I close my eyes as Collin’s needle slides into the skin at the base of my neck, taking deep breaths. This should do it, he’s told me, but I’m doubtful. He’s already tried three times.
The darkness of closed lids only makes it worse for me, however. Every time I’ve tried to sleep, as soon as my eyes would flutter shut, memory after memory would start to play and my lids are the movie screen, watching each scene play out.
Jackson’s blood spraying the window as he’s shot time and time again, Amelia crying so hard she stumbles, Toby urging himself on as he hobble/jogs towards the tunnel that will save us, Alice shoot people. My own personal horror story.
“This should do it,” Collin says quietly and I open my eyes again, staring up at him. “It should do this time, I promise.”
If I could talk, I’d point out that he’s said this before with the last two needles, but I can’t. It’s been three days and I’m still paralysed.
Toby’s lying in the hospital bed next to mine, staring up at the “hospitals” roof as Alice talks softly to him, holding his hand in two of hers. Much to his distaste, the nurse Alice works for, Florence, won’t let him leave for another two days.
He would have been fine, she told us all, if it weren’t for the fact he ran on it, making bones rub together like graters which weren’t meant to. I feel awful since he probably would have been fine if he didn’t jump out the window with me in his arms, but I still can’t say so.
When I can talk, I have a lot of things I need to say.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Alice lean down, kissing Toby gently, once, twice, three times. Short and sharp kisses. My stomach does a flutter as a vision comes to mind, one I’ll use to tease her with later.
Odds are they’ll break up sometime soon, but in my vision I see Alice with her short cropped hair dancing around with Toby in white dress that brushes the ground. We don’t have weddings in the Chocolate Society anymore, no cake, no dress, no ceremony. You simply go to a council office, sign a form and wallah. Married and ready to start a family.
But that’s the Chocolate Society, not this camp where they celebrate birthdays, play games and pranks. Anything’s possible here.
“Hey, Eliza,” Alice leans down to kiss my cheek before turning on Collin. “How long is it until it takes affect?”
“Fifty minutes,” he shoves his glasses up his nose a little higher, but they almost immediately slip back down. The poor guy’s been so frazzled lately and who’s to blame him?
The other day, during her work break, Alice told me about a meeting she attended with Amelia. Word of Jackson’s death was finally making rounds of the camp and people were starting to panic.
According to Collin, things in the Chocolate Society’s government were starting to crash big time. The ruler, that Margaret cow, was having everyone scanned and checked over thanks to the betrayal of her most trusted soldier. Collin, luckily, implanted some metal ball that made their lie detector lie which is quite funny. He also had all the other undercover rebels implanted so they wouldn’t be caught out. Still, Margaret wasn’t close to being satisfied.
Alice told me about what she saw before she followed us down the tunnel that day. The girl who pulled her to the ground, the shouting of the people when they saw not only she was different, but they, the government, were also different. Just like I did when I found out the higher level of the government didn’t change themselves, the people got angry and the word spread like wild fire.
The Chocolate Society was now in lockdown.
“They say that the other cities are starting to fall,” she told me quietly as Florence bustled passed. “Once people have a glimpse of a new life, they’ll fight for it. Remember the footage we were shown in school? The ones where the people would hold up signs and face off with the police? It’s happening here and now, Eliza. They’re starting to stand up.”
I’m not totally sure if that’s good or not because it was events like rebellions that lead to this idea.
Still, the idea of everyone knowing is thrilling almost, but when I start to feel hope, I immediately shut down inside. Memories of Jackson’s blood, Jackson who would forever guard his daughter by that window, were enough to rob me of hope.
Good people die, I get that. It doesn’t mean it’s even close to okay. I’m not sure it’s even worth it.
I wish I could speak to Alice now, ask her how she’s doing. She looks different and not just physically, there’s something else, too.
Her skin’s white now, not a lot, but if you looked at her, you’d say to yourself,
“White person.” Even though there’s still a twinge of brown. Her hair still seems to be changing, backwards and forwards from brown to golden like it can’t decide. Her eyes, her calm blue eyes, seem to have hardened a little under the surface. You wouldn’t be able to tell if you weren’t looking, but I’m always looking now. Maybe it’s a good thing I can’t talk because I’m learning more just looking than I ever had talking.
“Toby’s getting better,” she sits herself down next to me on the cot, making the mattress sink a little more as she gestures to him with her chin. He snaps to attention when he hears his name, looking me over before his gaze drifts to Alice who gives him a little wave. Rolling his eyes, he waves back before turning back into his depressed, grumpy self. He wants to get out of here as much as the rest of us. “Florence thinks he’ll be pretty well healed in the next month so he’s pretty happy with that. Just wishes he weren’t stuck in here, that’s all.”
She tells me what’s been going on over the passed few hours. She does this three times a day, morning, lunch and tea. Usually it’s just small things, like reports on the “uprising” going on above, Toby’s health and Amelia’s state.
Surprisingly, apparently Amelia’s holding herself together, just like her dad asked her too. People tell her she should rest, but according to Alice, she marched into that meeting, practically yelled at Collin to shut up about the government and gave quite the speech as to why it should be she who took over as head of soldiers.
You can imagine how that went down. They weren’t too happy with the idea of having a girl in charge, a young one at that. They were used to having men in charge, always men. That didn’t sit well with Amelia and apparently she screamed at everyone until Carmen quietly agreed and gave her a gun that symbolized her new position on the forces. Jackson was the best leader, as the soldiers say, so surely his daughter will be good too.
The way I see it, there’s two different ways you can handle pain. You can either give into it, spend your days in depression while you cry and mope around your house, letting it consume your every thought and take over your life. Or, you could use the pain to do something good. Not revenge, though that can sometimes be a good thing, but something that benefits all people.
You see, as Toby was running as fast as he could on that sprained ankle of his, I looked up in time to see everything unfold and it was as Jackson’s blood hit the window, Amelia started to fall and Alice started to fire her gun, that I had this sort of revelation.
I chose to have that needle, to stop the pain I would have felt while being tortured, raped, the lot. That’s like giving in to it, letting it run through your being almost. Your probably wondering how that even relates to it since, wouldn’t stopping the pain be denying it? That’s the thing with the fighters. They have the pain, only they channel it into something like a fire, an inferno. When you give in to pain, you’re not doing anything with it. When you take it, but use it, you’re slowly dispelling it.
If I didn’t have that needle, if I didn’t focus on the prospects of the pain and the pain alone, a whole different scenario could have played out. I would have stood up, hurried everyone along and would have stopped at nothing to get Jackson out that window. Toby’s ankle wouldn’t have been crushed by the force of the double weight and the others wouldn’t have had to risk getting shot so easily because I would have been able to run, too.
You know though. The past is in the past, after all. Best not to focus on it.
I’m guessing fifteen minutes have been up because Collin kicks the bed in frustration, making the little wheels of the bed roll to the side, nearly smashing into Toby who watches us move towards him in horror.
“Eliza, I’m sorry,” Collin rubs his face with the palms of his hands, nearly crying. “I don’t... I don’t know why it just won’t work.”
“It’s okay,” Alice tells him for the both of us. “Don’t beat yourself up over it.”
“I’ll go work on another idea. There has to be something. I just have to remember the formula, exactly how it is.”
“Dude,” Toby stares at him angrily. “When was the last time you slept? Have you seen yourself? You’re a shaking mess.”
I squint at Collin and his gruff figure until I see it, too. His hands are quivering.
“Oh,” he looks at them curiously. “The coffee high must be going through my brain.”
“Enough,” Florence barks as she glides over, shoving a finger in Collins face. “You, get you butt to bed right now. I won’t be letting you anywhere near this place again until you look normal.”
“But Eliza,” he gestures to me and I flick my eyes to Florence’s, hoping she’ll see a meaning behind the look.
Apparently she has good practise at translating eye looks.
“Eliza’s fine. It’s you that’s looking horrible here, not her or even Toby.”
He looks like he wants to argue, but one thunderstorm glare from Florence and he scurries away without a backwards look.
“Break over?” Alice asks as Florence rolls her table of equipment to my side.
“Break over,” she glances at the watch on her wrist. “I need you to check on Liliana, clean Lachlan’s cuts again and double check the baby’s vitals.”
“I can do that,” Alice stands up, stretching her arms above her head like a cat, yawning a little. “I’m going to sleep well tonight.”
“Why’s my sister back here?” Toby asks Florence as Alice disappears. “I thought she left.”
“She did,” she tells him as she unwraps the bandage around my neck. “She came back.”
“What happened? Why did no one tell me?”
“Relax,” she pauses to stare at him. “She’s perfectly fine. She likes coming here to rest since it’s quieter than any other part of the camp. I’m not sure you entirely understand just what a miscarriage can do to your emotions. She’s not handling it to well and I’m not going to send her away.”
“I want to see her,” he goes to sit up. “She’s my sister.”
“She’ll come and see you,” Florence promises. “Now, leave me be to work.”
She unbandages all my wounds, inspecting them with her sharp eye before bathing them in salt water, applying a cream Collin concocted and rebandaging them. She does this three times a day, but as she fastens the last bandage around my thigh, she smiles up at me and says,
“I think I can cut back to two. Any dangers of infection have been fought off and your wounds are coming along nicely. As soon as Collin gets you moving again, I’ll be able to help you get used to moving again. Your muscles would have tightened by now.”
I hope my eyes say thank you for me.
I dream that I’m pregnant and am heavy with child. I’ve always been good at knowing what’s a dream and what’s reality, so I spend a good deal of the time wandering around the tunnel, sternly reminding myself that there’s no danger of a pregnancy. At my request, two blinks yes and one blink no, Collin gave me a needle that would freeze a pregnancy in its tracks. Apparently one day, if I so wish, I can either have the pregnancy restart itself with another needle from Collin or have the egg killed off, that is, if it’s even there.
I’m not sure what I’ll choose. I’m just glad that this is a nightmare.
As I’m wandering through the tunnels, muttering to myself, I suddenly get a sharp pain right in the back of my spine and I immediately twist around to grab onto it.
“Oow,” I moan as the burn rushes up and down my back. “God, that freaking hurts.”
I wait it out, relaxing when it disappears before walking on, rubbing my swollen belly idly.
“Wonder what type of dream this is,” I say to it as I turn right. “I wonder if this is a nightmare or one of those dreams that go on forever.”
Another sharp pain and I lean against the tunnel wall, gasping for breath.
“No way,” I grumble, staring at my gut in horror as I finally understand what’s going. “I am so to young to go into labour!”
Pain wave, pain wave, pain wave.
At one stage, I scream, and it’s that scream that sends my eyes flying open to stare up at the hospitals roof, tears streaming down my cheeks.
“Eliza?” Toby calls softly, but I’m in to much pain to pay any attention to him.
I’m obviously not giving birth, but something has got to be the source of this pain. I haven’t felt pain since… oh yeah. Suddenly, the pain is almost welcoming and I stop crying just as suddenly as I started.
I’m starting to feel again.