Ben played another classic black-and-white movie. It was a Marilyn Monroe comedy that I had never seen before. He dozed off halfway through the movie. When it finished, I turned off the television. Ben’s elbow was against the armrest, and his head was in his hands. I always hated waking people, so I let him sleep.
I kept the blanket wrapped around myself as I walked across the hall to the bedroom. I slipped into the bed and drifted off to sleep.
There was a slam, and my eyes flew open. I saw my sister, Marcy, dragging her feet across the kitchen floor. Her blue robe was wrapped around herself, her dark hair tied messily on top of her head, and her slippers on her feet. She yawned as she opened up the fridge. The door separated the two of us.
“Marcy,” I said.
She leaned down and grabbed the jug of orange juice. She turned and picked her glass off the counter.
“Marcy, look at me,” I said.
She poured herself a glass of juice. She turned to look out the window above the sink. I looked down at myself to see I was in my pajamas.
Someone let out a deep breath, and I raised my head. My mom was shuffling into the kitchen. She ran her hand through her short hair. She had on a large sweater and a pair of jeans.
“Good morning, Marcy,” she said.
She pulled out a chair and sat at our small kitchen table. Marcy turned around so that she was leaning against the counter.
“You look tired,” Marcy said.
“I can’t sleep since Diana came back from the hospital,” she said. “I keep worrying.”
“Mom, she’ll learn to adapt.”
“I heard her get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. The poor thing was bumping and walking into everything.”
I gasped for air, and my chest burned. My muscles felt like they were tightening, and I struggled to breathe.
Mom let out a cry before burying her head in her hands. Marcy set down her glass and wrapped her arms around Mom. I tried to take a step closer, but I was stuck to the floor.
“I miss my girl,” Mom cried. Marcy rubbed her back. Marcy’s tears were spilling down her cheeks. She dug her teeth into her lip to try and control herself.
A thud came from above me, and I listened as the uneven footsteps walked around the house.
“We need to stop,” Marcy said. “Diana can’t know that we’ve been crying. She’s already upset enough about this.”
Mom pulled away. She sniffled as she wiped her tears away. Marcy went back to her glass of orange juice. I tried to lift my feet off of the floor, but they were glued down. I wanted to wrap my Mom in my embrace when I watched her lip quiver. She squeezed her eyes shut as she fought back the tears.
“Good morning, Di,” Marcy said.
I looked to see myself standing in the doorframe. I was wearing my favourite concert shirt, and my hair was tied back. My hands were out in front of me as I tried to make my way into the kitchen. My eyes were now replaced with two hollow craters. My eyes appeared to have been dug out and left behind two black holes. The black from my eyes spread like vines across my face. Darkness branched into my temple and ran down past my chin.
I pulled at my feet again in an attempt to free them. I glanced down before I felt my heart drop in my chest. The veins in my arms were darkening and crawling up my limbs.
I opened my mouth to scream.
I woke up in a cold sweat. My clothes were drenched. I sat and was gasping for breath. The blankets were twisted and tangled across the bed. I looked around the room. Despite there being no windows to let in any moonlight, I could clearly see the outline of the furniture. I ran over to the switch and flicked on the light.
I hurried over to the mirror. These eyes were still in my skull. The dark veins of my dreams were no longer sprawled across my skin. I leaned in to get a better look at my new green irises. The large vertical slit of my pupil made it seem like a stranger was looking back at me.
What would happen if I got out of here? I would lose my sight, and my family would be stuck taking care of me. There are plenty of people who are blind and live normal life. A selfish lump of guilt sat in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t want to live like that.
What if I kept these eyes? I’d be a freak. I would have to spend my life hiding behind sunglasses.
I grabbed the knit blanket off of my bed and tossed it over the mirror. I fixed it until it had covered every piece of glass. I didn’t want to look at my reflection. I didn’t want to see that stranger. I wanted to avoid the nightmare that I am stuck in.
I flicked off the light and crawled back into bed. I pulled the sheet up over my head and curled into a ball on my side.
I wanted to fall back asleep, but it was impossible. My chest ached as I thought about my future. Ben has been here for three years, so how long will I be here? If Sweeney didn’t get accepted into this club he was going to kill me.
My eyes and nose burned with tears ran. The warm tears slipped over my nose, down my cheeks, and onto the bed.
How was he going to kill me? He’s a doctor, so he must know plenty of ways to do it. Would it be a drug? Would he inject air into my veins? What if he was so furious about being rejected that he took it out on me? What if he makes me feel as much pain as possible? He would know how to keep me alive as he tortured me.
I don’t know how much time passed as I was wrapped up in my thoughts. Footsteps came from the hallway. I took in a deep breath and wiped the remaining tears away. I listened as the knob turned, and the door creaked open.
“Diana,” Sweeney said.
I stayed hidden under the sheet. He flicked on the light, and it streamed through the thin sheet.
“Diana,” he said again.
He reached and pulled the sheet off. I glared at Sweeney. He had his lab coat on over a cardigan and a pair of jeans.
“I have your morning pills,” he said.
Sweeney glanced around the room. He stopped when he saw the blanket-covered mirror. He furrowed his brows before turning back to look in my direction.
“Why is the mirror covered?” he asked.
“Take it out of my room,” I said. “I don’t want it.”
“I don’t like it.”
Sweeney grabbed my wrist and pulled me to the side of the bed. I sat up and balled my hand into a fist. I swung at Sweeney, but he grabbed my hand before it hit him. I kicked out my leg. Sweeney hauled me off of the bed. He let go of my fist and wrapped his arm around me. I screamed as I tried to pry his fingers off. He spun me around. He kept one arm around my waist, and his other hand was on my throat. He tightened his grip as he pushed me forward. I dug my nails into Sweeney’s fingers, but it caused him to tighten his grasp. Only a sliver of air made its way into my lungs, causing my chest to tighten.
Sweeney pushed me over to the mirror. He let go of my throat, and I gasped for breath. He ripped the blanket off the mirror. Sweeney put his hand under my chin and forced me to look into the mirror. He forced me to take another step forward. The edge of the dresser dug into my hips.
Our reflection came into focus. My face was red as I continued to pant for breath. I didn’t realize that I was crying, but a few tears were running down my face. My hair was falling out of my braid. Sweeney was gritting his teeth as he held me in place. His glasses were sliding down his nose. I clawed at his hand to try and pull him away from my chin.
“Why would you not want to look at yourself?” he asked.
“It’s disgusting,” I said. “Let go of me!”
“Kitten, how come you can’t see it?”
“Look how beautiful you are.” He tightened his grip. His warm fingers pressed into my flesh. “You should be thanking me.”
I squeezed my eyes shut. I couldn’t stand to look at my quivering, crying mess of a body anymore.
“I hate you!” I cried out.
“You’ll change your mind soon,” he said.
I shook my head. Sweeney let go of me. I was leaning into him and with his arms no longer around my body, I crumpled down onto the floor. I scurried away from Sweeney until my back was pressed against the bed. I held my arms to my chest so that he couldn’t try to pull me back up. I brought my legs up and pressed my forehead against my knees. I covered my mouth with my hand to try and silence my sobs.
A hand was on top of my head. I peered over my knees to see Sweeney crouched. He set a glass of water down. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small plastic cup. He popped the lid off with his thumb.
“Hold out your hand,” he said. “I have your medication.”
I held out my shaky hand. Sweeney emptied the medication into my hand. Three pills sat in my palm. Three pills were all that was keeping me alive.
I put the pills into my mouth before taking a gulp of water. Sweeney smiled before standing. My eyes followed him as he walked out of the room. A lump grew in my throat when I saw Ben standing in the doorway. He was leaning with his arms crossed over his chest.
How much of that did he see?
“Here’s your pills, Ben,” Sweeney said.
He pulled out another small plastic cup and handed it to him. Ben nodded and watched him leave before walking over. I hastily wiped the tears off of my face. Ben kneeled down in front of me. My eyes locked on the dark patches on his arms.
He was the only one who knew what I was going through.
In one quick motion, I had my arms around Ben’s neck. His arms slipped around my waist and pulled me closer to him. I buried my face into his neck. The tip of his scaly patch poking out of his collar was pressed against my cheek. One of Ben’s hands ran up my back, and into my hair.
“We’re never going to be normal,” I said.
“I know,” Ben said. “We have to mourn what you’ve lost and learn to live with what they gave us. It’s the only way to stay safe.”
“I don’t want to be like this.”
“Neither do I.” Ben’s grip on me tightened and I could hear him let out a deep breath. “We’ll come up with a plan together.”
“A plan to escape?”
“A plan to escape.”