Cages Made of Gold

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Chapter 3

Were all freaks this gorgeous?

She’s not attractive. Not in the slightest. And no, Mark, you are not in denial.

He could’ve used the last five seconds, though, because she rushed him, eyes blazing, and pounced.

A hand went to the front of his shirt, her fist connecting with his face. His body followed his head as he fell,grabbing her in a half-hug, their collective momentum sending them to the floor. And in a single, fluid moment, he’d held her arms to her sides; holding her down, saving her from herself.

He did not want to hurt her, maybe just hold onto her until he could get her to safety, away from the monsters watching-

He doubled over, bracing his arms on either side of her head, as pain raced through his groin. She’d just kicked him in the balls, he realized. She flipped them over, her ebony-handled knife at his throat.

Her breathing was quick and shallow, golden hair falling from her face, narrowing her eyes. The blade dug into his neck.

“Hey.” She was still straddling him, her other hand on his shoulder. “See, er-”

“Why are you here.” Her voice was flat. A beat of silence, and she continued. Marks heart restarted. “I’m holding a godfucking dagger. Answer me.”

“Why are you here?” Any proper horror at Carrison would have done the deed, damned their soul, erased his existence. She’d kept him alive; the thought was scarier than it should have been. “Why am I alive?

She chewed on her lip on her bottom lip, eyes tracing his face; the girl seemed to decide something.“I don’t want to kill you.”

He laughed, the sound filling the corridor. She winced, the expression almost unnoticeable. “Well, that’s convincing.”

His attacker stayed quiet. He continued. “You did just beat up a stranger. With, you know, malicious intent...” His voice faded. He gestured to her position; the girl rose, her eyes never leaving his.

“I thought you were someone else.” He sat up, wincing, listening to her speak. For a second they weren’t here, they were somewhere else, a place without terrifying prisoners and broken girls. “Who hired you?”

“If I answer, I get to ask something. And you have to respond.” He could feel her patience thinning. He moved to his feet, trying to look as though he wasn’t about to piss himself. “Please?”

Still seeming to regret keeping him alive, she nodded. “So you’re here because..?”

“I’m with security.” The girl smirked. The boy tensed. “I’m also Mark. You got a name?”

“Prisoner 168.” Was she being serious? “Are the other cells locked?”

“No.” He kept his voice clipped. And interrupted her ‘Why?’ with a question of his own. “Is there a reason they haven’t come out?”

Mark knew, instantly, he’d fucked up; 168 was wearing a small, wicked, smile.

The air had changed; charged, tense, fearful. She’d crept closer; steps quick and frantic. Taking another, then more, until she was right in front of him.

Her face was close. Maybe he’d die today after all. “Some of them are afraid.” Her fingers were cold. God. “Some of them are addicted. And all of them,” Her breath was warm, fingertips tracing his side. “Know not to cross me.”

He had the distant feeling she was enjoying this. Making him sweat, scaring the shit out of him. “Why?”

Her hand went to the back of his neck; he was very aware of the knife she held. “I once held a little girl against the door as she screamed for her brother. I strung up a woman by her insides. I almost murdered my father.” A colder feeling crept through him, at odds with the heat of before. Her eyes flashed, her blonde head cocked. “And you’re going to help me finish the job.”

You have something to do. Something to finish.

Everything had narrowed down to her; the way she smelled, like raindrops and coldness. Her fingers, cool and calloused, on the back of his neck, twirling a knife. Her eyes, liquid steel, as they focused on his. Her mouth, pressed into a thin line. “And you’ll help me finish mine.”

“Depends on what it is.”

Again, that feeling of deadly calm. His hands traced her side, her hips, and before he could think, really think, he spoke. “When it’s done, you’ll kill me. Slit my throat. Cut me open. End it.”

Prisoner 168 went stark and still. Staying quiet, right before she moved, not towards, but away, silent as death. Watchful. Her lips moved; she may have been praying. “It’s a deal.”

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