Three - Ira

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It came like a tsunami, an avalanche. Something so colossal that swept the world away. I thrashed blindly, not feeling my limbs connecting with anything, but at the same time, feeling everything until my senses wanted to give out. A frantic beeping rose in volume, my head spinning too quickly to be able to pinpoint its source. I supposed my mouth was open and my throat was producing some strange howls.

"Stop moving!" I heard.

"Calm the hell down!"

I saw shadows that could be faces, ghostly shapes melting at every angle possible like The Scream. One moved out of my field of vision, and I felt a phantom blast of needles hitting the back of my head. I suddenly realised what was wrong.

I couldn't close my eyes. Something was holding them open. Those ghosts were holding them open.

"Let me go back," I screeched in a voice that I almost didn't recognize. I gave my body another violent thrash, and the ghosts disappeared from view. The world began to tilt. I felt instruments ripping from my face, but I could close my eyes against the mayhem. I was disorientated, but I could finally feel parts of my body - my heart frantically beating, my head hurting. Something ran sideways across my eyelids. My limbs were tightly secured to the flimsy gurney on my back.

Through the dizziness, I heard footsteps coming my way. No. No, no, no. They hadn't finished. They were going to do it again. 

"Ira," a gentle voice said, "breathe."

"Let me go back," I wept, my resolve seeping through my raw injuries.

"Ira, listen to me." The voice was masculine. It was soothing. "Deep breaths, okay?"

I wanted, more than anything, to counter that with a string of insults, but my mind told me to breathe. My skull felt like a helium balloon. Was helium flammable? The rest of my body was certainly on fire.

"Focus on your breathing, Ira," the man said. I shook my head and began to sob as he tried to maintain my attention. "How are you feeling?"

I opened my cracked lips to give him an answer. "It hurts. It hurts so much."

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I saw him come in with a plate. He hesitated after passing the door, before raising his hand to the wall on his right. The plate trembled as he moved closer to where I was sitting. His fingers traced the wall with uncertainty, and there was something in that hand. A recording device, I assumed. He always brought one in because he couldn't see well enough to take notes. After I threw a fit at the red light on the device last time, he'd probably gone over the whole thing with duct tape by now.

My head still hurt, and every now and then flashes of light jumped into my mind like fireflies. However, this time I was finally in my comfort zone, and he was the one who was on the back foot. "Not eating," I said, watching the man's face fall. Finally finding the other chair, he sat down and balanced the plate on his knees. I still couldn't smell anything. Of course, it was cold. Cold food for a cold place.

"Do we have to do this every time?" He sighed and turned on the recorder. There was a tiny click as the button gave away under his thumb. "This is all for your own benefit," he said. I rolled my eyes, but I would be surprised if he could see it in the darkness. "Now, what is your name?"

"Go fuck yourself, Stuart," I spat.

Stuart only chuckled at the insult. He was a young doctor, thirty at most, but acted like an ancient soul. "You remember my name. That's a good start. What's yours?"

"Ira Konstantinov," I gave in. The masculine form of my last name, which I had used for years now, gave my answer the force that it needed. I wondered if I should have accepted the food to get me through this extremely routine interrogation.

No. I bent my fingers backwards, as far as they would go. Reject as much as you can. It's all poison here.

"Do you know where you are, Ira?"

I let out a pathetic laugh. "Underground." Sometimes I wondered if the people down here did these 'psychological evaluations' to break up the monotony of their lives. "Under an island."

"Dell Island," Stuart corrected. "Good. Your brain is functioning normally."

He was infuriating. "Of course it is," I muttered. "It's my eyes that you've all wrecked. Oh, did you forget that? Some psychiatrist, you are. 'All for my benefit. All for our benefit.' You turned my friend into a fish, for crying out loud."

Stuart remained calm as he sighed. "I didn't do that, Ira, and she is not a fish."

"That's not what I meant!" I raised my voice. There was no arguing with Stuart. I had never seen him lose his composure, ever. I didn't know if he ever would.

I remembered the day that my friend burst into my cabana, terrified as her skin started to peel off, exposing a new inhuman layer. I had done what anyone else would have; I sent her to the tiny island hospital. I'd never imagined that I had ruined her entire life.

"Celestia's fine," Stuart added. "She's made a lot of progress." His voice was so level that I didn't know if it was a jab at my own lack of cooperation. I was convinced that he fed Celestia truckloads of depressants, even though Celestia claimed to not cross paths with Stuart often. She didn't have the anxiety problems that enabled her to vomit the substances out like I did. "In any case, she'll be back soon, so if you won't eat for my sake, please have something for her sake. Celestia wouldn't want you to starve, Ira."

Stuart passed the plate of food over, and I took it reluctantly. My dinner was a dry spinach salad, with blobs of carrot and berries that looked like cancer cells. 

"Where is she now?" I glared at Stuart as I put a berry in my mouth. It tasted surprisingly good, but I knew that the taste was to disguise the toxins within it. "What are you doing to Celestia?"

"Nothing, I promise you," Stuart said in his usual nurturing tone. "She's in the infirmary for dehydration, but should be out pretty soon."

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