I began to trust my dimly-lit memories and those intensely violent nightmares, in which my wings were severed by Peldastiquon wielding ophidia. From them it seemed safe to derive an assumption that modern day equivalents of the wing-taker sects had entered an alliance with Badezon scientists, who were themselves tasked and paid by a government that appeared to have forgotten its sworn obligation to protect its citizens from that ancient terrorism, among many other kinds. Further, under the terms of such a malevolent alliance, my wings had been taken from me, and in their place I had received plasticizing surgery so that I could pass as human.
Facts kept falling into place. Of course – now I understood the reason that the faces of the Badezon who took my wings showed no emotion. The wing-takers were wearing the ophidian face masks that mythology suggested they should wear. As for the scientists, men and women whose experimental routine dictates that they remain expressionless – poker-faced, humans would say – you could expect nothing better.
But when during the middle part of the day, I shook off the memories and nightmares, and felt myself warmed by Chan’s embrace, I was to all intents and purposes a happy human, living among humans. The deficiency of having been rendered wingless was cancelled out here; it had no meaning. My heart leapt at this thought, until others struck me in long and horrifying chains. Was Chan an agent of the wing-takers, the scientists, the government? Sandy too? Was I in fact still on Badezon, imprisoned in some little-known and unrecognisable corner of it, where an innocent might be experimented or practiced upon? An entertainment even, a day to day drama watched by millions Badezon over, discussed between colleagues, friends, and family as if it were indeed a fiction, and not a cage of misery into which one poor drugged and butchered unfortunate had been less than gently placed by manipulating claws?
I began to wonder whether anything I touched was real. I imagined that this was all just a stage set, whose limits I would uncover if only I went far enough in any one direction. Chan had entrapped me with her sweetness, her clever artist-cum-loner disguise, her entirely credible simulation of need, hunger, desire. Seeds of hate were sown among the flowers of love.
One night I fastened upon the notion. Chan was no human, no artist, but a Badezon scientist. A doctor or psychologist, perfectly positioned to control the subject of the experiment or the nature of the entertainment; on hand to ensure that I played by the experiment’s rules and inflicted no harm upon myself. Witness the austerity of her gaze so habitually adopted in our first weeks. Think of how well she calmed me when I woke from my nightmares. Think of how she always tried to turn my thoughts to love, to loving. Watched by millions! Lying awake in bed in the wind-buffeted depths of the night, I became hot with shame and anger. With an effort I forced myself not to move, struggling to contain the rage which would have me scream murderously at my captor.
But how could they be sure that I would not harm Chan? They must be watching my every move. This was not highlights, it was round the clock, from one day’s suns’ rising to the next. Every Badezon knew that espionage was the government’s forte. They would have military police – or even Gedavippio – on permanent stand-by in one of the other nearby coastal cottages in this artificial row, with a control centre somewhere close at hand – no doubt in the faceless concrete structure next to Sandy’s bar.
I must not give myself away in temper, if I wanted to escape. Yet what was to stop me surprising them now, here in the middle of the night? They would not expect it. In which house were the guard stationed? It must be one of the two either side, so that they stood a chance of reaching me in time were I to attempt to kill their scientist. Unless, of course, they had a beam permanently trained upon me from within this house itself! One false move and I might surrender my starring role to an equally unfortunate newcomer.
Again I urged myself not to panic, not to throw on the lights and put them on alert. I must slip from the bed as if going to the toilet. Then to the kitchen as if for a glass of water. Then outside, as if to scan the sky as I had done so many harmless times before, looking earnestly for the return of my traitorous people come finally to fetch me home.
I needed a weapon. I needed my own blade. I did not think that any of Chan’s modelling tools in the lean-to by the back door would serve my purpose, so once in the kitchen I would silently take the bread knife from its stand. It would hardly be a match for an ophidia or cintilar, but concealed in the arm of my jumper, I might surprise at least one of my enemies with it before they took me down.