I'm not too crazy about this installment. I do like some of the thoughts Sienne has, but the infodump from Dr. Andrews is a) too much dialogue, b) odd sounding, and c) boring. Still, it is what it is for now. Editing may come later. And if you've missed any, click here to catch up. Thanks for reading!
February 29, 2020
All things considered, it worked. Sienne was cured. The disease that had ravaged her body for nearly two years was now gone, erased with a process called Reformation. She no longer desired the things she once had. The simple thought of raw meat turned her stomach. Apathetic, she did not want to live, not after what she had done.
Her heart pumped blood through veins regrown. Her lungs breathed in and out, oxygen to carbon dioxide. But she felt more dead now than she had when she was a zeta. As a monster, she lacked true emotion, or human emotion. Animals express fear. Panic. But do they know what it is to regret? Does guilt rock their souls? Is a bear sad after it kills and eats an elk? Was what she did even comparable? Now that the disease was gone, the true horror of her actions hit hard.
After that morning in the lab she’d been inconsolable. She was given a sedative and had been kept under lock and key since. When they realized the serum removed the sickness, Drs. Couric and Andrews set out immediately for more trials. Sienne was kept a secret, alone in her room for much of the time.
She thought she knew pain before when she was dead, but that was nothing. Physical pain was a joke. Another bolt through the inner tissues of her stomach likely wouldn’t even cause a reaction. Needle sticks and fiery electricity. It was all nothing compared to the weight of her deeds. How they cut heavily into her psyche, carving and digging deeper with each passing second. How could she live with that?
The transformation from zeta to beta, as she was now being called, was like waking up from a terrible nightmare only to discover that it was true. Every foul and horrible piece of it. Her body looked part zeta, part human. Pale, translucent flesh clung to her bones, covered in scrapes and scars. A patch of peachy skin filled in the hole the harpoon bolt had put in her stomach, its color out of place on her body. Many of her veins were visible, blue and black just beneath the surface, pressing out like bulging wires in a too-tight sleeve. And the hollowness in her gut now demanded filling, albeit from a different source.
She sat at her bedside table and sipped at the broth she’d been given, staring blankly down at the strewn about sketches. They were all angry scribbles, thick black lines of chaos and madness, but Sienne thought she could see patterns in the charcoal. When she was finished, not even half of the broth diminished, she returned to her bed and lay staring out the window.
She was aware of a soft knocking on the door, but she didn’t bother to move. What was the point?
“Sienne?” asked Dr. Andrews soft voice. She made no reply. She heard the woman move about the room. A rustle of papers. A clank of a spoon. Dr. Andrews appeared at the foot of the bed. “Sienne, you need to talk to me. This attitude is not healthy.” She stalled, opening up the silence for Sienne to take the opportunity. It passed without a second thought.
“I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now,” she said, her voice soft and distant. “My daughter, Kallie, when she died I didn’t think I could press on, right after the bombs fell. I didn’t see the point in going on, but Kent, my husband, made me. He pushed me, through the smoke and fog of everything, and we eventually ended up here in the Hub. It’s been almost two years. I still feel her absence, but life goes on. It has to.
“You would think after the zetas killed my daughter that I would be the last person to want to help them, but that’s not in my nature. I’m a doctor. I care about people, and despite what others say, the zetas are still people. They can’t help what’s happened to them no more than a person plagued with cancer or someone with a mental handicap. I felt it was my duty to find a cure for them. Turned out I wasn’t the only one, and it wasn’t long before I met Grant.”
Sienne listened, but Dr. Andrews’ words did not hold her captive. What was one woman’s opinion worth? And why was she telling her this?
“We’ve both worked long and hard for this, Sienne, and we’re finally finished with our research. We’ve changed others now. It’s working. Soon we’ll be able to go public and change even more. Together, we’ll put the world back to how it was, but we need you, Sienne. I need you. I just want to help you, if you’ll let me.”
Dr. Andrews had no idea what Sienne had done, and she didn’t feel like opening up. But others? If there were more like her, new betas, then maybe she could talk with them. See how they’re coping. See what they’re like. She sat up; Dr. Andrews jumped.
“I want to meet them,” Sienne said. “The others.”
“Of course, darling. And when you’re done, maybe you and I can sit and have a nice, long talk. I am a psychiatrist, after all, and I really do care about you. Can we do that?”
Sienne didn’t want to talk, not to Dr. Andrews. The woman was nice, but she had no idea what it was like. Still, if it could help her... Did she even want help? “Sure,” she said. “Why not?” But she knew she would keep some secrets until the day she died. Again.