Eight - Ira

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"Hey, Eva, is it?" the newbie, Jaysen, croaked. His voice transported me back to the narrow infirmary bed, the feeling of the coarse blanket returning to my skin.

"Ira," I corrected him. Almost everyone made this mistake with my name. "How are you holding up?"

He whimpered something unintelligible. I assumed that he wasn't doing well. "Where are we?" Jaysen asked, startled. I heard him turning his head to and fro on the pillow, and I lifted my mask a little to catch a glimpse of my neighbour. The lights were more piercing now, but I could still bring myself to focus. Jaysen's brown hair came in clumps, and there was a trail of blood from one of his lip piercings.

My heart changed gear when I saw his open eyes. I shouldn't have gotten such a shock, given that Stuart's description of them had already imprinted a picture in my mind. Somehow, my impression was that Jaysen's eyes would both be entirely black, like he was a goth sporting sclera lenses. The real Jaysen, however, was nothing like that. His eyes were mismatched in colour, and the starbursts of blue and green stretched from lid to lid, corner to corner. He looked like an alien. 

I almost released a scream - something that the doctors here surely loved. It was lucky that Jaysen couldn't see himself. I didn't think his heart could handle more trauma. 

"Where are we?" Jaysen said again. I had long since forgotten his question. "Is this a hospital?"

I cleared my throat, tearing my eyes away from the poor boy. "Yes, it is," I lied, not wanting to make him panic even more. Jaysen mustn't have understood the cause of his blindness, and I didn't want to be the one to break it to him. Mutation. There's no escape. I knew that the second I saw Celestia's skin condition.

"Why are you in hospital, Ira?" Jaysen asked, less frantic now. I drew the shades back across my eyes; as much as I wanted to help him, Jaysen's questions were getting tiresome. Slivers of light were beginning to needle through my eyelids. I was so close to telling Jaysen the truth.

"I have a rare eye condition," I answered reluctantly, hoping that Stuart would either whisk Jaysen away for examination soon or get me back to my room. "My pupils have lost flexibility and I take in too much light."

I heard Jaysen gasp. "So, this is like permanent night vision?"

"It's not as great as you'd think, though," I cut him off before he could get the wrong idea. "I need to be in near darkness, or else I get terrible migraines."

"What is this then," Jaysen said with a chuckle, "a hospital for eye trouble? Do you know if we're far from the island?"

I felt so guilty trying to sugarcoat the situation for him. Stuart was usually the one tasked with this job. He'd convinced Celestia, and I bet many others, that the best thing to do would be to cooperate with the treatment in the lab. If not for them feeding us harmful substances in the first place and Doctor A's attitude, I might have also succumbed. I hadn't snooped around enough to find out the reason for these experiments, but many of the other doctors hadn't been too malicious. Perhaps there was a viable reason behind these genetic experiments.

Not knowing where my optimism came from, I told him, "Not just eyes, Jaysen. More for... all sorts of strange physical deviations."

"Superpowers?" he guessed. I didn't want to answer that question, and Jaysen took my silence as affirmation. "Man, that's awesome!" At least his excitement made him stop talking.

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I hadn't realized that I'd fallen asleep. I was jolted back to a dark world by a very loud clang. "Celestia?" I murmured, still groggy.

"Sorry!" she called out sheepishly across the room. I heard water splashing onto the ground. "Are you okay, Ira? You were gone for a long time."

That's how it feels when you leave, I thought. "I'm fine. I think," I said, still stunned.

"What happened?"

I stumbled through a summary of my time away: pupil constriction, Stuart and Jaysen. I left out the part where I lashed out at Doctor A and hurt my arm in the process. Celestia would otherwise have given me a short lecture on peace and the path of least resistance. Now that swimming was her specialty, she would have even more fluid dynamics theories to talk about.

"Blind guy?" Celestia set the plastic jug on the floor and sat on her bed. I tore my eyes away as she wriggled out of her wet clothes, even though she had her back to me.

Once again, my mind wandered to the image of Jaysen trying to see me with his eyes open. "He was terrifying, honestly."

"You don't say these things lightly, Ira," Celestia said. She was facing me, with a lighter t-shirt on. "How did he scare you?"

I pursed my lips, forgetting that Celestia couldn't see any of my expressions. "It was his... illness. I mean, he's a nice guy, but—"

The weak light from the corridor suddenly disappeared. The contours of the room were drowned in absolute darkness. My eyes became useless. I was no better than Jaysen, than Celestia, or anyone else in the compound.

"When was the last time—" I began, but was interrupted by a soft knock on the door.

"Come in," Celestia said. I grabbed onto the edge of my bed tightly. The doctors usually let us rest undisturbed after a grueling day outside of our cells.

The door creaked open, and I felt an air of uncertainty.

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