Chapter 2 : In Limbo
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Three days passed after the meeting with the Colonel. Three days, and Cassandra was still trying to get rid of that terrible sadness.
You should be happy, she kept repeating to herself, you'll never see that man again. You should be HAPPY.
Despite her efforts, however, she couldn't help but replaying the Colonel's words over and over again.
After 72 hours her mind seemed to have accepted that word, and now Cassandra found it hard not to agree with Colonel Wilkins. How can you deny it? Look at yourself: you are a monster. You may be a good doctor, but who would accept to be cured by a seventeen-year-old girl full of scars and without a leg?
I may still work with the Army. In a battelfield nobody cares about your physical appearance.
You. Miss. A. LEG. How can you possibly consider the idea of fighting if you can't even walk without a crutch?
It was true, of course. It didn't matter how hard Cassandra tried, her body simply refused to adapt to the prothesis. Being a doctor she knew that the rehabilitating process would be long and painful, but there was a small detail which made the pain almost unbearable: after two long months the wound still had to scar completely. Actually, there wasn't a single cut on Cassandra's body which could be considered completely healed, a really strange fact considering the easyness with which she usually recovered from bruises and lacerations. The doctors who cured her supposed that her organism had been put under an excessive stress which affected the healing process, but Cassandra thought otherwise. In fact, she firmly believed that this strange phenomenon had something to do with the wolf which attacked her. However, After testing her for any kind of infection commonly trasmitted via animal bites, her colleagues labelled her idea as absurd.
Still, she thought, that was definetely not a normal wolf. First of all, that creature was way too big to be considered a common canine: the teenager clearly remembered that it barely fit in the large Emergency Room of the base camp. Secondly, that animal easily destroyed heavy and resistsant medical devices, what kind of wolf could do a thing like that?
Cassandra sighed, tiredly rubbing her face with her hands. It didn't matter what kind of creature attacked her: her career was ruined. She had already been discharged, and her superior made it clear that the Army wouldn't need her services in the near future. Of course, after three years of fighting, Cassandra was initially happy to get away from that hellhole. Now, however, she fully understood the implications of her condition.
You are useless.
Yes, she was. Useless and flat broke, since she spent all her savings to buy the prothesis and pay the rent of the flat she now lived in. Bloody fantastic.
With these thoughts costantly crossing her mind, Cassandra's sadness wasn't surprising at all. However, she was still a soldier, and good soldiers don't give up a fight without even starting it. As a consequence, after three days of brooding Cassandra got up from the dusty floor of her "home" and started living her new life.
The first thing she noticed looking around was that the place Mr. White had found was simply miserable: it had two rooms, one of which was the bathroom, while the other was a sort of kitchen-bedroom-living room completely unfurnished apart from an old fridge and a camp stove.
In a corner lied the things Mr. White had retrieved from the Colonel's house: lots of books, some clothes and three or four CDs. Cassandra limped towards her belongings and picked up a plain gray track suit and a large light blue T-shirt.
"Sorry dear skirt, you'll have to wait until I'm a bit more cheerful", she said to her colorful garment, just before bursting into an almost hysterical laugh.
I am talking to a skirt! Hell, maybe I am really mad after all.. Still chuckling softly, the girl made her way towards the bathroom, only to stop and stare open-mouthed at the disgusting scene in front of her.
"Ok. No panic, Cassie. It is only a bit of dust and... mud. Yes. It must be mud. Oh, there are also spiders. And flies... and... cockroaches..." . Deciding that a shower could wait, Cassandra opted to fulfill the other goals of her mental schedule: eat and, obviously, get something to clean that pig pen.
Timed passed quickly after those first dramatic three days. Ignoring her aching limbs and weak heart, Cassandra managed to clean that pathetic excuse for a house. She had enough money to buy a camp bed and a small bookshelf, as well as an old broken TV which she easily fixed. After a week the place was almost livable, although she still had to eat on the floor. All in all, life wasn't as bad as she expected: she had food, water, medicines and a place to sleep. She had even found a job in a small hardware store at the end of the street!
After two weeks of procrastinating, Cassandra made up her mind and bought a mirror. It was old and battered, but big enough to let her see her entire figure. She carefully removed her bandages and there she was, completely naked facing the monster.
I really look like a broken doll, she thought with a sigh. Cassandra had never been a vain person, but, before the accident, nobody could have denied her beauty. She was tall, thin but not skinny, with a naturally tanned skin and long, wavy, dark blond hair. Her face was round and a sweet smile always graced her soft lips. Her eyes, however, where the physical feature that made every male human being look at her with adoration: they were big and bright, their ice-green colour emphasized by long, dark lashes.
Now, however, Cassandra's skin was pale and dull. Long, dark cuts covered every inch of her body, almost hiding the tattoos she had on her right shoulder and on her back. Only the thigh was left of her right leg, now trapped in a black cumbersome prosthesis. A long scar travelled from her sternum to the end of her ribcage, screaming to the world Hey! I underwent a open-heart surgery! . Her face was disfigured by two deep scars which went from her left ear to the corner of her mouth, making her sweet smile look more like a grimace. Her eyes were red rimmed from the lack of sleep, but still held the brightness and life they had before the accident.
After a few minutes spent contemplating her new self, Cassandra smiled, then grinned, then started laughing like a maniac. She laughed, laughed, laughed. She laughed at the beautiful girl she once was. She laughed at the Colonel. She laughed at the wolf which had tried to eat her alive. She laughed until her lungs started begging for air, she laughed until her brain stopped functioning.
"Why are you wearing a sweater? It's so hot outside!"
"It's not that hot, sweetheart... Actually I am a bit cold"
"But... Paddy is always cold and look! He doesn't even have a shirt on!"
"Are you ill, dad?"
"No! I mean... Look, Cassie..."
"... Is it because of your scars?"
Cassandra opened her eyes, breathing hard. What the hell was that?! She thought, noticing for the first time that she was lying on the floor in front of the mirror. It had been a long time since she had that "vision" in the airport, an event which she had finally explained as a trick of her tired brain. This... thing, however, changed everything. This time her mind didn't show her strange ceilings or ruined towns. This time she only had to listen.
That deep, gentle voice, who made her feel so safe and yet haunted her in her sleep clearly belonged to her dad, there was no doubt about that anymore.
That was definitely a flashback.
She was starting to remember!
Suddenly feeling more alive than ever, Cassandra scrambled to her feet and started searching frantically for a piece of paper and a pen.
"Ok, Cassandra, think. You always dream of that sort of town, it must mean something..." Trying to recall all the horrible images that populated her dreams, the girl began to list all the peculiar elements she could find, apart from the blood and the dead bodies. Suddenly, a detail crossed her mind: before falling, her young self had turned to face a strange building, which resembled...
With and excited yelp, Cassandra wrote down the first path to follow in order to find her real dad:
- An attack which took place in April 1977 in a town near a train station. Location: Great Britain.
Satisfied with this element, the girl went on digging into her brain in search of answers. After a while she got tired of listening only to the voices in her head and decided to turn on the TV in order to have some "company" while she worked.
She was writing about the strange ceiling of that "Great Hall" when the screen actually caught her attention.
"...the public is warned that Black is armed and extremely dangerous. A special hotline has been set up, and any sighting of Black should be reported immediately" *
Cassandra's head shot up and the girl reached the remote to raise the volume. Black. She had never heard of a convict named Black, a curious thing considering that she had been following British news since she was seven. The reporter told that Black had been convicted for killing thirteen people in an explosion and had escaped from prison after twelve years. Twelve years. Well, I was too young at the time of the arrest, the maids still refused to let me read the newspaper. Before she could return to her notes, however, the reporter showed a picture of the man.
Something clicked inside Cassandra's mind, and she suddenly felt a bit dizzy. It was a sensation similar to the one she experienced in the airport before the flashback. Yet, nothing happened.
Not a sound. Not an image. Just the overwhelming feeling that something was wrong.
She studied closely Mr. Black's face, focusing on his expression.
How could he be so... sad? He was a mass murderer who had just been caught and condemned to spend the rest of his life in a cell. He should look angry, furious, or resigned. Why sad, though? Was he feeling bad for having killed so many people?
He was sad. He was desperate. He was grieving.
Suddenly Cassandra felt a pang of pity for the man in the picture, and a thought crossed her overloaded brain.
Why did he escape after such a long time?
Something was wrong.
Lupin and Black.
Lupin, Black and... P... P...
No matter how hard she tried, Cassandra couldn't remember the third surname. However, the fact that in her mind Black was associated with the surname she had chosen for herself was enough to freak her out. Why did she choose Lupin, anyway? It sounded a bit ironical, considering that the word "lupus" means "wolf" in latin.
Maybe that is you real surname. After all, your memory is slowly coming back.
Another week went by, and Cassandra was too busy picking up the pieces of her shattered memory to think about the Colonel anymore. Actually, she was getting a bit frustrated. In fact, in the archives there was no record of an insurrection in a town near a train station, not to mention the detail of the strange ceiling. Moreover, apart from that awful nightmare, her brain refused to give her another piece of information about her hypothetical past, so she didn't know what to look for.
She was stuck in a limbo, but little she knew that someone was going to save her.
* That line comes from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, chapter two, page 18
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