The scream lodges itself in my throat, my body bolting upwards. I can feel the sweat rolling down my neck as my heart pounds in my chest. The cot under me creaks as I adjust my weight slightly.
Dream. It was just a dream, I try to remind myself over and over again. Flashes cross over the back of my eyelids, reminding my brain of the one horrible truth. Although I have woken up, I’m still trapped in the nightmare.
I shove the last of the remaining memories back in my mind and try to focus on staying calm. The air in the tight space is stale with the walls a bleak grey. The only piece of furniture in the five-by-five box is a small cot the guards throw me onto after each session with the doctor.
Looking down at the red surgical lines along my arms, I realize I haven’t left this room in weeks. My body is finally starting to heal itself. The fear from the nightmares starts to creep back up.
No, I whimper into my head. I glance towards the camera above the only door in the small space. The soft blinking red light mocks me with the knowledge that they can see everything. They know that the scars are closing, and my body is finally healing.
They will come for me soon.
It’s been the same pattern since the doctor decided I was rare enough to start cutting into. I’m taken to a surgical room for a doctor to cut me open to look inside. Once I’m close to death, they’ll stitch me up and throw me back into this room. They allow me to heal just enough for them to start over again.
I was only seventeen years old when they first took me. Days away from my birthday, a few months away from graduation, moments away from starting my plans for the rest of my life. One walk home from school and my life was taken away and replace with a lost hell.
When I was first brought here, I was kept in a cage with other shifters. Most were wolves so I could at least determine that I hadn’t crossed the ocean. The first few nights, no one said anything. No food was given, no guard was seen. We were trapped together and seemingly forgotten about.
How I miss those first days.
They swept into the room in the middle of the night. They grabbed us, electrocuting those who that thought to fight back. We had been separated into groups and thrown into the arena. They wanted us to fight each other. Shift and kill so they could study us more.
When they saw me shift for the first time, they knew I wasn’t a wolf. I was unique. I’d been moved into the special containment units where I’ve stayed since.
I used to fight them. I used to have the will to fight, the will to live.
I don’t have that anymore.
I don’t pray for rescue. I don’t dream of my life before.
I spend every hour in this hell, every minute of this life, hoping that the next will be my last.
I don’t remember when it happened. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment my mind finally snapped. All I know now is that they broke me beyond repair.
A loud alarm rings outside at the same moment the door clicks open. I creep towards the crack and try to focus my hearing to the empty hall outside my room. No one. No guards or doctors. Peeling the door wider, I peek my head out into the hall.
I’m alone. There isn’t anyone waiting to hurt or kill me.
Is this a test? I question myself, Are they trying to see if I’m strong enough to escape? I step out of the room and hesitate, Is this worth what they will do to me? What if it is a test? What if I don’t make it out?
A loud explosion shakes the floor from above my head. Moving down the hall, I push through the open doors until I reach an elevator bank. Knowing I won’t be able to make them move without a keycard, I move to the stairwell next to them and head upwards.
After spending so long here, I know that we are underground, and I need to make my way to the surface. My muscles ache from the lack of movement over the years, but I can’t stop. If I stop, I’ll be caught.
If they do catch me, hopefully the punishment will finally be my death.
The flashing yellow lights strobe around the halls on the first floor. I move along the walls slowly as I watch for any guards. I can hear fighting from another part of the building and the echoing of bullets mixed with growls from shifters. Looking towards the end of the hall from the elevators, I spot the large glowing exit sign.
I breathe out a sigh of relief at not having to move much further. I move as quickly as I can. My hand reaches out to push the door when I hear a soft click behind me.
“Turn around slowly,” an angry voice orders me, “You’re out of your cell.”
Turning my body, I stare back at the guard. He’s large enough to be more than two of me and full of muscle. I know I won’t be able to take him, even if he didn’t have a gun and I was at top strength.
I try to get my body to shift, something I haven’t done since the first fight, but my animal soul is gone. I haven’t heard or even felt her in years. I’m not sure she’s even there anymore.
I open my mouth to no words coming out. A low growl to my left halts the guard’s movement. I spot the brown wolf right before he pounces on the man. The guard screeches loudly as the wolf clamps his jaws into the man’s side. He swings his arm around as he squeezes the trigger of the gun.
I feel the burning of a bullet as it tears through my side. The wolf shifts around and snaps his jaws into the guard’s throat. I push my hand against the bleeding as I try to block out the pain.
Turning back around, I heave my body into the exit door and it swings open.