“Jeez. What a dump.” Henry said to himself as he pushed his way through the rusty wrought iron gate. All around him, nature had tried her best to reclaim the abandoned property. Overgrown grass had covered almost all of the front yard, with the dead remains of bushes scattered around the tall hedge fence line. Ivy had been left to grow uncontrollably up and down the 2 story Victorian style house, while sections of roof tiles were missing, exposing the frame underneath to the elements causing unknown structural damage to the house. The relic from the past was abandoned by its previous owners over 30 years ago without explanation. One day the family of 4 were living there, seemingly happy, the next, they were gone, their deserted furniture the only proof of their existence.
Henry decided to have a quick look around the property and size up the job he had been given. He was to restore the grounds to as close to its former glory as possible before the house was to be renovated and sold. With all this wild growth, Henry had noticed one section of the yard seemed to be exempt. The grass was only an inch high and looked a nice shade of green considering no one had looked after the property for years. The only unkempt thing about the grass was the layer of autumn leaves surrounding a pile of similar leaves, which wouldn’t be unusual had it been autumn. It was the 12th of January. Well into the Australian summer, a month and a half before the leaves should even think about dropping. Henry was confused, but just shrugged it off as one of life mysteries, plus it meant a little less work for him. He returned to his truck and fetched a few gardening hand tools and bought them back to the patch of grass.
“Might as well get the easy part done first.” Henry told himself as he started to rake the leaves.
Several minutes later there was a loud rip sound as Henrys’ rake got caught on something and pulled a corner of the grass up. Henry was surprised and crouched down to see what had happened. He was shocked. From a distance, the grass looked real, but this section of grass wasn’t. It was fake grass that was attached to the ground with Velcro. Henry pulled the rest of the fake grass off with a loud tearing sound then let out a gasp. Sunken about two inches into the ground was a circular metal hatch which would have been completely concealed by the fake grass. It was only pure luck that Henry had found it.
Henry walked over to the hatch and looked closer. It had a round handle on top that he assumed you turn to unlock it like they do in the movies. So, Henry tried to turn the handle, which did not budge at first, but eventually gave way with a small screech and spun freely. A small hiss came from around the edge of the hatch as it popped up an inch. Still grabbing the handle, Henry pulled upwards as the hatch creaked opened. Once fully opened, Henry peered down into the hole. A ladder was bolted to one side of the small tunnel leading downwards, but the darkness consumed the tunnel and Henry could not see anything past a few feet.
Henry rushed back to his truck and grabbed a torch before returning to the hatch. He shone the torch down the hatch, but he only saw the ladder as far as the torch light could go. Curiosity got the better of him, so he climbed down the ladder into the waiting darkness. Surprisingly, the ladder only went down a few metres before he stepped off the last rung onto concrete.
He spun around and shone the torch all around him. He was in a small concrete tunnel only about two metres deep before it ended abruptly with a grey metallic door blocking his progression. Henry approached the door and pushed on it. Nothing happened. The door didn’t budge at all. There was no door handle or any discernible features. Next to the door was a small grey box protruding from the wall with a black screen. Henry pressed on the screen, which to his surprise, lit up with a silhouette of a handprint on the screen.
Not expecting anything to happen, Henry pressed his hand against the scanner but to his shock the black screen turned green followed a chime sound. The door opened, sliding into wall out of sight. Henry leaned sideways and peered into the new room. He walked forwards into the dark room shining his torch across the room. The beam of light bounced of large cylinders and shiny metal tables.
“What the hell is this place?” Henry said to himself. Suddenly a whirring sound could be heard coming from one corner followed by flickering as the room was filled with the cool white radiance of fluorescent lights overhead. Henrys jaw dropped as he took in the sight of the room.
One wall of the room had several screens and computers built into the wall. A few desks were laid out around the room, all covered in papers and beakers and other lab equipment. But most shocking of all were the three large cylinders on the opposite side towering over henry and filled with a pink liquid of some kind. Two of the cylinders were empty except for the liquid, while the third contained a human body suspended in the liquid.
Henry froze with fear. The body gently bobbed up and down as bubbles floated from the bottom of the tank to the top. The faint sound of beeps and whirrs filling the small room as the various computer systems went about their tasks. After what felt like an eternity, Henry regained his composure. He took a step forward. The being floated motionless in the tank. Henry took a couple more steps towards the tank. Still nothing. Henry gathered all his courage and walked towards the tank, shining the torch into it casting a pinkish glow around the room as the liquid reflected the light.
The body’s expressionless face was warped by the cylinder and liquid, but Henry thought it looked familiar, so he leaned it for a closer look. He realised why it was familiar, it looked exactly like him. From his short brown hair to the birthmark on his right ankle. Someone had managed to clone an exact copy of Henry without him knowing and was growing the body in this cylinder in a bunker beneath a house that was abandoned over 30 years ago.
Henry felt like his head was about to explode. He had never felt this confused in his life and was starting to feel dizzy as he stumbled backwards, tripping over his feet and smashing his back against the wall behind him. Henrys vision was starting to fade, the room growing darker, the faint beeps becoming imperceptible. Then it felt like he was falling through blackness, then nothing.
Henry was jolted awake by alarm on his phone. He reached out and snoozed it, then rolled onto his back and let out a big yawn. He looked around at his surroundings. He was back in his bed, in his house.
“What a weird dream.” He hoarsely said to himself before clearing his throat. He sat up in his bed and rubbed his throbbing head. “It felt so real.”
He leaned over and grabbed his phone. He had a few missed calls and text messages from his boss who was asking him where he was and how his job was going. He opened his company app and checked his job list. There at the top of the incomplete list, was the very same Victorian house he had dreamt about. Did he dream up wild adventure about the house he was about to visit or was it real.
Henry closed the app dropping the phone on his lap and resting his head in his hands. A million questions were going through his mind, when his eyes had caught today’s date on his phone. 15th of January.
“I went the house on the 13th.” Henry exclaimed. “What happened to yesterday?” Henry leapt out of bed, got dressed and headed for his car. He was going to go back to the house and hopefully figure out what was going on.
The trip to the house was the longest drive but eventually he arrived and got out of his car. There was nothing odd about the house or the street. A few houses down, a neighbour was mowing their front yard not paying attention to Henry or anything else. Henry started walking towards the closed wrought iron gate. He peered through the bars at the spot where the hatch was, and his jaw dropped at what he saw.
The hatch was gone. There was nothing but the grass and the pile of leaves. Had Henry really dreamt the whole experience.
“It couldn’t have been a dream if I’ve lost a day!” Henry said to himself, scratching his head. “Unless I slept for over 24 hours straight.”
Nothing made sense. Suddenly a voice came from behind the gate causing Henry to jump backwards.
“Can I help you, young man?” An elderly man in a black suit with a black tie appeared from behind the hedge, hunched over leaning heavily on a cane.
“W-who are you? Henry asked visibly shaken by the surprise visitor.
“I believe I’m entitled to ask you the same question.” The elderly man replied, adjusting his weight on his cane.
“I was here yesterday and uhh…” Henry started, but then hesitated at how ridiculous his story would sound to this stranger.
Before Henry could continue, the elderly man straightened his back, lifting the cane and hooking it over his opposite arm as a disappointed scowl spread across his face. “So, it seems you still remember yesterday’s events.” The suited man let out sigh.
Henrys jaw dropped. “So, it was real?” Henry questioned, grabbing the bars of the gate and leaning in closer. “Where has the hatch gone? And the clone and the all the other stuff in that bunker.” He added, his mouth speaking faster than his brain could keep up. “Why did you clone me? What is going on!”
The elderly man let out a small chuckle. “So many questions.” The elderly man looked around, as if looking for prying eyes, then an unsettling smile spread across his wrinkled face. “I can answer some of those questions for you.” The suited man straightened his tie. “We got rid of the lab yesterday. It was a forgotten relic from the past and we couldn’t risk it being discovered again. As to why we cloned you...” The man hesitated. “Well, I have an answer, but I don’t want to tell you.” The man reached into his suit and pulled out a pair of black sunglasses, and a small metallic container, about the size of a zippo lighter.
“To be honest, none of this matter anyway. Usually, when this kind of experiment breaks protocol, we wipe the minds of any witnesses, but it seems like the wipe didn’t hold on you.” The man flicked open the metallic container revealing a small red button on top. “We have erased all evidence of the lab. So do what you want. No one is going to believe you.”
Finishing his sentence, the elderly man placed his thumb on the button, looked up at Henry and smiled with an evil grin and pressed the button. In an instant the man was gone without a sound of even so much as a flash, and Henry was left standing at the gate all alone with a fantastical story that no one was going to believe.
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.
I really enjoyed this story!