Days turned into weeks. And I found myself repeating the same routine each and every night. All the pain, the screaming and crying. Still, they didn’t find what they wanted just yet. But still, I crowned myself lucky to be alive even if it was just barely.
Stumbling upwards, I took a glance at myself in the mirror. The same girl staring back at me, just wasn’t me. But a shell of what I once was. My cheeks were hollow, sunken in making my eyes slightly protrude from their sockets. The glint in my eyes were completely faded and that healthy natural glow of my skin disappeared too. Lacing my bony fingers together, it slightly scared me that this was what I was slowly turning into. A ghost.
Multiple attempts to try recover what they needed too failed and I kept being dragged into more sessions. Failing each time.
My appetite withdrawing and the excessive weight loss not only a shock to the doctors but to me as well. I was hanging on, but by a thread.
For days, I’ve been confined to my room, only allowing me too see who I needed too and Isaiah. No Zee. No Adrian. Maybe due to the fact, I couldn’t make it two steps without collapsing. But, still I didn’t know whether they were dead or alive and Isaiah never brought them up. If I did, he’d shoot me down.
I lost the ability to do what I could normally do alone and relied solely on Isaiah; eating, walking, drinking, changing. I’ve lost track the countless number of times that my stomach lost control, expelling out the little food I forced myself to eat onto my dress after each try. Each night, it was the same story. No progress. Nothing.
That same hissing of the door, that I was so used to began to slightly sicken me. Every few hours it’d be the same thing and I always knew what that meant. Either doctors, Isaiah or another test.
This time it was Isaiah. He walked in with a prominent scowl on his face. It was him that’s been dealing with this the hardest, seeing me deteriorate until this state, personally I knew was too much for him to bear. Multiple times he’s tried to talk me out of it, multiple times he’s tried to plan my escape and multiple times I’d turn down his offer. Our relationship started getting rocky, he did comprehend why I was doing this but he also hated what I was doing and didn’t approve of the pain he had to watch me endure each night. I always remember how pained he looked every time I walked into that box and every time reality started slipping away from me. That same look haunted me to the point I was seeing it in my trance.
“Hey, Isaiah.” My voice sounded small and light, I had become accustomed to the changes in my body, inside and outside. The only thing that kept me going was him and the thought of Evan living a happier, better life. If I didn’t hold onto that, I am certain I would have lost myself.
Crouching down to my level, gently he lifted my plain white gown above my head, replacing it with a cleaner more sanity one. This has been the routine for a long time and I was comfortable with him seeing my with barely any clothing or none completely. In fact he seemed to insist to offer his aid, he was always reluctant for one of the male doctors to do it. And I trusted him more. Isaiah taken it upon himself to stop all his missions, just to be here for me and despite wanting to do this alone I still was grateful of what he had to give up for me. “Hey, Alexis. How are you doing?”
Despite knowing what the answer would been, he still always pressed on, hoping for a crack in my exterior and me pulling out from these trials. But I’ve come to far to just give up now. ” I’m fine, Isaiah. How about Zee, Adrian. How are they?”
“Fine, they’re fine.” He cut it exactly like that, no more information and no less. “Have you had something to eat?”
Days and nights just blurred past for me, I didn’t keep up with the time, I didn’t even know what the day was. It could have been a Saturday or a Tuesday. But I didn’t know. “I’m not feeling hungry.” And that was the truth, trying to hold down food was a challenge, the only reason I managed to eat the little I did was to please Isaiah.
He breathed out, clearly frustrated by the situation, but he looked at me again and his face considerably softened. “I’ll get you something to eat. Wait here.” Just like that he left and only emerged back with food I was required to eat. A simple dish of rice and beans with a chunk of brown bread. Despite how small and mediocre it was, it was still troubling to get down two spoons.
Sitting on the edge of my bed, he raised my pillow, shifting me to an upright position. Isaiah held a silver spoon close to my lips filled with cooked rice. “Please, try and eat something. For me.” His pleads resonated with me, the look in his eyes hurt to see. He looked so defeated, so hopeless. He knew that there was nothing he could do to make my change my decision and I think that was what broke him more, despite it never being my intention to put him through this ordeal. And it hurt me seeing him like this.
With all the strength I could muster, I opened my mouth. Gently he slid the food in. Everything from chewing to swallowing was excruciating. But it was for Isaiah so some of that pain I could handle.
“Thank you.” His voice was so low that it was difficult to hear him, but I did and he slightly broke into what I could suspect was a form of a smile.
That was how the next few minutes passed, him just quietly feeding me and me trying my utmost best to force the food down. Even if it was painful to eat, I knew I still had to or where would I get my little energy and strength from?
“Alexis. The doctors think you’ll only survive a few more sessions. After that.” He lingered, choosing against finishing his sentence as instead gently caressed the corner of my mouth to clean off food particles. I knew what he wanted to say but couldn’t.
“That’s fine, I’ll keep pushing through. They must be close already, right.” It was more of a statement than a question and I was forcing myself to believe it more than I was convincing Isaiah too. Honestly, I had a feeling that I wouldn’t be able to take any more of this, but I knew I couldn’t be selfish. This life just isn’t mine to live.
“Alexis, do you see that this is killing you? Do you not see that this is killing me? Watching you waste away to the point I could barely recognize you and being powerless to stop this, or to change your mind.” The deepness in his voice only did it’s job to tell me how embittered he was feeling and to know that I had something to do with it was disconcerting.
“What do you want me to do, Isaiah? I’m the only hundred percent match they can find. I’m the only viable candidate. I’m not just doing this for the world. I’m doing this for you.”
He shook his head. “You’re not doing this for me, I’d rather die than let you keep going through this. Alexis, they’ve ran tests on me I have a seventy-five perfect match, the closest to yours. Let me take your place-”
“No.” Frantically I began shaking my head. To see Isaiah go through what I was, that was a thought I couldn’t live with and I wouldn’t let happen. “Don’t you dare.”
He placed to food on the floor, before reaching up to my bony face and cupping them in his hands. His fingers trailed down my unhealthy protruding cheekbones and that sad look in his eyes returned. “But you’re going to die if you keep going on like this, if I keep letting this happen. You just can’t keep going on like this. Let me help you, Alexis. Please.”
Again, I shook my head, firm in my decision. “No, Isaiah. I can’t let you do this for me” His face deflated, nevertheless he dropped the matter, already aware that at this point it was meaningless to argue and in doing so would just drain my energy instead of having time to talk. I heaved myself closer trying to break to distance to kiss him, but he stopped me instead taking it in himself, meeting my halfway and planting a tender kiss on my lips, that lingered for a while. But it was the most perfect feeling in the world.
“Isaiah.” He tore away from my lips, staring back into my eyes. “You haven’t told me how they are? Zee and Adrian? Why haven’t they came to visit me, yet? Are they alright? Did something happen to them?”
“Calm down. Nothing happened to them, they’re perfectly fine. Zee’s back into her normal way of life, excelling at her designated mission. And Adrian is fine, still at HQ actually.” He paused, a faint smirk on his lips. “He’s actually training to be an field agent. ”
That couldn’t be possibly true, with how soft-hearted he was, it made me question if he had to guts to do what they were required to. Kill, shoot. And what about his fiancée, did Isaiah even know about her? “An agent, Adrian. Adrian Hunter is training to be an agent?”
“Yeah and he’s doing pretty well at that. Top of his class, despite everyone else getting a head start.”
“Well, they all seem like they’re doing well.”
“But, why didn’t you tell me this before? Why were you always so reluctant when I started on the topic of them. And why have none of them found time in their schedule to visit me?”
Nervously, he started scratching the back of his head. “I just didn’t want you to think that your friends had abandoned and forgotten about you. Also the Nation lied to them, told them the testing didn’t work and you’ve been sent back home-”
“Without a goodbye? Zee would never believe that.”
“Yes, she was quite reluctant at first to believe that. But then hours stretched into days, days into months. And I guess she came to terms with it and moved on.”
“You didn’t think to tell her? To tell me?”
“Believe me, I was planning to call them out on their lies but they threatened if I did, I’d never see you for the remainder of the experiment. I couldn’t help you, speak to you, nothing. And I just couldn’t do that.”
“But why?” He cocked his eyebrows, waiting for more. “Why would they choose to lie like that, my friends deserve to know the truth.”
“Trust me Alexis, if Zee and Adrian knew how you were, what you were going through, they’d never stand for it. Never.”
“Then why are you?” It might have been selfish or brash to say and I already knew why he stayed and I was ultimately so appreciative of that. Yet, I wanted to know what his response would be, I wanted to know what he’d say.
“Alexis, you know that’s a stupid question. You of all people know I would never stand for this. But if I retaliate, if I rebel. They’ll pull me away from you. And I promised you that I wouldn’t let you go through this alone.”
Reaching from the water, next to him on the milky white floor, he tilted the tip towards my lips. “Drink.” Opening my mouth, the cold liquid seeped in, cooling from the inside out. The burning sensation that doctor told me I would inevitably feel was on full blast, it’ll alternate from hot to normal. But I did my best go hide it from Isaiah, I didn’t want him going through anymore guilt. Proceeding to pull away, I stopped him, draping my hand around his, forcing him to grant my more. The pure fluid dried out any of those past sensation and immediately I started feeling better.
“Are you okay?”
“Much better.” Since I knew that Zee and Adrian were safe I could put my racing mind a little to rest.
“Alexis, they brought me here to tell you, it’s time to go.”
“For another one?” He nodded. “Is it even night, yet?”
“No. But they’re certain that they are coming closer to something, something around your father. They’re willing to focus on that.”
I nodded. The closer they were maybe, the higher the chance I had in surviving this, I needed to take it. “Okay. Let’s go.” Slowly, I began inching away from my bed, uncovering myself from the hold of the seats and finding myself standing upright, with the feeling of the cold floor beneath me.
Despite, Isaiah strong arm, cautiously wrapped around me, I was opportunistic that I could make it to the Box without my need for assistance.
“I’ve got it, Isaiah. You don’t need to hover.” Warily, he took one step away from me, nodding seemingly respecting my decision to walk on my own.
One painful steps that felt as if shards of glass were digging into my ankle as spreading their pain throughout my entire body.
Another step doubled the effect. But I managed to swallowed it down as best as I could.
Third step. It was all too much, the pain magnified to light-headiness and I felt myself losing my balance, slowly expected to make contact with the ground. But before I could Isaiah was by my side in a second, securing his arms around my waist, propping me upright. “Easy, Alexis.”
With his aid that I needed but didn’t want, we made progress, advancing with small steps towards the door. “This reminds me of back in the hotel room, remember that?” Trying to make light of the situation, but to no avail. It was clear he didn’t think any of this to be remotely funny.
“Yeah, I remember.” His dry, bitter tone only reinforced that idea.
It was true that our relationship was made public and I kept on wondering how they’d choose to deal with the situation, it couldn’t be accepted but for the meantime I guess they were ignoring it. They was understandably more important things to be worrying about. I’ve been told that the computer technicians saw everything you all your memories with you. So what you saw, they saw. A total invasion of privacy, but it’s necessary.
One hand was left stabilising me and the other was used to push open the door. But I was absent from both of them for too long. Carefully we began making headway to the Box, this time amongst others all eyes were concentrated on us, on me. Despite seeing the same faces for weeks, I didn’t have the pleasure to know one of them by name. They all stared like I was broken, more broken that they’ve seen anyone and surprised that I’ve lasted this long. They must not have had anything to fight for. Any family, any friends, any loved ones. But I did.
“You know we can’t let you through, Mr Patriot.”
“You are kidding me, right? Open your eyes, she can’t get two steps without help.” He held onto my tighter, refusing to let go and obey the solider reinforcing the rules, in front of us. If you weren’t partaking in the experiment. No agents in the box. Period.
“So one of the scientists will escort her in.”
“If you think I’m let one of those dirty scientists touch her again, you’re deeply mistaken. Move aside.” I could tell he meant no offense but the whole rule about him not helping me in the Box was the same as saying that he had to abandoned me and seeing me having to be escorted by a scientist time after time, was building up his anger further, to the point I was sure he was going to snap. And it seemed to be happening right now.
“Mr Patriot. I won’t ask you again.” The solider initiated a shove, despite Isaiah only stumbling a fraction, the same act destabilized me and I found myself leaning on the glass for support.
Isaiah eyes flashed towards my struggle and instead of fighting the guard, he proceeded to help me. Gently prying my hands away from the glass. “Lean on me.” I did what I was told and a substantial amount of pressure lifted off me.
“Enough!” That same grating voice, I also had to get accustomed to halted everyone in their tracks, all of them turned to face Mrs Velt. The same women that made me endure this and to think of it countless others. Yet, I had to keep assuring myself that the greater good matters more. “Isaiah Patriot, you will be escorting Miss Reign from now on, I trust you now how to place the controls?” He nodded, she redirected her attention towards the bulky, tall guard that forewarned me of my encounter in the pub, which now seems like years ago but I had to relive that exact same moment, every night. “That little stunt you pulled almost hurt her, try that again and it’s not only your job you’ll be losing.” I didn’t even want to know what she meant by that. “Mr Patriot, if you may?” Gesturing towards the Box, Isaiah nodded but I knew by the tension in his shoulders, he was opposed to leading me to another series of pain. Yet he still knew that there was no way out.
Leading me up the glass stairs into the Box and sitting me down on the glass chair. He began attaching the different sets of wires to different parts of my body. Something that I was getting familiar with, more and more.
With all the cold patches attached, I tried to brace myself for what was coming. Yet, I knew that no matter how much you prepared, the amount of pain is nothing you can even start to readying yourself for.
“I’m right here, okay?” He knelt down to face me, his tall stature made it so we were face to face with each other, in spite of me sitting down. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“I know, Isaiah.” And he always was there, never too far away from me.
“Alexis, I know this may not be the time. But,” He took my hands, brushing kisses over each dip of my prominent knuckles. “I love you.” He started looking into my eyes, trying to figure out any of my emotions. “I really, do. I love you. With all my heart. That’s why you need to survive this, please. ”
To say I was taken a-back would be a big understatement, I knew for a fact that I felt the same. And I know that I’ve come a long way in expressing my emotions and sentiments. But what do you say to that, if someone says that, so openly, so freely, so passionately. But you knew yourself, that you could lose your life in any moment. Maybe it was time to do something selfish, maybe it was time to do something I wanted. “I love you too.” When those words slipped from my lips, the look on Isaiah face was completely worth exposing out your feeling and it was making me feel more confident. “And I’m going to survive- we’re going to survive. Together.”
“Together.” He agreed, deepening the kisses on my hand, then trailed up to my lips and stayed there for as long as I needed him too. Abruptly he pulled back. “Ready.” His threw back past his shoulder, aiming it to them but his eyes never left mine.
“I’m ready.” I whispered as he placed another peck on my forehead and took his leave, closing the door gently behind him. I turned my head to look at him and he was still there, standing on the steps, closer to me than he even was before.
Then I heard that click. That click that brought nothing good.
Before I could even blink, I fell into the trance. Then I was submerged into water. The beach, I was at the beach, the salt water hitting my tongue. Drowning. I was drowning. And I heard screams, this time I was definite it wasn’t mine. It was deep, filled. It was Elijah. Despite going against my better judgement, despite knowing he was dead. I found myself swimming closer to the sound, thrashing against the wild currents and failing.
Then I was submerged deeper and the whole world went black.
Something wasn’t right. That was not how I remembered it, Elijah wasn’t screaming when I was in the water.
A bright light, filled pouring around me and once again everything sparked. The voices, the memories. My dad. And my dad again and for the third time, something was tugging me closer to that memory. And a jewel glistening in the sunlight.
Fragments of my memories dissipated, before the world returned to its black, tranquil state.
Soon after those lights returned once again but this time it didn’t follow with memories but with a piercing scream. It wasn’t mine. It was Elijah. The sound only intensifies and got worst.
Physically I was too weak to try and block out the noise. Everything was draining out. My energy, my consciousness. Until I felt my head snap back and my eyes fixated back onto the glass wall.
“Get her out of there!” The voice sounded strange, tense and this time I had no clue who it belonged to. In the distance, the faint sound of rapid beeping seemed to mirror the beating of my own heart. A breeze of air flew past and footsteps followed.
Someone knelt in front of me; all I could focus on was their penetrating blue eyes but everything else shifted out of focus. “Alexis, focus on me. Look at me.” Even though his voice was slowly fading I did what he asked, warm hand tried to stabilize my head which was currently uncontrolled.
The feeling of liquid trickled down my nose, a ruby red colour blotched out the person in front of me, until that was all I saw.