Luca’s house is our unspoken destination, seeing as all its inhabitants are in the long and twisted loop. Although, Thomas is nowhere to be found, which unsettles me. The four of us crowd into Luca’s bedroom rather than downstairs, should Thom bring anyone home. I hope he doesn’t.
“So, who wants to go first?” Luca queries, rupturing the silence that has fallen.
“Me! Please!” Helen shouts enthusiastically.
I chuckle somewhat waveringly at the child that she has been reduced to.
Said child frowns, snaps “shut up” and holds out a bare upper arm to Luca. The flesh is suitably pale and vulnerable, coated with downy blond hairs.
He slips the cap off the needle he is holding – and jabs. It is over in a heartbeat.
Helen sits back in her spot on Luca’s bed, smiling grimly.
“Who next? Saffron?”
My stomach lurches at the thought of the sharp metal beneath my skin. “What about you?” I respond forcefully.
The question was rhetorical, yet he pauses as if to answer. “I – I don’t think I want it.”
“I mean, it – it’d be absolutely amazing to be such a prodigy. And there’re worse ways to die. Than being overcome with humanly feeling, I mean.”
I shake my head at him for a full minute. I should be shocked but instead I just feel disappointment; I guess I expected it. As did everyone else, judging by their silence. Or perhaps he’s told them already. “You go.” I say to Sam.
He glances at me, startled, but I plead with my eyes and he sighs in defeat, visibly setting his shoulders in preparation.
I use the delay the mull over my options: permanent hyper-sensitive phenomenon or – with any luck – temporary emotionless curiosity. I know which one my heart would choose. Who gives a crap about my head? The second choice is close to home and full of promise. I hear it calling. By this time, Sam has silently endured the vaccination and I’m as ready as I can be. He winks at me despite the situation; I look away and try not to melt, plainly nodding when Luca approaches me with another needle so that he doesn’t leave me time to think or feel anything other than resignation.
My eyes are closed seconds prior to the sharp pang that pierces my bicep, allowing the instrument to inject me with an alternate fate. Sam’s flirtatious glint flickers as a projection on the backs of my eyelids. Maybe I can still learn to be more in tune with my emotions, I contemplate, overcome with a hopeful happiness as I experience the hot flush dousing my head and chest for the penultimate time.