Golgotha: A place or occasion of great suffering; a heap of skulls.
They took him on the way home, when his thoughts were behind him at the Talon, and his attention wasn't as it should have been. He was daydreaming of Lana, his mind meandering off to a picnic lunch set under a tree sporting a tire swing. Romantic inanity dulled his senses. Lana's laughter, as he stood behind her on the swing and made the two of them fly higher and higher, was all that he heard. The bright blue sky, and her broad smile as she lifted her head to look up at him, were all that he could see.
The van pulled up beside him and stopped, the driver leaning out as if to ask directions. The two masked men inside slid back the doors and were on him before he could react, dragging him back into the vehicle. He fought instinctively, but his reaction time was too slow - too slow because of the glittering pendants both men wore. Sunlight flashed from the stones. The eerie green light washed over him, and sucked away his strength.
He almost got away when he slipped from his jacket and staggered back onto the berm. His boots crunched on the gravel as he sought purchase. A split second would be all he needed if he could just get far enough away from the stones. Shouting would bring no one to help, not on the desolate stretch of country highway between downtown Smallville and the Kent Farm. He kept his mouth shut and concentrated on escape instead. He took a few steps down the road. They pursued him. He bloodied a nose with the back of his fist and heard a grunt when one steel toed boot struck the other man in the gut, but they kept on him with the tenacity of pitbulls, refusing to let him get away.
When an arm locked itself around his throat, crushing him against his captor's chest with the poisoned bauble digging into the back of his neck, he knew it was all over. Consciousness drained from his body as his strength waned and his breath was squeezed from his throat. This was his first taste of darkness, before it became his best friend.
He didn't know who "they" were. No one would talk to him.
The room was nondescript, painted stark white with no distinguishing features. It contained a hospital type bed, a bathroom with only a plain porcelain toilet, and himself. At one end was a steel plated door with no window, but when they entered he could see that just outside was an airlock. The door locked securely from outside. The more impressive containment system involved the green stones. From a centralized point in the ceiling there came an eerie, green tinged light illuminating the whole room. It seemed to be nothing but light, yet he could feel the danger hidden within it.
The light made him tired, and sick to his stomach. His muscles and joints ached too. When he was left alone he tried to sleep, but woke from nightmares of smoke, and fire, and screams, because the light invaded his dreams and toyed with his mind. The light made him normal. Normal was no longer a good thing to be, not when they stuck you with needles and injected you with drugs that made you dizzy, or strapped you down so you couldn't move.
When they came for him he asked questions. He was on his best behavior.
"Who are you? Please tell me where I am."
"I want to talk to my parents. Call my parents, please."
Their faces were hidden behind the masks of their bio-suits, and they never answered him. They never spoke to him, and rarely spoke to each other. Whatever assignment they had been given for the day was carried out with scientific precision, whether it be as simple as taking his temperature, or as complicated as - well - some of the other things they did to him. He didn't like to think of some of the things they did. There were things that hurt him, and others that embarrassed him, and one that made him cry.
"What do you want with me? I want to go home."
No one ever spoke to him. He was just a thing.
He had clothing; a pair of sweat pants and a T-shirt. The bed had a thin blanket, but he was always cold. He wasn't used to being cold. It was as foreign to him as many of the other new sensations he was experiencing, such as pain, and discomfort, exhaustion and sickness. A low grade fever stayed with him for a while and it made his captors nervous. He tried to convince them to turn off the green light, but they ignored him. They weren't stupid. They knew too much about him now.
The bed was warm when he curled up in it and pulled the blanket over his body. He didn't like to stay abed too long. It was too easy to lose himself there and fall prey to despair. Instead he forced himself to walk the circumference of the room, supporting himself on the wall as he stumbled along. He kept the blanket wrapped around his shoulders, like a grey cotton shawl, as he counted the squares on the floor. The figures for the length and width of the room provided him a meager entertainment. He calculated with them, doing complex equations as he circled the room again, and again, and again.
He knew they were watching him. He knew they were listening. It wouldn't be long before they grew bored of his pacing and came to do something new to him. When the fever subsided they did come, strapping him down and attaching wires to his head, then forcing him to repeat his performance with the math equations. At first he refused. He gave them the silent treatment and would not cooperate. That was when he first discovered they were not above using pain to get what they wanted.
They ripped the answers they desired from him. He felt eviscerated after each session - when they finished eating away at his mind with their questions, and raping his soul with their cruelty. They spoke to him now when they hadn't before, but their words weren't what he needed to hear. Only they could ask the questions - his went unanswered. He was not permitted silence of his own making. Silence became associated with pain. Their questions got answered, and when their questions got answered, they stopped hurting him. It was the simplest of equations.
He destroyed the bed trying to break through the door when they tested the red light. Blind instinct fueled him, and fury gave him strength. The walls drove him mad. Somewhere deep inside himself he knew slamming the bed against the door was utterly futile, but he did it anyway, taking pleasure in each dent and bend in the metal bedframe as it bounced off the thick, hard steel of the sealed door. His voice rose over the banging noise; he cursed them, making demands he knew they would not fulfill. It was cathartic. The agony clamoring inside him exited with his screams, and the sweat pouring down his face.
It also provided a means to escape. It provided a new doorway, and the key was a scrap of metal flung from the bed as he gave it one last slam into the unyielding door. The bed tipped over with a shriek of tortured metal and a crash. Pieces of its battered body clattered across the floor, to settle around him where he had collapsed in a panting heap. Muddy light, green and red like malignant Christmas decor, illuminated the jagged edge of a piece of shrapnel resting at his side. His fingers shook as he picked it up. His heart pounded with a strange combination of fear, and elation.
In the weird light his blood looked black. Self inflicted pain felt like orgasm compared to what they did to him, and he laughed as he curled around himself to hide from them what he'd done. Blood soaked his clothes. It was warm. For the first time since they had brought him to this place, he felt warm. He sunk into that warmth as if it were his mother's arms, and suddenly she was there, holding out her hands to him, beckoning him home. It was not the one who had raised him. It was the one who had spilled her own blood as she brought him to life.
Her blood was in his, and his trailed off across the metal strewn floor.
Somewhere an alarm began to sound.
He was left to himself to heal. The tests stopped. He had accomplished that small feat at least. They continued to keep him clean, monitored the progress of his wounds, and brought him food. No one spoke to him. He marked the passing days by his baths, but found it depressing, and gave it up. Living stopped and existing began. He slept, restlessly, plagued with a constant nagging ache from the poison holding his body captive. There were nightmares too. Faces he knew he would never see again haunted his dreams, along with a future he would never see fulfilled. His own past came into question. Were his memories truly memories, or some fantasy life he'd dreamed into reality? Had he always lived within these walls?
As soon as he became able, he began walking the circumference of the room again. He became convinced there was a hidden door, and spent a great deal of time looking for it. With eyes closed he felt every inch of the frustratingly smooth walls, letting his fingertips see for him. There had to be a crack, or some other flaw in the smooth surface - the tell tale sign of a door cleverly disguised. Part of him knew there was no hidden door. Part of him needed to pretend there was, because he needed the presence of hope. Hope had him crawling on the floor when the walls revealed nothing.
The isolation was nearly unbearable. He talked to his care-givers, but they didn't respond to him. They were robot people hidden in yellow plastic suits with dark reflective visors where their faces should have been. He made the mistake of looking at his reflection one day and didn't recognize the image he was shown. It scared him. He saw the fear in his own eyes, and in the twisted expression on his face, and backed away from it. The memory of those eyes - dark, haunted and bereft of sanity - brought new nightmares. He begged for a sedative. For once, they complied with his wishes. For once, he slept undisturbed.
The tests began again. They took new samples. He succumbed to their demands, and bled when they told him to bleed, spat when they told him to spit, and came when they told him to come. He latched on to masturbation as a relief from boredom, and something with which he could irritate his jailers. Having to constantly clean up after him delayed their tortures. They visited more often, and oddly, the company of those silent, anonymous presences he found soothing. His new hobby gradually subsided when he discovered the things that used to bring him to arousal, were fading from his memory.
He couldn't remember what Lana looked like, or even the sound of her voice. The once familiar scent of Chloe's perfume was lost, replaced by the sterile smell of alcohol and disinfectant. Were her eyes green, or blue?
How much time had passed? No one would tell him.
"When this is all over, you're going to kill me aren't you?" he asked.
They wouldn't answer him. He repeated the question every time they came, and every time they simply went on with their business as if he had not spoken. Anger and frustration drove him to rebellion. He attempted to make every task more difficult for them, fighting them every step of the way with all the strength they had allowed him to keep. They were stronger than he, and frequently hurt him, but once he sank his teeth deep into the gloved hand attempting to hold him down. The howl of pain from behind the mask brought him a great deal of satisfaction. Retaliation came in the form of a bloody nose, and an argument broke out between the two suited figures.
Their angry exchange confirmed what he had long suspected: he was not to be damaged. Confirmation brought with it the understanding that his torment would be never ending. Four walls filled with poisoned light were the sum of his existence. Costumed creatures bent on torture were his only family. He had no friends, only enemies, and the greatest of those was the very life coursing through his veins.
The new bed was bigger and immobile. He was too weak to move it anyway, so it didn't matter. Standing on the very foot of it accomplished his goal just the same. Basking in the noxious green light issuing from the dome set into the ceiling, he raised his arms as if in supplication. He didn't know how they'd harnessed the radiation in the meteorite fragments and turned it into the light, or how they'd been able to gauge it just enough to keep him weak but not kill him immediately. He hadn't really cared before. Now he felt an irrational frustration with the source of his weakness. He suspected it was killing him, but not nearly fast enough.
Standing on the bed gave him just enough height to touch the smooth surface of the dome with his fingertips - if he stretched. It was cool to the touch, not warm as one would expect. Touching it brought on the more familiar reaction to the meteor rocks, wherein his guts twisted into knots, his temples throbbed with agonizing pain, and his veins popped and writhed from his fingertips all the way up his arms. He held on as long as he could, before collapsing to the bed, where he lay panting and moaning.
He repeated the ritual on a regular basis, until he was too weak to get out of the bed, and the familiar ache generated by constant exposure to the light gave way to a burning sensation throughout his body. With his head resting at the foot of the bed he stared up into the light as if trying to drink more of it in through his eyes. For the length of one of his "days" he lay there staring into the light, willing the poison into his pores, until the room around him faded away, and he fell into a fevered stupor. He was oblivious to the distress of his captors as they administered new tests to study what had happened.
When the darkness suppressing his consciousness fled, and his body slowly recovered, he realized they had cured him by simply moving the bed out from under the dome. He could no longer reach the light to poison himself more quickly. They were always right behind him, making sure of his relative safety, and insuring their ability to destroy him on their own terms.
He felt exhausted, helpless, and hopeless. The bed became a temporary haven. He remained there, unmoving and unresponsive for as long he could bear it, and when he could no longer stand the nagging pain in his body and mind, he got up and walked the walls again.
In his dream he smelled bacon frying, and heard the sound of dishes clanking together. Voices, cheerful voices, bantered back and forth. It was their normal routine, carried out each morning as Martha prepared her boys for busy days scheduled at work and school. Jonathan sat at the kitchen table reading a newspaper, sipping coffee from a favorite mug.
He came down the stairs and his mother kissed his cheek, handing him a bacon and egg sandwich on toast as he hurried from the house on the way to the bus stop. Chloe and Pete were waiting for him. He didn't want to be late. Just like always he said good-bye and rushed out of the house. Just like always he savored the taste of the salty bacon, bright against his tongue, and just like always he turned to look back over his shoulder at the little house he called home.
This time it wasn't there when he looked back. Nothing was there but a vast white wall blocking his view. He whirled, and where the road should have been, where Pete and Chloe should have been waiting, there was another white wall.
Flinging his books and his breakfast aside he raced toward the paddock fence, seeking some sort of freedom, and was blocked again. A fourth wall sprang up to cut him off, obscuring the long stretch of cornfield that reached towards town. His fists pounded against the barrier as it slowly moved closer to him, and he realized all the walls were closing in, imprisoning him in a box which grew smaller and smaller with every one of his cries. Flinging back his head he looked to the sky. It was the same blue sky with the same white clouds, but instead of a bright yellow sun, a pulsing green orb cast its light down on him.
His prison grew smaller, and smaller. The walls pressed against his sides, his chest, and his back. It was no longer a room - it was a coffin.
He woke drenched in sweat, and his hands shook as he pushed aside the blanket to stumble to the toilet where he seemed to piss forever. The water swirling in the bowl was almost hypnotic as he flushed the waste away, and reminded him of the whirling winds of a tornado. He'd willed himself to fly once. Once he'd been in love with a girl with dark hair and green eyes.
He flushed the toilet again, then slowly sank to the floor beside the bowl, where he leaned against the cool porcelain and willed himself to die.
The tasteless, rubbery food he was provided was dutifully eaten despite the plague of relentless nausea, but he was losing weight. A new battery of tests was ordered, carried out, and the results examined. Those results indicated nothing out of the ordinary - for him.
He still lost weight, and he walked the walls.
Sleep occurred in short, restless intervals. When he wasn't sleeping he was circling the confines of his little room, running his hands along the smooth walls as he walked. There was a smudged and dirty line all around the perimeter where he would touch those pristine white walls. Sometimes he counted the squares on the floor as he walked, and at other times he walked in silence, listening to the slap of his bare feet on the tile floor. When he felt cold, he ignored the blanket, and instead huddled in a corner, with his legs drawn up to his chest, and his head resting upon his knees.
He didn't allow himself to think of things. There was no "outside" anymore. There was no such thing as freedom. Thinking lead to longing, and longing led to pain. He was tired of pain, so he banished thought. He sat in the corner and rocked back and forth to ease the ever present ache of his muscles and joints, humming to drown out the voices of people that didn't exist anymore. Keeping his eyes open, he saw only the white walls and the white tiled floor, and the watery green light reflected upon them from the dome in the ceiling. Those sights obscured visions of a past he now doubted had ever been his.
When the suited men came for their samples, or to perform their tests, he no longer spoke to them, nor resisted their man-handling as he had always tried to do before. His mind shut down as his body began failing, and the spirit burning deep within his heart flickered, then died. He no longer felt human. He was cold, emotionless, and alien. They expected nothing more from him. He gave them what they expected.
The door opened and closed all the time. He was used to it. The suited men came whenever they felt like it. Sometimes they spoke to him to order him around, but usually they never said anything at all, poking and prodding at him in silence. He would move from the corner when felt he had to move, or when they dragged him from it. They no longer intimidated him. They were simply minor irritations who interrupted his long hours of doing, and being, nothing.
Rocking back and forth in the corner, he became oblivious to anyone else in the room, oblivious to the sounds of conversation, and finally completely unaware of his own agony.
He retreated from a hand reaching out to touch his face, cringing back into his corner. The hand did not wear a glove. It wasn't real. Dreaming had become unpleasant. He didn't want to dream. He didn't want to remember the feel of bare skin against his, or the flowery scent of perfume. Freedom was impossible, therefore dreams were futile, and only brought false hope.
She said his name and he moaned, squeezing his eyes shut to make the dream go away. It refused to go away, remaining to torment him further. He heard his name again and this time could not resist the temptation to look at the face hovering so close to his.
Her eyes were greenish brown hazel, similar to his own, and filled with unshed tears. There was a tremor in her voice when she spoke, and her smile was crooked - as if it hurt.
"Hey," she said. "Long time no see, huh?"
He stopped rocking and stared at her. The smell of flowers grew stronger. He felt air, fresh air, moving against his face, and beyond the girl he could see that the door was open. The shadowy figure of a man stood just outside. There were no yellow suits, needles, tubes, or machines. The light above his head had gone dark. There was only the blond girl in the pink shirt, who smelled of flowers.
She touched his face again. Her skin was warm.
"It's okay, Clark. Everything is okay now. We've come to take you home."
He looked away from her as she smoothed back his hair. Her fingers caught in the long, tangled strands, and brought his attention back to her. He studied her face, still not fully understanding why she had not faded back into his mind again.
"Home," she repeated, and took him into her arms when he realized the truth of it, holding him tightly as he choked out the only words he could manage.
"Chloe, oh, Chloe...."
Lex stood in the doorway, silently observing Chloe Sullivan's triumphant rescue. He had to admire her tenacity. Everyone else had given up hope of ever seeing Clark Kent alive again. He still didn't know how she managed to find him, and still couldn't believe he'd turned up in Metropolis, right under their noses.
"He's been here all this time?" he asked softly.
"Yes." The man standing behind him replied. "Two years this fall."
The heir apparent to Luthor Corp. turned to face his companion. "And my father received reports how often?"
"Once a month, sir."
"Once a month."
"Yes sir. I delivered the discs myself."
Lex looked back over his shoulder. He sensed the man next to him shift his weight nervously, and savored that unease a moment before returning to the conversation.
"I want this place shut down, and every last scrap of information on this kid destroyed. Do you understand me? Every file, every document, every computer disc. Everything right down to the last fucking post-it-note."
"Sir, your father..."
"Is no longer with us I'm afraid." Lex smirked at the man's startled expression. His voice became softer, but no less ominous. "Don't be sorry," he said quietly. "I'm not."
The good doctor squirmed again, unsure as to how to reply. He resumed tentatively. "And the discs he had?"
The smirk turned into a smile. "Oh, I think I'll be keeping those."
Lex's eyes flickered back to the white walled room.
"I will definitely be keeping those."
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