“Do I have your attention now?” a voice boomed from the speaker in the corner of the room.
It didn’t take a detective to put together who the menacing voice belonged to. It was the Haysfield Butcher, the very maniac that had enslaved Tatiana and Edward in what was eventually going to be their watery tomb. Tatiana and Edward were only now hearing his deep, gravelly voice for the first time, but they both knew it could belong to no one else.
“What do you want from us!?” Edward screamed, a state of panic returning to his being. His question was returned by an irritated low growl.
In that moment, it occurred to Tatiana that since awakening in the room, neither she nor Edward had truly taken the time to survey their surroundings. The overwhelming panic brought about by the realization of their bondage and the introduction of water into the room had left both prisoners rather shellshocked. The ragged brunette brought her hazel gaze from right to left, carefully assessing her environment. The room, which was framed with glass on every side, resembled a giant fish tank. She recalled that as she awoke from unconsciousness earlier, the first thing to hit her was the stench of sitting water and mildew everywhere. That smell plagued the room even before water was introduced into the room, implying the room had been previously filled to its top, maybe even several times. Up above her head, a wide pipe jutted out from the ceiling, pumping water into the room at a steady pace. Oppositely, far beneath her soaked legs and feet was a large, round, covered hatch. She guessed the cover was blocking a grate to drain the water. Halfway submerged in the bottom left corner of the room was a tall, metal door that was firmly sealed. Finally, it wasn’t just a speaker mounted on the corner wall, there were cameras—several of them—mounted in different positions around the room. It all seemed obvious to her now, but it should have been from the start.
“Edward,” she started, “he didn’t just take us somewhere; this is all perfectly set up. Look, there’s cameras everywhere. We’re being filmed,” she said, disgust nipping at her words.
Edward swung his head around, becoming aware of the synchronized, red, blinking “eyes” that surrounded them.
“Very good, although I would like to correct you on one little thing, Ms. Clarke,” the Butcher said. “This isn’t a simple recording; you’re currently being livestreamed for thousands of paying customers.”
The confined duo’s eyes met and then doubled in size when they processed the killer’s disturbing words.
“Y-you mean, like on the dark web, or something?” Edward whimpered. His stomach turned at the thought of his death not only being broadcast for the world to see, but also being sold for a profit.
“Yes, exactly like that, Mr. Smith.”
“You said you had enough before,” Tatiana interjected. “What did you mean by that?”
“Yes, your incessant bickering was upsetting my customers. I am giving you one chance to correct your behavior, or there will be consequences,” the Butcher declared.
“And we should give a shit...why?” Tatiana remarked. Edward shot her a shocked expression, clearly stunned that the woman would respond to the killer in such a flippant fashion.
There was a brief silence before the killer’s harsh voice returned. “You should fucking care because when my customers are unhappy, my business suffers. When my business suffers, people die!” he roared with an enraged tone that made Edward flinch.
“...You’re already going to kill us, right? So, again, I ask, why should we give a shit?”
There was no immediate response.
Edward was poking holes through the side of Tatiana’s face with his furious gaze, a gaze she seemed oblivious to. He searched high and low upon her dirtied face for signs of false bravado, but there was none. Her expression was cold and direct. She obviously had no second thoughts about challenging a cold-blooded killer, and he wasn’t sure if that was out of misguided bravery, untamed stupidity, or a frightening insanity that even the killer may have been unaware of.
Once again, the killer’s voice returned. “My customers are paying to watch your pain and suffering, if you aren’t going to give that to them, then I will kill the both of you much faster than I planned to and I will find others who will give them what they want.”
“Either way, we die. So do it slow or do it fast, I don’t care. I already embarrassed myself screaming before for your stupid clients. That’s the best you’re all going to get.”
Edward rattled the chains around his wrist, signaling for his neighbor in captivity to stop talking. She shrugged and indeed remained silent, but so did the killer. And after waiting a few minutes in vain for the return of his horrific voice, Edward lashed out. “Are you out of your mind?!”
“Maybe you have a death wish or something, but I don’t want to die. So please stop pissing him off, you psycho!” His intensity drew a subdued laugh from Tatiana.
“I hate to break it to you, but you’re going to die either way. Whether he drowns us now, in three days, or a year,” she said, flatly. “He isn’t going to let us out. You’re gonna die, make peace with it now, rich boy.” She didn’t look him in the eyes once as she spoke, her gaze fixed steadfast on the slowly rising water.
How can she be so cool about this? Edward thought. There was a lot of things that scared him—more than he would care to admit. But number one on that list was undoubtedly death. As hard as it was to do so, he could vaguely understand why one would derive pleasure in taking someone else’s life. One would need to take their mind to a dark, twisted place to do so, but it wasn’t impossible. However, he could not wrap his head around the idea of a person not fearing death. How could you not? he thought. After all, wasn’t it basic animal instinct to survive at all costs? When the pair had first awoken hours ago, she had been as terrified and full of tears as him. But now, that person was long gone. He wondered, morbidly, if that reaction was her human instinct, and the disturbingly cold woman he saw before him was the real Tatiana Clarke.
If he was right, then Tatiana Clarke was the only person he had ever known that did not fear death, and that might have been scarier to him than a killer he imagined likely possessed his own fear of mortality. As the water reached just above their knees, Edward decided that he needed to understand the woman beside him.