"Aren't you going home?"
The question was asked at least the tenth time that evening, and didn't do doctor Davis any good, for as much as he himself would be happy to go, he had to stay, and every reminder of how good it would be to find himself in his soft bed just made him more impatient. He yawned widely, covering his mouth a bit late. His colleague smiled at him. ''You look very tired, you'd better go home" Yes, he was tired. The whole day he had to look after his not very few patients, the life at the hospital had returned to its normal pace, much to his disappointment, as well of everyone elses, and naturally, he had had no rest on that day.
"I'm waiting for that cop, I can't leave yet." He leaned back in his armchair.
"A problem with your patient?" The woman tilted her ginger head, tapping her fingers lightly on his desk.
"Maybe, we're going to find out... He was supposed to be here already." The man voiced a bit of the anger he'd been trying to hide.
"Do we have another criminal under our care?"
"No, that's not the case, there's another problem. When we identified her, her files said that she'd been lost five years ago, and was considered to be dead during the last ten years. The cops need to make a correction in their database, but they need to know where she's been and why she disappeared.''
Her eyebrows rose "That's going to be a problem, in her state."
"Tell me about it..." He rested his face in his palms, but looked up almost at once. There was a careful knock on the door. "Yes?" The door opened and a nurse escorted the person he'd been waiting for.
"I'm so sorry I'm late" He apologized reaching out to shake the doctor's hand.
"It's alright," Davis assured him halfheartedly. It didn't go unnoticed, his guest apologized again, but Davis waved it off, "It's alright, really, I'm just not comfortable waking up my patients in the middle of the night for interrogation, especially in a state like hers."
"It's not exactly an interrogation," the man muttered almost to himself, then went on a little louder "So can I talk to her?"
"Of course." Davis sighed and led him out, conversing as they walked forward. "I have already warned you about her memory loss,"
"Yes, you have, you also said it was only partial."
"That's right..." he glanced at the detective for a second "I only ask of you to keep in mind that she was in a coma, and she's quite frustrated with her situation already, so I don't want..."
"I understand everything!" the man sounded a bit too loud and clearly annoyed.
"Good." The Doctor exhaled slowly. "Right this way, please." He turned right, and led them all the way to the end of the second narrower passage. He stopped in front of the last door, put his hand on the handle and opened it, careful not give a sound. When he looked inside though, he saw his patient looking back, so he didn't take any more time and led the detective in, "Excuse us for bothering you at this hour Ms. Ryan, but it's very important." April blinked at him. She glanced at the cop suspiciously, his profession was not hard to guess. "We just need to talk to you for a moment." Davis went on, following her gaze and catching her expression. "I hope you don't mind?"
April didn't hurry to answer, she took her time examining the 'guest' the doctor had brought to her, presence of a cop made her all careful and alerted, although she didn't show it. "Talk about what?" She finally asked, with the most emotionless voice she could muster. The man stepped forward to introduce himself. "Good evening, Ms. Ryan. I'm detective Stephens, I'd like to ask you a few questions." She kept staring at him without saying a word, after a few seconds she noticed the man making some kind of a nervous movement. "About what?" she repeated in the same voice.
"About your disappearance... And now, reappearance, of course." Stephens took a little stool Davis had suggested and sat a little closer. April shifted in her bed away – not even feeling uncomfortable, but in an irritated way, spelling 'keep your distance, I don't like you,' without saying a word aloud. But she sat up a bit and folded her arms on her chest, simply stating "I'm listening."
"Do you have any idea where you have been all this time?"
"No," she replied, shrugging "I don't remember anything about where I've been and what's happened to me." Stephens narrowed his eyes on her.
"You don't have to remember, but you might be guessing." He kept his voice casual, but the alarm rang in April's head at once, she stayed composed, of course, keeping the emotionless mask on her face, only allowing her chest to move as she breathed slowly.
"If only," She answered after a while, hoping her voice sounded natural, "but I don't know any more than you do."
"Do you at least remember how you've survived the Collapse? You were supposed to be at a spaceship off to Bokamba/Mercer colonies." April took in his suspicious expression and felt secretly relieved that she had already been preparing for these questions, so she was perfectly on guard.
"I don't remember that," she answered shaking her head, "I've been told that I'd been registered as a colonist, but I don't recall that, I don't even remember if I intended to go to the colonies."
"Then what -do- you remember?"
April shrugged casually again, "I don't know... it's a little fuzzy. Those were just ordinary days, school, work, friends..." The detective didn't say anything for a while, just nodded looking at nothing, then asked slowly.
"Can you at least answer why you'd want to be a colonist, Ms. Ryan?"
She shook her head, faking a hard thinking on the matter "No, I don't know. Perhaps I wanted more money, I was working as a waitress in a little cafe, you know, it's hard to make a living with a job like that." She paused, looking at him suspiciously "I was not hooked up on Raptures or anything similar, if that's what you're asking about." She realized she was close to the point, when the man didn't even try to deny that that had been his point.
"Yes," he said slowly, smiling. "I've checked your criminal record. One and only penalty in your life – for spilling some blue paint on the road – which was resulted by an accident by the looks of it."
April didn't answer, she just waited for the next question. Stephens sighed nodding and got up slowly "Alright, I see there's not much you can help us with" Now you're catching on, April snorted mentally. "Just one last thing, can you direct me to any of your friends?" The question took her by surprise, she blinked, as the realization slowly started sinking in. Oh no! "I'm sure," the man went on "that they can help me better, they would remember about you more than you do. Isn't that right?"
He waited for her answer, and April almost heard how her inner voice screamed in her ear: You're doing it again, you bitch!
"Could you tell me who your closest friends were, or at least the people you spent the most of your time with? I've tried to contact your family, but they're not available for some reason, I would start checking on the people you used to work with, but I'm sure you can do this a lot easier for me if you just tell me the names of your best friends. Can you? So that we don't lose time until I manage to contact your parents, anyway." Stephens asked while the invisible accusing voice was screaming insults only April could hear, another voice also appeared, out of nowhere screaming for her to just jump up of the bed and run away while she could. She thought she felt her brain cells heating up, working faster than ever – could that be the reason of the sickening feeling building up in her stomach? She saw the detective's face changing, following her own expression, of course. And the instinct took over, "No!" she said, trying her best to sound as calm as she'd been, "My family won't be of much use. I hadn't contacted them for months, they have absolutely no idea what I'd been doing and where I'd been."
"Oh...?" Stephens tilted his head, now suddenly very suspicious "and why's that, ms. Ryan?"
April bit her lip, wondering if the truth was harmful, it didn't seem any more dangerous than the possibility of her parents finding out where she was, for a flicker of moment a horrifying image of her mother and father coming to visit her flashed in the back of her mind. She blocked the thought right away, she would do anything to prevent that. "I ran away from home," she muttered, looking away. "I was not in.. very good terms with my family, I left home without telling them where I was going," and she shot her piercing gaze at him "Do they need to know?"
Stephens raised his brows: "If they don't know that you're alive, ms. Ryan..."
"They wouldn't know about my death!"
"They would. They were sure to look for you after the Collapse." April was going to say something else, but the last bit stopped her. She blinked at him first, waiting for him to explain what he'd meant, but he never did. Then she took her gaze away to look at the doctor instead. Davis understood her and stepped in:
"Excuse me, detective, she doesn't really know what the Collapse is, we haven't told her yet."
"Oh..." The man placed his gaze on him, then returned to April's confused face, deciding if he should tell her about the event, but finally deciding against it "They would be notified in any case. You might have run away, but officially they're still your family..." he stopped when April made a strange noise, close to snorting. She might have been hiding things, but she made her opinion about her family very clear. After a few seconds of considering the options, the detective decided to drop this subject at all and go back to the previous one, "So, about your friends... Whom can I talk to?"
Again, the braincells started heating up, April was rethinking her options quickly, she considered saying that she was a total loner and didn't really have close friends at all, but she also looked ahead and saw that it was easy to check, that the detective didn't really need to hear it from her anyway, such information was only too available from nearly anyone she had been encountering in Venice. Stephens would just check where she'd lived and worked, anyone from the Border House – starting from her ex-landlady Fiona to any of her neighbors – could tell him about Charlie and Emma, and the same at The Fringe cafe – all of her colleagues were aware of her friendship with them, since all three of them used to hang around at the cafe every day. No, hiding was not an option, it was a better idea for her to pull the strings, to direct the detective where it was the least harmful for her, the possibility of getting information about her from anyone other than her two best friends was even more dangerous, she knew almost for sure that whatever they would tell him, it would either not matter at all – thus, make him move on to other people – or make her look suspicious, she had never cared what they had thought about her in those last days of her constant disappearances and lurking in all the wrong places, but now it was something to consider.
The only two options then! April decided. It was either Charlie, or Emma. It was a tough dilemma though. She started folding the bedspread absentmindedly. Charlie was the one who believed me from the beginning! She remembered. She herself had been surprised on that day, when Charlie had accepted her insane excuse for an explanation without a doubt. So she opened her mouth to talk and that's when she started having second thoughts. She needed someone unlike him. She needed her friend to give the most innocent and believable explanations, and as much as Charlie was dear to her heart, and she would have never considered him less than smart... he was not that kind of a fox, the instinct pulled her thoughts towards Emma, she was the most likely person to evade all the traps the detective might prepare for the interrogation, she definitely had that much cunning. "Well..." April mouthed, finally deciding. "I suppose you could talk to my friend Emma." Stephens rose his brows, gesturing her to go own, April sighed "Emma De Vrijer. We both leaved at the Border House in Venice, she was the closest friend I had, possibly she can tell you more. I don't know where she is now though..." Stephens took notes to himself and slowly got up. "Don't worry about that, I'll find your friend. Thanks for your help and sorry to disturb you at this hour." He turned to Davis, "Thank you too."
April noticed how the doctor looked irritated behind his formal courtesy, watched them without a word as they went out, Davis turning to wish her a good nights sleep and the nurse, who had been silently standing behind them the whole time, giving her injection before taking her leave. April only allowed herself a low groan when she was alone. The injection started working pretty fast. The whole body relaxing, becoming heavier, her mind slowly sinking into the sleep. But as long as she was conscious, she was thinking about what she had gotten herself into. Even more important – what had she dragged Emma into? If she had not been so drowsy, she would have been berating herself for involving her friend once again, but in such condition, she could not feel the anger that would certainly overwhelm her the moment she awoke. Sighing as there was nothing she could do about it, she drifted away into the dreamworld. That night her dreams were the memories of the past, she was back in the Border House, Fiona was crying on the sofa, the Vanguard agents standing in the room and Gordon Halloway ordering to shoot Emma, while April herself was clutching her talisman of the Balance and refusing his demands over and over again. Emma got shot numerous times in those dreams, standing up completely unharmed after every bullet, and asking her in a shocked voice why she was just standing there doing nothing.
It was still dark when April woke up. Her forehead was wet with cold sweat and her hands trembling with tension, she was clutching the real talisman. Breathing hard, she looked around to remind herself where she was, recalling the visit Stephens had paid her the previous evening. Sure enough, the guilt she should have felt back then rushed through her now. They would all have been better off not knowing me at all. Her inner struggle continued for a while, one part of her blaming her for involving her friends, the other painfully admitting that there was nothing she could do about it.
She had been lying motionless for what seemed to be hours when the nurse opened the door, greeting her and carrying a tray with medicines, and a disgusting excuse for a breakfast. It really didn't help April's nearly non-existent appetite.
"Good morning, did you sleep well?" The nurse smiled somehow without emotion.
"Yeah, sure" she answered with an undertone of 'whatever', then threw a nasty look at the colorless porridge-like substance she was supposed to be fed with, "Do I have to eat that?"
"Yes..." very irritated.
"May I starve to death?"
"If you find me a new job first."
April snorted, appraising the nurse while the latter was checking on her, the procedure she found she was hating with all her heart. It was not unpleasant in a physical way, of course, the few tiny gadgets on her side were managing to report her health with all its tiniest details without bothering her at all. But the fact that she need them, that without constant checking something serious could slip, was concerning.
"What's a Collapse?" She suddenly asked, causing the nurse turn so sharply, she almost knocked the tray over, to April's disappointment she did not.
"It's when all hell broke loose." she noted. April made her face express all the irritation and didn't say anything. "It's just as it's called, everything collapsed. One day technologies just failed, contact was lost everywhere, the means of transportation... Well, let's say that those that simply just stopped were the lucky ones. We lost all the colonies in outer space, all the spaceships crashed, catastrophes all over the planet, nobody knew what was happening, and... there was more..." She stopped there, taking greater interest in the pills she had put on the tray. April waited for continuation of this unbelievable news, but it never came.
"What more?" She exclaimed frustrated.
"It... It was a collapse." The nurse stated, not even looking at her now, completely drown into her own memories, the images of the event without any doubt. "Nobody ever found a reason, or had it undone. We were pretty much pulled back from the progress. We never recovered the wormhole technologies again."
April swallowed, trying to analyze how much her world had changed without her being aware of it. "When did that happen?" She asked in a sour voice.
"Started by the evening... Seventh of August, 2009, the wormholes in the matter of our dimension were closed forever on that day. Sounds kinda epic, doesn't it?" She laughed a humorless chuckle, and lifted her eyes to face April. But April was not laughing, she wasn't even listening anymore. Her eyes were wide, lips parted soundlessly, color drained off her face, frozen almost like the way she was on the day she was brought at the hospital. But behind her now stiff body, her mind was very actively matching the time of the collapse with the events she was pretending to have forgotten. That last day, the wormholes closing, the new Guardian, the Balance restarted – No matter how much she would have loved to believe it to be a coincidence, she couldn't bring herself to do it. If she had thought she'd known what a true weight of guilt had been, she found her self wrong.
What have I done?