"I hate you!" you screamed. "I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!"
Gilbert didn't say anything as two men pried you away from him and moved you to a different rectangular-shaped van. Through your screams and sniffles, you could hear a different man in a white coat talking to the person who had betrayed you and your brother.
"Even though you've brought her to us, you still know that you were just as responsible for this, correct?" he said to Gilbert.
"Yes," Gilbert nodded. From the look in his eyes, it looked like he had thought this through and through for a long time.
"Let me go!" you shouted and attempted to squirm away despite your fruitless efforts.
"Feisty little thing for an experiment, isn't she?" one of the men growled as they swung open the door to the vehicle and placed you inside a chair. When you were secured, they grabbed a pair of belts and strapped you down by your arms and legs.
"Ludwig, help me!" you cried.
"There's no point in screaming, ___________," the other man said. "The two of you—or should I say, the three of you—have caused us enough trouble."
"Ludwig…" you sniffed. How in the world did these people know your name? You had never seen them before in your life, yet they still treated you like a dangerous subject. What disturbed you most of all was the man referring to you as an experiment.
Then, you heard the engine fire up followed by a sudden jolt in the floor as the van took off and drove farther and farther away from the cabin. Like the two houses you had lived in with Ludwig, there were no windows in the car so you couldn't see where you were going.
While in the car, a small group of people in masks and white suits made their way into the back to examine you. You never knew what exactly made them so bad, but just thinking about what they would do to you made you scared out of your wits. Because you kept moving, two people had to hold down your head and another one pinning down your torso as they prodded you, shined you with lights, squeezed your limbs, and injected you with multiple shots.
It was just like when you had first woken up: you were scared, frightened, completely void of trust and control over what happened to you in the early stages of your new life. Ludwig had done several tests on you, too, writing data feverishly down in documents, making note of any changes to your condition and adjusting your environment as he saw fit.
Who were you? What were you?
Finally, one of the men put a mask over your face. You could still see, but the more you breathed, the heavier your eyelids began to feel, and the slower your mind began to process. Soon, you couldn't bear to keep yourself alert any longer as you feel into a deep, deep sleep.
When you woke up, the walls were shrouded in a chalk-white light. You could smell faint wafts of alcohol courtesy of such sanitation found in hospitals. The temperature was the same as it was in Ludwig's house and cabin. Your chest hurt like a block of lead was sitting on top of you.
The first thing you did was blink. Then you looked around. Your eyes were working. Next, you tried moving your fingers. Those were also fully functioning. Finally, you tried to sit up. That, too, worked.
After checking to see if everything was in tact, you observed your surroundings. The room was completely empty save for a single doll dressed in a silken dress, its porcelain finish nearly worn out through the years sitting on a small tin stool. It looked old. Something about it caught your eye. You couldn't place your finger on it, but there was something strangely familiar about this doll. You didn't even know why you knew it was called a doll.
Then, the sound of wings grew near. When you turned your head, you saw a single yellow bird flying towards you with a man walking behind it. A single word came to mind when you saw it.
"G-Gil…bird…" you stuttered. Your tongue hadn't been in use for a long time. When the bird landed in your hands, you were surprised at how light he had become since you had last seen him.
"You two are very special," the man that was behind the bird said. He wasn't an old man though he wore glasses, but you could tell from the fair amount of wrinkles on his face that the years had done a number on his body.
"Who are you?" you asked trying out your speaking abilities.
The man chuckled. "I'm just a doctor," he said. "Though, many people refer to me as the head director for a major bioengineering company."
That didn't mean anything to you.
"Where am I?" you then asked.
"In a hospital," the doctor answered. "You've been asleep for a very long time, ___________."
"____________..." you echoed. "Is that my name?"
The doctor nodded. "I didn't think your memories would be fully in tact. They were incomplete even through your first procedure.
You didn't understand.
"What do you mean?"
The doctor didn't answer you right away. Instead, he walked towards the doll that had been sitting by your bedside and picked it up.
"Did you see this yet?" he asked holding it out to you. "It's for you."
You silently reached out and took the doll. After examining it, you noticed there was a small slip of paper fashioned around a string like a tag.
"Forgive me," it said.
You blinked. It didn't mean anything to you.
"Who gave this to me?" you asked.
To this, the doctor smiled; the smile neither being warm, nor cold. "Someone who dearly loved you," he said in a gentle voice.
"I want to see that person," you said. You didn't know why, but something inside you told you that whoever had given you this doll had known you for a long time.
The doctor's face hardened. "Are you sure?" he asked.
You nodded without hesitation. Then, the doctor adjusted his glasses.
"__________, before I take you to this person, I should tell you a little bit about what you have been going through all of this time."
When you didn't respond, he continued.
"We had been working on a medical breakthrough—for a long time, in fact. There were two people who excelled in something no one had ever down before: the preservation of life." He looked at Gilbird. "Now, what would you call life? Is it a soul? A shamble of nerves and tissue bundled together in a number of complex chemical reactions? The thing is, we don't know. We may never know.
"These two people, they were brothers with young and remarkably brilliant minds, the older only being in his early twenties. Though they had many falling-outs, they were a pair that could accomplish anything if they put their mind to it. Then, out of the blue, the younger one quit. He said it had something to do with a loved one being involved in some accident that happened a while back so he left to spend the rest of his time with her.
"A few months later, it was said that the poor man's loved one died. Then, his brother left, too. But we noticed something: medicines and formulas we had invested years and billions towards suddenly disappeared. We put a few things together and came to the conclusion that it had something to do with the disappearance of the brothers, and that lead to the 'death' of the younger one's beloved."
At this point, the doctor paused to pet Gilbird.
"Before they had tried their experiments on humans, the brothers had used animals—they're fairly more disposable. This fortunate little fellow was the result of their efforts."
"Gilbird?" you said.
"Precisely," the doctor nodded. "The older one was very egotistical about the names he gave his achievements. Except the name of the true project was called Project Porcelain. Do you know why?"
You shook your head.
"The younger brother's loved one enjoyed dolls. He would often talk about how he would go and pick out the perfect doll just for her. When he and his brother started working on the project, they picked the word 'porcelain' to represent their studies.
"Porcelain is both a beautiful and fragile thing. It's precious, and in its own right, it's flawless. Such is life. But unlike porcelain, life cannot be preserved, and so the brothers sought to change that." He pointed to Gilbird. "Gilbird was the first successful animal that resulted from their project, and you, ___________, under undocumented experimentation, are the first human to be a successful result."
"That's right. Of course, thanks to the brothers' achievements, there are many more like you out there; most of them are either famous or wealthy, though—people who can afford the procedure. Throughout the years, the process has become polished through and through so no one has to go through the suffering you did during your early stages."
"How do you know about this?" you asked.
"Ah, that." The doctor gazed into the far-off distance. "An old family member of mine told me."
"And these people…one of them gave me this doll," you then assumed.
"Correct," the doctor confirmed. "Now that you know of your background, would you like to go see the people who have granted you this second chance at life?"
You looked down. "I don't even remember if I wanted this life."
The doctor pursed his lips together. "Whether you wanted it or not is out of the question. The point is, you are the very first human to survive Project Porcelain."
"I don't care even if I was the last," you said. "I want to see them."
"The brothers, you mean," the doctor clarified.
"Yes," you responded.
The doctor sighed. "Very well, __________. The least I can do is grant you that request."
The trip to the brothers consisted of a car ride down many highways and streets until the industrial construction of a modern city gave way to a cozy suburb complex.
"We have to be cautious of your surroundings," the doctor said while pulling up to a driveway. "Because you were the first, there were some complications to your state of being—one of them being that your body would shut down if presented under extreme temperatures so I'm afraid we can't stay for long."
"That's fine," you said as you stroked Gilbird. "I just want to say thank you."
Once the doctor helped you out of the car, the two of you began walking towards a single house tucked away in the corner of the neighborhood. The mailbox had no name painted on it like the other houses. You noticed that there were rows upon rows of flowers sticking up. Whoever took care of the flowers did a very good job. Then, unexpectedly, the doctor took you around the back instead of using the front door.
"Why are we going this way?" you asked as you followed him.
"Nowadays the back door is left open for everyone," he replied looking back to make sure you wouldn't lose your footing on the grass. Your feet felt surprisingly lightweight unlike in the past where you needed bars to move around. On the car ride, the doctor had explained that a team of bioengineers and surgeons had made modifications to your body.
Soon, the two of you reached the yard that gave way to a small grassy knoll. Images began to flash back to you. You remembered there being laughter, a small picnic filled with dolls, and a small yellow bird.
Suddenly, Gilbird took off from your head and began to fly towards the top of the hill.
"He knows the way," the doctor smiled and urged you to follow your pet.
When you made your way to the top of the hill, your knees began to buckle. Maybe it was because you were unused to your improved body. Maybe it was because you were just tired. Maybe it was because your heart suddenly felt too heavy for your own strength to withstand.
Gilbird had already reached the brothers who were side by side.
Somewhere buried deep within a memory, you distinctly remembered that you couldn't cry. You had seen someone do it many times for you, over and over again in your place because your body now lacked the physiological properties. Unfortunately, that was something the "brilliant" bioengineers and surgeons had never fixed as you were left unable to breathe from sniffling and hiccupping uncontrollably.
All the gratitude and thank-you's in the world wouldn't mean anything now. Even as the world became filled with your empty tears, you continued to try and cry in his place, the simple words on the polished stone engraving themselves into your heart, weighing you down beyond the forces of gravity: Ludwig Beilschmidt.