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by Silva Noir

Chapter 31: Pandora

Elizabeth Mildred Xilvrin paced the confines of her white padded room in socked feet. There was no window. Instead, an inventive flat lamp hung on the wall in a black window simulating frame with three interchangeable screens behind the clear plastic pane. Those three screens were day, night, and sunset over a generic landscape. She switched screens from sunset to night, as the time on the digital clock on one of her shelves indicated it was past 8 PM. She'd been satisfied with these until she'd seen a true sunset while in that little town with Rabbit and Hyuni.

Aside from this all in her room was white- the twin bed, beds sheets and pillow; the walls, the floor, and the ceiling; the shelves full of manuals and her studies (none of the books were fictional), the bureau full of her folded clothes, and the other small lamp and clack on the stand by her bed. All was white except a flip-open cell phone on the pillow that had been a gift from Rabbit. Rabbit had a habit of giving them out to those she liked to keep in contact with. It was presently ringing.

"I ... I opened the box ... the Pandora's box ... and used what was inside on myself," spoke the quiet voice of the slightly older boy that had mended Elizabeth's self-inflicted hand wound. in return, she;d bestowed him with the greatest gift she could give. She thought in that moment she could love him. Now, she was beginning to despise the kindness towards all living things.

"You will change. The change could not have come soon enough."

"Change?" He asked. "I wanted to tell you why I did it. I thought I knew who I was, you know? I thought I was sure. And then everyone hated me for it. I don't hate them but I don't like that they hate me. I don't hate myself."

"Yes, you do. Otherwise you would not willingly subject yourself to the abuse. You would fight back. You would kill them." She was not speaking metaphorically, but that is the way he took it.

"What? No... I don't want to fight. I don;t want to hurt anyone because I know what it's like to be hurt."

"Pain is an alert. It tells you cells have been damaged. If you felt no pain, your species would have been eliminated long ago, too dumb to realize you were being slaughtered. pain motivates you to preserve your body, to fight or flee if possible from that which hinders your chances for survival. You should be happy you feel pain. You should not welcome it, however. You should fight. You are a glutton for punishment Mr. Haritzeder. You feel as though you deserve your fate and revel in your destruction at the hands of others. You are a needless martyr."

"I'm what? A what? No ... no ... it's not like that at all. I'm not a martyr. I'm not dying for any group or religion or whatever. I just want to be accepted, to be like everyone else. But I can't ... my thoughts ... I can't ... and it was starting to make me unhappy. The stuff you gave me ... it will change what I am right? I did it like you said. I made the cut. First pour the red vial, then the silver, then hold the cut closed and be calm."

"I know why you did what you did. Rabbit received the letter you sent to my half brother before he had a chance to read it. She handed it to me. Do you deny its contents?"

"I'm sorry Elizabeth. I ... didn't know how to tell you or even if you would understand at your age. You're too young for me anyway. You'll have crushes on other people. You'll find someone your age."

"You didn't open yourself to be with me. You did so to be the same creature as David," here her voice turned colder than usual, with a spiteful snarl. "You mistook pity for love. HE NEVER LOVED YOU! He will never love you. He felt sorry for you. I will no longer entertain the dehabilitating emotion humans call love for you or anyone else. I do find myself troubled and yes, even pitying, one without a sense of self preservation."

"Heh ... glad you took it well," he gave small nervous laugh.

"I know what you are. You dislike being the aggressor in any situation. You want to be the one who is submissive, owned, hurt. You can't make decisions for yourself. You want them made for you. You are WEAK! If this were the wild you would have been thinned from the herd. Hmm ... herd ... do you eat meat?"

He was beginning to be shaken by her nothing less than radical comments. "Yeah, sometimes ... why?"

"And yet you abhor violence. Violence was needed to kill that animal you put on your dinner plate. It is ok as long as your hands are not the ones soiled? Delusional humans ... you would be better embracing your aggression and still hunting instead of hiding in your sterilized suburbia. Even vegetarians are ending the lives of organisms ... in this case plants ... for their own consumption. Violence is a necessary component of life. Why didn't you fight Palmer?"

"BECAUSE! Then I wouldn't be any better than the people attacking me. I'm not going sink to their level. We don't have to be violent ... we can go beyond it..."

"Your philosophy forsakes the body and ignores reality. You have ignored the pain. You have ignored the alert calling you to fight. My blood runs through your veins now. My Xilvrin runs through your veins. Once the transformation from human to Xilvrin being is complete you will answer to the command of your body, to the command of my blood, it won't be denied."

"That... Uh... The body is what I wanted to talk to you about. How long does it take for that stuff to start working?"

"Over a month."

"I used it over a month ago. I didn't tell you because nothing happened. I didn't think it worked."

"Of course it will work. It worked on Hyuni. There was another I suspected... a girl David visited... I checked on her but it was illness."

"Hyuni? I know him from school. We were in a class together. He was nice. What happened to him?"

"He is with me, keeping my calls from being monitored. as for how he contracted the Xilvrin strain, a fight with David where much blood between them was spilt is at fault."

"Oh..." Palmer pretended to understand. "So that red stuff really was blood?" He didn't know how he felt about having mixed Elizabeth's blood with his own. "And David couldn't help when he attacked people like and acted like a maniac? The Xilvrin made him do it? Will I be like that? I don't want to hurt anyone ... I just wanted to use it like a shield. When someone tries to hit me they'll hit metal and I'll be safe ... under it. You know?"

"You won't WIN if you only take the defensive position, you must also consider tactics for offense."

"You talk like we're at war. Who are we at war with? What's there to win?"

"To answer your questions in order: Humanity and The Earth."

"Yyyy-yeah ... okay." He was beginning to have doubts of his offer to be her friend. Even if she had been abused like he suspected, what have her the right to talk like she did? "Mostly what I called you for, besides asking how long, is to ask what the symptoms are. I need to know if the Xilvrin and your blood is doing this to me or if I should go to the hospital."

"Yes, yes, get to the point."

"My skin ... has been splitting and peeling off. Not like when you get a scrape and there's pinkish skin underneath. The same skin color I had before is under it, only it looks and feels more like latex than skin."

"That's normal. A different kind of skin is needed for the Xilvrin to adhere to. If you look at it under a magnifying glass you'll see pores where the Xilvrin strings will attach instead of hair that would be on human skin. The exception would be on your head where the hair remains. That is the result for humanoid type Xilvrin beings."

"Okay ... my head's been hurting too ... and my eyes get so blurry it's hard to see."

"That is normal as well. Your brain and eyes are being reconfigured to process information for when you take on armor form. Once complete, the pain will end."

"Okay ... and the last thing is what I'm worried about most. It's not just headaches ... my guts ache. My whole body really, but my stomach and ... bleeding where I really shouldn't be bleeding. Bleeding a lot. Makes it hard in summer school. I can't concentrate already and then that started. If I was a girl I'd have an excuse ... it would still be embarrassing but it would make sense. I don;t wanna look at it. I took off my shirt this morning and my stomach was open ... and something was moving around in there... I'm really freaking out ... don't tell me this is how it goes."

"I told you your internal organs would rearrange. A Xilvrin being has a different digestive system than a human's. It will recycle whatever is not turned into blood, bone, muscles mass, and the like into excess Xilvrin which the armor is formed from. This isn't magic. I say it is preferable over how a human processes nutrition and rids itself of waste. I wonder how humans can stand it. Likewise, all Xilvrin beings are born without reproductive systems. As you were born human and are becoming a Xilvrin being, what is not needed will wither and decay."

"Wh-What? What do you mean? You mean that you're not really a girl? And David wasn't really a guy?"

"You illusions are being shattered. This is healthy."

"Healthy! How can you call this ... I want all of me to stay a part of me."

"It wasn't as if you were planning on producing offspring."

"No, I didn't want kids but ... but why don't you talk like a normal person? You know how crazy you sound? What ARE you? What did you do to me? Why didn't you tell me this would happen? I don't want this ... I just wanted to be safe ... I just... Urgh ... Stop it! Elizabeth, I need to know the cure. I need to know whatever will stop this!"

"There is no cure."

"I don't want to hear that!"

"There is no turning back. Accept your becoming! Who you were can no longer survive. You yourself recognized this. EVOLVE! You must change. You will change."

He slammed the phone down. The pain and anger swelled up in him. As he refused to take it out on anyone, including inanimate objects in the furnished basement, all he could do was release it as tears. He thought of his parents and how he'd let them down. He never wanted to bother them with his troubles. He wasn't about to start now. He didn't want them to see him like this. He was sure there was nothing they could do to help him. To save them the grief, he wrote a note explaining that he had to leave, and although they might never see him again, they shouldn't worry.

Everyone would be better off without him here to waste their time on, he reasoned. And David? He thought back to all the moments the tall blonde had been kind to him. He thought of the look in his eyes and the encouragement on that first day they met. Elizabeth was right on that. He'd been deluding himself. That wasn't love. It was pity. The thought of him being a charity case made him sicker than he already felt.

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