It’s dark. It’s cold.
Where are you?!
Grace tries to speak, but her voice keeps catching. Finally, she manages to quietly beg through her tears.
“Come back! Come back! Please!”
The portal opened in the room and two figures fell through. It was the same room where all the testing had been going on before. Grace looked up at the white walls, the TV monitors, the cameras. It was all the same, and yet seemed different.
“Get off of me.”
Grace looked down. She had fallen on top of a young woman, mid-20s. They had the same dark hair and green eyes.
“I said get off!” the woman exclaimed, shoving Grace off of her.
The woman sat up and looked around at the room.
“Hey, I remember this place,” she said, “this was where we went through all of our testing.”
“Yeah.” Grace replied.
An alarm suddenly went off throughout the building.
“Well, looks like someone found out we’re here,” the woman said. “I say we sit here and wait for the welcoming party.”
Grace stood up and straightened her clothes.
“Things look different,” she said.
Two security guards came rushing into the room, tasers drawn.
“Hold it right there!” they ordered. “Hands up!”
Grace obeyed. With a reluctant sigh, so did the woman.
“Quite the welcoming committee, don’t you think?” she muttered.
“Holy…” one of the guards began.
The other guard turned to speak into his radio.
“Hey, get Chex in here. It’s Grace. She’s back.”
Grace and the woman sat in a comfortable office, each of them draped in a blanket. A security guard stood in the corner of the room, watching them. Grace sipped a mug of hot cocoa. The woman had a cup of coffee on the table beside her, but she ignored it, waiting for someone important to come along.
The door to the office burst open. Chex rushed into the room. Grace jumped up from her chair and ran up to him. Chex picked up the little girl and held her tightly. Grace began to cry.
“I was so worried. You were there, and then you were gone. We couldn’t find you.” Chex told her. “You’ve been gone for an entire week.”
Chex turned to look at the cause of the noise: the woman in the chair.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“Nice to know you still recognize me after all these years.”
She gestured to herself. Chex stared. This woman… was an adult version of Grace.
“What?” he asked.
Little Grace put her hands on Chex’s face.
“She’s me, but all grown up.”
“But… how?” Chex stammared.
The older Grace shrugged. “Like I would know.”
“She got me out of there.” Little Grace said.
“How?” Chex asked. “Wait, what? Where?”
“She took my hand, and we disappeared.”
“But, where were you? How is she so much older?”
Adult Grace sighed and stood to face Chex, shrugging the blanket off.
“We split into two people. We got separated. I spent years trying to find her. When I did, she was just the same. I grabbed ahold of her, and we left. Care to explain how you could have gotten us there in the first place?”
Chex was speechless. He had no answer for that. Little Grace stared at Adult Grace.
“Don’t give me that.” Adult Grace said to the little girl. “It’s his fault that we’re like this.”
“He didn’t mean to.” Little Grace replied.
Adult Grace glared at Little Grace, who immediately looked away, uncomfortable. Adult Grace didn’t stop. Little Grace buried her head in Chex’s shoulder and started crying.
Chex looked from one Grace to the other. He had no idea what was going on, but it was upsetting Little Grace very much.
“Where did you two go?” he asked.
Adult Grace and Little Grace sat in chairs, having blood drawn. Chex watched. A lab assistant took the two samples and prepared them for the microscope.
“It was cold. And grey. And there was no one.” Little Grace said.
Adult Grace stared at Little Grace, who was immediately dissuaded from making any further comments.
“And you were split the instant you got there?” Chex asked.
“Yes.” Adult Grace answered.
Chex paced back in forth in front of the girls.
“You don’t believe us?” Adult Grace asked.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow, but… I saw you disappear into a portal! I’d believe you if you said you went to Pluto. I just can’t understand how you two could have possibly been separated the way you are now.” Chex said.
“Why do you care?” Adult Grace asked.
Chex stopped pacing.
“I said, why do you care?”
“Well, of course I care.” Chex protested, feeling on the defensive. “Grace, I’ve been taking care of you ever since you’ve arrived here.”
“Why?” Adult Grace asked. “So we could be your pet experiment?”
“What? No! No, not at all! You’re not just an experiment. We all care about you, Grace.”
Adult Grace stared hard at Chex, a deep anger burning within her.
“Sure.” She said.
Little Grace looked up at Chex.
“She doesn’t want to get put back together.”
“Shut up!” Adult Grace barked.
Chex turned to the little girl.
Little Grace shrugged, her entire being weighed down with some invisible burden. She opened her mouth to speak, but Adult Grace gave her a death glare. The girl shut her mouth again.
Chex looked at the two of them suspiciously.
“What aren’t you telling me?”
“Hey, Chex. Come take a look at their samples.” The lab assistant interrupted.
Chex eyed the two girls. Something was up between them. He kept watching them as he backed up towards the lab assistant.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Well, they’re the same person, alright. Same DNA.”
“This is the Adult Grace’s sample. These are definitely adult cells. But take a look.”
The lab assistant slid Chex the microscope. Chex took it and looked through the scope. Inside, the red blood cells were floating around, but every so often, a cell would turn black and die completely.
“What is that?” Chex asked, looking up.
The lab assistant shrugged.
“I don’t know.” He said. “They’re dying, and fast too, but I have no idea what’s causing it. It’s not like they’re pre-blackened or anything. They’re perfectly healthy, and then they suddenly die.”
Across the room, Little Grace started to cry again. Chex walked over to her.
“What’s the matter, Grace?”
“I–I don’t want to die!” the little girl cried.
“You’re not going to die. You’re fine. We took a look at your blood, and you’re okay. It’s the other Grace we’re worried about.” Chex assured the girl.
“You don’t understand.” Adult Grace spoke up. “If I die, she dies too.”