Chapter 14: Soup
“More Voltage.” The man in the white coat indicated an orderly who turned a dial.
Hums ran across his skin, filling every available inch of him with its crackling current. His mouth opened in a silent scream, and his wide eyes watched as strings of lightning flashed from his teeth like loose threads. His back arched as fire ripped through him, but he was held down.
There was something searing hot pressed into his breast, the smell of burning tickling at his nose. He saw his own blood trickling from the great metal claws that they had clamped to his chest. He saw past the stems of metal in each arm to the vibrant, shining core of them, pulsating with each beat of his frantic heart.
“More Voltage.” The man said again, anger in his voice.
“But doctor,” The orderly insisted, “His body can’t handle much more…”
“I said more voltage.”
The orderly turned the knob. He felt his head twist from side to side in horror, pleading for them to stop, eyes watery and vision blurred with red.
He buckled again, rasping screams tore from his throat and becoming no more than ghostly hisses in the white room.
The orderly ‘tsked’ and approached with a white rag, dabbing at his eyes as he slumped against the steely embrace of the arms.
“See? He’s bleeding again.”
There was still blood in his eyes, because his vision was still red. He felt his hands clench and unclench. How dare they speak about him like this? Who were they to do this to him? Who were they to fuck with him? Do they know what they have done?
They couldn’t feel this, they couldn’t know… Not like he knew. He could feel it coursing through him like power – no, it was power. He could feel it now, a living, breathing power occupying the same shell he did. It was a cooling balm in his head.
He wanted more. He wanted it all. He gritted his teeth against the tearing in his chest and tried to sit up. He felt the claws dig at his skin, felt the burning of its palms.
The orderly shrugged, indifferent to his plight and returned to the knob.
The power screamed in exaltation when he received it so openly, he let it fry everything, burn him up to nothing, empty him, what was he anyway? Now he was something greater, and he would make them pay, all of them. He would show these scientists and doctors and animals what a God was, and they would weep in their mistake.
He felt the metal arms buckle and break, and he heard the screams of the nearest orderly as his hand ripped through his chest in searing claws, and the lights flickered on and off and people fled from him because he was now the monster they had wanted him to be.
He didn’t bother to wipe the blood from his face. He ran through the hallways, desperate and craven, forcibly removing obstacles from his path by any means possible. Each and every death rolled across his vision in jagged flashes; scalpel, clipboard, chair, keyboard, bare hands all dyed red when he was through with them.
His anger fueled him. He was exhausted – he could feel the wear on his joints and muscles, limbs protesting but being ignored. These people put him here, they were to blame and he would end them, each of them, if he had to.
He set fire to a lab, a chemical spilling across the counter top and too closely to a lit Bunsen burner. The heat didn’t even make him flinch as he passed on; searching and enacting his vengeance on any who came close enough for him to get his hands on.
And then he saw the door.
It was different from the other doors he had kicked open. This one was bigger, thicker and something about it made the back of his head itch. He approached it warily, expecting it to burst open and unleash new horrors for him.
When it did not, and the steady roaring of building flames got louder and more persistent, X-XIII yelled his defiance at the door and flung it open.
The UV blinded him with half of a sky’s worth of artificial light and his eyes burned with colors and his nose burned with scents and his ears rang with sounds…
X opened his eyes very slowly, confused by the warmth enveloping him. His blood was sluggishly squirming through his veins; lethargic worms eating the dregs of sleep from him.
He knew that he had pushed himself. Flashes and clips of the night club seeped into his mind and assailed him with newly committed atrocities. Despite the brands that those images left on his soul he simply stared narrow-eyed at the ceiling in forced indifference.
Those horrors were nothing to him now. In fact, he was comforted by the frantic recalling of scenes – it meant that he had survived, persevering through all the blood.
Oh. He had been shot too.
Ceiling. He was staring at a ceiling, and not one that was an ominous blockade to the sky, dozens of stories above him.
X felt a pathetic thrum of adrenaline spring tiredly through his body. It resulted in nothing more than a cautious turn of his head.
There was a big window to one side of him, looking out to another building a street away. The drapes were half closed, a dull sheen of light splashing across X’s middle. He followed the rays of streetlight to a plush and warm blue blanket that covered him from the chin down.
Testing his binds he found little resistance, and with feral grimace he slowly pushed the warmth away. Beneath the blanket he saw the neat stripe of white bandages around his abdomen and the bare skin of his upper body.
He was distantly aware that he wasn’t wearing shoes.
One of his hands slowly inspected the bandages. It was pretty good, at least better then he could do, that was for sure. All he really knew well was how to tear things apart, not put them back together.
But who had put him back together?
This was no white room. It didn’t reek of doctors or charts or medical equipment. The bells and whistles of alarm were silent in his mind as he cast eyes around the scant living space.
Old Television. Bookcase. Carpet. Kitchen counters. Fridge. Stove. Ad-screen silently playing the same ads over and over.
Sparse, but not white-room sparse. In fact, the place was much darker, painted gray and green, with lower ceilings and only the sound of the outside world humming past the large windows.
X slowly rolled over to his good side towards the rest of the room. He pushed himself to an elbow. He ached all over, but that wasn’t unusual. When he had his little tantrums he often overexerted himself.
Half grimacing and half smiling through the comfortable familiarity of the pain, he edged and crept to a sitting position, tossing his legs over the side of the bed to thud dully on the carpet.
A twisted little giggle slipped past his parted lips as he made himself stand. Somewhere deep inside a part of him cringed, but that part was so small now he barely noticed it.
He hadn’t done too badly in Crank. But he hadn’t gotten what he originally went for, and his goal had slipped away into the belly of the city.
Mahogany hair. She had answers, he knew it.
X’s left arm lazily cradled the bandages around his middle, sluggish blood moving him towards the kitchen area in a bit of a shambling gait.
Kitchens had food, and he was determined to find it. Ideas of discovering his mysterious bandager fled at the prospect of being fed.
X opened one cabinet and was disappointed to find plates. The next cabinet had an array of cleaning supplies, and after a quick yet thorough search he concluded that there was no food there either.
If I were food where would I hide from me?
He opened a drawer to find silverware, including a really fun looking knife. It had a really comfortable handle and tapered into a long sort of triangle with a pointy end. He liked it.
“Are you hungry?”
X’s first reaction was to spin towards the sound with knife extended in self defense, a snarl on his face. Since he was mostly a being if instinct that is exactly what he did. But it was the tiny, often overlooked side of his being that heard the tentative warmth, and stayed his hand from further action.
In this case, he didn’t mind the intrusion.
Standing in the doorway just next to the old television was a young woman. She had raven-black hair that hung around her face like the half-closed curtains by the bed. Her large, round eyes were gleaming in the shadows cast by the late hour. She was slender and registered as attractive to him through a series of sub-conscious check-marks. Definite shape, long hair, pretty face, pale…
The small part of him weaseled enough to the surface to nod slowly at her, noting that this stranger looked familiar.
They both stood perfectly still, facing each other from across the room for almost a minute. Then the woman took a very slow deep breath and began her approach. X still had the knife at the ready, hand leveled.
Much to her credit, he watched her walk up to an arms length away and open a cabinet door.
“What’s your name?” She asked, a weirdness to her voice he had trouble defining.
Soft. It sounds soft.
X tasted the tone in his head, staring at her but not answering. It didn’t matter anyway; he couldn’t remember his name to tell it.
The woman sighed softly.
The sound brought images of blood to X’s mind and he grimaced, leaning back against the counter. His free hand palmed his forehead roughly in an attempt to dislodge the memories. In only succeeded in giving him a headache.
“Are you alright?” she asked.
X realized he had closed his eyes, and when he opened them, she was starting to come closer, so he held the knife between them in warning. She stopped in her tracks and nodded slowly before she turned back to the counter.
“I hope you like soup.” She said. She removed two cans from the cupboard and very slowly and purposefully moved to collect the necessary cooking implements. All the while, X stood poised and ready to strike if this woman was anything more than what she appeared to be.
The woman cooked in silence, sparing him a few glances that could have been concerned; though why anyone would concern themselves over him he had no idea. Even now, there were splotches of dried blood on his pants, and flecks of it on his neck and no doubt in his hair. Only some of it was his own blood, which should have been a sure sign that he deserved no one’s concern.
The small voice inside seemed to sigh.
He had no intentions of disillusioning her.
An age of awkward silence passed between them before the soup was ready. In this silence, the woman procured bowls from a cabinet very near X, who shied away with uncertainty. In a wavering hand he still had the chef’s knife at the ready, but for all his caution, she ignored it.
When she slowly held a bowl out to him, the steam coming from it carried the aroma to his nose. X took an over eager breath of it, as if that would be enough to sustain him.
However, the offer did not remain extended. The woman moved the bowl from before him to rest on the kitchen island before one of the raised stools, and then she poured herself a bowl and sat patiently waiting.
X eyed the setup: Bowl, spoon, bowl spoon, two stools, and one familiar woman.
I know that face? He asked himself as he cast another look in her direction. Honestly, he couldn’t tell from where or why, but she was familiar. Something about her hair, maybe…
“You can sit down.” The woman offered, tone gentle and inviting.
X sat down on the offered stool.
The woman picked up her spoon and hesitated as she was about to dip it into the soup. X realized that she hadn’t taken her eyes off of him since the soup was ready.
He cocked his head to the side, curiosity bringing him to narrow his eyes at her. “What?”
She jumped at the sound of his voice, the spoon hitting the rim of the plastic bowl.
Before she could answer, he asked again, “What are you staring at?”
The woman’s eyes went wide and she hastily looked away. Before X could remark further, he noticed a visible change in her face, something from startled mouse to determined little soldier. He felt the corner of his mouth twitch upwards in a smirk.
“I was staring at a wild animal that turned into a frightened man overnight.”
The assured tone of her voice sent a shiver down his spine. The little voice in his head was now a wailing tempest. He felt his teeth clench and he slammed the chef’s knife hard onto the countertop, rattling the spoons against the brightly colored bowls.
The woman jumped again, but refused to look at him, spoon held rigidly in one poised hand above the soup.
“Look at me again.” X hissed.
The woman chewed her bottom lip. She was nervous; he could feel it in the air across the island.
“Look at me again!” X shouted. He slammed his other hand on the counter top and elicited another startled jump from the woman.
Slowly, she began to turn her head towards him, jaw setting into a stiff line. Her dark eyes lit into his, and he felt the weak pulse of the current jump under his veins.
Fuck you, you fucking lab rat, she’s just some woman. Nothing scares you. Nothing.
The thought was his silent plea to the slowly growing inner voice. The inner voice was saying that he was scared – of not being seen, of not getting his answer, his past, his name back, of being cast out of a society he wished he was a part of.
But what is this world except for sickness and disease?
X’s breath was coming in short ragged breaths, heart pounding from his outburst. “What do you see now?”
The woman stared at him, long and hard, until he started to get anxious from the scrutiny. Then her jaw line softened, and the ghost of a smile turned up the corners of her delicate mouth. “A friend.”
X blinked at the statement, not sure whether to be surprised, grateful, or offended. So settling on surprise, his face went slack with mild annoyance, and he furrowed his brow at her.
‘Disbelief’ might as well have been written in bold across his forehead.
And then, of all things, she laughed. It was a contagious sound, strangely happy. X’s brow furrowed deeper in his attempt not to join in.
He didn’t want to laugh. He wanted to be threatening, menacing, terrifying –
…What for? So you can take vengeance out on her to? After she saved your ass in Crank?
X’s eyes widened then, recognition sharp on his features. The woman’s laugh died down and she stared back at him.
“You…” He started, pointing across the table in shock.
“Yes?” She prompted, gripping her spoon with a trembling hand.
“You had to hit him… twice…” The surprise washed easily from his face, and the corners of his mouth twisted wickedly into a grin. “That’s dedication.” He snickered.
Something bright and shining fell from the woman’s face, but X couldn’t put his finger on it. She smiled wanly, and shrugged her shoulders.
“Eat your soup. It will get cold.” And she followed her own advice.
X stared at her a moment longer, but the realization hadn’t shaken the familiar feeling. Deciding that it would eventually come to him, he shrugged and started eating his soup.
In moments he was in ‘vegetable medley’ heaven.