I can’t feel my face. My hands and feet feel like they’ve been frozen solid. I’ve been thrown down onto the floor, my cheek resting against what feels like a block of ice. I landed on my hip, the pain shooting throughout my entire body, but I don’t make a sound. I can’t open my eyes, my eyelids are too heavy. I’m in a state between awake and unconscious. I can’t move my body, I can’t open my eyes or speak, but I can hear just fine. I know what is happening around me, but I’m incapable of taking action. They’re removing my clothes…creepy. They’ve left me in just my underwear. Whatever room this is, it’s small. I’m curled up, my head against one wall and my bent knees against the other. It can’t be much more than a metre wide. I let myself drift once more. I’m incapable of changing my circumstances right now, so I may as well just wait it out until I can escape.
I can hear breathing, it is shallow and calm…patient and waiting. I can feel their heartbeat through the floor. It is slow, at rest. This is a person who is completely at ease. I let my magic reach out in an attempt to identify whoever it is, but before it has a chance to mingle with their aura the person starts to speak.
“Good morning Guinevere.”
His tone is light, his voice soft and friendly. I move to sit up, delighted when my body responds. I rest my arms atop my knees and lean my head against the wall, opening my eyes. The room is as small as I first thought it was. Not much bigger than a closet in width and about three metres deep. He is sitting in an old dining chair just inside the small door, one leg crossed over his knee. He’s wearing slacks and a cream coloured sweater, looking completely relaxed and at ease. Meanwhile I’m on the dirt floor wearing nothing but a bra and underwear, a light dusting of dirt covering the left side of my body where I lay against the frozen ground.
“Hello Garett,” I keep my voice even and flat, completely lacking emotion, which seems to amuse him.
“Did you sleep well?”
Oh, he wants to be cute? Okay then.
“Yup, such comfortable accommodations Garett, you must give me the name of your interior decorator.”
His face splits into a full blown grin. Gone is the shy and innocent Garett who I came to know at the refuge. This man is in charge, cool and collected. He actually reminds me of the man who entered my head while I was unconscious a few weeks ago.
“Ahh, so you’ve figured it out.”
What? Oh shit, he’s in my head.
“That’s correct Guinevere; I have always been in your mind. It’s a rather interesting place, don’t you think?”
I gather my strength and fortify the walls around my mind, doing everything I possibly can to push him out. The room falls silent as we wage our mental war. I feel sweat roll down into my eyes but I make no move to wipe it away; I can’t afford to lose this battle. I can’t afford to lose my mind to him. I see him get more and more frustrated as the minutes tick by, both of our breaths becoming harsher with the strain of our exertions. Suddenly he stops, resting his elbows on his knees and breathing heavily. He looks at me and he smiles a broad grin that doesn’t touch his eyes. His eyes portray his frustration and rage. He clearly didn’t expect such resistance.
“Well, I must admit that I underestimated your mentalist capabilities. Not to worry, I will wear down your strength soon enough.”
He leaves, taking his chair with him, and I hear him click his fingers. Two men enter the room and move straight toward me. I don’t know how they managed to get themselves in here together because I can barely fit in here on my own. I raise my palm and throw a jet of flame toward them. They go flying out the door, hitting the wall on the other side of what I’m assuming is a hallway. They fall to the floor, very much dead and crispy, and I keel over. The side of my head hits the floor as some sort of electric migraine takes hold of me. I’ve felt this before, in Andrew’s mind. What the hell has he done to me?
“Oh yes, that reminds me, I should warn you about that. Every time you try to use your magic, offensively or defensively, that pain will get worse. You’ll also notice that you can’t actually more your body right now. It’s a new feature. I took notes when you removed Andrew’s control.”
I know he’s telling the truth but I still try to move. It doesn’t work, I feel as though my whole body is wrapped in some sort of electric net.
“Take her,” I hear him say and an instant later I’m thrown over someone’s shoulder and we start to move. I can’t see where we’re going, I’m face down over this guy’s shoulder and the only thing I can see is his arse and the back of his feet as he walks. I take note of the direction he takes me. I’ll need to know my way through these halls as best as I can when I get out of here. We’re walking for about three minutes…right, right, straight, left, straight and then through a doorway that is the sixth to the left in this hallway. I commit every step to memory as I’m lifted once again and thrown down onto a metal table of some sort. I’m still unable to move and I’m left helpless as my wrists and ankles are bound, one to each corner of the table.
“It’s wonderfully convenient that your body has been paralysed by my magic. It will make our time together much less strenuous today.”
I can hear Garett’s smug voice somewhere off to my right, but I can’t turn my head to find exactly where he is. Okay, think Gwen, what’s about to happen? My heartbeat becomes a bit more erratic as I think of the answer before I even finish asking myself the question. This is going to be the torture that I was warned about. I feel terror race through my veins and am only slightly comforted by the fact that, thanks to my momentary win, Garett isn’t in my head to see my fear. I feel him stroke his finger down my left palm and then he pauses, lightly tapping it against the centre of my palm.
“Well then, what do we have here? We’re going to have to remove this,” I can hear the smirk in his voice. “I wouldn’t want you to channel its magic.”
And I feel a blinding pain in my hand. He’s using some sort of magic to tear open my palm. I feel my skin tearing apart and feel something burn. I want to scream, the pain is the worst I’ve ever felt in my life, but I hold my tongue. That’s probably what he wants.
“Hmm, how intriguing” he says, sounding completely disinterested in the fact that I feel every nerve ending scream as he slowly disarticulates my hand. “The key keeps moving.”
Key? Oh god, he’s trying to tear my apartment key from my palm. I try to dislodge it, try to just let him have it, but even as I try I feel the key move again. It’s currently sitting against the bones of my hand, just above my wrist. Garett rips and tears for another few minutes but he’s unable to get it.
“Well, that is inconvenient,” he says as he moves from my hand to stare down at me. He rests a hand on either side of my chest as he leans down and continues. “I don’t have the time to stand here all day and dig that key out of you, but these gentlemen certainly do. Of course, it will only take one to tend to your hand. I guess I’ll just have Alexander here get…creative.”
He grins at me, the idea apparently pleasing him immensely and walks away from me, heading to the door. He’s almost out when he turns back, acting like he forgot something so obviously simple, and says;
“Oh dear, I nearly forgot! If at any point you wish these gentlemen to stop…” he seems to search for the right word, dramatically rubbing his chin. “Playing, then all you need do is tell them that you wish to join us. They will come and get me, you will willingly allow me to wipe your memory and we’ll all live happily ever after.”
His face turns hard as he stares at his pathetic henchmen, his voice taking on a sinister tone.
“If you touch those marks, or her face for that matter, then you will be taking her place. Do I make myself clear?”
They nod and he leaves, the door shutting silently behind him.
“I call dibs on the fun, you can take care of the key,” I hear a gruff voice say from behind my head. A man with white blond hair and a matching beard walks around and a moment later pulls his arm back and swings. His punch lands in the centre of my ribs, on the left side and I barely have time to assimilate the pain before he draws his arm back and punches me in the exact same place. I feel and hear my ribs break and cave in slightly. I’m gasping for breath, black spots dancing in front of my eyes, as I wait for the next blow to land. But it doesn’t. Within minutes my ribs have healed and my breathing is back to normal. The moment my breathing calms he moves to my right side, repeating his previous actions. I recognise his game. He is going to continuously beat me, then wait for me to heal, then beat me again. Over and over again my ribs are caved in and my lungs are punctured and I come within moments of suffocating, and then I’m left to heal. He is deliberately not using any magic because magical wounds take ages to heal and could kill me. He wants to take his time and inflict as much damage as possible. It’s almost an hour before I begin to feel the pain in my hand start anew. The second guy is peeling layer upon layer of skin from my palm, trying to pin down and remove my key. The paralysis, much to my joy, is wearing off. But not fast enough. My body has been forced to heal so many times that I have no energy left to fight. I conserve my strength and use it to bolster my resolve. A mantra repeating constantly in my mind: You will not scream! You will not scream! You will not scream! YOU WILL NOT SCREAM! The minutes tick down and my body continues to endure devastating punishment. After what I estimate to be around four hours I hear the man currently dissecting my palm shout;
“I got you, you bastard!”
He moves to the front so that I can see him. My blood continues to drop to the floor from my palm as he holds up a wooden key. My old apartment key. It is covered in my blood, as are his hands, and after a moment he burns it using fire magic. I want to tell him exactly where he should have shoved it but before I can get the words out I feel something heavy come down on my temple and my world goes black again.
I wake just as I hit the floor; once again being thrown unceremoniously into my cell. I’m on the tail end of my paralysis and manage to wriggle into some semblance of a sitting position. I’m cross legged with my head resting against the wall. My teeth are chattering, from the cold or the blood loss I’m not sure, and I look down at my palm. I feel my stomach flip as I see that the whole of my palm is gone, leaving the broken bones and ligaments fully exposed. I want to throw up, but I force myself to hold it in. I’m only in a small room after all and this will be so much more unpleasant if I have to live in here with a pile of puke. I convince myself that it is going to heal…it has to, right? They used magic on it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to heal. It just means that it’s going to heal slowly. At a Human rate of healing. Gosh, wasn’t it only a few weeks ago that I was human? How quickly things can change. After a while my mind begins to drift and I let myself be taken by my imagination. I know it will be impossible to sleep so I don’t even bother trying. I do a small inventory of my mind, making sure that there are no extra visitors, before I let myself daydream. In my mind I’m at the refuge. I’m in my arena with my friends and everything is fine. My daydream shatters as loud footsteps invade my senses. I sit up straighter; my back against the farthest wall, as the closet door handle jiggles and the door opens. I see a chair come through first and then, as expected, Garret follows and plonks himself down like he’s the King of the Universe.
“Good evening Guinevere, I trust you’ve had an interesting day,” he says with a cocky grin on his stupid face. He’s wearing the same clothes as before, only this time he’s wearing a jacket.
“It was lovely actually, thank you Garret. Courtesy of your employees, I learned quite a bit about the structure of the hand,” I say politely and place my hand, palm up, on my thigh. It immediately draws his attention and his brows crease as he frowns down at my mangled hand.
“You’re not healing,” he says, and if I didn’t know him any better I’d say he was concerned.
“They used magic to disarticulate it, so I estimate that it won’t fully heal for another few weeks. You must commend your henchman Garret, he’s quite an ace at cauterizing large veins,” I keep my polite tone and his brows crease further.
“You didn’t scream,” this time he actually sounds impressed. “We’re going to have to work on that. I came to see how you were doing. Engage in the niceties and all of that. You will eventually be mine so I feel that I do need to show some concern. So, how are you feeling? A little more amenable to my offer or are you still determined to defy me?”
What does he mean by ‘You will eventually be mine’?
“I’m going to defy you until my last breath,” I say, my tone light and friendly. “I’d hate to spoil all of the fun. Plus, I have such a lovely room! Really, it would be quite inconsiderate, not to mention rude, of me to turn away from all of your kind hospitality!”
His whole face turns into a picture of rage for a split second before he laughs. Genuine, tears in the eyes, chest tightening, laughter.
“I knew you had a smart mouth and sharp tongue but until now I didn’t know just how funny you were, Guinevere,” he smiles at me like we’re old friends having a laugh over a beer. “I wonder how long that humour will last. I truly hope you don’t lose it along the way. That would be such a shame.”
He gets up and turns back to me as he places his hand upon the doorknob.
“Until tomorrow, Guinevere,” he says, and leaves with that stupid grin still on his face.
I’m glad he’s calling me Guinevere. I’d be so much more creeped out if he used my nickname; it’s far too friendly and familiar.
I curl back up on the floor and cradle my hand against my chest. I know for a fact that I’m far too wired to sleep, but that shouldn’t stop me from trying. My mind is racing. What’s going to happen to me? Is anyone else down here? How do I get out if I can’t use my magic? A feeling of complete helplessness settles over me as I contemplate that last question. I can’t escape. I let my mind drift, just to distract myself if anything, and go back to yesterday. I was at the refuge, I had my friends, it looked like we were about to win the fight…appearances can be so deceiving.