Chapter 18: Inventa
My duster fell to the table and my heart rate increased. There were other files around his, other prisoners that I had seen executed on TV the day we were caught. Did that mean that Alpha Kaine had been untruthful with me? Had he sent out Shifters after John and had him torn apart limb from lib where he stood? If they murdered John, what would they do to me?
I didn’t even bother glancing over my shoulder as I began to sift through the files. I had to know if my photo was in the stack and if it was stained with red ink. The pile was larger than I originally thought. What I had envisioned as ten odd folders had very quickly turned into twenty or so folders with photos of smiling District members clipped to the front.
I start to sort the piles, left for the humans that have X’ed out faces, right for the Shifter’s that have X’s over their faces. I quickly notice that for every Shifter there is about four more humans in the pile. Was Alpha Kaine slowly executing the humans in his District? Did the king know about this?
He can’t be killing the humans. Who would do his dirty work if he didn’t have anyone to humiliate? Surely a Shifter wouldn’t be caught dead doing half the things he made me do.
“What are you up to?” I ask no one in particular. How many files has he X’d out?
Oh God. Where is my file?
I start to sort faster and find that my file is nowhere to be seen in the pile or in the filing cabinet with the rest of them. I wasn’t a special case. I was in the same category as every other human in this place, criminal and defiant.
When King Slethius first came into power he vowed to rule for the people, supernatural and mortal. The people agreed and rallied behind him. But ever since he and his wife, Queen Elara, decided that their sons would equally split their reign of the kingdom into Districts the relationship between humans and the supernatural morphed from a friendship into more of a master and pet relationship.
Of course, the humans rebelled. What choice did we have? We were killed by the masses and given away to the Moroi as a price for goods and services.
“Are you almost done over there, girl?” The man from before asks gruffly, getting up from his squeaky chair to pad over in my direction. I quickly scatter the files back the way they were and move behind the desk.
“Almost done in this area. The papers had to be moved so I wouldn’t get cleaner on them. I don’t want to ruin any of the Alpha’s important files that his men are sorting.” This seems like an acceptable answer as he nods and turns away.
“Good, good,” he tells me. “It’s best not to anger the Alpha. Good for you, good for me, good for everyone.” I nod as he continues on his way. He picks up a stack of books from one of the desks and walks around, putting them back in their places on the shelf.
I pick up my duster to continue with my work but my eyes are drawn back to the files on the desk. My finger traces over the edges of one of them and I lick my lips slowly. My mouth goes dry imagining the horrible fate I could endure if my file has that dreaded red X on it.
“Do you know what this means?” I ask the man without thinking. I expect for him to yell at me and scream that I need to mind my own business. It’s what Enforcer Cyrus, Alpha Kaine, or any other Lycan would have done. He sets his stack down on the end of another table and walks back over to me. He leans over the file carefully and spins it so the face looks right at him.
“The X?” he asks. I nod and step back a bit to give him some space in case he wants to get snappy with me on a whim. He squints his eyes at the file while he thinks about my question. I’m sure the answer is on the tip of his tongue, it’s just the question of whether or not he wants to let me in on it.
“Yes,” I confirm. “Can you please tell me? My friend’s picture has one of them,” I add. “They released him but I’m worried that he’s been killed. I can’t even find my file,” I say without thinking. If he thinks anything about my admission to looking through the files he doesn’t say anything about it.
“It’s a status symbol,” I nod, having already gotten that from looking at the offending red stain over my partner’s picture.
“I got that,” I tell him, trying not to sound angry with his evasive answers. It seems that evasive answers are a habit around the District. Maybe Alpha Kaine teaches the kids at a young age that if anyone asks them a question they have to answer it with as little information as possible. I could see him doing something like that.
“Maybe he’s dead,” he tells me. My heart races. “Maybe he’s just not in the prison anymore as you said. He could be fine.” I shake my head.
“If I were going to release someone from imprisonment I wouldn’t draw a big X over their face. I would write ‘released’ and throw the file away,” I say. He shrugs and goes back to his book pile.
“I don’t know that man, but I know his name. He was at the top of the list a few weeks ago and now his name isn’t there at all. When that happens it means that a District member is no longer with us. There’s no distinction between if they were killed or just let go, but I haven’t seen Alpha Kaine let a prisoner go in a very long time.”
“List?” I ask.
“There’s a list sent out to every District member at the end of the week. The higher ups get their own copy, the rest of us check the bulletin board to see if we are on it or not,” he tells me.
“What’s on it?” I ask, my fists clenching at my sides.
“The list of the weakest members. If you are on it you are expected to show up for training with the Alpha to prove your worthiness to be a part of his District. Alpha Kaine prides himself on having the best Militia in all of Slethia. When the king needs an army, he calls on Alpha Kaine. I don’t know if other Districts do it or not but here, we take our training very seriously,” he says. “I was on it at one point a long time ago. Now it’s mostly for humans and District members that are physically unable to do anything to improve their strength.”
“But he doesn’t train humans. They are purposely kept from doing things to improve their strengths so that the Shifters can have more control over them. They don’t want us to be strong or we would fight back. It wouldn’t look good to have the Alpha overthrown by a bunch of pesky humans who think they should have rights.” He shrugs. “Do you think I’m on the list?” I ask as an afterthought, somewhat quietly to myself.
He shrugs again. “Go see for yourself,” Is all he tells me.
I pick up John’s file and walk away without another word, leaving my cleaning supplies behind on the floor. Someone would pick it up eventually, and that person would not be me. “Where is it?”
“It’s on the bulletin board right next to Alpha Kaine’s office.” The moment the words are out of his mouth I walk past him and out the doors. Deep down I know that my name is going to be on the list and when it is, I’ll be paying a little visit to Alpha Kaine about my status in the District.
“Where are you off to now?” the guard asks when he notices me walking down the hall.
“Is Alpha Kaine done with his meeting?” I ask him, letting him catch up to my pace as I round the corner to move toward his office. The guard doesn’t answer as he steps in time with me. The door to his office is shut but no light comes from underneath the door.
As the man said there is a list stapled to the bulletin board next to the door. A list that is filled with names in three different columns in small font so they all fit on one sheet.
A list that my name is at the top of. I punch the board and tear the list from it, holding it up to my face as I quickly scan it to see if there are names of anyone else I know on it.
I don’t know very many people. It’s easier in this day and age to just keep to yourself and know as little of the District population as possible. That way, when they die, you save yourself from the heartache of it all.
“You’re on that, huh?” The guard seems to find this funny. I hold the sheet close to my chest and curl my fingers around the edges of it, pushing it together and effectively crumpling it. “You should put that back, Kinter...” he tells me, grabbing my shoulder to try to control me. The insult burns my throat and my mouth parts as my tongue dries out. I scream and turn around, jabbing him in the balls with my hip before I storm off down the hallway, the list in one of my hands as I make it to the door of Alpha Kaine’s room. The distinct rhythm of the headboard hitting the wall echoes behind the wood.
I wiggle the doorknob to no avail. The room is locked with Alpha Kaine inside, moaning and groaning with some girl. Originally, I had just planned on going to my room and screaming into my pillow about this, but this is just the icing on the cake.
My balled fist retreats from my side and I use it to pound on the door, the list still held tightly in my other hand as I wait for him to answer.
“Go away, Anita!” he announces without skipping a beat. “I’m in the middle of something.” A loud slap joins the pounding and the girl in the room with him giggles loudly.
“Why is my name on this list?” I scream. The noise slows for a moment before it picks up again.
“Which one?” he shouts, seemingly unphased that he’s having a conversation with me through the door as he goes down on a girl in his bed.
“You know which one,” I bite out. He stops moving completely and the girl whines in protest. I hold my breath, listening for any sound behind the door. It’s interesting how this wood can easily conceal low noises and the sound of whispers but not the Alpha’s whorish ways with his District members.
I hear the lock on the door click and I push it open immediately, shoving the half dressed girl out of the way, pushing the list in Alpha Kaine’s face. “Did you do this?” I ask him.
His nose scrunches up in disgust. Of course, he didn’t make his own lists and notices. He’s too good for that sort of thing. How could I have thought he would do something so mundane?
“I don’t make the lists, sweetheart,” he says. The door slams behind me as his fling obnoxiously makes her exit, making sure I know what a horrible thing I have done to her by interrupting her roll in the sheets with Alpha Kaine.
“But you knew I was on it?” I confirm. He nods slowly, waiting for me to elaborate. “You knew and you weren’t going to say anything?” He shrugs.
“It doesn’t really matter. Most humans are on it. It isn’t your fault you were born as a human. There isn’t really anything you can do about what’s happened to you because of your birth,” I tell myself he doesn’t mean to say it like it is an insult to be a human. He doesn’t know better. That’s how he was raised.
“What would happen if a Shifter got on the list?” I ask. Alpha Kaine shrugs, pulling on a shirt and picking up his abandoned socks from the floor, tossing them haphazardly into the hamper beside his door.
“They would attend more training sessions to improve their strength and skill,” he tells me. “Don’t worry about it, though, Anita. You wouldn’t last one day out there with even my weakest Lycan.” I clench my teeth together.
“You don’t know that,” I defend. “I could kick anyone’s ass.” He shakes his head. As he laughs, visions of being beaten by the female Shifters flash in my head but I hold my ground. “Whatever,” I grunt, pushing past him to my room.
I slam the door shut, blowing hot air out of my mouth as I let my back slide down the door. Alpha Kaine breaks into fits of laughter, banging his fist on the top of his dresser as he imagines me beating out his female Shifters.
I’ll show him.