I was feeling everything. Sometimes at once, sometimes rapidly cycling through emotions. I wanted to cry but couldn't. I saw a countdown on the monitor. When it reached zero I found I could finally move my limbs, for all the good it did me.
I spasmed violently as I got up, and nearly toppled over with every belabored step as I shambled towards the door. Suddenly I could speak again. When I tried to call out, only bestial bellowing and grunting issued forth.
I reached a mirror, and for the first time understood just how far up shit creek I was. The entire top half of my head from the eyebrows up was missing. My soft, veiny brain jiggled slightly as I recoiled from the sight. I tried to cry and this time it worked. I could not stop. I reached up gingerly as if to touch it, but thought better. Nor was there anything handy to cover it with that wouldn't chafe or put pressure on it.
The random sensory jumble began to subside. I interpreted it as symptomatic of the restructuring process they'd spoken of. When it completed, I did my best to feel out the limits of my mind. It was as if only a tiny island of grey matter was left, and I was stranded on it. Just the parts of my brain necessary for Harry's purposes. Like the brain of an insect, or a machine.
It was bizarrely refreshing. Without the rest of the brain encumbering it, this small, purely computational mass knew exactly what to do. No ambiguity existed. One right answer for every question, only one possible course of action. The mind reduced to a mechanism. Finally the convulsing stopped.
I found Harry's spray bottle and carefully dispensed what I now figured for nutrient fluid on my exposed brain. Tucking it into the back of my pants, I again took inventory of myself in the mirror on the way out. Easily 250 pounds of lean, defined muscle. I noted that they'd chosen the right guy for this, then remembered it was me. I would've felt something if it were still possible to.
The corridors were only partially lit. Harry's doing, I suspected. I heard bumping and clamoring in the distance, echoing down the halls and the confused voices of other researchers inquiring about what they believed was a power outage. I came upon one of them focused on an open fusebox. "Oh hey, would you see if you can find some needlenosed pliers?" When I did not reply, he looked up from his work, and his jaw dropped. "Oh. Oh fuck."
I don't know why I killed him except that it seemed impossible not to. The only way forward. The only right answer. Every other choice was blocked, greyed out, unthinkable in a literal sense. He struggled as I reached for his neck, intent on dislocating one of the vertebrae. So instead I began to tear at his abdomen. I felt no pain or stress on my hands so it was easy to rip open his belly and pull out his intestines and stomach over his weak, gurgling protestation.
I was elated. Dismantling him sent ripples of intense pleasure through me. I felt like a tremendous block of concrete or metal, sliding unstoppably along, crushing beneath it soft, weak creatures without even noticing. Everything soft about me had been stripped away.
I was a shining metal skeleton, powered by perfect hatred. An angular, cold, relentless machine which only happened to be made from living tissue. The end result was the same, simply because my upper body strength greatly exceeded that of everyone I encountered. One on one, they stood no chance of survival. I realized I could keep doing this for days until starvation weakened me.
Another cried out, then whimpered softly until expiring. I'd strode up behind him indifferent to the possibility that he might notice me as it would make no difference if he did. This one was a guard. He reached for a gun, so I broke his arm in two places.
Then as he lay screaming I knelt down and broke each of his small, fragile finger bones while he flailed ineffectively at me. Satisfied that the limb was entirely disabled I set about dislocating his vertebrae. He went limp. Not long now, I thought, until his body assumes ambient temperature.
Human remains littered the hallways, flickering lights reflecting off of still wet blood dripping from the walls and ceiling. My handiwork. My finest hour. I beamed with pride. I was performing my function exactly as intended, at peak efficiency. There was no greater satisfaction I could conceive of. I wanted to share it.
I found a woman hiding in a cafeteria cupboard. Business suit, not labcoat. Some kind of supervisor? HR? She was screaming like the others and it grated on me so I crushed her trachea. Then as she lay gasping I noticed she'd stabbed me with a plastic knife. It barely made it a centimeter into my side. I withdrew it, then held her head firmly in place as she gasped for air, and began forcing the knife into her brain cavity through the space between her eyeball and the bridge of her nose.
She began to convulse and grabbed my arm, but could not overpower me. I slid it very carefully into her brain, ripping at the soft tissue, no sudden violent motion as I wanted her to remain conscious for as much of it as possible. Then I began to twist it. Stirring, churning the brain matter. Her eyes lost focus. The lids began to flutter. Her limbs went limp, twitching slightly. I knew more or less what it was like for her and delighted in it.
I passed another mirror on my way to the offices, where the remaining survivors had barricaded themselves. Harry had evidently been so kind as to initiate some lockdown protocol which sealed all of the doors leading outside with magnetic locks, so that the frightened little mice could not escape the cat stalking them through this four story, three dimensional maze. Good old Harry, made me what I am. He knew I was perfect for this.
I could see the contours of my musculature outlined in shadow, the light off to one side very dim as it was on reserve power. I was absolutely drenched in blood, dripping down every curve and crease. It struck me as powerfully sensual.
What I saw was certainly a primate, made from skin, muscle, organs and bone. But I saw beyond that facade, to the machine underneath. The grinning, skeletal, single minded industrial slaughter machine which enjoyed total clarity of purpose and the maximum possible satisfaction in its work. I withdrew the bottle and misted my brain.
Out of the corner of my eye I spotted someone making a break for it. Useless, I thought. I am very fast and will overtake him in a matter of seconds. Then, because I am much stronger, I will easily extinguish him. I set off in pursuit, exalting in the sensation of blood pulsing through me, sending oxygen to my muscles as I pumped my legs, powering down the darkened corridor towards my quarry.
When I finally caught him, he did not scream or beg. The determined look in his eye told me something was amiss. I glanced down at what he was holding. Some sort of improvised explosive. In one swift motion, I flipped him over onto it just as he depressed the detonator. The world spun around me. I was thrown up against the wall, my chest and thighs charred from the blast. One of my forearms now terminated in a bloody tangled mess of gore where the hand should be. A bone shard jutted out of the bloody stump.
I found the man's lower body and took his belt. I used that to tie off the stump, to stop the bleeding. I was indifferent to the damage, except to quickly sharpen the protruding bone so that I could still use this arm for my larger purpose. Carefully fanning my remaining hand over the top of my head I found small pieces of glass embedded a little bit into my brain. I did not remove them for fear of blood loss. My task was almost completed anyway.
I heard footsteps and murmuring, so I played dead. "Holy fuck, Alejandro. He really did it. Saved us all. We'll have to drink to him after this." The office refugees. They crowded around me. "So this is Stan's pet. He wasn't kidding, the dude is ripped. Who knew one guy could-"
I did not care to hear more. The intense urge to perform my sole function became overwhelming. I reached out and grabbed the ankles of two men nearest me and yanked. They collapsed and before the rest could react I withdrew the pistol I'd taken from the guard and shot each of them neatly in, or between, the eyes.
One of the fallen men screamed, the other cursed and withdrew his own pistol and shot me several times in the abdomen and chest. I felt nothing. A single shot to the head settled the matter. I shot the other in the back of the head as he got up and ran for it.
My own blood began to mix freely with the blood of others as it ran down my body. I felt no pain but could sense my body weakening, one of my lungs filling with blood. 167 to 1 is an acceptable kill/death ratio. My performance met and, I suspected, even exceeded expectations.
I wished that the warm feeling of approval could last forever. But it couldn't. Not just because I was dying, but because the brain's cruel tendency to self repair had finally started to restore connectivity between the small piece I was working with now and the rest which Harry had seen fit to cut off from it.
One of the first memories to return was a quote I'd heard someplace. "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents." Never more true than now. The metal skeleton was being engulfed once more in living tissue. In softness, feeling and genuine self awareness.
I looked at myself and what I had done, and projectile vomited. I cried out in anguish, helplessly revisiting memories of when I was a small boy, dreaming of one day becoming an airline pilot. Of the modest suburban home my father worked himself raw trying to pay off. Uncomfortable, agonizing, unwanted humanity. It had been simpler before. So much easier to be whatever that thing was.
I rejected it. I could not reconcile it with what I had done. I returned to one of the mirrors, knelt before it and began to tear at my exposed brain, digging out chunks of it. The familiar incomprehensible corruption returned. Chaotic, pulsating patterns spread over every surface. Loud alternating tones and screaming, garbled voices competed to deafen me.
It wouldn't work. I began to lose precision control over my limbs. Wouldn't work. I would physically disable myself before I could destroy the whole thing. Had to destroy all of it at once. Must kill self, must kill self. Cannot live as this. Only one thing left to do. No other way.
I withdrew the gun from my waistband, stuck it in my mouth taking care to aim it at my brainstem, and pulled the trigger.