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Imaginary Fiend Chapter 3 (preview)

August 2, 2017

Rose couldn’t believe it. It was finally happening. This was really, finally going to happen. Eight pain drenched years in this cold steel hell were finally coming to an end. And It had been hell, but it was almost over. Doctor Poer had been the one to bring her into this forsaken ground, this cold, clinical nightmare. He had been the one to drag her down into hell with him, but now, he was the one leading the expedition. He was the one heading for the exit, the one holding the door, the one who had found the tunnel. He had brought her here, and now he would get her out. He would escape, and she would be right behind him.

She would be free, in just a few more days. Just a few more days of this torture, this torment. A few more days of being these scientist’s plaything. Just a few more odious days, and freedom would be hers.

She was so close. So close, she could almost taste it.

Oh my, but you do seem happy today,” the woman observed, taking note of the girl’s unusually tranquil demeanour. “Did something happen to our budding rose?”

No,” the girl replied.

Oh? But you seem so calm.”

I’m always calm,” the girl dismissed.

Of course you are, but now you seem… different somehow. I can sense it within you. Before, you were only calm on the surface. Now… I don’t know.”

“I’m just happy that Megan’s back.”

“Megan?” the older woman echoed. “Now why should you care about her?”

“I don’t know,” Rose replied. “I suppose I sort of… missed her. I’m glad that she’s back. I’m glad that she’s okay again, back to herself.”

“I had no idea you two were so close. I didn’t know you were even friends.”

“Neither did I. She came to see me so often. I guess she just grew on me… like a fungus.”

“You mean Poer sent her. To check up on you? To spy on you?”

“No. I thought that at first too, but it turns out he didn’t send her at all. Megan wanted to visit me, and so she did.”

“You mean it was her idea all along? Interesting… I didn’t expect this.” The woman’s face cracked open in a sneer. “The fool Poer has clearly given his little puppy too long a leash. I wonder why she would be so interested in you though. From where does this curiosity stem? Jealousy, perhaps?”

Rose quirked her brow. “Why should she be jealous of me?”

A good question. With everything that Poer has given her, why should she envy you? I can only speculate that you have the one thing she yet craves.”

And what would that be?”

The illustrious Dr Poer’s undivided attention.”

You think he still wants me? He has a younger, cuter model.”

Yet he still fawns over you.”

He… I wasn’t aware.”

Well, he’s the kind of man who prefers to stay behind the scenes, not one to get his hands dirty. What’s the word for it, coward? In any case, I wouldn’t expect you to notice, but Megan is quite good at picking up on these things.

Interesting. I thought she’d have ensnared him completely… perhaps her failure in that regard has left her feeling insecure.”

Is that the only possibility?” Rose asked. Did the younger girl really resent her? As annoying as she was, Megan was the closest thing Rose had to a friend. Had their relationship been spawned out of hatred and fear?

It was fitting, considering their home. Rose dropped her gaze, her heart sinking like a stone in the pool of her stomach. It made too much sense to be anything but the truth.

Perhaps it was too much to hope for after all, that the younger girl might actually want her friendship. The thought almost stung, in a dull kind of way…

Wait, Rose pondered, why did she care? Was she actually disappointed by such a possibility? Did she actually need Megan’s visits after all? Was she truly so vulnerable? Was she so starved for companionship?

Rose had never wanted Megan’s friendship, nor did she offer her own in return. When did that change? Could Megan have picked up on the subconscious vibrations in her brain that even Rose wasn’t aware of?

The Doctor was right… Megan was good.

Of course,” the scientist reasoned, “this is all speculation. Maybe Megan didn’t get to know you for her own reasons, to quell her own feelings of inadequacy. Perhaps it was Poer after all. Perhaps it was simply as I thought… that he sent her to spy on you, to watch you, to turn you back in his direction. Soften you up, break the ice, so to speak… not that being used that way wouldn’t lead to said feelings of inadequacy anyway… I think that makes much more sense, don’t you?”

No,” Rose countered. Megan had come of her own accord, of her own free will. She befriended Rose because she wanted to, not because Poer forced her. It had to be, it was. Rose knew it.

Oh?” Kayla asked. Her brow perking. “What are your thoughts on this?”

Megan didn’t see me because she was being sent. The Doctor didn’t even ask her. She wanted to see me. She wanted to be my friend. She called me her sister. That was all her.”

What makes you say that? I mean… I know it sounds nicer than the alternative… but–“

It’s true,” Rose confirmed.

And why do you believe that? How do you know Poer didn’t send her? Who told you? Did he tell you that himself? Because that’s the only way you could know for sure, and even then,” the older woman smirked, “he was probably lying. He’s good at that, lying. He does it all the time. To me, to you, to Megan, even to himself…” Her smirk deepened. “Especially to himself.”

He wasn’t lying,” Rose defended. “It was the truth, I know it.”

So it was him. He told you himself… now, when did he do that, hmm?”

Rose looked away, keeping silent. She didn’t even notice as Kayla approached her. She felt the woman’s hands on her, felt the warm, soft skin of her fingers upon her cheek and under her chin.

Kayla directed the girl’s face gently upward, bringing it forward, straight. She stared into the girl’s eyes. Her lip curled in a rare smile. Not one of her patented cold sneers, but a genuine smile. It was a rare moment of warmth. The woman wasn’t known to have them often, but she did have them. She wasn’t playing politics now, this was for real. Her entire demeanour had changed, shifted. Rose knew, she could trust her. She had to trust her.

I know I’m hard on you sometimes,” the woman spoke, “but that’s only because I want you to progress, to fulfil your purpose and make the director proud. You don’t want to know what happens to test subjects who fall into obsolescence. Those who are considered unviable specimens for further research are disposed of and given new stations most befitting them. That is truly a terrible fate, and a beautiful young thing like you… I’d hate to see you broken by such cruelty.

I want to help you, but you have to let me. Tell me what’s going on. When did Oliver Poer speak to you, and what did he say? What’s going on? Whatever it is,” she pressed, “I can help.” The woman spoke softly, as she occasionally did when it was just the two of them. I will help you, I promise. Okay?”

O-okay,” Rose finally answered.

Now, let’s start with Poer. Did he come by and see you?”

Yes.”

Just the once, or…?”

It was more than once.”

And what did he say? What does he want from you?”

He hasn’t asked anything from me, only my forgiveness, and my trust.”

Forgiveness? What is there to forgive?”

It’s not like I was actively holding a grudge… not exactly, but he feels responsible, for bringing me here. For abandoning me.”

Well, it is his fault,” Kayla reasoned. “And when was the last time you saw him?”

He was here today. He told me his plan.”

Plan? For what?” Suddenly, the scientist’s voice changed back to the stern tonality that it so frequently exhibited. Kayla could be soft and kind when she wanted, but evidently, the conversation had taken a turn in a serious direction, and she had turned instantaneously from nurturing carer to the strict authoritarian she was commonly known as. “What’s he going to do, Rose? I need to know, it’s important.”

He… he’s leaving.”

Kayla didn’t respond right away. She remained silent, lost in thought. Her smile never faltered, the warm glow remained in her eye.

Rose wasn’t sure why she was telling the woman this. Poer seemed to regard her as some kind of enemy, but he didn’t know her, not like Rose did. He hadn’t seen her good side.

Somehow, the girl knew. Kayla wouldn’t stand in their way, she might even be willing to help. She’d said it herself. Rose’s usefulness here was coming to an end. When the girl ceased yielding positive results, the scientists would have no further use for her as a guinea pig. Rose didn’t know what would await her after that, but Kayla had hinted at it numerous times, and from what she’d heard of it… Rose had to assume it was a fate worse than death. Kayla was the last person who wanted to see that befall her, especially after all they’d been through.

They’d bonded. Kayla was like her mother. She could be cold, cruel, and distant… just like her real mother, but she wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to her, not if she could help it, and she would help, wouldn’t she?”

What will you do?” Rose asked her. “Will you report this?”

No… if Poer wishes to run away, that’s his business. I don’t think much of the wretch to be honest, but maybe I can use this… tell me, he intends to take you with him, doesn’t he?”

Yes. Will you help us? Will you come with us?”

I can’t go where you’re going, but I can certainly help you get there. After all, what kind of person would I be if I stood between you and your fate? The experiments on you have been scheduled less and less frequently, and with frequently less optimistic outcomes. I’m sure you know what that means. You cannot continue to stay in this room for much longer. I can’t protect you anymore, but I can help you get to where you’re supposed to be. I can help you get exactly what you deserve.”

So you will help us?”

Kayla smiled once more, that rare, warm, motherly smile. Her hand moved to gently tuck a loose strand of scarlet hair behind the girl’s pale ear.

Rose couldn’t help the grin of relief that erupted across her face. Eyes closed, she embraced the woman who had been both so kind, and so cruel to her. It was a rare display of emotion.

Rose wrapped her arms around the woman’s body, hugging her tight. Kayla in turn reciprocated the embrace, holding the girl close, if only briefly, before gently pulling out of Rose’s grasp. She looked her in the eye.

This is what a mother was supposed to be.

The warmth never once leaving her lips, Kayla spoke, her voice soft and feminine, a tone reserved for when it was just the two of them.

Tell me everything.”

 

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