“Sign the form on lines 3, 5, 18, and 23. This last statement is finalizing the agreement that in return for a month of service in scientific testing for the Foundation, you will be released from your death row sentencing. Remember that the work that you're doing here will benefit the world,” the dry, bored looking, yet somehow familiar legal assistant stated, as he droned off a piece of paper.

“And as long as I do this month of uh…science testing for humanity, I go free? No questions asked?” I replied, somewhat hesitant.

“So long as you do not disclose any information gained while testing, you are free to return to your pre-incarceration life without any penalties. You will not be reimbursed for this period of time spent in incarceration or testing,” the legal assistant replied. He tapped his pen somewhat impatiently.

“Well, anything’s better than this, right?” I said back. “I just want to say, thank you for this opportunity.” On an impulse, I grabbed the man’s hand, and shook it vigorously.

His eyes widened in surprise, as if he really noticed me for the first time. As he met my eyes, he suddenly glanced away quickly, as if he saw something in my eyes. “No problem, sir. I hope that this is a mutually profitable relationship,” he replied, as if distracted. He looked away with a disgusted look on his face.

As the guards began to lead me out of the room, I began to think quietly to myself.

A month wasn’t too long. I could do that. I’d be able to see my family soon.


"Open the door, get in, and walk down the path. Got it?" The researcher impatiently tapped his pen.

"And you're saying that the key….changes what's behind the door?" Vanki asked the doctor, skeptically.

"Yes. Just walk down the path, and you'll be fine." The researcher replied. "Get in quickly though. We've never tested this before with multiple people."

I looked at Ramirez. He shrugged at me, as the guards guided us to the door leading to the decontamination chamber. Tyler was handed the key. He inserted it into the door, somewhat hesitantly.

He turned the key, and opened the door. What greeted us was not the sterile walls and equipment of the decontamination chamber, but a misty forest scene.

We all recoiled back in shock.

"Jesus, it actually worked," Ramirez breathed. "What the hell is this?"

I stared in shock. It actually worked. "I-is this magic or something?"

A voice over the PA system came on. "D-class personnel, please enter the forest."

We grabbed each other's hands, as instructed, and quickly filed into the door. It slammed shut behind us as soon as Ramirez, bringing up the rear, made it through.

We turned on our flashlights, and started to walk down the path.

"What the hell is this place? This is creepy as fuck, man." Vanki said, as he lead the group.

"I don't know man. Let's just get through this place. Sooner the 30 days are up, the better, as far as I'm concerned," Tyler responded.

As we walked through the forest, a voice came crackling over the radio clipped to Vanki's belt. "D-class personnel, do you report any changes in health or mood?"

"Nah, doc, feeling pretty good," Vanki responded.

"Please proceed as planned."

The eerie mist seemed to encroach as we followed the path through the forest. The dark night sky stretched on and on, engulfing us in its mysterious, foreboding embrace.

"I do NOT like the feeling of this place. Where are we, even?" I shivered, glancing around.

"Doesn't look like any place I've heard of. I'm more concerned with how we got here." Vanki muttered.

Suddenly, I thought that I heard something in the forest. "Did you guys hear that?"

Ramirez froze. "Yeah. Sounded like some animal."

We all paused. I swung my flashlight through the woods. It yielded nothing but the tangled expanse of trees and undergrowth.

"You're hearing things. Easy to get paranoid in here, I guess," Tyler offered.

"I could've sworn that I heard something," I replied.

We continued along the path. I remained on the alert.

Then, I heard the sound again.

"There it is again! It sounded closer this time, I swear," I insisted.

"I'm hearing it too, guys. I'm freaking out a little," Ramirez gulped.

"Are you sure you he-" Vanki began.

Suddenly, we heard an earth-shattering roar, as something barreled out of the woods at us.

"WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?" Ramirez screamed. I ignored him as we broke into a dead sprint.

We sprinted through the woods, as fast as we could, ignoring the other sounds and roars that came from the forest. As we kept running, the thing kept roaring and chasing after us. Suddenly, a break through the mist revealed a door identical to the one that we came in.

"There's the door! Hurry up! Ramirez!" Vanki shouted.

Ramirez screamed as he tripped, and fell to the ground. I paused for a moment, but Vanki grabbed my arm.

"Too late man, we gotta go!" He yelled into my face.

"But, Ramirez-"

"Too late man!"

"Help! Jesus fucking Christ, help me, I think my ankle's twisted. Oh god, oh god, oh god." Ramirez sobbed, as he tried to crawl closer to us.

Tyler jammed the key in the door, tears streaming down his face. He threw it open, revealing the decontamination chamber.

"OH FUCK IT'S GETTING CLOSER! HELP! HELP ME GUYS! I DON'T WANNA DIE!" Ramirez screamed at us, his voice breaking as he sobbed helplessly.

Vanki pushed me in, as the three of us made it through the door. As he slammed it shut, I heard a new scream from Ramirez. The last look that I saw of him was his outstretched hand, reaching towards us.

The guards took us back to our cell. We trudged along silently. They pushed us into our cell and slammed the door shut.

Tyler climbed up into his bed and faced the wall. Vanki stood, facing the wall. I was stretched on my bed. The bunk above me was conspicuously empty.

Vanki suddenly kicked the wall. "What the fuck was that?"

"I don't know man, I don't know," Tyler said, in between sobs.

"I've been through some rough shit before, but nothing like this. What the fuck have we gotten ourselves into?" Vanki sighed, as he sat down, putting his head in his hands.

I spoke up.

“You know, we signed those forms. They have to let us go. It’s all been recorded. They can’t go back on their word now. It's only a month.” I offered, somewhat hopefully.

The glares from Tyler and Vanki were all I needed to see to gauge what they thought of that.

But, it was recorded. They had to let us go.


As the guards opened the doors and chambers leading to the testing chamber, we stood around in our bulky heat-resistant suits. They were tough to move in, and that was compounded by the huge blast-shields and fire extinguishers that we were also forced to carry. Tyler carried a large container of gasoline on his back. Vanki and I flanked him.

“Remember, go in, drop the fuel, and get out. Stay too long, and we can’t guarantee your safety,” the guard reminded us.

“Since when have you bastards ever guaranteed our safety?” Vanki shot back.

The guard narrowed his eyes at us, but said nothing. Finally, a green light flickered on above us, and the guard slammed the button.

“Go, go, go!” He yelled at us.

We began to jog through the last chamber. Vanki and I brought up the front as Tyler jogged closely behind. The bulky suits were hard to run in, and I almost tripped a few times.

It became unbearably hot as we suddenly found ourselves in a small, humid room. In an offset alcove, a flame seemed to flicker at our appearance.

Quickly, we stopped and faced the flame. Tyler quickly took off the container of gasoline on his back, and placed it on the ground. Seeing the pack, the flame flickered again, and began to race towards it.

“Let’s get out of here!” Vanki yelled, as we suddenly turned around. I nodded, and we began to run out.

However, as we turned to run, we heard a yelp behind us. Turning around, I saw Tyler trip and fall to the ground, tripping on the bulky suit. At the same time, the flame reached the gasoline container, and suddenly exploded into a much larger form. It seemed to pounce on Tyler with glee.

Tyler screamed.

The suit began to melt, as the flame hungrily attacked it. The overhead sprinklers exploded into action, drenching the flame with water, as we were suddenly jolted by the abrupt change.

We unleashed the fire extinguishers on the flame, which hissed and crackled, as it was driven back to its alcove. We grabbed Tyler and dragged him out of the chamber.

As we made our way out, I heard Tyler moan. Glancing down, I almost puked. The entire lower half of the suit was a melted slag-like mess. Tyler kept moaning, and it sounded like he was crying too. Vanki glanced down and winced, his face turning white.

"Hold on, Tyler, just hold on. We'll get you to a doctor, just hold on buddy." I reassured Tyler. He only moaned louder in response.

"Guys…I-I can't feel my legs. I can't feel much guys. W-why does it hurt?" Tyler whispered.

"It's okay, you're going to be alright. Just…just hold on, okay?" I replied, biting my lip.

"I don't want to hurt anymore," Tyler whimpered.

Finally, we cleared the last containment chamber, and dragged what was left of Tyler through the door. A team of doctors swarmed us as we passed through. Vanki and I tried to ease Tyler out of the suit, but he kept screaming whenever we tried to pull him out. The slag of the suit had melted to portions of his body, and we couldn't get him out easily.

The guards grabbed us before we could keep helping, and forced us to take off the heat-resistant suits, before they yanked us back to our cell, without a word.

As we were forced back to our cell, we heard screams coming from the nearby medical wing. It sounded like Tyler.

I went back to my chamber with Vanki. He walked over to our toilet, fell to his knees, and vomited.

Later, a notice came to us that Tyler had been terminated to "put him out of his pain."

Only 20 more days. They had to let us go.


"You will enter the room, and open the door on the western wall. You will see two other personnel who are identical to the two of you. Until one entire set of personnel has been terminated, the door will not open. Use whatever means necessary to terminate the other set of personnel," the researcher read off of his paper. "Got it? Good."

The door was swung open, and Vanki and I were roughly shoved in. I glanced around the room, looking for anything that we could use as weapons.

I spied a bottle of beer in the fridge. Grabbing it by the neck, I smashed the end. An impromptu knife was better than nothing. Vanki picked up another bottle as well.

We stood in front of the marked door on the western wall. I glanced at Vanki, who looked back at me.

"When we open that door, roll up both of your sleeves, so we know who's who. Otherwise, we could kill each other by accident," Vanki told me. I nodded at him.

For another moment, we simply stared at the foreboding door.

"You ready?" He asked.

I sighed. "Yeah. Let's do this."

Vanki nodded, and he threw open the door. While doing so, we both rolled up both of our sleeves quickly.

Looking across the gap at us were two identical copies of us, also holding smashed bottles. They had kept their sleeves long. For a surreal moment, both sets of us simply stared at each other in pure shock.

Then, Vanki broke the silence by screaming and lunging at his twin.

I snapped out of the momentary pause, and dodged to the side as my twin came at me with a jab. I slashed at him with my bottle, but he ducked underneath it. Suddenly, he came at me with a tackle.

I fell to the ground with a heavy "oof" as the air was driven out of my lungs. The bottle came out of my hand as I did so, falling to the ground and shattering. I rolled over, putting my twin on the bottom. As I began to punch my twin, I heard a scream of pain.

Glancing over in distraction, I saw that Vanki had stabbed his twin in the stomach. The wounded twin was lying on the ground, grimacing. Vanki kicked him in the face.

That moment of distraction proved enough for my twin to throw me off. Before I could react, he drove his fist through my stomach. I doubled over, falling to the ground. My twin jumped on me, and wrapped his hands around my neck.

"I'm sorry, man. I gotta do this. We have a family to get back to, you know," my twin grimaced, as he tightened his grip.

I flailed around, trying to throw his grip. My twin seemed to know what he was doing though, and he only tightened the pressure. I tried to gasp for air, but I got nothing. I was starting to see spots in my vision, and everything began to turn blurry.

Then, the pressure vanished. I gasped for air, and saw Vanki throwing my twin off. They rolled through, over into the other room. As they scrabbled for better positioning, I saw Vanki gain the upper hand, as he smashed my twin's head against the corner of the table several times, and then finish it off with a stomp on his head.

The battered body of my twin slumped, as the blood began to pool. Vanki was breathing raggedly, and he unsteadily stood up. As I got up, I tried to move over to him. I was too late to warn him when his twin came up.

"Vanki! Watch out!" I cried, a moment too late. His eyes widened in alarm, as he began to turn around.

Vanki's twin grabbed Vanki, and slit his throat with the smashed bottle. Gurgling, Vanki hit the ground, as his blood began gushing out of the severed arteries.

I screamed, and ran forward, tackling Vanki's twin. I grabbed a shard of broken glass, and ripped it sideways across the twin's throat.

When I left the room, the guards took me back to the facility. I went back to my cell, alone.

I curled up into a ball on my bed.

Tears began to stream down my face. Everyone was gone. I was all alone.

10 more days. I only needed to survive for ten more days.


“Congratulations for your service. You have officially served for a month, and are free to go. Just one thing though," the researcher said to me.

"What the hell do you assholes want? Haven't I done enough for you?" I shot back, bitterly remembering what I had seen over the course of this month.

"Relax. We just need to do one more physical, in order to examine the lasting effects of the objects that you've been exposed to. Take this pill, it's for the PET scan." The doctor handed me a small blue pill.

I popped it in my mouth, and swigged it down with a gulp of water. As I jumped up onto the examination table, I began to think of my family.

It had been so long since I had seen them. Emily would be…5 now? And Tim would be just entering third grade. God, I missed them so much.

I was going to see them soon.

I was going to se-

“Sign the form on lines 3, 5, 18, and 23. This last statement is finalizing the agreement that in return for a month of service in scientific testing for the Foundation, you will be released from your death row sentencing. Remember that the work that you're doing here will benefit the world,” the dry, bored looking, yet somehow familiar legal assistant stated, as he droned off a piece of paper.

I signed the form. What did I have to lose? As I stood up, I grabbed the legal assistant's hand and shook it. It seemed like the right thing to do.

“I just want to thank you for this opportunity that you’re giving me.” I said, earnestly thanking him.

He only looked away in response. “I hope that we have a mutually profitable relationship, sir.”

As the guards led me to a waiting van, I began to quietly think to myself.

It was only a month. 30 days wasn't much. I could see my family soon.


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