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It took a while, but I finally was able to see. I had a hard time adjusting to the incredibly dim light, but with time I could make out my surroundings. I still couldn’t remember how I got there, but I could remember why. Almost. It was something about Rachel, and how she needed me for her uncle’s project. After that, however, I could only remember bits and pieces.

Her uncle, Eric, was some sort of geneticist, working on genetic engineering as one might expect. A rather petite man, he wore a nearly-permanent smile and a large pair of glasses. Though he bore the scars of teenage acne, he carried himself with a mature and sophisticated air that commanded respect. I could recall that the two of them wanted me to test the reflexes and defenses of some test subject. While they never told me exactly what kind of creature I would be evaluating, I assumed it would be some sort of predator; I couldn’t imagine that I’d be testing the survival capabilities of some harmless vegetarian.

Needless to say, the object of study was not a vegetarian.

It was still too dark to see well- I could barely see my hands in front of my face-, but I could see the door in the room. I also spied a mirror to my right, but I headed for the door instead. It opened with a creak, finally allowing me to see normally. Looking away from the bright light beyond, I once again caught a glimpse of the mirror. I realized that it was covered up with paint. Though I was curious as to the reason behind this, I pressed onward past the door.

I stepped into a brightly lit hallway, fluorescent lights over-illuminating the clean white walls and floor. I recoiled my foot when it touched down, as the cold sterility of the floor was very uncomfortable. I hadn’t noticed up until this point, but my feet were bare. I touched my chest and found it uncovered as well; I was wearing nothing but a loose, baggy pair of green cargo pants that was almost falling down. Seeing no alternative, I decided to brave the cold floor and hopefully find Rachel, her uncle, or maybe someone who worked at the facility in which I currently resided.

As I continued down the hallway, my feet became much less sensitive to the cold- more so than I had expected. I reflected on my decision to aid my friend; I had known her since high school, where she had served the ever-important role of the out-of-my-league crush. Almost despite her ravaging beauty, Rachel Statler was particularly intelligent- more so than myself- and this fact alone had always fascinated me. Her interest in genetics didn’t surprise me once I learned about her family; her uncle, the geneticist, had replaced her father after the latter’s sudden demise years before I met Rachel. Eric acted as a fine substitute for her father, as they were fraternal twins that shared many of the same interests. 

Rachel and her uncle had been close ever since she was a girl, and I could easily assume that it was his influence that sparked her curiosity in genetics. Her father had been a biochemical engineer, so none of Rachel’s friends or family were surprised when she followed in the twins’ footsteps. 

I had never revealed the depth of my affection for her, but on some level I was sure I didn’t have to. She was a smart girl, and if she could understand what people were made of, then she could understand what our relationship was made of. The two of us remained friends long after high school, and now we were both in our mid-20s and single. I felt that it was high time we got together, and I had agreed to help her uncle’s research to get closer to her. I hoped that doing my part in this would set me up for a date with her- I could finally take the shot I had always passed up.

However, this was where my memory became less clear. I couldn’t remember much about the creature Eric was studying, or what my exact role would be. In fact, I couldn’t remember if either Statler had explained the circumstances to me. Not that it mattered; had they asked me to take a dip into a volcano, I probably would have done it. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that they were withholding something from me. Rachel had always been fairly open with me, and I vaguely recalled that earlier she had somehow deviated from her usual behavior.

I continued down the hallway, my feet now adapted to the cold floor. I noticed that even the baggy pants seemed to fit a little better now, much to my relief- I didn’t have to hold them up anymore. Unfortunately, I experienced a brief headache that made me pause and grunt in discomfort. It only lasted a second, and once it had passed I continued forward. 

It had never been clear how exactly Rachel’s father had met his end, but from what I could tell it was not peaceful. Though I never asked her about it (primarily out of compassion), I had gathered that it wasn’t from an illness or a crime. None of the Statlers had ever told me what happened, but it seemed to me that it had something to do with Eric. I never saw Rachel’s mother speak to Eric after the funeral, and the same went for Eric’s own mother for that matter. I couldn’t imagine that Eric would have intentionally killed his brother- he didn’t seem to be a violent man- but the reactions from the family couldn’t be discounted.

Nonetheless, I kept my theories to myself, and I certainly never said anything to Rachel. She didn’t seem to have the same change in attitude toward her uncle. In fact, she seemed to gravitate towards him even more so after her father’s passing. It was clear to me that if Eric indeed played a role in the matter, Rachel was unaware- and I didn’t feel I should be the one to change that.

Finally, after what felt like a mile, I reached the end of the hallway. My feet had somehow become sensitive to the temperature of the floor, and once again I had to hold my pants up. Even worse was that the headache returned, but again it only lasted for a moment. The door ahead of me read: TEST CHAMBER 004. I remembered that Eric mentioned that this was where I was supposed to evaluate whatever creature he was studying. I reached for the handle.

To my surprise, the door wasn’t completely closed. Suddenly nervous, I warily pushed the door open and poked my head inside. What met me was the most disgusting thing I had ever seen.

The inside of the room was splattered with blood, so much that it could not have come from just one creature. It didn’t take long before I saw the source of the carnage: on the floor lay the mangled carcass of a large animal, perhaps a deer or even an elk. Beside it, to my dismay, was a second body, but this one belonged to a human being.

I turned away from the scene and emptied the contents of my stomach onto the polished, clean floor of the hallway. I spent a moment shuddering at the thought of the being responsible for the slaughter before returning to investigate. After regaining my composure, I reentered the room, closing the door behind me. I took a closer look at the bodies. I noticed that they seemed to have been savagely attacked by a large, feral animal. Pieces of them were missing, and I thought to myself that the wounds around the missing pieces were bite marks.

Whatever I was supposed to face, it was most certainly carnivorous.

I knelt down to examine the humanoid body, wincing as my face neared its. The person’s face was mangled beyond recognition, but I could see that the person would be slightly smaller than myself. Next to this body lay something I had not initially seen. Reaching over, I picked it up and cleaned some of the blood off; it was a broken, twisted pair of large wireframe glasses. My heart sank as I began to realize the identity of the victim. Looking around some more, I found a name tag that had skidded into the corner of the room. Cleaning the gore from it, I knew in my heart what it said before I read it: Eric Statler, Head of Genetic Research and Development.

Tears welled in my eyes as I dropped the name tag back to the ground. The man I respected, the man who nurtured the love of my life- he was dead. I could only assume that Eric’s research had gotten out of hand, that he and Rachel-

I paused. Rachel. Where was she? I remembered that she had said she would be with her uncle today, but I had yet to see her. Searching the room, I saw no sign of her. After a few seconds, I noticed a door on one side of the room, a door that was so plastered with blood that I had failed to see it earlier. It seemed to be some kind of small storage closet, possible for emergency supplies. I prayed that Rachel would be in there, alive. If anything, maybe the monster hadn’t found her. I approached the door and pulled its handle. It refused to budge. Then, I heard a soft, shaky voice from inside.

“Hello? Uncle Eric?”

I sighed with relief as the door inched open and my beautiful Rachel slowly emerged.

“Rachel, thank God you’re okay!” I exclaimed, reaching out to embrace her. She seemed almost shocked to see me, raising one hand to her mouth before she spoke again.

“Aaron? Oh my God, where have you been? I’ve been all alone in here for hours! Uncle Eric, he… he…” She fell to the ground, sobbing. I sunk down and hugged her.

“Shh, I know, I know. But we have to leave, right now. I think whatever creature your uncle engineered got loose, and we need to leave in case it’s still here. Come on, please.”

“Oh Aaron… I’m so sorry,” Rachel uttered through choking sobs. “My uncle… he told me the thing was dangerous, but he said you wouldn’t be in any danger. He didn’t tell me what he meant or how he knew that, but he told me that you would be alright. He said it was important, that he had made a breakthrough. He said he needed someone like you to test it somehow. He never told me what it was, never let me see it…”

“Rachel, it’s okay. I’m fine. We just need to go so whatever it is doesn’t find us. Please, get up. You can tell me about it once we find a way out. Just get up.”

She nodded meekly, and I helped her to her feet. Before she was fully up, though, my headache returned. It was much stronger now, and I accidentally dropped her. I wanted to apologize to her, but the pain was too much. Suddenly I heard Rachel scream, a bloodcurdling cry that echoed through the tiny closet in which she sat. Oh God, I thought. The monster found us.

The last thing I heard before losing consciousness was Rachel screaming my name.

______________________________________________________________________


I awakened in the corner of the large, bloodstained room where the bodies lay. I thought that the creature must have thrown me against the wall in an attempt to kill me. I spat out a bit of blood, thinking that it must have knocked out one of my teeth. I realized it must have turned its attention elsewhere. It took a moment, but I gasped and looked towards the supply closet. The door was ajar.

I scrambled over to the open door, where I cried in horror at what I saw. My sweet Rachel had claw marks and bite marks all over her body, and her face was frozen in a twisted scream of agony.

I broke down, tears streaming down my face as I cradled her limp form. I shook her, hoping to rouse her from death, pleading with God to bring her back to me. I knelt there for some time, lamenting my lost love and wishing with all my might that the creature had taken me instead of her.

Then something changed. I slowly stopped my crying and returned Rachel’s body to the floor. I stood, fists clenched, and thought to myself that this creature had to pay for what it had done to me. I ran to the door, violently yanking at the handle to no avail. I saw that it had a keycard reader beside it, and I snatched Eric’s name badge and slid it through the slot. The door opened with a beep, and I began to tear through the hallway I had walked down earlier. 

I ran as fast as I could in the only direction the creature could have possibly retreated. After what seemed like an eternity, I reached the other end of the hallway. It was somewhat close to where I had awaken hours earlier, and at the end of the hall sat a door marked SECURITY.

I saw that the door was standing open, with claw marks around one edge. I entered nonetheless, hoping to find a gun or another weapon I could use to kill the creature. Inside was the guard in charge of the security cameras, dismembered in the same manner as the occupants of Test Chamber 004. Though it hardly mattered to me, I figured that the creature had clawed open the door and killed the guard. After rummaging through the office, all I could find was a switchblade that I assumed belonged to the camera operator. I was about to leave when I realized that the camera feed was still being displayed.

Thinking that I could perhaps track the creature's whereabouts, I took control of the camera feed and rewound the tape. I couldn’t figure out how to switch to a different camera, so the only one I could see was one from the hallway. I had noticed before I rewound that the time now was about 9 PM, and so I decided to rewind to a few hours before. I caught a glimpse of myself running down the hall minutes earlier, and accelerated the rewinding. After about thirty seconds, I saw a large, dark figure move down the hall in the other direction; I figured it to be the creature Eric had engineered.

It was a large, brownish creature. It had fur and a long snout, and it was about seven feet tall. Its feet and hands appeared to be padded, adding to its animalistic appearance. My first thought was that it looked like some sort of huge dog, only one that stood on two feet. I took a closer look at the timestamp on the video. It was around 3 PM. I fast-forwarded the video but saw no further sign of the creature. I realized that it probably climbed up into an air vent or some other means of escape.

Confused, I went back to the 3 PM sighting. I decided to take a closer look at the creature. The video quality was somewhat low, so I had to squint to get a better look. Then something near the creature’s waist caught my eye. It almost looked like…

No. That can’t be, I thought. Backing away from the monitor, I retreated from the security room and made my way back to the room I started in. I had left the door open, but there was still barely any light in the room. I entered, and once again I got that splitting headache. I dropped the switchblade for a moment before clumsily picking it back up. Slowly, I began to scratch away at the paint covering the mirror. I thought back to the test chamber, how I had closed the door. I had to open it back up with the keycard… and the security footage only showed the creature moving towards the test chamber. I looked beside my feet and saw a ventilation grate laying on the floor, and I looked up to see its shaft above my head.

I remembered what Eric had told me about his experiment. He said that he had engineered a perfect organism that would be the perfect killing machine, and that he needed “someone like you” to help him collect data. I suddenly realized that he never once said I would be fighting it.

The image I had seen on the monitor, the one that caused me to recoil in disbelief, was that the creature was wearing clothes. It was wearing nothing but a pair of green cargo pants.

I finished scratching away the paint on the mirror, and the reason for my headaches became clear. I saw my dim reflection. In the mirror stood a giant, doglike creature wearing green cargo pants. 

Clutched in its padded hand was a switchblade covered in flakes of black paint.