What feels like weeks later, the door opens. I have slept, woken, drank water they left me in the corner, slept again, woken again, peed in a bucket, slept again, cried again, over and over for a long time.
Isolation isn’t my strong suit, and I was at the brink of hopelessness until the door opened. I must look a mess, I know that I definitely stink, and my stomach hasn’t tasted a drop of food in forever.
Sam re-enters the room, this time with no blade in his hand. He shuts the door behind him as he approaches me. I squint up at him through my wet hair, he steps into the light of the candles and I swear for one moment, I see him smile. I must be hallucinating.
“How long has it been?” I ask.
“Five days. I left you enough water.”
“Not enough bucket,” I sneer.
“Count yourself lucky, the others wanted me to slit your throat. Demanded it, actually. Except Sophia. For some bizarre reason she defended you and fought for your life. Again.”
“Remind me to thank her.” I roll my eyes tiredly, glancing away.
“What you did, it was reckless and stupid,” Sam hisses. “We would have found you eventually if the humans hadn’t first. You can’t run from this, there’s no point in trying. The moment a human sees your brand then you’re nothing but a talking ghost to them. I have an understanding with them, that if they see a wiccan then they deliver them to me and I take care of the rest.”
“You have a blood pact with mortals?” I say. “I thought you wanted to protect them, but apparently you’d rather they face witches head on.”
“Why not? This is their world too and they’re just as pissed off as us. Doing their part gives them a sense of purpose.”
“It was a damn witch hunt,” I say angrily. “The kind that went extinct hundreds of years ago. They circled me like I was a pig in a pen. I’m not a piece of meat, Sam. I’m a human being too. You do not own me and you cannot order me around like your cluster of followers out there. I have my own mind and I will use it.”
“Yes, I’ve noticed that,” he says quietly. “I underestimated your dedication to use that mind and it won’t be happening again. Let me make something clear to you, if you put any of my unit at risk again it won’t be five days in here, it’ll be five years. Do you understand?”
“Good,” he mutters. “Then we’re done here.” He opens the door, wide open, the light dazzles me. “Sophia is waiting for you.”
I push myself up from the floor, slowly walking past him as gently as I can. I don’t like being near him, I don’t like the thought of touching him, even by accident, everything about him puts me on edge.
“Oh, and witch.”
I turn back around. “Yeah?”
“Don’t count on having your own room anymore. From today, you’ll be bunking with me in my chamber.”
A sudden chill comes over me. “You’re okay with that?”
“No, but at least I can watch your every move. It’s the only way the others will allow you out of the dungeon cell.”
“Okay, I can live with that,” I whisper. “I guess it makes sense given that no one trusts me.”
“You’re a world away from trust,” he says. “Now you realise there’s nowhere you can go; I hope the ridiculous escape stunts stop. All you’re doing is wasting our time and giving Amara more advantages.”
“Spoken like a true captive,” I say through my teeth. “Or asshole. Whichever suits you better.”
Sam smirks. “Careful. Keep speaking like that and you might actually begin to fit in around here.” His eyes move to the stairwell to my left. “She’s up that way.”
I leave before I start to get angry. There’s a lot to be angry about. I hate that they’re right, that there really isn’t anything I can do out there. Mortals work with slayers to hunt wiccans here, it’s a whole different world to Arizona. In Arizona, mortals are terrified of us, I never realised how much of an advantage that was until now.
Wherever I go I’m in danger. I can’t trust anyone and I can’t get back to Arizona alone. There is one thing I could use, but stealing it from a slayer could be fatal and there’s a high chance I’ll pass out at the end of it.
I sigh as I turn the corner at the top of the stairwell. Sophia stands at the other end of it acting disinterested, not making the effort to come greet me. I approach her timidly, wondering if it makes me look weak to say sorry. She said slayers never apologize, so would she be expecting one from me?
“Hi,” I say.
She meets my eyes head on, almost squaring up to me. “Hello.”
“Sam said that you were waiting for me?”
“Yeah.” Her hands move so fast that I hardly have time to process what is happening. Something clinks around my wrist and when I look down, I see a tight shackle leading to a rope she holds in her hand.
“What the hell is this?” I demand.
“Congratulations, you’re my pet.” She smirks at me for a moment and then begins walking, pulling along the rope to drag me with her. When I try to fight it, she pulls it harder, almost breaking my wrist. “Those shackles that Amara put on you? They got nothing on these.”
“How do you know about that?” I growl, squinting at the shackle with all my might to break it.
“It’s probably best to assume that we know everything,” she says. “Curtis designed these, so no matter how hard you stare at it, you can’t spell it. It’s useless to fight it.”
“Fine,” I sigh, giving up and following her willingly. “Where are you taking me?”
“To the showers. You stink.”
I won’t argue with that; I would have walked with her peacefully if she had given me the chance. I understand her paranoia, and I knew I would have some making up to do, but I didn’t think what I did would have hurt her this much. To shackle me? Degrade me? Parade me around like I’m a dangerous, loose monster? Maybe I deserve it.
She yanks my rope firmly towards a door, stopping us breaths apart.
“Sophia, listen, about the other day, I’m-”
The door opens and she pushes me inside. The shackle unlocks from my wrist and she claims it back, ravelling the rope around her hand.
“You’ve got ten minutes.”
The door slams closed and I turn around slowly. I’m greeted with a long, wet corridor of horrendous stench with shower cubicles either side, divided by stone walls. To my right, hanging from a hook, is a clean, fresh grey towel. And below it, is a pile of clothes. I smile. Even when incredibly pissed at me, Sophia still looks after her guest.
I undress and pick a cubicle, knowing that I shouldn’t underestimate her time keeping. The cubicle floor is covered in muck and grass, which doesn’t surprise me. When I twist the handle on the shower, it gives a small drip, before flowing better, but not greatly. The water is just warmer than freezing, and it sends me panting into the wall. I can’t deny that after five days locked away the water feels amazing, but it’s not what I’m used to, and I don’t know if I can adjust to this. Any of this.
I leave the cubicle and rinse my hair onto the already wet wood, glancing down at my pile of clothes that I picked out the morning of my arrest. It was so long ago now, it’s crazy to me that I haven’t changed since. As I dry myself off and begin to change into what I presume is something historic from Sophia’s closet, I think about Joey.
I never knew what happened to him. I never knew if he got out of there alright, if he made it out of Arizona. If he stayed to pursue the slayers that killed his parents then he’s as good as dead. I hope he got as far from that place as possible, but I know better than anyone that vengeance is a torturer with a thousand techniques. I wish it could have been a slayer that killed my mum, it would have made everything easier. But the Elder? The most powerful witch in existence? Nothing was ever going to be easy.
I carry my clothes over my arm as I enter the hallway. Sophia kicks herself from the wall opposite and glances at a small, ticking clock that she pulls from her pocket.
“With two minutes to spare,” she mutters.
I don’t say anything as she clicks the shackle back around my wrist. I don’t resist her this time, I don’t have the energy.
“The clothes suit you,” she says as she yanks me down the hallway. “I’ll get you some more.”
The ‘clothes’ she is referring to, is tight, black leather pants and a crop top that shows off half of my chest. It isn’t exactly the type of clothing I’d wear, but I’m out of options, and I doubt slayers own jeans or anything remotely comfortable.
“Not that you deserve it,” she says. “You’re lucky I’m not dragging you around naked. You know, I’ve met a lot of wiccans in my time, Theresa, and I’ve never met any that could do what you did. All that power didn’t protect you from those poor, defenceless mortals though right? What was that? A moral dilemma?”
“Something like that,” I say.
“But it’s fine for you to put me on my ass. The only person in the world that’s actually trying to help you. I defended you, you know.”
“So, what was that? Some kind of Harmon trick?”
“What was what?”
“The wall,” she says. “You didn’t cast a spell; they’re impenetrable to spells. They’re supposed to be impenetrable to anything.”
“Well clearly they aren’t.”
She pulls me a little harder, making my teeth clench. “Holding back won’t help you here. If you’re honest with us, we can do something about it. Believe it or not, we’re experts at adapting to unusual situations.”
“Isn’t everything about this unusual?” I say. “Or am I wrong in thinking I’m the only witch that’s ever been inside of here ever? The others certainly don’t seem to be ‘adapting’ that well.”
“Can you blame them?” she says, on the brink of anger. She twists me around a corner so quickly that I face plant the wall. I trail behind her while using my free hand to rub my cheek. “I fell for your poor little me act and almost got killed.”
“That wouldn’t have killed you, Sophia,” I whisper. “And I never meant to hurt you.”
“Just Megan, right? And she’s the last person you should have done that too. Pissing Megan off is like snipping at a wire one second before the bomb explodes. If you go into it blind, you might get blown to pieces.”
“I just needed to get out of here,” I say. “And I used you to do that. You’ve got to understand; I am so far from everything. I don’t know what’s going on out there, I don’t know how close Amara is to finding me. I need to prepare, as a witch, to fight her, and I can’t do that here. When I arrived here, I had my mother’s spell book with me, and if I could get it back then I might be able to-”
Sophia breaks out into laughter before I can finish. I know how it must sound to her, that I’m just trying another stunt to break out, and I don’t think I can convince her otherwise. At least not for a while.
“Consider that spell book gone,” she says.
“What do you mean? Did Sam destroy it?”
She refuses to give me an answer, and that makes me mad. I stop still, and I pull along the rope, dragging her backwards so firmly that she almost loses her balance.
“That’s right, I’m stronger than you,” I say. She rises up and faces me head on. “Witches are physically stronger than slayers and always have been. If I wanted, I could drag you behind me, but out of respect I followed you like the lap dog you wanted me to be. You need to stop treating me like I’m just a girl, Sophia. Because the others have sense, even if they don’t trust me, to see the truth a lot more clearly than you. I am a witch and I am your best chance at your species’ survival. I depend on that spell book to do that.”
“Witches are only as physically strong as their power,” she hisses. “I don’t doubt that you can match me, but it would be a big mistake to try.”
“You’re not listening!”
“I’m listening alright. If this spell book means that much to you, why did you run away without it?”
I can’t give her an answer to that. It pains me to admit that I left without it, that I would have abandoned a piece of my mother inside of this place. I was too afraid to ask Sam what he did with it, but if he has destroyed it, then we’re all screwed.
Sophia’s eyes soften. “He didn’t get rid of it. Curtis convinced him not to. I don’t know where it is, but that’s something you need to ask Sam.”
I nod, even though that doesn’t give me much it’s still something. “Thank you. I’m sorry about escaping, and hurting you, I just wanted you to know that.”
“Apologies are foreign to us. But, as a half-human creature that is sometimes curious about the foreign tongue, I guess I accept it. Just never tell anyone I said that.”
“Your secret’s safe with me.” I smile, and she smiles back.
“The shackle is staying on though,” she says, gently pulling me along. “But, how about we just walk together?”
“I like that,” I say, catching up to her long strides. “So, where are we going?”
“The kitchen. Hungry?”
At the thought of food, my stomach growls. I nod enthusiastically and she laughs to herself. I begin imagining that things might not be as bad as I thought they were, I begin thinking about how safe the slayers are keeping me. Without them, would I be dead? Would Amara have found me wherever I fled to? Maybe this is the best place to be, and it’s taken me a long time to realise that. That I am alive, that I am safe.
But then we enter the kitchen, and half a dozen piercing, angry eyes greet me.