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Determined never to so much as glance into the squirming fright of the naughty corner. Some even closed their eyes in slack, unfocussed faces as they zoned in entirely on Paul's broadcast voice, like not seeing was ever any less frightening. Huddled about the flickering campfire glow of the console as it held back the darkness ...
A sky with no stars breeds no heroes.
Cathy counts herself lucky to survive day to day in a world where emotion is prescribed, and around the earth is only a shell. No sun. No universe. Nobody to look up in wonder.
Now the void has spat back Michael, first of the heroes who years ago ventured beyond the shell and were lost.
Suddenly Cathy, who would have been his sister-in-law, is noticed and needed. Repulsed as she is it will fall to her to extract from his blasted mind the horrifying secret to Outside.
Or enjoy a free sneak preview from Chapter 6: They Can Take That From You
What was this? Moisturising soap? Truly, I'd been dropped in the lap of luxury. The waves of giggles just kept on coming. I might be becoming hysterical. Where was a good hard slap when you needed one? Nonetheless I emerged looking forward to being dressed as a new woman. Correction: Cormac's new woman.
I was toweling myself with brisk industry, wobbles flying everywhere, when I heard them bringing Michael in next door. Or, more accurately, I overheard the right stink he was raising. Suck shrieks spouted through the wall as would make you think they were peeling him alive.
Hurriedly tucking the towel about myself, and it went right the way around, another luxury, I threw open the connecting door. The room beyond was a darkened world. The light from my side slicing into it to expose two women and an equally beefy man manhandling Michael's twisting, howling performance off a trolley onto a bed. A huge syringe was still embedded like a hungry proboscis in his thin buttock.
'What's going on?' I asked stupidly; but what else could I open with? These three were strangers. Suddenly I missed my suits: Tall Jake, and Sammy Short-Stuff.
'Hope you can stand such a mouthy neighbour for a bit. We're moving him in, 'til his "special" room is ready.' Said with a knowing glance I didn't find reassuring, because I knew nothing. Were they seriously going to dump Michael here in the dark, yelling his head off, while they made up the sheets somewhere else?
'So what's in the needle?'
'A nice big dose of chillax the fuck out. Otherwise we might end up crunching one of these skinny little drumsticks just tryin' to keep 'im still.' Despite her buddy-buddy tone the woman's eyes flashed a more genuine resentment at having to explain herself, to me of all people. To her credit, professionalism remained in place, front and center.
I could certainly sympathise with being rubbed up the wrong way, especially given Michael's melodramatic bullshit.
Michael himself quit yelling, and rolled his marbled eyes until he could see me. It was like his ego could hear you thinking about him.
'You! I know you, don't I?'
He grabbed the sour woman's bicep, and she did not take kindly to being grabbed. 'Look, if you lot are going t' try marching the naked sluts in here, at least have the decency 't shell out for it!' He waved a hand at me. 'This, this is classic get what you paid for.'
While she was rolling her eyes, get a load of this worm, Michael flicked his head abruptly forward in a whipcrack that should have broken his neck. He sank his too-white teeth into the meaty part of the sullen suit lady's forearm. She yelped, more in outrage than pain. The butt-needle clattered to the floor.
There wasn't a sodding lot of help I could be, but her companions immediately leaped to the rescue, working their blunt fingers into Michael's jaw to prise him off. He snapped at the digits and hissed like a pissed off cat, stringy saliva flying.
My cowardly retreat back to my room brought dark glances of contempt all around, but at least I could shut the door on them. It was a delightful ability. Whether the door be physical or a barrier in your mind, nothing beat that solid negating "thunk" as it swung shut.
I sure wasn't venturing back until all was quiet. I used the time to dress and attend to the grooming that'd dropped by the wayside. Sadly, the wardrobe's glamour had faded. A nice set of duds no longer seemed sufficient to gird me for all this.
I also figured with a panicky gulp that Jake's pill must be draining away, like soap scum down the plughole. It was such a tiny packet. As tempting as it might be, I couldn't afford to back-to-back doses. Best strike while the iron was groggy.
A final paranoid listen through the wall, to be absolutely sure the three suits had skedaddled. Then I slid next door.
Once again I stood vulnerable in the dark, while Michael lay secure in his element. And it only now occurred that I might be wasting my time: he might be under the dream of the needle.
'I'm here.' Awake, if not entirely aware. Weren't we poster kids for the Just Say No generation. 'Who are you?'
'Michael, you know sodding well who I am, and why I'm here.
THEY CAN TAKE THAT FROM YOU