a hand for trust and a hand for a trigger

no amount of scratching will bring the relief that Miranda seeks
an undoing of what the blue pill has brought to him
an escape from the shreds of reality that now pervade every waking moment
catching him in the eye of a tornado

he lies next to a girl smelling of mint and desperation
clearly content to lay here for the rest of his days
surrounded by arms of loving and longing
with no fears of the danger days to come

his head is resting against his seatbelt
as he speeds away from a future he does not want to chase
but the grim reaper has no limits to his returns
and no boundaries that bind him

and the scene takes a turn straight off a cliff
as his chest burns and heaves for basic sustenance he cannot seek
and the one who always claimed that he wanted to be the best opening scene ever
is behind the close of the curtains

…to blue I fade

Snowy garden with statue

Miranda’s feet treaded cautiously across the still-frosty ground as Anders took his hand and led him down the cracked sidewalk framed by little tufts of color. Upon Anders’ request, today had been cleared of any procedural work, and all but a few of the staff, staying only for emergencies, had been authorized to go home for the weekend and relax.

“So, love, how do you feel today?” Anders had woken up a few hours before Miranda and had appeared at his bedside in a light winter coat with a slightly smaller one in his hands, entreating Miranda to come with him for a walk in the newly-planted gardens after a light meal.

“Well, for starters, I’m not really feeling the love thing.” A light breeze brushed the blooms of a few flowers, sending a tuft of snow into Miranda’s hair as if to adorn it with an ethereal flower of its own.

“That’s okay. Love should come in its own time.” Anders stooped down and brushed the snow off the head of a candy red crocus plant, flaming against its void background like a solitary drop of blood onto snow- and Miranda had to take a few steps back and shake his head to clear his mind of the image of blood on his own fingers reaching up into the sky. “Is something wrong, love?”

“No, Anders, I’m just fine.” He got up off the ground and the two continued their walk among the orange blooms and purple stocks. The next five minutes were spent in silence between the two with only a few animals daring to escape the clutches of hibernation to distract them from the high pitch of perceived silence, and when they came to the crossroads with one road splitting off into the exercise yard and the other turning off to the normal sidewalk, Anders slipped a small engagement box out of his pocket and handed it to a stunned Miranda.

“Take it,” he insisted among Miranda’s sputtering protestations.

“But- don’t you think- that we should at least, you know, have some sort of feelings for each other before getting married? Is this really the right time?”

“This is a different kind of proposal.” Miranda took the box with a trembling hand and opened it, only to be met with a small blue pill instead of a diamond ring. “Instead of binding you to me through marriage, which I will no doubt do later after many dates and months have passed, I’m setting you free in another way. Taking this pill will allow you to have your correct memories back.”

Miranda took the pill between two slender fingers and held it up to his eyes, examining all the small azure beads it contained. “But if I was created, shouldn’t I have none other than what I experienced already?” And as he muttered these words, he knew that this assumption was untrue- he’d envisioned a seventh grade science classroom upon his first awakening and snippets of some sort of tragedy scattered throughout his time here. The pill slipped through his lips under his own volition without further thought, and the acute tang of blueberries pervaded all the way down his throat. “No matter. But for your own sake, Anders, I sure hope that wasn’t poison.”

beating still

Anders sank into the worn armchair facing the fireplace, blazing with simulated flames as outside was starting to thaw out with typical spring wetness and making the whole building feel like the dog days of summer wasn’t on his list of things to do today. “Giles, please go get Argentina. She should be much more docile this time around.”
“Yes, Master Shew.” Giles departed from the suite and returned five minutes later with one melancholy Argentina, presenting herself with none of the bravado that she’d so fiercely displayed on their last encounter. Her locks of black hair drooped from her head, almost like they were as devoid of rage as their owner was, but it was more of an emptiness than an actual sadness.
“Welcome back to the world of the living, Argentina.” Anders pushed himself to the edge of his seat and gestured for her to sit down on the ragged footrest that the chair came with. “I assume that you got a quality rest last night.”
She shrugged. “Sure. If you want to call it that. Why am I here? And I don’t just mean this room. I mean all-” she waved around the room- “of this place. Why’d Giles just randomly kidnap me one day? And what’s the purpose of the wings? And why was Miranda downstairs, anyways?”
“I hope that you’ll forgive me for not being able to tell every single detail to you yet. Your wings are deadly like this so that you’ll learn to be gentle and without the jerky motions like your predecessors have, and I’m not completely sure why Miranda felt it necessary to go down and interrupt my project. Speaking of Miranda, I’m sure that you’ll be pleased to know that she quite dislikes you now that you’ve gone and sliced her leg open. She’s in the recovery suite currently.”
“It was an accident!”
Anders undid his shirt buttons then, not bothering to answer Argentina’s protestations. As he shed the amaranth silk dayshirt and the patch on his chest was revealed, Argentina became more and more acutely aware of the second hand on the clock hanging on the wall ticking away, also unaware to her slowly leaning back in horror until she lost her balance and fell right before the flames with a yelp.
“I’m okay! Stay away from me!” she protested, refusing Anders’ hand reached out for help until he arose from his chair and pulled her back up himself. Shuddering, she moved to leave the room until Giles blocked the door and sent her back to her seat on the foot rest.
“We are almost done now, Argentina. I just need one more thing from you.”
“Get away from me, immortal fiend!”
“Feeling poetic today, aren’t you? Anyways, it’s my suite. I’m the only one with authority to send people away.” He crossed his legs as Giles put his hands on Argentina’s shoulders to restrain her. “While your heart rate is up, I want you to think about every single thing you loved about Samhain. Her fluffy blonde head of hair, perhaps? The way she softened out your hard edges and rubbed your flaws raw?” A small flit of satisfaction streaked through him as her jaw clenched and Giles increased his own grip. “Just focus on that for a few minutes. Let the anger simmer, and when Giles feels that it’s been long enough, he’ll take you back downstairs to your place in the dorms and you’ll have the rest of the day to yourself.”

to red I rise…

Anders should have known from the very moment that Giles accompanied two guards up to his private quarters that he should have ordered a passcode put on the isolation tank. He’d been woken up just fifteen minutes earlier by the sound of his phone ringing to alert him that Rena was cavorting around the place in search of clothes and freedom, and clearly clothes took a higher priority as she was apprehended in a changing closet a few hours later clutching the outfit that had once belonged to Miranda.
“Master Shew, where do you want AT-679 taken to?” Giles inquired at the front doors to the private suite, offhandedly shooing away the extra hordes of staff who’d followed the three up the stairs in curiosity. “Preferably somewhere that isn’t loaded with expensive stuff.”
“Just follow me, Giles.” Anders stepped out of his room and led the convoy all the way back down the stairs and to the south wing, where he found the interrogation room and gestured for Rena to be thrown in on one side of the glass. When Giles and the two who had kept Rena immobile sauntered away, he entered and assumed a standing position on the interrogator’s side.
“So, Argentina, it’s good to finally see you back on the side of the living,” he taunted, gazing at her desperately trying to open the door she’d so disgracefully gone through. “There’s no point trying to escape. That door won’t open unless either Giles or I send the command to.”
At the sound of his voice, she stopped wrestling with the door handle and stood up dead straight, glaring directly at Anders. “You’re alive?”
He spread his arms out like a parent lovingly welcoming his child home. “Are you impressed? I’ve managed to outsmart death.”
“Not particularly,” she answered, although her hardset jaw and clenched fists betrayed the contrary. “So about your servant… did you play with his life too, or did he come like that?”
“Giles is a good friend of mine who is helping with the more mundane tasks of running this place in exchange for me saving his life in a campus fire, among a few other catastrophes that warrant longer stories than I have time for. I hold him in quite high esteem, and I’d prefer for your own sake that you don’t trashtalk him.”
“I’ll do what I want, thank you very much.”
“Alright then. You’re acting strangely calm for somebody who clearly wants to kill me.” She took a few steps back, murder still in her eyes but not to the point of raging against the bulletproof glass separating the two. “Maybe your time-out did you some good after all. I no longer see a wannabe assassin-for-hire in front of me. Or was it the illusion of an anarchist? I never could tell the difference.”
“Is there a point to this, or are you just going to flaunt the fact that you’re not dead and that I’m helpless to change anything about that?”
“Tamahagane doesn’t destroy thick sheets of glass, unfortunately. Please sit down, Argentina. I have the feeling that this will be highly detrimental to your ego, and I wouldn’t want any injuries from falling unexpectantly.”
When Argentina had settled herself on the floor, probably contemplating her quickly-crumbling plan for avenging Samhain, Anders adjusted the shirt that he’d sloppily thrown on in the rush to get dressed and cracked his knuckles. “So you already know that I had an interest in using Samhain for experimental purposes, although they would be infinitely more humane than the people you were running from would have treated her. I never liked those people, to be honest, them being part of the original staff here before I became more involved. I would like to think that the treatment of people under my charge here are treated better than they would have been had they been created back in 2012.”
“So throwing a teenage girl into isolation is supposed to be humane?”
“I’m still working out the little kinks. But if you had been here back in the previous overseer’s reign, you’d have been subject to surgeries and brutal endurance tests with only a cheap and cold steel cage to go back to at the end of the day. Switching to a dorm system is much less of a stressor on everybody here, and then they can perform much better. And we’re getting better all the time.”
“Uh huh… And knowing that I’m going to choke the living hell out of you as soon as I possibly can, why are you telling me all of this?” Argentina’s face had softened a little bit, and for a brief moment, she could have almost been the innocent sophomore she used to be.
“Because you seek release from the pain of Samhain’s death, and I happen to have some right here. Is there any way that I can make that any clearer?” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a clear plastic bag with a single crimson pill in it, crouching and holding it to Argentina’s eye level. “If I slide this into the slot on the floor, will you take it without a fight?”
“What does it do?”
“It will provide the peace you’ve been seeking without killing you.”
“And how can I trust that you’re not just giving me cyanide in pretty colors to kill me?”
“That’s the beauty of it.” Anders slid the little packet into Argentina’s side of the room. “You don’t know that you can trust me. You get to make that decision all your own.”
She picked up the packet with one slender hand, only contemplating the matter at hand for a moment before taking the pill out and swallowing it whole. Anders’ throat lurched a bit as she coughed from the potent berry flavor that he’d infused along with his special mix of drugs, and she wiped her chin as he pulled out his phone and called for Giles to escort her to an unassigned bunk and keep her there for the rest of the day.

hatch

Unlike the last time that Miranda had gone downstairs to see Rena, which was admittedly the only time, he was traveling under his own will in the hallways, solitary albeit for a few caretakers going through the halls and making sure that the building was ready for the breakfast rush. Normally, Miranda would be accosted by one of them and sent back to the dorms, but since accepting Anders’ proposition, she’d been promoted to almost queen status. Anders, however, had fallen asleep strewn across his bed the night before in unkinglike fashion after a brief dip in the bathtub and had clocked out without waiting for Miranda to join him. Not that the two would have done anything that required an early bedtime… Anders was probably just having a migraine and needed to take a break from the world.

Heading to the same heavy doors as he’d graced before, this time armored with socks and a daytime outfit that featured pants warm enough for the drafts of January, he looked over his shoulder every three seconds to make sure that a curious caretaker wasn’t following him so that there would be no unplanned disturbances. When facing the heavy iron doors at the bottom, slightly rounded and imposing a deep gloom, he slipped the card that would grant him clearance out of his bra where he’d hidden it and sneaked it into the slot on the wall. No sounds were made as the doors rushed open and promptly closed behind him.

“That’s strange. Rena, where are you?” None of the bunks contained anybody, much less a disheveled freak of circumstance, and Miranda stashed the card back in his bra. “It’s me, Miranda. Anders doesn’t-”

At the mention of Anders, a prominent thunk resounded from the left, and he spun around only to find the isolation tanks as peaceful as they’d been before… at least for a few minutes spent anxiously until the thunk happened clearly again from the tank on the far left. “Oh, Rena… so you’re a detractor. I’ll let you out.”

Miranda was answered with a few quieter taps on the walls, as if to say a thank you in lieu of screaming. As the silence cleared up again, he apprehensively made his way over to Rena’s pod, stepping as quietly as possible so that anybody who was standing at the top of the stairs wondering what was about to happen would just assume that Rena was failing at an escape attempt. You know, I have no idea how to unlock this thing… Do I twist the blue lever? Or do I push the green button first? Shouldn’t this thing have an instruction manual or at least a sticker stating what to do? He tapped lightly on the green button flashing on the little touchscreen, figuring that it was a good start, and then yanked on the blue handle loosely bolted to the pod.

Rena bulleted out from her wet captivity the moment that the lid clicked to unlock, and Miranda’s attempts to grab some appendage of hers to keep her from dashing upstairs completely naked resulted in one of her wings getting caught on his right leg and slicing the pants open, leaving a gash in her wake as she pulled free.

“Oh… sorry about that,” Rena whispered, looking back at Miranda crumpled up on the floor curled around his leg, around which blood was starting to drip. “I’m not exactly the most coordinated yet.”

Miranda gritted his teeth, averting his gaze from the injury to Rena’s lackadaisical face. “Bloody hell, Argentina.

“Yeah- wait, what?” Her arms dropped from searching the door for an escape that didn’t include the clearance card. “Are you serious?”

Miranda slipped the card out with a shaking hand and slid it to Rena, who eagerly accepted it. “I meant Rena. I don’t know where Argentina came from. Just please get some help down here.” With that, Rena bounded up the stairs to the vocal panic of everybody on that floor- but Miranda knew from the glint in Rena’s eyes that no help would be sent his way anytime soon.

void, part two

If this was death, then death was probably the most boring thing I had ever experienced aside from the regulations lecture every class on the first day of school and listening to my brothers scream at each other over video games at the dinner table. Granted, the newness of the classroom was enough to distract me from the routine dissemination of… well, routines, and I ate quickly enough on most days to leave before the dumping of irrelevant information about shoddily-made TV shows fried my brain. There was no possible escape from the slow numbing of my limbs hidden in the blue porcelain walls of this prison unless I was willing to create chaos with an audience of one.

Every few minutes, some recurring internal sound at the edge of my consciousness that beckons me to return to reality intrudes on a few unlucky shards of light and sends it scattering, although a mere sound should not have such an effect on pure energy. Maybe the whole universe has ceased to exist outside of this pod, and I’m the only human being left, doomed to float ceaselessly among the stars without hope of release or even seeing the wonders laid out all around me. But if I was trapped in a void, wouldn’t everything float equally?

not your lover either

Anders’ wake-up call came a little gentler this time, being that Giles found him curled up around Miranda with the sheets tossed haphazardly around the two. Miranda’s sleeping face was still the same incredulous expression that he’d accepted Anders’ proposition of partnership with two days ago, although Giles still suspected that Miranda would take a far longer time to even consider any vestige of marriage than it had taken to relent to the insisting pleas of the master.

“Master Shew? It’s time to get on with the day. Detatch from your lover and get dressed.” Giles ruffed up Anders’ hair a bit, eliciting a groan from both of the sleeping duo and forcing Anders to roll his way out of bed. “Good morning, purveyor of hearts.”

“Curator might be a better word choice.” Miranda accepted the reality of the dawning day and slipped out in her crumpled nightgown as Anders pulled himself up using a bar on the footboard. “And that’s if I ever do manage to catch a heart and keep it safe long enough to call it mine.”

“Don’t count on it… um… you know, I don’t know your first name. It’s all ‘Master Shew’ this and that.” Miranda waved his arms around for effect, almost knocking a silver compass off of its precarious stand on the dresser. “Pretty sure actual lovers know the names of the person they’re supposed to love.”

“My name’s Anders. Hopefully that doesn’t ring a few bells.”

A faint chill slipped down Miranda’s spine, but he chalked it up to a faulty vent somewhere in the room.”Okay, then, Anders, what’s the plan going to be today?” His eyes drifted between the other two males in the room, both looking slightly uneasy at Miranda’s unconventional appearance. What exactly were they supposed to expect of the morning behaviors of someone neither man nor woman? “What about that Rena person? Remember when I was supposed to be seeing her every day or something? Why’d it stop?”

Giles stepped forward to unlock the door, and he led the two towards the winding staircase downstairs. Anders reached for Miranda’s hand, and he sped up to avoid taking it. “She’s currently in an isolation tank, and she’ll come out when she’s ready to be a much more interesting subject. Whining and angsting all day are not my favorite things to observe.”

“So you just dumped her in there… because she wasn’t doing anything? Aren’t those reserved for people who have actually managed to cause trouble?” Miranda’s fingers slid along the chilled ghostly marble of the staircase railings, which had clearly more effort and money put into making them special for Anders.

“Rena might as well be one of the detractors. She’s sapping up resources that we would rather spend on getting ready for spring and somehow also harassing those assigned to keeping her isolated from the rest of the group. Minnesota is getting surprisingly warmer, considering it was Antarctica a week ago, and I’d prefer to not have to put up another glass dome over the place. Something always breaks when you put teenagers and glass together.”