Chapter 14: Cato
When Astrid has gotten everything out of her system, I listen to her talk about how much time she’s got left. My guilt rises and I feel like my chest has been ripped open. Astrid stops talking and I turn in time to see her knees hit the floor and her head tilting to the side. I stumble forward and catch her head before it hits the floor. I sigh in relief as I set her down gently and watch her. Her cheeks are still wet from her emotional explosion and her hair is messy, but she looks beautiful. I take her to the basement and lay her down on my pallet. Thankfully Zach isn’t in the room and I have time to get my feelings in check. I watch her sleep peacefully as I try to come up with a way to tell her that my name is fake and that I was the one who brought the virus. I must sit and watch her for a while because when I hear a sound from the door, I’m startled and my limbs are frozen. I wince as I move my neck and see Zach survey the room.
“What’s up?” I ask.
“Why are you still bringing her here?”
“She has no where else to go.” I tell him, quietly.
“Yes she does. She can go live with her precious Darlings or The Varsity. I’m sure they’ll take her. She is the best of them.” he spits, venomously.
“Look, man, she’s going through some tough things. Leave her be.”
“Whatever.” he says and settles down on his own cot. I glance down at my watch and see that it’s already 6 in the afternoon. I take in a deep breath and settle down on the floor. The sounds of deep breathing lull me into a deep sleep.
My watch’s alarm wakes me the next morning. I roll over and feel a pressure in between my shoulder blades. I roll my shoulders and try to get rid of some of the tension. I glance over and see Astrid still asleep on the cot. Zach is already up and changing into a fresh pair of clothes. I get up and run my hand through my hair. I can’t shake the dream I had last night. It has been awhile since I dreamt of the facility, but last night I did. I keep my shoulders from shaking as I think about what happened.
Another day of testing. Another day of injections being pumped into my skin. I walk through the halls that look similar down to the lab. They strap me down to the table I have gotten used to. Dr. Swan approaches the table and glances down at me as she fills a syringe full of purple liquid. She taps the vial and squirts some in the air. I buck against my restraints. I hate this part. Wondering what the liquid is going to do to me. Whether I’m going to be as cold as the arctic or as hot as the sun. Whether I’m going to tremble uncontrollably or stay frozen as I watch time move. Dr. Swan presses the needle into my vein and releases the liquid into my bloodstream. I buck as a sharp pain radiates through my arm and up my chest. I flex my shoulder and chest muscles as pain rips through my body. I tighten my muscles as the pain worsens. When I think the injection has left my blood circulation, I’m wrong. The pain radiates through my body once again, but this time, I can’t get my muscles to flex. My body stays relaxed on the table. I scream from the pain and the lost cause of feeling like I’m being ripped apart. I scrape my nails against the table as another bout of pain rips through me. I cry out as my nerves begin to fray and split. My right leg and arm twitch and eventually go numb. My left side of my body makes my body scream in agony as the injection continues radiating through my body. My eyes must be closed because I can’t see when the second needle injects another serum into my blood and makes everything stop. My body still radiates in pain, but my right side stays silent.
“Get him up. I want him to walk. I need to see if it worked.” Dr. Swan says, quietly. They unstrap me and hoist me up. When my feet touch the ground, the two men release me and I wait, trying to get my bearings. I can’t feel anything on my right side, but my left side feels like the pain is still there. Still fresh. I gradually step off the bed and moan when I step on my left. A pain shoots up my leg. I quickly step off my leg and land on my other one, but my leg gives out and my head meets the concrete floor.
“IT DIDN’T WORK! IT DID nOT WORK! DANG IT!” Dr. Swan yells. I want to grab my scalp from the pain that bounces around in my empty head. “TAKE HIM BACK TO HIS ROOM!” I feel the two men pick me up just as my eyes cloud over and everything goes black.
I shiver. I didn’t dream of that. It was a memory that had been kept hidden from me. I suddenly remember the days and weeks of having no feeling in my right side as they continued to inject me with different colored serums.
“You alright, man?” Zach asks me.
“Yeah, man. I...uh...Yeah, I’m good.”
“Okay. You look like you’d just seen a ghost.” he says.
“Nah, I’m good.” I tell him and look at Astrid. She turns around and squints her eyes open.
“Morning.” she says, groggily.
“Morning, Astrid.” I say.
“She better not be sleeping here tonight.” Zach whispers.
I flip him off and walk over to Astrid. “How are you feeling?”
“Much better. I needed that night of sleep.” she says with a yawn.
“Well, I think you may want to get up. Just in case you’re needed, if you know what I mean.”
“Yeah. Thanks again. I really am sorry about intruding.”
“Don’t worry about it.” I say at the same time that Zach says, “Yeah, don’t do it again. You’ve over welcomed your stay.” I give him a look who shrugs and looks away.
“I’ll find somewhere else to stay.” she says and stretches.
“No, it’s fine…”
“No, it’s not. Chris is just trying to be nice.” Zach says. “But you need to find your own place.”
“I will.” she says and walks towards the door. “I’ll talk to you later, Chris.” she walks out the door without a second glance back.
“I thought I told you she was having a hard time.”
“You did, but I didn’t listen.” He says and follows her out the door. I fall back on my cot and try not to think about the smell of Astrid on my pillow.