Genos was bored out of his mind. It had been a month since he was admitted in here. While it was out of his own volition that he be transformed into a cyborg, he had began to wonder lately if he had been here too long.
Dr. Stench had done done everything he could to provide Genos with comfort, bringing him books he might like to pass his time, introducing a vinyl record player for him to listen to music, and even asked Genos if he knits (‘Only in my spare time, sir’) but even those things eventually became dull and began to wear on his mind.
He often wondered how long had it been since he lasted looked upon the sky, the last time he saw the sun and stars. The thought suddenly seemed more appealing to him than anything. He was told he had made a remarkable recovery, and he felt he had enough strength in the current moment to go for short walk.
So he carefully flipped over the pure white sheets and inched himself to sat the edge of the bed. With that, he focussed all his attention into the effort of lifting himself up. The second he did, a wave of vertigo broke upon him and Genos felt ready to throw up. To his luck, he had eaten nothing since he woke up - his life-support tubes had been removed so as to allow him to rest in peace the night before, for which he had another reason to be particularly grateful.
It was a slow, painstaking process. He managed to make his way to the door, and not after falling over at least once. His body ached and begged him to return to the comfort of his bed, but he refused to relinquish. He started up again, gritting his teeth and this time somehow managing to get his balance.
He tried not to lean heavily on the door and put his weight on his good foot. With a fumbling hand he tried to twist the doorknob. After several failed attempts, the metal knob turned and the door stepped back to let him out.
Genos sighed in relief. It was his first step of freedom in weeks. He looked around, taking in the several doors nestling next to his. Each was marked with something different, so Genos was quick remember where his own room situated. So that he could return once his expedition was over.
Once he was in the hall, he repeated the same struggle and followed the wall closely, his spirit triumphing with every step forward and not backwards.
But Genos’ luck would only last him half way across the hall.
“Hey Spongehead, you’re not listening again.”
Genos’ brows twitched in slight annoyance as he turned to see Nanako. She was wearing a blouse which looked quite old and a skirt that flared around her ankles. On top of that, she was wearing the most patronising look he’s seen in any kid. Maybe that glowingly gentle presence he remembered when they first met was just another side-effect of disorientation.
He’d seen here a few times since they first met, but very rarely. And more than half the time she was with Dr. Stench. He didn’t pay much attention to her more than what was required. It wasn’t as if she came to visit him anyway. They didn’t speak to each other, since she usually left the talking to him and Dr. Stench. He was surprised that she sought him out today.
“Dr. Stench told you not to move around, didn’t he? Why do you have to make it your mission to disobey everything he told you?” She asked, crossing her arms.
“I’m not disobeying anything the Doctor told me.” Genos said, voice monotone. Of course he didn’t. Dr. Stench never forbid him to leave, did he? He only instructed that Genos rested as much as possible and...
“Then why the hell are you in the hallway!?” She exclaimed impatiently, looking as though she’d charge at and arrest him at any moment.
Genos winced. He wasn’t afraid of just one girl (especially one who looked so light the wind would have blown her off). But with how delicately he had to move his body at the moment, he feared any more than necessary may cause his body to collapse.
“I need to start walking and build up my strength, or else I’m going to be lame the rest of my life.” Genos explained. He wanted to quickly end this little squabble. It was getting pointless, and would benefit in nothing but to give him another headache. But his opponent clearly wasn’t going to relent.
“Oh, that sounds tempting.” The girl, Nanako added sourly. “Too bad you won’t.”
She smirked knowingly. “Get away with either. I’m taking you back to your room.”
“A nurse doesn’t need approval from his patients.” She retorted.
In what nightmare? Genos thought to himself. He was growing suspicious. Does she even have nursing experience?
“Hey, you’re thinking something rude, aren’t you?” She accused him, lowering her voice dangerously. Genos knew he had to stand his ground.
“No,” He said quickly. “I’m walking myself back.”
“Hmm, bad idea. You might damage that prosthetic leg of yours cause you’re not used to it.” The girl hummed. But at least she stopped.
Oh, it’s the prosthetic leg you’re worried about, obviously. Genos thought to himself sarcastically. Girls are so difficult to deal with, most of all this girl in front of him right now.
“Well? Go on then.” The girl urged.
Genos was taken back by her response. Was she going to let him do what he wants? He didn’t she would. Okay, it wasn’t as if he was going to let a flimsy girl like her carry him back anyway (he still had a bit of dignity to preserve). But for her to give in so easily when she protested so strongly two seconds ago...
“I never said I’d go back right away.” He turned away, as if doing that would block out his troubles. Before she could protest, he added, “Don’t worry. I intend to come back, after I’ve completed my objective and gone outside.”
She grew quiet, her pretty features taking a serious turn. She looked caught up between wanting to shove him back to where she thought he belonged, and...something else. It was like she caught Genos cheating, but wanted badly to cheat herself. Unluckily though, she also wanted to turn him in.
She eyed him skeptically. “Do you even know the way out?”
Genos nodded calmly. “I can read. There’s the exit sign.”
She glanced briefly at the green board pointing the direction. “Oh, so you’re interested in taking the stairs?”
She looked him up and down, clearly not impressed with his plan. Her eyes rested for a moment longer on his prosthetic right leg, where he was trying to put on as little weight as possible while gingerly balancing himself.
Genos decided he had enough time chatting with the girl. He should just focus ahead and get some damn fresh air already. At this rate, he’d arrive at somewhere in a couple of lifetimes.
The girl watched silently behind him. Without looking back he knew she was not very happy that he decided to be stubborn. After a while, it seemed as though she either left or was magnificently quiet. There was no other sound or noise other than the occasional tap of his prosthetic foot against the floor as he forced himself to walk. When he reached the end of the hallway, he was breathing heavily.
In his mind, Genos wondered if the girl gave up and went away already.
Curiosity got the better of him, and he stole a glance backwards.
Immediately, two things happened.
One, his fingers failed to give him purchase on the wall. He felt a yank of pain as his body collapsed. For a minute, he lost control of his body and was utterly paralysed. His eyes widened, his heart began to beat against his chest.
In that minute, it was as if he was under the rubbles again. Unable to move. Unable to lift a finger. Unable to even stand up or die. Helpless and at the mercy of God. God, who if he existed had abandoned him. Had not helped his family. His friends nor his hometown to survive.
He was dying again.
But then there was a soft hand. Its touch was light, but it steadied him easily. Suddenly, he was being held firmly in someone’s arms.
“-p out of it, Spongehead. Don’t waste yourself here.”
Someone said it. Genos had the urge to be annoyed. ...He was sure he would be annoyed, if he wasn’t feeling so out of it.
Whoever said it could not be this gentle.
That made him nearly gasp. That snatched him back a little, right as he was about to slip away. He was sure his life signs were growing cold. But the sound made something within him flare up. A tiny bit of warmth in his cold chest.
“Genos.” The voice called him again. “Wake up.”
Why was he responding to this voice? It was calling him.
Why was he responding? It wasn’t even his name.
It took nearly all his current strength to muster a single word. “N-Nanako?”
“Yeah, I’m here.” She replied.
He would told her he was drowning, but there was a lump in his throat. And he could not command himself to speak. It was so pathetic, that he couldn’t even explain. But he sensed that he didn’t need to. Nanako understood.
Genos found himself suddenly deeply exhausted. He suddenly wanted to sleep. Every inch of his body felt tired and defeated again.
A soothing hand patted his back, making comforting vibrations ripple through his body. Then, the hand moved to smooth out his hair from his face.
With that, Genos fell peacefully back to sleep.
To be continued...