You Could Have Saved Me
I woke to the utter darkness of a rural home at night or a deep cave. The cold stone beneath my bound wings and the fact that my last memory occurred at 5 o'clock in the morning all pointed at a cave. It took a long moment for my eyes to adjust enough to see my own outline against the uneven floor; it took barely a second to feel my hands trapped beneath me, rope itching against my wrists and a second more to determine my feet were suffering a similar ordeal, ankles tied together over my jeans. "Where am I?" I said allowed.
A shadow moved, I'd assumed it was a rock, "I'll keep you safe, Max," Ari's hoarse voice came from the figure, "I told you that, do you remember why? I'm your brother, that's why, I'm meant to keep you safe,"
I shifted back, struggling to sit up despite my bonds, "You're a monster, nuts, just another freakish mutant, just like the rest of us,"
Ari laughed at that, "No, I don't think so, Max," he said walking towards her, he crouched, a fuzzy paw brushed her cheek, his canine vision better adapt for the dark than my raptor sight. "There's only one monster in this cave and it's not me," he said softly.
I jerked, snarling at him, "You keep telling yourself, dog-boy," I told him malevolently but he just laughed again, a soft bitter sound in the dark.
"Don't you remember, Max?" I could feel his hot breath against my face now and recoiled, "Don't you remember the lab? Remember, Max, remember Daddy,"
I stared at him, Okay, Ari had problems, but this was completely insane, I had no idea what he was talking about… no… idea… except… I did remember. Daddy. Sitting in their room, huddled together with her flock, Jeb walked in, more tests, more pain, but Jeb was nice, always so, so nice. Ari was with him, his little boy, he was only a little younger than Gazzy but he wasn't flock, we didn't play with him. He was the enemies little boy.
"What are you talking about?" So I hadn't wanted to make nice with the Whitecoats kid, he was free; we weren't, simple as that. That didn't make me a monster.
"God, Max, I asked you to help me, I was your brother, your little brother, you should have helped me, Max,"
Jeb came in a lot… more than he had to. He pretended he paid special attention to us, but he didn't, he told the other Whitecoats he was just being thorough, wanted to get a feel for our personalities, psychological development, very important. He didn't pay any attention to us though; he spent the time in his chair, his little boy on his lap, writing reports or thinking, studying some phenomena of his data.
"Help you? Help you with what?" Ari was obviously doing what he'd achieved, my brain felt like it had been turned to some noxious mud churning around the inside of my skull, something hovered just beyond the reach of my thoughts and I struggled to see the image clearly, catch hold of the trail of thought.
"Ever heard of 'repressed memories,' Max? You don't want to remember, you don't want to see it again,"
"I know that! Why would any of us want to relive that? Ari, please, you're not alone just–"
Ari's snarl cut me off and I felt his fingers curl around my neck, "The School wasn't a bad place and I am alone; you only see the horrors of being an experiment, but it wasn't. That. Bad. You were an experiment while I was a victim, you kept silent; you didn't help me, why? Because the monster might turn to your precious flock to sate his sick appetite,"
I stared at the silhouette of Ari's face, stunned into silence for a change, "What are you talking about?" I asked him again, my voice trembling.
"I don't want to tell you, Max, I want you to remember," he told me harshly, "So you can understand because before this day is out you will understand, one way or the other, but I want you to remember first, what was done to me, what you did to me by looking the other way, you need to remember, Max, so try harder,"
I did try then. I dove after that shard of memory, because I couldn't bear this new knowledge of something missing, how could I not remember? Sure, the School left a lot of gaps and blurry bits in my long term memory, but this was different. I had to remember now that I'd found that corner, that ephemeral wisp of something. So I dredged through my memories: Jeb working away, what was he working on? He lied to his colleagues about why he was there, but we knew, or I knew, I understood because I was the leader, and I kept quiet because I was the leader, I had a duty to protect the flock. Protect them from what? What was he working on? Why was it so important that interrupting would endanger the flock? Why did he come here to work on it?
I blinked. Was he working? The Jeb in this picture didn't have the computer turned on, in her memory he wasn't holding anything, what was he doing in there? She remembered Ari; of course, it involved him, why else would he be doing this? Jeb holding Ari. Jeb touching Ari. Ari crying. He mouthed the words: help me, even though he could barely speak, she looked at him and wanted to help, but then she saw Iggy huddled away, protecting Gazzy, what if Jeb did that to Gazzy? Ari wasn't flock, wasn't family, she couldn't trade his happiness for that of the flock, better to leave things, just say nothing.
Tears made their way down my cheek in the dark, I couldn't wipe them away, but for once it didn't bother me that I was crying, "Okay, Ari, I remember, I did that, I left you to him; I'm so sorry," a sob escaped me and hot tears forced their way to join the first. "I understand now…"
"No, Max, you might remember but you couldn't begin to understand, you chose Gazzy and that's okay, you didn't know I was your brother back then, but you will understand, Max, I can make you understand,"
My fingers scrabbled against the stone behind me, searching for a sharp stone, "Ari… what are you going to do?"
"I'm going to help you understand, Max, I'm going to show you, how it feels to be powerless, to be alone, hurt in the dark, your own family turned against you; I can show you all that, Max,"
I screamed as grabbed me, his hands seeking and searching, claws raked my body, I searched desperately through the darkness, praying for Fang, for any of the flock to find me, save me, protect me like I'd done for them a thousand times over. No one came. I was trapped with the boy I hadn't helped, all grown up, I just want you to understand, Max, he'd said and as my mouth formed the words and my mind screamed at me to fight I did understand.
"Help me," I whispered, again and again, but no one came, Ari didn't stop, and I understood.