You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You never know, dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away.
The worst day of my life before all of this happened was my thirteenth birthday, for the thirteenth birthday is the day a cute, cuddly, adoptable orphan becomes only a bane to society. An outcast. No one adopts teenagers. Miss Sparnage, the head of the state run orphanage that I grew up in, tried to make that birthday the best one of my life. She took me to a pizza place in town and let me order whatever I wanted. I knew she was paying for it with her own meager allowance, so I got something small and cheap. Even with that fun experience and going to a theater for the only time in my life, my heart cracked that day.
Then, my eighteenth birthday approached. Just the thought of it made me shiver. The other girls started to avoid me. I heard whispers when they thought I couldn’t hear them. They knew. I knew. We all knew. I was gone, soon. I discreetly packed. Miss Sparnage sent me pained glances. She loved me, that I knew, but she couldn’t do anything about my situation. She couldn’t keep me any longer without paying for me herself. I didn’t want to make her do that for me, so I was already looking for a job. I had been looking for a job since I was sixteen; alas, the economy was in a down swing, and there was no room in the work force for a connectionless, inexperienced former orphan with a diploma from a public high school.
I stepped out of the Burger King with my head lowered, trying to hide my dejection from the world outside of my wavy, golden hair. That was one thing that gave potential parents pause for my entire life. My hair was metallic gold in color, and I was a mix. Dark caramel skin, light brown eyes, Caucasian nose, curvy Black body-build, and pointed ears tended to drive away interested families before they even got to know me.
I reran the words of the Burger King recruiter in my head. “I’m sorry, Miss, but we are looking for more of a team player, and we are on a hiring freeze this month. Maybe you could try the McDonald’s down the street?”
I had already tried McDonald’s and KFC and Popeye’s and Miss Annette’s Cleaning Services, and the list goes on. I trudged home and flopped onto my bed, flinging an arm over my face. A little girl squealed as someone chased her around the room, and I bit back the tears. I wouldn’t cry over something this stupid. I hadn’t cried since the first family rejected me, and I would not loose that to a stupid job interview that would mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. I just had to wait, and I would find a job. I never dreamed the job would find me.
I hated being wingless, but it was necessary on the ground, among the humans. I was a skyrunner, and I needed to blend in. The hunter is most effective that seems no different from the herds of prey around him. The particular prey I was stalking seemed to fit my list to a T. She was gorgeous. She was lightweight. She could see perfectly well in the dark, as few humans could. She had a hidden strength within her, a strength that I could easily exploit since not even she seemed to know it was there. She had no life, no future, no hope. She was perfect.
I stayed in the shadows, easily escaping notice by both my prey and those around her as they readied for the coming night. My prey couldn’t see in both light and dark at the same time, so I was invisible from my post under a particularly clean girl’s bed. A shoe did hit me once, and I had to restrain myself from launching out and making her wish she had never even breathed the same atmosphere as a prince! I made myself wait patiently, which wasn’t very difficult.
Once the soft breaths and snores of many little girls were the only sounds in the room, I slipped quietly out from under the bed and crouched low to the ground. My prey was sitting up, staring at her hands. I made sure that I had enough room and started to summon my wings, which were blacker than the night around me. She looked up when my feathers growing out made a slight rustle, and her eyes widened in fear or awe. Either emotion was acceptable. She looked around frantically and then pinched herself.
Her mouth opened to scream, so I shot towards her and clamped my hand over her mouth. I would make it look like she ran away; she couldn’t mess that up. Her eyes were frantic, and I smirked in her face, using my other hand to press a pressure point on her shoulder that made her eyes roll back in her head. I kept her from falling and gently lowered her back onto her bed. I leaned in next to her ear and let my whisper gently caress her fading consciousness.
“Shhh. Everything will be alright. You’re mine now, Sunshine.”
I awoke to darkness. Real, tangible, darkness. I could see, but this was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I could feel it pressing in on my soul. There were no windows, just four walls with a door. My head throbbed painfully, and when I tried to move, I found a collar around my neck, chaining me to the middle of the room.
The room was small, but the darkness made it feel tiny. It was oppressive. It pressed in on me from all sides. To distract myself, I tried to explore. The walls were black, bereft of any markings except a few ominous stains. The inside of the door was black, even the chain connecting me to the floor was black! I was still in my hot pink and lime green pajamas, so there was some color. The room smelled musty, but not old musty, body odor musty or even bloody musty. When I realized that, the blood drained from my head. I felt sick, and I realized how bad my situation was. I didn’t know where I was, who had taken me there, or what they planned to do to me.
I tried to pry open the chain, but I wasn’t strong enough. I couldn’t reach the walls, which was both foreboding and comforting. If I couldn’t, my blood couldn’t, right? Something felt wrong, so I went still to pinpoint it. There was no sound. Only the sounds I made existed. No wind from beneath the door, footsteps, or talking. I had always lived with Miss Sparnage and at least nine other girls. There were no other people sounds. I was alone. I was alone.
I curled up into a ball, rocking slightly to comfort myself. The sound of the chain clinking made me shiver. I rubbed my arms to ward off the cold, but it wasn’t really cold. The goose bumps were from nerves and fear and the unknown. I sat there rocking myself for what felt like hours. I tried to reason through what was going on, but to no avail. After a while, I started to scream and yell for help. Nothing changed. I screamed at the top of my lungs. Nothing.
I sighed and quit, resigning myself to my unknown fate. I nodded off curled up into a ball and woke with a start when the door slid open. I looked up in fear, and a woman stepped in, her clothes torn and her hair cut short. She was timid and worn, maybe not old yet, but she looked it. She had clothing draped over her arm and only looked at the ground.
I stood. “Who are you? Where am I?”
She didn’t answer. She just stood just out of my range, holding the clothes out to me.
“Where am I?” I insisted.
She didn’t move.
“Please, I’m scared,” I begged.
Her eyes flicked up to me. “You should be. Take the clothes.”
I hesitantly went to her and took them.
“I suggest you change quickly.”
Then, she turned tail and walked briskly out, closing the door. She had given me underclothes that eerily matched my darker skin tone, a long-sleeve, tight, zip up shirt, and equally tight pants, both black. Luckily, my nightshirt unbuttoned, so I didn’t have to mess with changing around the chain. I had just zipped the shirt up to my neck when the door slammed open, causing me to jump, which pulled at the collar around my neck.
He was there, the man with black wings. I thought he had been a dream, but if this was a dream, it was becoming a nightmare. He walked straight to me, and I backed away as much as the chain would let me. He was a good foot taller than me and rather imposing with that scowl on his face.
“The slave was not supposed to talk. You cost her ten lashes.”
“Slave? Where am I? What do you-”
His arm shot up and slapped me across the face. Tears sprang to my eyes, and he grabbed my chin, making me look at him.
I took the hint and shut up. He said nothing, but seemed to be looking straight into my soul with those dark emerald eyes. His skin was alabaster white, as if he had never seen the sun a day in his life, and his hair was pitch black, the same color as his feathery wings. His ears had a slight point, just like mine. He was broadly built, and his muscles were well defined under his tight black shirt with a slight v-neck. If I were not his captive, then I would have said he was attractive, but as it was, I was repulsed by his manliness.
He finally let go of me and stepped back, uncurling a whip from his belt.
“You will do. I am Dirg, and you are Sunshine, my pet.”
“I am Lucy Amora, and you have kidnapped me,” I retorted shakily.
He smiled. “No, you are Sunshine, and I have claimed you.”
“How’d you do that?”
He flicked the whip at my ankle and it flared with pain, the fabric lighting to an orange. This provided the first light I’d seen since I awoke the first time, but it hurt too much for me to take comfort in it. I cried out and went to a knee, touching it. He walked around me, flicking the whip at the floor.
“I brought you here, so I claimed you. That fabric and this whip have sensors. Wherever I hit you, it will feel like a real whipping, but it should not leave scars, unless you make me hit you harder than I intend. Then it will break your skin.”
I tried to turn so I was facing him as he circled me, but the slight limp from the pain slowed me, and he managed to stay behind me, so I just stopped and sat down.
I put my head in my hands. Pain erupted along my spine, and I screamed involuntarily.
“Stand up!” he ordered.
I jumped to my feet, glaring at him. “I’m standing! Happy?”
His eyes flashed with anger. “Don’t use that tone with me!”
My back and ankle throbbed, and I glared straight ahead as he still circled me.
He asked me, “What’s your name?”
“Lucille Diana Amora.”
The whip flashed towards me and struck across my shoulders. I tensed and tried not to scream.
He spoke calmly, “Wrong. You are Sunshine.”
“You kidnapped me! I will not answer to a false name, and I will not do everything you say! I am a human being, and I have rights!”
“I do not care about your so-called rights. Here, humans are slaves, pets, or toys. What are you, Sunshine?”
“My name is Lucy, and I am a prisoner,” I asserted.
He whipped me again, hitting around my side. “Wrong, again. I told you all of this. You are a very bad listener.”
I tried not to shake, but my body was betraying my nerves and pain. I clenched my fists and tried to stop. A tear leaked out of my eye, and I silently cursed my femininity. He stopped in front of me and scrutinized my face.
“What is my name, then?”
“Close. It’s Dirg. What am I to you?”
He shook his head. “No. I am your owner. What is your name?”
I knew what he wanted me to answer, but I glared at him and decided that the best course of action would be to shut up. He cupped his ear in my direction and looked at me with expectancy.
“Answer me, girl.”
I shook my head, and his expression went dark. I shivered slightly, but he didn’t whip me.
“You will obey me, or I will make you.”
I sat down. It seemed like the only rebellious thing I could do. He crossed his arms, his icy anger sending an involuntary shiver down my spine.
“Stand up and tell me your name.”
He dropped the whip and took two steps towards me. His hand dug into my hair and pulled up. I hissed in pain and had no choice but to stand. He snarled, about an inch from my face. My stomach dropped in fear, but I kept a brave face, even if a few tears escaped and betrayed me.
“My orders are your breath of life. With them, you have purpose and meaning. Without them, you are lost and dying.”
“You’re conceited,” I snarled back.
His other hand came up and punched me in the sternum, knocking the breath out of my lungs. I gasped for air, but none seemed to be coming. He growled in my face, seeming to revel in my pain.
“You are Sunshine. You belong to me. You will obey me. Think on that.”
He let go, so I collapsed to the ground, focused only on breathing. When I looked up again, he was gone. A sob escaped and I curled into a ball—sobbing—my “wounds” pulsing with pain.
I didn’t want him to see me broken down. I was thoroughly annoyed at myself for breaking so easily, so I resolved that I would never do so in front him. Besides, my will was still intact. My name was Lucy; I belonged to myself, and I would not obey his every whim.
With that resolve, I cried myself to sleep.
He brought food the next time he came in. It was a steaming plate of mac and cheese; it made me realize that I hadn’t eaten in I-didn’t-even-know-how-long. My mouth watered and my stomach growled as I stared at it. He set it on the ground, just outside of my reach.
“Are you hungry, Sunshine?”
I forced myself to look at him, not the food. “To whom are you talking?”
He sighed. “You are intent on dragging this out, aren’t you?”
“I will not let you break me.”
“I don’t want to break you. A broken pet is useless. I want to bend your will to mine.”
I resorted to the sassiness I was known for at the orphanage. “Maybe I don’t want to be bent- did you ever think of that?”
“Yes. No one wants to bend her own will to another’s. We all think we know best what to do with our own lives, our own fate.”
“Exactly! So let me go!”
He held up his hand for silence. “But do we really? Do we know what is best for us? Before I brought you here, you had a meaningless life as an orphan that no one would adopt.” I winced at that painful truth but still glared at him. “Bend to me, and I can give you a life of adventure and purpose. Now, come. Your food is getting cold.”
He gestured to the other side of the bowl. I grimaced and came closer to him. He sat on his side of the bowl and gestured for me to do so on the other side. I sat with my legs crossed and stared at the food, just out of my reach. He brought out the spoon—filled with macaroni and dripping globs of steaming cheese back into the bowl—and stuck it into his mouth and ate it, smirking at my expression of disbelief.
“To show you that it isn’t poisoned,” he said after he swallowed.
Then, he came closer and put the bowl in his lap, refilling the spoon. His wings shuffled behind him, the rustling feathers somehow soothing. He held out the spoon, so I reached for it, but he avoided my hand. His raised eyebrow confirmed it, and I scuffled back.
“You are not feeding me, you sick creep!”
“Yes I am, whether you accept it now, or I have to force-feed you after it gets cold and disgusting.”
I watched him warily. His eyes remained on me, his face impassive.
“You lie,” I stated, “there is absolutely no adventure in being fed by a total stranger.”
He chuckled. “The adventure comes later. Right now, I just need your acceptance of what will be if it isn’t already. Come eat, Sunshine.”
I went to the end of my chain and sat, disgusted with the entire situation. “Why do you need to change my name?”
He held the spoon to my mouth, and I opened up like a good little pet, glaring at him as I chewed the surprisingly delicious, cheesy macaroni.
“Because I like the name Sunshine,” he responded, being cryptic.
He waited until I was done chewing to offer another spoonful.
“I can feed myself!” I snapped.
“I know. I would not have picked an invalid. Eat.”
I closed my eyes and pretended that I was feeding myself. The problem was, I usually shovel my food down. That’s how I survived with those girls who thought they had the right to steal from those who ate slower than they. I got sick of it after about five spoonfuls and tried to snatch the bowl from his lap. His free hand caught my wrist, and he put the spoon back in the bowl.
“Since you tried that, to get more you must tell me your name.”
“Lucy,” I growled past my teeth.
He squeezed my wrist. “Wrong.”
I tried to pull my wrist back because he had me stretched out in an uncomfortable position, but I failed. He was much stronger than I.
“Right!” I challenged. “I won’t change my name just because a random guy who kidnapped me likes a different name than the one I have. Maybe you should have a kid and name her Sunshine!”
“I am not random, and I did not kidnap you. I carefully selected you.”
“You have wings for crying out loud! How can you not be random?”
His eyes flashed, making my stomach drop. His voice was deceptively calm, “Do you want the rest of your food?”
I looked at it, still in his lap, still warm, still inviting, except for the whole it was in his lap part.
“Then tell me your name, and I will let you feed yourself.”
I scrunched up my nose in disgust. “I hate you.”
“It will get better. In time, you will come to respect me.”
“Don’t get your hopes up. You may call me Sunshine.”
He grunted. “I guess that will work for now.”
He let go and held the bowl out to me. I took it and scoot back before I ate, watching him, not the food I shoveled into my mouth. He stood and held out his hand after I was done eating. I held up the bowl, but he grabbed my wrist and pulled me up.
I was painfully aware of the close proximity of our bodies. He reached around me and touched the glowing orange on my side. I tried to pull away but didn’t when the pain stopped under his touch. He gently traced all of the “wounds” and they disappeared.
“What are you?” I asked, unable to hide the wonder in my voice, since I was staring at his wings.
“I am a dark skyrunner. And you, my pet, are one of the rare humans that can see in the dark as well as my kind. You should be grateful I claimed you instead of reporting you to the slave catchers.”
I stepped back, but he matched it, staying imposingly close.
“It sounds to me like you want a slave, so what’s the difference?”
“Slaves are broken. Personality is discouraged, even beaten out. They are taught that they belong to everyone, but you only belong to me.” Now, his voice was almost a purr.
“Now you see here, mister!” I thundered, poking his chest. “I belong to nobody! I never said, ‘I do,’ and I don’t remember signing up for this! I’m nobody’s pet, and I demand to be brought home, right now!”
His expression went dark, and a storm seemed to be growing behind those slanted eyes.
“No, you never agreed to this. I should make this clear right now, the illusions you have had your entire life of human rights and freedom of choice are gone. You have no choices and only the freedom I give you. The sooner you accept that, the happier you will be.”
I tried to shove him away, but I just ended up pushing myself back, rubbing my neck on the collar. I grunted in pain, but for all my efforts, he was still there.
“Tell me your name, and I will leave.”
“My name is Lucy, but you call me Sunshine.”
He shrugged. “That’s a start. See you tomorrow, Sunshine.”
He took the bowl and walked out, closing the door behind him. I sank to the floor, relaxing and angry with myself. I had relented. It wasn’t even a huge thing; I just let him call me a nickname. However, it felt like he had won an important battle. I put my head in my hands and tried to breathe evenly. I wouldn’t let him win the war. I might surrender a small battle, but I would win the war. He was trying to invade the land of Lucy, and he would never take the capital, let alone the castle.