‘Why am I loyal?’ Alice repeats my question, asking herself. ‘Good question. I don't know.’ She smiles at me, but her eyes betray her concern for me. I roll my own eyes. I don’t know what colour my own eyes are, I realise as I gaze into Alice’s blue orbs. My vision swims and I half growl at her ‘I waited for that?’ and ate that crap for it? My mind finishes the sentence for me.
‘No, let me finish.’ She placed a piece of hair behind her ear and continued. ‘I... I don't see you as a master. Not really. I do what you wish because it...’ She pauses again, a grimace marring her face. I almost reach out to smooth it away. ‘Survival, because it allows me to survive...’ she finishes weakly. It’s almost as if she wasn’t quite finished, but stopped herself from saying something more. She changes the subject quickly away from her loyalty to me.
‘Here, drink. You will feel better.’ She smiles again, but it looks false and I feel the corners of my mouth drop as that strange tug in my guts pulls at me again. ‘Sir. Would you like anything else? You still don't look too good.’ I look dubiously at the brown liquid in the glass, the condensation running down the edges. She pushes the glass towards me and orders me to drink. I glare at her and her smile nearly looks genuine.
I look at the little cubes of ice clinking against the glass and inhale slowly. Humans drink this stuff all the time; it’s a multi billion industry. It can’t be that bad? But I think I’ve had enough of new things recently. I push it away from me again.
‘Think you can walk?’ Alice asks, realising I’ve had enough of the diner. I shrug and stand up, still unsteady. She directs me to the shopping centre and says there might be some food inside we can get to keep me going on the journey. I have no idea how humans manage like this... carrying around a supply of food, their own weight and all these emotions. My entire existence has been made up of anger and joy – the joy having been caused by a massacre of some kind, much like that small village – and now I’m feeling panic, this weird tug and a strange sadness. I really want to figure out what this tug is, it’s really annoying me.
We enter the quiet centre and I look around. I’ve been in places like this so many times, but seeing it in a different way for the first time is enough to make me stand still and look around at the strange place. Usually I would be able to sense all the beings, I’d draw on their internal pain, force a few conflicts between a worker and his or her boss, feel the whole building at once. But now my being is centred to just a few centimetres around me. I don’t like it.
We head for a shop with food and stuff I don’t recognise in it, and Alice starts filling a basket with things that she says will help. I watch her quietly, hating this role reversal with a passion. I want to just move.