(A/N: Because I couldn't stick with just one self-indulgent backstory hypothesis, here's another one to keep you all entertained! Reviews welcome, and as always, thanks for reading.)
苦いりんご (Bitter Apple): GENESIS
The girl pushed her way forward, clawing fiercely at the sleepiness that held her back; she had been sleeping for too long, and she was afraid. She wanted to wake up.
"Brain activity is elevated."
She heard the words but didn't understand them; they were muffled, as if they were being spoken on the other side of a wall. Still, they encouraged her, and she continued to struggle toward the sound of them.
Suddenly, she realized that the drowsy feeling of shaking off sleep was gone. She was awake.
But this wasn't right; everything was black.
She couldn't feel her body, either.
"That's unusual; is she dreaming, perhaps?"
"No, sir – I think she's regaining consciousness."
The voices were still muted and incomprehensible, and the girl didn't know why. She tried again and again to open her eyes, move her body, but nothing happened.
Had she died? Was this what death was like?
Sensations flashed past her in a dizzy whirl – a bang, a flare of fire, too-hot-too-bright-too-loud, and then pain, and then darkness…
She opened her mouth and screamed.
A horrible sound grated against her ears: a rough, clipped, fuzzy moan overlaid with the whine of audio feedback. The noise terrified her further; she wanted it to stop, but it wouldn't, and the only thing she could think to do was keep screaming and screaming until someone made it go away….
There was movement around her now, muffled like the voices had been. Clattering and banging and rapid footsteps.
"For goodness' sake, put her out again!"
The girl felt sleep begin to crawl into the edges of her consciousness, and she fought desperately against it, but it pushed harder and harder until she could no longer resist.
She noticed, as she sank into unconsciousness again, that at least the noise had stopped.
When she next came to, it was suddenly and reluctantly –it felt as though someone had flicked a switch somewhere to wake her. She could feel now, at least, although the sensations she was experiencing were strangely numbed. She was lying on her back in what felt like a bed, though even though the numbness she could tell that it wasn't her own bed back at home – it felt wrong, and the light against her eyelids was too strong and too cold.
She could see.
Eagerly, she opened her eyes. The bright fluorescent lights overhead seared across them, and she blinked. Her eyes adjusted, and she blinked again.
Something was wrong.
She saw the white shapes of the room around her – a hospital room, from the look of it. Next to her bed was a bank of monitors and machines displaying various readouts, and around her were clustered a group of men in white coats, one or two carrying clipboards.
Everything was minutely jagged around the edges, and the colors were flat and dull. An image viewed on a screen.
She kept blinking.
One of the men, the one nearest her, stepped forward.
"Can you hear me?"
The voice sounded odd too, as if she was hearing it through a speaker.
Dimly, she nodded.
"That's good – you had us worried for quite a while there."
He smiled. The girl blinked again.
"Where am I?"
The voice that blurted out of her wasn't anything like the voice she remembered as her own. She was afraid now. One of the machines next to her began to beep in warning.
"Elevated nervous response," said one of the men, not the one who had spoken before. "I'll stabilize her."
He started forward. The girl gave a nervous whimper as he drew closer.
She expected to feel her heart beating loudly in her chest, but it was curiously absent.
Suddenly, a hand came down to rest on top of hers. She turned her head toward it as best she could – something heavy was pulling at the back of her neck.
A woman she hadn't noticed before was looking down at her, smiling kindly.
"It's all right, sweetheart. Nobody's going to hurt you."
She ran her hand over the girl's, and then looked up at the group of men assembled there.
"Dr. Murata, this has got to be frightening enough for her already – perhaps it would be best to leave her alone for the time being? I can answer her questions for now."
Dr. Murata, the man who had first spoken, cleared his throat.
"As the leader of the project, I believe I should be present at all stages of its development, Dr. Hosono."
"With all due respect, sir," said Dr. Hosono, her voice tightening, "she's a little girl who's just experienced a serious amount of trauma, and I'm fairly sure that waking up to find half the facility crowded around her isn't doing her any favors."
The girl let the words roll over her without fully understanding them. She wanted to get up and run away from this place, whatever it was, whatever had happened to her, but her body felt too heavy for her to even consider moving it.
"Very well," said Dr. Murata, after a long pause. "But I expect you to take notes on anything she reports about her condition."
"Of course, sir," said Dr. Hosono, bowing her head politely.
The men in the coats gradually filtered out of the room, until the girl was left alone with Dr. Hosono still holding her hand. The woman sighed and sat down on a small bench next to the bed.
"That's a little better, isn't it?" she said.
Not knowing how else to respond, the girl nodded. The doctor smiled; a tired, weary smile. She was silent for a few minutes, and then she got to her feet.
"There's something I'd like to show you, all right?"
The girl nodded again. Dr. Hosono walked over to a small alcove in the rear wall of the room, and then returned with a hand mirror.
"Sweetheart, I want you to look here. I promise you that it's just a mirror, and the person you're seeing is you."
Dr. Hosono held the mirror out so it was in front of the girl's face.
The girl leaned forward as well as she could, then drew back again.
Not even the strange quality of her vision could explain this.
She was looking at what appeared to be a doll's face. Its face was blankly attractive, like a mannequin's, and its skin had an unrealistic, plastic sheen to it. Its vividly colored hair was cut in a simple chin-length bob, and its eyes….
Red eyes. Round and wide, gazing back at her, the color of blood.
She blinked again in another attempt to clear her vision; she couldn't be seeing it correctly.
The doll blinked along with her.
She tried it once again, more slowly.
The doll followed the movement exactly.
It was her face. Her skin, her hair.
She turned her head slowly to face Dr. Hosono once more, her mouth hanging open.
"Why…?" she whispered, in the voice that was not her own.
"There was a terrible accident," murmured the doctor, taking the girl's hand again. "Your body was hurt very, very badly. It couldn't take care of you anymore, so we had to make a new body for you to live inside."
"New body," repeated the girl slowly. The doctor nodded.
"It will work exactly the same as your old body, as soon as you get used to it. I promise."
The girl continued to stare at the face in the mirror. An accident. A new body. The eyes…
She didn't want to see anymore. She turned her head away.
She felt the doctor's hand on hers again, soft and gentle, its thumb sweeping slowly, methodically across her knuckles.
If she had a new body and a new face now, how would her parents ever recognize her when they came to take her home? Hopefully someone would explain the situation to them; she wanted very much to see them again, as soon as possible.
Would she even recognize her parents? She couldn't seem to recall their faces…
A sudden realization jolted her. She looked up at Dr. Hosono once more.
"Who am I?"
The woman froze briefly, and then sank backward, her brow furrowed with disappointment.
"We were hoping you'd be able to tell us…but…you don't remember anything, do you?"
Slowly, shakily, the girl shook her head. She looked down at her hand; it was trembling, jerking awkwardly, uncontrollably against the sheets where it lay. Vaguely, she felt the doctor's hand on her shoulders, moving slowly in small, gentle circles, over and over. She wanted to cry, but she couldn't.
Her body wouldn't let her.
She said nothing for the rest of the day. Dr. Hosono stayed by her side for as long as she could, although from time to time she'd be called away for half an hour or so. Now and then the other doctor, Murata, would come into the room and make some note on a reading from one of the monitors. He'd attempted to speak with his patient a few times, but when it became apparent that she wasn't going to respond, he stopped trying and left her alone.
There were other visitors as well; other doctors, who would enter the room and make their own observations from the monitors, saying nothing, and the occasional nurse, who would poke her head through the doorway as if just to peek at the young girl inside. Dr. Hosono was very prompt about shooing them away, when she was there; when she wasn't, they usually left anyway after a few moments of the girl's blank silence.
Gradually, she became aware of the activity around her winding down; there were fewer people looking in on her, and the lights in the hallway she could just barely see through the blinds covering the windows of her room had been dimmed. When Dr. Murata came in for his final visit, he was wearing a heavy coat and had a bag hanging from one shoulder.
"I'd like to speak with you in greater depth tomorrow, miss," he said. "That is, of course, if you're feeling up to it."
The girl responded as she had the entire day, with a blank stare.
"Well, goodnight. And goodnight to you, Dr. Hosono."
Dr. Murata left the room. When he was gone, the girl turned to the other doctor, her eyes wide.
"…is it late?" she said. Even though she hadn't used it in hours, her voice was crisp and clear.
"Not overly so," said Dr. Hosono, checking her watch. "It's about half-past seven."
"Oh," said the girl.
There was a long moment of silence.
"Are you going to leave too?"
"I can stay a while longer, if you'd like," said the doctor, smiling.
Shyly, the girl nodded.
"All right, then. Just let me go find myself a more comfortable chair – I'll be right back."
The hours wore on. The overhead lights in the hall clicked off altogether, and the building fell silent.
Dr. Hosono had fallen asleep; her head was resting against her shoulder, and the magazine she'd been reading lay on top of the blanket she'd folder over her lap.
The girl was still wide awake; she didn't feel even the slightest bit tired. Even when she tried to lay back and close her eyes (she had to turn her head to one side, due to the cords attached to the back of her neck), she eventually grew bored and opened them again. She sat still, watching the night pass by.
Was this normal? Was it going to be this way for the rest of her life? Would she spend forever sitting here, unable to move, with no name and no family?
She wondered why she had been saved in the first place, if that was all she had to look forward to.
Her hands began to twitch again.