Dandelion Crowns and Paper Butterflies

Fake Memories and Living Slicers

Flore looks up when she hears the sound of an opening door. She has no idea what time it is; it feels like she has been sitting in that room forever.

Even though there is no mirror here, she knows that her eyes are red-rimmed and her cheeks wet of the crying. Her throat is raw and her voice is probably hoarse, but she isn't sure – the only sound she has made for the past couple of hours, is a quiet sobbing.

Standing up, she prepares to attack whoever is going into the room, but when she sees who it is, she hesitates.

A young man, about twenty-five years old, steps into the room. He looks friendly and somewhat familiar. When he closes the door behind him, Flore sees that he doesn't lock it.

Is that a good sign? She isn't sure.

The man turns around to her, friendly smiling.

"Good evening, Flore," he says. His voice is warm, and Flore notices that he is the first person here who has called her by her normal name. "Why don't you sit down? You must be tired. It's been a heavy day, isn't it?"

Flore lets out her breath in a puff, trying to suppress her confidence. This could as well be a trap. These people are the Creators, the people who put them in the Maze. She should be careful.

"Who are you, actually?" she asks, attempting to snap. It doesn't really work; her voice is hoarse, and it breaks on every word. She hates it.

The man smiles again.

"I'm so sorry," he says, walking towards her, holding out a hand. "I'm Daniel, but you can call me Dan. Nice to meet you."

He shakes her hand, and Flore fights the urge to step away. Dan sits down on the mattress of the bed.

"But I didn't come here to talk about the weather," he says, sounding a little more serious. "I'm here to bring you some good news."

Yeah, sure, Flore thinks bitterly. He came here to tell me that Winston is dead. That's good news for them, but not for me.

"Well, I'm curious," she replies drily.

"You'd better be," Dan says, smiling. "I'm here to tell you that this all was a test to see how you'd react. Winston is alive and safe."

Flore feels her mouth drop open, but then she clears her throat.

"Are you serious?" she asks, trying not to get too happy.

It's a lie, it's a lie, it's a lie, she keeps telling herself over and over again.

Dan nods. "As serious as possible. Even the memory you got back was fake. Winston never tried to harm WICKED or you; that's why the cut he supposedly gave you didn't leave a scar."

Flore fights the urge to jump in the air, happily screaming.

Winston is alive.

He is all right.

She nearly can't believe it.

"Well, that's... nice," she manages to say.

Dan grins. "Yes. It is. And you did so well that we've decided to give you a choice; either you go out of the experiment, you get your memories back, you can go back to your family and everything, or you go back into the Maze to be with Winston."

The choice is so easy that Flore doesn't even have to think. "I'm going back into the Maze."

"All right," Dan says, standing up. "I'll make sure they'll send you up with the next Box. That's tomorrow morning. So I advice you to go to sleep now, because it's already late, and you'll need your energy tomorrow."

Then he walks away, leaving Flore behind with the feeling she can burst out of her skin of happiness any moment.

Winston is alive.

He is unharmed.

I'm going back to him.

She sleeps peacefully, that night, having no idea of what's going on inside the Maze.

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