Twenty-Two - Linkin

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Desmond wasn't a problem after I asked him one simple question—"Who is Liana?" He'd turned as white as a ghost had been avoiding me ever since. It wasn't like his abuse did me any harm, but him giving me space gave me the chance I needed to understand what was happening to me.

I hadn't completely figured it out, but what I did understand was that something had changed. Whenever I touched someone, my tattoos would shift and show images, seemingly random unless I continued to hold on. I had discovered that this process wasn't exactly pleasant for whomever I touched - it started off feeling like pins and needles and made it way up to stabbing pain as words and images danced through my head. This meant I could learn a lot, sometimes too much.

Whatever was happening to me, I had no control over it. For the first day, I was foolish enough to wear my bikini, to try to look normal. Even brushing into someone made my tattoos ripple and sometimes, the person would become almost paralyzed, their body tensing until I released them. The second day, I thought a long sleeve shirt would be safe, but after an incident while getting food, I discovered any skin-to-skin contact was dangerous.

It had just been under a week since I completely lost feeling, and even on the hot island, I now always wore a long sleeves and gloves. The looks that people gave me were suspicious, but so far, no one had asked any questions. There were whispers, rumours going around, but none that ever landed on my ears. I knew people were watching me, so I had to be careful, but it was difficult to act normal when I was on an island and I had to cover my skin as much as possible.

With my newfound numbness, it was the little things that I didn't think I'd miss. I sat back with a cream knit turtleneck tank top in the sun, my feet in the hot tub. I couldn't feel the sun on me, even as I rested back with my eyes closed. During the day, no one was around the hot tubs, and it gave me the chance to do an experiment.

Opening my eyes, I lifted my sunglasses and stared at my legs under the water. I lifted them for a second before dropping them back into it. The water was steaming, my legs were a little pink, but I felt nothing. I'd give it a couple more minutes before I left so I didn't accidentally burn my skin.

"Hey, what are you doing here?" 

At the voice, I panicked and instantly attempted to grab my leather jacket, but it and my gloves were too far away. 

The man chuckled as he watched me, dropping off his supplies on the pool deck. "It's Kos, from the campfire. Linkin, right?"

I remembered who he was, didn't mean I felt comfortable with him. "I remember, but yes, it's Linkin. What are you doing here?"

He motioned to the hot tub my feet were resting in. "It's been running too hot and some of the jets haven't been working. Haven't you noticed?" 

I frowned and glanced to the water, slowly removing my legs and resting them on the deck beside me. 

"Wait, why are you here on a hot day? Isn't a pool better?" Kos walked to the edge of the hot tub and looked down at me.

"I have circulation problems in my feet. They were looking a little blue, figured I would try this before I bothered a doctor," I replied with a pleasant smile - the con was back on, though he might be a good test run to see what information I could get.

His reaction to my lie was the same concern when I told him I had a headache, his face twisting. "Are you okay? Do you need to see a doctor?"

"It might be a good idea," I replied, knowing I was dancing a fine line. It'd be dangerous if he actually got me to see a doctor. I reached a hand up and did my best to seem unsure and worried. "I don't think I can stand, though. Can I get a hand?"

Kos was quickly beside me. He didn't take my hand, but I had patience. "Are you sure that's a good idea? I can get someone?" he continued to offer as he stared down at me.

All he had to do was take my hand and I could see the doctor I actually wanted. "No, I should try to stand, if I collapse, then yes, please rush to get someone." My joke and enthusiasm threw him off for a moment, but eventually he gave me what I wanted.

The moment his hand was in mine, I finally felt alive. I could feel the heat of his hand against mine and the sun shining down on us. My legs actually hurt from the hot water, but I pushed past it and pulled myself to my feet. My tattoos all faded and became like moving water under my skin. "Sunscreen, campfire, Doctor Stuart, Ira, Liana," I started to list off words, hoping one of them would trigger something of importance.

Kos' hand tightened on mine and his grip caused me pain, something I was almost thankful for after not feeling anything. The ink started to settle. Stuart's face appeared on my arm along with a girl with pale skin and short brown hair. She was blindfolded. A line appeared on my arm, connecting to the two. I ignored the girl and closed my eyes as Kos' nails dug into my skin. I could see a hallway in front of me, like a dream. The halls were white with long fluorescent lights hanging from the ceiling. It almost looked like a hospital as there was a turn and continued. It was a quick glance, writing on the door which read "Doctor Stuart Neville - Psychiatrist" on the glass pane.

Despite my wishes, I was a guest in what I was seeing and I was directed down the hall. I felt Kos trying to pull away as he let out soft whimpers in pain. I opened my eyes just in time to see the numbers 52958 appear on my arm in red, like it was dripping blood before Kos managed to get enough control to rip his grip from mine.

Stumbling back, Kos gripped his heart and his eyes locked on mine in horror. "What did you do?" he breathed. "I-I-"

I smirked and took a step closer as he tripped over his work tools and fell to the ground, pushing himself along the pool deck to stay away from me. "You- You what? You want to tell someone? Go ahead. I'll tell them you told me 5-2-9-5-8 and those numbers seem to scare you, so they won't be happy. Keep your mouth shut, tell no one except Stuart and if anyone tries anything, remember how much pain you're in right now. That was only after a minute of me touching you. Think you could handle two, ten minutes?"

Raising his trembling hands to protect himself, he violently shook his head, "No, please. I won't tell anyone!"

"Except..."

"E- Except Stuart," Kos finished my sentence and I nodded. That should get his attention, and hopefully get me some answers - one way or another.

I never spoke to Kos again as I bent down and grabbed my leather jacket and gloves, sliding both on as I left the pool deck. Now I just had to hope that wasn't the biggest mistake of my life.

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