January 13, 2020
“Where are you hurting, Sienne?” Dr. Andrews asked gently.
“Everywhere. My arms. My toes. My teeth. My heart. I hurt everywhere.” Her voice was impassioned, uncaring.
“Why are you hurting?”
“Because I am dead.”
“No, you hurt because you aren’t dead. The dead feel no pain.” Sienne didn’t want to believe her, but didn’t think she would lie. Dr. Andrews cared for her. She had never hurt her like Dr. Couric had. She was her only friend in the new world.
“I am not dead. The dead feel no pain.” She repeated the words. If she wasn’t dead, then she had no idea what she was. Certainly not alive, despite the thumping of her heart and the workings of her lungs. It took more than body mechanics to be alive.
They were sitting in a small study, filled with books and papers. Sienne barely registered the chain that bound her legs to a rod beneath the sofa. A gyroscope-like device was spinning on the table behind her, emitting a soft vibrating sound. Sienne found its rhythm intoxicating. It seemed to be singing a soft lullaby, one only she could hear, crafted just for her.
“Why are you hurting?” Dr. Andrews asked again.
“I am hurting because I am not dead and because you and Dr. Couric are trying to make me better.”
“I am hurting because the tests I go through cause me pain on my tender flesh. I am hurting because needles are sharp and veins are not. I am hurting because electricity burns when it runs through my body. I am hurting because I have not eaten in so long that I imagine my gizzard is shriveled to a pebble and has forgotten what it’s like to house food. I am hurting because I was once shot through the gut with a harpoon, and ever since then feeling has been returning to my body. That is why I am hurting, Dr. Andrews.”
Dr. Andrews frowned and put her head down. For a while she said nothing, though Sienne thought she heard her whispering. The gyroscope continued to buzz, now spinning quickly on its legs. Sienne watched the metal within metal turn on itself, orbiting and rotating and vibrating seamlessly. Three spheres all working together, never touching or affecting the other’s spin, but still deeply connected.
“I’m sorry,” Dr. Andrews said. Sienne turned back to the woman. Her eyes were puffy and her cheeks flushed. With her red hair, it looked like her entire head was ablaze. “I think that’s enough for today.” Sienne was having trouble hearing her. The vibrating song was faster now, reaching crescendo, demanding her attention.
“Wh-What, Dr. Andrews? I...” The pleasing vibrations suddenly hit a sour note, reaching a frequency high and crippling like the sonic guns that were used on her so long ago. She tried to bring her hands up, but they were too heavy, like something was keeping them down. The shrill peaked, bringing an explosion of pain and flashes of light. The last thing Sienne saw was tears flowing from Dr. Andrews’ soft eyes.
When she awoke, she was back in her room in her own bed. No longer confined to the dark cell she once was, Sienne had been given a spacious private room on an upper-level floor. In addition to the bed, she had her own stock of books and magazines, though she cared little for reading. She preferred drawing, losing herself in the energy from creating works of art. Dr. Andrews encouraged this.
A dull drum was throbbing inside her skull. Through the shallow skin above the temple she could feel the pulsating. Everything hurt.
You hurt because you aren’t dead.
Why did she think that? Of course she was dead. The mirror in the room made that obvious. She was a skeleton, lightly covered in flesh, pallid and fragile. Muscle definition was long forgotten. So were the curves of her hips and breasts. Even the splotchy hair that had clung on for so long was now gone, shaved or fallen out she couldn’t remember.
She’d been beautiful once. A creature of night. Stealthy. Strong. A hunter. Never hungry, not like she was now. No, you were always hungry. Never filled. Her head swam in the hazy words. The voice sounded like her own, but the words were wrong. Out of context. Forced, even.
She arose from the bed and paced around the room. Through the barred windows she watched the snow fall. Already everything was coated in the white powder. Rooftops of lower buildings. The makeshift tent shelters down the street. Even the road had an icy sheen to it. Far below, hundreds of tiny figures swarmed through the streets, moving this way and that. She watched a dark van lose control and spin completely around. People scattered and jumped out of the way. She couldn’t tell whether or not anybody was hurt, but a crowd began to gather around the now smoking vehicle. She looked away, out into the distance at the large cloud-making facility away from the city walls. It was this that gave power to the Hub.
She sighed, partially from the throbbing in her head, but mostly out of boredom. There was nothing to do. Even charcoal and paper did not entice her. Most of her animal instincts had waned. No longer was she complacent to sit idly, content in simplicity. Of course, she no longer lunged for the nearest throat either. They assured her that everything was going great. She was progressing faster than they had expected. Perhaps in a month or two she’d be changed back.
This confused her more than anything else. “Changed back to what?” she had asked.
“Why, changed back to human, of course.” Dr. Couric laughed and she wanted to tear out his throat and suck down the blood for it.
There was no way that she had once been human. Sure, they both walked on two feet and had a similar body build, but the comparisons ended there. The prey was weak-fleshed. Bags of blood. They breathed life. She breathed death. Destruction. She was nothing like them. She was...
What? They called her a zeta, but the label meant nothing. Zetas were people like her, they said, people transformed. And they were sick. Without treatment they would die. The doctors were trying to help her. She had to cooperate to save herself and her people. They needed her to help save the world. Something did not feel right about it.
She left the window and returned to the bed. The revived heartbeat brought another change. Constant lethargy. She was almost always tired, never far from sleep. She stared out the window and watched the snow fall, wishing to be past the walls and floating down with the cold wind.