Twenty-One - Ira

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 Jaysen had memorized the configuration of the room extremely quickly after he discovered his new echolocation abilities. Of course, he embraced this and looked newly empowered with his shoulders back and a cocky smile always hanging on his mouth. When we made sure that Celestia was asleep, we'd try out our secret form of communication when the lights went out every night: Jaysen reading my lips in the darkness, responding to a yes or no question with a nod or a shake of his head.

We had no idea how long the doctors would keep allowing me to have these periods of darkness. There was no way of finding out, either, because I haven't seen Stuart to be able to ask. The thought of Stuart's absence made my heart pump faster. He used to visit me in this cell almost every day, talking to me for hours like the closest thing I had to a friend. Did I say something suspicious? Did he leave the island all together?

But he hadn't. I asked Jaysen about Stuart every time the lights went out—I think if Jaysen had eyes to roll, they'd be rolling by now—and he'd said that he saw the doctor around. Sometimes Stuart would run some tests on his eyes, oblivious to the fact that Jaysen's body had already adapted to the blindness in another way.

You've done well, you know, I mouthed to Jaysen in the darkness.

He nodded, a grin sliding across his cheeks again. He pointed to Celestia's sleeping form and gave me a thumbs up, as if to say, She's proud of me.

I rolled my own eyes. Without knowing about Jaysen's new adaptation, Celestia was too enthusiastic about our seemingly useless roommate. I'd seen her edge closer to him while we all chatted, or she'd blush and look away, knowing full well that he was blind.

So have you— I was going to vary up the questions this time and ask Jaysen about his familiarity with the corridors, but the buzzing that preceded the lights turning back on stopped him in the middle of shaking his head.

We dropped to our pillows and tugged blankets over our heads just before the lights fully flickered on. My lungs wanted to draw in shallow breaths to support my racing heart, but I forced myself to draw out my breathing. Four seconds in, four seconds hold, four seconds out. The manipulation starved my brain of oxygen and made me dizzy. Eventually, my body gave into the lull of sleep.

󠁌♟♙♟♙

"Ira."

I held my breath, feeling a familiar freeze against my skin. In my haze, I didn't know if the accompanying howling wind was in my head or all around me.

"Ira." It sounded like multiple voices were saying my name at once. One of them had to be my handler, Vitaly.

Pretending to still be in dreamland, I turned on my side, away from the voices, and slid my hand under the pillow. It was less cold now, but as I extended my fingers, I couldn't feel the screwdriver that I'd stolen from the equipment trailer. Someone must have found it. Vitaly might be waking me so he could take me outside to be shot in the snowy woodlands.

"Ira!"

The hand on my shoulder made me deliver a round punch to where I knew Vitaly's gut would be. When I hit ribs, I opened my eyes in shock. Jaysen had staggered back, coughing.

"Fuck you, Ira! I was just doing everybody a favour."

I looked over his shoulder and saw a familiar blonde woman in a pristine white coat.

"Up you get, Ira," Doctor A said calmly. "We shall discuss your violent behaviour somewhere else."

I was deathly quiet and still as I let Doctor A blindfold me tightly. I felt her curiosity even though I couldn't see it. It had been a long time since I'd dream about Siberia. It must have been brought on by my hopes of another escape. "I'm sorry, Jaysen," I said before Doctor A ushered me out the door. "I had a nightmare."

That nightmare had been true, over ten years ago.

Doctor A kept quiet while she dragged me left and right through the underground lab, taking detours wherever she could. Blood was roaring in my ears. Did she see through my plan? Had she found out about Jaysen? Was she taking me outside to be shot, just like Vitaly would have done?

Before I knew it, I was stopped and a door was shut. The blindfold was pulled from my eyes and I saw the face in front of me before my vision truly adjusted. My heart skipped a beat. The brown glasses, dark hair and calm stance—it couldn't have been anyone else. A few blinks later and I could see that Stuart wasn't happy. There were lines on his face and his lips were pursed.

"See you later, Liana," he said to Doctor A, who disappeared through the door with a lingering gaze on me.

"Hey Stuart," I dared to say, pausing to think of what exactly to ask him. I stood in the middle of the room, staring at his white coat. There was not one stain.

"Ira, I've been thinking you could help me with this mystery I've been trying to solve." Stuart pushed his glasses up at the nose, even though they didn't need adjusting. He'd grown stubble since the last time I saw him. "It must have an explanation, but nothing makes sense."

"Okay," I said slowly, and tried to contain a shudder. This was beginning to feel worse than sharing a room with Doctor A—Liana.

"Riddle me this, Ira." Stuart left his post at the computer desk and began walking around me. He was tugging nervously at the hem of his coat. "When Linkin came in, she was unconscious. You didn't breathe a word. So how does she mention your name to me out of the blue?"

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