This place was so cold, so sterile, so lifeless. It hadn’t seemed quite so bad when he’d had Megan with him, but now… for the first time since Ollie had heard about his wife’s unfortunate end, he was truly alone.
How long had it been since they had taken Megan? Why had he let them? Sure, the girl had been using him, maybe even manipulating him, but he hadn’t realised until now just how much they both needed each other, how much he needed her, needed… someone, anyone. He couldn’t survive a place like this on his own, and he was risking his sanity by trying.
Then again, the state Megan had been in the last time he’d seen her, he doubted she could continue to ease his mind. She was traumatised by whatever Maybelle’s power had done to her, and Ollie couldn’t do a thing to help her. Sure, he could hold her and try to comfort her, but that wouldn’t solve the problem.
It was funny: the root was psychological, buried deep within. It was supposed to be his field of expertise… but there was nothing Ollie could do, nothing he could say. The psychiatrist was helpless, hopeless… useless. There was nothing… nothing he could do.
His only option had been to give the girl back to Rexl. At the time, he hadn’t been thinking clearly. He didn’t know what to think, what to do, so he simply agreed with Rexl’s greater wisdom.
He didn’t want to confront Megan with what he’d found out. He didn’t want to hear her deny that she’d been doing what the elder brother alleged. But worse than that, he didn’t want to hear her admit it. He couldn’t look at her, couldn’t talk to her. It was for the best that she go.
Thinking on it now he’d had time to reflect, it really had been the best option. Whatever Rexl did, ulterior motive and all, he was the only hope Megan had of reverting back to normal. Rexl was the only one with a chance of undoing whatever damage Maybelle had caused to the girl’s mind.
Rexl, her real father, had taken her back to do what Ollie couldn’t. Only Rexl could help his daughter now. That was more than could be said for Ollie. There was nothing the younger brother could do to help Maybelle, Megan had told him that.
He hadn’t listened, he’d pushed her aside and charged on anyway, determined to do something, determined to help her.
In the end, he hadn’t accomplished anything. He’d only made things worse. His actions had consequences, and Megan was the one who had been made to suffer because of them.
That was almost a week ago now.
Ollie had been unable to help Maybelle, and now he was just as unable to help Megan. He was useless.
That was four people now he had failed to protect. There had been four women in his life. His wife, his daughter, Megan, and Rose. Four people that were important to him, that had depended on him. Four people, four women, four girls.
And he had failed them all.
God… he was useless.
Megan hadn’t deserved to be subjected to that torture. She’d only wanted to help him reconnect with Rose, patch things up. Help him help her, and now: Here he was, right outside her door, unable to take the first step.
Ollie sighed, taking a deep breath. This was it. He opened the door and stepped inside.
The room was exactly as he remembered it. Chrome, clean, cold, and empty. The white lights shone overhead, reflecting blindingly on the walls and floor.
There she was, over on the far side of the room, facing away from him. It was amazing how much she had changed. She’d grown up. She looked to be a lot taller than the little girl he’d found stranded at the train station all those years ago.
Long red hair draped down the bare skin of her back. She was seated on the cold ground, her legs bent at the knee, fanned out beside her. Around either wrist was a metal ring, like a bracelet, but both bracelets were fitted with a long chain that ran across the room and into the ceiling, anchoring her to the centre of the room. The chains had slack enough to give her free roam of the chamber, but she was still trapped within it, unable to leave. She was tethered to her room, her cell, her prison.
Ollie supposed it was an improvement over how he’d last seen her, and the best he could hope for. At least she could actually move about the room. It was better than being secured to the wall. Though confined to this small space, Rose actually had more freedom than some of the other unfortunate subjects in this place, and she had more freedom than the psychiatrist had dared to hope for her.
Anything was better than seeing her strapped to that bed.
The man swallowed, slowly approaching the girl.
She sat in silence, her attention drawn to the only other object of interest in the otherwise monochromatic den of minimalism: A panel in the wall, a window to the outside world: a grey, dreary sky, and a rocky cliff-face obscuring the sea beyond, the sea of seperation, segregating their island paradise from the world of the sane.
Ollie opened his mouth to speak, but found he had lost his voice. What could he say to her? How should he begin? The girl continued to face away from him, not noticing his presence. She continued to sit in silence, continued to stare forlornly out the window. Staring at the outside world, at the freedom she would never know, never taste, never experience, and it was entirely Ollie’s fault.
Dammit, he needed Megan; she’d know what to do, she’d know how to break the ice, she’d know just what to say; she always knew what to say, but she wasn’t here; Ollie was alone, and that too, was entirely his fault.
“Are you lost?” the girl asked him, finally speaking up.
She had noticed him after all. Her voice was hoarse. She spoke without looking at him, her voice coming out in a low monotone, void of emotion, void of passion. In a word, she sounded… empty.
So different from when they’d first met, but as he thought on it, he realised it wasn’t so different from the last time they’d spoken. “It’s me…” Ollie spoke, “it’s—”
“I know who you are… doctor. What do you want? I know you didn’t come here for me.”
Her voice… it was so cold. “I… I wanted to see you… to see how you’re doing.”
“Why now, after all this time? Is one reunion not enough for you? Did your last encounter leave you hungry for more?
Ollie’s eyes widened. Was she referring to Maybelle? But how…? “How do you know about that?”
“She told me. She knows all about it, Doctor. She knows everything.”
Ollie ground his teeth as that woman, that scientist entered his mind. She had poisoned Rose against him back then, and apparently, she wasn’t yet finished. It’d be funny if it weren’t so tragic. She was acting as though the three of them were a broken family, as though they were a divorced couple, and Rose: their child, her tool to use against him. The deranged sadist made for such a vindictive ex-wife, Ollie could only hope that no man would ever fall victim to her for real.
“I don’t know what she’s told you, but—”
“You’re not thinking of lying to me, are you Doctor?”
“No… but you should know my side of the story. I’m sure Kayla gave you the gory details, but you need to hear the truth. You need to hear the objective, honest facts. I was coming to see you when I was side-tracked. I saw Maybelle, one of the other girls here. She was… she was in the middle of an intimate moment with one of the guards.”
“That’s nothing new; from what I hear, that one screws anything that moves… Funny then that you happened to cross her path.”
Ollie was taken aback. The girl almost sounded accusatory. “I know how it looks, but you have to believe me, my intentions were pure. That guard, he was taking advantage of her. I just wanted to put a stop to it. I had to protect her. I had to, because… she’s my daughter.”
He looked to Rose, trying to gauge her reaction, but she remained completely calm, motionless, silent. Did she already know about that as well?
“The director took her from me. He’s been holding her for ransom, using her as a hostage, using her against me, to control me.
“That’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed away, why I never came to check up on you, never came to see you… until now. I was worried about what he might do to Maybelle, but it’s obvious now that it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing else he can do to her, she’s already hit rock bottom.
“When I saw her with that brutish ape of a guard… I had to do something, I couldn’t just ignore it. I tried to intervene. I went in with a mind to stop it, but….”
“But then you decided to join in.”
“No! It’s not like that. She propositioned me, and I… she was in my mind, controlling my thoughts, using my own memories to manipulate me. She wanted me to submit to her, and she was willing to go to any lengths to ensnare me. She just wanted to use me as some kind of tool against the director.”
“For what purpose?”
“That’s the worst part. I don’t even know. I have no idea.”
Again, the girl was silent. What was she thinking? Was she even listening to him? Would she trust him? Could she trust him, or had Kayla, that red haired obstacle, indoctrinated her against him?
“Rose…” he began, “I can’t make you believe my version of events, I mean, I know how it sounds, and it’s not as though I have a recording I can show you, you’re just going to have to trust me. Rexl… the director ordered me to keep my distance, but I also had my own reasons for staying away. You told me to go, you chose her over me. Megan tried again and again to convince me otherwise, but I’ve always felt as though I had to honour your decision. I tried to put you out of my mind, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t help but feel responsible, like it was my fault.
“I’m the one who brought you here. I’m directly responsible for everything. I thought that was true at first, but now I’m not so sure. The more I think about it, the more I have to suspect that it was a set up. I was just a marionette being manipulated by some master puppeteer, just like you. Your mother abandoned you and left you in my path, at the exact place and time of my arrival. She just so happened to leave you where I would find you. It was all so convenient.
“The more I thought about it, the more I came to realise it. The whole thing was set up… by your father.”
Rose continued to stare out the window. She had no reaction to speak of. Did she believe him? Did she care? Was she even listening? Megan wouldn’t give up, even if it were hopeless… so neither could Ollie. He had to try his best. If nothing else, then for the brunette’s sake, for her memory.
“I’ve been looking into it, into you. It wasn’t easy, of course. Your records are even more scarce and heavily guarded than the other prisoners here, but I eventually found a lead. I rolled with it, and struck gold.
“I haven’t told anyone about any of this. You’re the first one to find out, the only one who knows.
“I did it, Rose, I found them. I found your mother. I’ve spoken with her. She didn’t want to give you up, she didn’t have a choice. She was being blackmailed. The director… Rexl forced her hand. The point is, she misses you. She wants you back.”
Rose was silent. No reaction whatsoever.
“Look, I don’t know what your thoughts are. I don’t know if you can forgive her for what she did, but she’s willing to take you in. She can give you a home, a real one, not like this prison. Nothing can take back the last ten years. What’s past is past, we can’t undo it. No one can change that, all we can do is put it behind us. We can push forward. You can go home. You can be free. You can have your life back.”
The girl said nothing. She wouldn’t even look at him. Ollie stood in silence, waiting. As the minutes passed, Ollie could feel his hope slipping, draining like the blood in his face, chilling his cheeks, void of warmth and colour. She wasn’t going for it. She wouldn’t take his bait. She didn’t bite at all, not even a nibble.
“Okay,” he sighed dejectedly, finally ready to give up. “I can understand why you might not trust me, but I just want to help. This is a chance, maybe the only one you’re going to get. It’s here if you want it. Just… think about it. At least consider it. I have a plan to get you out, to get you home. If you decide that’s worth the risk, then we can discuss it, and I promise to do everything I can to break you out of this hell. If not… then I won’t bother you again.”
Slowly, Ollie turned around and made for the door. He was halfway across the room when she called out to him.
Ollie froze mid-step. His lip turned up. It wasn’t a smile born so much from opportunity, as it was relief. He turned back to face her.
Rose remained in her seated position, but her attention was no longer devoted to the window. After all, why should she focus on an intangible image of freedom when her last known contact with the outside world was in the room with her, offering her the real thing: the key to her cage? She turned to face Ollie, meeting his gaze with a cautious eye, red, matching the colour of her hair. Red, like Megan’s had been. “Is that all true?” she asked.
“All of it.”
“She… she actually said that? She misses me?”
The girl’s voice seemed so hollow, as though she were trying not to get her hopes up, trying to distance herself from the feeling, pushing it away to ensure that it wouldn’t hurt her, to ensure that it wouldn’t raise her up, only to drop her, to let her fall, to leave her broken, alone, vulnerable.
It was sad that she felt she had to protect herself from such an emotion.
“Of course. Are you really surprised? She is your mother after all. What kind of person would refuse to help when their own flesh and blood needs them? What kind of person would willfully abandon their own child without remorse?”
“What kind of person would abandon their child at all?” the girl challenged. “What kind of person looks into their daughter’s hopeful, innocent eyes and tells them to wait, tells them that they won’t be long, that they’ll be right back; full well knowing that they won’t ever see them again, knowing just how long she’ll wait for them like a loyal dog? Knowing that they don’t intend to ever return?” The girl’s tone was dead, and her blood red eyes were so cold. They were like frozen pools of ice sitting in a bed of snow coloured skin.
“The kind of person who doesn’t have a choice?” Ollie suggested.
“The kind of person that only cares about themself,” Rose deduced, “even though they were supposed to protect me, even though they promised that they would keep me safe, that nobody, that nothing would ever hurt me.”
“You’re talking about me too, aren’t you?”
“Daddy keeps the little girl safe…” the girl recited.
“And Mother protects the little girl from Daddy,” Ollie continued, bitterly finishing the twisted mantra.
“No… Mother turns away. Mother leaves the little girl alone with her nightmares. Mother doesn’t help. Mother doesn’t care.”
“I’m sorry you feel this way, and I’m sorry that I haven’t been more help to you. I want to redeem myself, to make it up to you. I know I’m the one who brought you into this hell. I won’t ask you to forgive me, I need to earn that for myself.”
The girl stared up at him. There was a light in her eyes that hadn’t been there before. “Earn what?” she asked.
“Your forgiveness, and my redemption.”
The girl’s brow quirked. “You’re asking me to give you the chance to earn the thing that you aren’t going to ask me for… what? I don’t get it.” Ollie smiled at the girl’s confusion. “Don’t laugh at me.”
He hadn’t meant to, he couldn’t help it. It was just so good to hear that in her. The confusion in her voice, the bewilderment, the emotion. She sounded like a child. Likely for the first time in a long while, she actually sounded human. “I’m sorry. All I’m saying is, I want to make things right, and so does your mother. If I can arrange it, if I can sneak you out, she might be able to hide you. You could have your home, your family back. Isn’t that worth taking a chance?
“Will you at least talk to her? Everybody makes mistakes. She and I are trying to fix ours. Will you let us? Will you let us make things right? Will you let us try to earn your forgiveness?”
“Do what you want,” the girl dismissed, looking away once again.
“I know it’s not going to be easy, seeing her after all this time, but whatever happens, don’t you think it’s worth it if it means getting your life back? I mean… aren’t you sick of this place, this room, this prison, and the endless tortures they call experiments? Isn’t anything better than this?”
The girl’s reply was a barely audible whisper. “Almost anything.”
“I know there are risks if this doesn’t work out, but I’m facing them too.”
“Why? What do you get out of it? Are you really doing this for redemption, for forgiveness?”
“I’m doing this for you, so you don’t have to be alone and miserable any more. Because it’s the right thing to do, that’s my reason. That’s the only reason that matters, and if giving you the future you deserve makes up for my past that led to this shameful present, well… I’ll take that as a bonus.”
“Whatever happens, even after everything… I’m not sure I can ever totally forgive them… her… anyone, but…” the girl’s voice dropped in volume, “maybe it’s time I forgave you.”
Ollie didn’t know what to think at this turn of events.
“Don’t you believe me?”
“To be honest,” Ollie explained, “I expected it to be harder. I was sure it would take more than that for you to warm up to me again.”
“Don’t play dumb, Doctor, and don’t take me for a fool. We both know you laid the groundwork for this beforehand.”
Well, that was true in a sense. He had gone to great lengths tracking down the girl’s mother, and even more so in contacting her.
“The truth is, I was already considering cutting you a break when and if you ever decided to show your face. You know, come and see me yourself for once, instead of always sending that puppy of yours.”
“You know, my replacement.”
“You mean Megan?”
“That’s her. She was the one who brought me around.”
That was one more thing for which Ollie would have to thank the brunette… if he ever got the chance.
“She can be pretty annoying… but I guess it’s not so bad, being a big sister to someone.”
“You see her as your sister?” Ollie asked, unable to contain the smile spreading across his face.
“Her words,” the girl shrugged, looking away from him, “not mine.”
“Well, I’m glad you two have been getting along so well. I’m glad you’ve had a friend to talk to, if nothing else.”
“Like I said… she can be pretty annoying. She came barging in here, always so happy, always wanting to talk. Often about you, about the things you did. About things you did for her, bragging about how she was able to leave her room, roam the facility, go with you, show off the cute outfits you let her wear.”
“Do I sense a hint of envy?”
“Just… just lamenting my choices, and what could have been.”
“Well, it was your decision.”
“I know. I chose this. I wanted this, at least I thought I did. I chose Kayla, I chose to be alone, but you still didn’t leave me, did you? You sent my replacement in to see me, to check up on me. At first I thought it was to torment me, but I realised that it was your way of trying to help. I didn’t really like her at first, I just wanted her to go, to leave me alone, leave me to my solitude… but she kept coming back. Eventually, she won me around. She started to grow on me. I stopped dreading her visits, she started coming more often, almost every day. They became routine. I even came to enjoy them.”
“I’m glad she was able to ease your loneliness, but I didn’t send her. It was her idea to see you, she came of her own accord.”
“It seems like you two were inseparable. I’m actually surprised you let her out of your sight.”
“I never could deny her, and she wanted to get to know you. You touched on it before. She thought of you as an older sister.”
“Yeah… Where is she now? I thought you’d have brought her with you. I mean I wasn’t sure if you would actually show yourself at all, but if you did… I never expected you to come alone.”
Ollie couldn’t help the guilt that squirmed deep inside his stomach. After all, “She did want to be here, she was supposed to be here. It was her that convinced me to come along.”
“So… where is she?”
“If you’re asking for specifics… I don’t know. The director has her.”
There was a definite delay in Rose’s response. “You handed her over?” She was surprised. Was she judging him?
“I didn’t know what else to do. She was there when I had my run in with Maybelle, when she tried to… ensnare me. It was Megan that broke the spell and brought me to my senses. She saved me, and that earned her Maybelle’s wrath.”
“So Maybelle attacked her?”
“She snapped. It was like she’d become somebody else. She tackled Megan to the ground, tried to kill her. I managed to break them up, but… after the incident, Megan was traumatised. She hasn’t been herself since.”
“In that case, wouldn’t you be the best person to care for her?”
“There’s nothing I can do. Maybelle did something to her. She messed with her mind, attacked her psychologically as well as physically.”
“She can do that?”
“Apparently. I don’t know, Maybelle has an ability, a power. Don’t ask, I don’t understand it myself.”
“Is she going to be alright?”
“It’s out of my hands. It’s all up to the director now. I’m sure he’ll do his best for her, being your understudy and everything.”
“So they all intend to replace me with that girl? I thought it was only you.”
Ollie noted the accusation in Rose’s tone, as well as the nature of her words. She almost seemed surprised at the news. So the red-haired mistress hadn’t told her everything then. “From the beginning, Megan was brought here as the Director’s Plan B. She would be his legacy, his reserve on which to fall back, in case anything should happen to you.”
“You mean in case their mad experiments wind up killing me.”
“Exactly.” There was no use lying to the girl.
“And you gave her up? She was like a daughter to you.”
“How could you know that?”
“I know she thought of you as her father, I’m guessing you feel the same. So why let them have her? You know what could be in store for that girl, so why give her up? Why let them?”
The girl’s tone was still cold, still dry, still void of emotion, yet… “You actually care, don’t you? You’re concerned about her.”
“That girl is an annoyance, nothing more… but she doesn’t deserve what I’ve been through. She doesn’t deserve whatever it is they have in store for her.”
“What child does?”
“Nobody deserves that,” Rose agreed. “It’s not like I care about her personally, but… You do though, don’t you? So why? What possessed you to put her in such a position? Why make her vulnerable?”
“It was my only option. I can’t help her.”
“Did you even try?”
“I…” Ollie sighed. “I can’t. I’ve found out some things about her. I know the truth, and… I don’t think I can ever look at Megan the same way again.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Turns out, she’s been using me this whole time, ever since I picked her up. I told you that Maybelle was manipulating the thoughts in my head?”
“Not in so many words.”
“She has the power to control and manipulate. That’s how she was able to ensnare me. Turns out she’s not the only one. Megan has a similar ability, and she’s been using it on me from the beginning.”
“She’s been controlling your thoughts?”
“Well, not exactly. Megan can’t control them directly, but she can read them. She can see into my mind, peer right through my eyes like windows.”
“So she can’t have been controlling you. I don’t see the problem.”
“No, she can’t control me, not directly, but she doesn’t need to. She knows what I’m thinking, what I’m feeling, without having to ask. It’s like a sixth sense to her, it wouldn’t be hard for her to use that to find just the right thing to do, the right thing to say. That’s why I’ve never been able to say no to her. I’ve been under her spell all along. She’s a master manipulator.”
“She’s not the only one.”
“What do you mean?”
“Who was it that told you all this?”
Ollie was about to answer, when the girl cut him off, answering her own question.
“The Director, right?”
“And why do you think he would do that? True or not, he’s hidden this information from you all this time. Why would he suddenly reveal it now?”
“It’s not like he kept it from me exactly. I was supposed to have figured it out for myself, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t see through Megan’s calculated actions. I guess I just wanted to believe her so much that I ignored the truth. I was blind, maybe by choice. I didn’t want to see what she was really up to, what she was really capable of.”
“Maybe that’s for the best.”
“Maybe she has been using you. Maybe she did use some psychic ability to worm her way into your heart. Maybe she felt like she didn’t have a choice. In the end, it worked out for the best, didn’t it? Haven’t you both benefited?”
“Up until now… I suppose so.”
“Then it was a necessary evil. The fact remains: She calls you her father. Her feelings are genuine. The relationship you two have, it’s real.”
“But it’s built upon the foundations of a lie.”
“So…? You don’t like being lied to either, do you?”
“Sometimes a lie is better than the truth.”
“When I came in here, you warned me not to lie to you. You’re either okay with deceit, or you’re not. There’s no middle ground, you can’t have it both ways.”
“I understand your point… but in retrospect, the two of you have both benefited from her actions. You raised her above this hell, and she in turn saved you from drowning in your own loneliness and self-pity.”
Ollie resisted the urge to ask how the girl knew so much about his situation.
“The way that girl talks about you… there’s no way she’s lying. She loves you. She needs you to protect her, you need each other. She saved you from yourself, now I think it’s time you returned the favour.”
Maybe Rose was right….
Damn it, what had Ollie been doing all this time? He and Megan had always been there for each other. Even if she’d been deceiving him, she was still more trustworthy than his treacherous older brother. It wasn’t as though Megan were planning to use him and throw him away. This place may have been full of psychopaths, but the innocent brunette was not one of them.
Damn it, Rose was right. Megan needed him. He couldn’t just let Rexl take her and do god knows what to her. Ollie had already lost Maybelle to him, and it was obvious how she’d turned out. He’d be damned if he’d let Megan suffer the same fate. He turned back to Rose.
“You have a point,” he told her.
Rose looked him up and down, as if analysing him. “Honestly doctor, you’re supposed to be the adult here. What are you going to do?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. I’ll do whatever I can to help Megan. I’m not giving up on her. I won’t make the same mistake twice.”
“You’re talking about me, aren’t you?”
“I am… Megan is to be your replacement, in case you disappear. As long as you are still useful to the director, there’s no reason for him to keep her from me.”
“So… will you sacrifice me for her? Will you leave me again?” It was so hard to read Rose’s tone, lifeless and flat as it was.
“No. I’ll save you both. I’ll find a way. I’ll get you out of here, then I’ll come back and save Megan.”
“The two of you are so similar,” Rose remarked. “You both spout blind, optimistic idealism.”
Ollie looked to the girl. Was he being judged? When had Rose developed this snark? If Ollie and Megan resided in the same country of thought, then Megan and Rose must have been at opposite poles.
“Do you have a plan?” she asked him.
Ollie’s lip curled. “Something like that.”
There he was, in his office. Three weeks had come and gone since Ollie’s reconciliation with Rose, and now that red haired sadist was here. The psychiatrist sat in his chair, which swivelled around to face her. Kayla was usually an unwelcome intruder in his domain. Actually, Ollie was normally the one intruding on her territory, but the redhead was an unwelcome sight all the same. Usually, her presence was tolerated as the unfortunate means to an essential end, a necessary evil. Today however, would turn out to be different.
Today, as it happened, she hadn’t come alone.
“So, did you come by for a reason?” Ollie asked her impatiently, having heard enough of her mocking tone.
“So rude,” the woman complained, feigning offence, “and here I am so kindly bringing back your lost property.”
“What exactly is that supposed to mean?” Ollie couldn’t figure her out. She was never one to simply state her purpose, everything was a game to her, a game which Ollie was forced to figure out, the rules to which he was never privy. “I don’t have time for this, Kayla, just tell me. What is it you want?”
“I’ve told you already. All of your whining to the director has paid off. It seems he has decided to do his baby brother a favour and asked me to return your plaything to you.”
Ollie quirked his brow. “My plaything?”
Ollie turned in the direction of that hesitant, timid voice. There she was, out in the hallway, head poking around the door. “Megan?” He turned back to Kayla, eyes narrowing. “What’s the catch?”
“No catch,” she replied. “Just keep her safe. You’ll have to be more careful with her from now on.
The woman almost seemed pleasant. Ollie didn’t like it.
“This is the last time. She’s your favourite toy, right? Don’t break her again, we might not be able to fix her.
And there it was.
Ollie decided it best to simply ignore the scientist’s words, along with any implication they may have held. He turned his attention instead to Megan, who seemed to be hugging the door frame, as though unsure of whether or not to enter.
The psychiatrist gestured for her to approach, and she did, slowly, hesitantly. She was so shy, so different from before. What had happened to her? What had Maybelle done to her to bring about this change in character? What had Rexl done?
Ollie raised a hand to ruffle the Child’s hair, heart sinking as he saw her flinch before him, but her lip curled at his tender touch. He gently caressed her short mess of hair, and she fell eagerly into his comforting embrace as he hugged her, as his arms closed protectively around her tiny body. “I’ve missed you,” he whispered into her ear.
“I missed you too, Daddy. It feels like forever, I didn’t think I’d ever come back.”
Ollie held the girl to him. He didn’t know what she had been through. He couldn’t know what had been running through her mind, or to what tortures she’d been subjected, necessary or not. It must have seemed like an eternity to her. In reality, it had been about a month since their run-in with Maybelle.
“You sedated her,” Kayla began.
Ollie nodded. “It was the only way to ensure she got any rest. I put her into an uninterrupted, dreamless sleep.”
Kayla nodded. “That was a mistake.”
Ollie quirked his brow. “How so?”
“She’s been trapped in a never-ending nightmare. Maybelle attacked her subconscious, infesting it, infecting it like a virus. Since she was unable to wake, she was unable to escape her dreams, unable to escape her nightmares, or her attacker. She was trapped within her own mind, and although we can call it a dream, to her, Maybelle’s unrelenting assault was as real, as tangible as that hug you’re giving her.”
“No… that’s not right. I only wanted her to rest, to sleep without nightmares. She shouldn’t have been able to dream at all!”
“You underestimated Maybelle’s abilities. We all did.”
“But… no. I thought I was helping, but I…” the man turned to the young brunette in his arms, “I made it worse. Megan, I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault Daddy. I know you’d never try to hurt me.”
“That doesn’t change the fact that I…” Ollie turned to Kayla. “Is she going to be alright?”
“You mean psychologically?”
Ollie nodded, “Will she recover?”
“We don’t know. Only time will tell. That’s why we’ve decided to give her to you. You can care for her, and make note of her recovery.”
“You’re still researching Maybelle’s power, aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question. “You’re only giving her back so I’ll cooperate and give you the data you need. She’s still a test subject.”
“Of course. It’s a fair trade off, don’t you think? We all get what we want. You two are reunited, and the Director gets his crucial information on Maybelle’s attack. Everybody wins, not to mention… and it physically hurts me to say this, but… your analytical skills make you best suited for the job.”
Ollie released a sigh. What choice did he have? “Very well, I’ll do it, but in exchange… I want Megan taken off the regular experiments.”
“We thought you would. It’s okay, the Director knew you’d request something like this. It’s for the best anyway. The extra stress from our other experiments would likely contaminate any data you get from her. It wouldn’t be a fair test. From this moment, that girl is a case study. We will be examining her and recording the long-term results of Maybelle’s psychological attack.”
Well, I suppose that’s something.”
“You should feel proud, Poer,” Kayla sneered. “Megan has been pulled from Project Rose, and all it took was a little psychological torture and mind rape. You got exactly what you wanted, and all you had to do was fuck an underage crazy girl.”
The grin widened. That malicious witch was actually getting off on this. “Just think: All along, the answer to all your problems, was incest.”
Ollie’s blood ran cold. How many people knew about this? How many of the facility staff knew the truth about Maybelle? How many of them knew about what he’d done… or what he’d almost done?
Kayla knew about the incident, of course she did. She’d been the one to tell Rose after all, but Ollie hadn’t expected her to know everything, or at least, he had hoped she wouldn’t.
Just how many people had Rexl let in on their dirty little secret? How many people knew that Maybelle was really his daughter? He looked to Megan. She met his gaze.
Kayla wasn’t finished. Her taunting, mocking tone continued. “You’ve been mind-fucked, committed incest, and had sex with a minor. Such a big day you’ve had, and such romantic subject matter, too. Perhaps I’d better leave you two alone.”
“Yeah,” Ollie replied, looking to her, his cold eyes standing firm to her crude smirk, “perhaps you better had.”
One week later, the man found himself back there, in the hallway, the corridor. Outside her room, outside her cell. Only this time, he wasn’t alone. This time, Megan was with him, the way it should have been before, the way it always would be.
He looked into the girl’s sapphire eyes. “Let’s go,” he told her. She nodded and walked beside him. For all that she’d been through, the girl seemed to be in such high spirits. Her demeanour had improved so much in the last week. Before, she had seemed so fragile, a whimpering mess, an abused puppy. It was so good to finally see her back to her old, bubbly self. He’d missed her so much. It was actually surprising how dependant he’d become on the little girl.
Ollie opened the door and waited for his tiny companion to go ahead of him.
She did so, a great smile spreading across her face. It was adorable. “Sis!” she cried, running headlong into the room, and into Rose. She practically leapt into the older girl’s arms, or at least into her body, onto which her eager arms hungrily latched.
The older girl rolled her eyes, sighing half-heartedly as she gave her eager, self-proclaimed sibling a nonchalant pat on the back.
Ollie found he could only smile at the sight before him, catching the redhead’s eye.
“So you got her back, then.” The girl observed.
“Yeah. Thanks for what you did.”
Rose quirked her brow. “I did nothing.”
“No,” Ollie countered. “What you said, it really struck home. You got me thinking. You helped me to stop feeling sorry for myself. You did more for me than you will likely ever know.”
“Like I said before. You’re the adult here, doctor. You’re supposed to be the one helping us.”
“I know, and from now on, I intend to. Regardless of what you meant by them, your words hit home. Both of you. Because of Megan, I was able to face you again, and because of you, I was able to take Megan back, despite her strange power, despite the potential she has to turn it on me.”
Megan turned to face him, looking into his eyes. There was that look again. Though she had never been taught, she was wise far beyond her years, probably due in part to the power they’d given her. Could she have been learning on her own, teaching herself by extracting the knowledge from those around her? Pulling information from her supposed superior’s brains and inserting it into her own?
She had potential all right, but not necessarily for manipulation. She was theoretically the world’s greatest scholar. But more than that, she could interpret and analyse another’s thoughts just by talking to them. It was wasted on her here, but if she could use that power for good, use it to help people… If he could raise her to follow in his footsteps, to study and work in the same field as him, teach her…
Rexl loved to talk about these girls as though they were tools, machines to be programmed, like simple objects. He spoke always of legacy. Perhaps now it was Ollie’s turn. These girls were indeed part of the Poer legacy, but not that of Rexl. No, not any more. Their future was their own, and Ollie would be the one to guide them. They would be his legacy, but not in the vain sense as Rexl saw it. These girls would do remarkable things, and he would be right behind them, helping them, guiding them every step of the way.
It was such a shame that they had to be locked away in this facility. It was the source of both their gift, and their confinement. Their potential was great, unmatched even, but they would never fulfil it in here. They would never amount to anything, never accomplish anything, locked away as they were, hidden from the world, from society. Hell was not of brimstone and fire, but of science and steel. Hell was the domain of Man, and they had to escape, all of them.
“Daddy,” Megan spoke. “You know I’d never turn on you. I love you, and you love me. I know you do. I know how much you’ve lost, how sad it makes you, but you’re our Daddy now, and you have to protect us. You have to guide us. We’re a family. Daddy, Sister, and me.”
“Speak for yourself,” Rose uttered under her breath. “I have a family already. You haven’t forgotten your promise, have you Doctor?”
“Never,” Ollie spoke. “Does this mean you will accept her offer? Have you forgiven her?”
“I will go home, go to… to Mother. But have I forgiven her? No. Forgiveness has to be earned… but I suppose anything is possible. It’s worth a shot, right?”
“If it doesn’t work out, you can always come back and be with us, right Daddy?” Megan spoke, a hint of hope staining her voice.
“Come back here?” Rose asked, an incredulous edge to her voice.
“No… we’re leaving this place together, right Daddy? We’re going to find a new home and make a new life for ourselves.”
“So you’re both leaving too.”
“Once we break you out,” Ollie spoke, “there won’t be much point in sticking around. They’ll know I was involved, and only other person I care about is lost to me. It would be imprudent to unleash Maybelle on the world in her condition.” Ollie noticed Megan stiffen slightly at the mention of the blonde’s name. “You girls mean more to me than my brother ever will. It’s worth earning his wrath if it means the two of you can be free of this hell.”
“See!” Megan practically screamed into the older girl’s ear. “I told you Daddy would help us. Daddy will protect us. Daddy will make sure nothing bad ever happens to us. We’re a family, and we always will be, forever.”
“Daddy protects the little girl…” Rose said, “that’s all well and good, but can you let go of me now?”
“You look so uncomfortable like that, Rose,” Ollie observed.
“I’m not one for affection,” she replied, “and I like my personal space. This proximity, this much contact is… uncomfortable.”
“Humph!” Megan pouted.
“You should take your fill of Megan’s hugs while they’re still available,” Ollie advised. “We’ll be leaving as soon as we can, and after all this is done… who knows if you two will ever be together again.”
“How sad,” Rose sarcastically quipped. “I can hardly wait.”
“That’s not very nice,” Ollie countered, “and you seemed so concerned about her too, remember? You told me that you’d come to enjoy Megan’s visits, you even called yourself her sister.”
Rose’s eyes snapped to full width at the shot he’d taken at her nonchalant façade, causing it to crack open completely. Meanwhile, Megan’s grin grew ever-wider, until it had engulfed her entire head. “I knew it!” the ecstatic young girl exclaimed, her voice exploding with pep. “You really did care about me all along. I knew you’d miss me!” Megan’s arms tightened their unrelenting hold on Rose.
Unable to escape, she simply turned away, unable to look at them, unable to hide the blush decorating the blank canvas of her face. “I…” Her voice was tiny, muffled and drowned out by the obvious embarrassment blazing bright and strong, burning deeply in her cheeks. “I said no such thing.”
Ollie couldn’t hold back the laugh. It was such a pleasant moment. Despite the torment they had all been through, despite the hell in which the girls had been thus far forced to live, this was a happy moment. At last, there was a way out. It was like the feel-good ending to an otherwise dark and depressing play, written to leave the audience with some sense of hope. Finally, there was a way out, a light at the end of the tunnel.
At long last, things were beginning to look up.
The long night was coming to an end, and sunrise was just on the horizon.