expectantly. “We ready to go?” Jem asked.
The guard looked up at Devin again. “Everything go fine?” he asked Devin.
“Oh, yes, just fine,” he answered, his voice shaking slightly at the start.
The guard nodded at Devin, then led Jem out the door. Jem looked at Devin over his shoulder before the door closed behind them, a hard look on his face.
With Jem and the guard safely out of the room, Devin sighed, partially letting out a long-bated breath, partially out of disappointment.
“I guess we misjudged him,” he said to himself.