A Day, A Night and Some Lead.
rating: +12+x

I can taste the sun.

There are no words to describe it. Not because it is beautiful or grand, but because no language has ever had a need to name it. Wherever the light touches my bare skin it feels like someone pouring heat into my veins.

They come every day and pour water and dirt down my throat. I vomit the dirt up again after a few hours but that doesn’t bother them.

That I can deal with. But it’s the expressions that get to me. Unflinching. Their lips pulled into gentle smiles and kindness in their eyes. I scream and struggle, try to bite them and yet they keep on smiling. They stroke my hair as if I was child waking up from a nightmare.

Jakob comes by every day. He sits on the ground and talks of little Kadri, of the rest of the island and their idyllic lives. I feel no more empathy or friendship towards him. He bears the same smile and kindness as the others. Once a man as stubborn as a mule, his lips now speak the same slithering words as the rest of them. Perhaps if he didn’t look like that he could persuade me and make me lose myself.

I’m sweating red. At first, I thought it was blood but soon realized that there was no smell of iron and the fluid flowed as easy as water. My skin is beginning to show patches of green. Every time they come to me with their sweet voices and calming words I feel a niggling desire in the back of my head to give in. To surrender my will and allow their kindness to swallow me, never to let me go.

The ropes should be digging into my flesh and yet I feel no pain.

It’s raining, pouring. A torrential downpour pelts me with cold water, my mind becomes sharp and focused. As if a haze has been lifted from my thoughts. Air feels like it should and I gasp for it.

The last weeks unfurl before me in perfect clarity. Every moment, mistake and action. I allow the memories to wash over me.

***

The boat hums beneath me as I arrive at the dock. No tourists this time, only supplies. Some gas, a few tools, a rather small box of food and two bags of fertilizer.

Kalev helps me load it all. He makes conversation. I tune him out and focus on the work. We’re soon finished and say our goodbyes. I cast off, start the engine and leave the dock behind me. The wind hums as I ride across the calm sea. My radio blasts old songs across the waves.

After about twenty minutes the island is approaching quickly and I begin to slow down to maneuver through the few rocks that are scattered a bit off shore. I see Jakob standing on the dock with Kadri waving to me.

I smile.

I pull into the dock and step off my boat. Kadri runs up to me and reaches towards. I lift her up while she giggles. A feeling of disquiet rushes through my mind. The girl is green. A uniform light green. I look towards Jakob with a questioning gaze only to see that his skin matches hers. I put Kadri down and stroll towards my friend. We shake hands and I ask him about the situation.

He smiles. He says not to worry. I’ll understand soon. The world goes dark.

I wake up tied to a post. They stand around me. Jakob, Kadri, Andrus and all the rest of them. I shout at them. They just smile at me. They rub something red on my skin.

Jakob stays behind as the other leave. He tells me that I should stay calm. I spit in his face. He smiles and leaves.

***

The downpour continues. I slacken and let my arms hold my weight. I feel the ropes slip against my skin. My mind flashes with a realization. The ropes are some sort of synthetic material. They don’t soak up water in the rain, they just get slippery. I pour all my strength into trying to slip a hand out of the restraints. I don’t know how long it takes, but finally, the rope gives in and a hand slips free.

I quickly untie myself and stumble forwards, only to fall face first into the mud. My legs don’t obey me. So I crawl for what feels like an hour. When I think I’m far enough I crawl into the thick growths of juniper as deep as I can. I do not feel the needles. Amidst the thunder and darkness, my consciousness slips and the world with its horrors drops into nothingness for a few blissful hours.

I wake slowly, floating in a soft haze for minutes before the world come into focus. I’m still lying in the junipers, the densely packed needles and branches hide me from sight. A fact that I’m infinitely thankful for.

And not for no reason. I can hear them. They’re shouting my name. The utter despair in their voices almost reaches me. Almost.

They’re close. I hear the occasional bit of conversation. They’re scared. Scared that I’ll get off the island and turn their wretched little utopia inside out. I can’t help but smile to myself. By God, if I make it off I’ll make sure those predictions come true.

I lay still for at least an hour. Only by sheer luck or divine providence, I seem to have chosen the thickest patch of juniper. They pass by my hiding spot multiple times before they give up and leave. I keep hiding for another half hour.

I emerge slowly, looking everywhere and listening for even the slightest sound out of place. Soon I realize that while during the day I can definitely see better, I still have absolutely no idea about my location. I can’t waste time so I pick a direction and walk.

Within ten minutes I’m on the edge of the forest. This isn’t right. No way they would place me so near the shore. I look in the distance across the sea. This doesn’t look like the shore of….

God damn it.

Of course, they didn’t put me on the island itself. They put me here. A small islet off the northern shore of the island itself. The only way to it is either swimming or by a thin strip of land that isn’t fully above the water in all places. And anyone going across it can be seen clear as day since nothing grows on the strip aside from the occasional shrub. I’m willing to bet that there’s at least one of them sitting on the end of the strip with binoculars.

I orient myself based on the shoreline I’m seeing. I am now on the eastern edge of the islet and the island is south. After a few more minutes of walking through it, I can see the edge of the forest. I lay down on my stomach and crawl towards it. I position myself behind a bush and brush the leaves aside slightly.

I lay there for a while, scanning the shore. Then, finally, movement. There it is. While I see no binoculars, this one definitely is there to keep an eye out.

The options run through my head. Walking is out. They’ll see me the moment I’m out of the trees.

Swimming? No. Too far. No telling how many more are lurking in the trees by the beach

Maybe during the night? If I’m lucky there’ll be another storm and even if there won’t, it’ll be much harder to see me.

I move back into the forest. Judging by the sun I still have at least 7 hours of daylight left. I spend the time rubbing the still moist soil on my skin.

The night comes painfully slowly and brings a problem with it. A nearly full moon. My dirt camouflage can go get stuffed. The bare strip of land connecting the two islands will offer me no cover and the light will make a moving figure quite noticeable.

So swimming it is. I walk more towards the eastern part of the islet and slowly walk into the water, careful not to make a sound. I swim quietly, not raising my arms out of the water. I don’t know how long it takes, but I can finally feel the seafloor. I spend a moment catching my breath. I’m quite a good swimmer but the distance did take a bit out of me.

I walk out of the water and look around. The moonlight turns the world into one of sharp contrasts. I can see the coast clearly for quite a bit. Nothing but rocks and shrubs. The forest is a wall of darkness, the moonlight reaching the ground only occasionally.

I head along the coast towards east. Another partially submerged land bridge connects the island to Saaremaa. All I need to do is get to it and this hell is over. I walk for a few minutes until light begins to flash in the forest. I swear internally and dive behind a large rock.

The sound of footsteps reaches me soon enough and begins moving closer and closer. Only one of them by the sound of it. A beam of light flashes around my hiding place and the footsteps move even closer. My hands are shaking, my entire body is like a compressed spring. A foot moves into my field of vision. And I spring towards the form.

I quickly wrap an arm around the neck. It’s Terje. The daughter of Villem, the owner, and caretaker of the lighthouse. She’s barely sixteen. I squeeze, allowing no air to pass between her lips to keep her from screaming. She struggles.

And keeps on struggling. She’s not getting any oxygen, she’s almost a child and yet she doesn’t stop or even slow down. My thoughts race.

I strengthen my hold.

My other hand on her head.

Snap.

She goes limp.

I take the flashlight and turn it off, leaving only the moonlight to illuminate the world around me. I pull the body into a growth of juniper and arrange the branches so that nobody will find her for a while.

I fling the flashlight into the water and keep moving. I try not to think. To think would be to slow down. To slow down would be to feel guilt. I can do that later. Preferably never.

A walk that would have taken barely forty minutes otherwise now takes slightly more than an hour as I slowly sneak along the edge of the forest, trying to keep out of the light. The stone coast stops and a kilometer long stretch of reeds appears. I will have to go along the outer edge so nobody can hear me.

The seafloor is soft here and my progress is incredibly slow. I can see the eastern sky brightening.

Tick, tock the clock is almost up. Shouldn't have waited until dusk to move.

I’m through the muck and back on land. I turn left and begin walking to the land bridge. I come to the road, get off it as soon as possible and walk the rest of the way through the forest. I’m on the edge of the clearing when I see lights in the distance.

No. No. No!

They’re on one of the islets that make up the land bridge. I’m cut off. There’s no way I can get to my boat. I’ll never make it before sunrise and there’s no way it’s unguarded.

I’m out of options. I can’t move during the daytime. I can’t swim that kind of distance. I’ll have to wait until the next night. Maybe I can try to sneak by the ones on the connecting islets or try to fight them. Now I need somewhere to hide.

Going west would mean going right into their den. There are only two houses towards the east, however.

East it is. I cut in a straight line through the forest. My skin seems to be more resilient. The countless branches barely even bruise me.

Then I stumble upon a house.

It’s nothing much, barely looks big enough for two rooms. A single window. But it shouldn't be here. I know the island quite well and I’ve met all who live on it. This house, I have never seen before.

I know it’s a bad idea, but I’m taking my chances of being capable of overpowering whoever is inside. I doubt two people would live in a house this small. I move to the door and push on the handle. It’s unlocked and opens without a single sound.

The interior is dark and my hand instinctively reaches for a light switch. Which it finds and turns on. I begin to feel unnerved. I can hear no generator and there were definitely no power lines connecting to the house.

It’s quiet. I hate it. When I was outside there, I had a purpose and a goal. Now there is nothing and my mind roars with thoughts.

I explore the house to silence them. It’s very basic. A kitchen, a bathroom, and a bedroom. The fact that there is running water unnerves me even further. Only one person has running water on the island and he lives here all year round. And this nonexistent house has it as well.

Then I see the hatch on the bedroom floor. I’m afraid. I shouldn't go down there. But at this point, something in my mind has gone unhinged. Something has been lost during these weeks.

I open the hatch. Light streams in from the basement. I climb down. I am standing in a small room. A single bulb illuminates it and a white steel door stands in front of me.

I have nothing left to lose. I open it. What does it matter anymore?

Quite a lot. I am now in a laboratory. Not a very big one, but a laboratory nonetheless. Potted plants line the walls. A large table in the center of the room in covered in countless flasks, beakers, and various other glass containers. And I’m looking into the eyes of a young man across the room.

He greets me. I return the greeting, too confused and shocked to do anything else.

He recovers much quicker and gives me a lab coat to cover myself. I put it on. He asks me my name, what I’m doing here, and so much more.

To which I respond by telling him everything. I spare none of the details.

He goes paler and paler during my story, which is rather impressive. I didn’t know you could pale with green skin. Once I’m finished he rushes up to me, almost earning himself a broken nose. And then I’m at the doctor's office. He checks my eyes, my skin, my hair, my blood. He asks for some more personal samples and gets told off quite strongly.

He’s like a whirlwind. Every machine in the room is soon whirring, buzzing and flashing. And with every result, they give out he gets more and more pale. And then the lab is silent and he’s sitting, his eyes staring into nothing.

He mumbles something about genetic instability, the method of delivery and instincts. Then he turns to me and explains my predicament.

I feel cold suddenly. It won’t stop. It could be slowed down but only up to a month or even less. I’ll become like them. He keeps talking about modified group behavior but I tune him out. This is it. End of the line.

I ask him for a phone. He looks at me, guilt in his eyes. He hands it to me. I call Heino, my occasional fishing buddy. I ask if he still works at Ämari.

He does.

I tell him about what's happening. I ask him to tell everybody he can about this. And I ask him to give everyone here a shallow grave and a Viking crew cut. He tries to talk but I hang up.

I hand the phone back. We sit in silence for a while before I ask him to do me a favor. As a sort of payment for what he has caused.

He wants to argue. I see it in his eyes. But he doesn’t.

I turn around.

The taste of lead is all encompassing.

***

A man sits in a small house. A body lies in the sun outside. His fellows and brothers will not look kindly upon him. Murder is nothing as there are people enough in the world. Messing with their very being, their thoughts and soul, now that is something quite different. This will be the end. They’ll take everything. His knowledge will turn to ash. He will be nothing. And he will not know it.

He fidgets with the silver ring in his hands, the oak leaf motif reflecting light across the walls. He gets up and walks to the shore. The ring is cold against his palm. He throws it.

Once back, he takes a small notebook out of his pocket and pulls out a phone.

“Good evening? Agent Thorstein? This is Oliver Kristjan. We’ve met on occasion. No, this is not a joke. I believe I have information you would be interested in. You can collect me from Copenhagen. I’ll be in Apropos. We'll discuss my terms then. Until we meet again.”

He puts down the phone and sighs. He hates betrayals.

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