[9] Sage

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I wake up in the same bedroom that I had initially been placed in. Jake is sitting at the desk, looking highly uncomfortable in the chair that is perfectly sized for me - and I must be roughly one and a half feet shorter than him at least.

Deirdre is perched on the desk itself, staring out of the porthole window into the dark nothingness. The inky sky (is it a sky when I'm in it?) is sprinkled with distant stars no bigger than sugar grains. The empty sight makes me strangely lonely. Reminds me how huge space really is.

Jake glances up from his scrutinous study of the floor and sucks in a breath of surprise when he sees me awake. Hurrying to my side, he gently but firmly presses my arms to the bed, using one huge knee to contain my legs as well before I can react to any of this.

Deirdre looks nervous, but as if she is desperately trying to keep her cool. The Voice is weirdly silent, but I can feel its cold rage at being physically subdued. What is she going to do against this behemoth of a boy, though?

"I'm sorry," I murmur, addressing Deirdre. My voice is hoarse, as if I've been screaming. Wait. Was I screaming before I passed out? I can't quite recall. I just remember fighting the Voice with all my might, a searing cranial pain, and then darkness.

"It's okay. We're all crazy here, after all," she points out, smiling slightly.

"I was going to kill you. You should have run."

"You wouldn't have caught me. You can't even walk," Deirdre reminds me. I laugh at this and they both look at me strangely. How stupid they are for not realizing how much danger they were in!

"I was going to use the last of my strength - which is centered primarily in my core but somewhat in my arms - to pull myself up on Jake and then launch myself at you before he would react, using my free falling body as a deadweight, possibly knocking your head against the ground hard enough to knock you out. Then I would strangle you. I had it all figured out in my head." I can still see the calculations when I close my eyes, as sharp and precise as if they were graphed out right before me. I used to be miserable at math, to the point where my parents were considering purchasing a brain chip to help me learn, but when the Voice entered the scene, I found that I could make flawless calculations and measurements in any scientific or mathematical area, even if I didn't have names for the figures floating through my head.

Deirdre's mouth opens slightly, and then she snaps it shut and shifts backwards atop the desk. Finally. They're getting it. They're understanding how dangerous I am.

Jake doesn't look properly scared, though. True, he is so massive that I couldn't really get my hands comfortably around his neck or have a hope of squeeze tightly enough to choke him. He could probably bash my head in before I could think up an alternate strategy.

I realize with a sickening jolt that this is the Voice sizing him up, attempting to find a way to efficiently murder him with minimal damage to us. It isn't controlling me, however, not fully - it even allowed me to apologize. Something's definitely up. But it's still itself if it's calculating murders.

"How long was I out?" I ask, banishing these frightening thoughts.

"I dunno, a few hours," Jake replies with a noncommittal shrug.

"You guys have been here all this time?" Even if we're not truly friends, even if the Voice keeps me from forming bonds (the murder thing tends to turn most people off), it is still a touching gesture. The kindest thing anyone's done for me in three years, even.

"Yes, and I'm hungry," Deirdre replies coldly, as if her hunger is my fault. I watch her storm from the room and realize too late that my detailed recounting of my plans for her murder must have made it seem like I was still planning to harm her.

"Dammit," I groan hopelessly, my head thumping back onto my pillow as my eyes flutter shut momentarily. Turning to look at Jake, who finally released me, I ask contemplatively, "Life's hard, huh? You'd think that being insane would be the simplest state of living, but it's the most complicated thing in the world."

Jake nods slightly, but I can see he doesn't really get it. He's dangerous, sure, but he's not a killer. He just made the wrong decisions at the wrong time. He got into a bad place in his life. Seeing as I'm still in that place with no end in sight, I'm not judging.

He retreats to the chair and settles in as if he plans to stay a while. "Did you have a family?" he inquires abruptly. I can read the unspoken question lurking behind his eyes: or did you kill them, too?

I consider this. The Voice seems preoccupied, so I can actually take time to think my words through. "I didn't kill...I don't think I killed them. My mother and father are still alive, I didn't hurt them.."

"Any siblings?"

"Yeah, but I don't know if he's woken up from the coma yet or if he passed." My tone is bitter. The guilt I feel at hurting my brother is the strongest emotion pounding at the wall of unfeelingness guarding the back of my brain.

Jake is silent for a moment before asking, "What about a genderfriend?"

"Yeah," I say. "He was the only person who visited me in the insane asylum for the past two years. My mom only visited a couple times. His name was Mike. He was very handsome and we kissed a few times. He was very nice and we were only thirteen but we felt very grown up because we had kissed, and usually you don't kiss very much until you're older, but we did. He was very good at art so he would draw me things. Cute little doodles." I take a deep breath. "Technically, I didn't go to the prison until I was almost fourteen. But I'm nearly seventeen so I've been in for about three years. When I...began my spree, I killed a lot of my victims secretly, at night. This was before I had even run away. These were my neighbors, the residents of my town.

"I started acting differently. Mike was going to break up with me because of that, it was obvious. I was young and stupid, not to mention - " I suck in another breath. I almost mentioned being influenced by the Voice. It felt the thought, too - it's like sensing a dog perk up in my head, on the alert for danger. At least this time, I didn't slip, or else it doubtless would have punished me. "Anyway, my stupid child-self thought him leaving me would be the end of the world, even after I had already ruined my life, so I was going to kill him as my kind of...twisted finale. He was - he was the last person I remember caring about. But then I accidentally dropped my coat at one of my crime scenes so I had to go on the run, and I killed a lot of people on the way. I was going to double back for Mike. He was always going to be my last victim. I had... some semblance of a system in that regard. And then I finally got caught."

Jake is silent for a long time as he processes this story, puts the pieces together to form the brilliant tragedy that is Sage Greene. Then, he says something I would not have expected him to say in a thousand, a million years.

"I'm sorry, Sage."

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