Alistair gets used to the routine a little bit, and he proves to be good company during those times where I’d start feeling Day’s absence when I had free time. We play cards a lot and I show him around, and when night falls I continue trying to disappear again. I get better at it as the days go by.
Abel doesn’t bother me and I’m happy enough with that – not wanting to know what being his bitch entails – and when I introduce Alistair to the others they welcome him in with pleasure, as if he always was a part of the group. I fall back into the routine of the facility that actually starts feeling mundane again, a little smug when I realise that they’ve changed the screen in the cafeteria and an almost translucent electrical barrier buzzes in front of the screen – with enough wattage to make your hair stand on end when you get too close, the buzz registering in your ears.
It screams touch me and I promise you’ll die.
The day I manage to fully disappear and keep it up, I try going through things. It feels weird, as if I’m getting pulled through thick soup, but it’s possible – all I have to do is focus well enough to keep up the disappearing act after I get through, because otherwise I snap out of it. I’ve realised that the moment I go back to normal, I can’t do it again for a few minutes.
So there’s a window of time where I’m unable to do it again. That’s good to know.
They take Alistair in for testing about two weeks after he first arrives, and he comes back a bit wobbly on his feet and light-headed, but alive. I ask him what they injected him with, and he tells me ES03 before he lies down to sleep off his exhaustion – a new drug.
I get my promised turn not long after, which as you imagine is about as fun as getting your teeth pulled, but I manage to catch sight of the drug and am surprised to see something other than SC36. When I question the scientist doing the procedure what ES03 is (what he’s shooting into my system) he’s oddly happy to answer.
They’re pretty talkative. I wonder if this is how Abel gets his information.
He tells me it’s SC36 that’s made it to the final stage of testing – ES, or Experimental Serum. The thought makes my blood run cold. That means they’ve made a lot of progress on it since, and I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen to all of us who’ve shown signs of reacting to it when they’re done. They don’t know about it acting up in me just yet, and I plan to let it stay that way as long as I can.
I can’t help but be worried about the fact that if they feel it’s taking too long, they’re going to try a shock procedure – basically, injecting as much of it as they can into my system until my body reacts, which pushes it to its limit and stresses it, most often causing death. I can’t let them find out it’s working because my ability is a dangerous one – it gets rid of all my restraints here – and they’re going to want to replicate it and terminate me for it so I don’t try something funny. But I can’t let them think I’m defective forever, either.
I’m playing a dangerous game and death is my opponent.
God help me, I’m not going down without a fight.
I wait a month after I’ve gotten used to the powers, rather comfortable with them now, and have begun playing with the mental ability I stumbled on accidentally some time ago – using Abel’s tip on how the serum has a sense of irony. It happened a few days after ES03 was shot into my system.
I accidentally knocked off everything on the dresser as I fell without touching them, and it took me a second to figure it out. Then, when I tried to move them a bit in the same way, I realised what it was: telekinesis, plain and simple.
God, I’m a poltergeist. Irony indeed.
When a month has passed and both abilities are familiar in my grasp, I sneak out of my cell one night when it’s the dead-ass dark of night and all that illuminates the hub are the emergency lights.
The halls are eerie at night, with not a sound to be heard aside from the faint buzz of the lights and the whirr of the security cameras as they move, capturing everything and relaying the information to what is probably a bored security guard. The night shift is never fun.
I walk through them, unseen, and it’s still a bit odd how my feet don’t even make a sound as I walk but I ignore all distractions, my heart hammering in my chest in fear. If I lose my grip now, I’m going to get shot down by the nearest turret as soon as it registers a heat signature and the weight-sensitive floor senses an unregistered gait.
Alistair’s a good source for information like that – he loves technology and has told me a lot about the kinds of things you can find around here. The gait of all the night-shift guards has been registered into the system, and as they go about their rounds the floor senses them and doesn’t signal the turrets to shoot. It’s pretty convenient for the facility, so that way if someone tries to break out of their cell they’re going to know about it and they won’t even have to lift a finger.
So, suffice to say that I’m a little bit nervous. It took me a while to convince myself to go through with this.
The residential wing of the facility is through the service hall to the right of the building, and upon entry through the door I seek out the records of who is assigned to what room. There are about three levels to this wing, the ground floor being reserved for the guards and the second being connected to the science labs, and the third floor is for those working in the administration of the facility. I find a lobby just inside the door and there’s a locked door that leads to a file room, so I go through in there and make sure there’s no camera or sensors of any kind (Alistair told me you can tell by looking at the corners of the rooms, where you’ll find an almost indistinct blue light there hardly visible so close to the floor. He hasn’t been wrong yet) before I let myself become visible again and start looking through the files.
I’m aware I have a time limit before the night shift is over, so I work quickly – remembering this room for later to discuss with Abel, and its potential usefulness in whatever escape he’s planning. There are sections for just about everything having to do with the facility, making me think this is the archive room; all down to the files on the current inmates. This, of course, piques my curiosity and I indulge a moment, sifting through the files until I come across the one I’m looking for – mine.
Opening the manila file up, I’m met with a series of pages and reports. The first thing I see is the contract I signed before I was brought here, and then it’s papers on experiments I’ve been put through and reports on behaviour (such as the cafeteria screen incident). It’s actually surprisingly well documented, all down to my role sheet by the day.
I close it and stare at the dozens of cabinets standing before me, biting my lower lip in thought as I slip my envelope back into its place. Turning my attention to why I’m here I hunt down the paper that’ll tell me where the guards are assigned, and once I find what I’m looking for – the memory of a name all that I have to go on with – I look over my shoulder to the cabinets again.
Then, before I can change my mind and to fuck with the administration, I extend my hands towards the cabinets and, taking a deep breath, I curl my hands into fists. The result is exactly as I wanted: the metal cabinets bend in on themselves and crush whatever’s inside as they become more and more compact, becoming misshapen chunks of metal. The sound is deafening as it echoes throughout the room, and I quickly become invisible again and move on before someone decides to investigate.
Instead, I turn down the hallway and follow the numbers on the wall by each door, searching for the one I’m most interested in: 125, to my left, near the end of the hall. I step through into the darkness of the room, glancing around for any signs of security measures before I turn back to normal and take the bundled-up scrap of cloth in my pocket, unwrapping it from around the scalpel and putting the cloth back where it was. Then, I approach the snoring figure on the cot.
I can’t see much in the darkness, but my eyes can make out enough of it: the form of the person sleeping there isn’t one I’ve forgotten yet, and the sight of them makes my blood boil at the memory of the violation. My hand grips the handle of the scalpel tightly, my heart hammering loudly.
This is it. This is my revenge.
It’s going to be slow.
The first thing I do is use my telekinetic powers to crush his windpipe, making sure he can’t scream. It startles him awake and his hands come up from the covers to grab his throat as he struggles to breathe, and with wide eyes the man looks at me.
It takes a moment, but he recognises me. I see the shock and horror settle in.
Then, using those same powers, I get to work: I break individual bones, beginning with that of his hand and jumping to other places. With that crushed windpipe the man can’t scream, only breathe a soundless cry as his face contorts with the pain each time, and the thrill of satisfaction courses through me. I break his legs, his arms, the vertebrae of his spine, and a couple of ribs for good measure.
The guard passes out a moment due to the pain, but he comes to again when I take the scalpel and dig it into the skin of his neck enough to draw blood. I brought it as a backup if I needed it, but I don’t think I will so instead I’m using it as a cheap scare tactic. Keeping his attention as he tries to breathe through all the pain, I put my left hand on his forehead so he can’t try anything funny and bring my mouth close to his ears so I can whisper.
“Remember me?” I ask lowly, and I hear a faint whimper as the man nods as much as he’s able to. My hand tightens its hold on his head in response. “What is it you called me back there? A man whore, right? A bitch you forced yourself on and let your friend have a try. Did you think I’d forgotten that?”
He shakes his head vigorously, and my eyes narrow. The memory brings the anger back through my veins.
“I’m here to send you right where you belong, so sit tight as I give you your due. Think of me as your evil angel, love.”
I speak the last word with thick contempt, pulling away from him and feeling my stomach lurch unpleasantly at the sight of the man staring at me with fear in his eyes. Then I reach a hand out towards his heart and grip it.
The feeling is a powerful one as his lips part in a silent, desperate protest. I can feel the frantic beating of his heart even though I’m not physically holding it, and it’s beating a mile a minute. It makes me realise that I hold his life in my hand and by God it’s an addictive thought.
I smile sweetly at him as he stares at me, pleading for his life.
“Say hello to the Devil for me, will you? I’ll be there soon enough.” With a wink sent his way, I curl my hand into a fist and see his chest stutter to an instant halt as the heart I’d held is crushed in his chest. There’s that moment when his body is still receiving signals from his brain, but even that goes rather quickly. Blood comes out of his mouth and trails along the sides of his jaw, the only sign that he’s dead aside from his wide, unblinking eyes.
I look at the guard’s body for a moment, face void of expression as I take it in, and then I reach for the cloth in my pocket and wrap up the scalpel again. A part of me remembers what I felt when I realised that I’d killed that guy in the alley, but it’s a distant memory in contrast to this moment. Right now, all I can think is finally. I realise that I hold power, an unfathomable amount of it, and it truly is a dangerous combination to be able to be invisible, go through solid objects, and move and affect objects with my mind.
And I know that’s my ticket out of here.
They initiate a lockdown during the break that day, and instead of gunning everyone who doesn’t make it down, they order the stragglers into any cell before they begin combing each one – about fifteen guards, some armed with dogs, searching for something. Everyone is in a buzz; questions abound regarding what’s going on. This is far from regular procedure.
Alistair and I are playing cards on my bunk when one of the guards – a woman – walks in with a dog snapping at her side. We both look at her as she looks our way, her face indistinct behind the helmet.
“You are both to report to the mess hall immediately,” she says stiffly, and I arch an eyebrow at the sound of that. Alistair looks my way, worried and searching for an explanation, but I simply shrug and do as she tells us, gesturing for the guy to follow me.
Besides, the dog is making me nervous.
As we walk towards the cafeteria I realise that not everyone is being ushered there – some cells are being ignored, while others are being told to go to the cafeteria like we are. Everyone is quiet save for concerned whispers, asking each other what’s going on. My suspicion grows when I note that Abel’s being sent there as well, and as he walks by me he simply says they’re gathering everyone who has the serum in their veins.
So that’s the connection. They’re looking for someone with powers to find an explanation to what I did last night.
Despite myself, I can’t help but grin at that.
We make it there without incident and we’re ushered into orderly files – all the tables have been pushed to the sides to make room, and the space is quickly occupied by a little more than a hundred of the inmates called forth. I manage to squeeze myself between Abel and keep Alistair to my right, so that way we can exchange information quietly. In this mess, with about twenty guards lining the walls with their guns trained on us at all times, no one’s going to be bothered remembering grudges.
The door towards the service hall opens, and a woman I don’t recognise comes in.
She’s wearing a clean black suit and a pair of glasses clearly modified to display information about whoever she’s looking at onto the lenses, and her brown hair is cut short. She’s short, maybe about five and a half feet, but nevertheless imposing; there’s a gun strapped to her waist, and she makes it no secret that she’s armed. Her heels clack loudly on the floor as the room falls into a hush, and she comes to a stop in front of our crowd.
“I am the warden of this establishment,” she states crisply, frowning. I can tell she’s lots of fun at parties. “My name is Tuana, but to you I shall be addressed as Warden. Are we clear?”
She arches a sharp eyebrow and waits for a few of us to mutter a yes, ma’am before she continues, her hands held together at her back as she stands before us, her weight distributed evenly.
“Last night the archives were broken into and all convict records were destroyed,” she begins, and a few heads look at each other in surprise. Most of us don’t look away from her, for various reasons. “What’s more, one of our finest security guards was found dead in his room this morning, without any external injury and all of his bones broken, as well as astounding evidence about the fact that his heart burst in his chest.”
That stirs a bit of surprised whispering, and Abel and I exchange a glance. He arches an eyebrow at me, and I nod almost imperceptibly – I had mentioned to him that I was going to put my abilities to the test, but he hadn’t known how I was planning to do it.
He actually looks impressed. A bit terrified, but impressed.
“No security footage was found of the one responsible, and as I’m aware you all know, one of the drugs that was administered to a portion of the population of the prisoners was an experimental, military-grade drug. You have all mostly become aware of its side-effects, as I’m told.” Scowling, she continues. “Drug SC36, and its new evolution ES03, have the capability to grant powers to the host. My workers have informed me of a variety of skills you have all shown, yet none of what they know matches what has transpired. It thus leads me to believe that there is at least one of you that has not come forth with the results of your testing, though I find it hard to believe that a single criminal is responsible. I demand that whoever it is steps forth now to face the consequences: shock administration.”
We all exchange glances, but of course I don’t step up and offer myself up, for obvious reasons. When she realises that no one’s stepping up, she crosses her arms and glares at us.
Oh I hope she doesn’t have kids.
“Should none of you step up, we will start picking people at random here and killing them right before your eyes, and their death will be on your hands until you step up and face your due. There is a murderer amongst you vermin.”
I frown at those words, not liking the idea of having others die – I know they’ll go through everyone unless one of us takes the blame, and of course I’m not planning on doing that. I want to live – I want to live so much I’m ready to die for it, as Abel seems to be, but this isn’t how I’m going to go.
I’m going to die on my own terms.
When she realises that that’s still not enough – that the one responsible is calling her bluff – she instructs one of the guards to grab someone at random and pull him to his knees in front of her. One of the guys from Abel’s gang is grabbed by the shoulder and thrown to his knees, and then the Warden takes her pistol from her hip and presses the barrel of her gun to his forehead. I glance at Abel to see his reaction, but he looks oddly at ease.
Then again, he sees everyone as a pawn.
I don’t rise to the bait when she offers the offender one last chance to step up, and so she puts a bullet straight through his head. The guy crumples to the ground, twitching for a moment before he goes still, and the guard pulls the body away from her and tosses it nonchalantly to the side.
Everyone is in a shocked silence. They pick another kid, and again she repeats the procedure. He has the guts to swear at her before she pulls the trigger.
Three more go, and it’s when one of them pulls Alistair to kneel before her that I feel my resolve start to waver. The guy looks terrified as he’s made to kneel, looking back at me with wide, pleading eyes, and I feel Abel grip my wrist to keep me from moving towards my friend and possibly do something stupid in the process. I grit my teeth, looking at him, and Abel presses his lips together tightly and imperceptibly shakes his head at me, never looking away from the display in front of us.
When I look back at Alistair, he seems to understand what’s going on; he’s always been smarter than he’s given himself credit for, and his shoulders drop before a sad little smile graces his lips and he mouths a few words in Kurdish that loosely translate to give them hell on my part, Cas before she blows his brains out. I flinch at the sight, closing my eyes and gritting my teeth.
Then, my anger flares up again in that way it likes to. I fist my hand at my side, a single target in mind – and boy is it satisfying to watch my power listen to my will. To hold this much power over people and that they don’t even know it.
The Warden’s eyes explode in her skull and it makes her scream a shrill scream, dropping the gun and bringing her hands to her eyes as she staggers. Blood starts dripping down her face, and the sight makes everyone in the crowd step back and mutter uneasily as the nearest guards rush to her aid. My other hand fists at my side and I don’t revel in it this time: I crush her heart, and I don’t take a moment to enjoy how it feels to hold her life in my hands. I kill her quickly and completely, and she falls limply to the ground just like that, blood gushing from her eyes and mouth.
The door leading back towards the cells locks behind us as they initiate a facility-wide lockdown, and a few scientists are called in even though it’s clear the woman is already dead long before they get here. As the white coats try to figure out what the hell’s going on, the guards turn their weapons onto us, locked and loaded, and yell at us to get down on the ground and to stay there, leaving our hands where they can see them.
With all the noise happening around us – the yelling guards and scientists, the frantic whispering of the others – it’s easy for Abel and I to talk, albeit very quietly. We’re sitting side by side facing opposite directions, which makes this easy for us, but we do our best not to move our mouths too much.
“Depending on how this goes,” he begins, and I don’t look his way despite really wanting to; instead, I keep my gaze focussed on nothing in particular, pretending to mind my own business, “we could be getting out soon.”
“You have a plan?” I ask, and he nods a very small incline of his head.
“After seeing what you can do, yeah. Keep on your guard – they’re going to be keeping a close watch on us, so don’t do anything drastic. Lay low.” I nod slightly, to indicate that I’ve heard him and will do as he says – knowing that this is the best course of action to ensure my survival, never mind the fact that I’m supposed to do what he says.
We’re made to sit here for a while as the guards and scientists try to figure out what the hell’s going on, and I sit there staring at the ground and wondering when I stopped feeling pain and sorrow for my friends. There’s an emptiness in my chest, a blank feeling, at the thought of Alistair’s body lying not twenty feet away, but it’s more like my mind’s detached itself from the ability to feel guilt and pain, having gone through too much of it and refusing to let those things cripple it anymore.
It’s a strange feeling. Instead, it evokes that feeling of anger that simmers in the pit of my stomach, burning idly.
My mind thinks back to the things Day taught me and his letter still tucked in my pocket. To Ishmael and the way he saluted me as he walked to his death. To Alistair who figured out who had done it and still decided to die for it, realising that I have the power to take down this place and telling me to do it.
Please don’t forget me.
Ishmael saluting me on his way out.
Give them hell on my part.
My hands fist on my lap and I grit my teeth, breathing deeply to try and keep my anger from spiking. Now is not a good time for that.
I promise to remember you – all of you. I won’t let you die. Not while I’m still alive.
They usher all of us back to our cells and lock the doors so that everyone’s left to their own devices, and as the guards don’t really care who goes where Abel manages to get locked in with me. I ignore him while I take the scalpel and dig Alistair’s name into the wall, hating how this is the second name I’ve had to do this for and knowing that it might not be the last.
He was my proxy. I shouldn’t have been his friend – we shouldn’t have gotten along, we should’ve hated each other. Yet there’s something about being in a small space with your replacement and getting to hear their side of things that makes it, I don’t know… sobering, I guess.
When I place the scalpel down on the dresser I look at the three names there a moment, sighing a little bit, and Abel’s made himself at home on the bottom bunk. He’s given me time to do this in peace, which is a strange mercy, but I appreciate it. I don’t think I could’ve kept my cool if he would’ve tried talking to me, and it’s helped me clear my head a little bit.
That’s the thing about menial tasks.
Then I walk over and sit down on the bunk beside him, dropping onto my back and staring at the top of the cot. Abel looks at me curiously, oddly calm, and a part of me wonders when we stopped trying to get at each other’s throats. A few months ago I would’ve tried to kill him if I’d been stuck with him like this.
This place changes people – not for the better, but in a sense not for the worst, either. Maybe we both just realised that we’re both dead either way.
Well, when you stick a bunch of boys from ages six to about twenty all in the same place, I don’t know what you expected. The prime hormonal years are smack in the middle, so of course the only way we figure out how to vent is to fight.
“He was my proxy,” I tell him idly, looking at Abel from the corner of my eyes. His eyebrows shoot up in surprise, and I shrug my shoulders and smile grimly before I close my eyes and lie there like that.
There’s a lot of blood on my hands now – so much that I think they’ll be permanently stained. Whoever I touch will be corrupted with it.
“I’ll be honest: I didn’t think you had it in you,” he says calmly, and I laugh dryly. “You never struck me as a killer until now.”
I hum in agreement, lacing my hands together on my stomach and trying to keep my mind blank. I don’t want to start thinking right now; it’ll be dangerous for me to do so.
“People change, Abel.” The proxy laughs once breathlessly and shifts a bit; I crack an eye open to see him pull a knee up to his chest before I close it again.
We’re both quiet for a while, and I don’t know if it’s because of everything that’s happened in the last hour or if it’s because we’re both tired, but neither of us try to pick a fight. Maybe it’s because we’re alone, without judgmental eyes boring into our skulls and expecting us to fight.
Maybe we’re just sick of all this fighting.
“You know,” he begins quietly, and I open an eye a second to see how he’s holding his knee to his chest and is staring at the wall with all the marks on it, “it’s a gamble when you sign the proxy contract. You never really get a say as to whether not you want to do it – like you, we’re forced into it when our roll call comes. You never know what kind of life you’re writing your rights away to. There’s a voice at the back of your mind that asks what if they did what they did for a good reason, because they hated the world I just signed myself into?”
Opening my other eye, I stare at him a little more fully. This is highly unexpected from him; he’s not the kind of guy to just sit down and tell you what he thinks about. At least, not in my experience.
“I went into a nightmare. Abel had an older brother named Cain who loved to give me hell, living up to his name, and his father was a drunken bastard who beat me if I so much as stared at him the wrong way. He’d bring a new girl home every other week and they’d always have loud sex no music could drown out.” I decide to close my eyes again; I imagine he’d rather not be stared at right now. I wouldn’t want that, in his shoes. “Abel had been a drug addict – I found lighters pretty much everywhere in his room and I would play with them, always carrying one or two in my pocket. He had this sweet guitar, though, but I didn’t know how to play it. I tried learning what I could, but even then I could only play a few chords.”
The proxy laughs quietly and I notice the calm tone in his voice – the first I’ve ever heard of it.
“It wasn’t exactly paradise, and I still had to go to classes I didn’t understand or particularly enjoy so I was pretty bitter about it. The Prototypes there made it hell, so there wasn’t really anywhere I could escape to.” Abel pauses a moment, quiet, and then he picks up his story again. “Have you ever been to Erzurum?”
I open my eyes to see that he’s turned his head to catch my gaze, and I sit up as I shake my head, stretching out my legs on the ground and crossing my ankles.
“I’m from Rize – I never really left the city, unless you count crossing the Black Sea to Istanbul for two days to attend a funeral.”
“It’s a pretty big place that has a lot of abandoned buildings from before the famine, and a lot of the time I’d go there instead of going ‘home’ or to classes. I had fun climbing the buildings and even managed to get to the top of an old church once.” My eyebrows rise, impressed, and he grins a little bit. “I’d managed to put up with that life for a while – I forget how long, maybe a year or two – before things started driving me insane. I remember thinking about suicide at one point.”
Abel looks back to the wall, back in his thoughts, and I pull my legs to my chest and hold them there as I listen.
“I just wanted to wait for the day when I was twenty so I could get out of that place. I had a plan: I’d saved up at least two thousand dollars from odd jobs I had and I planned to leave the country. Maybe go to Australia or Brazil; all I knew was that I wanted out. Some places don’t have APP, and I was thinking of going there.” He sighs a little bit. “That night he’d beaten me particularly severely. I had a limp to show for it, and Cain had taken the cigarette he’d been smoking and pressed it into my arm for good measure as I passed by him. Then, of course, there was the matter of his bitch for the week to deal with. I was pretty sick of it.
“I figured I’d set fire to the place in the middle of the night and get out before I was missed. Hopefully they’d think I died in the fire and I could smuggle myself out of Turkey through the Black Market – hell, at that point I was thinking about trying my luck in Iraq.” I smile a little bit at that; we both know that your chances of survival there are next to none.
I suppose that’s still better than what he’d been through.
“So I took the gas can that was kept in the closet for his car and poured it all over the furniture and floors. I put a ton of it in front of their doors and broke the handles to make sure they weren’t getting out of their rooms; I knew I was putting those living in the apartments above and below us in danger, too, but I felt it was worth the risk. I disabled the fire alarms.”
I look at him, chin on my knees, and he smiles a self-depreciating smile at a thought. Probably the knowledge of what comes next. I can figure out what it is through simple deduction, really: he’s here. That means he was caught before he could get out.
“Like an idiot, I was spotted climbing out of my window with a backpack by a cop on patrol – and the fire had already begun smoking and spreading, which alerted him when some of it billowed out of the window before I could close it. He yelled at me to stop where I stood as he called for the fire department, but I ran down the emergency stairs and bolted. The cop broke after me – others were already coming for the fire, so he could try to track me down.
“I don’t know if you know how weird the streets of Erzurum are, but they loop and zigzag a lot into dead ends when you’re downtown. It’s a nightmare on traffic.” Abel sighs, his shoulders falling slightly. “I was so terrified, so stressed, I ran right into a dead end even though I’d known those streets all my life. The cop caught me, and while Abel’s father died in that fire the others were okay, and I got charged with arson and murder. They brought me here roughly four years ago now.”
My eyes widen at the number. Shit, Day had told me that he’s been here for a long time, but four years?
“The only reason I’ve been alive this long is that I have a lot of potential for them as a test subject. My body adapts well to whatever they give me, so it’s in their interest to study how it reacts – I’m like you for that, except I still have a decent immune system. The difference is that my blood strips away the threat and lets all the beneficial parts do what they want.”
Sighing again, he reaches for the back of his head and pulls the elastic from his high ponytail, letting the black strands of his hair fall to his shoulders. Abel puts it around his wrist and then flickers his green eyes my way, arching an eyebrow.
“So we’re both killers. I figured that makes us even.”
“What’s your real name, Abel?” I ask, and his eyebrows crease as if he wasn’t expecting me to ask that at all. Then, he laughs lightly.
“It’s been so long that I hardly remember who I used to be as a kid,” he says, bitterness creeping into his voice. “I’ve kind of just filled Abel’s shoes, you know? I remember the head of the orphanage I was at told me something about my name once: I’d been left at the orphanage bundled in a cloth with a letter my mother had written. It was the only thing I had as a connection to her.”
The proxy looks to the ceiling, and all those emotions he’s displaying are so foreign to me in regards to his person that I can’t quite get over it. There’s a forlorn sadness there in his eyes.
“I wanted to find her one day.” This he says quietly, like the admission of a weakness, before he continues with the rest. “The letter said that she named me after a relic of the past, from a story her grandmother used to read to her at night. She named me Aslan.”
Honestly, I can’t imagine what it’s like to never know who your parents are and to wonder what they were like – and if they’ve forgotten you entirely.
“So, tell me what really happened,” he suggests, snapping me out of my thoughts, and I look at him curiously. “In the alley.”
I’m speechless a moment when his request registers in my head, and Abel holds my gaze in turn until I thaw, arching an eyebrow at me as he waits patiently. I can’t help but think of the first time we got stuck in this room together and the way he didn’t believe me when I said it didn’t happen the way it did. As a matter of fact, we’ve never seen eye to eye on things before.
So I tell him. For the second time in my life I trust the truth of my demons to someone else – someone who’s made my life hell for the last few months, no less – and in turn it reminds me that there’s a truth that’s alive in me. It’s my truth.
Then, I tell him about Solitary.
We’ve moved closer to the wall by now, our backs to it, and I’ve fished out the deck of cards to begin a game with him to pass the time. Once I’m done with telling him about Solitary he asks about what happened last night with the guard, and I quickly rehash that information – worried about being heard. There’s a sort of understanding that seems to fall between us during all the time we spend talking, and it seems to call for a truce.
We come out of it with a better understanding of each other. Calling each other friends would be a stretch, but there’s definitely trust. In my book, that counts for a lot.
Abel tells me his thoughts about an escape for a while, running ideas through me, and I’m surprised at the amount of thought he’s put into it. The tricky bit is making sure that I can get him out, too.
We’re playing Go Fish when the door to my cell is unlocked and we both look up in surprise, to find that there’s a guard coming into the room and looking at us both with a scowl.
It stands to reason that they’re still investigating – this is a serious situation, to say the least. There’s someone in this prison with the ability to kill someone without lifting a finger or being near them, as well as remain undetected from the finest security money can buy. In their place, I’d be sweating bullets.
If that information gets out, APP is going to have some serious questions to answer.
“You! You’re in the wrong place, kid,” the guard says gruffly, and Abel arches an eyebrow as if he finds it stupid that they’d be concerned about that right now. Hell, it’s not like we were doing anything wrong – unless talk of escape is wrong. “You’re coming with me for questioning. Get moving!”
Abel and I exchange a look. He shrugs his shoulders, putting his hand down as he gets up.
It’s such a stupid detail, but I remember looking down at his cards as he gets up – I following after him – and noticing that he did have a pair of sixes, the cheat. Abel notices that and winks at me as he pulls his hair back into its ponytail on his way out.
“Do you remember what we talked about?” he asks casually, and the guard looks irritated as he makes small talk with me on his way out. I frown at him, and when they pass the threshold I linger behind so I don’t give the guards a reason to shoot. Some of the faces looking out of the bars notice Abel and me actually having a conversation, and it gains a lot of attention. “After you told me that thing.”
Understanding dawns on me and my eyes widen; he smiles, giving me a sideways glance.
“Do me a favour, okay? Keep us alive.” I start to protest, about to run over and grab him, but a guard near me puts a gun to my chest and yells at me to get back in my cell. “You’re innocent despite your demons.”
I push the guard’s gun aside and yell at him to get his ass back here and say that to my face, Goddamnit, and to that the man turns so he’s walking backwards, hands around his mouth so I can hear him better.
“Do what I tell you one last time and tear this place down! You have three seconds to disappear!”
I push past the guard and shout his name just as I see red and orange spots start to glow around him – like embers in the air – pulling themselves from his person as if he’s a log that’s about to crumble in a fire. Those watching from their cells are shouting their confusion and yelling God knows what, making the whole situation that much more confusing to me. Abel smiles.
For a second I see Day standing there where we parted the last time I saw him, and that smile hurt to see then and it hurts to see now. I know what that smile is.
It’s the smile of someone who knows they’re going to die and they’re pretending they’re alright.
“Long live the kids, Cas!”
That’s the last thing I ever hear Abel say, and it’s the first time he’s ever said my name.
The world seems to explode, the epicentre where he is, and I do as he’s told me to do despite my insides screaming at me to make sure he makes it out alive, too, even though I know he won’t. Like a case of Stockholm syndrome, I’ve gotten attached to the one that tormented me and made my life hell.
Because despite everything, we’re more than our crimes.
The last thing I see is a wave of fire that consumes everything, tearing the world apart, and the heat is so intense that it zaps my consciousness from me.