43. What I Am

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Venus woke to the sounds of screams. She’d been in the fringes of Michael’s mind. His memories and dreams were filled with her. The way he’d watched them do tests. Even though she hadn’t felt any of the poking or prodding first hand, watching through Michael caused her body pain. She’d felt his emotions, too. They ranged from anger to uncontrollable sadness, and guilt.

As he watched the doctors, he’d thought she seemed so small and vulnerable. His mind kept going back to the picture they’d taken of her entire body. Venus knew they’d seen her alien organs. She saw the man, Abe, and the way he and Frank were talking of cutting her open. Venus knew Michael had saved her, though she sensed his twisted emotions over the decision.

Gingerly, she sat up. Her body longed to cough. But, she held it in, hoping her captors wouldn’t realize she’d awakened and stay away a while longer. The room (if you could call it a room) they’d placed her in reminded her of jail cells she’d seen in movies on TV. Up and down, her eyes raked every inch of the place. The room smelled of decay, mold and astringent. Dark green or black spots were growing in every visible corner. She guessed it must be some type of mold. A low pitched buzzing sounded from her left. She shook her head, hoping that would get rid of the noise. Stuck a finger in her ear and jiggled, thinking it might be her, but the noise continued. 

 She stood and walked toward the sound. It appeared to be coming from—the hall. As she inched closer, her perception changed. Where it’d looked like no wall or door existed, actually pulsed with an invisible current. Electricity.

No escaping out the front then. At least it isn’t a regular door . . . at least I can see what’s on the other side. The room did have three walls. Sort of.

Dreary. Off white and hard. Her bed rested against cool cement. The back wall divided in two. The upper half looked like two-way glass. She walked over and pressed her face against it, trying to see what or who stood on the other side. All she could see were her own eyes, her own face, being reflected back. A metal toilet (it looked like aluminum foil) sat to the left, below the glass. Ten steel bars separated her room from another. Everything the same, except someone still slept in the cot.

Michael.

A part of her wanted to lash out. Yell. Tell him what a horrible person he turned out to be. But she remembered he’d been the one to save her from cut-happy Abe. He helped capture her, but he’d also saved her.

“Cret!” She cursed softly. 

Michael rolled over to face her. His legs together, knees bent and hands grasping a book. She wasn’t sure whether he bunched into that position to protect himself from the cold or from her. He still wore the same clothes he’d had on when they went hiking, which made her wonder how many days she’d been held captive. Venus wanted to know why he slept in a cell, like her. Had he upset Frank? She hadn’t seen what’d happened in his memories. It didn’t make sense. None of it did. She wasn’t even supposed to be here, on this forsaken planet. Flying on Sadraden, that’s where she should’ve been. Instead she’d been stuffed into this awful room.

My coffin. She kept her eyesfocused on the troublesome boy. 

His dark hair poked up in random places. Messy. An image of her fingers running through his hair, smoothing the ends, sent her stomach dancing with fickle butterflies.

She shuffled to the bars and pushed her face in between two, the cool steel touching her ears. She rested her hands on the bars to either side. They were freezing, but Venus resisted the urge to pull away. The pain helped her feel more awake—alive. She stared at him a moment, watching his face, debating her decision.

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