His eyes opened painfully.
He searched the surroundings, his mind fuzzy with perplexity. A peculiar red light poured in from a high window, yet it provided little help against the discomfort in trying to adjust his eye sight. Never in his life has he been enclosed in such an unreal darkness. The bars on the outside of the window cast lined shadows that ran the length of a stone floor. Each block was a grotesque gray color, with cracks like canyons running from one corner to another.
It was bizarre for him to see something so imperfect.
His brain pounded in concentration as he followed each line of read across the ground. They grew wider as they stretched their full length on the floor. One cracked stone at a time until—feet.
Bare, and suddenly frozen; as if each of his sense began awakening from hibernation. With his eyesight revived, feeling along his skin awakened. He fought against every icy stab of air to his body, but his silk, million-dollar, ebony dress pants granted little warmth versus the cold air. Each stitch so impeccably entwined that he found it hard to pull his eyes away. Then, in his examination of the strikingly beautiful fabric, movement caught his eye.
In his peripheral vision, a torn, black leather boot crossed over another. They’re laced so loose the tops folded open to reveal ratty wool socks covering the cuffs of baggy cargo pants. Considering they seemed to blend into the darkness, he could only assume the color to be black. He found no trace of skin peeking through the dark as his eyes traveled up the body.
A bulky coat hung over her shoulders that coalesced into on dark blur as his eyes traveled upward. Female, he determined, seeing the curve of the hips that dipped attractively into the idea of a waist. She wore so many layers that blended in with the darkness he could only imagine her body. Although, her face posed more of a mystery.
“Are you finished?” Her rough voice resounded off the walls.
His eyes snapped to where he assumed the girl’s face was. Her body leaning lazily the wall, slouched back so the darkness swallowed her face. It swirled around her head like a shield for her identity.
“Where am I?” he asked with a drunken slur.
She crossed her arms across her chest. “You’re dull. Aren’t ya.”
He tried to raise an arm, maybe point an annoyed finger in her direction, but the ridiculousness of the action stalled by the cling of metal hitting metal. The sharp shrill startled his heart as he became startlingly aware of his environment.
Metal handcuffs imprisoned his wrists to the arms of a polished metal chair. He frantically inspected the walls around him. The room grew smaller when he realized no door meant the window was the only opening to the outside.
“Then again,” she interrupted his thoughts, “most of you rich ones are.”
“Where am I?” he repeated, as if emphasizing each word would wake him up from the nightmare.
“No. Me first.” She clapped her hands, creating a deafening sound. The darkness magically followed her to the center of the room and even directly under the red glow, he saw nothing.
“Who are you?”
“Who are you?” he countered, much to her impatience.
Under her shield of shadows, she cocked an eyebrow, with an eager smirk tugging at her lips. Her eyes fluttered closed, and she reached into his mind.
The man’s rushing heart calmed, a gentle energy overcoming him that allayed his body. Everything slowed. His breathing came out soundless, and his blood moved heavy through his veins. Every part of his being was languid.
Except, his mind. His thoughts raced, attempting to disrupt the meditative state coming over him. He flew, drifting in and out of conscious control of his thoughts. This intractable feeling mirrored being high. A peacefulness imprisoning his body, his senses, his thoughts, his being. In this placidity he was compelled to tell the woman everything.
“Who are you?” she said again.
“Ian Klyne,” he gasped. His head shook, struggling to make the fuzzy sensation disappear. She attacked his mind harder, coercing him into to spilling his deepest secrets.
“Why are you here?” she dropped her voice to better seduce his spirit. Even then, she felt him resisting.
Ian’s eyes squeezed shut so tight he saw galaxies. “Where am I?” he grunted against his teeth.
Although she couldn’t see it, she felt the blood rushing through his body. It pulsed around the muscles of his arms as he fought against the cuffs.
As he fought against her.
Almost eleven years she’s sneaked into the prisons. Nearly eleven years she’s shifted the minds of the guilty. Eleven years of planning, searching, re-planning, and learning secrets.
Eleven years and she has never been resisted.
Three steps forward and her frosty fingers slipped around Ian’s forearms. The muscles in his body tensed, frozen to the chair. She leaned down and brushed her lips along his ear. Their cheeks were so close that she felt his stubble against her skin.
“Why,” her voice slithered through his soul, “are you here?”
Weakness overcame the pain, but only Ian showed it.
“I…I don’t know.” His shoulders collapsed.
The truth of his words pounded through her to the beat of her heart. She stepped away from him, careful not to let the dim light touch her face. He sincerely didn’t know why he was here, possibly didn’t even know where here is.
They erased his memories.
Nothing added up.
Each second took a year to pass before Ian’s head cleared. There was a throbbing pain behind his eyes, but he’s had too many hangovers to know that this was worse. His eyes fluttered closed, finding the red light unbearable. Although it gained no solace against his companion’s footsteps.
She paced back and forth for an eternity.
Three steps left.
Three steps right.
Her mind reeled, weaving explanation after explanation. They rarely erase the prisoners’ memories. No. Rarely was too often. She pulled at her braids, begging her tired mind to remember. Why him?
She paused, turned, and studied him.
His clothes were too nice, and his hair recently cut. Diamond studs pierced his ears, paired with two gold bands in the top of his left ear, and four in his right. A gold chain hanging from his neck glowed orange in the red light. There was a glittering watch on his left wrist, and tattoos that hid away under a dress shirt that fit him…perfectly.
He’s rich, she thought. Too rich.
“Please,” he begged, breathless.
And it hit her.
“I just…I just want to go home.”
Her gaze shifted to his right wrist.
“I promise I don’t know…I don’t know anything.”
Three steps forward and Ian inhaled her scent. His eyes snapped to her face and the deep scar that ran from her cheek into a dark turtleneck. Her fingers wrapped themselves around his hair and forced his view to his wrist. His pulse flew, blood boiled, skin caught fire. His eyes stung, vision blurred; he struggled to focus on the black ink condemning his life.
“Welcome to the Wasteland,” the girl said, her smile sparking a new kind of fear through his veins, “Rebel.”