I was dreaming. I must be. It was strange to be aware of the fact while it was happening.
I was standing in the room that had been my prison cell, looking out the window. I got the impression that I'd been watching the trees outside for a while and didn't expect to go anywhere any time soon.
Turning, I walked through a door that I didn't remember being there in reality. The part of me that knew I was dreaming, thought it was strange that I should have such easy access to any place other than the bathroom, but my dream self didn't think twice about it.
In the small room, was another window that looked into a different room. It was a large area full of toys, clothes, beds, and various items for children. There was a door to my right, leading inside, but I instinctively knew it would be locked. I also understood that this window appeared to be a mirror from the other side, so that if there had been anyone in the room, they wouldn't be able to see me standing here.
I waited a minute before a door opened on the opposite wall. A woman in all black entered the room, followed by two orderly lines of children ranging in age from about four to fifteen or sixteen. They all wore similar clothes, a uniform perhaps, and looked solemn as they walked. Even the youngest children kept quiet and in their place until the woman turned and said something to them that I couldn't hear. It must have been a dismissal from the line because the children all turned and walked in different directions. Some went to sit on the beds. Some went to the large table where various puzzles and coloring books lay. Some took the armchairs by the bookshelves and began reading.
It was almost eerie to see. They didn't act like children should. There was no running or shouting or laughing, hardly any interaction at all. They seemed more like adults, going about their own business, uncaring of what anyone else was doing. The little ones made the whole picture seem entirely wrong. Even watching them do the normal things kids enjoyed, like coloring, didn't seem right. It was as if they were only doing the activities because they were supposed to, and not out of any desire for fun or creativity.
I watched curiously, wondering where all these children came from. Had Wescott lied about me being the only one?
Maybe he just meant that I was the only one who was fully grown.
I wasn't sure why, but I got a bad feeling about this. If I were awake, I could probably figure out what was wrong, but in the dream I felt stupid and slow. Who were those children? Where were their parents?
Not wanting to watch them any longer, I went back into my room where another woman in all black waited, holding a baby.
I looked at her curiously, wondering why she brought the baby here. Was this some sort of exercise or training? Maybe they wanted to see how I interacted with a baby.
"It's time to feed him," the woman said, offering me the baby.
My dream self and my actual self were suddenly on the same page, and I backed away, realizing with awful clarity what this all was. Those were my children in that room, just like this baby was mine.
Or at least, in theory they were mine. According to Wescott, I didn't even belong to myself.
I understood that this was the worst nightmare yet. Those were my children and I couldn't even go to them if I wanted to. I was locked up, completely isolated. They even kept me apart from the baby, who I knew was only one of several - babies, toddlers, older children, teenagers. There were probably close to two dozen of them. And they were all kept somewhere else, turned into little adults from the time they could walk and talk, to be tested, prodded, imprisoned, used, and probably disposed of on Wescott's whim.
"Abi, you must take him," the woman pushed the baby towards me. "The others are waiting."
"No, get away from me." I tried to back away again, but was stopped by the wall. This is a dream, I thought frantically, and I wanted to wake up.
The woman ignored me coming closer.
"No!" I shouted. I knew it wasn't real, but that didn't make it any less horrific. I wanted out, now.
"No!" I yelled again
I blinked, and was back on the mattress in David's small, dark living room. He gripped my arms and I realized right away that he'd shaken me awake as he had so many times before.
Relieved to be out of the nightmare, I threw my arms around him, holding on tightly. Amazingly, I hadn't cried this time. Before all of this I almost never cried, but with these nightmares, I would usually start before I was awake. Maybe this one just hadn't been that type of a nightmare. More horrific than frightening.
"You wanna talk about it?" David murmured, holding me.
I shook my head. Talking about it wouldn't help. Avoiding it was the only solution.
Every other time David held me like this I would push away as soon as I could calm down, embarrassed by my weakness. This time though, I clung to him, in no hurry to move.
The dream had been bad, but the thing that made it so alarming wasn't anything to do with all those kids. That hadn't been pleasant either, but the worst was that little bit before I realized anything was different from the last time I was there. I hadn't realized it in the dream, but the true nightmare was that feeling of total hopelessness and of being resigned to be feel way forever. The part that scared me to death was knowing why I hadn't noticed any of it in the dream - because I'd apparently felt that way for so long that it didn't even seem exceptional anymore.
Pulling away slightly, I tried to spy David's face in the darkness, but was only able to distinguish a vague outline and shadows. I'd hoped to actually see him but suddenly it didn't seem to matter. I didn't really need to look at him. I threw my hand around his neck and pulled his face to mine.
It was a little awkward, since other than that small peck I'd given Mark, I'd never actually kissed anyone before, and this was not the sort of thing you could learn without practice. All I really had to go on was what I'd seen in movies, read in books, and one bad attempt from a kid in junior high that was really more of an attack than anything else.
But I didn't care how well I was doing it. I just needed David. I needed to reassure myself that he was with me and that the horrible residual feelings from that dream were only ever going to be imagined. Besides, it's not as if I never thought of kissing him before.
As he began responding, I thought a little less about the terror of the dream, and more about the thrill of what was happening.
He pushed me back against the pillow, and as I opened my mouth to him I couldn't help thinking with a twinge of jealousy that there was no way on earth that he was as new to this as I was. Not that I'd expected him to be. He probably-
Ugh! Not now, Sam!
Forcing all other thoughts from my mind, I slid one hand in his hair, loving the silky feel of it. My other hand went to the hem of his t-shirt. I wouldn't be able to see him, but I could at least feel him without his shirt. It had to be a nuisance for him to sleep in. Probably anyway.
I was ready to take it off when David pulled away, breathing heavy.
It took me a second to catch up and realize what he was doing. Obviously I hadn't planned any of this out, but stopping so suddenly - or at all - was unexpected and not on my agenda.
"We should stop."
"David..." I tried.
"It's late and you're really worked up right now," he said. "I just...I think I should go back to the couch."
"No, please." I held on when he tried to untangle himself from me. "Stay."
He froze, probably wondering what I was asking.
"Just to sleep," I clarified. Now that I was starting to think again, I knew he was right. Desperation and fear were not good reasons to sleep with someone.
He hesitated, and I knew he was wondering if it was a good idea.
"I need...I mean, I don't want to..." I struggled to get the words out. I hated begging, but I really didn't want to be alone right now.
Thankfully, he seemed to understand.
"Alright," he said quietly.
Moving to lie on the bed, he pulled me into his arms, pressing my back to his chest.
"Thanks," I whispered, relaxing against him.
"Forget it," he breathed in my ear.
When Tim arrived the next morning and asked if I was ready to get started, I was only too happy to oblige.
I'd been staring out at the street again, becoming increasingly uneasy about the fact that I hadn't seen that man standing out there since the previous morning. Even then, I'd noticed him much less frequently than I had during the first part of the week. I tried to convince myself that it was a good thing because maybe it meant that he was finished here and had moved on to a different area. But I couldn't quite believe it. He was smart. Much too smart. If he was keeping tabs on a specific place, it was for a good reason.
Tim was worried because he was only able to provide chloroform as an anesthetic. He said he knew how to use it in theory, but that he never actually had before. I trusted him though. Even if I didn't, I really had no choice.
"Ready?" Tim attempted to appear calm and sure, but it wasn't hard to tell that he was uneasy.
Lying on the table, I took a deep breath and nodded. I hoped that by refusing to show my own nervousness, he would be more confident.
"Alright." He signaled to David to hand him the cloth saturated with chloroform.
"Wait!" I said, stopping him before he could cover my mouth and nose.
"Don't give up," I pleaded, remembering his aversion to look too deeply for the chip. "If you don't see it right away, please find it."
"I..." Tim hesitated momentarily. "I'll do my best."
It wasn't the assurance I hoped for, but I suppose it was the best I was going to get. I nodded again and relaxed against the pillow allowing myself to be put under.
When I came to, I could tell right away what a difference modern anesthesia and pain medicine made. My leg was throbbing and almost felt on fire.
"Hey." David was beside me. "How do you feel?"
My first attempt to talk was only a half-hearted rasp back in my throat. After a few seconds, I tried again.
"Like someone drugged me and went digging around my leg." I was shooting for humor, wanting to assure him that I was alright, despite the pain and slight nausea. But I knew I failed when David looked anxiously at Tim who came to stand in my line of vision.
"Don't try to sit up," Tim ordered showing me the pill in one hand and cup in the other. "David will raise your head enough for this."
David moved quickly and did as Tim said.
Swallowing felt strange, especially since I was lying on my side, but I managed to get the pill down pretty quick.
"What is it?" I asked with a groan as my head was lowered back to the pillow. Even that little bit of movement aggravated my leg.
"Percocet," he said. "You'll probably feel a little loopy while you're on it, but it should take care of the pain for the most part. And it won't conflict with your antibiotic." As a precaution, he started me on antibiotics two days ago.
"Thanks." I hoped it wouldn't take too long to kick in.
I was attempting to relax, trying to relieve the pain a little, when I remembered Tim's less than definitive answer to my request.
"Did you find it?" I asked.
Instead of answering right away, he watched me with a solemn expression and I began to feel anxious.
What if it didn't work? What if this was all for nothing? What if all I actually accomplished was to incapacitate myself even further?
Really starting to worry, I looked at David for some clue, but got nothing. He didn't seem too sure of the situation either.
Tim turned and reached for the bowl on the table behind him. When he met my eyes again, he lifted the pliers to show me the small metal disk with the blinking green light in the center.
I stared fascinated. He really did it! And once my leg was healed, I could truly be free.
"I didn't..." Tim said after a few seconds, regaining my attention. "I mean, I'm not sure what I was expecting." He dropped the instrument back in the dish and set it down again.
"I guess I sort of didn't want to think about it too hard but..." he paused and I had no idea where he was going with this. I couldn't tell if he was angry or suspicious or what.
"I'm no computer genius or anything," he said. "But the only thing I can even imagine that being, is some sort of tracking device."
He stared at me hard, but I wasn't sure what to say. Was he rethinking his part in this? Was he going to do something rash?
"I can't help but wonder who put it there and why? Or how? Obviously, it's been there for a while. That scar of yours was several years old. Decades, maybe."
I seriously thought about just telling him everything. After all he'd done, he deserved to understand, and I really believed he was trustworthy.
He sighed heavily. "I'm not going to try to make you tell me anything. I know you had to be pretty desperate to do this, but...." But he wanted to know.
"You deserve the truth," I said, starting to feel a little lightheaded from the pill. "But...it's just too dangerous."
He watched me pensively.
"And not just for me." I took a deep breath, warding off the growing fuzziness in my head.
"This could all still blow up in my face," I said. "And if it does, it would be best for you to forget you even knew me. If they know that you helped me, especially if you know everything...it would be really bad for you."
"But it's not too dangerous for David?" I almost wanted to laugh at the sibling rivalry peering through, but I knew he was mostly just worried about his brother.
"I didn't have a choice not to tell David," I admitted. "And he doesn't have a wife and daughter to think about."
It was easy to tell that he was torn between his concern for his brother and his family. He pursed his lips, obviously not satisfied by my answers.
"You've done more for me than you could imagine," I said. "This is the one thing that can give me a chance. And the best way I can even begin to repay you is to disappear."
I hadn't wanted to think about it yet, but it really was the only way. I couldn't stay here much longer with that man so close, and leaving was in Tim and David's best interest too.
I tried to stay focused on Tim, but I couldn't ignore the surprised, slightly betrayed look on David's face.
"When my leg is healed enough, I need to leave." I averted my eyes so I wouldn't have to see David. "I need to get as far away from here as I can, and it would be best for you both to forget about me."
It was quiet as I stared at the white sheet. On the one hand, I was glad that they weren't trying to argue or ply me for more information. On the other, it was a terribly awkward silence.
"I know it's nowhere near enough just to say it." I looked up, facing both of them. "But thank you. You saved my life."
Tim seemed more or less placated, but I knew David was far from it. I only managed to hold his gaze for a few seconds before feeling my eyelids droop.
"Get some rest," Tim said. "After a while, we'll be able to move you to the bed. You're secure enough for now." To ensure that I didn't roll over or move my leg during the surgery, Tim and David had made good use of several belts to hold me steady on the table. It wasn't super comfortable, but good enough. With the Percocet, I doubted that it would matter if I had to sleep on a cold concrete floor.
I nodded and gave into the growing heaviness in my body, ignoring the look on David's face that told me that there was plenty that he planned on discussing later.
A/N: SO sorry for taking so long with this story! I've had so many things come up that delayed me in my writing, but I have been working on it and am nearing the end. And I'm going to try really hard to have the end posted within a few weeks at most. Tonight, though, I will be posting 2 more chapters. Enjoy :)
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