“You’ll never belong here.”
“You’re only here because they felt sorry for you!”
“Why won’t you die already?!”
I leapt awake. Or at least, I tried to. Something was holding me back, keeping me trapped. My head felt heavy, my heart racing, my body aching. I fought as hard as I could, hearing broken shouts that blurred together. Was I dreaming? Was I awake? Was I back in that hell? I threw myself forward, my wrists stuck, strapped down.
No, not again!
A sharp pain upside my already pounding skull, sending my head whipping to the side. Panting so hard I was almost choking, I turned to the source: a dark-furred wolf in unzipped coveralls and a dirty shirt. Carlos. He crossed his arms, his eyes flashing.
“About time you woke up, dumbass,” he snapped. “You’ve been screaming for hours!”
I turned away from him, clenching my jaw, squeezing my eyes shut. I shoved back the fear, shoved it so far it was like it didn’t exist. But it always would, no matter how hard I tried. I caught my breath, looking down to see my wrists really were strapped down, to the metal bars of a hospital bed. I uncurled my fists, feeling blood well across my paws where my claws had dug in. I laid back, looking at Carlos, who was already tapping away at his phone.
“W-What happened?” I coughed. My throat was raw, scratched. He looked at me, rolling his eyes and holding his phone an inch from my muzzle.
‘Concert Shut Down As Drummer Goes Crazy!’
The picture under the headline showed a brown, black-maned lion jumping over a drum set, his face wild, mouth gaping. That growl echoed in my head, dragging me back to that night.
“Glitching out this shattered system,” I pulled away from the mic, flashing a grin that set half the audience screaming in a whole new way. “Survival now, this is our mission!”
The band stopped at a crash behind us. Trevor was writhing behind his kit, claws tearing at his vest, ripping hair from his mane. I froze as he climbed back to his feet, snarling and growling, claws flashing in the lights. His eyes locked on me, frozen with the mic clenched in my paw. My eyes darted to it, my locked-down mind coming up with the only plan it could.
I threw the mic down as hard as I could, feedback blasting as it rapped against the stage. I covered my ears against the screech, jumping aside when he sprang at me. He shook his head, pawing at his face. What the hell was wrong with him? Why was he acting like this?
I gasped, tearing away the memory. I stared blankly ahead, feeling tears seep through my sweat-soaked fur.
“I-Is everyone okay?” I asked lowly. “How long has it been?”
“They managed to stop Trevor before he caused too much damage,” he started. “A speaker fell when he crashed into it, and you ended up trapped under it. You’ve been out of it for two days.”
I glanced sidelong at him, knew from his tone it wasn’t the whole story. I wouldn’t be restrained like this if I’d just been out cold. Before I could ask, could confirm what I was sure had happened, someone knocked on the door. Another wolf, white as his lab coat, stepped in.
“Visiting hours are over in twenty minutes,” he started, then looked at me. “The police are here to speak to you, Wilde.”
“Me?” I tugged at the restraints again. No way was I going to let a cop see me like this. Not again. “Untie me and I’ll do whatever they want.”
The wolf hesitated before nodding, looking over his shoulder and murmuring something to whoever was behind him. He closed the door, walked to the bed and undid the restraints. I instantly pulled my paws to my chest, shivering as I shoved a new wave of the past away.
“Okay,” I swallowed. “Let him in.”
The wolf nodded, holding the door open before stepping out and shutting it again. I glanced at Carlos, biting back a gasp when a gray flash landed at the foot of the bed.
“Hello, I’m Officer Judy Hopps of the Zootopia Police Department. I’d like to ask you some questions about...”
The rabbit trailed off when she looked up, staring at me with her mouth hanging open.
“Sweet cheese and crackers, you’re Nick Wilde!”