The routine at the compound was meticulous and boring. Cody was scared at first, but there wasn't anything to be afraid of. Line up for rollcall at 8am. Lunch at noon. Dinner at 6:30pm. In the rooms at 8:30pm, lights out an hour after. The rest was free time, minus whenever the men and women in lab coats would take someone away. They never told him their names or who they were working for. The first few weeks, Cody was pulled away from everyone daily, right after breakfast. They drilled him with questions, like where he came from, who he was, what his plans were in the country, and about his necklace.
Once a labcoat-wearing woman had tried taking it from Cody, but he squeezed it in his hand and wouldn't let go. She tried coaxing it out of him, but he refused. She eventually got angry with him, and began forcing his hand open. So Cody bit her. He had a faint taste of her blood while she screamed at him, slapping him in the face before Cody let go. From then on, Cody kept his hand grasped tightly around his necklace when any adult was nearby.
The interviews slowed down after a few months. Cody had been giving the same answers to the same questions, and couldn't answer anything about his necklace other than that he know he had to protect it. His dad never said why it was so special, other than that it was more important than either of their lives. Cody didn't have any answers, even if he wanted to tell them. He tried asking about his father, but he soon found out that getting any information out of them was impossible.
The rest of his time was spent in the gameroom. Most of the kids spent their time playing one of the three video games given to them or one of the four different board games which were all missing some pieces. The smaller kids usually played with the dozen or so stuffed animals and toy cars. There was a couple decks of cards that lived on the table, and some dice laying around the room.
Ellie showed him how to play cards, since Cody never had time to learn games while on the run. Ian tagged along as Cody picked them up quickly, finding ways to win when it looked like he was certain to lose. Ian was always cheering on his adopted older brother despite never winning a game himself. One of the other kids, a boy a year older than Cody named Jeremy, got angry at always losing and was determined to beat Cody. Ellie had to step in once from Jeremy making it too personal.
"He's just lucky, give him a break," she had said when Jeremy threw down the cards in frustration.
"Nobody's that lucky, he's got to be cheating!" Jeremy accused, pointing a finger at the hapless Cody, who was at a loss for words.
"I'm the one shuffling and dealing, not him, settle down," Ellie responded, rolling her eyes.
"Yeah, and you've been hanging out with him a lot since he got here, too." Jeremy crossed his arms. He sat with a scowl on his face, staring at the cards he tossed at the table. It was true, Ellie was the only person, other than Ian, that Cody would actually talk to. Cody told Ellie all the same stories he told Ian, about his own family and trying to survive in his war torn country. Ellie listened patiently, asking questions here and there, but never pried. Ian was always right by Cody's side, listening intently with wonder in his eyes.
Cody managed to find her alone one day, two months after he had been brought to the compound. "There was also, um, a friend of mine that I travelled with when I got split from my family," Cody had said to her, trying not to make eye contact. He had wanted to tell someone about it, but never found the courage. He had always been resolute that he wouldn't tell Ian, so one of the few days that Ian went to play with some of the other younger kids, Cody tried to push away his nerves.
The last time he had mentioned it to anybody was back at his school, with the art teacher. The memories flashed through his head and he found himself unable to pull himself out of them. Since being captured by this strange group of people, Cody decided to try to work out what happened without losing his mind. Every so often before bed, he would sit down, close his eyes, and try to recall a little bit more of that traumatic evening. If he felt himself slipping, Cody would open his eyes, take a few deep breaths, and shake his head, as if to shake the memories away.
It didn't always work. On those nights he relived the evening over and over until the armed security guards making their nightly rounds would hear crying coming from inside his room.
"A friend?" Ellie asked him. Cody was visibly nervous, so she didn't want push him for much more. Some of the stories he had already told her were frightening, at best. Hospitals where they did disturbing experiments. Eating bugs to stay alive. Sleeping outside curled up without blankets, pillows, or anything covering them. Holding his breath and remaining completely still after being shot at, while hearing soldiers laughing from afar.
"Yeah. He was actually with me for most of the time after I got split up from my family. His name was Tyler, but I called him Ty." Cody swallowed. He took a deep breath, shook his head once, and looked down at the ground.
"We were at-" was all that Cody managed to say before Ian came jogging over.
"Ellieeeeeee," he said, frowning. "Jeremy's been on the Xbox all day and he won't let anybody else play."
"Ian," she said, ready to shoo him away for a moment, but Cody had slammed his hands into the bean bag chair. With a frustrated movement, he stood and stormed out of the gameroom. "Cody?" Ian said innocently, watching his brother leave. Ellie told him to wait there for a moment while she hurried after him
[Part 17][Part 19]
reliving traumatic experiences is my personal favorite pastime, what's yours?
For real, at least you can't accuse me of being nice to my characters. Another few chapters should already be written, just a matter of gathering my thoughts and being willing enough to follow through.
and with that, I leave you with this