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His saliva continues to impregnate my face and his arms have grasped my wrists tightly, while his knees are on my feet. I am immobile. Trapped under a man who I can't consider to be my father, but rather a lunatic, a creation of this villainous government in order to kill me or render me even crazier than I already am.
"Stop!" I scream but his response is simply to smile and hold my limbs tighter. It hurts, but not so much as seeing my own dad want to hurt me, even murder me. I spit right into his eye and he goes back, releasing his clenching sufficiently from my arms for me to push him aside and free myself. He tries to stand up but I instantly kick his head and run away. I feel extremely nauseous, the whole world tilting to the left. I try to maintain balance but end up hitting the side of the wall. I can hear him calling me, my name, the one he and my mother gave me. I hear my own sobbing and try to stop but the tears continue to flow like a river following its current, unable to be tamed. My heart is beating fast and my thoughts are running even wilder, trying to find an exit out of this hell. I continue to turn corners and find myself in lightly illuminated hallways, neon blue lights rendering the whole scene as a torturous trail of horror and despair. My father continues to hunt for me, his steps growing louder as he approaches my location, my feet going slower each time; my body has barely got any energy left.
"Elle? Elle? I smell you."
I hear laughter but it seems to be further away. I blink, once, twice. The world is spinning, as if I'm in some sort of amusement park. Everything then goes black and before my head hits the ground, I fall unconscious.
When I wake up I only see pitch black. It seems as though I'm still unconscious but three blinks later I realise I'm in a completely dark room. I get up and notice that I am lying on some bed. My hands touch some silk smooth sheets. Everything appears to be too strange. What is going on? My bare feet feel the cold tiles and I tiptoe to the nearest wall to try and encounter a switch that will let me see. I finally do, after much searching. The room lits up. It's the same room I was left in before Max disappeared and my dad tried to kill me. Where is he now? Where is Max? What is going on?
I notice I'm wearing a comfortable sweater and joggers, both white, and I wonder who put this on me. Who dragged me across the hallway and got me into a soft bed for me to rest on? Everything seems ludicrous. I might be going insane.
I walk toward the door and turn the handle, expecting it to be locked but instead an empty corridor with wooden furniture welcomes me. I instantly know where I am. In the basement, where the government is stationed. Is this déjà-vu? Have I dreamt my previous adventure? I don't think so but it feels exactly like that. I hear laughter coming from one side of the wall and I touch it, thinking someone might be hiding between the structures. I see myself caressing the walls and I laugh. I am crazy and these people will take care of me.
I continue walking barefoot under the warm yellow lights which seem so different to the white, bright lights that illuminate the rest of the ship. I finally see them. Guards. Protecting an incredibly big wooden door. I know what sits behind them. A canteen. Max might be there. I really hope so anyway. Both guards have their mask on but I can already tell that they are women. They both bow their heads at me, politely, and I'm incredibly surprised by their lack of aggression.
What is going on?
They push the door and give me a sign with their heads. "Go in"—that's what they mean. I do as commanded and find myself in the dining room, filled with people. Girls and boys, all around my age, and there, at the end of the room I see him. Max. Something's off, though. He is not injured. He looks fine. No signs of a struggle or torture. I run to him and hug him, without even thinking. He doesn't reciprocate.
"Max? You alright?"
He lifts his head up and looks at me smiling.
"I'm ok. How are you?"
"You tell me. You went through hell. How... How'd they fix you?"
He doesn't say a word and continues eating soup. I see croissants on the table and hand him one.
"I thought you said you liked them." My offer doesn't bother him. He continues tasting his own food. I notice he doesn't introduce it into his mouth. Just swirls it with a spoon, looking as bored as ever.
"Are you not happy to see me?"
He looks at me again and grins.
"Of course, Elle."
I think it has to do with his situation. With all that he's been through. He might have PTSD. He might be suffering internally and I'm here bothering him with questions.
What is going on?
The door opens with a loud thump and everyone goes quiet. The President. He has arrived. All of the present people stand up, including Max and listen attentively to what he has to say. I do as well, just to not stand out. I've already been involved in too many problems. Maybe. I'm not quite sure whether I dreamt that.
The President begins a speech much too average to my taste, calling all of us out for our incredible work at the ship and for how much we have contributed. He celebrates our strength and he appears sure that we will do great things once we have reached our destination. He leaves and no other matter ensues other than Max sits down and gives up on his soup. The whole room is silent, as though the President has stolen our voices. I kick Max under the table with my foot somewhere on his leg to try and call his attention. He suddenly stands up and tries to suffocate me with his strong grip. Before the guards can take him away, I see his eyes. He is not Max. I lean my head to the side as much as I can and notice everyone else in the dining room. They are not real. This is deployment. They are all clones. We are the experiment. Someone grabs my shoulder and pulls Max back. He's not real. I get dragged back into my room, given a serum to make me fall asleep. We are here for a different purpose. I fall asleep slowly with one thought circling my mind.
What is going on?