Home > Time's Mirror (The Chronos Files #2.5)(4)

Time's Mirror (The Chronos Files #2.5)(4)
Rysa Walker

I peer through the goop, searching for Deb, even though I know she’s not here. Wherever this place is, it’s nothing like the hospital where she had her tonsils removed last fall.

The next time I wake up, the medallion is missing. That's when I realize the goo I've been lying in isn't really green. It was just reflecting the light from the pendant. The room still seems to have a faint green glow, but the vivid light is gone.

There’s no pain when I’m inside the tub of goo. There's only boredom when I’m awake and nightmares when I sleep. Nightmares where I’m falling into the dark. Nightmares where the girl with my face crawls out of that hole. And this time, the rock is in her hand.

People come into the room twice a day and pull me out of the tub. There's plenty of pain on the outside. Sometimes, a machine runs a thin wire along the bottom of my foot or performs one of the dozens of other tortures in its routine. Then back into the boring goop I go.

I prefer the boredom at the beginning, because the pain is intense. But after a while—weeks? months?—even pain is better than just lying here staring at the ceiling. That's about the time someone decides the goop is now only for nighttime. Only for sleep.

During the day, I sit on a bed that looks very much like a normal hospital bed. Rails on the side, but the bed seems to respond to my movements. When I lean backward, it reclines. When I try to sit up, it helps me. And it’s softer, conforming to my body.

I don’t remember eating when I spent my days in the goop. But now that I’m out, they bring food several times a day and I eat and drink what they put in front of me. Except for the meat. They get the point after a day or two and start bringing me cheese and nuts. Mostly it’s healthy stuff, but one of them slipped me a square of chocolate last week. The next day, she asked if I wanted more. Said she'd get me a whole bar if I'd say something. If I’d answer their questions.

As bribes go, it's pathetic. Unless she's offering me a large bag of Cheetos and a cherry Slurpee with that chocolate bar, it's not even tempting.

I'll talk when I have something to say.

For the first few weeks, I tried really hard to convince myself that this is just a different country. That this is a high-tech Six Million Dollar Man kind of place, maybe somewhere in Europe or India. Most of the doctors and attendants I've seen are dark-skinned. Or at least darker than I am, even after summers at the pool. Hair color tells me nothing. There's every color of hair in the freakin' rainbow, often on the same person. Cyndi Lauper would feel right at home here. Some of the words they use are odd, but it’s definitely English.

The tattoo thingies are what finally force me to accept that I'm either not on Earth or I’m not in 1984. Most people have at least one of the tattoos, and nearly all of them move. One of the men who lifts me out of the goo-tub has an image of a little girl's face on the inside of his arm. When he caught me staring, he said it was his daughter when she was tiny. Said how nice it was to look at the picture now that she's all grown up. He tapped the image and then twisted his arm around so that I could see the video that hovered about two inches above his skin…that same little girl dancing in a tutu.

The tutu looks a lot like the one I wore six or seven years ago when I thought ballet was cool. But everything else in this place is pure Star Wars.

I think maybe they use the tattoos as telephones, too, because one guy touched his and then started talking about something that didn't have anything at all to do with my therapy. Acted like I wasn’t even in the room, but I couldn’t hear anyone else talking.

Once I'm somewhat mobile, they start moving me over to the windows, into the sunshine. The Washington Monument off in the distance confirms that I’m still in DC, but the layout of the city seems different. Less green space. More water.

The attendant comes in once I’m settled and drops the flat black rectangle into my lap again. It’s about the size and shape of a Pop-Tart. Probably another of their psych tests. No thanks. I push it aside and close my eyes, just as I did yesterday and the day before.

"Come on," she says, coaxing my head back toward the front. "You need something to keep your mind clicking. Why stare at the wall all day? You can game. Or read. Watch a vid. Just blink twice and then nav with your eyes."

She leaves the Pop-Tart thingamajig in my lap this time, and after a while, I start playing around with it. It's frustrating as hell at first, but eventually a transparent screen sort of pops up in front of me. It reminds me of how the hologram of Princess Leia shows up when Luke presses the button on R2-D2…it’s there, but you can still kind of see through it. The music selection totally sucks and there aren't any games I recognize on the menu, but a few shows seem interesting. Sort of like soap operas, except they keep pausing at key moments, waiting for me to make a choice. Should Daura confess to Elon? Should Abro return the levbar he took from Sam? This would be a lot more fun with Deb around to make fun of their accents and clothes and bad acting, but it passes the time.

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