I woke up this morning with a creak in my back and someone murmuring in their sleep about donuts. It’s always the same person too- whoever sleeps in the far corner right next to the door. Or where the door would be if we hadn’t taken almost all of them out already. Kinda hard to rush in and out in an emergency if wood is flapping everywhere, and it’s not like we’ll ever need to use them to hide from Amelia and her goons.
Breakfast was standard. Half a bagel and a few gallons of water divided between the three communal sleeping rooms and passed around for everybody to share. Those who had managed to trade or pilfer their way to plastic cups got to fill theirs first before everyone else had to resort to trying to get the makeshift water filter to work. It wasn’t much. It’s never enough. The higher-ups in the Miralayan government have more security to guard their rations, and as much as most of us hate being here, we aren’t willing to make normal people who did nothing to us starve.
Sully gave me a double portion this morning. I looked at her confused, wondering why I, nowhere near being the leader, would get more food than everybody else- and then I remembered. Liv wouldn’t be able to get into the food line and get her own ration. I’d left her there in the prison room all by herself with nothing to do but reevaluate her life decisions and maybe struggle into sleep.
In all fairness, if the roles were reversed for some godforsaken reason, she’d probably have done the same.
I thanked Sully and hurried down to the prison room, nodding to the two people stationed outside the opening before brushing past them and sliding up the dimmer just enough to see her. Her eyes were staring up at the ceiling, not blank but certainly not anywhere near here. A clean pot sat right beside her mattress. At the very least, it didn’t smell.
She groaned, just barely audible. I set the half-bagel on the edge of the mattress before sliding the whole thing against the wall and propping her up so she sat upright. Her limbs dangled like a dead doll’s. And her eyes… I can’t properly describe them. Like all the fight had gone out of her. Like she’d given up.
That wasn’t the Liv I knew. Miralay must have broken her like it almost broke me.
Oh, to be back on Earth again, enjoying summer without a single care in the world…
“Eponine…” she moaned, her eyes seeing right through me. I know I was practically invisible in Heavestone, but somehow that horrid gaze made me even more transparent, nonexistent. “How…”
“How’s Miralay?” Of course that would be the first thing on her mind. Not her own well-being, not what my plans involving her were, not even a simple ‘good morning’. “We haven’t been briefed yet. Wait a few hours. Maybe someone will be gracious enough to tell you.”
Damn. When did I get so cold? This isn’t the me I know.
Mars has a relatively weak atmosphere. Nighttime temperatures regularly reach negative temperatures that would almost instantly kill a human. And I’m a Miralayan. The frost is in my blood.
I picked up the donut and held it to her lips, expecting her to make some feeble attempt to nibble away at it, but instead she shook her head and rejected it. I set it back down on the mattress, hoping that maybe she’d want it later, and took her right hand and began massaging her fingers, opening and closing and opening her fist again and again.
The same barely-there voice as before. “What are you doing?”
“Trying to get your blood flowing.” I moved on to her right leg then. Her toes twitched a little bit from my touch as I tried to get her limbs to stop being stone, to display some signs of life. Her skin hadn’t yet turned pallid, but then again, it had only been twelve hours.
Clearly I’m not a medical professional.
“Why?” She strained her face, probably trying to move her limbs. In the five stages of grief, she was probably still on denial.
“Because…” I sighed and pulled away from her. I wiped my forehead with the sleeve of my plainclothes- whoever did laundry runs for the forgotten sector had my outfit crumpled up somewhere in their bag. Hopefully they wouldn’t wash it with the whites. And I know this is going to sound self-righteous as hell, but I said- “Because the best way to judge a man is by how he treats his inferiors.”
“Wha-” Liv coughed, her body threatening to sag to one side. She scowled at me as I straightened her out, like she was envisioning throwing my stone-cold heart into a microwave to watch it heat up and then explode. “I- I’m not your inferior! I’m not-”
“I pity you,” I blurted out. “Straight out of the sleeping pod with a life lived in an economy of souls where people constantly compete for attention and fame, and you immediately cling to the first thing that gives you an identity and purpose and power. I don’t blame you. I probably would have done the same thing.”
“Liv, you need to understand that your being the Providence doesn’t give you any special privileges here. Nobody is going to follow your command. Hell, I don’t even get to make most of the decisions here.” I glanced at the door, making sure that the guards were still there. “I’m not in control of whether you live or die. These people wouldn’t give a damn about your life if you didn’t hold value as a bargaining chip. The moment you become useless is the moment you die. If you value your life, you’ll cooperate with us. Even if it means not doing ‘what’s best for Miralay’.”
Her eyes narrowed at my air quotes. “What are you trying to say?”
“Cooperate with us or risk death.”
“I’d rather die than help you hurt Miralay.”
“I’ll forget you said that. Anybody else might not be so kind.”
I learned something valuable today. Liv is either incredibly stupid, suicidal, or intensely loyal, and I don’t know which one scares me more.
I went back to massaging her limbs, not caring about what Liv thought of me or how she pretended to be indignant or deluded herself into thinking that there was some chance of escape, of turning all of us over to Amelia to condemn us to the hellfire of the furnaces in lieu of an actual trial. Liv’s not worth my troubles, I know…
Maybe I should have gotten someone else to take care of her, diary. Someone who would have cared less, who would have forced her to eat the bagel and helped her change her clothes. But I left the room after checking if the pink was still in her extremities and forced myself to go on a walk down the lesser-used hallways of the sector to calm down.
I should probably close off the entry here. It’s almost meeting time. I’ll keep you updated, diary.