The girl gasped awake her breath coming in painfully sharp bursts. She sat up and pressed a hand to her sweaty chest, pressing down as she forced her lungs to move air in and out. It had happened again. She had dreamt. The girl did not dream, she didn’t think she was supposed to dream. And yet once again, her mind was opened up to a dream scape. She wiped the sweat drenching her forehead with the back of her hand. She had no idea whether it was the middle of the night or morning. She took a deep breath in, then another, and then a third. Her heart rate finally settling to a dull thud in her chest as she fell back against her rough pillow.
The girl blinked back the water that threatened to cloud her vision. She focused in on the darkness, trying to to make out the metal frame work of her bed chamber. There was nothing for her eyes to focus in on though, all she could see was the person infiltrating her sleep. It had been happening for over a week now. At first it was just odd flashes, quiet whispers in the girl’s blackness, which was enough to scare her, but for the past week a person had emerged from the blackness. Their hair was the color of fire. The girl was scared of the person, but they never tried attacking her, they just sat with her in the blackness watching her.
The girl could hear footsteps outside her bed chamber, it was later than she had expected then. She pulled her blanket up higher over her head, squeezing her eyes shut tight. There was a heavy thud as the lock moved out of place followed by a whirring of metal as the door to her small space zipped open. Next were the fluorescents. They were bright, even with her eyes closed they burned at the girls retinas. She flinched as the blanket was ripped back, revealing her small frame.
“Up.” The guard said slamming a tray of food on the girls night table. She rubbed at her eyes as she sat up. She kept her gaze on the guards shoes, she didn’t dare look up. They didn’t like it when she met their eyes. So she grabbed the small bowl of oat and tipped it upwards into her mouth. It went down like tar, but she forced every bit down. She would need it’s fuel.
The guard sat her training clothes on her bed, never turning away as the girl undressed. She slipped her shoes on and he immediately grabbed at her arm, his fingertips pressing hard into her skin. She followed him out of the room without struggle, but that never stopped him from leaving bruises on her. She wasn’t allowed outside today. She looked wistfully towards the door that led to the sun as he dragged her into a smaller room with no sun. She pulled at the end of her fraying sleeve as the master sat in a chair waiting for her.
“Hello number ninety-nine. You are doing brain scans today.” He motioned for her to sit in the large chair opposite him.
The girl did what she was told, she didn’t want a consequence.
“Do you know why you are doing scans today instead of training?” The master asked her.
The girl nodded, flinching as the master pressed the lines to her temples, and behind her head.
“Tell me why, number ninety-nine.” The master said firmly.
The girl tried speaking, but nothing came out. She tried again. “Because I was bad.”
“That is correct. And when children are bad…”
“They must be tested.” The girl finished. She closed her eyes and forced the water away as the electrodes stung at her skin.
“We must understand what in your makeup has forced you to disobey, we can try for the outside again tomorrow. We want you at your best performance.”
The girl scrunched her eyes shut as the pain became more and more. She wouldn’t cry out until she couldn’t take it anymore. She would prove she would be good.
“When you are told to fight, what do you do?” the master began.
“I fight.” The girl practically whispered.
“When you are told to use your gifts, what do you do?” the master continued.
“I use them to the masters discretion.” The girl repeated what she had been repeating for as long as she knew.
“And when you are told to stop, what do you?”
“I obey,” the girl whispered. She whimpered but forced it down quickly. Instead her mind wandered back to her dreams. She hadn’t meant for them to, she knew if the master found out she was dreaming there would be consequences. But the person with hair of fire was too terrifyingly interesting for the girl not to think about.
“Number ninety-nine. You are in pain. You are afraid, your scan shows it.” the master said calmly. “We cannot have fear.” He typed something out on the computer before getting up and walking away. “Hopefully we have remedied your disobedience.” He squeezed her shoulder, his fingers smelled of chemicals.
Once he left a lab coat came in, pulling along with her a tray of different needles. “Extend your arm.” She commanded.
The girl did as she was told, keeping her eyes shut tight as they took away her blood.
“Extend you neck.” the woman said.
The girl fought back the whimper catching in her throat.
“Number ninety nine, this will remedy your fear. Extend your neck.” She commanded again.
The girl did as she was told, the needle hurt, it always hurt, and it would leave a bruise on her skin. She hated those ones the most. She felt her eyes fog over as the lab coat peeled away the electrodes from her skin.
“Take her back to her bed chamber, she’ll go unconscious soon. Alert me when she’s woken again for her second scan.” The lab coat walked out, her heeled shoes clicking further down the hall.
The guard yanked her up, her legs wouldn’t work properly anymore, so she was dragged back to her bedchamber. He shoved her onto her bed and her door whirred closed. The girl knew she wouldn’t dream this time. She never did when they used the needle during the day. She almost wished she could dream, the girl felt an odd comfort from the person who visited her. They never had needles, they didn’t wear lab coats or suits. And sometimes they spoke to her. The girl hadn’t understood at first, she couldn’t hear the words coming out of their mouth.
But eventually she realized they were saying the same thing over and over again. ‘I’ll find you.’ The girl didn’t understand it, and it scared her. She didn’t think she wanted to be found. But she liked the quiet of having a companion in her blackness. An imaginary friend. The girl would continue trying to dream she decided as she finally came to from her unconsciousness. She would keep her imaginary friend and she would obey so she could see the sun again.
She was hungry, but she knew she wouldn’t get more oat until that night before sleep, so she forced her insides to stop paining her and stood up slowly in her bed chamber. She waited for the guard to return. She knew she would have to have more scans with the lab coat and she would try her best to not feel anything, then they would let her outside tomorrow. She was sure of it.
Hours later the girl closed her eyes, accepting her sleep into blackness. She sat alone in the darkness for a long time before the fire-haired being came up to her sitting cross-legged in front of her. They looked so real the girl could almost touch them.
“Hello.” The fire haired person said quietly.
“You came back.” The girl whispered into the darkness.
“Of course I did.” The person got onto their knees and leaned forward. “Are you alright?”
The girl nodded.
“Have they hurt you?”
The girl shook her head. “I was bad, so I had to have tests done. They took away my fear. Now I can go outside again.”
Their mouth fell open. “They let you outside?”
The girl nodded. “Only when I’m good though. I do my training outside. But if I’m bad they don’t let me out.”
“And do they protect you outside?” The person stared at her.
The girl didn’t understand. “They always protect me.”
“Yes… but do they have weapons to protect you?” They asked.
The girl shook her head, grabbing at her hair. “I don’t like these questions. They don’t make any sense.”
The person reached out and put their hands on either side of the girls shoulders. “Do you want to leave this place?”
The girl stared into their golden green eyes for a long time. “I don’t understand the question.” She whispered.
“Do you want me to find you?” The person whispered. “I can find you, if you want.”
The girl closed her eyes for a long while, and when she opened them again the person was still sitting there waiting for her answer.
“Yes. I want to be found.” She said, though she didn’t understand what that meant.
The person nodded their head and leaned back watching the girl for another few moments. “I’ll find you.” They finally said. “I’ll find you. I promise.”
The girl nodded her head and looked down at her hands. When she looked up again she was alone. It was quiet without the fire haired person whispering to her. She pulled her knees closer to her and waited for the blackness to end and her sleep to be over. She hoped she could go outside tomorrow.
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