Slide to Unlock Part 7
((I meant to post this Tuesday. It’s Thursday–fifteen minutes from Friday, actually. I feel like such a faaaailuuure. Agh))
Recap: John recants his tale about Officer Training School while evading his captors in the Blue Ridge Wilderness. He hits a town called Blacksburg, tries to walk to it, and then gives up. A passing motorist offers help, but who exactly is this lady with the red converses?
When I wake up, it’s in a bed with pink pillows and white sheets. The night is kept at bay by heavy white curtains over the window and there’s a soft light emanating from across the room. There is the distinct smell of warm vanilla in the air—a welcome change from the antiseptic of labs I had been in before.
I try to pick myself up in order to better assess my surroundings, but there’s suddenly a hand on my chest pushing me down. It’s the woman from before and she looks beautiful in the soft light with her hair pinned back and expression relaxed. She tells me to rest some more. I consider arguing that I need to keep moving or else they’ll catch me. I also consider questioning her sanity because what kind of person in their right mind believes some man that he can’t go to the hospital because crazy scientists are going to get him. And then said women gives said crazy man her bed. Or her daughter’s bed judging by the color scheme.
So really, I want to question her, but she turns out the light and suddenly I’m asleep, dreaming of being in that underwater prison without the aspirator to help me breathe.
Next time I wake up, I’m off to a running, leaping start. I kept reliving the water-prison break out in my sleep, but each time I would escape the glass chamber there would be the docile waitress from the diner standing in front of me. She’d be holding a steaming cup of coffee that’d shatter the minute a shot sounded; then she’d collapse into my arms with a bullet hole through her forehead.
I could never find the gunman. I could never escape the complex. The complex was just a maze that I kept running through all night, dodging bullets at the last second so that the torture was prolonged.
In the last few iterations of the nightmare, I’d search myself for the gun, but only the new power would greet me. I’d stand there, considering letting myself burn up with it, and I’d try. But the power wanted to live. It would suspend me in a limbo of agonizing electrocution while the excess shock would disintegrate the bullets aimed at me.
But I digress—no one really cares about my dreams, do they?
(I certainly don’t because they don’t bother me one bit. I’ve dealt with PTSD before and this time will be no different.)
I wake up because of the light caused by myself glowing again. It makes me jump from the bed to try to escape myself, but I only manage trip over the pillows I had tossed off the bed in the night. Consequently, I thunk ungracefully into a white bureau by the door and nearly send a ballerina music box crashing to the ground along with a few bottles of fruit-scented body spray. I right myself at the last moment, shoulder pressing into the grooved edge of the bureau.
That could have been a catastrophe, my inner voice of jaded sarcasm supplies.
Instantaneously, I hear footsteps on stairs and it’s nearly drowned out by my heart trying to beat its way out of my chest. I have a barely-there understanding of where I am. Some crazy lady in red shoes picked me up. I finally escaped the lab people. I’m somewhere in the vicinity of Blacksburg.
Regardless of my rudimentary understanding of my current situation, I have a feeling that glowing isn’t really going to endear myself to my red shoed savior. My breath rushes from my lungs as I hear the pounding footsteps slow as the woman cautiously slinks closer to the door—I futitely try to will her to just go away until I regain normal human status again.
“Don’t come in,” I grunt. The wear-and-tear of my previous trekking is also starting to break into my hysteria, now. There is a distinct pain in my arms and inner thighs from the gymnast trick I pulled in the tree. My feet ache something fierce and almost rival my throat’s soreness. Above all, though, is the migraine bouncing in my skull that I think might be caused by the glowing, but I’m not betting on it—I probably hit my head a bunch of times in the escape. Or the lady could have poisoned me, but I doubt it.
While the pain edges into my awareness, it’s also ebbing at the same time. It’s almost as if I’m healing. I can feel the muscles pulling but not in the familiar way of a cramp or from overuse. It’s like there’s an itch within the myofibrils that I’ve never felt before. Oh god, please don’t tell me I become a human glow stick when I’m hurt; that’d be the stupidest power ever, and most counterproductive. Oh no! He shot me! Now let me glow in the dark so that he can shoot me again…multiple times.
The woman takes a few more cautious steps closer to the door. I can practically feel her crouched on the other side, vibrating with intense wariness of the stranger in her daughter’s bedroom. “Are you alright?” the woman asks, her voice surprisingly calm.
I, for one, cannot claim the same amount of calmness. In fact, I don’t think I’m even on the same planet as ‘calm’ anymore.
“Just—oh—having a mild panic attack,” I say with derisive sarcasm. Slowly, I extricate myself from the toppled body sprays and begin examining the incessant glowing under my skin. How the hell do you shut this off? Did they install a switch on me somewhere? I swallow thickly, my throat clicking. “And—er—maybe having a mild identity crisis.” I’m not a machine, just like three-quarters. I think.
“Oh,” the woman says and the floor groans as she shifts her weight. “Are you hungry?” she hazards.
I’m about to tell her no—and then make a break out the window or something in order to escape this, whatever this is—but then my stomach growls, loudly.
She giggles softly. “I’ll make you some breakfast. Come on down when you figure out who you are.” Then she pauses as if thinking about it: “But I suppose you’d die of old age before that, eh?”
I hear her leave, footsteps on the stairs gradually dissipating. She reminds me of my brother. Peter would be the idiotic sort to pick up someone from the side of the street, believe their crazy story, and then offer to buy them dinner. He’d also buy bright red shoes, too, if his feet weren’t so big he’d look like a clown with them on. It makes me wonder who this woman is, but also trust her a little more. Because in situations like this, when you have no one to trust and your whole world is upside down, trusting a stranger is par for the course.
As the panic in me seeps out, so does the glow under my skin. I suppose it’s just a defense mechanism—maybe linked to some hormone or brain process—but I should learn to control it, I resolve.
My stomach growls again.
Learning to control it can wait until after breakfast.
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