[41] Sage

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Jake and I do not move from the ground. Why would we move? What do these stupid Trials matter anymore? How are we expected to go on without Deirdre?

I remember the way she looked up to me when we first met.

I remember the way that I had finally felt affection for another person for the first time in years.

I remember the way Deirdre had become my friend, one of two friends who loved me for me, even when I tried to hurt them physically or succeeded in hurting them with my words.

I remember the sound of her plaintive voice as she called to us from behind the glass wall.

I remember how she crumpled to the ground, her head blown apart. The cruel irony of her death.

Soon, our tears stop flowing and there is just pain. Constant and awful, pure and raw, there is no escaping the raw pain that washes over me again and again. Dimly, I am aware of myself shaking violently, but I don't care. My body convulses more and more violently, and suddenly, I stagger to my feet and away from Jake so I can throw up.

I heave again and again, even when my stomach is emptied , and red-hot panic fills my brain as I cannot breathe. My muscles clench, searching for anything to expel from my innards, but there is nothing left. Nothing. And yet I keep heaving, gasping for air in the meager seconds between clenches.

Finally, my body gives up and I collapse to the ground, exhausted. My stomach aches and my mouth tastes disgusting. I just lie still, breathing through my mouth, eyes staring at nothing.

I don't know how much longer it is before a door opens in one of the glowing walls. Jake picks me up from where I fell and carries me through it.

I do nothing.

*

Maggie is nowhere to be seen. Smart. If she was, I would rip out her spine through her throat and let Jake crush the rest of her. It doesn't matter than she may seem impossible to murder. We would figure out how to kill her all the same.

We had no chance at saving Deirdre. This was just a challenge to cull the herd, and I hate them for that.

In the cafeteria, I order a single slice of pizza, but the very sight of it nauseates me. Instead, I get a glass of ginger ale, sipping it to get rid of the awful taste in my mouth and to calm my roiling stomach. But nothing can calm my upset mind.

The Voice is utterly silent. I find myself wishing that it would just take my pain away. Maybe even kill the last scrap of my free will.

No. I have one thing left to live for.

I glance over at Jake, who is staring at the plain tabletop with such grief in his eyes, it makes my heart hurt even more, which I didn't know was possible.

I reach across the table and rest my hand atop his. He closes his eyes as if the gesture causes him even more pain.

"She was like a little sister to me," he says heavily, as if each word is falling heavily from his mouth. "No. She was like a daughter to me."

"I know."

"I loved her."

"I know."

"She was only a child." His words are falling faster, carrying more anger.

"I know."

"She didn't deserve to die."

"I know."

"Especially not like that."

"I know."

"At least you miss her, too."

"Of course I do." For some reason, his words are deeply offensive. Did he honestly think I cared so little for the child who loved me so much?

"I don't know, it's just that...thing that you told us. I wasn't sure if you'd be...allowed to feel anything."

"It - it's leaving me alone for now. It has been for a while now."

"At least something's going right."

We sit in silence for a while longer before Jake asks, "We aren't going to the final Trial, are we?"

"Hell, no," I reply instantly with as much venom as I can pack into the two words. "Why the hell would we?"

"Exactly."

More silence.

"I'm going to be the one to die, Sage. You're going to live."

"Don't say that. We're not going to the Trial. And if we both do well enough, they might let us go."

"They're still going to kill me. You're their favorite."

"Don't say that!" My voice rises, sharp and shrill.

Jake doesn't seem taken aback by the anger in my words. He just sighs and picks at an invisible imperfection on the tabletop.

*

When Maggie arrives, we both rise in unison and rush her. Jake swings at her and she ducks nimbly.

I want the Voice to take over for once, to analyze the alien's movements for me and design an attack pattern so I can kill her painfully and brutally. But it is silent, and I remember how calm Maggie was while seeing it in my X-rays. Ignoring that, I just direct all of my anger toward the Albino and fling myself at her.

Maggie raises a fist nonchalantly. It buries itself in my stomach before I even register that it has moved and I collapse, dizziness and nausea overtaking me once more as I curl over my injured midsection.

"Do you want to visit the rec room or go straight to sleep?" Maggie asks in the same infuriating tone of voice she has always used.

"Neither," I choke out, staggering to my feet. "I want you and every one of your pals to die slowly and painfully. Preferably with a little pre-murder torture."

"I didn't kill Deirdre, Sage," Maggie reminds me.

"Yeah, well, you might as well have pulled the trigger," I snarl, preparing to attack her again.

"That's not true and you know it, Sage."

"All I know is that one of yours killed one of mine!" I shriek.

"Sage. Let me ask you again - rec room or sleep?"

I can feel the Voice stirring. Stay down, I think ferociously. I need to get out these feelings, this anger that I haven't felt since I was normal. Even then, I never felt rage of this magnitude.

"We're not going to the final Trial," Jake mutters. I have almost forgot he is standing silently to the side, turning progressively redder.

"Of course you aren't," Maggie says sarcastically, a tone I wasn't aware she even knew how to use, and turns on her heel, casually leaving the cafeteria.

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