The door swung inward. If there was a knock it was buried under the squeaky hinge and the rattle of the knob.
"Good morning, Cat," said Reggie.
Reggie moved past Cat to the window. She stood motionless, gaze fixed, not an eye blinking or muscle twitching. Her name was Isabella Wright. But she was prone to frequent bouts of catatonia and longer spells of quiet, hence Cat from the staff.
Reggie pulled the curtains of the lone window in the room farther apart. The sun that had just striped the wall behind Cat now flooded inside, illuminating more than Reggie could see.
"Breakfast is being served. Don’t be late."
Reggie passed by, exited the door, headed to Thomas’ room next, then on to NoNo’s. Cat was motionless, not by choice but necessity. She could see the time mites reflecting the sun’s light while they rode on the eddies in the space caused by Reggie’s movement. Today was difficult. The mites had energy. A breath of movement and she would lose time – time to that alien bastard Kreiger – so she had to wait for the mites to settle and rest, for the influence of the eddies to dissipate. Time was flow, and flow could be hijacked and redirected, disrupted.
So, she waited. The problem was that waiting was painful – always painful – and meant she was another minute closer to missing breakfast. She was hungry. Her calf itched. The mites slowed, hung mid-air for a few moments, then seemed to settle. There were still a few floaters, always floaters, but she couldn’t wait any longer, there was too much pain tying up her muscles, digging into her back and legs. She had to give up the time, however heavy the price. She released from the stillness that was outside of time and rejoined the world.
She checked the mirror before heading to breakfast. She could see it, the time lost. A wrinkle just beneath her eyes, subtle, not deep. Still, it wasn’t there before. Kreiger had stolen more of her time. The mites hadn’t completely settled, the floaters a bit too numerous. There was a cost to her impatience and that cost reflected back at her from the mirror.
She glided into the line. No one noticed. No one cared. Invisibility was easy to attain when she kept to herself. Commotion from behind. She turned. Reggie had entered the room and moved up the line to the left. Cat stepped out and stood in his path.
"Cat? How did you …"
Cat looked him directly in the eye. "You violated our agreement." Her affect flat. "You moved too fast. Don’t do it again."
"Ok, Cat." Reggie reached out and nudged her back into line. "Meredith!" he shouted, moving past. "Have you given Cat her meds?"
The meds were difficult and a large part of the problem. They knocked her out, forced sleep upon her. And now they were no longer in pill format. They were liquid. No tricking the system or fooling the attendant. "Drink this. Open your mouth and stick out your tongue. Good. There you go." Throwing up didn’t help, either. It hastened the drugs’ effects.
It had been going on for too long. The solution elusive, the medications too powerful. Each night Kreiger would find a way into her room in the middle of the night and steal her time. Her only recourse was to wake before dawn, before the rest of the world, before the time was completely lost, and slip into the stillness outside of time. She would look out upon the pinkish sky, the line of the mountains dark against the lightened horizon. She would find a spot in the room – always different, even if by centimeters – and she would fix her gaze and still her movements. The beating of her heart would sound like a freight train at high velocity in these moments, anything to quiet that. She would level her breathing, slow her heart, even it all out. The attempt to corral the mites of time required zen-like focus.
Her stillness – until the light came and the mites slowed to a stop – bought back the time stolen by Kreiger. With movement she would jeopardize losing the time and handing it over to the alien. Until she stilled the world there was peril. She had seen the results of failure, the creep of lost time over her. The aches that came with it. The lines on her face and hands. The normally slow process of aging that accelerated with Kreiger’s attacks.
Afternoon now. The door opened, any knock buried under the squeaky hinge and the rattle of the knob again. Reggie stood in the doorway.
"Time to meet with Dr. Kreiger, Cat."
She could never attain invisibility with Kreiger. He could always see into her, reaching – as he was want to do – inside and disrupting her flow. Words like knives. Alien eyes that pierced and skewered. She hated the bastard and this daily taunting. It had been going on for too long, but the solution was elusive, so elusive. And time so precious.
in category Fiction