It had gone all too quiet. Christiana put down her book and glanced back at the screen. The three remaining survivors were in their beds, seemingly asleep. Besides these women, all the other volunteers had now died. The last one being about two hours ago. Christiana searched for Daniela and found her in the corner of one of the cells, curled up in a ball, her back resting against the glass wall.
“How are you doing?” She asked.
“I don’t think I have an answer to that question.” Daniela answered. “Is Duncan there?”
“He came back a few hours ago, asked me not to disturb you. Believe it or not, he’s currently sleeping with you.”
Daniela did a double take at that and peered curiously at the camera. Christiana zoomed the lens in so that she could see her clearly.
“Do I even want to know?” Daniela asked.
“It’s okay, you’re safe. He’s currently sprawled out on a bed set up right next your pod, snoring like you wouldn’t believe.”
Daniela nodded in understanding and let out a small sigh of relief.
“Relax,” Christiana said. “He saves all the kinky stuff until we’re out of the room.”
Daniela’s eyes widened.
“I’m kidding!” Christiana said. “Duncan may be a manwhore but I’m pretty sure all his conquests consent to the deprave things that he does with them.” She stopped for a moment. “At least, I think they do… I’m like 98% sure.”
“You’re a real comedian, you know that?”
“I do.” Christiana grinned. “Although it’s always nice to hear someone else say it for a change.”
Daniela thought for a moment and gazed back up at the camera.
“Do I move at all?” She asked.
“In the pod. Does my body move or does it just lay there?”
“You’re constantly breathing, and occasionally there’s the odd twitch in the hand or something, but nothing drastic. Why do you ask?”
Daniela shrugged. “Just curious I guess.”
“Your eyes move the most.” Christiana added. “Under your lids, sometimes for hours at a time, they constantly move around the place.”
“Are you here a lot?” Daniela asked.
“Not really,” Christiana admitted. “But Duncan’s commented on it. He asked me once if it was possible that your body was dreaming even though your mind was in the Walker.”
“What did you say?”
“I said it was possible. But unlikely if the Walker side of you didn’t experience it as well.” Christiana answered. “Mind you, I barely know anything about this Danel stuff, you’d probably have more of an idea.”
Daniela thought about it for a moment. “It would be interesting to look into I suppose.”
“You don’t sound too enthusiastic about trying.”
Daniela shrugged. “I’ve done enough experimenting for a while, I guess.”
The room fell into silence. Christiana watched Daniela as she began examining her fingers, interweaving them with each other. She didn’t want to push Daniela into conversation but she felt that it would be a good idea to keep her mind pre-occupied. The last thing she needed was to spend too long dwelling on this situation. She thought about what it was that she should say, however it didn’t matter because Daniela broke the silence.
“What is it that you did?” She asked. “Outside, before all… this.”
“I was a mental health nurse. I ran an intensive care ward.”
“That sounds interesting.”
Christiana let out a soft chuckle. “It was. I ran an all male ward full of forensic patients.”
“Forensic? Like people who were in trouble with the law and stuff, right?”
“That’s the one. If they were deemed too mentally unwell to go to prison and too chronic to go to any of the other wards in our hospital, they would all be moved to me.”
“Were you ever scared?”
“Sometimes.” Christiana answered truthfully. “But not often. They were unwell just like anyone with a physical illness. It’s about knowing how to behave around them, how to keep the control. Once you got that trick down, the rest tends to work itself out.”
“Were you ever attacked?”
“I used to get hit or kicked in some way or another at least around once a month, but more often than not the service users tended to be pretty protective of me. It was kind of nice in a way.”
“What made you get into that?”
Christiana realised what Daniela was attempting to do. Keep the conversation going for long enough on her and then she might be able to pre-occupy her mind from going elsewhere. She was happy to oblige and so decided to answer her questions openly.
“My mum had Paranoid Schizophrenia. When I was a child, I looked after her for as long as I could remember. The mental health system let her down though in a really big way. It took them until I was 14 before they realised that I was her sole carer.”
“Wow, that must have sucked.”
“It was okay. I didn’t really know any different and I loved my mum so it made sense for me to look after her. When they did send someone though, she was amazing. Her name was Susan and she was this large African lady with a smile as big as her face. She took one look at our home life and insisted that she would spend every free moment she had helping us out. A year later, she took an early retirement and moved in so that she could give my mum 24/7 care and let me get on with school and stuff. She was amazing.
“I realised then though just how effective the mental health system could be if it was used properly. I decided it was my life mission to change the face of the NHS Mental Health System and ensure that everyone received the kind of care we were lucky to have in Susan.”
“And so you became a mental health nurse?” Daniela asked.
Christiana rolled her eyes. “Believe it or not, I trained to be a doctor of all things.”
Daniela smiled. “So did I. What was you’re excuse for dropping out?”
“I had done a year of placements in different wards and communities and realised that I was basically putting in all this extra effort to be a doctor who visits the patients once every so often to change medication and check in on them. I didn’t want to do that at all. I wanted to spend all my time with them. So I started moonlighting as a nursing assistant on a few of the wards, caught the bug and decided that nursing was the thing for me.”
Daniela paused for a while before asking her next question. Christiana waited patiently, she could see the words forming in her mind.
“Do you think I’ll get out of this without going crazy?”
“That simple, huh?”
“Oh it’s going to be hard as hell. You have a lot of demons to face and none of them are going to be particularly pretty. If you look at the whole thing logically, you really were stuck between a rock and hard place with nowhere to go. It’s hardly your fault, but then our minds are never able to look at something that simply, emotions get in the way.”
Daniela nodded with a look that said she understood this concept all too well. Once again silence fell on them.
“I get it though.” Christiana said, eventually.
“The reason you did it, became ice woman or whatever. If I had the choice, I probably would have done the same.”
“It was stupid.”
“Maybe, but that doesn’t mean it’s not understandable.” Christiana said. “Besides, it’s done now. The best thing to do is to deal and wait.”
Daniela shifted uncomfortably in her seat. From what Christiana had been told about the nature of this Danel substance, it showed a large mark of her character that she was keeping hold of the crippling emotion she currently held. From everything that she had heard from Connor and Duncan and others, it was very easy to simply let that all slide and welcome the empty bliss instead.
“You have a boyfriend here, don’t you?” Daniela asked.
Christiana was momentarily taken aback from the change of subject.
“Where’s he at the moment?”
“Well that’s a can of worms that can probably do without being opened.”
“He’s out scouting the rest of the building, all 100 miles of it. Checking for possible exposure and probably exposing himself in the process.”
“And you’re not happy about that?”
“No.” Christiana answered, then added. “I don’t like not knowing if he’s safe or not.”
“Is it likely that there are exposed areas?”
“I have no idea. But apparently there are a multitude of airlock systems throughout the whole building to keep us safe from any such exposure. Although not for those who might accidentally stumble into one.”
“There’s no way that they could do that. There will be failsafe procedures in place to ensure that the exposure can’t spread. I’m sure he’s perfectly safe.”
Christiana shrugged and fiddled with a pencil on the desk.
“I know you’re right but I’ve kind of taken it upon myself to petulantly sulk anyway.”
“For a whole ton of reasons; because he didn’t tell me he was going before he decided to, because he’s been gone for too long and I miss him, because I always vowed to myself that I would never get involved with that man for this exact reason, because on paper he is everything that is exactly the opposite to my type… the list goes on.”
“So why are you with him?”
“Because he was such an amazing friend and charming and perfect and sexy that before I knew it he made me fall in love with him… the bastard.”
Daniela smiled at that and Christiana couldn’t help but smile as well. It was good to see any other expression other than pain on her silver face.
“What are you going to say to him when you see him?”
“I would like to say that I’m going to be overly cool and make him suck up to me for at least a week before I start being nice, but knowing me, I’m more likely to go there with every intention of yelling at him, take one look into those inhuman blue eyes… they really are ridiculous… and melt inside whilst simultaneously dragging him to my bedroom.”
The room fell into another period of silence and Christiana watched Daniela, her smile gone and a pensive look replacing it. Eventually she spoke.
“When I get out of here, I think I’d like to hang out with you if that’s okay.”