Morning felt like it came too early.  Though the artificial sun indicated it was six, I still felt like the night had gone by too quickly.  My neck ached from not moving. I had been exhausted. After my lashing out from the day before, I was guaranteed to be exhausted.  The shower did little to ease the cramped muscles. I could do with black coffee or a really strong cup of tea. Caffeine, that was all I was wishing for.

I pulled myself out of the shower and faced down the bags of clothing.  I needed to have the rest washed at some point, but at the moment, I was just going to take it at face value that I had real clothing.  A long, dusty rose crepe skirt and a soft, grey knit shirt helped me feel a little less obvious than the red dress from yesterday. A pair of black ballet flats followed suit to finish off what I considered a very French themed outfit.  Minor make-up helped with the racoon eyes.

I joined Carl for a quick breakfast of cardboard flavored cereal and milk.  “Are you sure about the CT scan?” he asked me as we cleaned up.  

“You said it yourself, it would be a good idea to have a starting point to work off of,” I pointed out, dropping utensils into the dishwasher.  

“It’s just weird.  It took me years to prepare to become a Simil.  You’re doing this almost over night with no real preparation,” he closed the dishwasher.

“It’s not like I’m consuming a character today, Carl.  Don’t I have to find out who I want to become first, or something like that?” I asked, shrugging into a simple cream cardigan.

“Yeah, that would be something we can do later.  Usually the Chair chooses a series of books and allows the Simil candidates to choose which one they want.  It keeps characters from being brought out more than once,” he explained, opening the door for me.

“Why did you take the Mad Hatter?” I walked out into the hallway and turned to see his answer.  The hair on my arms raised menacingly. Carl’s posture shifted as the door clicked shut. Carl was right, he remembered walking out of his apartment and then his alter ego would just take over.

“Shall we find some tea today?” Simil asked.

“That sounds charming, Simil.  We have something else to do today though,” I took his arm by the crook of the elbow.

“Oh?  Shall we visit with the Chair?  I don’t remember leaving them yesterday.  Ms. Drover was cranky,” he mused as we began walking.

“Ms. Drover is rather cranky,” I agreed.  “But no, I don’t think we need to visit with the Chair today, Simil.  Can you take me to the CT specialist? Carl told me that I need to have my brain scanned so that they know where their starting point is for having me become a Dewey,” I asked gently.

“I hate that machine,” he grumbled.

“You don’t have to get in it,” I persuaded.

“All right.  Do you want to recite Aristotle with me on our way?” he asked gleefully.

“Why don’t you tell me, and I can join you the next time?” I offered.  It had been years since I had read Aristotle. We proceeded at a nice pace down the hall to the lines of Metaphysics.

“Here we are,” he motioned.  It had felt like a good half hour walk down the halls before we finally found ourselves in another grey hall with another metal door.  Simil knocked gently before opening it to reveal what looked like a regular doctor’s reception room. The receptionist looked up at us, startled.  “H-how can I help you?” she stuttered, wary.

“It seems it would be advantageous as a prospective Dewey to have a CT scan done of my brain,” I answered.  Her eyes swung to focus on me and color drained from her face. “Y-yes, I can schedule you in. I need to make a q-quick call,” she stammered.  Simil motioned me in and we sat down in the rather uncomfortable chairs to wait. I tried to eavesdrop on the receptionist without being blatantly obvious about it.  I couldn’t tell what she said though.

“We can get you in now,” she smiled reassuringly.  Her color had turned a mottled green. “Thank you,” I said appreciatively.

“A nurse should be with you shortly,” she nodded her head.  We sat in silence for a couple of minutes before a tall man in pink scrubs opened up a door to let us into the back.

“Good morning,” he greeted us pleasantly.  The first nice reaction I had seen to other of us outside of Laury.  “Good morning,” I said cheerily. Simil followed me a step behind.

“We’ll need to run you through some vitals, can I get your weight?” he motioned to a scale just inside the door.  I stepped on the scale, let him get a heart read and blood pressure read. He took my temperature. Once finished he ushered us into a regular looking doctor’s room.

A good twenty minute wait later and a scruffy looking man in a starched lab coat walked in with a clip board.  “Good morning, Mrs. Oppenheimer, Simil. It’s nice to meet you,” he shook my hand. I mumbled a polite reply. “I am Dr. Edgar Munce.  I’ll be administering your CT scan today. I have spoken with the Chair and they approved the procedure. Can you run me through a family medical history?” he asked.  We proceeded through a litany of questions, determining if I was at risk for going into the machine. “Simil, do you need to be here for this?” the doctor eyed the man.  I laid my hand on top of Simil’s to stop it from fidgeting. “I asked him to be here for this, seeing as he’s been through it and could reassure me of the proceedings,” I smiled sweetly.  I could feel him steady under my touch. The Dr. glanced at him once more. “Your medical history is supposed to remain private,” the Dr. explained to me. “It will be alright,” I reassured.  The Dr. sighed before beginning to ask about my personal medical history.

Eventually the questions ended.  He took out a hospital gown from the cabinet and handed it to me, along with a clear plastic bag.  “Put all of your belongings in here and put this on. There needs to not be any metal in the machine, so take off what you can.  Do you have any implants or dental fixtures?” he asked. I shook my head. “Alright, I’ll let you get changed, and a nurse will be in to escort you to the next room,” he motioned to the other door in the room.  I nodded again. He opened the door to exit the room. “Simil?” he pinned the man with a glance that could have melted a hole through metal. Simil exited after the doctor. I was left in the cold room, alone and asking myself why I was doing this so willingly.

Changed and my belongings shoved in a plastic bag, I waited on the examination chair.  The male nurse popped in from the other door the Dr. had pointed out and ushered me into the next room.  Inside was the CT machine. I laid down and waited for the process to be over with.

In the Dr.’s waiting room once more, I had changed back into my outfit.  Simil sat quietly in the corner. He seemed deep in thought. “This is taking longer then I thought,” I said after a time.  “Time is and time is not, it’s all just a thought,” Simil responded.

“Are you okay?” I asked.  He looked up at me, puzzled.

“No one’s ever asked me that,” he answered truthfully.

“You’ve been quiet, sitting there fidgeting.  Do you not like doctor offices?” I asked.

“It’s lonely,” he said.

“It is,” I smiled gently.

“Why are you nice to me?” he finally asked.

“How so?” I had taken to asking him questions when he asked me questions.

“Back at the receptionist, and even with the Dr. you took over,” he speculated.

“Can I not be nice to who I want to be nice to?” I asked.

“Does it benefit you to be nice to me?” he asked.

“I’m not sure yet,” I answered.

“Thank you,” he said.  I looked at him, surprised.  “Being different like this hurts after a while,” he tried to smile at me, but his lips quivered.  A knock at the door disturbed our conversation. The doctor came in, not looking very thrilled with the file in his hand.  Following him were seven individuals in robes and masks and Ms. Drover. The room was filled to bursting. Simil stood to be greeted by the Chair.  Ms. Drover looked at me in horror. One of the individuals in robes extended a hand to me. “Mrs. Oppenheimer, it’s nice to see you again. It looks like you are in good health.  What brought you to the doctor today?” he asked kindly.  

“What brings you to my appointment?” I countered, suddenly wary.

“Simil, bind her,” Ms. Drover commanded.  He looked horror stricken.

“What’s going on?” I asked, not moving from my place.  Simil approached me, and gently whispered a pair of hand cuffs into existence.  “Simil?” I looked at him beseechingly. He looked back at the Chair, pleading. They waived him on.  I held out my hands to him as he slipped the metal loops around my wrists. “You seem to be behaving nicely today,” one of the other Chair stated.

“Can I ask why I’m being hand cuffed?” I asked.

“We will discuss this in a different…safer…place,” Another Chair stated.  A gag was produced from one of the Chair’s robes. “You put that on me and you will regret it immediately,” I informed them.  The Chair handed it to Simil. His coloration paled as he studied it. “I can go with you willingly and with less disturbances if you just treat me with an inkling of respect,” I bit out between clamped teeth.

“We respect the power you weild and that’s why we must treat you in such a manner,” the female Chair responded.

“I signed your damn papers!  At least I know I’m keeping my end of the bargain!” I shouted at them. I stood up from the chair and took the gag out of Simil’s trembling fingers.  “Where the hell are we going! I stomped toward the door. One of the Chair moved to block my way. “Well, if I’m cooperating to go whereever the fuck you are wanting me to go, you can damn well get out of my way!” I shouted at him.  

The man reached for me.  A light whisper in the chaos.  A singing slash of metal and the crunch of metal cracking tile had me falling back against Simil’s chest.  One arm wrapped around my waist, and his chin wrested against my head. A longsword stood between the Chair and me, Simil’s gloved hand wrapped around the hilt.  “Simil?” the man growled.

“See, I told you he was acting weird,” Ms. Drover pointed at us.  I turned a seething eye on her.

“I’m seeing that, Ms. Drover,” the female Chair responded.

“You’ve bound her as much as I’m going to let you,” Simil hissed.  The male Chair stepped back. The Dr. was shaking, a cold sweat pouring off him.  “Just get them out of my clinic!” he yelped.

I could feel the power of a Read running through my arms.  The handcuffs cracked under a sudden burst of extreme cold.  “And that’s as much as I’m going to let you bind me,” I chucked the handcuffs out the door.

Three of the Chair leaped at me, pulling at Simil and myself.  A torrential downpour of water sudden soaked everyone. Snow blew into the room, dropping the temperature to negative thirty in seconds.  “Back off!” I yelled, trying to get them to let go of me. “Damn it, just tell me what is going on! If you want my cooperation, I work better with people if they just fucking talk to me!” I bit out as I dropped the temperature in the room again.  “And just to mention it, if it wasn’t already obvious, I can Read without saying anything or moving my hands, so binding me won’t benefit you anyway!” I headbutted one of the Chair. The mask cracked and fell off. A middle aged man in a goatee stared back at me, stunned.  He scrambled to grab his mask.

The Chair was having difficulty in the extreme cold.  They were beginning to shake uncontrollably. “Hypothermia, do you want to feel it?  I have quite a few lines from Jack London memorized,” I seethed. Finally the last of the Chair let go of me.

“She really is a Dewey,” the last of the Chair murmured in the onslaught of frigid cold.

“That was the whole point of me coming here, bastard!  I was trying to get a starting point. I was doing what I signed up for!  That doesn’t mean you should harrass me like this every freaking time I do something,” I shouted at them, exasperated.

“No,” Ms. Drover took the file from the Dr. and flicked it at me.  The papers fell around me. Simil bent to pick them up and hand them to me.  I looked at them, stunned. “Simil,” I asked, the cold stopping as suddenly as it started.  He looked at me, concerned. “I need Carl,” I whispered, my hand shaking. He leaned into me, gently kissing me.  

“What’s wrong, Gracey?” Carl asked.  He looked up, stunned to see the whole Chair in a doctor’s waiting room.  I handed him one of the scans. “Why do you have my scan here?” he asked. 

“That’s not yours, Carl,” I said, knowing with that one sentence what I feared was true.

“That’s her’s,” the Dr. answered.  “Who are you? What happened to Simil?” he asked.

“I’m her husband, Dr. Munce,” he wrapped himself around me, trying to protect me in some way from the Chair.

“Are you sure about that, Simil?” the Chair asked.

“Who are you?” Ms. Drover asked me.

“I’m Grace Alice Oppenheimer,” I stated, but I wasn’t as sure of myself as I was ten minutes ago.

“Do you really not remember who you are, Dewey?” the man with the broken mask asked.

“There has to be something wrong,” I answered.

“Who did you consume?” another Chair asked.

“I don’t know.  I don’t know what’s going on,” I shook.  The scan had the same blossom of color as Carl’s did when he had consumed his character.

“When did this happen?  Simil, did you have her take on a character yesterday without the proper procedures?” accused the female chair.

“No…he didn’t.  I don’t remember ever consuming a character.  There has to be something wrong with this scan,” I said.

“With what you can do, I’d have to argue not.  You are not Grace Alice Oppenheimer,” the Chair that had tried to block the door said.  I swallowed, confused.

“Who am I then?” I whispered, feeling tears drawing near the surface.  I looked up at them, scared. “I don’t feel safe here,” I gasped. I searched Carl’s face, begging him silently to fix this.

“It’s going to be okay, Gracey.  We’ll figure this out,” he tried to reassure me.

“Where were you taking me?” I asked.

“To Unabridged,” the female Chair answered.  Carl cursed.  

“If you were taking me there, you probably had a very good reason.  Take me there,” I asked Carl.  

“Gracey,” he beseeched.  

“Carl…?” I was trying not to breakdown in front of the Chair, but my mental fortitude was just a hairs width from being completely shot.  He nodded and pushed us out the door. The Chair followed behind as we rushed through the halls at a fast clip. Twists and turns were dizzying.

We ended up at a door that looked old and rusted.  It gave me the creeps. Carl turned me to him. “Are you sure of this, Gracey?  What’s on the other side of that door is not a pleasant experience,” he explained.  

“What is Unabridged?” I asked, grasping at his arm as I turned to the Chair.

“We allow the Simil free reign, we see just what the character in full encompasses,” Ms. Drover answered.

“They strip you bare, put you on a cold metal bed and strap you down.  Then they stick you with needles and pins and electrodes until you feel like your brain is melting and you want to die.  Then you black out. When you wake up, you’re in a cold cell, rocking back and forth, feeling like you were just opened up and your skin was flayed and stretched out to be sewn up again with seering hot needles,” Carl bit out, glaring at the Chair.

“It forces the repressed character to take over, in an environment that is safe to us, so that we can verify who the character is and see what powers they wield,” one of the male Chairs tried to qualify.

“It’s torture,” Carl hissed.

“Did you know this was going to happen to me when I signed up to be a Dewey?” I turned to Carl.

“I had hoped to forewarn you about it before you signed the papers,” he bowed his head.  I fought my terror. I reached for the door, my hands trembling. I swallowed, nervous. I finally laid my hand on the door knob and twisted it open.

Inside the room, around a small privacy wall was a white tiled chamber.  A metal table sat in the middle, operating theater lights hung from the ceiling.  A drain in the center of the floor didn’t bode well for my opinion of the place. Machines were plugged in around the table.  A small man, sitting in a chair in the corner, looked up at us, startled, his eyes locking on me. “Why is she not bound?” he practically screeched.  

I glared at him.  “Shut up. This is humiliating and scary enough to not have some weasel yelling at me too,” I snapped.  He rose out of his chair, rushing me. He stopped short at the tip of a leveled broadsword. The man checked himself, suddenly confronted with the cotton candy clown of death.

“Do I at least get a hospital gown or something?” I asked, staring at the table.  

“No.  Cold is meant to hurt,” Simil answered.

“And this is why they pay us the big bucks,” I grumbled as I pulled my shirt over my head.

“What are you doing? Simil!” the man continued to yell.  “Chair!” he turned to the robed figures. They had all turned away from me.

“Simil, he does anything uncouth…” I shivered in the frigid temperature as I slid my undergarments off.

“He won’t be the only one to die in this room,” he turned his disorienting gaze on the Chair.  They turned to his threat as I climbed up on the cold table. I sucked in my breath. The sting of the metal on my skin was just the beginning.  Simil directed the man at sword point. “Don’t abandon me,” I pleaded with Simil as the man clamped the padded restraints on my wrists and ankles and began to place electro-pads on my skin.  I gritted my teeth as a series of IVs were placed in my arms. It wasn’t bad until he proceeded to set another pair on the top of my hands. He then went to my feet. I really wanted to die when he set another pair in my souls.  Crying, screaming, and cursing were about all I could do at that point. When the needles were set, and I couldn’t fight my shaking anymore, Simil floated into my teary eyed vision. “I know you don’t want this, but it will keep you from biting your tongue off,” he held out a mouth guard with a strap.  

“Only you,” I gulped, tears streamed down my face and I opened my mouth.  He brushed my cheek gently as he settled the mouth guard around my teeth and velcroed the closure behind my head.

Then the man started the machines.  Various liquids dripped through the IVs.  I felt like my skin was melting off. The IV dripped for three hundred beats before heat surged through my veins and stars popped behind my eyes.  Four hundred and eight beats and my ears began to ring as my arms felt fuzzy. Two hundred and seventy-two beats and my vision began to tunnel and all I could hear was the ocean.  Eight hundred and three beats: a searing pain, like a million little jagged knives flaying my skin ran across me and I buckled and contorted, trying to get away from the feeling. Load after load, beat after beat, of variable pain triggered my nerve endings.  It felt like time had slowed down to the drip of an IV line. I could only take it with every wave. The power built under my skin like it had the day before, but there was no outlet. I could only face the cage that was my body. The power surged as I tried to release it, to go with it.  Then it all stopped, suddenly.

I was staring at the ceiling, blinking through the pain.  The bleached smell of the room had been replaced with the smell of…roses and…tea.  I turned my head to see the entire room taken over with a garden. The Chair stood stunned in the room, distracted with butterflies and birds of a strange sort.  A table in the corner held a menagerie of pots and teacups.

Simil’s face swam into view.  “Alice?” he whispered. I blinked at him.  He reached over and gently removed the mouth guard.  “Simil?” I asked.

“Who are you?” The Chair asked in unison.

“Ms. Alice?  It’s really you,” Simil’s face beamed.

“Dear, Hatter, it’s always been me,” I answered him gently.  I was still trying to wrap my head around the pain I had just dealt with.

“Simil, who is she?” The Chair asked once more.

“She is Alice,” he answered them happily.

“No, we know she is called Grace Alice Oppenheimer.  Who is she?” Ms. Drover pressed.

“You are as loony as the Walrus, Ms. Drover,” Simil replied.  “She is Ms. Alice that I met all those years ago,” he smiled down at me.

“You mean she is Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?” One of the male Chair asked, stunned.

“It’d be nice if I could have my clothes back on while we talk about this,” I mumbled.

“Why is she still talking like herself?” one of the other Chair asked while the weazel unhooked me.  I hissed when the needles were removed from my feet. “Why does that have to hurt so bloody much,” I retorted.

“Because we have to force your repressed character out.  The first time a character is consumed, the brain tries to close off ties to the character.  It’s to keep the mind intact as much as possible. If you can break the wall before it is built, the character is able to more easily cross over,” a different Chair explained.

“I thought I was supposed to black out.  God that would have been better than being awake for that experience.  At least a morphine drip or something would have been polite,” I groused.  They unclipped my hands and feet. I sat up and rubbed at the bruises. “I’m not gonna be able to walk for a couple of days, you heathens,” I shot at them, looking at my feet.  Simil handed me my clothes.

I pulled them on while the Chair walked around the garden, mesmerized with the detail.  Simil brought me a cup of tea. He sat down on the table next to me. “Thank you,” I whispered to him.  He smiled encouragingly.

“How long have you been like this, Alice?” Ms. Drover finally turned and asked me.

“You know, I don’t have any memories of my parents from before I was six?” I chuckled morosely.  I had to think about it. I remembered first grade. I remembered the teachers always amused with my sense of imagination.  I never really thought too much about it though. My parents had always acted a little concerned about my actions, but I thought that was normal.

“Is it possible?” One of the Chair asked another.

“Did she consume a character at such a young age?” The other responded.

“But why did she phase so late?” the female Chair asked.

“Are there others like her?” another one asked, trembling.

“Now what?” I asked, standing up.  They all turned to me.  

“I take you home,” Simil made it a statement.

“Simil, we must discuss your behavior!” one of the Chair stepped forward.

“Even the best of trained dogs bite, Robinson,” Simil cautioned.  The man withdrew a step.

“Going back to the apartment sounds nice,” I took the crook of his elbow.  My feet stung, supporting my weight. I wasn’t going to stay in that room one more second.  I hoped to never see the place again.

“You need to inform your husband of this,” Simil cautioned.

“Yes,” I agreed.  One of the Chair strangled a squeaking protest.  I leveled a gaze at them. “I’ll meet with you tomorrow in the testing grounds to discuss this further,” I told them as we walked out of the room.

Simil walked me back to his apartment in silence.  He unlocked the door and held it open for me to enter first.  Inside the room, he closed the door behind us with a click. He caught my hand, pulling me up against the wall next to the door.  He pinned me, one hand pulling my waist against his roughly. He kissed me harshly. Resting his forehead against mine he drew in ragged breaths.  “You are terrifying in your earnesty, Alice,” Simil informed me. I stared up at him in a daze. My lips felt swollen and my core trembled. I gently caressed his cheek.  He kissed me again, more gently as his hands held me more tightly to him. His lean strength pressed against me. “Why did you do that?” he asked, finally relenting. I braced myself against the wall, my knees shaking and threatening to cave.

“I’ve done a lot, Hatter,” I stated as I tried to catch my breath.

“Why did you allow them to Unabridge you?” he specified.

“Because it meant I controlled the situation,” I answered him, resting my hand on his shoulder.  “It meant they couldn’t take away my free will.”

“You need to speak with your husband, Alice,” Simil kissed my hand.  His demeaner shifted, and I knew Carl was back. He looked up at me, surprised to be back in the apartment.  He pulled me to him, burying his face in my hair. “I was so scared for you,” he sobbed. “When I saw the scans…I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t know that you had consumed a character already,” he pulled me to sit at the counter stools.

“Carl,” I held his attention.  “They Unabridged me,” I told him.

“God, that had to be horrible.  You’re here though, did Simil watch out for you?” he asked, hopeful.  I nodded my head, chewing on my lip. “What’s wrong? Did you find out what character you consumed?” he asked.

“That’s the thing,” I reached for him, but pulled my hand back to my lap, unable to touch him.

“What is it, Gracey?” he asked.

“The character never came out,” I told him.

“So, you aren’t a Dewey yet, the scans were wrong?” he asked with relief.  I shook my head, and horror crossed his face.

“I think it happened so long ago.  I’m…I’m Alice, I’m the Alice to your Mad Hatter,” I tried explaining.

“I’m not following, Grace,” he said, confused.

“You told me yesterday of your fear…of one day not waking up…” I rubbed at my shoulder, unable to look him in the eye.  He sat, stunned, unable to move. “I am what you fear,” I explained.

“You mean…you aren’t Grace?” he looked crest fallen.  “For…for how long? I mean, you just phased, it’s not like this was happening recently?” he asked.  “Were you Grace when you had Dante…when we married…when we met?” he persisted.  

I shook my head.  “Grace Alice Merdik consumed me when she was very young, when she was just learning how to read.  I don’t think she ever realized what she did. I can remember growing up, from about the age of six.  That’s my best guess at when I became me,” I tried to explain. That was the best I could understand about what was going on.  That had to be the explanation for why I couldn’t remember my parents before the age of six. Why I had always suspected I was adopted.

“But you don’t remember your story,” he chirped.

“I remember the book because I’ve read to Dante a billion times.  I’ve had dreams about Wonderland, but I always thought it was because of reading,” I set my hands on the counter, leaning against it.

“You are a little girl though, not much beyond the age of what, eleven?” he asked.  

“Have you ever watched the movie Hook?” I asked him.  He nodded. “Do you remember how Peter grew up and forgot everything about Neverland?” I pressed.

“You grew up,” he mused.  “But why have you never Read anything out before?” he asked.

“I don’t know.  I mean, the first time it ever happened, that I can say definitively was back in the warehouse when I was sorting books.  I mean, yeah, I felt like I had characters from books come to life in crowded buildings, things like that, but I wasn’t aware of actually doing anything on my own,” I guessed.  “Maybe I broke the amount of energy it took to consume a character at that age and I didn’t gain it back all at once, but it had to accumulate over time?” I mused.

“What about Mad Hatter?” he asked me.  I looked at him, perplexed. “How did he take finding out that you were Alice?  Was he there for you during…” he fidgeted. I blushed, my eyes glancing away from him.  “Your character is supposed to be a child,” he protested.  

“I’m the main character to his story line, and he just met me all grown up,” I mumbled.

“So…you and he…”he tried to wrap his mouth around the words.

“Kissed…”I supplied, not able to look at him.  He stood up suddenly and walked away from me. I looked up at him, trying to fight down my feelings of being hurt.  It had to hurt him too, to find out his wife was nothing more than a character from a book and his character was in love with her just as much as he was.

“I don’t know if I can do this, Gracey,” he moved across the room to the window.  I sat there in silence, not sure how I was supposed to respond. This was so frustrating.  “You…you’re already a Dewey. There’s not much left for me to teach you,” he brushed at a few fly aways from his pony tail.

“Are you telling me to leave?” I asked him, standing up.  He looked up at me, startled, like I had just slashed him with a knife.

“No, I-I just…” he paused, not sure what he was trying to say.  It wasn’t going to do either of us any good for me to blow up right now.  I wanted to grab my things and run, but the only person I would be running to right now was standing in this room.

“What do you want me to do, Carl?  I don’t know what I can say right now to you to make you okay with what is happening.  That’s the operative word here, I guess. Making you do anything takes away your decision here.  See, the thing is, even if I left here, I don’t know where I would go. I’m a Dewey in a Library Guild.  Like Simil, I can only guess that we are not well tolerated in most places. The only place I would be running to is back here, because I only know you and the Mad Hatter.  I am isolated, here. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say. If I kiss you, Simil might come out, and if I kiss Simil, you might come out. What do you want me to do?” I pressed him, feeling like the remainder of my strength for the day was cracking.  He walked to me. I allowed him to wrap his arms around me and sagged into him.

“I’m sorry, Gracey.  I’m not being fair to you either.

“We haven’t even seen each other, not like a married couple, in almost five months now,” I grumbled into his jacket.  He stiffened at my admission.

“Five months?” he asked.

“It’s almost April,” I informed him.

“Jeez…I’m so sorry, Gracey,” he leaned his head against mine.

“We’ll figure it out, Carl.  That’s something we’ve always been good at doing.  For now, I’m exhausted, and my feet are killing me,” I withdrew from his embrace.  I pulled my cardigan off and my shoes. “Gracey!” he exclaimed, seeing the bruising on the bottom of my feet.  “Yeah, I wasn’t thrilled about it either,” I pulled my shirt over my head for the third time that day and tossed it on the counter stool.  I walked into the bathroom, peeling my skirt off. I turned the plug in the tub and began running hot water for a bath.

“Damn it! They need to find a better way then Unabridging someone to verify character possession,” Carl exclaimed behind me.  I turned in the mirror to see what he saw. I had bruising across my shoulders from slamming into the metal table convulsively.  I had red puckering under my skin from whatever they had injected me with. My wrists and ankles were bruised a sickening green blue.  “I can emphatically agree. I was awake for the whole thing,” I eased into the hot water. It stung my feet painfully, but as I sank into the bath, the rest of my muscles began to unwind.

“Seriously?” he asked, sitting on the toilet seat next to the bath tub.

“Yeah…if you are already the character, going into blackout’s not going to happen,” I closed my eyes, savoring the warmth.

“God…that must have been miserable,” he murmured.

“The restraints were there so that my convulsions didn’t send me off the table, cause that’s all my body tried to do was get away from whatever drug they put in those IV lines,” I expanded.  “And yeah, brain melting was definitely an apt description for the first couple minutes of that procedure,” I made little waves with the water, enjoying the texture. “At least I didn’t bite my tongue off,” I muttered.

“What?” Carl didn’t quite hear me.

“Simil gagged me to keep from biting my tongue off,” I informed him.

“He what!” Carl came off the toilet, suddenly furious.

“Mouthguard with a strap to keep me from spitting it out so that I wouldn’t bite my tongue,” I explained.

“What if you had puked?  Some people puke when they’re in too much pain,” Carl wasn’t sure what to do with the tiny room.  There wasn’t enough room to pace.

“Didn’t think about that at that point, I just wanted my teeth to stop chattering and grinding,” I muttered.  

Carl slumped back to his seat, burying his head in his hands.  “I’m sorry I wasn’t the one there for you, Gracey,” he apologized.  

I laid my hand on his leg.  “I’m alive and we have answers to our questions, Carl.  It’ll work itself out in the end. I scheduled with the Chair to have them at the testing arena tomorrow.  Hopefully I can get them to figure out exactly what I’m supposed to be doing here, outside of being harassed,” I tried to reassure him.

RT @ThorntonGibsonK: I can’t wait to read what happens next in The Kavordian Library! – #scifi, #fantasy, #webseries #books

I am a writer and artist working through the Kavordian Library series. I write sci-fi, fantasy, lgbt romance.

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