Chapter Twenty-Four

BACK IN THE CELL. I cooperated and let them bring me back here. Thought the silence and darkness would help me work things out. My head was covered along the short walk back.

The longer I've been left, the more uncertain I've become again. Don't know who or what I believe anymore. I can't understand why I didn't kill Mallon when I had the chance, but at the same time I know that while I'm here, he really is my best and only hope. He hasn't screwed me over so far. But if he does, now he thinks I trust him, I'll kill him before he even realizes I've turned.

I'm still chained to the bed, but now the shackles are only loosely anchored to the metal bed frame, and I'm able to move around. I've been able to move the board and look outside for the first time, but the view is disappointingly limited. All I can see from this window are the redbrick walls of other parts of this building and the gray slate roof of another section below. I can see a few other windows, and I've been watching them, hoping to catch sight of other people like me. I haven't seen anyone else yet. It's dark now. Maybe I'll see more tomorrow.

My head is spinning. Still can't think straight and work this out. The lines between what I feel and what I know are blurring to the point where I can't make sense of anything anymore. I keep swinging between feeling anger and frustration that I didn't kill Mallon, then wanting him to come back again so we can talk some more. I want him to tell me what he knows about Ellis, but at the same time I know he won't have found anything out. I don't even think he has the means to find out, but I can't rule out the fact that he might. Maybe I'll just kill him when he next comes into this room and put an end to all this pointless screwing around.

I sit back on the bed (I've turned the mattress, but it's still damp) and look up at the ceiling, tracing the familiar patterns in the yellowed paint again. If I killed Mallon (and I know I could), what would it achieve? I still don't know where I am. For all I know I could be surrounded by hundreds of Unchanged, all of them armed to the teeth. I could be dead before Mallon's body is cold. No, as hard as it is to swallow, right now he's all I've got.

But what does he really want from me? Ignoring all the bullshit, why is he doing this? He's already made it clear I don't have anything he wants, so is he still playing mind games just for the hell of it, or does he think he can house-train me like a pet? When you consider all the options, other than looking for a "cure" or resorting to extermination, trying to learn how to tame or control us is probably the only viable option the Unchanged think they have left.

So what do I do?

I'm daydreaming now, imagining walking around this place unchained, mixing freely with the Unchanged. I picture myself in a crowded room, surrounded by them but not yet killing, forcing myself to swallow down the fear and hold the Hate. I look into their faces, their stupid, evil, ignorant faces, and none of them knows who or what I am. They need their DNA tests and records and the strength of our reactions to be able to see what we are. But we, on the other hand, simply sense them. We know what they are without a word being spoken...

Fuck. The penny drops.

The enormity of today suddenly hits me like a hammer blow. Does Mallon even realize what he's done?

Today I resisted the temptation to kill. Regardless of the reasons why, I stayed in control and didn't fight. And if I truly can hold the Hate, then in time I could do exactly what I've just been imagining. I could walk among the Unchanged undetected. Imagine the power and advantage that would give me... I could stand shoulder to shoulder with the enemy unseen. I could go anywhere, do anything, kill anyone...

But can I do it? Can I really chose to hold the Hate at will? Or did Mallon just catch me at my weakest ebb?

I think back to that moment earlier today when I could have killed him but didn't. I wanted to do it, but I stopped myself. And it wasn't Mallon's words that stopped me... I stopped myself. I could do it again, I know I could.

It doesn't matter what I believe, whether or not I subscribe to Mallon's bullshit theories of breaking the cycle and not fighting fire with fire; the fact is he's handed control back to me, and I have to take advantage of it.

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