I glare after Manuel and his brute of a cell mate, rubbing my shoulder. Must've tweaked it something awful, it feels like it's burning...
Burning. The word echos in the back of my mind. It's been quite some time since I lit something. I can usually keep my mania at bay for about two weeks, but the little fiery demon starts growing restless. He's getting extremely impatient again, I can feel it. And he's none too happy about it.
I clench my fist, trying to quell the impulse, but the clench aggravates my tweaked shoulder. I hiss in pain.
"Something up?" one of the nameless guards asks me. I nod, pointing to my shoulder and wincing terribly. The guard shrugs. "Come on then," he says, leading me to the infirmary.
Nobody knows what the name of the head of the infirmary is, what kind of medical professional he is, or if he even is a trained medical professional. Regardless, most of the inmates call him Dr. Nurse, or Doc N, just to cover the bases. But I think of him as the regular savior of my sanity.
He doesn't call me Ana, but he doesn't call me Pyro either. Rather, he calls me Gabija, Gabi for short. "She's a goddess of fire," he explained to me once, "both feared and respected: respected for her power over the element, feared for her wrath. Her fire was believed to protect folks against unclean people, too."
"So, it's like I'm protecting myself in this madhouse?" I asked.
He shrugged with a small smile. "Something like that"
I figured the name fit, given both my condition and the fact that my middle name is Gabriela. At least it wasn't Maniac.
So that makes three people who don't call me Pyro, I suppose. But I see a huge difference between the three: Manuel avoids me like an animal does a brushfire, and Small just pities me. But what good does pity do a person? Unless they offer some way to ameliorate the situation, it does didly-squat. That's what makes Doc N different: he gives my mania an out.
He understands "fiery" tendencies, see, and knows how much it can damage folks who keep their demon waiting too long. So the moment I enter, and his eyes meet mine, although I'm cradling my shoulder he knows full well why I'm really there. He waves his big hand, gesturing for me to the concrete corner next to his desk. On the other side of the desk he keeps weeks-old editions of the Sunday New York Times and a sputtering Zippo lighter. Once I'm settled in the corner he hands me the lighter and a tiny chunk of a two-month-old paper.
"You know the drill," he says to me with a hint of a sympathetic smile.
I'm not a huge fan of sympathy, but the guy lets me burn something, even if it is only paper. If sympathy's part of the deal, it's part of the deal.
I'm about two thirds through the edition the next time he speaks to me.
"Heard some new'uns showed up today," he says lazily. I'm too focused on the smouldering paper to answer beyond a nod and an affirmative grunt. "Yep. Also heard one's a lady, too, a Nevada somethin'r'other."
I vaguely remember Manuel mentioning a Nevada at one point or other, somehow relating to his conviction. This certainly piques my interest.
"I imagine they'll be puttin' her with you, seein' as your the only other lady in here," he continues, then glances at me. "Though I 'magine you p'fer the solitude, eh Gabi?"
I nod, watching the tiny flame sputter out and some charred remnants crumble to dust on the floor. "Hope she doesn't think insanity's contagious... but she probably will, just like all the rest of them in here." I flick the lighter and ignite another twisted sheet of newsprint, letting it smoke and sigh. "She'll probably be the talk of the block, though: who else is gonna get a close look at the resident lunatic?"
But as these words leave my mouth, it comes back through my mind slightly changed: Who else is gonna be with someone who was connected with Manuel? It's entirely possible that she knew him inside and out, what makes him tick, what buttons to push. Of course, it's entirely possible that she was just an innocent bystander and knows nothing about him.
Still, I think while considering the diminutive inferno between my fingers, never hurts too much to keep one's hopes up a little.