[28] Sage

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Playing the drums and watching Jake play video games is getting extremely monotonous. The Voice would usually control my boredom, but I get the sense that it finds it amusing to watch me pester the others.

I don't bother Deirdre (very much), and I only annoy Jake in kind, friendly ways (I think). Nicole gets the brunt of my pestering skills.

"Vampire Girl," I start, lying on my back next to her chair, "I'm hungry."

Nicole remains silent, giving no sign that she has heard me. She isn't wearing her earbuds, though - she is just surfing around various websites.

"Are you hungry?" I ask innocently, staring up at her with wide eyes. "I'm a bit surprised you were able to control your urges around Xavier when that thing made him bleed so bad."

Before I even know what has happened - and that is extremely rare with someone like the Voice riding shotgun - Nicole is pinning me down with an arm across my throat, teeth bared and eyes flaring with the most ugly hatred I have ever seen.

I gasp, struggling to draw breath because of her constriction on my throat. I claw weakly at her arm. Where is the Voice? Why isn't she helping me?

Then I am free, flying to my feet and gasping for air. My hands are out, fingers spread and flexing, ready to fight if need be.

Jake is pinning Nicole to himself with one arm, but the hug-like position is in no way affectionate. While he doesn't look nearly as furious as Nicole, he does look angry. He shoots a disapproving look my way.

"Not okay, Sage," he reprimands. I roll my eyes.

"I'm bored," I moan, grabbing at my hair. Deirdre walks over and gently takes my hand in hers.

"Not an excuse. Bother me if you're bored," Jake commands. "Leave her alone." He stares down at Nicole, who hisses, looking even more like a vampire.

"And just because you're in mourning doesn't mean you can kill her. She was way out of line, but I don't think the Albinos would look on you too kindly for killing their protege."

Their protege. I have known, deep down, that the Albinos prefer me over the others. Will I get unfair advantages in the Trials to come? Part of me - the rational half - hopes so, and the other half insanely cries out for equality. I don't want to win to go home - even the Albinos couldn't fix everything I screwed up. I want to win purely for the victory. Every other child has a reason to win these Trials.

Deirdre, for example, will have her old life back if she wins, and chances are that her parents would be divorced and she will get a chance at a happier childhood, even. Anything's got to be better than growing up on the run from the police.

Jake likely isn't being offered his past, for how much he was bullied and tormented. Maybe they will make him a normal size and revert him to the beginning of his life, or give him a new appearance and the necessary IDs and release him back on Earth to live a normal life.

Me? I don't care what happens to me. So why do I want to win? Because the Voice does?

Yes, that's exactly why. I need to win.

All of this passes through my head in the span of a few seconds. Nicole nods curtly in agreement with Jake's words and Jake releases her. She returns to her computer and rummages for her earbuds in the compartment in the bottom of the seat.

Jake walks over to me, grabs my wrist gently, and drags me over to his station. "That was horrible," he mutters, looking incredibly disappointed in me.

I feel the need to justify my actions, strangely. I didn't do that when I murdered and now I want to justify myself over a few cruel words? "I - I was bored. Plus, it's not like we like her."

"Yeah, but she's a human being, Sage. She's in a lot of pain. Xavier was her best and only friend. Leave her alone. If you're bored, bother me," he repeats.

"Fine," I reply sulkily, sinking to the floor and resting my head against his thigh. It isn't a very good pillow - the muscles are too hard - but I don't move.

As he starts playing again, I spring up and tap random buttons on his controller until his character dies. Hoping he gets the joke, I plaster on my most mischievous grin.

His face is irritated when he glances up at me, but when he sees that I obviously did it for fun instead of to deliberately hurt him, he smiles back and laughs a little. "Maybe I spoke too soon."

"You bet your ass you did," I murmur, resuming my former position of resting against his leg.

*

That night is a peaceful one, like most of my other nights. That makes me think of something my mother said to me, long ago, when she still tried to visit me, still tried to find her little girl within my mind.

It was her last visit. She was crying, sobbing, maybe because she knew that if she didn't succeed this time, she wouldn't be coming back. She had looked so small. So skinny and weak. I remember looking upon her with disdain, hating her for showing so much utter despair and weakness. She had reminded me of an older woman I had thrown over the side of a cliff, especially with her newly acquired grey hairs.

"How do you sleep at night?" she had whispered, her voice trembling and steady. "How can you sleep knowing what you've done?"

I had grinned at her, baring far more teeth than was necessary. "I lie down horizontally, close my eyes, and count the teeth of my victims. It's like sheep, but more relaxing."

They started attempting therapy with me the next day.

But it's true. I always sleep fine, always have, even better than before the Voice invaded my mind.

This is what I'm thinking of as I wake, Maggie's far-too-familiar face hovering over mine and Jake clearing his throat from his position across the room.

I think of my mother as I pull on my black jumpsuit and enter the weapon room.

I think of my victims as I strap on my duel knives and step into the blackness.

*

Update: Two minutes after the chapter is published and you're already voting? You rock, cosmogyralthoughts_!

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