I like this entry because it happens on my birthday
So glad you guys are liking the story so far. It's quiet an alternative tale
Journal entry 3 – January 27th, 2011
I haven't seen Max in three weeks, nor has he contacted me in any other way. I won't lie and say that I'm not worried there's going to be some man in a dark suit waiting for me at every turn I make, because I am. But I'm also far more worried about Max than I am for myself.
This is too important for him to just let it go. He was not playing with me. He needs
to know how far or how little I've advanced. So I'm afraid someone found out what he was trying to do. They might not have found out he's already contacted me, that I already know too much, but it doesn't mean he's okay.
A small voice in my head says he's testing me. That he wants to know if the small town girl has the guts to keep this secret and not run for the hills. And I have been tempted.
The lab has been full for the past weeks, and I haven't dared even to look at the blood sample until I'm totally alone. I'm also paranoid someone is going to take the sample by mistake, even if it is in my office under lock, so in full blown paranoia, I watch it like a hawk.
It's all gone now, the sample. There's only so much I can stretch it to last. If Max doesn't come soon, I won't be able to go any further.
If he doesn't come soon, I'm going to start believing it was all just an extremely vivid, extremely weird dream.
Even if I know better.
Liz was just about to leave when the shadow in the doorway made her stop.
"I was starting to wonder if I had dreamed you up," she said to try to lighten her heart. Maybe to lighten his, too. Maybe to just say something instead of stupidly staring at him.
"I thought you might be hungry," he said, coming into the room and walking past her, as if they did this all the time to the point that hello
was no longer necessary. In his hands she saw a bag of Tai take out, her treacherous stomach grumbling in response. He placed the food at the end of her work station, and grabbed a stool to sit on.
He wasn't smiling, but his body language was friendly enough to indicate that he was expecting her to take a seat next to him.
He looks tired
, Liz thought, resisting the urge to stare as she put her things down. He's tired and pretending not to be
. "Are you okay?" she asked, helping him take the food containers out.
"I'm always okay," he said with just the faintest bite of irony. She didn't ask for more.
He passed her the black plastic fork and knife. She opened a drawer and got a couple of dishes out. They worked efficiently and quietly, setting their dinner for two. Small talk was out of the question, and they both knew it.
"What do you have?" he asked before they started eating, the smell of spices and chicken doing funny things to her increasingly grumbling stomach.
"A lot of things— and not much, really," she answered, looking at her food since staring at him was out of the question. "It would help me to know a few things. I mean, if you… don't mind."
"Ask away," he said simply, sticking his fork in the orange colored rice.
"How old are you?"
"Officially, twenty-nine. Depending on what exactly you're counting, I can also be twenty-three." He grabbed for his natural tea. This time, she did stare at him.
"You don't look twenty-nine," she said stupidly, thinking you don't look twenty-three
would sound even worse. He didn't look like he was joking, either, but he had
to. What kind of age could be measured in two separate numbers?
"Thank you. Next?"
"I know you said they were drugging you so you would come back. Why would you run away?"
"How is that medically relevant?" this time, his amicable tone was gone. While she studiously avoided his gaze by watching her incredibly interesting mustard dressing on her salad, she could feel his piercing eyes on her. Her cheeks grew red.
"I— I just thought— maybe it was a physical reason. Something that would help me understand."
He hesitated, something she wasn't expecting. It was such an un-Max thing to do, really. He took another bite, thoughtful this time.
"There is," he said, lowering his fork, "I mean, there is a physical reason why they want me back. But it shouldn't be relevant to what you're looking for." He grabbed a small Tabasco bottle from an inner pocket in his jacket and started to pour it on his food. As with all things Max, it was strange enough that she had to stare at it, wondering how he was going to be able to swallow that fireball.
"Are you…" going to be sick?
"allergic to anything?"
"No. And I've been tested extensively, so there's no doubt about that."
"None. I don't get sick."
"Not even a cold?"
"Not even that."
"Ever," he whispered, not really seeing his food as he stuck the fork into it, lost in his own thoughts and memories of what it meant to always be healthy.
It makes you different.
Awkwardness filled the silence between them. Even taking a drink or two from her Snapple felt forced, yet her tolerance to Tai food demanded she drank something, however inappropriate the timing was. He started eating again, and she stopped drinking, thankful. Biting her lower lip, words eluded her to keep asking her questions.
"Is there any chance I could get any clean sample from you?"
He shook his head, his turn to take a long drink. "The most I can try is a couple of hours before my next dose."
She nodded in defeat.
"Max? How— how long have they been drugging you?"
"Four years, three months, twenty-five days… and counting," he recited it as if the number were printed on the plastic fork. He tried not to stab at his food this time, but failed miserably.
What do you say to that? "I'm sorry"?
"What did they use before? To keep you there?" she asked, starting to feel sick.
Max stopped again, thoughtful.
"Nothing," he answered in a cheerless tone. "They used nothing," he repeated, but his shoulders sagged a little, and his eyes lost focus for a moment. "Nothing chemical, anyway."
She nodded as if that actually made sense, slowly returning to her food. Silence stretched again for a couple of minutes as they both kept eating.
"Do they hurt you?" she whispered, unable to look at him, feeling her stomach becoming solid rock. She'd run some pretty wild theories in her mind, but the way Max spoke seemed to point to her darkest thoughts.
A moment went by. Another. She risked looking up, finding Max slowly chewing, thinking through his answer. "You mean… physically? No. I am
the only one they have. They sedate me for some testing, but it's in their best interest that I'm always at my top capacity. They are usually… decent people. I have nothing against them."
He looked at her, trying to see if she understood. Maybe trying to understand himself why he still respected the people he wanted to run away from. He looked at his food after a moment.
"About four years ago I helped them figure out some… complex things. They didn't think it was possible, but when I did… Let's just say it opened the world to me. So the problem became to have a leash on me while letting me do my newfound job."
"And blindly and stupidly I accepted." Frustration as palpable as the table they were eating on filled the space between them. "They'll never let me go, Doctor. No matter what I do, no matter how many orders I follow, or how willingly I participate on their schemes. I'm tired of living as a virtual prisoner, reporting to everyone, being told where to go, what to do, or who to—" He stopped, swallowing whatever he had in mind and his temper with it. It took him a moment, but he got his composure back. Now that he'd made his point, he stabbed at his food for his next bite in complete silence.
"What—what about your parents?"
"There aren't any," his tone was more subdued, though anger still lurked in his eyes. "I was created in a test tube."
"What? That's not possible!"
He shrugged, giving no importance to whatever she was about to say.
"No, Max. Science wasn't that advanced three decades ago. Hell, it's not advanced enough today!"
"I beg to differ," he said, still looking at his food and not her.
"I've seen pretty advanced stuff. Gene manipulation is in its infancy. What you are— whatever hybridization they say they created— it's still eons away."
"Think whatever you want."
It sounded so final when he said it like that. She felt insulted that he would place so little trust in her knowledge.
"They've been drugging you for four years, practically keep you a prisoner, and you believed
them when they told you that?"
That stopped him in his tracks. "What else could it be?" he asked, for the first time in his life pondering the mysteries of his origins, it seemed.
She'd been thinking about it for three weeks straight and she had plenty of absurd theories running around in her head.
"I don't know, but you being created in a test tube thirty years ago is not