by Chloe B
All I can see is darkness.
My eyes are open, I think. Where am I? Am I alive? Am I dead?
I should be dead. Did someone save me?
I gasp suddenly, sitting up, one hand supporting me, the other on my heart. What the hell happened?
The flow of memories comes rushing back to me in bits and pieces. A dagger. Aedrien’s grief-stricken scream. Darkness. A teenage girl’s shocked face.
I glance down at myself and see that I’m wearing just a simple, white, maxi robe that’s tied around my waist.
“Hello,” a female, disembodied voice says, startling me. Her voice isn’t robotic; it’s almost…breathy. Delicate.
“H—hello?” I ask, unsure of the correct answer.
“You feel that you should be sent to hell, correct?” she asks.
I hesitate before replying, “I’m not sure where I should go.”
She sighs. “You did many bad things in your life.”
“Yet you took the dagger that was meant for your brother.”
I swallow, my throat closing up, remembering. “Am I dead, then?”
A pause. Then she says, “You are in the Place of No Matter, where I judge souls and determine where they should go.”
“So where do I go?”
She pauses again. “That’s the thing. I don’t know where you should go. You were a thief your whole life, but you sacrificed yourself for your brother. That’s a noble thing to do; it’s not a choice others would make.”
Her words hit me suddenly. “Who am I?” I whisper hoarsely.
“You are a brave girl who risked everything to save your brother’s life,” she says gently. “And at great depletion of my power, I can bring you back from the dead. I will give you a dagger to defend yourself, but please do not try to harm anyone with it.”
I look up, hopeful. “You can bring me back to life?”
“Yes. However, there is one consequence.”
“Let me hear it.”
“You will not remember anything of your previous life. That means that you will not remember your brother, nor your parents, nor your friends, nor anything you stole as a thief. You will not remember what school you go to, nor your last name. You will not remember a single thing, including your time here. You will only remember your name, which I will give you.”
“Where will I live, and who will I live with? How old will I be? What will my name be?” The questions tumble out of my mouth.
“You will live with your old family. As of now, your body is in the hospital, being prepared for burial. You will be the same age you are now, sixteen years old. As for your name…” she pauses here.
“Your name will be Angel.”
I hear people gasping. Where am I?
I force my eyes open and blink twice. Three faces are peering down at me. My body is warm under a heavy blanket, and I feel claustrophobic. I feel the tip of a dagger digging into my skin, but I don’t reach for it, not yet.
“Is it you, Kira?” the eagle-eyed woman asks. Her hair is pulled into a tight bun, and she wears a sharp, crisp suit.
I struggle to sit up against the soft pillows. I don’t recognize that name. “Who is Kira?” I ask.
They all look taken aback, though they do a good job of hiding it. “Excuse me, Mrs. Cooper,” an official-sounding voice says. “I need to ask Ms. Kira a few questions.” There’s that name again. Who is this mysterious Kira?
A woman bustles between the family crowded in front of me. She’s dressed in hospital scrubs—a doctor, my mind tells me.
“What is your full name?”
“Angel,” my mouth says. The doctor frowns and scribbles on her clipboard.
“What is your brother’s name?”
I frown. “I don’t have a brother.”
More scribbles. “What is your mother’s name?”
At this, the doctor’s brow furrows. “Interesting. That will be all.” She leaves the room, clipboard clutched tightly in her hands.
“Kira…” the woman says hesitantly.
“Who is Kira?” I ask again. “My name is Angel.”
“You are Kira,” the man says. His tie is lopsided and his shirt is untucked. It looks like he was in a rush to get here.
“No,” I insist. “I am Angel.”
Why can’t I remember who these people are? Why are they calling me a strange name? I turn to the last person, the person who has been silent this entire time.
“Who are you?” I ask, almost afraid of the answer.
“My name is Aedrien,” he says softly, turning his head away from me. The name means nothing to me.
“Are you my brother that the doctor was talking about?”
He nods ever so slightly. “Do you not remember me?”
I rack my brain for even a mention of a brother, coming up empty. I shake my head. “I have no recollection of anything but the last few minutes.”
He turns his back to me and walks slowly out of the room. I feel nothing. No pity, no sadness. Nothing.
“Ki—Angel,” the woman says. “Let’s go.”
“Wait!” I demand. “Who are you?” My hand goes to the dagger at my side.
“I’m your mother,” she says, then gestures to the man. “This is your father.”
“What do I call you?” I ask.
Here, her calm demeanor starts to fall apart as she says, biting her lip, “You can call me either Mom or Estraela, and you can call him either Dad or Medran.”
I don’t trust them. I draw the dagger. The reaction is instantaneous. Estraela screams, alerting the security guards. Aedrien leaps onto the bed and tries to wrestle the dagger away from me, but I hold onto it firmly. As soon as he touches the hilt, however, he screams at the top of his lungs and lets go of the hilt as if it burns him.
I throw off the covers, filled with a sudden burst of adrenaline. Two beige-uniformed security guards burst into the room, tranquilizer guns in hand, but it’s as if my mind is controlled by another person—I deflect their darts with my dagger and leap off the bed, calm through this whole thing.
The guards shout in surprise and call for backup. I slash out, doing no real damage, but it’s enough to frighten them.
Backup comes in the form of two other guards; I can’t deflect all the tranquilizer darts at once, and a few hit me. I struggle to keep my eyes open, but it’s no use. The dagger slips out of my grasp and I collapse on the floor.
When I wake up, my hands are chained to the sides of the bed, my dagger on the nightstand next to me. Someone must have moved it, but why would they put it near me?
My mind flashes back to when Aedrien touched the hilt. He had jumped away from the dagger as if it burned him. Did it actually burn his skin, though?
I slowly sit up, the chains getting close to taut. A young security guard is sitting patiently in the chair next to my bed. When he sees my eyes are open, he says into a walkie-talkie, “She’s awake.” No duh.
“Who moved my dagger?” I request.
“I did, Ms. Kira.”
“That is not my name,” I say. “My name is Angel. You work at a hospital; you should at least know your patients’ names.”
“Your birth certificate read Kira Cooper, so that is what we have on file,” he says smoothly, crossing his legs and leaning forward. “If you prefer to be called something else, please let us know.”
I tilt my head. “I prefer the name Angel.”
“Okay, Angel.” He rolls his eyes and pushes his shaggy brown hair out of his eyes. “Since you’re awake, it’s part of the protocol for me to ask you a few questions.”
“More questions? I suppose earlier was not a very good time. I am so sorry about that.”
He ignores my comment and folds his arms. “First question. What are you feeling right now?”
I frown at his words. Why would he ask me that? “I do not feel anything, O person I still do not know the name of.”
“Well, at least your tongue is sharp,” he says, amused. “But it’s impossible to feel nothing. Surely you must have a sliver of emotion.”
I struggle to reach into my soul for the thing he spoke of—emotion. I don’t feel it. “What is emotion?” I ask.
His mouth drops open a little bit—slack-jawed, my mind tells me. “Don’t play dumb with me,” he demands, recovering his snappy tone. “You have emotions. Where. Are. They.”
“I do not know what you are talking about,” I reply truthfully, my voice flat.
“Don’t lie to me.” He pulls out a tranquilizer gun and places his finger on the trigger. I’m calm through all of this. “It’s impossible to not feel emotion.”
“I am not lying to you,” I say. “I truly have nothing of this thing of which you speak.”
He narrows his eyes and puts the gun away. “You’re clearly not interested in having a productive conversation, so we’ll try again tomorrow.” He starts to walk away, then pauses. “My name is Ludin, if you really want to know.”
I look after him. Why is he so pushy? I don’t understand.
I look to my restraints and clench my fists, an action I’ve performed many times before but don’t understand. What does it mean to perform an action? I think I used to know.
I lay back down and look at the bright lights above my cot, so bright I have to squint to see them properly. My dagger is right where Ludin left it. I feel my eyes getting heavier the longer I stare at it…
I stir to the sound of a key turning in a lock. I roll over onto my stomach and find that my wrists are free, causing me to overshoot my mark and land on the floor at the boots of Ludin the pushy security guard.
“What do you want,” I mumble into the soft white carpet.
“You, my angel, are coming with me. Unarmed.”
I look up at the words, “my angel.” I slowly get to my feet and, looking longingly back at the skin-burning dagger, follow Ludin out of the wing. I notice that there are no other patients in my wing. I don’t inquire.
Ludin takes me through a series of corridors before stopping at a white door. “A word of warning before we enter,” he says, stopping. “As you are unarmed, there are only two security guards, including me, but we won’t hesitate to restrain you if necessary.”
“Noted,” I reply dully, nodding.
He gestures towards the door. “Ladies first.”
“Thank you, Ludin,” I say, although I know he didn’t really mean it. I reach out my hand to open the door and, to my surprise, it opens easily.
Ludin catches my eye and smirks. “Expected it to be locked, didn’t you?”
I ignore him and step inside. The finality of the door closing sinks in, and I swallow, another meaningless action.
Seated at a long, horizontal table are three, important-looking people, a clipboard in front of each of them. A security guard lurks in the shadows. A lone chair is placed on the other side of the table.
“Here she is, as you requested,” Ludin says.
“Thank you, Ludin,” the woman sitting on the left says, smiling. “Please sit, Angel.” She gestures to the chair. The woman’s blonde hair is pulled into a tight ponytail. She wears a casual, flowered dress that compliments her sharp, ice-blue eyes.
I cross the room to the chair and sit as she directed.
“Welcome, Angel,” she continues.
“Who are you, why am I here, and what is this room?”
The woman’s smile never wavers. “Direct and to the point, I see. I’m Ms. Kyra, and my colleagues are Dr. Maddon and Ms. Ironwood. They’re both specialists in Psychological Discovery. You’re here because you’ve shown an exceedingly rare condition that occurs when waking up from a coma. This room is a private area for, well, obvious reasons. Shall we start the questioning now?”
Little warning bells go off in my brain, and I stiffen. Ms. Ironwood, a dark-skinned woman, notices and says, “Don’t worry, dear, it’s nothing to be concerned about. It’s just a little test that we conduct on those few patients who are like you.” Her jet-black hair falls in loose waves around her shoulders, and her dark-chocolate eyes are piercing and unblinking. She gives me goosebumps.
Patients like me? “Like some kind of experiment.”
“No, no, nothing like that, Angel,” she replies hastily, too fast to be true. “Our goal is to ask you some questions in the hopes that your emotions may return.”
“Ludin mentioned that word.” I tilt my head. “What is it? What is emotion?”
Ms. Kyra settles back into her chair. “It appears her condition is more severe than you described, Ludin,” she says.
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” he apologizes. “I didn’t realize it was this bad.”
“At least she still has a questioning tone when she asks something,” Ms. Kyra says, leaning forward and steadying herself by putting her elbows on the table. “Tell me, Angel. Do you really not have any memories?”
“My only memories are of when I woke up in this hospital and so forth. Am I supposed to have more?”
All three of them scribble on their clipboard. “You don’t use contractions, am I right?” Mr. Maddon asks. His brown hair is slightly messy, an aberration from his perfectly-pressed suit. Small bits of sweat glitter on his forehead.
“Huh? Are contractions those words that combine?”
Ms. Ironwood taps her pen against her chin. “Angel, your parents told us that you attacked them with a dagger that seemed to burn anyone who touched it. You were unarmed when you entered the hospital unconscious with a dagger protruding from your stomach. Our doctors extracted the dagger and kept it for testing. How is it possible that you managed to get ahold of it again?”
Something in my brain tells me that it isn’t the same dagger, but I keep quiet.
“The silent type, I see,” the other guard says, surprising me. He peels himself off the wall and steps into the light.
“What is it?” I cross my arms. “I’ve hardly been quiet.”
“Aw, don’t you recognize me?” He takes a step closer. Something sparks within me, and I step back. I hear scribbles on paper and ignore them.
“Do not come any closer,” I gasp, my voice…my voice is wavering?
“That’s unfortunate,” he says. I keep backing up until I’m flat against the wall. I’m breathing heavily, my hands partially outstretched. “I would have thought you remembered me, Angel.” He says my name like it’s a dirty word, pinning one of my arms to the wall.
My eyes narrow and I draw back my fists, focusing directly on his face. I throw an uppercut to his chin, but he catches my wrist and forces it to the wall. No. He’s pinning my toes down, too. That means no kicking, either. Crap.
I do the only other thing I know how to do: I spit in his face, and I get a direct hit right above his mouth. He hisses like some kind of feral cat and leans down to my face, closing his eyes and puckering his lips.
Footsteps sound behind me, and Ludin’s hands shove the other guard off me. I stumble to the floor, catching myself with my wrists and looking up at the two men, who are honestly little more than boys.
“You heard her,” Ludin snarls as the other guard stumbles backwards. “Let her go.”
“And you are?”
“I’m her guard. I’m supposed to protect her from any harm. Clearly, you fall into that category.” He crosses his arms.
An evil smirk spreads across my attacker’s face. He opens his mouth to speak but is interrupted by Ms. Ironwood’s stern voice. “That’s enough. Ludin, please help Angel off the floor. Idrelis, explain yourself.”
Idrelis brushes invisible dirt off his uniform and crosses his arms. “When Angel was still Kira, I was…incredibly close to her.” He scuffs the carpet with his shoe, his cool demeanor starting to shatter. “When I heard about her noble sacrifice, my emotions got the better of me, and I lost control.”
“I came as fast as I could to see if there was anything I could do,” he continues. “I dialed 911 but there was no service. I mean, it was the middle of the woods; of course there was no service.” He chuckles humorlessly. “By the time the rescue helicopters came, her heartbeat was the faintest I’d ever felt in a human being. They rushed her here and well, she doesn’t seem to remember anything.” He gestures listlessly.
“I’ve always been a bit jealous of other boys getting close to Kira,” he continues. “I wanted to claim her for my own.”
“How close exactly were you to Kira before she became Angel?” Mr. Maddon asks.
Idrelis averts his eyes and stares at the floor. “I was her boyfriend. For her to not remember anything whatsoever of who she was, that beautiful, street-smart, carefree girl…that’s not okay.”
There’s an uncomfortable moment of silence before Mr. Maddon says, “Angel, do you remember anything about him?”
I feel something flutter in my chest as I shake my head the tiniest. Idrelis’s shoulders slump, and I sense that the panel of people in front of me don’t take much pride in my answer.
“Thanks for your time, Angel.” Ms. Kyra turns her twenty-watt smile back on me. “Ludin, if you will…?”
“No further instructions needed.” He cuts her off. “C’mon, Angel. Let’s go.” I stand numbly, staring at Idrelis. “Angel,” he barks, more roughly this time.
I turn my back reluctantly on the people who so desperately want to help me. But what does it mean to help someone? What does it mean to do anything?
We walk back through the now-familiar corridors in silence. When we near the door that leads to the “Mentally Unstable” wing, he speaks. “I have to say, I was shocked by your behavior in the room today.”
“What about it?” I turn to him.
“Well…” He hesitates. “It seemed like Idrelis made you…fearful.”
“What does that mean?”
“Fear is one of the strongest emotions out there,” he says. “It’s an excellent motivator and can cause you to do stupid things. The other emotions that can cause you to do stupid things are love and anger.”
“But what does that have to do with Idrelis?”
He shakes his head. “Nothing. Just—forget I said anything.” He swipes his keycard and gestures for me to enter. I don’t budge, wanting more answers to my questions.
“What does that have to do with Idrelis?” I ask again.
“Nothing!” he repeats, more forcefully this time. “Now go. You’re allowed release from the hospital tomorrow morning.”
“Tell me what it means!” I demand. His eyes widen, and he takes a step back. I clench my fists and advance.
“You’re not alright, Angel,” he says, his professional attitude returning. “I’m beginning to think it’s a mistake letting you out so early.” He moves to call for backup on his walkie-talkie, but I snatch his hands away from the device and pin them against the wall. With a jolt, I realize that I’m recreating the scene in the room beforehand, only this time, I’m in control.
Something flares deep inside me, but it’s so brief I can’t define it. I wrestle for control of his gun—or perhaps for control of my mind—as he convulses to throw me off. Four security guards come thundering down the hall like a herd of buffalo.
They raise their guns, but I know what to do now. Growling like a wild animal, I leap forward and land on top of them, pinning them to the floor. To my surprise, they throw me off as if I weighed as light as a feather, and I wince as my back hits the cold, tiled floor.
The impact reaches my brain as I start to see clearly again. Horrified at what I’d done, I crack one eye open to see two guards pointing their guns at me. They’re…angry, I think, and maybe a little…frightened?
“Well? We’re waiting,” Ludin prompts, crossing his arms and stepping between the two guards.
“What are you waiting for?” I ask, standing up, dusting invisible dust off my mint-green hospital gown.
“An explanation.” He starts listing my offenses on his fingers. “You attacked two security guards, you pretend not to have emotions when you clearly get so angry, and most of all you aggravate us to the point where we want to murder you!” He shouts that last part and takes a step forward.
“If I may contradict,” I begin calmly, “I do not have emotions, whatever they are, so I request that you believe me and stop acting like a child.”
He grinds his teeth and says through gritted teeth, “And what of the attack? What do you have to say for yourself there?”
I pause and think. “I have discovered I hate feeling confined,” I confess, lowering my head. “And I want to released as soon as possible so I can discover what is beyond these walls.” I raise my eyes to look at him. His face is unreadable.
“What do you think, Captain?” one of the guards inquires.
Ludin’s face is stoic and expressionless. “I think we should chain her to her bed and prohibit any visitors.”
“You’re not serious.” I sense awe and horror.
“You know full well I’m serious, Telal,” Ludin snaps back. “I don’t joke. Ever.”
My arms are tugged behind my back, my wrists bound together with metal chain. “Take her,” Ludin commands to the two men behind me. “Take her and chain her to her bed.”
“Yes, Captain,” they murmur in unison, following orders without a second thought.
“Wait,” I say. They pause, waiting for their orders.
Ludin stares at me intently. “Let her speak.”
“Why?” I tilt my head. “Why can’t I leave? Why do I have to be in my own separate corner away from everyone else?”
Ludin struggles for words. “Because you’re different,” he finally says. I arch an eyebrow and am surprised by even my own action.
Wait. I’m…questioning things. Things excite me. What is wrong with me? What is unspiraling inside me that can’t be stopped?
Ludin nods to the guards, who unlock my shackles warily. “Your face changed, Angel,” he says, frowning.
“What do you mean?” I ask, narrowing in my eyes. Not in anger this time, but confusion.
To Be Continued...