Code of Affliction: The Glitch [Chapter 01]

by | Feb 21, 2023 | Code of Affliction | 0 comments

1. The Glitch

She opened her eyes only to shut them straight away as the bright yellow light hit the pupils from a very close range. She blinked a few times, adjusting; the tears did not come.

Her body felt numb and alien, her muscles aching as she shifted the position. Her mouth, too, was parched dry, and her head pounded with a quality of a heavy percussion. Her stomach was glued to her spine, shrunken, experiencing neither nausea nor hunger. This was not right.

As she gradually got used to the brightness, she saw the white corrugated ceiling with parallel rows of lamps. It appeared too close to her liking. Swallowing panic, she groped for a handle or a button. Before she could find any, a beeping came, then with a hiss the ceiling moved up and sideways on its own accord. The air quality changed – there was too much oxygen for her liking in it. She tried to take a bigger inhale, craving for hydrogen. While her lungs spasmed, fighting death, the atmosphere miraculously equalised. She took a deep punctuated breath and fingered her chest as if the palpation could reveal the problem with her lungs, then lowered her hands in defeat. If her body had begun to change beyond recognition, there was little she could do. Another panicky thought crept into her consciousness, but she held it at bay.

She sat up looking around. She was in an elongated capsule, supported by a solid pedestal. On each inner side of the pod, there was a panel with holes; the hoses in them sported thick needles. Their pattern was repeated along the length of her arms and legs, having cut through the beige fabric of the clothes and left bruises. Her cradle was the only one, positioned in the very centre of a round room. The walls of blue-grey metal had panels here and there, hiding what – cupboards? niches? Or perhaps… she did not like the comparison which came to her mind – mortuary chambers? She swallowed a lump in her throat and kept looking. But there was little to assuage her curiosity – even floor, single door just opposite her, no furniture. Only a charging/docking station near the entrance, currently empty.

She brought her legs over the side and jumped out. Her head immediately went dizzy, and this time her shrunken stomach spasmed. She bent double, holding the cradle’s side but nothing came retching out. As the nausea abated, she could focus on her reflection in the metallic floor. The heart-shaped face with narrow willow-leaf eyes of bark colour, dark brown hair gathered in a high tail and braided with ribbons. She ran her fingers over, sensing thick, heavy make-up; when she looked at her fingers, there were traces of rouge and sparkly particles. She straightened and studied her outfit – beige, semi-transparent, long-sleeved body with glimmering red flames embroidered over her breasts and part of her flat tummy, opaque tights over the muscly legs and the sectioned glittering skirt, which continued the flame theme. Her white poreless fingers caressed the lurex fabric, then pulled up a sleeve a bit to see the same healthy white skin underneath it, cold to the touch as it should be. Her cryocells seemed to be working all right, though the room temperature was too mild to give them any proper work. She looked back at the reflection and the troubling thought she’d been holding at bay broke through. She could tell the face was hers, but as she tried to pin down a name to it, nothing came to her mind.

She staggered back, hitting the cradle with her shoulder blades. Her pulse skyrocketed. Why would not she remember? Her lungs were processing whatever air there was, she did not feel any symptoms of the virus – searing pains, bleedings that would suggest internal organs failure; yes, there was weakness in her limbs, but that could be the result of the time spent in the cryopod. Slowly, she slid down the cradle’s side, pulled her knees to her chest and buried her face in them. Perhaps, if she calmed down, she would remember. After all, there was no problem remembering the virus. She closed her eyes; her forehead wrinkled in concentration. What was her name? She strived for anything, even a nickname – with zero results. Not that her mind was totally blank – there were many more memories than just the virus, but those were cut in short, meaningless fragments, all jumbled, resisting to be put in a coherent strand.

A round stage with a high cupola-like ceiling, surrounded by small tables, mostly empty. A cafeteria with almost the same tables, a doctor with a smudged face, words “surgery”, “valve”, “implant”, “aorto-ventricular tunnel”. Night streets and tunnel vision, the pulled down hood obscuring everything apart from a puddle directly in front of her. An oval of a bio-bedpan, smelly and dark as the puddle. Black leather panties with a grey bunny tail. A greying mop of long hair and beard. Giant trees with coal like bark, interspersing dirty block of flats. Television sounds from an open door to the ward, calling her to go inside. A neon sign, surrounded by a frame of light bulbs, which couldn’t belong to that door. Behind it a mine tunnel. Jazz music coming from the darkness. Heavy sedative smell. Sequin top and shorts and bare feet. Whistles and catcalls. Beeps of the monitors. Flying microphones. Air freshener robots diving under the beds and back into the light. Curly wigs on the mannequins. Malformed internal organs instead of their faces. Six-number figure surrounded by smaller print. Percentage bar on the monitor screen. Two silky ribbons fluttering. The spiral of a DNA contorting. Rows of beds separated by holographic screens. Past or present? Old epidemics or a new wave? It must have been new, otherwise she would not end up in this place.

Why was she alone, in a separate ward? Why had they put her in a cryopod? Was it a new treatment? She had no memories that could serve even as poor answers to those questions. She clenched her teeth, feeling her body beginning to tremble. She could not be sick – she could not betray her body like that. A melody snaked from her memory. A sombre, lyrical one, nothing like the jazz piano she heard before. She began to sing in a high-pitched, distorted tone, hitting the wrong notes. “In the moment in time feels I’m crossing the line. I’m not looking to set things right.”* She swayed with the rhythm, then looked at her outfit once again. It was hard to believe that with such a stiff voice she was a singer, but perhaps it was the virus causing her vocal cords to mutate.

She jumped to her feet, unable to sit still anymore. She had to find the answers – about this place, about herself. She turned back to the cradle – there was a small screen on the left-hand side, currently black and irresponsive. The cryopod should have a programme, a backlog of recent activity. She tapped and pressed, slid her finger across it, but the monitor did not come online. Someone must be controlling the cradle, and they let out.

With rolling footsteps – from heels to the balls – she walked to the door with no handle. She pushed it – locked; she knocked and heard only echoes. Another panel was on the left of the door – she performed the same ritual with the same result. With all the strength she could muster, she kicked the door.

“I have a right to know where I am!” she shouted, causing more echoes.

Her heel was throbbing from the hit, but she still considered repeating the kick – her anger and fear needed a venting out. Instead, she pulled at the panel in feeble hope that tampering with the electronics might cause the emergency opening of the doors.


She let go of the panel and staggered back. Frantically she looked around, but the voice seemed to be coming from everywhere.

“Who are you? Where am I?” She fired questions before the voice might disappear.

“You are in a special place to get treatment. Breaking it apart will only make things worse.” The voice was female, but on the lower side of the register. She could not remember hearing it, ever.

“Is it a research facility? Some super-modern infectious barracks? Are you going to terminate me?”

“I am here to help and to achieve the best possible outcome.”

“For whom?” There was something weird about how the woman spoke, but she had no time to dwell on it right now.

“For everyone. We need to be efficient.”

Another, wholer, memory stroke – a tray with an injection pistol and a huge box of ampules. There was no need for sterile needles, not when you terminated a subject to prevent more suffering.

“Am I here to die?” she croaked like she had crushed glass instead of the vocal cords.

“Not if you fulfil the mission I have for you.”

“What mission?” She made another attempt to find the source of the voice – the room remained empty, and she only felt dizzy from rotating in place. “Who are you? Am I a prisoner?”

There was a slight pause as if the voice considered.

“You are not a prisoner. But you need to hurry – there is little time left. You have to get yourself into a synth body. This is a matter of life and death.”

So, she was sick after all. It could have been an advanced, even an experimental ward, but a ward nonetheless. As if the admittance had released the inner mechanism of the illness, she finally retched the viscous greenish mucus and bile. Even when her stomach was empty, she kept heaving out air. When even that would not come out, she straightened and wiped her mouth on the back of the sleeve. It suddenly dawned on her.

“Wait, to get a synth body I need a consciousness transfer. But it is… illegal.”

There was another long pause.

“I have the authorisation,” the voice finally said.

The doors opened. The LED-lights cracked to life outside, illuminating a long corridor to the right, the territory to the left remained dark. It was clear where the voice wanted her to go. The young woman shivered, taking all of this in. This could be an underground bunker for the worst ill. Her memory supplied her with rumours of some been built. Did they allow the consciousness transfer for such cases? But how would it work if she could not even remember who she was? She wanted to ask the voice, but the door behind her had already closed. The LEDs flashed even brighter, conveying the urgency. Without much choice she went on.

* “Angel” by Poets of the Fall

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