This is the Third Installment in the Pandora Sullivan Series. So for anyone who was curious enough to find this by browsing know that in order to understand the plot of Shadows of Time you need to read the first two parts.
For everyone else who is familiar with the story I hope you enjoy the continuation of Pandora's story, and the saga as a whole. Also I suppose it would be very rude of me to not thank you guys for the support and feedback, it means a lot to me.
"Little Solace comes
to those who grieve
when thoughts keep drifting
as walls keep shifting
and this great blue world of ours
seems a house of leaves
moments before the wind."
-Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves.
A clock ticked somewhere in the dark. Time was moving, but everything else was still and distant. There were moments before all this—there were moments of consciousness and waking laughter—but it had all faded into the recesses of neglect. There was only darkness and the ticking clock now. Those were the only things that matter. Her eyes remained closed. The beauty of sleep was only for the onlooker, not for the sleeper herself. With porcelain eyelids gently closed and a melting peace that seemed to settle in ever inch of her body it was hard to imagine that she ever was awake. Sleep grew in her veins like summer ivy. Sleep grew in her heart like a glaze of ice. She breathed, but she would not wake.
The first year of her coma she was placed in a room along a corridor lined with other rooms. She rested there still and quiet like a doll. Machines monitored her brain activity and heart. She was alive, yes, but her body wouldn't rouse. That first year soon ended. Medics cut her hair to her chin. It was easier for hygiene and efficiency reasons.
At the start of the second year she was moved to a place very few scientists traveled. A maze of chambers, corridors, and labs rested underneath the Panem Special Operations Building. That was where she had been moved. A steel hallway lined with reinforced doors. Each door had a window, and through each window the observer could see inside. A screen near the doors told the passerby the contents of the room. Most were empty, a few held experiments…others criminals. Rarely did her room welcome visitors—rarely did they bother to check on her after that first year of her coma.
Around her wrists was placed a plastic bracelet. In bold black ink it simply read: Patient 491.
Months of that second year went by, until the third year came. Her brain activity was analyzed and tested—the results came back inconclusive. The diagnosis of her coma was labeled indeterminable. The yearly reports stated that the odds of Pandora Sullivan ever waking up was below 10%.
Viktor Mironov was standing in a busy foyer. It wasn't the three years that had aged him. It was the strain. His wrinkles were slightly deeper, his hair much whiter—even his limp was much worse. He took to injecting his knee with shots every month to ease the tearing and pain. It barely helped.
"What was that?" Someone asked him from behind a monstrous desk.
"Adric Pedersen," He repeated, "Officer Adric Pedersen. I would like to speak with him."
The military official pulled the phone away from their face, "He's in training—level 15. You can take the elevator up, Doctor."
He grasped his cane and limped across the marble. Several of the younger soldiers stared at him as he managed his way into the elevator and pressed the button. He was out of place in an establishment like the Armory.
Doors opened onto the training room. A few other soldiers filtered out. Mironov had to adjust his cane to push forward. His blue eyes shifted around the room. It was a busy day—the 73rd Hunger Games had just ended. Near the weapons he caught sight of him.
He paused for a moment before continuing his walk. Adric didn't see him until he was a few paces away—when he did he looked up from taping his hands and nodded.
There was a bitter tinge to his voice, but it was restrained and buried under years of anger.
"Adric, how are you?" The doctor groaned as he took a seat on a bench nearby and glanced to the other soldiers in training.
Within those three years Adric had changed. Before he was mature, but even more so now. His facial bone structure were more defined and chiseled. He had even grown another few inches, making him rather tall. When he wasn't in combat, short stumble covered his chin. He had grown into being a man…but there were other differences. His hazel eyes didn't sparkle as they used to. Melancholia had replaced his grinning youth. The events that led to Pandora's coma had changed him, though he refused to discuss the matter altogether.
"I just came from the PSO. I ran tests on the brain activity."
Adric remained silent. He was almost done taping his knuckles.
"I—I think you should visit her."
"It may be good for her to hear another familiar voice besides my own. If you would just see her once, it could help substantially."
"What did your reports say, Viktor?"
Mironov dropped his eyes to his hands.
"What are the chances of her waking now?"
Adric let out a dark laugh and shook his head, "Maybe it's time you stop hoping for the best."
Mironov pulled his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. He saw Pandora every day. He was the only person that he would allow to monitor her, apart from a few trusted medics. This was how he had coped with what had transpired the night of her birthday, the night the procedure had happened. He would always be in her debt, even if she were asleep forever. He wasn't waiting for her wake up, he was paying his dues. Adric was different. Adric couldn't bear to look at Pandora. He repressed any hope that she would wake up, and blotted out the memories of her as best he could.
"And even if she did wake up," he added quickly, "She wouldn't be the same, would she?"
Mironov cautiously glanced around before answering. "Pandora will be Pandora, just—different. She would be stronger, faster. The tonic acted to stimulate the portion of her brain that normal people can't use—at least not fully. She would be smarter. Although I don't think that's possible."
"She was dumb enough to believe in you," he blatantly quipped without remorse or a smile, "But that's not everything is it? There's always more."
Mironov cleared his throat with a nervous rasp, "The procedure had adverse effects on her brain. Memories would be a little hazy—emotions would be…unpredictable."
For the first time since Mironov's arrival Adric lifted his eyes and stared at him. Het let out another grave laugh, "Pandora will be Pandora, huh?"
"Adric—please—we can't lose hope. She was strong enough to survive, she could be strong enough to wake herself up."
He walked over to a punching bag and smacked it a few times.
"Maybe I don't want her to wake up. Maybe she should have just died."
"You don't mean that."
"Three years, Viktor. How much longer are we going to have these discussions? She died the moment you put her into a coma. She's not going to wake up."
"Adric, you're the only person I trust to help me."
"Too bad I don't trust you."
"If you ever cared about Pandora, please help me."
Adric smacked the bag again and grimaced. "Pandora's dead."
A few soldiers stopped what they were doing and stared. Adric pursed his lips and waited for them to look away before he turned his attention back to Mironov. His hands were shaking but with a quick inhale he calmed himself.
"I am done with this, you understand?" he whispered. "She's gone, Viktor. You need to let it go. I can't live in the past anymore. Three years will turn into thirty…she's never waking up. I promised her I wouldn't leave her, but that person in the PSO isn't Pandora. She's just a body. I get why you're doing this, Viktor. You feel guilty. You should, of course. But no amount of guilt is going to help bring her back."
Mironov furrowed his brow. His instincts were telling him to object to Adric's words but he couldn't bring himself to…not anymore. It would always be an uphill battle when it came to Pandora. But whether Adric liked it or not, Mironov and him were in the same boat. They were significant citizens of the Capitol, that much was true—and they loved their Capitol—but they also both cared for Pandora.
"If you saw her you'd know how wrong you were, Adric. I think you know it even now. It's easy to pretend but—"
"Get out, Viktor."
The doctor drew back and watched as Adric punched the bag a few more times. He blinked his eyes to the ground in defeat and pulled his glasses on. The cane squeaked against the floor as he rose to his feet and walked. He had traveled only a few steps before he peered over his shoulder.
"I heard about your engagement—"
Adric froze. A few heartbeats passed before he turned around.
"—Congratulations. She's a lovely girl."
Without waiting for a response Mironov limped out of the training room and into the elevator. Adric stared after him. The doctor's congratulatory words felt like slices of ice even though he knew they weren't meant to be. His eyes dropped to his taped knuckles before they closed. He listened to his breaths, felt his heartbeat. Adric was incomplete, and though he knew why he couldn't bring himself to face the truth.
A frail female medic hummed to herself as she began her rounds. The steel corridor was frigid and barren. It was just a monthly routine check, nothing more…only this time something was different. She had just reached the first door when a steady and low beep sounded. The beeping wasn't erratic or urgent—instead it sounded like the rhythm of a clock. Ticking and tocking. She leaned back with reserved surprise, briefly glancing down the corridor.
Five doors over a green light flashed. The medic rushed to check the information screen—the information screen of Patient 491. She widened her eyes and glanced through the window. The patient's brain activity was spiking.
Inside the room it was very still—apart from the beeps that ticked.
Pandora's short hair fell over her pillow in dark cascades of silk. She felt a single tingling and then another. Her fingers twitched. Then her toes.
Without a sound, Pandora's eyes slowly opened.