I only have two scars, light pink ones. After the second, I promised myself I’d never lie again, but honesty is harder than I thought.
As I look at the man in front of me, the elevator so small, I can hear his breathing in the silence, I think about the last time I lied.
I had told my mother that I was sleeping over at my friend’s house when I was actually breaking into the school.
She died that night, my mother, I mean.
“What floor you going to, son?” the man asks, his voice gruff.
“Hm?” I ask, caught off guard.
“What floor?” the man repeats, narrowing his eyes.
I struggle to remember why I’m here, “Uh, nine….”
The man nods and punches in the number, “Going to see the dying?”
I shrug. After being in jail for three years, it’ll be nice to see my sister, even if she is suffering from a violent fever.
“What about you?” I ask, carelessly inspecting my nails.
“Nine,” he responds hands in his pockets.
As the elevator comes to a stop, the doors creaking open, and the man moves to get out, I catch sight of an ugly purplish-red mark at the base of his neck. No, not a mark.
And, by far, the ugliest, the deepest I had ever seen.
I shake my head, mum had told me several years ago not to stare at others’ scars.
As I too leave the elevator, heading for room 938, the man follows me, easily keeping pace by my side.
Anyone else would’ve thought we were here together.
“What’s your name, son?” the man asks, looking around.
“Tyson,” I say, grimacing, I’ve never liked my name, “Or Ty.”
The man nods, “Mikita,” he says, offering a hand.
I take it. The name Mikita seems oddly familiar, but I shake away the feeling.
As room 938 comes into view, I start walking faster, but Mikita never leaves my side. I risk a glance at him, to see his face uncannily casual, looking around every few seconds.
He catches me staring at him and meets my eyes, “Who’re you seeing, Tyson?”
“My sister,” I respond, coming to a stop in front of room 938. Mikita stops beside me. “You?” I ask.
“Right next door,” he tilts his head to room 939.
I knock on the door, and after hearing a feeble “come in,” open it and step inside.
She hasn’t changed much since I last saw her, except she now has eighteen more scars. With a sinking realization, I know she is not sick because of some constant fever.
My sister, the person everyone told me to be more like, has less. I shake my head, suddenly feeling weak, and take the chair beside her bed.
So much has changed in three years.
“Vivian?” I whisper, leaning over her fragile body to look at her.
“Ty?” her frail voice asks.
“I’m out of jail,” I say, feeling awkward.
“Well, it’s about time,” she says.
“How did this happen?” I ask, taking her hand in mine.
“After mum died… I made some bad decisions.”
“No kidding,” I snort.
Her eyes are wide, “I’ve missed you, Ty.”
“What did you do, Viv?”
“I… I guess I got into a lot of bad relationships and… stuff,” she mumbled, eyes closed again.
“And stuff?” I ponder, “Nevermind, all that matters is you getting better. How long till you’re fully recovered?”
Vivian opens her eyes again, “You don’t know?”
I shake my head, “What don’t I know?”
Tears streamed down her small face, “There is no cure, no antidote. That’s why the law for no more than fifteen lies is so strict.”
“So, I’m not going to make it through this, Ty. I’m going to go join mum in the dead,” she murmured, hiccuping through her tears.
Suddenly, she started coughing, violently. Coughing and coughing and coughing some more. The machine that told her heart rate was going berserk before finally calming down and… and… flatlining. It all happened too fast.
Vivian Erwin, my sister, the last person that I had any affection for in this world… is dead?
Resigned and rejected, with my head hanging, I leave the room.
To my surprise, Mikita is still outside, but I don’t give him a second thought. Doctors are rushing to the room, but I pay them no mind.
Waiting for the elevator, I see Mikita standing next to me out of the corner of my eye, “Dead?” he asks.
I shrug, I don’t need a stranger’s sympathy.
Taking the exit after reaching the lobby, I expected to part ways with Mikita while I wait for a taxi but he stays by my side.
“What are you doing?” I ask, stupidly.
“Why, I’m waiting for a taxi just like you.”
As a taxi pulls up, I open the door to get in, but the man catches my wrist.
Before I can say anything, he waves the taxi away and the bored driver complies. “Walk with me,” Mikita says.
“Walk with me,” he repeats.
“No offense, Mikita, but I barely know you,” I say, as he gradually loosens his grip on my wrist.
“So get to know me. And I you.”
I’m not thinking straight. My head has a few screws loose as I agree, and walk with him.
What business do I have with this stranger and him with me?
“If we’re getting to know each other, may I ask what lie made the scar at the back of your neck?” I ask, keeping my gaze trained straight ahead.
“A mistake. That’s what it was.”
“I killed my wife and daughters,” Mikita says, ever so casually.
I stop abruptly, “I’m walking with a murderer.”
“That is true. But do not fret, I have served my time even though the police think differently,“ Mikita shrugged, and continued on walking.
Then, it hit me like a brick. Mikita Cull was the world’s most wanted convict, for killing his four daughters and wife.
And I was walking beside him as if he were no more than the average man. But there had been more to his story. Mikita had had a fifth daughter and a sixth son, both of who he had let live.
It dawned on me then.
When I looked up at Mikita again, I was looking at my father.