My eyes dart around me. Remember where I am. Breathe. I'm in my home. I'm safe. I got out of there. I'm never going back. Never.
Why can't I just get a single night where my brain doesn't hate me? Why does it always have to bring up memories from that hell? I'm getting kind of sick of it. I wipe the tears and sweat from my face, and collapse back into my couch. I just look up at the ceiling, and at the bulbs hanging above me. They flutter slightly as I stare at them.
I am not going to get any more sleep tonight. I suppose I should be glad that I got any at all. I just lay there all night watching as the lights flicker like stars above me. I'm exhausted, both physically and mentally, but I know that as soon as I close my eyes, I will be haunted by the past and the ghosts of my dead friends. Not a fun time.
When morning finally comes, it feels as if I had been there for an eternity, and the lights above me had been permanently burned into my retinas. I feel like utter shit, and I don't feel like getting up. The sound of my bedroom door opening snaps me back to reality, and I slowly sit up with my head splitting as Kayley walks out of my room. She doesn't look much better off than I do, and I would guess that she also didn't get any sleep. There are dark circles around her eyes, which are bloodshot red. She obviously cried most of the night.
There's a moment of silence between us before she says anything.
"You screamed last night."
"Did you get any sleep?"
There's another awkward silence as we both just stare at each other tiredly.
"Do you have a TV? I wanna see if they're saying anything about my brother."
"No, sorry. I don't do televisions."
She gives me a confused look as if I were crazy.
"What do you mean, you don't do televisions?"
"They can sometimes cause my PTSD to act up."
While I was at CHI, they used to put us in these completely white rooms when we "misbehaved." We would be strapped down to a steel chair in the middle, and our eyes would be pried and held open with metal hooks. They would also jam the most uncomfortable headphones into our ears, and as the walls turned into giant display televisions, all sound except from their videos was silenced. We were subjected to sensory isolation, except for our sense of touch. Whenever something in the videos happened that Dr. Samson deemed negative, the chair, and our collars would burn red hot. It was brainwashing, and but also sick entertainment for the orderlies.
She stands there for a few seconds in silence before walking over to the couch and sitting down next to me. She sits still for a few more seconds before looking over at me. Her eyes are still bloodshed, which makes her electric blue eyes more distinctive.
"Hey, listen, I'm sorry about last night."
I look at her. What could she possible have to apologize for? If anyone should be sorry, it's me. I'm the one who got her into all of this mess. Not to mention the fact that I just killed her only family. Even though he was abusive, and just a horrible excuse for a human being. Still though.
"I called you the devil, and a freak. I'm sorry."
I give her a little laugh as I grin tiredly at her.
"Forget about it. You had just gone through something that no one ever should, and I think it was a reasonable reaction. Besides, I've been called a lot worse."
She looks back down at her feet, and gives a little smile.
"I'm really sorry to ask..."
She pauses for a moment before continuing. Please don't ask what I think you're going to.
"What happened to you in there?"
"Listen, Kayley. I don't think you want to know. Besides, I really don't want to talk about it."
"I know what happened to you must have been horrifying, and I understand that you don't want to relive it. But I just lost the only ties I had to any other human being. And you saved my life. Several times. You're the closest thing I have to a friend right now, and I just need to understand."
Wow. That's... wow.
I give a little sigh and look over at her. She's looking at me again.
I can't do this can I? A friend? All my friends are dead. I can't let this little girl get close to me. Nothing good can be gained from that. The only reason why I even met her was because I couldn't stand to see someone killed when I could have done something. Not again. It wasn't because I wanted to mingle.
But she has a point. I'm the reason why she doesn't have anyone anymore. I can't just abandon her alone, especially not in this city. She would end up just like me. Tortured. Experimented on. Or like Kyle. Broken. Killed.
What do I do? I shouldn't let her get close to me. It will only end in heartache. But I can't just push her away either. She doesn't have anyone else.
I get up from the couch and walk into my kitchen. I grab the book closest to me, which happens to be a thick, battered one, with red binding on it. I head back over to the couch and sit back down next to Kayley, holding the book in my lap.
"Sorry. It helps with me stay calm."
"Don't worry about it."
"Okay. So when I was twelve, my family and I were just at home having a normal day. My father was making dinner, and my mother and I were reading together. We used to do that a lot, so having a book helps control my anxiety and PTSD, and reminds me of her. Anyways, there was this knock at the door, and my dad went to answer it. There was a bang and a crash, and the next thing I knew there were men carrying guns in my living room. Mom didn't even hesitate before putting herself between me and them, but she was dead before she even reached me."
There's a look of horror, sympathy, and pity in Kayley's eyes that I notice out of the corner of mine.
"Flynn, that's horrible, I'm so sorry."
There is honest pain in her voice. And a sense of relation.
"I got scared, and ran away from them, and into my room. I slammed the door closed, and hid under my bed. My dad and I had made a little fort when I was younger underneath it, and there were these glow in the dark star stickers that I had on the bottom of it. I remember my door being slammed open, and my feet being grabbed. I tried to hold on to the bed, but they pulled me out from underneath. A few of the stars had come off in my hand, and I remember clutching them so tightly that they hurt. After that I don't remember much before waking up in a concrete bunk in CHI. I'm not sure how, but I somehow had managed to hold onto some of the stars from my old room."
My mind starts to freak out, bombarding me with the horrors I endured there. I clutch my book harder, and try to picture my mother's face to calm myself down. It's only in the past. You're okay. Breathe.
"That's when I met Kyle."
I feel my knuckles go ghost white, and my fingers start to hurt from clutching the book so hard.
"He was in the same room as I was, and he had the bunk above mine. He ran away from home because his family barely noticed his existence among four other siblings. He was the first person who I talked to after my parents, and he was my best friend."
"We were kept as prisoners at CHI for about a year before the experiments started. They began taking all of us one at a time into these psych evaluation rooms, testing our mental states and capabilities. I remember being forced to look at photos of my dead parents. Those who weren't satisfactory were never seen again. They were the lucky ones. The rest of us began physical training and experimentation. We were put under such intense stress that we either developed superhuman abilities, or died. When I was fourteen, the doctor in charge came to our room, and he killed Kyle."
I'm shaking all over my body, and my book is slamming into my legs over and over. The hairs on the back of my head and neck begin to stand up straight due to static electricity that I'm generating. Kayley puts her hand on my book, to help me steady it.
"Three years ago, when I was seventeen, I was able to pickpocket key cards off of an orderly while he beat me. I escaped and got about fifty other kids out too. I was deemed an armed and dangerous terrorist by the patrols, so I died and cut my hair, and found my way here. They've been looking for me ever since."
"Flynn... I'm sorry. I shouldn't have made you talk about it."
"It's okay. You went through a lot yesterday, and you needed to know."
I'm shaking violently still, and my head feels like its exploding. My book has gouge marks in it from where my fingernails dug into its cover.
We sit in silence for what seems like hours before Kayley finally says something.
"When I was thirteen, my mom was diagnosed with cancer."
I look up at her. Now she's the one staring intently at her shoes.
"She died about a year and a half later. My father struggled to keep us financially stable alone, and he became desperate. He made a lot of bad choices, and started to lose hope, spiraling into depression. A few months later he killed himself. My brother found him with empty pill bottles in his room."
Her eyes are staring blankly down at the floor as she speaks. I can see the pain in them, but I don't think she has any tears left to shed after last night.
"My brother found solace in the bottom of a bottle, and he soon went off to fight in the war. Just to get away. I took care of myself for about a year before he came back home. His drinking only became worse in the army, and the fighting didn't help either. He learned that violence could help mask his own pain, and fighting distracted him from the real world."
My shaking is starting to get better as I listen to her speak. Her voice becomes slightly quieter as she continues.
"He wasn't the same when he came back. He was distant. And he didn't care about me at all anymore. He only wanted to make the pain go away. The only way he knew how to do that was by hitting something."
Her hands clench into fists on her legs, and her nails leave scratch marks as they drag across her skin.
She had a happy family once too. In a way, that makes it all worse. Having something so precious and happy, and then having it destroyed before your eyes. It only makes it harder to think about who you used to be, and what you lost. Even though, I went through hell and back, I think Kayley might have it worse. At least I can remember my family fondly. At least what I can remember about them. She has her brother, who abused and beat her to remember her family by. I was abused, for sure. But never by my family. I can't even imagine.
"You told me about your past."
Her voice yanks me out of my own thoughts.
"I felt it was only fair I told you about mine."
We're looking at each other now. She gives me a small smile, and I return the gesture. My body's shaking has subsided into a small tremble, and my mind no longer feels as if it's drowning in cruel thoughts about all of the dead people I once knew, so that's nice.
We sit together on the couch for a few more minutes before I get up to make us both breakfast.