Back in the Box
Bliss and darkness. Silence. They lasted for a bitterly short time. At least being unaware in the darkness kept the tremors and twisting insides at bay.
Soren was slowly coming to consciousness, and a few things stood out to him. The first thing was his body was warm and only shaking slightly now. His insides were still twisting, but not as intensely as before. The same taste as before was in his mouth. He couldn’t place what it was, but it was familiar at least. One last thing – something cold was pressing against his forehead and tracing from one side to the other along his brow.
Instinctually and without thinking, he reached up and grabbed at what was pressing against his face. The movement stopped as his had grabbed at something soft and wet. It wasn’t a cloth. His fingers laced in between the cotton fibers. When he extended his arm, he felt the piece of cotton was attached to some sort of rod.
He shoved it away passively, noting that it was a challenge to push away. [Where am I? What’s going on? What is this?] Soren pried open his blurring eyes. The moment his vision cleared, his hair stood on end as he opened his eyes and came face to face with a human hand holding some sort of cotton tipped rod.
His heart jumped into his throat and his breath hitched in his throat. The tremoring in his body returned as he looked past the hand to see the human, the same woman, who had captured him before. His jaw slackened. [It’s her. What’s she going to do? She watched me escape before…]
“Glad you’re awake. I was beginning to wonder about you,” she said softly as she removed her hand.
Soren pushed himself upright and pressed his back against the box. He noticed a few things that weren’t there before. First and foremost, two of the walls of the box were removed and laid on their sides. The human cut off but kept them attached to the box. More importantly, Soren could see his walking stick as well as his other supplies such as his borrowing bag, his mouse pelt, and his hook near one of the removed walls.
[Did she bring them back here? She kept my things? It looks like they’re in okay condition. More importantly, it looks like I’m still in one piece.] Soren took an additional moment and looked over his arms and wiggled his toes. Yes. Still in one piece.
Soren knew he had to face the human again, but now he knew more. He swallowed dryly and looked up into the human’s face. He hadn’t noticed too many details about her other than her blue-grey eyes. Now, he could see faint, dark circles under her eyes. Her hair was tied into a tight, messy bun and her sleeves were rolled up. She was holding a small cup of water in one hand and the strange cotton covered rod in the other.
Somehow, and Soren couldn’t contribute it to one thing or another, but she seemed less menacing now – only a little though. She was still utterly terrifying, and Soren was still having a hard time identifying her motives. Before Soren could finish evaluating the circumstances and his returned predicament, the girl glanced away awkwardly and rubbed the back of her neck.
“Look, I want to apologize.” Her statement threw him completely off guard. She continued. “I was pretty rude to you and wasn’t thinking when I made those comments about knowing you can talk. You seemed pretty freaked out; and I can imagine all of this is pretty scary for you. Waking up and basically seeing a giant can’t make a good morning.”
Soren couldn’t believe what he was hearing. It sounded like the human was expressing sympathy – trying to see things from his point of view. Was this real? Was it a trap? From what she said before to what she was saying now almost seemed to conflict. Soren pulled the blankets closer to him, as if covering parts of his body would make them invisible to the human. He had to think, but the throbbing in his head was making it difficult.
“So,” she said, snapping Soren’s attention back to her. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. Let’s just start over, okay?” She looked back into his hazel brown eyes, and he could find no malice in that moment. [No!] Soren scolded himself. [Don’t let your guard down. If this is a trick, I need to stay sharp.] Soren clenched his jaw and stiffened his features, trying to remain neutral. His action, however, was immediately countered by a loud growl from his insides. He winced and tried covering up the sound by wrapping his arms around his midsection. This didn’t go unnoticed by the human.
“Hang on. I’ll be right back with something to eat,” she said softly before standing and leaving the room.
Soren leaned his head backwards against the cardboard wall, letting out a pent-up sigh. [What is this human playing at?] Soren tried thinking clearly, closing his eyes to rest them while he thought. [This is the second time she put me here, but she changed the box. Did she make it easier for me to get out? Or did she make it easier to see in from her bed?]
He heard a few quick taps and opened his eyes. There was the human holding several items in her hands including a bowl, a small plate, and a cup. For a brief moment, the thought crossed Soren’s mind that he might be part of the human’s meal; but that didn’t seem to be the case. She set her things down on the table about a foot away, and now Soren could see a small package of crackers and a few thimbles on the plate along with a long, thin plastic tube that Soren thought looked like what the humans called an eye dropper.
He watched as the human took the thin eyedropper and dipped it into the bowl, then into the thimble. She then took one of the crackers and pressed it between her fingers, crunching it into smaller fragments. Soren couldn’t help but shudder and imagine how easy it would be to snap his bones like that cracker. She then placed the thimble and the cracker pieces onto the small plate and brought it within arms reach of him.
Initially, he shied away from the contents and the human hand merely six or so inches away from him. Then, when her hand retracted, the wafting smell of food hit him. His insides growled at him again. His hesitancy to take the food was immediately cancelled when he watched the human begin eating from the same bowl she filled his thimble with.
It took effort, but he took up a cracker fragment and ate slowly, savoring the taste and the instant energy it gave him. He had been sick from eating too fast when he was young after missing meals, and he wasn’t about to make the same mistakes. His mind began to clear, and the pounding was already subsiding.
He then took the thimble, inhaling the warm liquid, and was struck with a realization. The liquid smelled familiar, but he couldn’t place where. He took a cautious sip. The liquid warmed his insides like he hadn’t experienced for months; but more than that was the aftertaste.
This was the same as when he woke up after his leg was injured, and again after waking up just now. Soren nearly dropped the thimble. [Did… the human feed me while I was unconscious?] He shook his thoughts away. He couldn’t think about it now. Regaining strength was the most important thing at the moment. Besides, whatever it was tasted amazing and was still warm.
In silence, the two of them ate a very tense, but manageable, meal. Soren now played with the edge of the thimble with one hand while finishing another cracker fragment with the other. He was now faced with a dilemma.
What was he going to do now? It was obvious he couldn’t manage on his own – at least not now. Another obvious to him was that the human wanted – or needed – him alive for whatever she had in mind if that was anything at all. It would be so easy to crush him or lock him in a cage at this point in time. Even if she wanted to pick him up with her bare hands, he could do nothing about it.
Being at the mercy of a human was a borrower’s worst nightmare, but that’s not what Soren’s instincts were telling him. If she wanted him dead, she would have already done it. If she wanted him trapped, he would be in a cage and not a partially torn down cardboard box. She had already caught him escaping and had done nothing to stop him. There were a million things that could have happened, and yet he was being fed and bandaged by this being.
Soren had to play this carefully if he wanted to survive. If his instincts were correct, his brothers wouldn’t want to leave the whole apartment complex. Brady would have moved them further in and possibly up a floor. If he wanted to find them – return to Dorian and Rey – he needed to think strategically and carefully.
To do this and to ensure the human would continue to help him, he needed to break a few borrower rules intentionally. It was a terrifying notion, but he had to try; and he hoped that, when the time came, he could manage to escape again. He raised his eyes to the human’s, managing to catch her gaze almost instantly. He looked away nervously. His heart began pounding harder and faster as he acknowledged the magnitude of what he was about to do. He took one last calming breath before raising his voice to speak.
“Th… Thank you,” said Soren. He hated that he initially stuttered when addressing the human. He didn’t need to look up to see the human’s eyes widen slightly. She brought the bowl down into her lap.
“You’re welcome,” she muttered in reply. Soren shifted uncomfortably as her gaze did not leave him. There was a long, awkward pause as the air in the apartment kicked on. “I’m Ashlynn. What’s your name?” Soren bit his lower lip. Did he respond to the human and give out something personal like that? He inhaled shakily.
“Soren,” he said staring down at his thimble. “My name is Soren.” The woman’s lip turned upward in a thoughtful grin.
“You weren’t so keen on having a discussion before. What changed your mind?” The question was a challenging one, and Soren wasn’t sure how he wanted to answer it. [She’s had to think of it already. It would look bad if I tried to lie.]
“I… don’t see the point in pretending when you already know,” said Soren. He hoped the human couldn’t hear the way his voice tremored as he spoke. His heart beat rapidly in his neck. His body felt like it was on pins and needles. She shrugged.
“Makes sense I guess,” she replied. Soren felt as though his heart was beating air by the way it fluttered in his chest.
“Besides,” Soren dared to continue. “I have some questions for you.” The girl seemed surprised but gave the go-ahead with a nod. Soren knew he had to be careful to not give anything away about borrowers, but there were some things that he needed to know – regardless of what might happen.
“R… right…. H… how long was I unconscious?” asked Soren. He didn’t think the human would agree to answer his questions; and who knew if she would be honest. In between thoughts, he wanted to gasp for air. He felt himself panicking each time he glanced up at the human.
“Well, you were only out for a couple hours this past time. You were on the counter in the kitchen. The first time, you were out for three days. Well, mostly. I found you in the evening of the first day and you woke up this afternoon,” replied Ashlynn. Soren hung his head and clenched his fists. [Three days? He was unconscious and feverish for three days? And in the care of a human? At least the abandoned camp made more sense. Three days would have been more than enough time to relocate.]
“Did that answer your question?” asked Ashlynn, partially startling Soren out of his spiraling mind. Timidly, he nodded. She simply smiled back. “Good. Any others?” Soren thought for a moment. Knowing he was out for three days told him everything he needed to know.
He knew his brothers were completely relocated, but he didn’t know where. He knew he was once again with a human, though he was beginning to wonder what the human may have in store for him. He knew the human had been careful and tended to him for three days. Whatever she wanted from him, she needed him alive – and that was essential information.
“So…” Ashlynn hesitated as Soren once again was pulled from his thoughts. He glanced up at her momentarily. “What happens now?”