*Wordcount: 1323 words.

Smoke billowed through the air, lazy and carefree. The origin of the smoke was a lit joint, held loosely by a young man just enjoying his day. His name was Nathan, and he didn’t have much going on in his life at the moment.
He had finished school years ago (and was happier for it), didn’t have a job, and was, for lack of a better term, ‘bumming’ off his friend’s couch. His friend the dealer, who kept him supplied with freebies. For now, that is.
So there Nathan was, chilling on his friend’s couch with some chemical assistance.
He barely even noticed the bleeding man running through the garden.

The man had collapsed, panting and looking around wildly. Nathan approached him cautiously, and he seemed to panic when he saw Nathan.
“Stay away from me! I’m not going back!” The man looked like he was about to make a run for it, and in his condition he wouldn’t have gotten far.
“Hey man, relax. Are you hurt? You’re bleeding?” Nathan got a little closer.
“Stay away! You’re with them, and I’ll be damned if I fall for this!”
“Relax, who’s ‘them’? I’m not with anybody, don’t worry. Maybe I can help you?”
The man eyed Nathan suspiciously, like a rabbit cornered by a vicious predator.
“You… You’re not with them? No one who works for them would offer help… Unless it was a trap, to capture me without resistance!”
“No, I swear tha-”
“No! Fuck you and fuck them!”
At that the man sprinted away.
Or would have, had he not tripped over his own feet and fallen unconscious.

Nathan had always been a gentle boy; he had often tried to care for injured birds or other sickly animals. Mice, and even a mole once! He hadn’t been successful every time, but something drove him to help them again and again.
Something about the bleeding, unconscious man sparked that caring nature in Nathan. Which is why he was currently lying on the couch inside, after Nathan had grunted and groaned dragging him inside. Nathan tried to tend to his wounds, and they didn’t seem too bad at least. Scratches and scrapes, but nothing that looked fatal.
There was more blood than Nathan would have liked, and he took the time to wipe it away.

Nathan had been unable to resist the blandishments of his unfinished joint, and sat puffing on it contentedly while he waited for the man to awake.
Awake he did, suddenly and loudly. A scream and a jolt, and he looked fit to run off again.
“Hey, hey! Calm down, you passed out. I brought you inside, you’re safe.”
The man looked at him incredulously. “S- Safe? I… Why should I believe you?”
“Because I want to help you. I wiped away most of the blood, and you don’t seem too badly hurt.”
The man inspected himself, and Nathan saw him relax slightly.
“Oh. Thank you.”
“My pleasure. What happened to you?”
“What happened…” The man choked on the words, and seemed to tear up. “They, they, took me. Hurt me. They’re hunting me. Please! You have to help me!”
“I want to, I want to. Who’s ‘they’?”
“They’re coming; they’ll be close behind me! Please, we have to leave!”
“Don’t worry, I’ve locked all the doors and closed the curtains. No one should know you’re here.”
The man was looking around fearfully, but seemed to ease up when he heard this.
“It won’t be enough.” He said, miserably. Still, he seemed more relaxed.
“Could you tell me what happened? What’s your name?”

The man’s name was Jeffry, and his story was fantastical to say the least. Men in black, kidnapping and secretive facilities, cruel experiments and crueller doctors.
Nathan wasn’t sure he believed any of it, it sounded like stuff out of a mediocre movie (of which Nathan was a purveyor of) or conspiracy theory forums. Regardless, Jeffry had been through something and Nathan wanted to help him.
“Want a smoke?” Nathan held a freshly rolled joint towards Jeffry.
“Oh, erm, no thank you. I don’t smoke.”
“Fair enough, figured you could do with something to take the edge off. What do you think you’ll do, if they are chasing you?”
Jeffry’s eyes filled with panic. “I- I don’t know… I’ll run, I must run! I must go now, they’ll be coming!”
“Hey, hey, no need to be doing that. Here, try it.”
Jeffry took the joint, looking at it uncertainly.

Jeffry coughed a good deal at first, but seemed to enjoy it. Nathan made sure he took it easy, he wanted Jeffry calmed but not out of it. Of course, it could also make Jeffry’s paranoia worse, but Nathan kept from mentioning that. Sometimes, he found, worrying about the downsides made those downsides a reality.
Nathan popped off to take care of some business in the bathroom, and was finishing up when he heard something peculiar. It sounded like scuffling footfalls and hushed, but urgent, whispering.
He pressed his ears to the glass of the bathroom window, and listened.
“-ker says he’s here. Must be in-”
“-ts get a move on, we need him ba-”
“It’s already taken too long to find him. The doctor won’t be happy.”
“Then shut up, we’ve got all the exits cove-”
Nathan exited the bathroom in full sprint.

“We need to go!”
“What?” Jeffry didn’t look like he was in condition to be running. Plus, Nathan had heard them talking about the exits… If he couldn’t take him out, then what?
“‘They’ are here! We need to leave!”
Jeffry’s eyes widened, and he stood up shakily.
“What? How?”
“I don’t know, but they are, and if we don’t hurry-”
Jeffry looked at Nathan as if he had just had a revelation. “You! You drugged me, kept me complacent! You’re working with them!”
“What?! No! Jeffry, please, we need to-”
The back door blew inwards and men in full swat gear rushed in.
“Move move!”
“You two, hands up!”
“You’re coming with us!”
Jeffry and Nathan stayed dead still, as every soldier had their guns pointed squarely at them.
A man walked in behind the rest, and fixed them with a cold stare.

He was in full gear, like the others, save for the headgear. He was bald, and a jagged scar tore its way down his face. It crossed over his right eye, which was misted over. His other eye regarded them coldly, then fixed on Jeffry.
“You caused us quite some trouble, Jeffry. I hope you don’t plan on trying to escape again?”
Jeffry could only stare at him, frozen in fear.
“Where was this complacency when we needed it?” The bald man chuckled. “I’m sure we can make this complacency stick. The doctors will have to make some modifications to your containment. Hell, to you. They don’t want you for your legs, after all.”
Jeffry started weeping, wide eyed and still staring at the man.
“That’s the spirit.” He pulled out a gun, and shot Jeffry.

Nathan screamed, shocked, and quickly caught and corrected himself when he caught the bald man staring him down.
“Who are you?”
“You shot him!”
The bald man sniffed the air. “Ah, a pothead. That explains the stupidity. Look at him again, it was a tranquilizer. We may not need his legs but we need him.”
Nathan noticed that he was right. “Oh.”
“Again, who the hell are you?”
“M- My name’s Natha-”
“Wait, forget I asked. I don’t care.”
The man aimed the gun at Nathan,
“Woah, hey no don’t-”
and pulled the trigger.

As Nathan was slipping out of consciousness, he heard the bald man speak.
“If that freak ever cries at me again, I’ll put a bullet through his damn tear glands. What do you mean ‘what about the stoner’? Take him. Never know what that Frankenstein fucker will use. If he’s unnecessary, I’ll kill him myse…”
Nathan slipped into darkness.


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