I open my eyes dreading this day for as long as I can remember because today my fate will be decided by the alpha. I can either live out the rest of my days free from this prison or tonight will be my last. I stand up from my prickly cot and start pacing the small cell that has been my home for almost eighteen years. The smell of rotting flesh and fecal matter fill my nostrils as I hear footsteps approaching. I go to my corner and face the wall placing both of my hands behind me as the guards start to open my cell gate. The screech of the rusty metal gate rings in my ear loudly as I feel heavy chains being placed around my hands tightly. As soon as the final link is locked into place, I’m jolted backwards into someone’s chest.
“You know I could have saved you if you weren’t so stubborn and just gave into me.”
I smell the wretched breath of rotted teeth and bourbon and know it’s Julian Willows. The old hag of a guard who thinks he’s more important than everyone else. He grabs my chin and forces me to turn my neck to face him.
“Today will be your last I swear by it. The Alpha will take one look at you and have you killed right there in the throne room if you’re lucky. Your fortunate he’s kept you alive for as long as he has. I think that bitch of a Luna he has had something to do with it, but today is your judgement day, mutt.”
He pulls the chain down causing me to twist and fall to the ground on my stomach. A pair of strong arms pick me up and place me back on my feet. Their grip on my skin tells me it’s Thomas before I even see his face.
“Enough Julian. The alpha is expecting us soon and she still needs to be cleaned up.”
I glance up into Thomas’s kind hazel eyes and feel relief he was chosen for this task. He’s been the only guard to show me kindness in my whole existence of being down in the dungeons. If these are my last moments at least I’ll have someone I call a friend nearby. He guides me to the door as we start making our way towards the stone stairway leading up into the castle from the dungeons. My eyes keep blinking as I adjust to the light coming from the numerous candles hanging from the gray bricked walls that illuminate our path. Having been accustomed to the darkness in my cell the light begins to heighten my focus on my surroundings. Julian is in front of me with his long, thin white hair swaying side to side over his red cape that hides his unwieldy armor while Thomas is behind loosely holding my chains. I stare down at cold pavement beneath my feet noticing the dried blood trail and wonder if that prisoner is still alive.
Three soft little pulls of my chain bring me out of my thoughts and a quick glance at Thomas. When someone else is present Thomas created a secret way for us to communicate to each other that we’ve been using for the past four years. One pull from him is ‘I’m still here’ two is ‘remain still’ and three is ‘Are you okay.’ We normally play this game of tug the chain when I’m being beaten or whipped by Julian. I twist one of the chain links between two of my fingers and pull once. One pull for ‘I’m okay’ two pulls for ‘I’m scared.’ It’s the only thing that keeps me hanging on when Julian gets too drunk, or too mad, or too bored and decides to punish me for it.
We enter a room with brown stained walls that was given the name ‘the showers’ which consist of a metal pipe that pokes out of a wall that pours the coldest water imaginable on you. Most prisoners come here when the smell gets too bad for the guards to stand and are brought here one by one to clean up. Some have rejoiced having drunk the water to kill their thirst only to regret it instantly a few moments later when their insides come spilling out of their cheeks. Us life timers know to never drink this water.
Julian rips the rags that were loosely hanging on my body right off as he smirks at his achievement. I’ve been gawked at so many times in my life in this way I don’t feel the need to cover myself up anymore. They will always find a way to look at me even if I try. Everyone, but Thomas whose eyes are currently fixated on a crack in the floor.
“Rise that filth off of you now or I’ll have to do it for you.” Julian says with a smile.
I’ve had many encounters with Julian to know he’s not bluffing. I quickly move under the pipe and wait for him to pull the lever to allow the water to flow through it. As soon as he does, I hold my breath to stop myself from screaming when the water hits me. It’s cold in the darkness but the water makes it feel like being buried alive in ice. It feels like little daggers are penetrating my skin from the pressure, but I stand in the water letting it run down my hair and body in silence.
Silence has been my ally since I was a little girl. A guard began to touch himself to my screams during one of the many beatings I’ve gotten that I’ve since been mute. I’ve been afraid most of my life, but I’ve seen what the men here do to women who get locked up within these walls and that scares me the most. I’ve noticed over time my body change and grow into more like those women whose desperate screams I often fall asleep to at night. I can’t help them, but if I remain silent, I go unnoticed and I can save myself from nightly prowls.
The water becomes a brownish red from the grime and cuts I have on my skin from sleeping on an old cot with metal pricks poking out. I peek through my brown locks and stare down at my body and see more of my bone sticking out of my hips. I feel like their trying to starve me to death, but my body just refuses to die.
After all the years of loneliness and torture I’ve wanted death for so long. Today though all I want is to be able to see tomorrow.
“She’s clean enough. Put these on her.” Julian says throwing Thomas what looks like a blue dress.
He walks up to me slowly and holds the fabric down by my feet asking me walk into the circle he created. I place both my feet in as he slides the fabric over my small frame but stops when he gets to my breast. He turns his head and stretches the fabric over them before looping the top around my neck. He looks at me with his dark hazel eyes and all I see is pity. He looks at Julian who is talking to another guard nearby before he leans into me.
“If today does not go as planned there is backup on the way. Please do not give up yet.” He whispers before the edges of his lips curve up.
I would smile back but Julian stares at us and beckons Thomas to bring me forward. We continue walking up the rough staircase until we reach a level with gold, glistening stone on the floor. The moment I step on it I almost slip from the wetness of my feet. The floor is so smooth it feels like I’m gliding above it. We walk in between white marble pillars with giant four-legged animals carved into them. I catch a glimpse of a marble pillar with a red headed woman in a black dress leaning against it. She smiles at me. It instantly makes me look back down at the ground. Julian slows down his pace as we walk by where I saw the woman raising his nose up in the air. He looks around, but the woman is already gone. We continue walking forward until I hear music coming from a room up ahead. I hear the doors open and the music stops. I start to hear whispers and gasp as I enter the room.
“Is that her? She’s gorgeous.”
“She’s an abomination!”
“Looks just like…”
“Hope he hangs the freak.”
Julian suddenly stops in front of a red carpeted staircase which causes me to bump into him.
“You stupid girl!” He yells as he turns around to hit me.
“Silence!!” A deep voice echoes throughout the room.
The Alpha. I fall to my knees and bow as instructed by Thomas to do in his presence.
“Is this the girl?” I hear him ask.
“Yes, Alpha Marcus. What is your decision?” Thomas responds.
I hear silence before his footsteps are upon me. Circling me slowly like prey before he reaches for my face. He lifts my chin up into the light brushing my hair out of my face. For the first time I see what the alpha looks like. Brown straight hair with bits of silver that fall to his wide shoulders. His hair matches the color and length of his beard. Hazel eyes that recognize me as they light up for a moment. His face seems kind before it turns into pure rage.
“Death to her!!” He yells to the crowd of people I just noticed overpopulate the room.
I look at the alpha for what I think is the first and last time I’ll ever see him again.
“Father!” I scream before Julian punches me in the face knocking me out.