It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Dies
When my number comes up on the list for testing, I stare at it for a while longer than is absolutely necessary – as if it’ll change if I stare at it long enough. I can read it well enough, but getting my head wrapped around it is a whole other story.
Day stares too, a scowl painting his face with his spoon sticking out of his mouth.
“On the second day?” he asks, sounding extremely sceptical. I drop my head in my hands, sighing heavily. “You really weren’t kidding when you said that fate has it out for you, Cas.”
I laugh dryly, rubbing my forehead to try and will away the headache. If I thought I was tired before sitting down here, imagine how I’m feeling now.
Like shit, if you couldn’t guess. The initial procedure I was put through still makes my skin crawl if I let myself think about it long enough – but then again that was only two days ago, so my mind hasn’t had time to forget it yet.
“Looks like I’m in the kitchen today,” he sighs, blowing a fake fanfare before looking at me. “You look like you’re gonna be sick.”
In response, I push my tray towards him; I only took two bites, yet my appetite has left me yet again. Day takes it after giving me a concerned glance, and my head falls onto the table loudly as I drop my arms over my head.
Maybe I can pull off a disappearing act and vanish into thin air. Channel my inner ghost kid and just walk right on out of here.
Yeah, right – that’s some damn wishful thinking there.
“It might not be so bad,” Day says quietly, chewing thoughtfully; I just groan from my position, my fingers gripping my scalp hard enough for my nails to dig in. It kind of hurts, but I ignore it in favour of silently freaking out. “Hey, it might be just a new vaccine.”
I scoff from where I am – now that’s wishful thinking. Judging by how many names are on the fifth column that wasn’t there yesterday, they’re having fun testing something new and it’s killing a bunch of kids. I counted about seven nameless numbers alone, and once again I wonder what they do with the bodies they dispose of.
I didn’t notice a chimney, so they’re definitely not cremating them.
Day told me how I’d find out when I worked in the field, but I can’t really understand how those two relate at all; I protest loudly when my thoughts travel down that road, shaking my head and lifting it up to look at the kid sitting across from me. He’s staring at me, halfway through his second helping, and arches an eyebrow.
“How do I even get there?” I ask, and he shrugs a shoulder.
“Easy: you take a left down the hall and stop by the elevator. There’s a scanner that scans your code, and then brings you up to the second or third floor where a guard brings you to where you’re going.” I nod slowly, and he waves his spoon at me as if circling my head with it, closing an eye. “If you’re going up to the third floor, well… it’s been nice knowing you, Cas.”
Giving him a stare that lets him know exactly how underappreciated his statement is, he shrugs a shoulder and continues to eat. How the hell can the kid even keep all that slop down?
“Don’t look at me like that,” he scoffs, rolling his eyes as he shoves his spoon into his mouth. Arching an eyebrow, he speaks around the metal. “It’s… weird up there. I’ve seen it before, and the things they do there are hardly pleasant and rather invasive. It doesn’t mean you’ll die, but… well, hopefully you’ll never find out.”
I scowl for a bit as he finishes his meal, and then we both duck out and keep as low a profile as we can; I don’t feel like repeating yesterday right now, not with the thought that I’m about to get tested on at the forefront of my mind.
Day tries to console me by telling me that at least he’s going in for testing, too, but I just push him and state how it’s hardly good news. He knows that, but he still tells me.
When he says that maybe Abel will finally kick it I turn to give him an incredulous look, not sure if I heard that right.
He doesn’t notice my stare until he’s pulling his shirt on, popping his head out of the collar and giving me a look that asks me to tell him exactly why I’m staring at him.
“Why would you hope that anyone would die?” I ask, and he shrugs a shoulder as he reaches for the loose cotton pants offered with the uniform for kitchen duty.
“You’ll quickly find that sympathy will get you nowhere here, Cas,” Day says idly, shimmying into his pants and tying the drawstring. His dark eyes flicker back up at me, and he notices my expression and sighs. “Abel’s been here for years – his number is a good indicator of it – and has basically been an asshole ever since he got here, from what I’ve gathered. If anyone deserves to die today, it’s that bastard.”
Frowning, I let his comment slide even though it freaks me out a little bit to have heard it from a twelve year old. Day should be worrying about grades and being a kid, not in a human testing facility that treats us no better than cattle.
We walk in the same direction a bit, I wearing a very simple white cotton t-shirt and white pants – the uniform for the ones going through tests today, apparently – and he tries to cheer me up a bit by telling me that at least I’m going to be in a place with better temperature control. I appreciate the sentiment, but I simply press my hand to my forehead and try to rub away my headache.
Then, when we part ways, he pushes my shoulder lightly – only about three inches shorter than me – and flashes me a grin before telling me not to die on him so soon. I sigh heavily and force a smile on my lips, though it feels fake and probably looks just the same, and mess up his hair before making that empty promise.
Like hell I actually know what’s going to happen to me.
It’s weird being on my own walking down the hallway, and there are a few others wearing the same outfit as me already by the elevator waiting to go up. It seems to take them one at a time, which sort of makes sense; when I get to the back of the line with about four other guys in front of me (all various ages), I cross my arms over my chest and hunch my shoulders a bit.
I hate this. I have absolutely no control over what happens to me here, and it’s a sick and twisted joke that I’m not finding very hilarious right now.
When I get shoved against the wall, I’m finding it even less funny.
Abel stands in front of me, his hand on my shoulder pushing me against the unforgiving metal wall. The urge to wipe off that smug grin on his face fills me so completely I glare right back, my hands fisting at my sides to keep myself from doing something stupid with them.
“I kind of wish I could be there to watch you die like the little ghost you are,” he spits, and at the sound of that old taunt I push him back with a surprising amount of strength – fuelled entirely by adrenaline, mind you. I get flashbacks to that day, but I push them aside even as those same emotions fill me.
“You know what? You really need to get that fucking light pole out of your ass,” I shoot back icily, and the others in the line stare at the event with no concealed amount of fascination. The one that goes into the elevator almost looks sorry he’s leaving so soon. “I’ve dealt with guys like you before, so trust me when I say that you don’t fucking scare me.”
The man laughs loudly, throwing his head back, and then before I know it his fist connects with my jaw and I see stars blossom before my eyes as I stagger back against the wall. Pain flares up at my jaw and the taste of blood is thick on my tongue. I touch my right hand to my jaw, rotating it, and glare at him from the corner of my eyes.
It’s bad enough I still have a scar on my jaw from the switchblade; this one’s not going to mark me, too.
“Like hell you can defend yourself; you don’t even look like you could kill a man, let alone hurt me.” I grin, knowing that he has no idea that that’s exactly what I’ve done.
The blood is filling my mouth a bit at this point, so I spit it out and it finds a home against his cheek. The hushed whispers to my right stop entirely, a horrified silence settling in; I doubt many have stood up to this overgrown bully and lived long enough to boast about it.
I don’t want to boast about it – I just want the jackass to leave me alone. All I did was bump into him, for Christ’s sake.
“You know what you remind me of?” I ask darkly, the next kid going in. There’s one left until I can go, since my number’s next on the plasma screen displaying which one’s up next, and I’m glad for it. Abel looks plenty capable of killing someone, much unlike his namesake. “A bully. One who feels self-entitled to another’s pain, and do you fucking know how I feel about people who take pleasure in other people’s pains?”
His hand grabs my throat, his expression a dark one that would make my more rational side cower. Yet I’m feeling reckless, this man reminding me of the one who tried to kill me, and I’m not happy that I’m reminded of that nameless stranger every time I look into those spiteful eyes of his.
“I’ve lost my patience with them. I’d tell you to go fuck yourself, but I don’t want to wish something as awesome as sex on you,” I hiss, grabbing his wrist with both of my hands and twisting the skin in opposite directions. Abel’s grip loosens so I shove him back again, walking to the scanner as my number pops up and getting it to read the bar code on my hand. “Now leave me the fuck alone; you are not my type.”
I hear something hit the doors of the elevator when they close, and as it rises my reckless courage drains away and is left in that confrontation when I realise that I’m passing the second floor entirely. My stomach hollows out as I watch the number rise up to three on the display, and when the doors open soundlessly a guard stands waiting for me; she looks impatient, as if she’s been waiting for a while, and I find myself ducking my head as I step out.
Just like that, I’m back to my old habits.
This floor is distinctly different from the second floor, which was clearly more of a lab space than anything else. The walls are made of solid steel from the looks of it, and a large window is set into each to allow for a view into the mostly dark rooms, with the exception of two that are already occupied with other subjects being strapped into place.
I don’t pay too much attention to the contents of the rooms – just a glance freaks me out.
I’m lead to the third one to my right, where the guard tells me to go in after inserting the security measures into the keypad. I do so, rather reluctantly, and the guard pushes me towards the half-reclined elevated chair there and orders me to sit down once I’m told to take off my shirt and leave it aside.
It’s less comfortable than the other one I was in, although that wasn’t the height of luxury either, and as soon as I’m in the guard fastens metal clasps above my wrists on the armrests that hover about two inches away from my skin. When I look at them, I realise that about five needles are pointed towards each of my wrists, and I feel all the blood in my face drain away.
Others go around my ankles, thankfully not threatening to offer a free acupuncture séance, and then the half-reclined metal chair turns into a full-on table and I’m left staring at the ceiling with my heart pounding in my ribcage like a hammer. The door opens and two scientists come in, but I can’t really make out their features when the lights above the table I’m on brighten considerably, blinding me somewhat. I close my eyes against the glare, the silhouettes superimposed in my retinas.
After a few seconds I trust myself enough to open them again, trying to get a good look at the room I’m in.
There’s a screen to my left that takes up a good portion of the wall that displays a relatively full view of me lying there, flanked by a bunch of other monitors that are black right now. Another monitor has a blue display on with the silhouette of a human figure, and as one of the scientists taps something into the keyboard of the computer at the left of the room this image changes somewhat as a list writes itself to the right. The details I gave the woman that first day are there, as well as my blood type – O negative – and three words written underneath the label Current Health Status: C2-Compliment Autoimmune Deficiency.
I stare at it, the words looking almost foreign. They think I have a what?
The second scientist walks over to my right and presses a code to the keypad; underneath me, the table hums to life and the edges glow blue, a green line running from the top to the bottom, and back again.
“Confirmed at 116.5 pounds,” the scientist, a man, says idly. The number standing for my weight on the screen changes in accordance to it. “Signs of malnourishment and physical abuse, untreated fracture at the skull.”
Then he shines a light into my right eye that makes it feel as if he’s stabbing me with a knife, and I protest a little until a gloved hand pulls my eyelid open. When he takes it away I’m left to blink the afterimages.
“Showing signs of vision failure in right eye,” he continues, ignoring me entirely as he does the same for my left eye. It hurts quite a bit, but I grit my teeth and try my best to ignore it as he pulls away. “Left eye is intact.”
Yeah, well I wasn’t interested in glasses; I was seen as enough of a freak of nature, thank you very much.
Sighing quietly, I close my eyes and try to get as comfortable as I can as I frown up to the light above me and mentally cursing it to a bitter hell.
Then hands press sensors to my chest, and I grimace at the cold sensation but hold my tongue while I continue to refuse looking at what they’re doing. Having foreign – unwanted – hands touch my skin as if I’m just an object makes me feel gross, kind of vile, and makes my skin crawl as I realise that I am just an object to them. I’m simply a series of numbers and a bar code.
I glance down at myself once the hands stop, and notice how they’ve connected each sensor to a thin cable running up to the machine near my left shoulder; I imagine it’s made to monitor my heart rate. Then a pair of hands slips a mask over my mouth and nose, and I look up at their owner questioningly even though I know they won’t answer me. My breath fogs the clear plastic and I hear a small hiss a second before I realise they’re feeding me air of some sort – I just don’t know if that air is good air.
For now, it seems to be. It tastes like pure oxygen – literally – but it still doesn’t seem to be making me drowsy.
I don’t know if that’s a blessing or a curse.
Resting my head back when hands press my forehead down, I feel a plastic clamp wrap around my forehead before tiny pinpricks begin pressing gently on my scalp. I get the impression that it’s wise not to move, so I stay as still as I can even though my neck is itchy from the wire tickling it there. I just take a deep breath and sigh, closing my eyes again.
They move around some more, not speaking to each other, so I assume what they’re doing is standard procedure as they hook me up to whatever they’re about to do to me. The table underneath me hums and becomes warmer a second, and then I hear them talking quietly about x-rays. I tune them out, trying to bring my mind to a happier time.
It’s hard to do, if I’m honest; all the memories I have seem fabricated, as if they weren’t made for me. So instead my mind wanders a bit, wondering if my parents regret getting a proxy at all or if they treat him as if he always was their son.
I wonder what it’s like, living a lie like that.
Then, without warning, the needles around my wrists dig in and I cry out, trying to rip my arms away but only causing them to dig in further. The pain is immediate: it runs up my arms and shoots to my skull, throbbing in time with my jackhammer heart. I grit my teeth and suck in a sharp breath, my eyes shutting tightly until the needles come to a stop at last, all ten of them probably an inch deep into my skin.
My arms twitch, spasms going through them at the pain, and the needles grow warmer; I can tell that some of my blood is trickling over my wrists and staining the table, since it becomes easier to shift them and cause the needles to dig deeper, so despite wanting to desperately pull them out I force my body to be still.
I already know that this isn’t the worst of it.
“Did you know you don’t have an immune system?” The words are so strange that it takes me a moment to respond, blearily blinking my eyes open and glancing at the scientist to my left – a woman. I’ve broken out into a sweat, and I feel short of breath. “It’s rare – the odds were stacked against you, and yet you somehow obtained the gene. A pity for you, truly; your own blood cells are trying to kill you.”
She writes something down on a tablet, putting it down afterwards and pressing her fingers into my abdomen.
“We can begin the injection; the readings are coming in and, by all standards, his vitals are stable. The research may be affected by the C2 Autoimmune Deficiency, but that will only serve in the research against this disease.”
She goes away again, and the other scientist affixes a small brace against my right bicep, tightening it tightly. It’s not attached to anything except for a clear tube that’s running up to a clear plastic bag held up by a hook to my right. I can’t read what’s written on it thanks to the glare of the light, but I can see it extracting the clear liquid when the man activates the injector and steps to the monitors to watch the results come in.
My eyes follow the line of whatever serum is in there until it reaches the brace; then I see it fill the circular object completely, with more on its way, and then I feel a burning pain where the brace is and almost bite my tongue at the sharpness of it.
Then I feel the serum slowly enter my system, and despite myself I tense at the thought of whatever the hell this thing is has been introduced into my body – and if their claim on how I don’t have an immune system is true, then that’s definitely cause for me to worry. Or not: maybe it’ll kill me.
It kind of burns as it enters my bloodstream, and it’s a strange thing to say but I can actually sort of feel it go towards my heart. The closer it gets the more terrified I feel, wishing I could’ve disappeared or could’ve just been able to hide somewhere and protect myself from a fate that I can’t control anymore.
The moment it hits my heart, I know.
Ignoring the brace around my head my back arches away from the table and the most inhuman scream rips out of my throat, and whatever the brace is holding digs into my head but the pain is numbed by the fire in my chest. My heart beats so fast and so heavily I fear it’ll rip right on out, and at that point I get the impression that it’ll be a mercy. The serum continues along its journey, and my back falls against the table again loudly as my lungs scream for air, finding what they manage to pull in inadequate. I’m feeling light-headed, which might have a lot to do with the fact that the needles at my wrists dug in deeper and further than they probably should’ve, thus letting me slowly bleed out on the table.
An explosion of pain in my head erupts when it reaches there, and I spit out a swear and my eyes that stare blankly at the ceiling without recognising it shut again. My entire system seems to be freaking out, and I don’t blame it.
I don’t know what the fuck they just put in me, but it’s hell.
When the brace burns again, injecting the second dose, my entire body flares with the pain. I imagine that my mind has had enough of suffering through this, because the last thing I remember as I feel my consciousness rapidly check out of the building is the scientists shouting excitedly about the results they’re getting, hovering over me like flies.
Before I fall unconscious, I curse their graves.
Unfortunately, I’m still alive.
I have no idea how many hours it takes before I feel even remotely conscious, but the moment my body realises that I’m somewhat conscious it sends intense pain, do something signals to my brain.
So I shout a swear that bounces right back at me, everything burning and aching; it makes me wonder what happened while I was passed out, and moreover where I am. The surface I’m on is decidedly more comfortable, and the air warmer and less pure.
In other words, a blessing.
My answer comes when someone falls to the ground from a high place and a shout greets my ears. A second later, I feel a weight press against the edge of my cot and a familiar voice calls my name with nothing short of concern in it.
“Cas! Cas, are you okay?” It’s weird hearing Day actually be concerned for me, especially considering the words he told me when he said it’s dangerous to get attached to, or trust, anyone here.
“Depends,” I croak, unable to even twitch my fingers. “Am I alive?”
“Then no. No I’m not.”
The kid laughs lightly, and I feel the mattress shift as he sits; I somehow pry my eyes open, groaning when the light makes my headache worse, and shut them again. Everything is too loud and I don’t know how long I’ve been out, much less what day it is, and it sucks because I’m sort of numbing to the pain a bit and it’s as if my body’s getting used to it, which is a disgusting concept. I don’t want to get fucking used to the pain.
I don’t want any of this, Goddamn it.
When Day places something cold and wet to my forehead, I feel my shoulders relax a little as I sigh in relief; I didn’t know I had a fever, but just then I realize that it feels as if this world is on fire.
“You look like the dead,” Day states quietly, and I scoff and roll my eyes behind their lids.
“That really helps my self-confidence, especially coming from a twelve year old,” I shoot back, and he snorts a laugh.
“Seriously, Cas. Your wrists are practically in ribbons, not to mention the very impressive bandage wrapped around your head hiding quite a lovely mess. There’s a burn on your right arm, too – what the hell did they do to you?”
So that’s why it feels like my wrists are bleeding out with every beat of my heart. No wonder I can’t move my fingers, but that definitely poses a problem especially in regards to how the hell I’m going to function until it heals.
“Some sort of drug,” I reply, wincing as I try to remember. The details are a bit fuzzy, but that probably has a lot to do with the migraine that feels permanently settled behind my eyes. “Put it in me in doses through a brace around my arm; things get fuzzy after the first one, though.”
“Well, they left a whole mess of stuff to clean and bandage you up while you heal, which is more than what I’ve seen them do for a lot of people.” I manage to crack an eye open, looking at him, and he smiles widely when he notices; he offers me a small yet enthusiastic wave that makes him look his age. It’s nice to see that he’s still a kid at heart, and it brings a smile to my lips. “They must’ve found something pretty important about your potential as a test subject, because they usually don’t give half of what they left here.”
I arch an eyebrow, a bead of water rolling down my nose and following the corner of my eye. He shrugs a shoulder.
“They told me I don’t have an immune system,” I say idly, and his eyebrows shoot up. “Does that count?”
“Unfortunately, yes.” I close my eyes at Day’s response, sighing heavily. Chances are that they don’t get many opportunities to test new drugs on kids without an immune system.
“Well, you’ve been completely out of it for a whole day, if that makes you feel better.” I choke on my breath, my eyes flying open and ignoring the pain so I can turn my head to look at him. Day shrugs his shoulders. “They’ve explicitly told me that you’re to wait until you’re healed before doing any work, so they’re concerned about you dying on them before they can try new things. I’m pretty good at bandages, so I’ve been keeping an eye on yours and changing them when you bleed through.”
“Thanks,” I tell him, and he waves it off.
“If it makes you feel any better, Abel’s been sick in bed since they brought him back; I think they did something similar to him.”
I laugh, but that only makes the pain flare up so I close my eyes again and try to relax as much as I can considering the fact that every little twitch hurts.
“I bumped into him before I went up,” I say casually, and Day laughs at how nonchalant I make the event sound. “Clocked me a good one on my cheek, but I also made him mad and that makes me pretty damn proud.”
When I tell Day what I told him, the kid literally falls off my bed as he bursts out laughing, clutching his stomach and falling into hysterics. I laugh alongside him, the knowledge of how I actually had the guts to tell him that to his face rather laughable now; I manage to prop myself up on my elbow, the cloth falling onto the mattress as I look at the kid laughing so hard he’s in tears.
I’m inclined to call him a friend, although I don’t want to say it out loud.
“You actually said that to his face?” Day asks in bewilderment, looking up at me from the ground; when I nod he barks a laugh, shaking his head. “Jesus Christ, Cas, you really do have a death wish! No wonder he gave you that bruise; I probably would’ve done the same!”
“The last time someone backed me up into a corner the way he seems to be trying to do, I gave him a lesson on acupuncture,” I say flatly, arching an eyebrow, and Day rolls his eyes and chuckles. He’s half-lying on the floor, shaking his head at me, but he’s definitely amused. “I don’t have much patience for bullies anymore.”
“Duly noted. Now, since you’re sitting up, I have to check on your wrists to see if they’re not permanently damaged,” Day tells me from the floor, sitting up and giving me a look that tells me I don’t really have a choice. So instead of picking a fight I manage to pull myself to a sitting position, and he helps me up so I don’t have to rely on my hands right now. My wrists are stinging painfully, and I’m a bit terrified of seeing what’s under the bandages.
After grabbing some gauze, a bottle of peroxide, some first-aid tape, and a small box I can tell contain sutures, he sits cross-legged beside me and takes my right hand carefully, first checking to see if I’ve bled through. There’s a dark red mark in stark contrast to the white gauze, and quietly he cuts through the gauze until he gets to my skin with a surgical knife they probably left here for him to use. Carefully, he pulls the cloth back and I hiss as it pulls at the scabs, revealing the damage as my fingers twitch with the pain.
They’ve… been better, honestly. The needles really dug in deeply and probably cut through a few nerves, and through the thrashing my body no doubt did while I was unconscious they dug up my arm a bit; some gouges go as far as half an inch up the back of my palms and two inches towards my elbow. It’s actually kind of horrifying to look at.
The peroxide makes me shout in pain, pulling my wrist away instinctively, and Day simply arches an eyebrow and waits for me to give him my wrist back; I do so reluctantly, and after pouring a bit more onto it he checks the stitches that are obviously new, if a bit unpractised, before he begins wrapping my wrist back up.
After doing the same for the other side, I test my hands and find that I can curl my fingers a bit, but I can’t really put pressure on them at all. While I do that Day looks at the wounds on my head, wrapping another bandage around it but telling me that the ones on my head have closed up well enough for him to take the gauze off tomorrow. I cheer half-heartedly, and he pushes my shoulder.
It takes a few days for my wrists to heal, maybe a week or so before I can use them well enough as I should; my only consolation is that Day tells me that Abel is just as incapacitated as I am. Whatever we got shot with isn’t sitting well with either of us, especially considering the constant migraine I have and this strange burning sensation in my chest. Every lungful feels forced somehow, and I wince whenever I breathe in too deeply as my lungs feel strained.
At that point I join Day again in the workload, from hauling laundry to working in the kitchen (by the way, making the slop we eat is disgusting. I wanted to know what was in it, but not that badly). So far I’ve never been assigned field work, and I feel quite content with that; from the little I’ve been warned about, I’m not hot on the idea of working in the boiling sun. No, thank you.
A good portion of people fall under the Terminated list during this time, as they probably test the same drug they gave me on others. It makes me wonder why it didn’t kill me – or Abel, for that matter, and I’m only a little ashamed when I admit that I kind of wish it would’ve. He’s been making my life hell ever since he’s been able to drag his ass out of his cot.
One day, it actually falls down to fists between us; and although I’m definitely the smaller of us two, I still pack a decent punch when backed up by a megaton of adrenaline. It gathers a huge crowd as we fight, watching with relish as the one controlling them through fear tries to beat my ass for actually having the stones to not put up with his bullshit. Day watches anxiously, one of the few who actually dare to cheer me on – and there are a few more than I’d expected.
I don’t take the beating sitting down, not at all. If there’s one thing I learned about myself in that alley it’s that my fear is shadowed by my desire to finally hurt people the way I’ve been hurt, my instincts all the way on fight mode and leaving no room for flight.
And Abel is my target, the same way I’m his.
Of course, he’s backed up by about eight other thugs who torment me wherever I go, and to them I duck my head and bite my tongue. I have enough problems to deal with without actually including the backup dancers.
I also find out that Day is a storyteller. One evening, he invites me up to his bunk and we sit there playing a card game with a deck he’s snatched from the rec room (“I’m putting my magic fingers to good use; it’s about time we treat ourselves!”) and he teaches me how to play poker without any betting chips other than bragging rights.
As we play, he starts telling me a story; a world of witches and ghouls, where the supernatural roam free, and, as he puts it, “All politicians are literal vampires.”
Only these ones suck your money out of your wallet, not your blood; so, essentially nothing changes in that department.
He wins the game, of course, but we sit with our backs to the wall and he tells me other stories about things like underwater cities and people being able to fly; I listen to him and play with the deck of cards, spreading out a game of Solitaire and cheating like the smug bastard that I am. Day watches that with amusement.
Once, after an especially long day working in the kitchen and an especially violent fight between Abel and I, Day crouches next to me and holds a cold cloth to my face burning in pain, shaking his head and asking me in exasperation why I’m so hell-bent on getting beat up to the point where I’ll shit out my spine. I simply shrug, my lower lip throbbing, and the kid rolls his eyes.
“Jesus, Cas, I swear if you weren’t my friend I wouldn’t put up with half the shit you make me worry about,” he says idly, and I stare at him a moment before barking a laugh.
“You love me anyways, you little nerd.” Now he laughs, giving me the cloth so I can press it to my bruising lip as I try especially hard to resist the urge to lick my dry lips. Day sits with his back to the wall beside me, and we sit on the floor in silence for a while.
I’ve lost track of how long I’ve been here, to be honest. They’ve been blurring together, what with being tired some days after working for hours on end and picking fights with the most vindictive bastard I’ve ever met, but I’m proud to say that I’m getting better at fighting as a result. I’ve long-since gotten used to the routine, watching new kids get brought in while more pile on the list to the right.
In a sense, I’m starting to get used to watching everyone around me die under the knife. No one else seems to feel sad about it, so I tell myself it’s not my problem and just do my own thing – like everyone else.
“Hey, Day?” I start, my voice brimming in curiosity as I look at him out of the corner of my eye. We both have our heads leaning against the wall, but he’s keeping his dark eyes closed. The only acknowledgement he gives me is a grunt, arching an eyebrow, so I continue. “Do you remember your birthday?”
His eyes fly open and he stares at me as if I just gave him the answer to life’s mysteries, his eyebrows shooting up.
“Like hell I’d know when it passed,” he says flatly, and I give him a look.
“August 16th,” Day says, frowning at me before looking back to the ceiling. “I think it was April when I came here, so sometime during the time I’ve been here I turned thirteen.”
I laugh once idly, looking back to the ceiling above us and grinning slightly.
“It was the end of October when I came,” I say, and he hums once as he closes his eyes, his hands draping loosely in front of him with his elbows on his propped-up knees. “Mine’s probably passed already; God knows I’ve lost track of time.”
“That tends to happen here. I doubt any of us save the new blood know the date, and even they’ll lose track soon enough.”
We sit in silence a while, only broken by the way Day starts singing quietly, tapping his fingers in the air. His voice fails him sometimes, breaking, but I’ve gotten used to it so it amuses me; it’s like a little quirk. I catch a few words, though I don’t know the song, and it sounds kind of like the chorus.
When even all your hope is gone, move along, move along like I know you do.
Two days after Day calls me his friend, his name appears on the list for Testing for the first time since I’ve gotten here. When he sees it the kid laughs, rolling his eyes and making a comment about how they’ve finally stopped being bored of him. I tell him that they might shoot the same thing they shot me with, and he shrugs a shoulder and simply says how if it didn’t kill me, then he has absolutely nothing to worry about. He promises me not to die on me before I kick it.
The thing is, though, that Day doesn’t come back.