C81 had a name once. It started with the letter A, she thought, or maybe it ended with an A. She didn’t know anymore; it was the first thing they took when she arrived at the Troy Institute. It had bothered her for the first few weeks, but the more she tried to remember, the more she seemed to forget. When she brought the issue up to the doctors, they repeated what they had been saying all along, that she could not be healed as who she was. To be whole again, she had to rid herself of her past identity and become a new person. They would give her a new name once she was ready.
She didn’t know how long it would take, or how long she have been there already. Somehow it didn’t matter, though. Once she had accepted the lost of her name, she became content with these white walls. Everyone eventually did.
The common room was quiet, the patients playing chess and making minor chatter. It made C81 feel safe. Indeed, it made her feel so safe, she had to wonder why she would ever want to leave. She couldn’t recall her life outside the Institute’s walls -- merely a requirement if she was ever to heal, but knew, could feel it, that there was a danger that couldn’t touch her in here. If she was ever going to be whole again, she didn’t need that danger to come find her.
Of course, she didn’t know what exactly she needed healing from, but she knew she was making improvements. She was having fewer and fewer bad days when she could swear that she saw danger within her perfect haven, days where she could almost remember her old name. She became particularly unruly on those days. They would have to take her away for treatment. Once she returned, though, she couldn’t recall what that treatment was.
It was all right, though; it was what she needed.
“Hey, girlie,” E69 said leaning against the table. He twirled a chess piece between his fingers, but he didn’t seem to notice that he could checkmate her.
“She’s not interested,” Donatello said as he walked into the common room. He was wearing light blue scrubs, pressed to be wrinkle-free. In his hand was a polished metal tray, lined with rows of paper cups. The other patients quietly lined up in front of him, hands cupped.
E69 dropped the chess piece onto the board and stood up. C81 watched it slide towards her, knocking over a few of the remaining pieces. They disappeared, replaced with crowds of people. Each person was holding a sign, waving them while yelling. Then there was a flash of light. Screams--
A hand fell onto her shoulder.
“Are you all right?” Donatello asked. He was kneeling next to her, his brows pulled together. Behind him the common room was empty.
C81 frowned, looking down at her hand. It was clenched tightly around a pawn, the curves biting into her skin. She dropped it and watched it smash against the dirty linoleum. “I saw something,” she said, keeping her eyes averted. “Something terrible.”
Donatello’s hand tightened on her shoulder. “You’re here for a reason.”
She looked up and tried to brush his hand away, but she could feel his nails digging through her thin, pastel gown. “I don’t know the reason.” Her voice shivered and her spine quivered. Images flashed against the back of her eyes: buildings crumbling, Earth shaking, smoke gathering. Feelings of dread and helplessness came rushing back as the visions showed the worse that could happen.
“I have to tell someone,” she said.
Donatello smirked and tilted his head, finally letting her shoulder go. “Who?” he asked. “Who would believe you? You’re a mental ward patient, hospitalized for delusions and violent outbursts.” He stood up and picked up the last of the paper cups. “There’s no point, C81.”
“That’s not my name,” she said, watching him as he dumped an array of colorful pills into his palm. “You know that.”
“Your name doesn’t matter anymore. You know that.” He gripped her chin and forced her mouth open, ignoring the way she tried to trash her head and claw his arm with her squared off nails. The pills slid harshly down her throat, but her worry was focused on the treatment that would follow.
And just before she blacked out again, she remembered a summer day when Donatello stood at her door, crushed sunflowers beneath his feet, his spit on her cheek, and a threat that he would ruin her yet. No one would believe her.
C81 had a name once. Sometimes she was sure it started with an A, and other times she was almost just as sure it ended with an A, too. It mattered, though it was hard to remember. Your name was always the first thing they took, because if you didn’t know who you were, then you didn’t know what you could do or that you could fight back.
And if you couldn’t fight back, you were theirs.