The next morning you decide to be Rose, seeing as she's the only named character you've yet to be.
Like every morning before, you're up at the first signs of a new day. The morning light shines weakly into the single window of the room. You look through the glass at the beautiful young sky and are overcome with a strong sense of longing.
You long to be on the other side of that glass. You long to feel the sun on your skin. You long to see and experience all that lies beyond these walls that seal you away from the world. But you know the chances of that ever happening are minute.
The first of friends that you check up on this morning is Jade. Her cell is three columns over and four rows down from yours. Pressing your face against the bars of your cage, you glimpse Jade apparently asleep in hers. Next you turn your focus to the ceiling. You can only see Dirk's back as it rises and falls with his breathing. Dave is awake but his back is to you. You ponder if Dave's ever slept a night in his life.
You start your day with a routine wash. It's a force of habit you wish you could stop, but the feline in your blood won't let you. You've just finished cleaning both your ears when something out of the ordinary happens.
The door to the room quietly creeks open, but not quietly enough to go undetected by you. It's still too early to begin today's tests. What's going on?
A single scientist steps in and shuts the door behind him. The door's click alerts Dave to his presence, but the avian hybrid wisely stays silent.
You watch with fascination as the man moves to a control panel near the door. He pushes a series of buttons and to your surprise the door of the kennel three columns over and four rows down swings open.
A manual lock! You had no idea the cages would respond to such a thing. All your life you had only seen cages operated by voice commands that only reacted to specific voices. A manual lock could be utilized by anyone… This realization fills you with excitement.
The scientist walks over to Jade's cage. You stare in your unblinking cat way as he takes her pulse, listens to her lungs, and draws a blood sample. He scribbles something down on a clipboard then gives her a shot of what you only assume is a type of steroid that revives a person's strength. Then he quietly closes the cage, resets the lock, and soundlessly leaves the room.
The sound of talons scraping across metal assaults your ears. Pinning them back, you squint up at Dave who's dragging his claws across his cage floor in frustration.
"Dave, stop. You're hurting my ears," you hiss. Dave balls up his fists and puts them in his lap.
"Sorry," he mutters.
Dirk awakens at the sharp sound. "God, what'd I miss now?" He yawns.
"A scientist came in and was messing with Jade," Dave says. "The little shit thought he was being all sneaky."
"But did you see what he did, Dave?" You say enthusiastically. "He unlocked a cage with manual buttons and not his voice."
"Yeah, I saw."
"You know what that could mean? It means anyone could manually unlock any cage."
"Yeah, but to do that, we'd need to be outside of one to begin with."
"I know, but I find the possibility exhilarating."
"Don't get your hopes up, Rose," Dave sneers. "I know what you're thinking, but it's never gonna happen."
Below you a whimpering starts and you all turn to it like a reflex. Jade's waking up.
The first thing she does is attempt to sit up. She manages to push up her front half, but her arms shake so violently that they threaten to give out on her. Taking a deep breath, she pulls herself into a sitting position, leaning heavily on one of the cell walls for support.
"Jade, how do you feel?" Dirk asks.
"Like my body's made of rubber," her words are a bit slurred, but her voice is much stronger and her eyes seem clearer than yesterday. "You're all up early."
You're all silent as Jade tries to stretch her body. She's extremely unsteady and uncoordinated, but her determination helps her regain her motor skills.
You sense unease wafting off Jade but don't understand why until you pick up the feeling of regret emanating from Dave, and you realize that neither is willing to look at the other.
The tension between the four of you builds until the laboratory officially wakes up that morning. The stress suddenly slacks when the lights switch on and the machines begin to warm up, but it immediately returns when two scientists walk in.
"Okay, fellas," one says cheerfully as if fatal testing was a fun thing. "Big day today! We're making scientific progress in leaps and bounds. We're gonna double up the trials to get more tests in each day, so show us what you've got!"
"From now on we're running two tests at a time," says the second scientist. "And our first two lucky participants are… hybrid experiments six-one-one and six-one-two!"
Your heart skips when you hear Dirk's and Dave's numbers called. The two twins are blank faced, but you can smell their fear. You're all hyper aware how dangerous the tests will be from here on out.
You shift your gaze downward to see Jade's reaction. She's gone pale as a ghost but her eyes are wide in apology. It's almost as if you can hear her thoughts saying "I'm so sorry… I'm so sorry… I'm so sorry…" repeating over and over again.
The experimenters' wheel the two hybrids out of the room and everyone falls into the routine silence.
The day slowly passes by and no one says a word. The air in the room seems more oppressive than usual, and although there is no way for you to determine the time your internal clock tells you Dirk and Dave have been gone longer than usual. You wonder when they'll come back… or if they're coming back at all.
The door clicks and your eyes lock onto it. It slowly swings inward as a scientist comes in. Behind him he drags in two cages.
It's Dave and Dirk.
You exhale a breath you didn't realize you were holding. Dave and Dirk are back and they're in bad shape, but at least they're alive.
The scientist returns their cages and takes two more then leaves the room again without a second glance.
This time one of the two cages is you.
You don't know what to say, but you feel as if you should say something. You try to think but you can't form a single coherent thought in your head.
There in front of you are Dave and Dirk, lying battered, bruised and breathless. When the crates return to the ceiling one of Dave's onyx and rusty colored feathers floats down into your cage. It's bloody.
It's only until the scientist leaves again do you dare speak up.
"D-Dave? Dirk?" You ask tentatively. Your only response is exasperated breathing. When no one talks after a few minutes you figure Dave and Dirk have fallen asleep out of sheer exhaustion. Rose has been taken for testing and none of the other hybrids ever want to talk.
As if they ever had anything interesting to say anyway.
The next time the scientist comes back he is on schedule. But this time he returns with only one cage.
You're faint with relief when you realize it's Rose, just as worn out as Dave and Dirk were when they returned. But what happened to the other hybrid?
Again the man calls two crate numbers and takes them away. He repeatedly does this for the rest of the day, but not all the cages come back.
You're alone with your thoughts while your friends recuperate, but your mind is in turmoil. After a while you notice your thoughts are going in a loop;
'They're taking more away each time because of me. It's my fault. They want them to perform the omnipotence because of me. It's my fault. No one can do it and some end up not coming back because of me. It's my fault. It's all my fault.'
You're on the brink of mental despair, threatening to fall over into a pit of eternal self-loathing when a new thought rescues you.
'But I didn't turn them into hybrids.'
You stop and ponder this notion. It was true; you didn't make them into half-human, half-animal freaks. The scientists did. And they did it to you too. It was their fault.
You go wide-eyed at this realization. If it hadn't been for them, you would all still be human. If it hadn't been for them you wouldn't have to spend your life in a cage. If it hadn't been for them, you wouldn't have performed the omnipotence. If it hadn't been for them the others wouldn't be dying because of what they did to you.
It was their fault…
It was their fault.
It was their fault.
IT WAS ALL THEIR FAULT!
Something changes in you then. For the first time in your life you allow yourself to feel a feeling you've always repressed. You realize there's no need to do that now. Your anger is justified.
You don't sleep at all that night. Instead, you lie awake… and think.