An Undisclosed Hypothesis
I didn’t even think about why he was letting the rest of us go. I grabbed Diane’s hand and ran, looking back to make sure everyone else was following us. I tried to steady my breathing and calm the evident panic I was under. My heart was pounding in my ears. I willed myself to continue on. For the kids.
We came upon a warehouse. I looked around tirelessly, trying to find the door. When I found it, I called to the others.
“Quick!” I yelled, “Let’s get inside.”
We all rushed inside, slamming and locking the door. I looked around. It was virtually empty, minus the random shelves assorted around. The only thing I could hear was from the echo of our shoes meeting the ground. We were alone.
“Mom?” Diane whispered, “What’s going on?”
“I have no idea sweetie,” I responded, trying to calm her.
“I think you know very well what’s going on,” Jim sneered accusingly, “This entire situation is insane. We should have died back there! Why did they let us go? He killed your mom in cold blood and then let us go? It’s like our lives are a game to them. Why was there a rock formation in the middle of the desert? Hell, why is there a warehouse in the middle of the desert? The soldiers knew your mom would go for the money, she’s always been that way. This is probably some reality show where rich people pay to watch people die or a-”
“Cult,” Alexander added, “I did tell you.”
Jim rolled his eyes and continued, “Exactly. Why did you choose this spa, Claire? What were your motives for coming here?”
I took two small steps backward. “Jim I had no idea this would happen. I brought the family with me because I thought it would be a nice vacation. Why are you accusing me of this? You think I would want to kill my family- the only people in the world who matter to me?”
“Lies,” he hissed, grabbing my onto my forearm and pushing me up against the wall, “I think you’re lying.”
“I FOUND FOOD,” Marie’s voice rings out.
Jim let me go. “This isn’t over,” he taunted, walking over to Marie.
We all walked over to where Marie was standing, a bright orange ornate plate containing seven brownies laid in her hands. I slowly started to walk over to her and took it.
“Marie,” I said sweetly, “You saw what happened with Grandma. You can’t risk eating this.”
She pouted, letting her top lip fall under her bottom. “But I’m so hungry. I need to eat something. Please.”
I sighed. “I’m sorry Marie, I just don’t think we should risk it.”
“Why don’t you let her eat it?” Jim jabbed, which caused me to turn my head towards him.
The next moment happened suddenly. With my eyes over to Jim, Marie quickly grabbed a brownie and stuffed it into her mouth. Time began to slow. I was frozen. The only thing I could hear was the crashing noise of the plate breaking to pieces against the ground.
“Mommy… my mouth feels weird,” she cried, dropping to the floor.
I rushed over to her, watching her begin to twitch and convulse. Tears escaped my eyes as Marie, my baby girl, gasped for breath until suddenly, she slumped over and stopped moving.
Cassius and Diane, rushed up to me, wrapping their arms around me. Alexander stood in shock, a look of disbelief evident on his face. Sobs escaped my lips, trembling as I cried. Everything around me blurred. I couldn’t stand.
“Get off of my wife,” Jim ordered. I looked up… he was talking to Cassius.
“What? I’m just trying to support Claire. She AND YOU, just lost your youngest daughter and you’re worried about me hugging her?”
“You heard me right. I think you’ve always had a thing for her, even if you will not admit it yourself. I’ve kept quiet about it because it was harmless, but you know what? It really bothers me now. So like I said… get. off. my. wife.”
Cassius stood, but Diane continued on holding onto me. A small lump was forming in my throat. I felt a sickening feeling run through my body.
“How I feel about Claire is none of your business.”
Diane’s mouth dropped, the color draining from her face. Alexander had his hands over his mouth, trying not to gag. I could hardly breathe. He’s my brother. Did he really feel that way about me? What I really that oblivious to the truth? My mind churned as the world crashed down around me on all sides.
Jim threw the first punch, swinging his fist into Cassius’ jaw. Cassius swore, holding his face for a second, but quickly responded back, punching him in the stomach and then in the jaw, the impact sending him staggering back. Jim’s fist crashed again into Cassius’ face knocking him down onto his back. Jim leaned over him, pinning his hands to the floor, but that gave Cassius the moment to shoot his leg into his groin and push him off. Blood leaked onto the floor. I think I was screaming, but I couldn’t tell. All I could hear was the sounds of the impacts as my husband and brother beat themselves senseless. Cassius lunged for Jim’s legs, sending them both to the ground, arms and legs entangled as they both fought for control. Jim won. I felt the bile rise up as I watched Jim’s fists slam into Cassius’ face again and again. My voice felt raw, one more punch and Cassius would be dead along with my daughter and parents.
Cassius began to fumble for something in his pocket. At first, I had no idea what it was, but then I saw. A gun, Cassius had a gun. He pointed it directly towards Jim’s heart and shot, the noise echoing through the warehouse.
“You didn’t deserve her,” Cassius croaked out as his pushed Jim’s lifeless body off of him. That was all of the strength he had; he couldn’t get up. In a second I was by Cassius’ side, cradling his face. I didn’t even know what to say.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I managed to get out.
“You’re my sister Claire… I couldn’t. It didn’t matter how much I wanted to. Jim always got what I wanted… at least I got the last laugh,” he coughed out.
“Where did you get the gun?”
“One of the soldiers,” he said with a smile, momentarily pausing, “No matter what Claire… know that I love you.” He tried to point towards the door. “Go, leave, I don’t want you to see me die.”
“Die?” I cried, voice cracking, “You’ll be okay… you’ll be completely fine.”
Cassius coughed. “It appears your husband beat the life out of me. Go.”
A single tear dropped out of his eyes and onto the floor. I gave one last look into his bright green eyes, and then I lifted my head up. Alexander was stone-faced, the expression never changing; Diane’s eyes were red from sobbing. I had to keep them safe.
“Let’s go. We have to leave Cassius.” I gave Cassius one last look and went out back into the sun.
The wind had picked up since we had been in the warehouse. I couldn’t see past my hands. We tried to run at first, but that proved to be futile. I lost track of how long we had been walking. My eyes were stinging, but I pushed on. I had to be there for Alexander and Diane; We were the only three left. I choked down the sobs that threatened to come out at the thought of that. In a matter of a couple hours, most of my family was dead. This is all my fault. I was the one who decided to take the family on this vacation. I was the one who tried to finally put myself first and instead, I basically killed most of my family. Was the spa really a cult? Dr. Bouchard said it was completely safe. She said it would be healing for me. She couldn’t have known. There was no way.
I felt a hand on my shoulder. Alexander.
He pointed towards a dark outline in the distance. “There has to be someone there who can help us. Let’s head there.”
I nodded but stayed suspicious. We continued to trudge on, feet seemingly sinking deeper into the sand. I was beginning to wonder if the outline in the distance was real. My pulse was beating in my ears and my chest was on fire, but I noticed that the outline was getting clearer to discern. I looked over to Alexander and Diane, barely seeing them through the sand, grabbed each of their hands, and began to pick up our pace. As we walked, the outline began to form into a glass-encased building. We all but ran to the front door and threw it open, the three of us quickly jumping inside. I collapsed, shutting my eyes as an explosion of pain shot through my body. It seemed as if I couldn’t move for hours, but eventually I was able to slowly lift myself up and looked at my surroundings.
I had to blink for a couple seconds in order to adjust to the light. The brightness of the ceiling lights in combination with the pristine white walls made everything hard to look at. It looked like an abandoned laboratory. The computer monitors were turned on and some of the files on the tables were open. There was even a steaming mug of coffee on the closest table. Alexander gave me a hopeful look and started to walk through the laboratory. Diane and I followed closely behind. We walked throughout the entire room, looking for ways to exit. There was nothing. All we had were four white walls and a bunch of files, which Alexander began to sift through. As he read, Diane and I sat down trying to recollect ourselves.
“Mom,” she whimpered, letting out a shaky breath, “What are we going to do?”
“I’m not sure Diane. Any ideas?”
“I’m not very good at ideas,” she sighed, “Alexander told me so. He’s the one who always has the plan.”
I grabbed her hand. “Diane…”
“It’s just hard not to listen… you know?”
I shook my head in agreement. “I do understand. Will you be okay for a couple of minutes? I’m going to check on Alexander.”
She gave my hand a squeeze and I stood up. As I got closer to Alexander, I began to notice how distressed he looked. His eyes were wild, speeding through each of the files and his ripped clothes only added to his obvious anxiety. I lightly placed my hand on his forearm and watched as he tensed up.
“Alex? What’s wrong?”
“I’ve figured it out.”
“Figured what out?”
“The spa. These deaths. How every situation seems planned out? I know why this is happening. I’ve figured it out.”
It only took a split second, but I saw the worry melt away as he lifted his head up to smile at me.
“I’ve figured it out! I know how to get us out of here… All of us…”
“Alex…” I paused, trying to figure out the best way to approach him, “What did you learn from those files.”
He laughed, a rich, happy laugh that filled the room. “This is in my head. It has to be. There is no way I would agree to go on a family vacation when I should have been at work. I had just gotten a promotion the day before. I would never miss the chance to push it in Leroy’s face…”
As he talked, his voice got louder, much more happy, bubbly. I watched with confusion as Alexander went through how he got his theory from the files. Diane backed herself into one of the corners of the room, holding her knees to her and covering her ears. I lost track of how long Alexander talked but he continued on and as he did, his smile got bigger.
“…There is only one way for me to get out of this hell. I have to do it. It’s the only way”
I quickly darted over to him, putting both of my hands on his shoulders.
“Alex… baby… whatever you are talking about, you don’t have to do it,” I begged.
He shrugged his shoulders, looking at me directly in the eyes, smiling at me with a glint in his.
“You don’t understand yet Mom, but you will. I’m going to stop this. I’m going to save everyone. I can do it! I’m the only one who can!”
Then he pushed me away, knocking me onto the floor. I quickly shot my head back up only to see him push a purple button on the side of the table, and watched as the floor disappeared from under him.
“ALEXANDER,” I choked out, reaching towards him.
It was too late. He had already fallen. I slowly crawled up to where there now was a gaping hole in the floor and looked below. There was Alexander, blood oozing from his head and bones at impossible angles, still with the same smile on his face. Suddenly, a panel from one of the walls slid open. I quickly grabbed Diane, who was still shaking, and lifted her to her feet.
“We have to go. Now.”
We held each other as we walked through the door, leading to a dark black hallway, the only light being a single bulb hanging down about every five feet or so. I turned to look back at the previous room, but the door slammed shut. Diane cried out. I tried to calm her as best I could, but she was still terrified. As we walked further down the hallway, the lights began to turn into candles, the black walls into red. I looked at Diane, giving her a kiss on the forehead. She exhaled, trying to let go of some of the tension a felt within her shoulders. Tears trickled down her cheeks. I was so wrapped up in caring for Diane, I didn’t even notice that we had reached another door, this one completely open, but with a figure in front of it. As we walked closer to it, his face became illuminated with candlelight.
I gasped. Even in the dark light, I could tell he was beautiful. His long golden blonde hair fell in slight waves against his shoulders, framing his completely symmetrical face. His bright blue eyes were striking against the darkness of the hallway and his lips were soft and full, pulled into a slight smirk. A black coat was draped over his shoulder, partially covering up his black dress shirt and pants. The sleeves of his shirt were pushed up, revealing a tattoo on his left wrist. I tilted my head in confusion; it was the same K-like symbol I had seen on the door before my treatment. I let the thought pass. Even sitting, he seemed to exude this charm that drew people towards him. I didn’t even know why I thought so, but I knew Diane had noticed it too. Perhaps it was because he was the kind of man who would command every scene in a film due to his presence and be plastered all over magazines for his beauty.
She began to walk towards him dreamily. My hand quickly shot out and grabbed her wrist.
“Diane, ignore him. We have to go… we’re so close.”
Ignoring me, she shook her hand out of my grip and walked closer and closer to him until their lips were nearly centimeters away. She smiled and then closed the gap between the two. He immediately responded and I had to look away. I couldn’t watch. I had assumed this is what she did when she had all of those boys over, but it didn’t change my shock over how quickly it took for her to revert back to her pre-spa self. One second she was a crying, terrified girl and the next… I don’t even know. We had to get out of here. I opened my eyes and turned my head just in time to watch as the beautiful stranger wrapped his hands around Diane’s neck and began to squeeze. Terror washed over me as I tried to scream for him to stop. I ran over to him, trying to push him off of her, but he was too strong. Diane was screaming, tears were streaming down my face. Then, the screaming stopped and Diane’s head fell to the side. I felt numb- I couldn’t even feel the stranger grab me and drag me through the door. The only thing I could feel was the guilt that wrecked my body. He carried me a couple of feet and then let go, leaving me to crumple onto the floor. I tried to stop the sobs that escaped, but I couldn’t. My vision was just as blurry as my thoughts, as I tried to figure out how I could have let this happen.
“Subject Seven is terminated, just as expected. She was the one I had the most hope for, but her death just confirmed our hypothesis. It’ll make our case much more sturdy now. The committee would have bought into it with maybe four or five of the deaths, but all seven will give us a much stronger argument. I have complete faith that our results will soon become a commonplace thought and I-”
Galton paused. Looking down at me, his mouth opening to form an O shape.
“Oh… that took quicker than I thought. Aden, I told you to carry her in slowly. I still need to complete my log.” He sighed and shrugged his shoulder. “I’ll finish it later. Welcome, Mrs. Morana… well Ms. now I guess”
I lifted my head towards Galton.
“Are you happy?” I screamed, my voice croaking out, “You killed my family! WHY? WHY DID YOU KILL THEM? WHY AM I ALIVE?”
He smiled and bent down, brushing his thumb against my cheek, wiping away some of the tears. Then, a door behind Galton opened and in walked in Dr. Bouchard. My tears immediately stopped and the sadness plaguing my heart was instantly replaced with confusion and betrayal.
“Ah… Ms. Morana, I’m sure you’ve met Doctor Toma Bouchard. I know she has made a lot of progress with you in therapy this past year, and we are so happy she referred you and your family to our wonderful spa.”
She looked almost the exact same as she had during our last appointment. Her long, red hair laid perfectly on her black coat. Not a single touch of her makeup was out of place, and the click of her heels echoed throughout the room. The only thing different was the disappearance of her glasses, which for the first time revealed the mischievous glint she carried in her eyes.
I shakily stood up. “What is going on? If you don’t tell me I’m the next 30 seconds I’m going to-”
“What?” Dr. Bouchard replied, her honeyed voice dripping with contempt, “You’ll call the police? Sweetheart, we thought this all through. We have been planning this since you first walked into my office. A lot of powerful people want to know how this turned out. You can’t do anything.”
“Well, then. If I can’t go to the authorities about it… you might as well tell me, right? No one will believe me anyway…”
She laughed. “What’s the fun in that? But, even if I did want to, I couldn’t. But… I will tell you that Alexander was wrong. Just a little hint to tide you over. That boy would believe anything as long as he thought he came up with it.”
“I trusted you.”
“You trusted wrong. Learn that lesson: don’t trust people so easily.”
My heart froze, feeling of dread creeping up from the pit of my stomach. “What are you going to do with me?” I demanded.
“Nothing,” Galton replied, a grin creeping up on his face, “You can leave.”
“Didn’t Doctor Bouchard just tell you… you can’t know. It would ruin the process.”
He turned and grabbed some clothes from the nearest table and threw them to me, which I barely could catch, and pointed to the beautiful stranger that was still standing off to the side. “Now, Aden is going to take you to shower up and get you to your car so you can leave.” He scrunched his nose. “You look like a mess.”
I paused. “Aren’t you worried I’m going to go to the cops?”
“Not at all,” Galton laughed, “I think you’ll find that your life will be much… better without them. We are counting on it.”
Before I could say another word, Aden grabbed my arm tightly and began to pull me out of the room, watching me with pity in his eyes as I tripped over myself, still in shock about what happened.
As I was dragged backward, I watched as Galton and Bouchard shook hands as if they were old friends.
“Congratulations Doctor Bouchard, you’re right. They never really do.”