Level Seven Redone: Trypanophobia & Algophobia
Ang iyong ganday umaabot sa buwan. (Your beauty reaches the moon)
"Well someone sure made a name for himself back there," Shyrene snapped, snarky and with the most overt attitude. Her arms were crossed, and her foot tapped on the floor in a choppy way, that was unsatisfying to listen to. Her anger didn't have any pattern or organized flow, and she wanted it that way. She wasn't here to be the professional orchestra. She's here because she's mad, and though she didn't call anyone out or stare at anyone, we knew who it was directed to, because we knew how she is. She liked to take care of herself.
But her expression dropped, and a new expression of acceptance came onto her face. She looked gentler and kinder. If anyone can wear a mood like clothes, it's her. "I'm sorry Blake," she apologized. "I'm thankful that you've done everything you could to keep me alive. Otherwise, I would've been gone a long time ago, and you're right, I like having this extra time with you too, even if it's in very much non-romantic ways."
"What?" Blake exclaimed, not expecting her complete switch. I have to say, I was pretty surprised myself. "What made you change your mind?"
"I learnt something in our first attempt," she claimed. Her eyes were looking out into space, not directing her words at anyone specifically. "People can do extremely different things and still hope for the best outcome from it, simply because of different perspective. Someone might do something for you thinking it's for the better, when in your book, it wasn't at all. Sometimes they had to think fast to come up with that good decision, just for it to end up offending you, and even though you're victim, they're victim too, kind of."
Camdyn clicked his tongue out of boredom. "Do you have a point?"
"Bish, don't test me. Yes, I do. I have a point, and you're involved so open your ears," she shot back, tying half of her hair up in a ponytail. After she cut it, that's probably all that'd be able to fit into one. Camdyn was amused, and had sat back to enjoy it like he was watching a movie, only missing the popcorn. "In my case, I've been pissed at Blake for a while because he's been saving my life like I'm some fragile thing that needs that extra attention and cradling, but he means well, and I think I get that now. So love you dude, I forgive you. Sorry our standards were different but we'll figure that out. Moving on to how this applies to the other humans."
"Wow, that's it? I love you too I guess, fricking brick." He muttered in annoyance under his breath. She gave him a look — a look that only he knew the meaning of, and it shut him up. She turned away, not saying anything about it, and it made him speak up louder. "I did say I love you—."
"Yeah, heard you. I'll let you off this once. Anyhow I'm here to fix what's broken so let's not disturb that," she smoothly changed the topic, facing us with the vibe of the president of a company in her office chair. It's as if the message she was going to give us was that she had to fire us, or lay us off or something, and my heart beat like a storm in my chest. When she said what she actually meant to say, it beat harder. It got worse. She doesn't joke when it comes to authority. "You're mad at Camdyn too, because he shot you, and trust me, if anyone knows how traumatizing stuff like that is, it's me. I've been through that and a crap load more, but he did have good reason, and Ell, I think deep down in you, you do trust him."
For a few, I could only look at her like she was crazy, but I had no aspiration in letting her off that way, so I had to mentally nudge at myself to respond. "And what proof do you have of that?"
"Look, I don't think you need to put pressure on her. If it's in the past, then I'll accept we were in the past. I have to understand that. I'm not going to force something she doesn't want," Camdyn butts in, making a presence in the conversation that's been directed at the both of us the entire time. Finally.
"I'm not forcing her to do anything, Cams. She asked for proof, so I'm going to give her proof," Shyrene said, with the voice of a leader, or a boss. It was chilling what mode she could enter to get things the way she wanted. Whatever job she's supposed to have when she gets out on earth, she'd be good at being a lawyer too, and what's the weirdest is she can shine some innocence I didn't know she had if she knew it would help her. I wish I kept my mouth shut. "So going on, Cams. Okay?"
She smiled business-y, if that makes sense. "Good. So that's out of the way." She paused briefly to let everything soak in. "Level six. The one with Soren, if you could have already forgotten that. He was made up in your head Ell. Negative ideas are easy to create, hard to destroy. You put him here, when the level poked at you to create another opposer besides us and then you couldn't get rid of him. So I've gotten it across that he wasn't real yet what did he say? He said that he made Camdyn shoot you, and that Camdyn purposely missed a lethal shot. You yourself made it come out of Soren's mouth, because you believe your ex-boyfriend's story."
"That doesn't mean—."
"And thinking about it more, I bet you did that on purpose. It was Soren who triggered that phobia, okay, I know that, but if you want to represent those people in your dreams that play that role as a man without a face, and a height of 5'2, you could. You specifically chose to show Soren, maybe without realizing, but you still did, so that Camdyn would know the truth you're not willing to admit. It makes sense doesn't it? Because based on your terms with Soren I don't think you'd want to see him at all."
Camdyn went red in the face. I scoffed, a bit embarrassed from that, and especially under the pressure. "Shyrene. That's such a reach. You're overthinking it."
She didn't take that for an answer. "Don't be ashamed of who you love, Ell. He hurt you but in this situation, he really didn't mean to, and you'd want the same mercy if it was the other way around. I've been there, and I get it. I understand that it's not easy, but that's what a relationship is. It's working through your differences together and figuring things out. You expected it to be easy when two people from different ways of being raised lives collide? Love never promised us easy. What it promised us is worth it. You can't let one obstacle, even if it's as deep as the sea or as tall as the highest peak stop you. If you know he's the one, and he knows it's you, then you chase him, however far you must climb, or ocean bottoms you must swim."
LEVEL SEVEN PREPARATION COMPLETE!
FEAR OF INJECTIONS AND FEAR OF
PAIN COURSES LOADING
SAID LEVEL WILL BEGIN
There were no changes in the room besides one. A gigantic message created out of spray paint, which would be considered graffiti that said in all capitals, "PAIN IS UNEXPECTED".
I agree, but I didn't get why the extra effort to paste it up onto the wall. If it had a hidden meaning, or if it was there to mess with our heads, how could I possibly know? Nobody mentioned it either. Besides letting our vision linger on it for a while, it wasn't orally acknowledged, and I went with keeping it that way.
"Let's get this done and then let's get out," Blake yelled, heading to the duffle bag straight away to pull out the injections. My body ran numb seeing the length of the needles. Who invented this and why? Did they not think of a cute, gentle-looking way of getting done what needs to get done? There is nothing relaxing about a long sharp needle.
"Easy for you to say," Camdyn argued. "I was the one with my leg cut in half from the top to the bottom." He exaggerated, but I'd do the same. It was bad as it was already, there's no harm in putting a spin on it. That's probably how it felt anyway, having to go through that. "I'm here again like cutting up my flesh is fun."
"Boys," Shyrene scolded, like a mother would, and they turned to look at her like children. "There's only one way through this. Into the tunnel. It'll be dark because you can't go around it, or climb it. Those are not options, and as hard as it is, you have to suck it up. We have to get to the other end. One way or nothing."
"I know," Camdyn pouted to answer her, but he snuck up on me as he did, with a needle in his hand for who knows how long. I wonder if him and Blake planned that before this all begun. It seemed like it had to be like that, because it worked out so smoothly for them.
Slowly finding my way down to the floor as they each injected themselves with the remaining needles, I was unable to argue with Camdyn for what he's done. My vision went fuzzy again, like déjà vu but with brand new "chords", and that's how it had to be.
"Be careful Mars, you still have that knife wound on your neck from the incident. Take care of yourself. Don't worry about me. We'll be fine as long as you are," were the last words I heard before I went unconscious. Camdyn's voice. Reassuring. Compassionate. Utter splendor.
I want to say I was only passed out for a few minutes, or a half hour at most, but there's no way to tell. As time passes at a rate incomparable to what I'm used to in the real world, and the sun doesn't set and the moon never rises, it's not possible to know, but what I say and what I feel it is are not even close. I could've been passed out for hours. If someone told me I was, I'd believe them.
"Alright, Camdyn. You ready?" The knife dotted with blood that had to have went through each of us already, tightly wrapped in her hand. The floorboard was up, evident that she'd gone directly to it the instant she woke, which gave me no time at all to have any say on what she did. Not that I needed to or anything; they've went through it, they know the protocol, but I wanted to be included. To be any sort of help or support that I could be, and here I was, lagging behind.
"No, but this is as ready as I'll get," he replied, letting out a breath that he was holding too long, like he forgot out of nerves that he was. I stood over the duo kneeling at Camdyn's side, whose left leg was stretched out straight in front of him. He gripped the wall the best he could, because there was nothing else he could get a grip on in the empty room, like holding onto it for dear life would give him comfort or make it hurt less. We all knew it wouldn't be that way, but illusions and lies sometimes are reassuring. We have to fool ourselves to get by.
At the softest touch, Shyrene traced her finger down the wound to prepare for the cut. The knife came next, following the same line, but ever so gently. She wasn't getting further into the skin quite yet. The flow was more of a trickle, like how you'd call the difference between a sprinkle and a storm. So far, I could get my lungs to function watching him, and he was overall under control.
"Wait," Blake said, and the tension faded when we searched for the source of the voice, away from the blood. "Is it just me, or that wound isn't as deep as last time? It's the same as ours is."
I felt the pricking of the painkillers excusing themselves, but I expected it enough to prioritize observing others reactions than my own pain. What Blake found out was true. Camdyn winced mildly like we did, maybe a bit extra because of the additional cut, but he didn't scream. It wasn't an agony at the top of the scale, but a bearable one, that didn't take much to have to handle.
"Oh shyet! What the hell?" Shyrene yelled, and as if it came in one package, we exchanged wide-eyed expressions of shock like it accompanied her screaming. She doubled over, Blake knocking the knife away from her body, and letting it skid across the floor, clattering, to avoid an accidental stab. "This is the worst pain I ever felt. I've never felt anything like this. What the frick am I supposed to do?"
Pain is unexpected. If we knew that pain was coming our way, we'd try our best to avoid it, for the most part. We were warned that this was gonna happen. Even if this section of the level is directed at Camdyn, pain comes in several forms than just physical, and that's what makes it unexpected; something that people don't get. In this case, he was still here to feel the level's wrath. He knows her pain, he's been there already, and now he's supposed to sit and watch, knowing there's not much he can do. Maybe, that could be a whole lot worse.
"Shyrene, you were brave for Camdyn. You have to be brave for yourself too," I explained, and by that mention, she automatically began taking deep breaths. "We're gonna have to remove the key from your thigh."
Shyrene intended to fight it; to say that we couldn't be certain it was her that was targeted so wickedly, but she nodded reluctantly, coming more to terms with what had to be done. Her cooperation was important here, and it was improving, but we were missing everything else.
A silent wave came among the rest of us. We were all thinking the same thing, and I knew it: who's going to remove it? Our main fighter for that position was the one fallen, and none of us wanted to take up the role she had done before. Camdyn and I shared a glance, and we communicated with one another, shaking our heads as personal refusal to do such a thing. With that, both of us shifted our stance to look at Blake.
"Hey! Don't look at me!" He defended himself automatically. "I should've been the one they targeted. That'd be better. I'm not down to my last life, but this? She is, and I can't do it, okay? If it goes wrong, and it's my fault, how do you expect me to live with myself?"
"And you trust that we can do it better?" I retaliated. "Based on what the Queen told you guys, you have to have some sort of medical knowledge to have the ability to save people's lives. That's what she was referring to, right? That and having steady hands? The two of you were meant to be gifted surgeons, and there's no other explanations. I have no experience in doing anything like this."
"We have the capacity and blessing to learn, Ell, when the time is right. I don't know anything, yet! That's for when we go to earth. We're on the same page! On the same boat, but it'll be the hardest for me to have her life in my han—."
"I'll do it," Camdyn interrupted, and it made me gasp. "We don't have that much time, and this part of the level is for me. I'm the one afraid of pain, and it's setting me up to have to face it. In a different way this time, but still."
"Camdyn!" I said sternly, against his idea, but he didn't pay attention to me.
"The knife, please," he said, his hand out for his command to be obeyed. He positioned himself to have the view he needed of Shyrene's wound that he'd have to open, and in panic that made it impossible for him to make his movements natural, Blake went to retrieve it for him.
Camdyn traced her wound as she once did for him, despite my detest, preparing for the cut. She was too hurt to cry, and she was about passed out anyway, dabbling from consciousness and unconsciousness. By the expression on the man with the knife, it couldn't get clearer that he was debating on what state of hers was better to begin with it, or on the other hand, he didn't want to do anything of the sort.
He's taken people's lives, out of self defense or to protect someone, and nothing more than that, but he has never wished pain upon anyone, unless he felt he had to out of panic. He never wished to put pain upon me, either. Ever.
"How deep do you have to cut? How deep is the wound that it can fit and conceal a key?" Blake asked, a shuddering breath between every word, or a gulp if he managed to steady it. He spoke to anchor himself against denying this was happening, so that he could create this conviction that he can make a difference for her. I don't know how accurate that is, but his support would mean more to her than anyone else's, whether her eyes were opened or closed.
"Based on how the pain felt for me, I think we'll have to open it back up three inches. Minimum. Maybe four. Not that I can be sure though," Camdyn answered. He didn't sugarcoat anything, and though it was probably better that way, Blake taking that information in was a struggle for him.
To make it worse on his side of things, it was on that note that Camdyn began cutting into her skin. When Shyrene's whimpers, screams, or the simple stir of awareness would come about, Cams would repeat the same thing to her. "You're doing great. Everything's going well. Stay as calm as you can," on repeat like it was scripted.
If this was anything else, it'd probably annoy me, but I was in a situation I had to make exceptions, and I was happy that it looked like everything was going well.
"I've cut about two inches deep," he updated, adjusting a cloth he was wearing underneath his shirt to better absorb her blood, "one more inch and I think it'll be there. Everything looks good. I think she'll be fine."
It was relieving, but none of us made a sound, besides Shyrene's agony, as we were waiting solely for him to finish. I don't know if there's scientific reasoning for this, but I found it to be practical that it made us more panicky than we would be otherwise. Maybe it was because all we focused on was waiting, only to wait again, and wait some more, or maybe because we felt guilty, in a way, to be sitting here pain-free, while someone suffered, and we needed permission from someone to let us breathe, or to relieve us of our worry. His update had given us hope, but it was a matter of whether that hope was real or fake.
"Okay, I have good news and bad news," Camdyn said out of nowhere. He was the only one that was rightfully allowed to break that silence, and we were all ears when he did. His focus wasn't anywhere near us, understandably, focused on putting pressure on the wound.
"First, I have the key," he explained, tossing it gently behind him. It happened to land nearby me, but it was purely coincidence. He was too busy with the wound to hit an exact aim. I held it in my hand, since someone having possession of it reassured me of it not getting lost. It was covered in specks of red, but I didn't have right to be shocked or disgusted about that. I had to focus on the news I didn't know, and that I honestly didn't want to know.
Blake beat me to it. "And the bad news is?"
"I must've nicked her artery. She's bleeding out too heavily."
"Which? The femoral artery?" He questioned, his concern growing. For a man that didn't have any medical knowledge, he sure was intelligent. Call me dumb, but I literally don't know anything about the human body, including the main veins or arteries. It's beyond me.
His concern freaked Camdyn out when he spoke, and I felt for him. It's much too contagious of an emotion. "How am I supposed to know? I don't have a background in this stuff! All I've been taught is CPR! I did what I could!"
"Move," Blake demanded, and Camdyn did, scooting away from her body so that he could take over. As he did his own part to try stopping the bleeding, which I saw just how bad of a gush it was when they switched spots, he talked to her, with hopes that he'd find response. "Shyrene? Hey, Shy, can you hear me?"
"Shyrene, listen to me."
"I know you're strong, Shyrene. No matter what you're facing. I love you for that. I love you always."
No answer. I saw first hand that the worst deaths are when that person is on your team, not the opposing. Blake shivered.
"You must've nicked the femoral artery," he gave up speaking with her, but wouldn't remove his cover on the wound, in case he was wrong. The room was beginning to shake, on the verge of collapsing, like the instructions from last attempt warned us would happen when we're running out of time. Blake didn't care. He didn't move. "If you did, the blood pressure drop will be too much on her body and she'll bleed out in less than a minute."
"I'm sorry, Blake. I tried. I really did," Camdyn apologized, but he nudged me, whispering a message he didn't want Blake to hear. In a time so crucial and sensitive, he didn't want to offend him. "Mars, you have to get out of here. Unlock the door and leave. You have the key, yeah?"
I was about to argue. I was about to say that I wasn't going to leave if he didn't come with me, but as selfish as it sounds, the most important person to live in this world is me, because it's in my head, so I listened. I went to the door and shoved the key into the knob's lock, hearing everything they talked about behind me, as I struggled to push the heavy door open.
"We have to go, Blake. Now."
"If she's still breathing when the game is passed, you'll have no lives lost and she'll be stored to initial health. Maybe she's not dead. Maybe she's still here with us. I should take her with us so she's not left behind to be clobbered by the collapse."
"Blake, it's not worth it. Time's running out and it's too risky."
I didn't look back, but I could hear a body being dragged closer toward me. With an ache to my own veins that I made up for my own suffering that I felt to deserve, I finally pushed open the door. It revealed a pond that filled from the flow of a river, with a tranquility that was hard to comprehend from what happened behind that door.
I stepped out into it, like I haven't been outside for years. Camdyn followed behind, yanking Blake by the shirt to get him out of the falling building.
LEVEL SEVEN PASSED!
ONE LIFE HAS BEEN LOST IN SUCH PROCESS DUE TO LOSS OF BLOOD; CHARACTER SHYRENE IS OUT
OF THE GAME
THERE ARE THREE LIVES REMAINING
CONSTRUCTING LEVEL EIGHT
"I failed to protect her six times." Blake cried in the distance, "Who fails six times to protect the one they love?"
It bit my heart from the inside out with the sharpest teeth. People say they'll love someone forever. It's in every song, every quote, every movie and even on the billboards on the street, but it's not reality. It's limited, and we need to wisely use the time we have the opportunity to love someone while it can be received. You can love then in happiness, but after that, only in hurt. That's the only form love is forever. Its only in that way that the quotes are true.
It can be possible that I apply to that rule and I should be more afraid of us being too late, but it takes bravery to tell him that truth after we've already ended, and I'm not sure I have it.
But one thing is sure. Shyrene was right until the very end.