Word Count to Date: 36,770
She looked to Daisy helplessly.
“What...does he mean by that?” she asked uncertainly. Daisy walked away without answering. “Daisy...Daisy, help me! I’m about to go get tested and—and I don’t know—” Daisy shook her head violently and kept walking, speeding up, leaving Deuce standing by herself in the corridor. Overcome with fear and an overwhelming sense of isolation, she made her way to a room—a different room than the one Daisy used—unable to shake a feeling walking to the gallows.
She tapped timidly on the door, half-hoping they wouldn’t hear here and she could turn tail and run. No such luck.
“Come in,” someone called. She tried the handle, but to her confusion, it didn’t budge. “Use your card, please,” instructed the person inside. Right, of course. The card. She waved her card at the sensor. The light flashed green and she was in.
A man in a coat stood next to a baffling array of machinery, overseeing what seemed to be an intern or assistant of some sort tinkering with it. He smiled nicely at her approach.
“Come on in, Miss Stanley, and thank you for being prompt. My name is Doctor Reinsen and this is my assistant, Jack Landers, a med student.” She let the door click shut behind her, saying nothing. “Well, let’s take a seat and leave Jack to do his work. We’ll be ready shortly.” She did so, lowering herself into a seat in front of his desk on the other side of the room. He sat behind the desk, pulling out a piece of paper and a pen. “No need to be nervous, Miss Stanley, I just want to ask you a few questions.” She nodded. “Good, good. Now, I’d like you to recount, as accurately and as detailed as you can, the lightning strike, every little inconsequential factor you can recall.”
Dr. Reinsen really did want every tiny, nuanced facet. What kind of tree? Was the temperature hot or cold? What time was it? What day? What was she wearing? What kind of shoes? Had she been running or walking? Exactly how was her hand placed on the tree? Did she stand on concrete or stone? Dirt? She answered as best she could until he seemed satisfied. He leaned back.
“Jack! Come give me the control pad and then you can take your break.” Deuce got her first good look at Jack and her breath caught in her throat as he handed a small metal handle to her and a control pad with lots of little knobs and needles to Dr. Reinsen. Jack Landers had to be the most attractive man she’d ever laid eyes on. Struck dumb, she smiled shyly up at those liquid brown eyes as she took the little metal handle from him and her gaze followed his tall, slender form out of the room.
“Now, Miss Stanley, if you could please slip off your gloves, I’d like to take a look at that burn.” Reluctantly, she did so, extending the hated mottled hand to him. He poked, prodded, and tested the agility, much like Dr. Copkins did back in
“Miss Stanley? Is something wrong?”
“No!” He handed it back to her. She glared at it balefully.
“Miss Stanley, I am fully aware of the...quirks of your condition. I am here to help you. Please take this.” She touched a bare finger to the metal, ruthlessly quashing the tingle that swept through it. Dr. Reinsen frowned. “Are you doing anything?” She gritted her teeth as her hand began to cramp.
“I’m stopping it,” she muttered.
“You can do that?”
“Don’t.” The harshly-worded command broke her concentration. She felt all the energy flow out of her. Dr. Reinsen gave a yell and dropped his end. Deuce flung it vehemently away, tears in her eyes.
“See? See?” The tears fell as Dr. Reinsen nursed his hand, cursing quietly. He shook it a few times, smiling ruefully.
“There, there, Miss Stanley. Do calm down. I knew what would happen; I just didn’t expect you to be so...enthusiastic about it. Oh, don’t cry.” He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder as sobs racked her body. Once she began to cry, she couldn’t stop; all the fears, anxieties, and uncertainties of the past week welled up inside her and bubbled over into uncontrollable tears and sobs. “Really, there’s nothing to cry about.” If only he knew. “We’re here to help, Miss Stanley. We’re here to take this away, to cure you. We’re going to make you normal, happy, and healthy again.” Her tears began to subside very gradually. “That’s a girl. See? No need for hysterics. Yes, that’s it, just calm down. Would you like a glass of water?”
“Yes, please,” she hiccupped, wiping her nose discreetly on her sleeve.
“Of course.” He brought her a flimsy, cone-shaped paper cup of water; she drank it down shakily, feeling much calmer. “That’s better. Listen, I just want to do one simple test and I’ll let you go early today. Does that sound good to you?” She nodded. “I thought so. Now pick up that rod and just relax. Sing the ABC’s in your head, if you’d like.” She did so, going through it three times.
“What are you doing? I mean, what is this doing?” she asked curiously, trying to peer over at the instrument. He examined some sort of meter on the control panel intently.
“A simple measurement.” He made a note on his clipboard. “All done! There, that was nice and simple, wasn’t it? Go enjoy your free time.” Still a touch unsteady, she donned her gloves and proceeded to get the hell out of there.
The options for free time were limited. A participant could go back to his or her room or go to a small courtyard encircled by the building on all sides. Essentially, Deuce could be bored inside or outside. She chose outside, even though the four-story walls surrounding her gave her the unpleasant sensation of being in the bottom of a well. Still, the weather was mild and sunny, so she took a novel with her.
The courtyard wasn’t built for amusement. In fact, she could easily believe that they built it by mistake, or as an after thought. It was just a round-ish expanse of patchy, dying grass with a rickety, weathered bench with peeling green paint in the centre.
She took a seat on the bench, but it listed crazily to one side. She sighed and sat cross legged in the grass with her back against the wall. Her hands trembled a little bit. She tried to ignore it, but soon after it grew so distracting that there was no overlooking it any longer. What? What am I supposed to do? How do I stop it? It grew worse. I need to get help—Dr. Reinsen, maybe? She lurched for the door handle. She rested her hand on it, considering. Wait. What if...? She tore off her glove and laid her palm flat against the metal knob. Instantly, the throbbing in her extremities eased...but the electronic lock fizzled and spat. She jerked her hand away, a shiver running down her spine. I don’t know what’s going on, she thought uneasily, sinking to the ground once more, curling up protectively with her book, and I don’t want to know. I just want to go home, even if it means that I never get better and die.