Chapter 1 - Chains
A life in chains is no life at all. I suppose the chains are my own fault, but a prison cell still looks the same with or without them. I was no longer a young and naïve girl, I no longer hoped to see my family or have any friends. I was just a body, a shell of a person that graced these halls as if I didn't exist. No one stopped me to ask how I am or ask if I were okay. I even forgot what my own voice sounded like as I have been mute for many years, I could talk if I wanted too but I never had the need.
I barely ate so looked gaunt, I didn't recognise myself when I looked in the mirror. My once beautiful long silky brown hair, now looked like straw, an unwashed tangle matted to my head. My brown eyes that I inherited from my father once golden now, a dull lifeless brown. My lips were cracked and dehydrated, my skin pale and almost translucent from not seeing the sun in years. I barely resembled my parents anymore, I guess I grew up, but I know deep down that again it's my own fault.
I was being trained in gymnastics when I first arrived here which I liked and got really good at it, then they moved onto acro and aerial acrobatics which were just as fun. The days were long and gruelling, but I loved every moment of it. I asked if I could do ballet, I knew I'd be good at it like my older sister, but the strike I received across my right cheek had my head spinning and my body hitting the floor hard. I never asked for anything again. I just did what I was told.
My next set of skills to learn were disciplined and structured, from basic martial arts to mixed and street fighting. These quickly progressed before I had the chance to master the previous one. Weapons were introduced and I received so many beatings from fists, powerful kicks and wooden staffs. I was black and blue and in a lot of pain, but they never let up. I was to fight through the pain to become a better fighting machine, but I were too weak to try. My punishment was to kneel for hours at a time with no food or water until 6pm every day for a week. I quickly withered to nothing.
After the week was done, I had to be taken to a medical centre to be force fed through a tube to build the weight back up, because every time I tried to eat by body rejected it and I vomited it back up. I was told the boss wasn't happy with my progress and he would personally be coming to see me when I was out of hospital. I didn't know what to think of this. Could t get any worse?
5 days later I was released but I'd only put on 25% of what I lost, so I wasn't exactly well but well enough for them to restart my fight training. It took me a while to get back into things, but I wasn't allowed to be punished by denying me meals. Instead they made me hang by my arms from the ceiling. In my mind this was a losing battle because my arms never recovered in time to get any better at fighting, and the staff was always too heavy for me to lift.
The boss was coming today to see my progress, I was scared of what twisted punishment he would think of, when he saw me fail today's training regime. A man in a white suit kept to the shadows watching me, I couldn't see his face, but I could tell he was tall, broad and exhumed power. "Enough." He shouted after I had been thrown to the floor for the fourth time in a row. "She is useless. Have you even been teaching her properly?" He shouted at my trainer. "Yes sir but this is as good as it gets. She is weak." Their words hurt, but it wasn't like I hadn't heard them before. "What is her punishment for failing?" My trainer looked down at me with a proud smirk on his face. "She hangs from the ceiling at night by her arms." The man in white stalked quickly forward and punched my trainer in the face, following him to the floor continuing his assault. Blood splattered up the arms of his suit and across his chest staining it where they landed, I was in shock but couldn't peel my eyes away from the massacre that was happening in front of me. My trainers body was a beaten crumpled mass of flesh in front of me, but the man wasn't finished. He stood wiping his hands on his handkerchief before pulling out a gun and firing a single shot into what I think was the man's brain.
If he wasn't dead before, he was now. "Clean this mess up." He roared over his shoulder in rage to someone I didn't even know was there. "Seth. You will now train the girl. For your sake I hope you do a better job." I mastered fighting with and without weapons quickly after that, but I was now starting a new technique. I had to wear a hood while fighting my opponent, this was to try and anticipate there strikes and to hone my other senses and develop my sensory awareness.
On one particular day I could tell there were more people in the room even without seeing them. "You will each be given a letter. A and B will fight as will C and D." I was given the letter 'C', Seth touched my shoulder in conformation of receiving my letter. A and B were to fight on the left side of the room and C and D on the other. The only sound that were heard were the sound of sticks harshly connecting with hard blows, the sounds ricocheting off the walls, and heavy pants and faint cries of pain. I knew one of the other contestants was a girl or young woman from her voice. Something was familiar about it, but I couldn't place it at the time.
I was fighting someone that seemed to be taller and broader than me because after about 10 minutes of fighting him I was finally knocked off balance and pinned beneath his frame. "Looks like I won, piccolo gioiello." He taunted in my ear so whispery that the trainers didn't hear him and punish him with the lash of a whip for speaking, but it annoyed me more that I didn't know what he just called me. "Again." Seth shouted and my opponents weight receded from my body. I huffed out loudly and got to my feet, preparing for round 2.
The day continued like this and we never switched opponents, which I found odd but at the same time I really wanted to beat this guy. He continued to taunt me and call me that same name I couldn't understand with every win. I was getting tired and he was getting more cocky and smug, I found an opening and quickly took it, pushed him off balance and pinned him. He was surprised, possibly shocked that I pinned him. His breathing was heavy from the days training, but there were an edge to it I couldn't place. "I win, fucker." He sighed in smug contempt, inhaling me. "Gioiello fuoco." I never fought him again.
Weapon training progressed to knives and guns as I got older and today, I was to shoot a target and then I would pass my training and become one of their members. I didn't have a name for what they were, I just knew I was being trained for something bigger. The boss was happy with mine and Seth's progress, which was good. I liked Seth's teaching method and I hoped we could be acquaintances if not friends once I'd passed. I was led to a long shooting range that was blacked out at the end, I assumed that was because I wasn't meant to know my target. "A head shot and you pass." I found that comment strange but picked up my gun and aimed ready. I always got head shots, so this was easy, too easy.
The light came on at the end of the range and a man looked back at me, he was struggling against his restraints, his eyes begging me to not kill him. "I don't understand." I said turning towards Seth. "Shoot him. What's difficult to understand?" I looked back at the man and then to Seth, was he serious. "I can't kill someone." Seth looked annoyed at me, while pushing me back into position and lifted my arms pointing my gun back at the man. "Shoot." I shook my head starting to lower my gun again.
Seth stood behind me not allowing my arms to fall and angerly screamed shoot again. My whole body was shaking, tears streaming down my face. "If you don't shoot him, I'll shoot you." He placed cold steel to my temple. "You have until the count of 3." More tears sprang from my eyes. "1." He cocked his gun and pressed it harder into my skull. I shook my head. "Don't die because of this scumbag. 2." "Please don't make me do this." I begged Seth. "Shoot or I will." He fired a shot to the man's knee-cap, I screamed as the shot sounded and Seth placed his gun back at my temple where the barrel burned into my skull. Muffled screams were the only other noise apart from my frantic heart beating in my ears. "Next ones yours." My breathing heaved I didn't want to die. I squeezed the trigger and watched as the man's head whipped back with the force of the bullet entering his skull. As his head then lulled forward, blood escaped the hole that I made. I released a blood curdling scream and went into a catatonic state, before everything went black.
I stayed in that state for a while in the hospital, again they had to feed and hydrate me through tubes because I just stayed curled up in a ball not moving or responding to anything. The only thing I did was open and close my eyes when I slept, but that wasn't often. When I did close my eyes, I saw the man's head whip back and blood pour from him, I heard my own scream and then it all started over, as if on repeat.
I don't even know who I am anymore, I was Emilia but now who knows. I was a young girl with her whole life ahead of her, a loving family and lots of friends at school. I made good grades and was excelling in all my classes, I dreamed of being a doctor someday. Now I was a shell that never got to finish school, go to college or even have any friends or family. I watched as my father and mother were killed and even our next door neighbour Mr Luca perished at the hands of this madman the burst through our front door.
I didn't know what happened to Camy for years, but I suppose I had my grandfather to take care of me. Well that's not entirely true, I was in his home, but not part of his family. He was the boss in the white suit I saw kill a man but nothing more. I was given a room with a view of the woods and the sea beyond that, books and drawing material. Three meals a day and an abundant amount of time to think after I failed my training.
The first time I attempted to escape to go and find Camy was roughly a month after getting out of my catatonic state, I tied sheets together and went out the window. I didn't make it to the woods though, I saw Camy fighting some man on the lawn. She had bruises all over her back and arms, even some on her legs. I called out to her, and she heard me, but as she turned to see who called her name the man knocked her out. I screamed as her body slumped to the floor and another man grabbed me from behind pulling me away from her and throwing me back into my room. I went straight to the window, but it was bolted shut, I banged tirelessly on the locked door for someone to answer me. I cried for hours, to the point that when I woke up, I was still holding onto the door handle with a tear stained face and wet shirt.
My second attempt landing me in chains and now I'm just a ghost that roams the halls, I saw Seth once on my trek around the west hall, he looked me in the eyes, sadness filled them before he continued on his way without a word, leaving me completely alone.
Piccolo gioiello – Little gem.
Gioiello fuoco – Fire gem.