Twenty-Six - Ira

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After the incident I'd brought on with Jaysen, the doctors decided to remove him from the cell and not me. With Jaysen gone, my plans to map the underground labs went out with the buzzing light that provided the ambient noise in the room. All I had left in the room was a pissed off Celestia who glared at my every movement, fuming through her gill slits.

"It's not what it looked like," I told her towards the beginning, but didn't try again when her attitude didn't change. That was what everybody said when they were caught almost kissing their roommate, wasn't it? I left it at that. She left it at resenting me.

It occurred to me that I should let Celestia in on what Jaysen and I had been talking about. Mapping out the underground, using Linkin somehow, escaping. I doubt she even knew about Jaysen's new ability, but every time I considered telling her, I stopped myself. I realized that I didn't know her anymore. Since Jaysen was assigned to our room, I hadn't been asking Celestia how she was and what the doctors had been doing with her. She was my friend, but I couldn't completely trust her anymore.

The stench of sea water was now permanently in the air, and I could only assume that Celestia had successfully adapted to saltwater. It gave me a headache and I would groan inwardly whenever Doctor Nita or a nurse brought in full jugs. I'd lost track of time again, with all the tests on the stability of my pupils and Celestia's silent rage messing with my head. The doctors said that I'd be able to comfortably control day and night vision very soon without meds. I took the prescribed doses like a loyal dog. One after each meal, which I gave in to eating, too. Going up to the surface made me realize how unbuilt for the outside world I was, and I must work on my health if I was to have any hope of getting out of here.

"I've been feeling a lot better," I confessed to Stuart in his office. It was the most comfortable room underground that I knew of. He'd invested in a plush chair for his patients, homely shelves, and a wooden coffee table between us with a vase of fake flowers. He even rotated them, perhaps for his own sanity. Today they were white lilies lined with dark magenta veins.

"You've come a long way, Ira." Stuart did not display any suspicion on how I was suddenly a changed person like even I would have. "You've really come a long way. A month ago, you were barely eating and you were rejecting every form of treatment. Now, you've been in my office for a week with all the lights on."

"I know." I looked at him through my fraying hair. I brushed the strands aside. Stuart's face didn't move behind his brown glasses.

"I heard you were doing sit-ups in your room," he said.

I let out an amused laugh. "Says who? There are all sorts of things I could do, but I'm doing sit-ups?"

"It looks like speaking to Celestia isn't one of those things you could do?" Stuart slipped out of being the role of my shrink, as always. Looking at his empty notepad, he added, "Says the nurse on watch."

"Okay." I folded my arms in front of me and eyed him suspiciously. "I was just joking." Stuart was usually able to pick up my humour, but not this time. He looked worried.

"I never thought you and Jaysen..." he trailed off when I rolled my eyes.

"Are we not going to talk about the real problems here?" I asked him.

"The real problems, Ira?" Stuart echoed.

"Linkin," I said with wide eyes. "Don't you want to contain the risk that she is before Doctor A gets back?"

"Yes," Stuart replied, "but what is your interest in it?"

"You know what it is." When he looked at me blankly, I contemplated whether I had read him wrong when he told me how much time I had before Doctor A came back.

Stuart opened his mouth to say something but the ringing of a phone cut him off. He waved apologetically. "Sorry, Ira. We'll have to continue this another time."

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Celestia couldn't sleep tonight. She lay still in bed but her breathing never slowed. Normally she'd walk around and splash some water on her face, but this time she just pretended to sleep, probably because she didn't want me to notice.

I got up when I heard her breaths become hoarse. Bending to fill a plastic cup with saltwater, I held it out to her. Celestia didn't move.

"Come on, Celestia." I kept my arm extended in mid-air. "I'm sorry." Sorry for wanting to break us out without getting caught? I was wary of Celestia, but I was also tired of the game of secrets I was playing.

She took the cup, got up from the bed, and splashed it on her face. Water dripped from her dark hair and fell onto her feet. Celestia didn't put the cup down or hand it back to me. She just stared at the wall. "I thought there was something you weren't telling me, Ira. I should have known. Since that letter above ground. Since I came back with gills. Ira, do you really think I'm a freak now? Is that why you're acting like this?"

I didn't say anything, just grabbed her hand and turned her dark palm towards the ceiling. Celestia tried to pull back but she gave up after I held her in place.

We, I wrote on her palm. She looked at where she thought I was. I traced the word again and she nodded slowly.

Carefully, I wrote the rest of my message on her hand, one by one: we get out. Celestia's eyes widened and she clenched her muscles, making her dry gills part slightly.

As an afterthought, I drew a question mark on Celestia's hand. She stood there, frozen.

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I didn't get a chance to catch much sleep before the door opened and Stuart woke me up. Disorientated, I almost crashed into him when I got out of bed. "What's going on?" I let him lead me to the office; I was familiar with the way there now. Stuart pushed open the glass door and ushered me in urgently.

"Are you awake enough to go up to the hospital with me?" he asked, a little out of breath.

"Why? Is Linkin in trouble?" If I wasn't fully awake before, I definitely was now.

"Not in trouble, but..." Stuart pushed me out of the office again. "Not well."

I only dared to ask when we were fully inside the elevator. "Not well, how?"

"She's been talking to Desmond, talking to everyone she can find, begging them." The elevator dinged open, and the smell of old detergent hit us. "She's been begging to be brought down to be treated."

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