Eris quickly spun back around, but not before I caught the diamond glint of a tear snaking its way down her pale cheek. Her grip on my hand tightened momentarily before Eris began to walk again, carefully leading me through a pitch-black tunnel which opened off the cave-like space she’d found me in. I remembered the light she had held aloft, and wondered why, in such utter darkness, we were not using it.
“Eris,” I murmured softly, for our escape in its very nature demanded a quieter tone of voice. “Whatever happened to that light you had, when I first woke up?”
“Oh, that?” Eris replied, “Well, it wouldn’t make for a very successful rescue if we were found again, would it?” I heard a slight grin in her voice, the first I’d encountered since our meeting several minutes ago. “The walls are light sensitive, you know,” she explained. “With so many tunnels and passages down here, they need to have some method of monitoring people. And unless the prisoners are blind, which is unlikely, considering what this compound is used for, light is a necessity for finding a way out.”
I pondered this for a moment, mulling over what Eris had said about light, and being blind, and this place, this-this, fortress. As I thought the word in my head, I realized that is where I was, a fortress. For the empty, bleak stone walls, endless forays of tunnels and passages, and grim demeanor of doom all fit that one word, fortress. And that comment Eris made, about how blindness was non-existent here, almost as if it were an advantage in this place . . .
It hit me suddenly, like I imagine a train would careen into a lone pedestrian standing unaware on the tracks. I strained to recall an article I’d read, several months ago, a scientific study published about the effects of artificial DNA replication. The author was rather vague, but she had mentioned something, very briefly, about how researchers had just begun to develop ways of not only cloning DNA, but ensuring the clone physically resembled the original. I felt blood begin to ice over in my veins, freezing slowly over like a pond. Just like those frozen bodies of water, the calm, uniform surface concealed whatever rich, tumultuous happenings developed underneath.
Cautiously, with trepidation, I felt the ridge along my left thumb where I had broken a chink of bone off as a child. Disguising my action as a twitch, I felt along Eris’s left thumb for the same indentation, but found none. The frozen feeling dissipated as I concluded that while the two of us were essentially twins, we were not, as I had feared, clones, or Eris too would have possessed a small grove in her left thumb.
As the sense of dread passed, I grew bold, and asked Eris what I had been frightened to know before. “What exactly is this place?”
Eris stopped for a half-second before continuing on her steady, quick pace through the tunnel. Her hand stiffened. “It’s a research lab,” she replied carefully.
“Well yes, I figured,” I responded impatiently, “but what do they study?”
“Genetics,” she answered with a note of fear present in her voice. The cold feeling came back into my veins, but I brushed it off. “They actually study how to preserve human genetics,” Eris continued. “The place was started by a woman, a teacher, actually, who wanted to ensure humans didn’t become robotic machines which were so popular in science fiction at the time.”
The cold feeling persisted, twisting like a knife in my gut. “What-what was her name?”
“April,” was the flat, tight response. “April DeNonno.”