“Probed” is a science fiction concept with a Nigerian setting about five extraordinary children trying to live ordinary lives. Subsequent chapters will be released every Tuesday each week. I hope you enjoy reading the story as much as I love writing it!
I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!!! And i missed you all like crazy!
Camp was crazy, but I enjoyed every bit of t.
I had to take more than the three weeks off to get settled in, especially since i redeployed to another state. I apologize for the wait, and thank you all my readers for your patience. As anticipated, a lengthy chapter ten, the first detailed glimpse into the past lives of our young characters. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as i enjoyed writing it. Please enjoy… and comment if you can. I’d really love to know what you think. Next week’s chapter will be released as soon as possible, but if it comes late, please bear with me. I have a lot on my plate. God bless.
Mustapha looked at the dark walls and sighed. Until a while back he considered himself fortunate because he was never caught in the middle of sleep when the warden came, and so he never got beaten. But sleep was a temporary escape from the horror that was their reality; at least that was how he saw it. They didn’t have to relive the happenings of the day, until they were up for the same terrors the following day. It didn’t matter if it was for just three hours— it was the break he would gladly embrace. Suddenly his ears perked up at the sound of his siblings tossing on the ground and murmuring in their sleep. Only Aisha slept without nightmares, since she was usually in a state of coma when she does— what the others wouldn’t give for a gift like that. The horrors chased them into their dreams, so there was really no escaping the gloom they called life. Maybe they weren’t so different from him after all; only reliving their experiences through a different medium. He turned his mind back to the poetry he was reciting in his head, but the familiar sound of the hard leather combat boots hitting the hallway told him that it was time for the others to wake up.
Aisha’s eyes opened mechanically and she picked herself up from the hard concrete ground. Her requirement to sleep eight hours a day meant she went to bed earlier than the others. This also meant she didn’t run the same number of hours as the others did, with the implication that she saw them less often. Sometimes she felt out of place with them, like she had some unfair advantage they envied, and her showing up refreshed each morning in comparison to their sullen faces with dark rings under their eyes was a slight to them. She wasn’t worried about Mustapha though; his body was always on vibration, so he was never tired and he never needed sleep. It was probably why she didn’t feel bad talking to him like she did with the other four. She snapped out of her thoughts when she heard the mechanical doors of their cells simultaneously slide open and rushed out of it. The habit of the warden was to walk past all the occupied cells before opening the doors. If you were not out before he turned to face the cells, you were severely punished. Back when there were about twenty children in the facility there was a little time to stretch your limbs and get the kinks out if you needed to. But now there were just six; the warden had just a few cells to walk past before he pressed the button.
Muyiwa stared at the warden with the corner of his eye, not daring to make eye contact. Immediately he blew his whistle the six of them fell in line and silently trudged to the bathroom. They didn’t have to waste time taking their clothes off, because they didn’t usually wear any. They each faced the wall of their respective bathroom stalls, mechanically smearing their tubes of bland white toothpaste on their worn out toothbrushes and brushing away silently before the water started running. As the cold bleach-infused water hit Muyiwa’s back he winced. The holes from yesterday’s experiments hadn’t closed up yet, and they were much deeper than Nneka could heal. Because it was impossible to pass needles through his skin, the scientists used a sort of drill to extract samples. Today they would test out if they were finally able to give him the ability to lift fifty times his current weight. He swallowed at the thought and he hoped for its success, for he could feel a phantom pain in his muscles from being pushed to lift far more than he actually could. He could successfully lift thirty times his weight easily, he didn’t see why that wasn’t enough for them.
As they marched out of the bathroom Nneka felt a strong hand pull her away from the door before she could exit. She sighed as she heard the warden’s sinister chuckle. He usually let her perform her morning duties before she took a bath. As he forced her to go on all fours she let her mind wander to if she would be given a second chance to clean up before her tests. The intrusion from her rear end brought her out of her pathetic reverie. The warden always used the same access every day, but her body restored every tear and stretch like it had never been invaded, which meant it never failed to hurt every single time. When the warden was done he shoved her aside and she lay there, blinking repeatedly to fight off the shame and disgust. She was pretty sure that nothing she had ever done in her past life was deserving of such a punishment as the life she lived. The other men who had watched the warden surrounded her as she lay there, stretching her out on the floor to get a piece of her, though they were not allowed to take the same route as the warden. When they were done she crawled into the cubicle and let the water mix with her silent tears as it fell on her bruised body.
Abiye let his shoulders hang as he was handed his smock, his body shaking at the thought of what they were to expect behind the doors. As they each mechanically moved to their lab team his eye caught a petite woman with really long hair pulled back into a bun listening intently to her team head. He looked at the other scientists and frowned thoughtfully. They usually send replacements in groups, but she was the only new face here. She must have been highly recommended for this place. He was sent out of his short reverie with a short resounding slap. Every other person in the lab turned towards the sound, but turned back to their works after a few seconds. It didn’t concern them how the other teams chose to treat their subjects, as long as they were still in good condition when they were to be inspected. Abiye sighed as the man showed the woman how his skin shifted briefly because of the slap before slowly stretching back into place. He pulled at Abiye’s fingers so she could see how they briefly stretched, and explained he could stretch at will and shrink in size, but was only a little elastic when manipulated by someone else. Abiye spent the next ten minutes shrinking and stretching his body, much to her delight. At least it was buying him some time out before the experiments. Today they were going to test how to make him stretch and form different shapes, and he wasn’t looking forward to that. He doubted any of his siblings looked forward to anything that happened in the facility, expect rest.
Number Six stared at the training field warily. He had just come out of the visual room where he had watched a documentary on an alligator. Trying to ignore the intent stares of the scientists he lay flat on the floor and winced as scales began to appear on his body as it increased in body mass. He felt his head widen and pull forward and his limb shorten. Soon he was losing grip of his reasoning, something that happened when he was turning to a new animal for the first time. It took two hours of training (and of course, a series of punishment) before he could divide himself from the animal instinct of the creature he was learning to become.
Suddenly a scientist came at him with a stick, and before he knew it, he was chewing up the man. He didn’t want to do it, but he was so hungry. He was sure that was their intention when they refused to serve him breakfast with the others. He tried to cry, but knew he couldn’t. It would be fatal to make any unnecessary noise. But he couldn’t help it when he slowly shrank to size after the man was fully digested, and he curled up in the pool of his blood, sobbing hysterically. He could still taste the blood and flesh, so he gladly welcomed the blacking out of his vision due to the strong jolt of electricity being sent through his body as punishment for changing back before he was permitted to do so.
Rest was required for cell rejuvenation, and to give room for the bodies to adjust to new improvements. But during this period they were not allowed to sleep, and they were given shots to ensure that. Rest meant they could talk with each other, with no one listening in on their conversations. No one had fears that they would do anything or try to escape, because there had bugs in their systems to demobilize them if they got out of control. All it took was one click. After that they had their memories erased and they became blank, mindless individuals. They had seen it happen before. It was a pitiful state; so when the subject finally exploded from an experiment gone wrong, the others were sort of happy for him. Their sanity was all they had, so they would endure it all and keep the bit of them that was left. Every other thing they owned — their bodies, their freedom— was no longer theirs.
The children trudged wearily into the rest room (which was actually a small dark unpainted room with a naked bulb handing from the ceiling) and dropped to the floor in exhaustion. They exchanged pitiful sighs as they usually did before a conversation ensued.
“So I’m now officially able to lift forty times my weight.” Muyiwa said with a frown. “And yesterday’s holes are beginning to close up.”
“Let me see if I can heal it for you now.” Nneka said, motioning for him to come over. He crawled over and laid his chest on her lap so she could examine the wounds. She put her palms on his back. “Just stay this way for a while. They’re still deep so it would take some time. Is there any other person with wounds?”
“I have major burns on my soles of my feet.” Mustapha said with a shrug. “Friction from all the running I had to do today. I’m surprised I could even walk, though the pain is excruciating.”
“I’ll get to it dear.” Nneka said with a smile before she got startled. “Abiye what is going on with your face?”
Abiye touched his face confusedly and felt his skin pull like chewing gum as it made contact with his palm, before dropping from it and hanging from the side of his face like string. He shook his head and sighed.
“It’s melting.” Number Six said with concern, trying to resist the impulse to touch it.
“New upgrade test run.” Abiye said with a shrug. “I’m supposed to be able to stretch into different three dimensional shapes by tomorrow. How do you feel Number Six?”
Number Six rubbed his arm uneasily. “I ate one of the scientists and got punished for it. I didn’t mean to, but I was so hungry… and it was a new animal: an alligator.”
Abiye pulled the youngest sibling close, doing his best to make sure his melting skin didn’t fall on his head. An awkward silence threatened to loom over the Rest room.
“I had my head drilled into again.” Aisha said all of a sudden. “They’re trying to get me to use my brain for more than five hours before the migraines kick in. And these people don’t even bother with anesthetics.”
Mustapha winced at the thought of being drilled in the head while awake. He was grateful that they have better fortitude and rejuvenate faster than the regular human, but without Nneka’s help it would still be quite a stretch before they heal.
“All done Muyiwa. Let me see your feet Mustapha.” Nneka said quietly. Mustapha crawled to meet Nneka and placed his feet on her lap. She smiled and stroked it gently as she recounted today’s experiences. “Today I got my thigh bone drilled into to see how long it would take for me to recover from bone injuries.”
The others looked at their sister warily as she showed them the hole at the side of her thigh. Here she was, curing the wounds of others while she endured the pain of hers silently.
“At least they give us shots that ensure we don’t bleed during tests… If not we’d probably have bled to death by now.” Abiye said as he rolled up the dripping skin since it had hardened. He pressed it against his face like a lump of modeling clay and it got absorbed into his skin.
Everyone nodded in agreement. Rest would soon be over and they’d have to go for their classes.
The children raised their eyebrow at the new teacher. It was the lady Abiye had been performing for at the lab. She gave them a sickly sweet smile and they winced.
“Hello guys… I’m not supposed to be here but your teacher got involved in an unfortunate accident, so I offered to fill in until an appropriate replacement is supplied. Sit down please.”
The children silently filed to their seats and stared at her blankly. The taste of flesh and blood returned to the back of Number Six’s mouth. The man he ate seemed to have their teacher’s build, but he had no way of being sure.
“You can call be Miss. N. N for Ndidi. What are your names?”
The children looked at one another warily. The scientists thought they had forgotten their names, and they made sure they did not show that they remembered. Only Number Six didn’t have a name because he was brought into the facility as a baby. They were assigned numbers according to their ages, which were changed as the number of test subjects dwindled. At the moment they were only six left, so he was given number six since he was the youngest of the lot. Her question was most likely a trap. Maybe they had started monitoring their conversations during Rest.
“I’m Number One.” Abiye said with his chin up, for he was the oldest at twenty-four.
“I’m number Two.” Muyiwa, who was twenty-one years old, said.
“Number Three.” Eighteen year old Nneka said, raising an arm as she spoke.
“Number Four.” Mustapha said briskly. He was seventeen.
“Number Five.” Aisha said with a curt nod.
“Number Six.” The youngest said meekly.
Whenever they were reassigned numbers the warden called out their ages as he rearranged them. It was by Number Six’s age they determined how much time had passed since they were brought into the facility, since they were all brought in around the same time. They had been rearranged three days ago when Number Four’s brain literally melted, and Number Six (who was then Number Seven) was declared to be eight years of age.
“Oh? You don’t have real names?” She asked, staring at them in surprise. She thought the numbers were just tags for the labs; she had no idea that it was how they were addressed. The children shook their heads simultaneously, still staring at her blankly. She turned her eyes to the lesson note on the desk uneasily.
Ndidi sighed as she turned on the lights of her new apartment. It wasn’t the standard studio the others had to occupy; it was larger, and furnished more expensively. She let her long weave free from the band and ran her fingers through it. This was going to be much harder than she thought. When she managed to convince the board to put involve in the activities of the facility she expected to see clones made from DNA extracted from children. But when the scientists revealed that they were real children it broke her even more. She didn’t care if her father called the clones he lied about lifeless; she had a resolve to put an end to the evil he was planning. But when she found out that they were using the real deal, her resolve grew stronger. When the team lead showed her their test subject she marveled at the fact that he could stretch into various forms. He was given the ability to brace items stuck into him, so regular ammunition and small knives could lodge into his skin without harming him. She was amazed at the possibility made manifest, but she far from delighted even though she pretended to be. The vacant look in the eyes of Number One as he changed form was like a piercing to her side. But she clapped her hands as the test subject displayed facets of what he had been designed to do.
Number One. He intrigued her most of all, probably because he was the oldest or because he was the first she saw. All the older male subjects were lean muscled even though they weren’t fed properly (sort of like slaves in her opinion) so that, and his defined jaw line that she had always found attractive in men were probably why she couldn’t help but look at him more than once. She shook her head furiously and slapped her forehead. The thought she had begun to entertain was wrong on so many levels. First, he was a test subject, which meant he wasn’t even as physically appealing as he was meant to be (which made her start to imagine how he’d look in the right conditions), asides from the fact that she was a scientist in the team that experimented with his insides. Second, he was two years younger than she was, which wasn’t so much younger but still younger all the same. She walked into the shower to distract herself from entertaining more thoughts.
After about a week in the facility Ndidi observed that it wasn’t uncommon for the scientists of the facility to amuse themselves with the test subject Number Three, her excuse being that she was designed to be the perfect sex object, and could take it. Her naked body was always full of bruises that healed as quickly as it formed, and her eyes never hid the hatred she had for the men in the facility. But whenever she turned to look at any of the other subjects her face switched to that of compassion. Towards her and the other few female scientists in the facility though, her eyes held a look of nonchalance.
No one was as cold as Number Four. His tall frame made his presence very imposing, and yet very attractive. The other female scientists took a liking to him and Number Two, who had the most endurance because of his super strength. But none of them had any interest for Number One. If so, why did she?
To be sincere, he was the least attractive, but there was something about him that she could not ignore. Did it have something to do with the way the other subjects looked to him with regard? Their eyes made contact as the team lead instructed her to insert needles into his skin. A few days back it was discovered that the skin around his face stretched from time to time, like it was melting. It hardened in a few minutes and could be pressed back into his skin, but it was still a bug that had to be worked on. The team had come up with a solution to the problem, but it had to be tested first, hence the needles and tubes she had to put into him. She let her arms feel the muscles of his arms as she pretended that she trying to put him in place for the needles. She swallowed the lump forming in her throat as she put the needles through the veins in both arms. Almost immediately, the solution was sent into his body. His face wrenched in pain as if scalding hot liquid was being passed through his veins. Ndidi found herself closing her eyes at the sight. This was definitely something she didn’t want to watch.
Mustapha walked out of the room with a sigh, shaking his head as he sighted his brother walking out of the opposite room. Muyiwa locked eyes with his brother and wrenched his face in disgust. They began to walk down to their cells without speaking. There was nothing to talk about when it came to having to succumb to the wills of the females that demanded sex. As they were about to retire to their cells they stopped as they watched Abiye’s cell door slid open.
Someone requested Abiye.
Abiye exchanged puzzled glances with his brothers. He was as surprised as they were. No one had ever requested for Abiye in years. As much as he didn’t mind, once in a while he couldn’t help but wonder if he turned ugly over the years. As he followed the guard, he tried to think of who would have requested him. The guard left him in front of the last room in the hallway, and he knocked on the door timidly. The door opened and Miss. N’s petite figure stood in the gap.
He tried to hide his surprise. But Miss. N. merely gestured for him to come in. When he did she pushed the lock button and the door slid shut. Abiye’s heart began to beat fast as he felt her small hand on his back.
“What would you have me do for you?”
He still remembered the routine, even though it had been a while. The perverts in the facility preferred young blood, so he was forced into a welcome retirement.
Ndidi felt terrible as she watched Abiye stand up from the bed and walk to the door. The whole experience felt better than she had imagined, but yet so terribly wrong. He was so mechanical, so one-sided about what he had to do. His lack of expectation for reciprocation made her feel extremely guilty. She shouldn’t have taken advantage of him like that.
He turned to look at her. The vacant look he gave her whenever he looked at her that she thought was beginning to fade was back.
Abiye walked back to his cell in a daze. He didn’t know what to describe his experience with Miss. N. The first time it was the usual service. He never thought she was that sort of person, and he was vaguely disappointed. But she was human, and far from home. She had needs that required attention. He did what was required of him and got up to retire to his cell, but she called him over again. And what happened next blew his mind.
Abiye walked back to his cell in a daze. When he discovered Miss N. was the one who requested for him, he was a little disappointed, because he thought she was different from the others. But then again she was a woman far from home, and she had needs. He did was what required of him and got up to leave, but just before he could she called him back.
It was unheard of, that a scientist would attend to the needs of a subject. The test subjects, as far as the facility was concerned, were no longer real beings, and shouldn’t be treated as such. Why she did what she did was far beyond him, and he didn’t like the confusion and emotions it stirred within him. He saw the guilt in her eyes when she called him back to her, but he didn’t expect her to do what she did to restitute for what she might have realized was wrong. But after she was done with him a second time she held him in her arms and hugged him tightly when he tried to get off the bed.
“I wish I could call you something else… Number One is very… impersonal.”
Abiye had frozen in shock, but only for a brief moment. “I’d be in real trouble if you did.”
No matter what mistake she made, she would definitely not be the one to pay for it.
“It could be our little secret… like what happened just now. That doesn’t normally happen, does it? I could give you a name if you wouldn’t mind.”
“It normally doesn’t. I have to go now.”
Miss N. let go of him in shock, and he got up from the bed and walked unsteadily to the door. He lifted his hand to push the button then turned to look at her.
“Abiye. My name is Abiye.”
“You did what?!”
Abiye sat cross-legged in the corner, his head lowered because he couldn’t look his siblings in the eye. They never kept secrets from each other.
“This is bad… this is really bad.” Nneka said, shaking visibly.
“I don’t want the little of the memories of my past I have left to be wiped, even if it isn’t a good one.” Aisha said in a low voice crawling to the corner where Mustapha stood. “It’s the only thing that reminds me that I’m human, or at least used to be.”
“What were you thinking Abiye?” Muyiwa said angrily. “You’re the oldest… you shouldn’t be the one doing the stupid things.”
Number Six stared at his oldest sibling sympathetically. He didn’t have any past memories, so he didn’t want to say anything.
Mustapha stared at his siblings intently. “Cut Abiye some slack, especially you Muyiwa… and Nneka too.”
Muyiwa turned his lethal gaze to Mustapha, but the younger sibling was unfazed.
“You’re making a deal out of nothing.” Mustapha said casually. “He told her his name… so what It’s not like he told her ours… or that we had any. Whatever happens is to his consequence, not ours. Think about it.”
A mixture of relief from Mustapha’s reason and betrayal from his blunt judgment formed a pang in the pit of Abiye’s stomach. But then again, he betrayed their trust by confiding in one of the people that tortured them daily. He couldn’t explain why he did it; Miss N. just felt so different from the others… he felt he could open up to her, even if it was just a little bit.
“I know I wouldn’t if I was in his position, but I can’t say the same for you Muyiwa. You’re super strong physically, but you’re too soft when it comes to emotions.” Mustapha said with a shrug. “And Nneka, with all the nonsense these men put you through, if one of them treated you different, don’t you think it would bring down your walls? I don’t blame Abiye one bit.”
Nneka and Muyiwa exchanged nervous glances. Mustapha was right, as usual.
Mustapha turned to his older sibling. “That was all you told her right?”
“Yeah.” Abiye’s voice was barely above a whisper.
“If we can be rest assured that it’d be the last, then we forgive you. Isn’t that right guys?”
The others mumbled in agreement, and Abiye nodded.
Ndidi smiled at her students. She was already used to the vacant stares in their eyes, but she thought Abiye would act a little different after yesterday. If anything, he was much colder.
Abiye. She spent most of the night thinking about his name. Was it his name before he got here, or just a name he gave himself? If it was from his past, did it mean he remembered his old life? She was told that their memories were wiped, so she was guessing the name was self-acclaimed. She had so much to ask him. But with the way he was acting in class, it was most likely that he would refuse to answer any of her questions.
They were taught general reading, writing and arithmetic, but class mostly involved lots of reading. They were given access to various literatures of countless subjects. Aisha had gone through almost all of them, because her advanced brain meant she could understand anything she read much quicker than the average human. She had a photographic memory that she could use when she wanted, but it wasn’t for assimilation. She couldn’t understand anything her photographic memory captured, unless she wrote it down and read through it. Ndidi watched them earnestly as they read, trying not to look like she was focused on Abiye. Countless times she caught him stealing glances at her from the medical encyclopedia he had in front of him, and it took a lot of willpower not to burst out laughing whenever he looked flustered the few times their eyes made contact.
Ndidi found out that one could only request test subjects twice a week, so she waited a few days more before requesting Abiye again. He walked in nervously, trying to hide the frown on his face. Even if she was good to him, she was still his superior. He could never forget that.
“Come sit down Abiye.” She said, patting the bed space next to her. He complied.
“What would you have me do today ma.” He said vacantly. Ndidi frowned.
“My name is Ndidi. Call me Ndidi.” Abiye shook his head furiously.
“It’s an order Abiye.”
“You asked what you’d have me do today…” she said, leaning her head close to his. He wanted to move away, but refrained from doing so. She was his superior.
“You’ll answer any question I ask you.” She said with a smile. Abiye frowned deeply without a second thought.
“I know you will ask me questions I cannot answer. Please don’t go through with this.”
Ndidi let out a frustrated gasp. “How dare you—”
“If you ask me what I cannot tell you, I’d obey your orders and do as you want. But be guaranteed that they’d either be lies or a distorted truth.” He said, looking her right in the eyes. “And I don’t want to lie to you.”
His last lines touched her. She lifted her hand to his face softly.
“I want to help you Abiye. Not just you… the others too.”
“My siblings?” Abiye’s eyes widened. Ndidi was surprised. She didn’t know they secretly regarded themselves as siblings. But then again, it was logical that they did.
“But you need to help me… to help you.”
“Abiye… pick one: Muyiwa ripping you in half or I moved in hyper-speed around you till there’s no oxygen around you to breathe… or me creating enough friction to set you on fire.” Mustapha said in a lethal voice. Abiye couldn’t answer. He was being held by the throat by Muyiwa, and the grip was tight.
“How could you tell her all our secrets?” Nneka said, her eyes brimming with tears. Abiye clawed at his throat, but Muyiwa had an iron grip.
“Let him speak. Maybe there’s a reasonable explanation for all of this.” Aisha pleaded earnestly.
“He’s said it all. He bought her lies that she was the daughter of the owner of this place, and that she had planned to set us free even before she knew us” Mustapha said, rolling his eyes. “Yeah right. The daughter of a man powerful enough to own a place like this would care to try and save us for no reason. What would she get out of it?”
“Let me kill him Aisha. For your sake, I promise to make it quick and painless.” Muyiwa said through gritted teeth. “What’s the worst that would happen? I’ll get debugged and become mindless till I die. But at least I’ll forget the betrayal.”
“Now that he’s spilled the little we know we’re probably going to end up like that either way.” Number Six said gloomily. “Please let Abiye go.”
“The satisfaction of cleaning out the traitor will reward me before my reset button wipes me clean will suffice.” Muyiwa said, narrowing his eyes at Abiye.
Suddenly the door slid open and everyone pulled away. Abiye surreptitiously struggled to catch his breath as they all filed out for classes. When they got there another teacher was seated there in place of Miss Ndidi, and they didn’t dare ask what happened to her.