Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. What? Olivia spasmed. Everything hurt. Chest, legs, arms, wings, head, tail. Every muscle and nerve ending in her body ached. Where? She cracked open her eyes. More darkness. Bad.
She tried to move. Not a specific movement, like “raise arm” or “nod head,” but a raw, panicked, animal reaction to a distressing situation. She didn’t make it very far. Metallic clanks rang out as she struggled against unyielding bindings.
What happened? Let me out, let me out, let me out! She struggled further, thrashing against whatever held her down. Can’t move. People talked in the background, sharp urgent orders Olivia couldn’t quite make out. Then all the air around her vanished.
Air, need air. Can’t breathe… need… She blacked out again.
The next time she woke, it was to the sound of rattling. She didn’t know how, she but got the vague impression of movement. Fast movement. Engines hummed, her whole surroundings shook in response.
Every breath she took hissed. Something plastic covered her mouth. She twitched, and again tried to get up. Metal, covering her whole body, kept her from moving. No. Gotta… move. Again, only darkness met her eyes when she opened them.
An urgent voice above her said, “Just like they said. Canisters five and six, now. Up the intravenous dosage. Cyrus, you there?” A squeak from a turned valve, then her muscles relaxed and everything began to fade once again.
Olivia came back around, head pounding. She shot upright, and every muscle involved screamed in protest. Her eyes snapped open, and the blinding light made her regret that decision immediately. Ow. Again. Again? Her ears rang, near as loud as when they’d first been blown out, and her headache didn’t improve her mood any.
She took a moment to let her eyes adjust to the light, one hand covering them to reduce the glare. Experimentally, she stretched her wings out without looking. They extended as far as she could get them; so far she had full range of motion. Good. OK, good. I can see and I can move. Where am I?
She got up from the bed she’d been laid out on. Her feet scratched along the bare concrete floor as they gained traction. The uninviting concrete walls formed a seamless box around her, twenty feet by twenty feet. The harsh lights, about fifteen feet up, kept the whole thing lit up bright as day, despite the lack of windows. Or doors. Or anything besides the bed and toilet.
Where am I? What happened? She whirled around, looking for anything else at all. After several panicked moment, a tiny, perfectly straight and vertical crack in one of the walls caught her attention. She rushed over to it. Door? Maybe? She worked the tip of a claw into it, trying to widen it in any way. With only the bare millimeter deep crack to work with, she got nowhere.
Olivia hissed in both frustration and desperation. She raked her claws down where she estimated the door would be, leaving four shallow gorges across it. Let me out. She did that again. And again.
Right as she backed up to wind up for a kick to the scratched surface, a horrid shriek pierced the air throughout the cell. Olivia dropped, holding her hands to her ears to make it stop. The shriek scrambled her thoughts, made her brain rattle in her skull. Stopstopstopstopstop. Just as suddenly as the noise started, it ceased.
The tinnitus that she’d been dealing with since hearing one too many gunshots up close and personal came back stronger than ever, not fading even as the shriek faded. When Olivia’s eyes finally refocused, she removed her hands from her ears. Wet. Something’s wet. What? The headache upgraded from mildly annoying her to making her seriously consider carving out her own brain to make it stop.
She checked her hands. On the dark green scales of her palm was a spot of blood. Red. That’s normal blood. She wiped it off on her pants and held her palm to her ear again. More blood. A small trickle, but more than ideal, which would be none at all. Normal blood. Why am I so fixated on that?
She struggled to her feet. Let me out of here. Let me out. She snarled and launched herself at the marked door again. Right before she made contact, the shriek returned. It didn’t have the volume of before this time, but the pain still stabbed into her ears with renewed vigor. She collided with the wall, all the fight knocked out of her. The shriek cut off once more.
Slumped against the wall, she curled her fingers against the floor. Her claws dug mere millimeters into the floor as she willed the pain to stop. The trickle of blood from now both ears concerned her, but not throwing up was her top priority. She took several shaky breaths, until the urge to empty her stomach and the pounding of her headache subsided enough for her to stand back up.
No more of that. Not right now, at least. She staggered over to the solid metal bed with the threadbare mattress on top, and dropped down on top, sitting upright. Wait, I didn’t hear anything.
She tapped her toe against the floor. The claw should have made a clicking sound against the concrete, but she heard nothing but the rush of blood in her head. She screwed her eyes shut and hung her head. No. Not again. Miya healed me last time. Miya’s not here. No one is here.
I need to get out. I need to get out somehow. She pushed herself off of the bed. The blood promptly rushed from her head, and she stumbled back onto the bed. Ow. Later.
Olivia forced herself to relax. Why? Why bother? I don’t know if I’m ever going to get out or what they’re going to do to me or if I’ll ever see my friends again. How did I even get here? Last time I remember, we’d just gotten out of John Doe’s imaginary world thing. Then… then what?
She poked at one of the many bullet holes in her shirt. The same shirt she’d been wearing when she and Ben had visited her old apartment she’d squatted in for a time. Of course I was shot. Of course. The last time she’d lost track of what had happened, she’d been caught in a massive, aimless riot. She’d been shot a lot then, but those didn’t leave angry scabs like the ones she poked at.
Some guys, looked like soldiers, shot me a lot. I think. Why were they there? There was a bunch of wind. Really, really strong wind. She caught sight of a splash of dark brownish red on her pant leg. Her eyes widened and she recoiled a bit as she recognized what it was. Blood. Too much to be mine. Nothing particularly hurt on her leg, so by process of elimination that meant the blood wasn’t hers.
No, no, no. Not again. No. Not good. What’d I do? The pale, mouthless face of John Doe flashed in her mind. She hissed at the memory. Him. I remember. She’d ran after John, trying her hardest to kill him. While she expected to feel guilty about that, she couldn’t muster anything but distaste for him.
What’d I do? He’d teleported a bunch of times. That blood had to have come from somewhere. I kept after him. Maybe it was John’s blood. We… we wound up in this house, I don’t remember how. She’d remember killing him. Right? There were people in there, people I didn’t recognize. This had happened before, her trying to piece together what had happened, and it hadn’t ended well then, either. There was that one man, between John and me.
She cringed. I just wanted him out of the way. I didn’t mean to… No. I messed up. Some guy died because of me. Stupid, stupid, stupid. She fought back tears. No, no crying. Not for me. My stomach is intact. If there had been anything in her stomach at that point, she would have vomited at that memory, of her throwing her claws into his gut to get him out of the way. He hadn’t died immediately, either, and John just teleported right after. No, no, no.
Not going to forget. Not going to forget. Not again. Even if it’s terrible. Stupid me. I didn’t… I didn’t recognize my friends, either. Looking back I know it was them but at the time, they were just… I don’t know. I think Cyrus stopped me. Not sure if I should be grateful that he kept me from killing anyone else or angry that he beat me within an inch of my life. No. Angry. I think my friends were making progress. I was calming down.
A tapping noise caught her attention. She looked down and realized she’d never stopped tapping her toe. The taps sounded like they came from behind a wall, but better that than nothing. She took a deep breath. Calm down or I’ll do something stupid again. Like attack that door again.
She still had no desire to stay in her cell any longer than absolutely necessary. The others. Focus on them. What are they doing? Did they escape the police? I hope so. But if they come to find me, they’ll get hurt. But I really don’t want to be here. But then again, they really shouldn’t try to pick a fight with what I’m assuming is a massive fortress built to house ferals like me.
Over the next hour or so she thought herself in circles, rationalizing one thing, then the other.
A small green light overhead flashed, interrupting her train of thought. A slot opened in the wall opposite of Olivia’s bed. Two trays appeared in the slot. One had a fresh change of clothes, a bright orange prisoner’s outfit, with Prisoner conveniently clarified on the back of the shirt in big black letters. The other smelled like food. She saw four different cubes of cooked meat on it. Of those, the sort of white colored one piqued her interest. Fish? I don’t think I’ve ever had fish.
“OK. Am I supposed to eat these with my hands?” she asked herself aloud.
She looked around the room again. The odds of any sort of indication that someone had heard her question seemed low, but she was willing to expend the three calories required to move her head. Nothing.
Back to the trays. She tilted her head to get a good look into the slot the trays came out of. It was about nine inches high, and two feet across, she had no chance of getting through that way. That and she saw two feet of concrete before some white plastic within. How did the stuff get from back there to my cell? She sniffed. The meat caught her attention again. Other than some whiffs of incomprehensible things beyond the slot, nothing stood out to her.
Other than subtle differences in smell and texture, the other four cubes remained indistinguishable. Food. Food is good. Do I really have to eat this with my hands? Her stomach growled. Felt rather empty, now that she thought about it. She shrugged, picked up the fish cube, and took a bite. Mmmmm. Food. She devoured the food cubes in quick succession. Meat that’s not fried or mulched into a burger is actually really good. But now there’s a bunch of juices on my hands. Oh, hey, clothes.
Olivia held up the bright orange shirt once she finished the food. It looked like it would fit, and had far less holes in it than the one she currently wore. She blinked. Why does it have to be so obnoxiously orange? That, and the prisoner label plastered on the back, made her hesitate. I’d rather not wear this. Feels like giving in.
She wiped her hands on it, then folded it as best she could and put it back. A small light overhead flashed, red this time. Olivia backed up a couple paces, not sure that a red light was a good thing. The trays withdrew, and concrete covered up the slot they’d come in through. Silence reigned after.
OK then. Now what?
With nothing to do, she paced. And paced. And paced. Other than the bed and toilet, there was nothing in the room besides her. She stretched her wings out from the center of the room three times in a five minute time span. This room is kind of small.
Even up close, the smooth, featureless concrete walls gave away nothing, except for the small crack and gouges she’d left on the door. Staring at them got rather boring after about five minutes.
She had moved her bed from one wall to another, to see if there was anything at all beneath it. Nothing. The only thing that separated the floor from the walls was its horizontal orientation. She even tried picking at the door again, not even violently. The shriek, not as loud or long as the previous ones, still kept her from pursuing that train of thought. That’s got to be a door. Why else would they use that shriek thing?
She considered tearing up the toilet, just to see if any options for getting out presented themselves. But if she didn’t get out that way, the foreseeable future would be rather unpleasant. If there was any way out of the cell, it was extremely well hidden. She resumed her pacing.
The lack of any method of keeping track of time wore her down. She lost concept of how long she’d been trapped in the cell. The only thing she could keep track of was five steps in one direction, then an about face and five steps in the other. Over, and over, and over. At some point she stopped and sat on her bed to break the monotony with a slightly different monotony.
An involuntary yawn of hers caught her by surprise. Sleep. Why not? Not doing anything else. The lights are dimmed too. Just now realized that. She lost consciousness the moment her head hit the pillow.
The next day started exactly the same. She woke up not knowing exactly where she was. After taking a minute to remember the events of the previous days, she stretched to work out the aches from all her old injuries and resuming her pacing. Soon, the green light came on again, and the food slot opened up.
This tray only had three cubes of unspecified meat on the plastic plate, a couple paper napkins folded under the edge. What are they feeding me? I mean, there’s nothing wrong with them, they taste good, but what are they? Oh, hey! A fork and knife. They did listen. There’s even a glass of water.
She scarfed down the food and water, and the red light heralded the tray being taken away again. No clothes this time.
More pacing. Dinner. More pacing. Sleep.
After another day of nothing new, and Olivia feeling her sanity slipping to boredom, the speakers beeped. A gentle, notifying beep, not the punitive shriek that came out every time she’d tried to open that door.
“Olivia?” asked an unfamiliar feminine voice from the crackling speaker.