Kite: 2 Fire on the Line
There are three essential qualities to sustain life: Nutrition, Water, and Companionship.
The first and second are denied to the prisoners of the Facility without a second thought. In some cases, it was a form of currency. In any case, the system is designed to destroy the prisoners from the inside. Their minds (and in time, their spirits) must be crushed entirely so that they can be rebuilt into what they legally now were. Animals. The Warden, if nothing else, was good at this particular job. It didn’t matter how long it took, so long as they didn’t die before that one goal was achieved.
However, the third quality could not be denied to the prisoners. Inmates were required to have a companion. More so, they were encouraged to have a partner. Lack of interaction would cause a cruel slow death upon the inmates. The Cruelty to Animals Acts of Pre-Collapse times was still in effect. Even though their Civil Rights were gone, they still had this particular Inalienable Right. No one would be forgiven if their lives were taken from them. Even The Warden would get in trouble for the death of any under his special care. There was only one exception.
224’s new companion’s words spoke true. She did learn fast from her cellmate. Who to talk to… what to avoid… and especially, how to properly ‘speak’ to others. 224 was quite impressed with her. He joked about her not being an ‘old dog’ as the reason. The only downside to it was that she started signing more than she actually spoke.
The first few nights were a problem. 411 couldn’t get a decent night’s sleep. Her raccoon cellmate had a similar ailment, but that was a more natural issue. Besides, he could always take a nap during the day. Until then, he’d watch over her while she slept.
One night there was a storm. 411, like many young canines (anthro or otherwise), was frightened by the sounds of thunder. It was especially bad as it echoed throughout the facility. It was supposed to be for only one night, but you know how it is. 411 found comfort in 224’s arms all night. 224 found a similar comfort with holding someone again. As such, it became a nightly ritual to hold her till she fell asleep. 224 would then slowly move her back into her own bed. Sometimes, he’d caress her still soft fur while she slept.
Five years in this place was nothing compared to the short time that he spent alone in his cell. He missed his former cellmate and 411 could never truly replace her. He never once saw 411 as an equal, but he never once looked down on her. He didn’t care if she snored either. To him, she was the only thing that was still sacred in this hell.
Every morning, the prisoners would have to get up and eat out of a metal food bowl. They would usually be filled with these filthy tasting pellets. Still… food was food. Troublemakers would be denied food. If they were ‘especially good’, then they received treats. Not just ‘good’, but ‘especially good’.
In the afternoons, the prisoners were allowed out of their cages to ‘exercise’ for an hour, but only a single hour. They were not required to participate, but no one needed convincing. Those who did participate were required to march in a straight line around the prison halls. If they so much as whispered during exercise, they would be shot with rubber darts. Plural darts. 411 was fortunate she had 224 to both teach and protect her. It took the other ‘fresh meat’ much longer to understand. No one would speak to them or warn them. As such, the guards practically used them as target practice.
Many of the young prisoners stopped participating out of fear. They were never shot at for speaking in their cages. They were safe there. Still, ‘safe’ in their cages meant that they were in danger of a much worse fate.
They were known as the ‘lost ones’ were the prisoners that had retreated into their minds. They usually stayed in their cages and mindlessly entertained themselves. They weren’t capable of addressing the outside world anymore. Lost ones that stayed in their cages for too long were taken away. Those that were taken were never seen again. That’s why the other inmates encouraged the new prisoners to continue. They didn’t want these children to become lost ones… not yet.
After the daily walk, everyone would be shooed back into their cells for lunch and later followed by a dinner. Between these time periods was when the true abuse would begin. Always random actions made by the guards. Depending on how prisoners react would decide who the guards would target next. 411 was afraid of what they had planned for them if and when it became their turn. They never did.
After every dinner bowl, the light would go out. It was up to the prisoners to go to sleep or not. Thus ending the day…
There was only one other event that was regularly scheduled and yet was the most significant. There were times when the buzzing of the front gates would sound off. When that occurred the prisoners and most of the guards would fall dead silent. Then all (if not half) of the prisoners would stick their heads out as far as they could, to see if it was the day that they all dreaded. Prisoners that were lucky enough to ask received the same answer as to why. 411 among the rest of the prisoners feared the day that they would be visited by The Warden himself.
Today, sixty-four days (by 224’s count) after 411 had arrived, was one of those days…
“Merry Frickin Christmas,” The Warden shouted before the doors had even opened, “yo ho ho ho and all that crap.”
224 groaned at the sound of the obnoxious warden. He was having such a good dream about… something. It was quickly forgotten as The Warden continued with his beguiling cheery attitude.
“Tonight, we’re going to be having a feast and you’re all invited to attend. Of course, none of you will be allowed to leave your cells,” that sadistic hyena skippingly danced his way to the center of the prison for all to hear him, “As I can see none of you maggots are even remotely presentable for such a special holiday.”
‘As if he knows what is special about,’ 224 motioned with his hands, remembering to keep his signing simple, ’X. M.A.S.’, followed by a pair of birds.
“I believe that it is about time you all had a shower,” The Warden announced.
Murmurs rose up among the guards. As one of the guard’s jokes, some prisoners would be woken up with a cold shower of water. That was the closest that they would come to being given a bath or having their clothes washed. (The few that still wore clothes, that is). This was not one of those times. Only 224 knew what the Warden meant by a ‘shower’.
The raccoon leaped out of bed like it was on fire and took 441 by the shoulders. The canine squeaked out as 224 lifted her to his chest and forced her to the back of their cell. He didn’t think that a day like this would come so soon. He should have been more prepared, but he didn’t want to scare her. Certainly not now. Still, the time had come. He forced her behind the bed and hushed her.
“Be quiet,” he had to remain calm, but he didn’t have the time, “don’t move. No matter what happens, do not move from this spot.”
The pup shook hard, even she couldn’t tell if she had nodded. 224 didn’t waste time to make certain himself. He grabbed ahold of both the bed sheets and silently placed them on the bed. He let one of the sheets hang off the edge closest to the german shepherd pup. When he was done, he sprawled himself up on the bed, covered his head with the pillow and fell silent.
“Yes, one and all, I’m feeling quite festive this year,” the hyena smiled devilishly, “I don’t even mind how much joyous noise you maggots make amongst yourselves.”
The Warden signaled for the cells to be opened one after another. Some foolishly thought that this was going to be like their daily walk. Even then, the prisoners tread carefully out of their cells. The lost ones didn’t react to the opening of their cells, so the guards were forced to drive them out. 224 watched this happen from the safety of his own cell. He waited patiently for when one of the guards reached his cell. The guards never came…
“My… pretending to sleep, are we,” The Warden teased from outside the cage, “Or have you just given up the will to live?”
224 didn’t answer. He didn’t bother looking up at the Warden. 411 forced herself to stop shaking. She pulled herself closer to the wall, curling up her tail for her to hold. It had become apparent that 224 greatly didn’t want the Hyena to see her.
“I know that you can hear me.” The Warden clicked his antique gun into place, “Look at me now or I’ll shoot.”
“Then shoot me already,” 224 boldly answered The Warden, “It’d be better than to become one of those zombies.”
411 stiffened up. She knew that The Warden wouldn’t hesitate to shoot her cellmate. The canine covered her ears for a shot that never came.
“Smartassed as ever. What happened to the little gift that I left for you,” The Warden asked, “I’d hate to fire my gun and accidentally damage her, Fredrick.”
“Don’t you ever call me by that name,” the raccoon snapped as he angrily threw his pillow against the bars.
“Come now,” The Warden shook his head, “we both know that the name isn’t the issue here…”
411 could sense the tension growing between The Warden and 224. She could literally taste it. She could sense her protector shaking as well, but not out of fear. No, 224 was shaking from the adrenaline of standing against The Warden. She didn’t think it was possible.
“One hundred days. Really. I counted,” The Warden faked to care with his voice, “Since you and poor Penny…”
“I’ll kill you,” 224 leaped at the bars, “I swear to God, I’ll fucking kill you!”
“I am God,” The Warden stared directly at 224, not fearing the prisoner’s hollow threats, “Fur- red- der- rick…”
The raccoon bared his fangs at The Warden, looking him straight in the eyes “Just open this door and I’ll show you what a real monster looks like.”
“No, I don’t think that I will,” The Warden took out another gun. Not his usual one. This one was much less of an antique than his pistol.
“What is that,” 224 asked despite he already knew.
“Just a little cocktail I whipped up for the holiday,” the Hyena smiled as he chuckled slightly, polishing off the dart gun he held, “I know that I said I wouldn’t shoot you if you got out of bed, but…"
The Warden took aim and fired before 224 could react properly. The dart embedded itself in his thigh. 224 yelled as he fell back onto the ground.
“Surprise! They’re hormones,” The Warden dangled the gun on his trigger finger, “ Do you like it? It is your Christmas present from me.”
224 scratched desperately at where he was injected. The dart was far too small to be pulled out by ordinary means, but the dosage was more than enough to do the trick. 224 scratched harder. He had to make himself bleed. He had to get those chemicals out of him. His right pants leg was ripped clean off. He became desperate enough to even bite the infected area off. The Warden laughed at the futile attempt to reject the poison.
The Warden shot another dart into the cell, this one struck 224 in the neck. It was a much more potent area than 224’s thigh. The hormones would get to the brain quicker and take effect much faster than before. 224 knew that they would, but he couldn’t think straight. The whole world was a spinning haze. No, he couldn’t let his body override his brain. He forced the urges down into his gut.
“Don’t fight it, Freddy,” The Warden laughed at this, “I made it just for the two of you to finally be together.”
“She’s huff huff… Snuff. SHe’s NOT heRRRe,” 224 forced the words out as best as he could, he was getting hot under the collar. He needed to get his clothes off of him, but no. He had to resist as long as he could, “yOWu *huff*Damn BAS-tard!”
224 gulped multiple times as he fought the chemical battle in his brain. He almost clawed his own eyes out as he spasmed into the fetal position. He couldn’t so much as let himself smell her. He prayed that his own scent was strong enough. He couldn’t allow himself to harm 411. He had to force himself to stay conscious.
“I wonder if it will be a boy or another little girl,” The Warden snickered cruelly, “maybe a whole litter.”
The entire prison could hear 224's screams echo as he whited out…
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