I’ve survived a week. I don’t think there is a single part of my body that the skin hasn’t been torn from. I don’t think there’s a single bone in my body that hasn’t been broken at least twice. But I survived. Thank evolution or magic or, whatever else there is, for Elemental Healing. For now, at least, they’re sticking to beatings. Blunt instruments and sharp objects. They’ve been avoiding magic, meaning I heal just in time for them to start in on my body all over again. My hand still looks a little like minced meat, but I expected that. Every part of my body, my magic, my mind, is exhausted. Having to heal continuously, and simply the effort it takes to put on the front that I’m okay, has left me physically and emotionally drained. I have to keep going though, don’t I? Every day, Garret walks his smug arse through my closet door and gloats, and every day I put on a chirpy attitude and act like he isn’t having an effect on me. My only satisfaction in this world is the look in his eyes every time he realises that I’m beating him at his own game. He goes from smug to enraged in a flash, and I don’t bother to hide my glee every day when I gain that small victory.
I can hear the footsteps coming down the hallway. I know they’re coming for me again but I don’t have the energy to even try to resist. Once again, I’m hauled over some guys’ shoulder and we take the short walk to my own personal torture chamber. I wonder, what’s on the menu today? In a surprising twist, they don’t tie me down to the metal table. They string me up from the rafters, each wrist tied about a metre apart, and my feet hanging about two feet off the ground. It’s enough to get my attention. Either today is going to involve more of the same from the last week, or they’ve just upped the stakes on this war and thought up a new game plan.
“Trying to figure it out?” says one of my tormentors, his slimy words hanging in the air like a bad smell. They seem to have a roster set up, torturers changing shifts every four hours, but I don’t recognise this voice. It appears that they’ve bought in reinforcements. I keep my mouth shut. I haven’t said a word in this room since that first day, I haven’t made a sound. No screaming, no begging, no gasping. Just silence. I’d like to think that my silence is speaking volumes, but I know they’re just seeing it as a challenge. First to make the prisoner scream gets a trophy and a gold star for good behaviour! Their enthusiasm for this is sickening and it’s painfully obvious that these people have chosen this life, becoming psychopaths by choice. I don’t have to wait long to figure out what they’re going to do to me today. They bring in wooden blocks build a pyre beneath me, right where my feet are dangling. Why wouldn’t they just use they’re mag- oh. If they use their magic, then it will take weeks for my body to completely heal. Doing it the mundane way, using nothing more than a glorified camp fire, ensures that I will heal just as quickly as I burn. I inwardly curse as my hands automatically grip the chains, the only outward sign since I got here that tells them that I’m scared shitless, and one of my jailers takes notice.
“Ahh, I see we’re finally getting somewhere,” he smirks. “You’re okay with being beaten and sliced up but fire scares you.”
He grins and walks around to my left and behind me. I hear him tell someone to go and find Garret just as he grips my arse. He moves his hands slowly around to my thighs, up over my hips and makes his way up my ribs at a snail’s pace, making my skin crawl. Thankfully, he never makes it to my boobs. The door opens revealing Garret and his hands magically disappear from my body. Garret scowls at the guy, who moves to stand against the wall, and walks over to me. He sits down on that ridiculous chair – honestly, does he just carry his own chair with him wherever he goes? – and looks up at me.
“Well, Guinevere, I’ve been told that you would like to talk to me,” he says, his tone infuriatingly smug. It looks like I get a second chance to piss him off today. A second verbal victory sounds good to me.
“It appears you’ve been misinformed. I haven’t said a word to these kind gentlemen,” I say, using what has become my signature false pleasantry.
“Is that so?” he says, turning to the creep with the wandering hands. “If that’s true then why was I called here in the first place?”
“She’s afraid of the flames, Sir,” says the bearded barbarian, clearing his throat and stepping forward to stand before Garret.
“Oh, that’s ridiculous,” I chime in before Garret can respond to the pervert. “It wasn’t necessary for you to go and find Garret, it was sweet though.”
“Sweet?!” he exclaims, completely shocked by my tone.
“Of course, I’m so sorry Garret,” I purr. I really do love rattling his cage. “It must be terribly inconvenient to be called away from your work for such a ridiculous misunderstanding, especially after all of your kindness today.”
“Kindness?!” the perve splutters looking like he’s midway through a massive stroke. “Is she insane?!”
“No, silly, I was clearly bought in here to stretch out! After being so cramped in my tiny room you’ve obviously put me up here so that my body can hang down and stretch itself out again. And your massage was just a bonus act of kindness,” I say pointedly, letting Garret know that it was anything but. Blonde Idiot pales as Garret stares him down.
“Massage?” Garret asks, his eyes darkening with his anger.
“It was very considerate,” I say, letting just enough sarcasm to colour my voice and annoy Garret further. “He was quite unashamed of where he touched. I assume this lovely fire pit is to keep me warm in this chilly room while I stretch out. Really, Garret, you didn’t need to go to such great lengths to ensure my comfort. What a gracious host you are.”
His lips twitch but he quickly smothers his amusement as he turns his attention back to the creep. He snaps his fingers and four more men come thundering into the room and move towards me, but Garret quickly redirects them.
“Not her,” they stop immediately. “Take Arnold to my office, I’ll be along soon enough.”
Arnold, so the perve has a name. Arnold protests and makes an attempt to run from the room, but he’s outnumbered and is soon subdued and dragged kicking and screaming down the hallway. I can’t help myself and take another jab at Garret.
“You should find yourself some new minions. They seem to be quite happy to inflict pain, but they become cowards when it appears that they may have to endure it themselves.”
He sighs and takes his seat once more, just staring at me for a few minutes. I stare straight back at him, my shoulders beginning to really hurt from being strung up like this.
“You’re right,” he finally says. “My men are quite cowardly when the advantage is not theirs to hold, but that is why they are assigned down here. You don’t need to be courageous when your prey is tied up and weakened by various tortures. You need only be cruel.”
Does he honestly expect me to feel sorry for him? Is he expecting sympathy? Poor Garret, he’s constantly surrounded by idiots and faulty minions. He can go to hell. I feel the air shift when I don’t respond and watch as a flaming torch floats through the air and is taken by Garret.
“I truly am sorry Guinevere, I hate to see you tortured but I need your co-operation.” He lowers the torch to the pile of wood and lights the fire. “You have to understand that this is not at all what I want. I want you to rule by my side. Your power is a wonder to behold and the strength you’ve shown since being here is extraordinary. I truly hate that I have to destroy that.”
The flames climb higher, the heat causing sweat to drip down my face. I’m about to tell him where he can shove his flaming torch when the first lick of flame caresses the sensitive flesh on the underside of my foot. Its best that I keep my mouth shut for now - at least until the fire burns itself out. The flames climb up my legs and I bite back my screams as they sear my skin. The smell of my burning flesh fills my senses and it’s almost enough to make me gag. I look down, which is a huge mistake, and see my blackened legs moments before new flesh forms, only to blister and be burnt away once more. There are tears streaming down my face, sizzling softly as they fall from my chin and into the flames. The smell of my burning body makes me nauseous.
“Just give in Guinevere,” I hear Garret over the roar of the fire, but the smoke is obscuring my vision. “Just give yourself to me and all of this pain can end.”
It’s so tempting. The pain is excruciating, beyond anything I’ve ever felt in my life. It is pain beyond anything they’ve subjected me to so far. The flames have reached my thighs now and all I want to do is scream my pain away but screaming won’t chase away the agony. All the screaming will do is let Garret have the satisfaction that I’ve been denying him through all this torture over the past week. All that pain, the tearing and slicing and beating and breaking, all of it will be for nothing if I give in now. I can’t give in, I won’t. Not now, not ever. I focus, looking through the fire and smoke until I locate Garret. When I finally do, I think of the most disturbing, unsettling thing I can do to turn the tables. It only takes a second to decide what to do.
I look down at Garret, staring straight into his eyes, and grin.
His face becomes the perfect picture of sheer terror, and it’s glorious. Even if it lasts for just a moment before he pulls himself together and schools his expression in front of his men, it was incredibly satisfying. The other recruiters in the room aren’t as capable of hiding their fear as Garret. One of them falls to his knees, makes the sign of the cross and prays in rapid fire Spanish. Finally, with something to focus on besides my melting flesh, I’m able to block out some of the pain. My magic surges through my veins, thrilling me with its presence as I haven’t felt it in what feels like a century, and it helps me heal faster. I’m now healing faster than my body is burning.
“Put out the fire,” Garret says, a jet of water bursting from one of the Recruiters hands putting both my body and the fire out. “Take her back to her cell.”
Garret looks visibly shaken as I’m cut down from the rafters and thrown over someone’s shoulder, again, like I’m five years old. We follow the usual path back to my cell where I’m thrown to the floor and the door is slammed shut behind me. I roll myself to the back of the cell and prop myself up against the wall so that I can stretch out my still smouldering legs and feet. It’s only cost me my legs and a small portion of my sanity, but it appears that I’ve won this round too. I lean my head against the wall and close my eyes, hoping for sleep, but even I know that it isn’t going to come. I allow my mind to drift inward, focussing on my magic. I could use it before. It came through for me, helping me absorb the pain and get the upper hand with Garret, so maybe I can still use it. I just have to figure out how.