Pages were starting to appear in her journal. Pages she couldn’t recall writing herself. They were scribbled down hastily as if the person writing them might have been worried they wouldn’t have time. As if they were worried they might disappear or that the dream they might be trying to scribble down might fade away before they got a chance to mark it down.
There had been so much pressure pushed down onto the page that the pen had torn right through in some places. Not all of it was legible, but where it could be read, it was incoherent.
some where deep inside
i can feel it
trying to get itself out
to push me out
Spells like this were becoming more and more frequent. Every morning, when she would sit up in her bed with thin, white linen sheets and look around her stark white room, the first thing she would see was her journal on the white tile floor splayed open and facedown. Besides the journal would be her pen, both of which she would generally have stuffed in her bedside table drawer, but even that would be missing – the drawer thrown somewhere else in the room once its contents had been procured.
And there they would be – some days it would only be one page, other days it would be five pages or more. The blackest ink that could have ever existed was scrawled across every page. She would take time every morning to rip them out. Then, carefully, with shaking, ghostly fingers, she would tear them out as close as she could to the threaded binding, so there was no evidence they had even existed.
Sonia had just as carefully pulled at one of the threads in her mattress until she had formed a small hole where she could stuff away the night’s writings. It had gone on for so long, though; the mattress made audible crumpling sounds when she moved on it, and a lump had formed as more and more paper was stuffed in, making something like a growth on the side of the mattress.
She couldn’t ignore it for much longer, no matter how much she longed to.
Her visits to the pod room had ceased. The room was suffocating and too quiet. There hadn’t been another alarm, not since Peko had woken up, but she almost feared the sound now. She would jolt awake sometimes, in a daze, her heart thrumming in her throat because she thought she could hear it – the alarm, but it never was, and back to silence everything fell, except for the sound of her ragged breath and sweat plinking against the tiles or her blankets. The disappointment was too great, and so Sonia’s loneliness festered. She woke up and fell asleep in the same room every day, only leaving to go to the bathroom attached to it.
Fuyuhiko tried to visit her the first few days, but memories of his face filled with hope were too much to bear, and she knew Peko was with him even if she didn’t say a word. Seeing them together would kill whatever remnants of her remained, which would let whatever her sleeping self was warning her of out. Thankfully, his attempts had petered off. Even so, though, she would sometimes hear them walk by her room – laughing, arguing, or just talking.
Part of her wished Peko had never woke up, but once those thoughts presented themselves in Sonia’s mind, she was immediately drowned in a well of guilt. Hours she spent, crouched on the floor, her back pressed against the side of her bed with the crinkly paper mattress. She pressed her knees to her chest while she gasped and sobbed, doing her best to keep her heart from leaping out and running off.
The only break in this monotonous routine of guilt and suffering was the mealtimes. Since she was no longer visiting the cafeteria for her meals, the center started delivering basic meals – similar to the meals she received when she first awoke in her pod. They were flavorless and mush. It was all about survival and nutrition. She would each just enough to keep herself alive, but no more. She had never taken any joy in eating, but this was even more basic than before. It was her only reprieve from the pit of despair she was consistently drowning in day in and day out, a chance to turn off the emotional part of her brain and just focus on the primal. It was also the only way she could keep track of time.
The Ultimate Psychiatrist delivered her meals once a week when Sonia had her required therapy. This was also why Sonia hid her journal pages in her mattress, as the psychiatrist made a point to skim through the journal every time she visited. Of course, there was very little to see, and it seemed the psychiatrist was wising up to Sonia’s secret as she was starting to comment on how light the journal was becoming. Sonia never acknowledged her. She let the psychiatrist come in and ask questions to the room where they hung in the air unanswered before the psychiatrist would leave with a sigh.
This could have gone on for days, weeks, or even months. Sonia wasn’t worried about keeping track. That is until Kazuichi came to visit.
First, he knocked.
“Sonia? Ms. Sonia! Are you in there?”
She didn’t respond, instead burying her face into her knees.
“Sonia! You haven’t come to see Tanaka in a while. I know because… well…”
Images of Kazuichi, sitting alone, in the silent pod room where Sonia usually would sit flashed across her mind’s eye. Tears were soaking into clothing covering her knees.
“Anyway, Sonia! He’s looking rough. I really think you should come to see him.”
Kazuichi wanting her to see Tanaka? That was new. She did her best to hold back a spiteful giggle.
“Sonia. I am sorry about what I said about us being kicked out of here. But, you know me, I don’t know what I am talking about half the time,” he chuckled, and Sonia could imagine how awkwardly he’d be standing, talking to a door that wouldn’t respond. She couldn’t help smiling at the thought. “I am sure they won’t kick everyone out, not until we’re all awake and together again. I am sure of it!”
Carefully, Sonia pulled herself up off the floor. Then, on shaky legs, she took a moment to gather her journal, her nail clippers from the bathroom, Snow White from beneath her bed, and then went and opened the door, much to the surprise of Kazuichi whose eyes lit up the moment they registered she was really there in front of him.
“Ms. Sonia? You look…”
Awful. Gaunt. Like death. A barely living being. A shell of her former self. All words passed through Sonia’s thoughts in a matter of seconds. She couldn’t see herself, but she could imagine she looked hollow. Yet, Kazuichi didn’t say any of those things. Instead, he simply smiled and continued:
“You look beautiful, Ms. Sonia.”
Warmth lit up across Sonia’s cheeks, a now unfamiliar sensation. How long had it been since she had experienced anything other than guilt and despair? Unable to form a response to Kazuichi, all she could do was clear her throat and smile. Words were gummed up in her throat, and she wondered if she could even still speak. It had been so long since she had said a single word. It didn’t matter, though, she decided. She would save her words for Tanaka, who she decided lay sleeping, awaiting his princess’s return.