this isn’t IHOP and I’m not supposed to be a pancake

“So what are we going to do now, May? Just watch your feet as you pace around your room like one of those caged animals at a circus? Just hold your arms out and touch the chilled stone walls as you contemplate these being the walls of your early grave? Are we going to- damn, I must be losing my mind if I’m talking to myself.” I’d awoken today to find whatever machines and wires had littered my room in my blurry stupor yesterday gone, leaving only me and my upraised stone slab to keep myself company. “Maybe this place is a mental institution, and we’ve all been insane in the brains for a while now? But then wouldn’t I have noticed something was wrong? Other than Emma healing much faster than a normal human and nobody really noticing the unnaturalness of it… but then again, Emma has wings, so something must have happened to her like Maxine and Constance and the others somewhere along the line that she isn’t telling us about…”

“Actually-” I jolted around behind me, wide-eyed in surprise at the disheveled-haired girl who’d somehow gotten into my room a few feet away from me- “it was supposed to be retribution for refusing to sign the authorization papers letting the people mucking around with the time machines use her research for making hybrids like me.”

“You- who are you-”

The girl extended a hand, obviously not afraid of me, and I could see that she had butterfly-like wings on her back, a departure from whatever twisted ‘normal’ I’d reached. “I’m Algeria Radine-Fisher. You don’t know me- well, I suppose I do, if you think about it a certain way…”

Not wanting to appear rude, I took her hand and shook it a few times, secretly relieved when her arm dropped back at her side. “So, Algeria, why are you here? HOW are you here? I mean, the door’s locked, and I didn’t hear it open at all…”

Unperturbed by my questions, she answered, “It’s easy, but I won’t tell you, since that’s for you to learn how to do by yourself.” Even in my confusion, I was able to retake the hand stretched before me again. “A’ight, I’m going to show you something now.”

“Like that teleportation thing you used in getting in my room? Didn’t you just say that I had to learn how to do that by myself?”

“No, something different.” And then, I kid you not, she moved in closer, wrapped her arms under my shoulders, and just stared flying out of the room like she could invalidate all known laws of nature in one sweeping motion and pass through matter. The stone building seemed to slip away from us, and I felt like a dead soul being carried up to my afterlife as we went higher and higher into the ever blue.

“Algeria. what’s going on? Why- why am I up so high- put me back, I don’t want to be a pancake-”

She stopped ascending and hovered, trying to regain a stable hold of me since I was squirming so much. “Shush, May. Stop wriggling and look down.”

“That’s what I’m trying to avoid doing, Algeria; I’m afraid of heights-”

“I know, and I don’t care. Call me a sociopath if you like, or whatever the correct word is. I never had much schooling.” The completely serene tone in her voice, like I wasn’t at the mercy of an unknown who could condemn me to being a human pancake with a single gesture of the arms, just made the whole situation more tense. “But look, May, look at all the buildings and people you can see from here.”

I took a chance and looked down, my brain probably making the situation a thousand times more terrifying once I saw the sheer distance that we were from stable ground. “Please put me down, Algeria.”

“No, May, look. You can practically see all of Soona Bris from here.”

“Soona Bris- we’re on Earth, aren’t we?”

“Yeah. You’re situated in the exact room I was born in. Well, ‘born’ I’m using loosely as I came out of an artificial uterus, but you get the point. Look at all the buildings, May. You can see the Lab from here- hey! You can see the residential districts from here!- but there must be at least a million people within our view, May, and you’re in control of every one of them.”

I slowly craned my head upwards to stare Algeria right in the eyes, an expression of complete horror forming itself on my face. “Are you completely out of your mind!?

“No, I’m serious, May. These past few months, ever since May- hey, that’s your name!- you’ve been inside your own mind. I couldn’t for the life of you tell you what’s been going on in the outside, since I’m a part of your thought process, too.” I could feel the constant beat of her wings keeping her hovering, and somehow knew that she’d have to put me down soon. “But you’ve got to leave soon, May. You can’t be an island forever… people are, no doubt, missing your mental presence…”

“Algeria,” I firmly stated, trying to calm down even though my muscles were clenching up worse than ever, “please put me down.”

“A’ight. I’ll put you back down now into your solitary confinement room. It wouldn’t do for you to become a pancake, anyways… we kind of need you alive for our own survival. I’d have thought that you’d have liked the momentary freedom, seeing as you’re always grounded and secretly dreaming about being able to fly yourself…”

We started to slowly lose altitude. “There’s a difference between imagining yourself doing something and someone forcing you to experience it in real life, Algeria. A huge difference.”

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