A strange feeling of unreality came over TO as they left the Overseer’s office. They were still shaken, and didn’t quite believe that they had managed to get through the meeting without suffering any punishment. Even though they had been dismissed, and the Overseer didn’t seem interested in disciplining them, they felt like they would still be taken away by someone else. The idea that maybe someone was waiting in the hallway to take them away snaked into their brain and took firm hold, filling TO with terror.
They could feel their heart thrumming in their chest, and their ears were twitching like mad as the door slid open. With a held breath they entered the hallway and the moment the door behind them wooshed shut, someone slammed into them causing them to give a half-strangled scream of fear and shock.
It was only GiDi, who had launched themselves into TO and was now holding onto them with their arms around TO’s waist. They seemingly didn’t even notice that TO had screamed. Still, TO felt their ears burn with embarrassment as they put their hands on GiDi’s shoulders.
They had to keep themselves from getting so tense, so scared of nothing.
“We were so worried!” GiDi said as they clung to TO “We thought your Overseer was going to have you taken away or corrected or-“ They stopped, then glanced up at TO, their eyes wide with fear, “They’re not sending you to get corrected, right?”
TO took a deep breath, “No.” They said with a shaky little smile, “Not today.”
“Then what’s wrong?”
“I’m just a little shaken…” TO admitted. “I thought I was going to be corrected too… I thought someone was going to be waiting for me out in the hallway, and then you ran into me.” They glanced up, and saw DH standing a little ways away with their arms crossed. They made eye contact for just a moment, then DH looked away with their wings puffing up a little.
“Good.” DH said as they stared at the wall. “I’m glad you’re safe.”
TO frowned as they looked over DH; their ears were low but pinned back, they spat out each word, and their eyes narrowed as they stared at the wall. It also set TO on edge that they were standing so far away from them, that they weren’t next to TO with an arm around their shoulder.
“DH?” TO asked, frowning, “Are you-“
“You should go eat.” DH said as they turned around. “The cafeteria is going to close up soon.”
“Right…” TO said.
GiDi pulled away from TO and turned to DH. “Hey, you should come-“
“I want to get a shower before it’s too late.” DH snapped, “You two go ahead, I’ll meet you in the dormitory.”
TO moved to go after DH as they strode down the hallway, but GiDi reached out and caught TO by the arm. TO looked back, and was surprised to see GiDi shake their head as they gave them an apologetic look with their ears tilted down.
As they watched DH disappear around a corner without another word, they knew something was very wrong. Just as they were starting to calm down from the meeting with their overseer, their head started to spin with worry over DH.
“What did I do?” TO demanded of GiDi once they were heading to the cafeteria without TO.
“You... You didn’t do anything, necessarily.” GiDi said quickly, but the telltale twitching of their ears told TO that GiDi was lying to them. TO stared at them, and when GiDi made eye contact TO let their eyes flick quickly to their twitching ears. GiDi only flushed and looked away.
“Did I do something?” TO asked again.
GiDi groaned, “It’s complicated, I think.” they said. “DH won’t be mad for long, and-“
“So DH is angry with me.” TO said quietly. TO went through everything that they might have done to make DH angry at them, but couldn’t think of anything. They rushed in front of GiDi and grabbed their arms to stop the smaller synth. “Tell me why!”
GiDi looked down at the ground, then let their gaze flick to TO. “Are you angry at DH?”
“No, I-“ They stopped as they thought about it, “I was Maybe?” Their eyes narrowed, “I mean, they…” TO groaned as they let go of GiDi and turned away from them, “I wasn’t mad, I just… I’m fustrated!” They pressed their palm on the center of their forehead as though they could press the frustration out of them. “I know that the child wouldn’t have survived. I knew that. The Officer knew that, and they told me that after I had to pull the body apart!” The dissection ran through their head. No, they didn’t want to think about that. They only realized now that they had been so worried about the meeting that their thoughts hadn’t been given a chance to linger on the dissection. “I didn’t want to hear it again from DH. That wasn’t the point!”
“I don’t think that DH understands the point.” GiDi said carefully. “And… I don’t understand either?”
TO turned to gawk at GiDi, who looked away with their ears down.
“I want to understand!” GiDi said, “But I don’t.”
TO took a long, deep breath as they tried to gather their thoughts and order everything that was buzzing in their head. “GiDi.” They finally said, “The Officers didn’t even bother to help that child. The child wasn’t strange, or incompetent. They weren’t anything! But it was decided that they weren’t worth treatment. That’s terrifying!” They took a step towards GiDi, “Think about it! We could do everything right! We could be as normal as every other synth, and excel, and we could still just get sick enough that treatment isn’t deemed worth it! We could do nothing wrong, and still be repurposed.”
“But… I mean, if they wouldn’t-“ They stopped and shook their head, “Ok. So... You’re scared because you think if you get sick, you’ll be repurposed?”
“Or you will, or DH will!” Their hands went to their arms again, “I don’t like the idea that we could get repurposed for something that’s not our fault.” They shook their head as though trying to shake thoughts out. “But that’s not the worst of it. The dissection. The dissection, I-“ They cut themselves off as the sounds and smells replayed in their head once more. “I hated it. It was awful. I know what we look like on the inside now, and I hate it! I can’t not see it!” They held themselves tighter, their wings wrapped around them. “I’ve seen a synth pulled apart and reduced to it’s basic organs. I’ve seen a synth reprocessed, and it was horrifying.”
GiDi took a step forward, “And I’ve not seen that.” They said. “DH hasn’t, and we don’t understand. But we’re trying. DH is trying!”
“DH just told me that the kid would have died anyway. They didn’t understand.”
“No. They didn’t. They just wanted to help, and-“ They put their hands over TO’s, their fingers lacing together, “And they’re trying to make you feel better. They’re trying to fix this, and they don’t know how. They feel like they’re just messing everyrthing up.”
“And that’s why they’re mad at me?”
GiDi looked aside, “They… They’re fustrated too.” They said, “They think you’re mad at them.” They glanced back at up TO, “I mean, you did shrug them off very quickly –you never do that–and then you stormed off to see your Overseer-”
“I didn’t storm off!” TO insisted, “I was just scared and I needed to know what was wrong!”
“Ok, but you seemed mad.” GiDi explained, “You shrugged DH off. You were snapping. You rushed off.” They looked at TO almost apologetically, “Can you see how DH might think you were angry becuase of that?”
“But... But I wasn’t-“
“It’s a lot like thinking DH is angry at you because you think they didn’t wait for you at second meal.”
TO froze as they remembered that day, as they remembered thinking that DH must have been angry at them, and done with them now that they had met GiDi. They remembered how awful, how indescribably sad they had felt as they curled up and cried in their pod. Their still churning stomach dropped as they thought that DH might be feeling like that right now.
“DH is trying.” GiDi said again, “But they don’t know what to do. They don’t know what would help, and neither do I. So… TO, what would help? What can we do?”
TO was silent, still gripping their arms with GiDi’s hands over theirs. What could they do? What would make them feel better? What would fix this?
“I… I don’t think that there’s anything that’ll just make me feel better.” TO whispered, “I don’t know. But all I want is to be around you and DH. I don’t know why, but even when I feel bad, I feel better if you two are around.” They managed a brief, weak smile. “And maybe distractions that don’t involve being summoned to my Overseer’s office might help.” TO gave a brief chuckle, which was followed by a quickly stifled laugh from GiDi.
“Alright.” GiDi said, “But DH needs to know that.” They smiled at TO. “They’re only trying to help, and I think they’re just upset that they’re trying to help, and it’s not working, and they think they just made mad, despite the fact that they’re only trying to help.”
TO looked away, “I should apologize…” They said.
“I think it’s just a big misunderstanding, if that makes a difference?” GiDi said as they finally pulled away from TO, “And DH needs to know you’re not angry at them.” They smiled, “I’ll tell them if you want… But I think it would be better if you told them yourself.”
TO nodded, and turned in the opposite direction to head to the showers, but GiDi stopped them.
“Wait!” They said, “You should go and find them after you’ve gotten your food.”
“But this is more-“
“DH and I have noted that when you’re upset, you don’t eat as much. How much did you eat in the last couple of days?”
TO let their mind go over the odd bites that they had managed to keep down over the last few days, and sheepishly replied. “Not that much.”
“We’ll get you food first, so you have it before the cafeteria stops serving food, and then you can go and find DH.”
“But if DH is upset-“
“Just get your food, and then rush off to find DH.” They took TO by the hand and started pulling them to the cafeteria, “And after you’ve sorted everything out, I think I even have an idea for a distraction, if that’s what you want.”
“What kind of distraction?”
GiDi only gave them a little smile, “You’ll have to wait to find out.” They said, “but it’s a good one, I promise! It’s a little secret I discovered a while ago.”
TO felt a smile spread over their face, and their limp ears perked up. They’d make up with DH, and then after that, there was a surprise! They found themselves thinking over what it could be, and didn’t even notice that the thoughts about dissections didn’t slip into their head as they were wondering about what GiDi might have planned.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell