The Quandary 902

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Chapter 9

So much for being the model patient then.

“I thought you were supposed to be rehabilitated. That you had some normal functions back?” I demand.

“Normal functions?” he sneers. “Normal functions don’t apply to us anymore. We’re damaged, remember?”

“But the doctor said—” I start.

“The doctor says what he wants to believe and what he thinks the people in command want to hear.” His voice is thick with mockery.

“So…” I struggle to grasp his meaning. “So the procedure didn’t work? You don’t have a full range? Joy or grief or anger—”

“Anger?” He interjects. “I feel anger.” His eyes are unfocused. “You do, too, I’m sure. But I don’t think its rage the way they feel rage. It’s something else entirely.” His eyes flick back to me, although his voice sounds strange and distant. “Its something much more primal.” The pointer finger on his right hand inadvertently twitches. “That aggression you feel— I feel it, too. It’s there, always, under the surface begging to be released.” The hazy quality in his voice dissipates and he snaps back to the present, making piercing eye contact. “You can’t give into it. You cannot allow it to take hold. The second you do it— it’s something combustible. If you light the match, the whole house will go up in flames.”

“What happens then?” I ask, captivated.

Evander draws in a deep breath and slowly exhales, his nostrils flaring.

“I think you’ll turn savage, and the further you stray from your awareness the harder it’s going to be to pull back to yourself. I don’t think I have to tell you what happens to you then.”

“They’ll put me down.” I state.

“Like an animal,” he replies. “Because that’s what you are to them. You have to understand that. There is a divide between the humans and us, we aren’t like them and they will never let go of that. You have to hide the reality of yourself. You can’t let them know you don’t feel. You have to pretend, Eve, that all of it is coming back to you because the second, the absolute second they realize that there’s not much differing you from the other EXCERP soldiers it’s over for both of us.”

I think for a moment before I reply. “Will it ever come back?” I ask.

“What?”

“The…capability to feel emotion. Will I ever get it back?”

His mouth opens and closes a few times before he answers.

“No. No I don’t think so.” He replies.

“Oh.” I breathe out.

Evander rubs a calloused hand across the stubble on his jaw. His gaze is brutal. “You won’t ever get it back and they can’t know that. Your best bet to survive is to give them what they want. Run their errands, fight their battles.”

I look down at my hands. The majority of the blood has dried and small dark bruises are starting to speckle the thin skin across my knuckles. I flex my fingers and wonder if it’s mostly my blood or the guards. I look up to see Evander watching at me with that crooked gaze. There’s something unhinged in his stare. When I meet his eyes his shoulder jerks and the first finger on his right hand spasms again. I step away from him and make a move to exit the tent. He does nothing to hinder my departure. As I am about to exit the structure I realize that Evander might be able to answer a question that’s been burning in me since Whittaker’s shifty eyes concealed the truth.

“Evander.” I state. “The doctor said there were no other subjects.”

He looks back at me over his shoulder, mouth pulled firmly into a grimace. “Did he?”

“He was lying, wasn’t he?” I question.

“Does it matter?” He asks. It’s a valid question. Maybe it doesn’t. But the fact that the New Order attempted to bury this information fills me with an all-consuming desire to claw at the ground, rip it from its shadowy grave and bring it to life.

“Just answer the question.” I growl. “Was he lying?”

“In his way, yes.” It’s obvious that Evander is having fun toying with me, letting me know he has the answers I want but refusing to reveal them.

“What does that mean?” I punctuate each word with a step forward.

He chuckles darkly. “It means there were no other successful subjects.”

“So what happened to the others?”

Evander sneers again. “Some died during the Switching process. Others were not so fortunate.”

“And the unfortunate ones, what about them? What happened to them?” I press.

He turns to me fully, his eyes the perfect picture of unfocused frenzy. “The procedure could only take them so far. They went rabid. They scratched away at their own skin, clawed out their eyes and in the end the only mercy was to put them down.”

My voice is hoarse. “How many?”

“I don’t know how many came before me. I know that twenty-seven came after.”

“How do you know that number?” I ask, already feeling the answer in my bones.

He squints and cocks his head to the side confusedly, speaking in a low monotone. “Because I killed them, of course.”

It is only until after I have left the tent, arms swinging at my sides listening to the sound of the birds in the trees and the squelch of mud beneath my boots does is occur to me that in the corner of Evander’s quarters rested a stack of color-marked texts.

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