Most of the owls showered before breakfast or bed, or not at all from the stink of a few of them. Eve did not dare undress in front of others, so she waited until the shower room was completely empty.
The hottest water temperature was a few degrees below boiling. It would have scalded anyone else, but Eve found it pleasantly moderate. Her long, wild violet hair grew heavy with water.
She hated being naked. With her clothes off she could ignore her deformities- that became impossible when she took them off. The skinny little half-tentacles that hung from her midsection, the craters and lumps on her chest and belly, the enormous black rift along her sternum that she prayed would never open.
Eve was always a little radioactive. But when she lost control of her abilities she emitted 100 times more radiation than a chunk of enriched plutonium. While Born from Atom couldn’t directly harm her, it still acted as a mutagen. Naturally the mutations were nothing useful, like a new magic power or a functional limb. Just bumps and indents and masses of pointless flesh and that damnable rift.
More pressingly, her mutations were well-known. Anyone who had seen the footage of her meltdown knew about them: her clothes had disintegrated seconds into the rampage, something she only learned when she watched the footage herself.
The incident was bizarre to think about, because Eve didn’t exactly remember it. It was more like a dream, a dim reflection through a dirty mirror. She remembered what happened directly before- trying to drink her tea while Necessity yelled at her and called her a monster- and she remembered waking up in a holding cell afterwards.
But it was her. She did it. The footage was undeniable and there were hundreds of survivors to confirm it. And the worst part of all was that Eve had laughed the entire time. Laughed like a madwoman as she reduced friends and colleagues to liquid.
Oh yeah. The other reason she hated showering. Her mind had always been prone to wandering, so long walks or showers had proved invaluable to her research in the past. Not anymore. Now every idle moment brought her back to the events of that awful day four years ago.
What had she missed? Why had she gone berserk? What was she supposed to do now? Just die? Just end her putrid life and make the universe a not-insignificantly kinder place for her absence?
Eve realized she had stood under the showerhead without moving for close to five minutes now. Shaking herself back to reality, she grabbed the shampoo and began to lather her hair.
“Do you need any help?” someone asked from behind her. A bolt traveled up Eve’s back. She recognized the voice. It was Cressida. “Err, I noticed you standing there without moving… is everything okay?” the security officer asked.
Eve peered over her shoulder. Cressida stood there, a shower caddy in her right hand. She was totally nude, her lean and lissome body bared, her chest knotted with muscle. “Fine,” Eve said quietly. “Don’t worry about me. What are you doing here?”
Cressida didn’t look convinced. “Umm, I didn’t have time to shower earlier. I could see you talking to yourself too. I don’t want to pry, but…”
“But it sounded like you were talking about killing yourself.”
Eve flushed, realizing that she had indeed been muttering to herself as was her habit. She hadn’t even realized. “T-that… isn’t your concern.”
“Well, it sort of is. I don’t… think it’d be good for anyone if you did that. Including me.” Cress looked up. “Shit, that sounded callous… I’m sorry, not what I meant. Just that, I know it’s really hard to be moved to a new base and all. I definitely had a hard time myself. But hurting yourself isn’t the answer.”
What did Cress mean by that? It wouldn’t be “good” for her if Eve killed herself? “I’m not going to,” Eve settled on. “I think about it sometimes, but I’d never actually do it. I’m too much of a coward. Besides, if I do go through with it, I’d be gracious enough to make it look like an accident. So you have nothing to fear, officer.”
Much to her horror, Cressida made her way over to Eve. “Hey, listen… I know we just met and all, but if you need someone to talk to, I can try and listen. I’m not very smart but I’m better than being alone, right?” She moved to clasp her hand against Eve’s shoulder, which would burn the flesh off of her hand. So Eve darted away.
And exposed the front of her body to Cress.
Cressida stared at her chest, and Eve was pretty sure Cress wasn’t checking out her rack. She was staring at the huge, unsightly deformities that decorated Eve’s torso. “Oh… uhm…” She flushed. “Sorry. Sorry! I gotta go!”
And before Eve could grab her and tear her head off- god damn it, why was that her default- Cressida had run out of the room.