Minutes had passed since Tatiana and Edward’s last communication with both their captor and each other, with the only sound present in the air being the continuous rush of water pouring into the oversized tank. The cold words of Tatiana Clarke still remained prominent in Edward Smith’s mind. You’re gonna die, make peace with it now... she had said, and those words still greatly disturbed him. Her attitude, which frightened him, also stoked a desire within him to get inside her mind and understand this person who could fearlessly defy a serial killer.
“So, um,” Edward said, shakily. “Are you a nihilist or something?”
The brunette chained beside him was staring off in no particular direction. The minutes of silence had bonded her lips together, resulting in an audible popping sound as she parted her now chapped, pink lips to respond. “Why do you care? I’m just a ‘bum’, right?”
“Look, I shouldn’t have said that, okay? I can’t just sit here quietly listening to the freaking water anymore, it’s driving me crazy. So, please talk to me.”
Tatiana had lost the desire to speak after her verbal confrontation with the Haysfield Butcher, but she couldn’t ignore the desperation that was worn as clearly upon Edward’s face as a Melpomene mask. She sighed deeply and fixed her gaze on the nervous man. “No, I’m not a nihilist, okay?”
“Then how can you just talk about death like it doesn’t matter to you at all?” Edward asked. “Is it just despair or something? Because that isn’t normal at all. Where’s your sense of self-preservation?”
“I’m just being realistic, Edward. Look around you, do you think that there’s some way out of this?”
Tatiana’s words were true in that there existed no escape for anyone as thoroughly bound as she and Edward were, but there was something about the way she said it. As she spoke, the blonde man had identified a brief lapse in eye contact that was quite familiar to him. “You’re lying...”
“You said, ‘I’m just being realistic’, but that’s a lie. You couldn’t even look me in the eye when you said it.”
Tatiana scoffed and shook her head at Edward’s prying insinuations. “Whatever, man.”
“No, don’t whatever me,” Edward said. “I’m a businessman, you can’t bullshit a bullshitter. I know when someone is feeding me crap and you’re totally doing that right now.”
“Well, you must be a terrible businessman because I’m not lying to you. If you think being honest about death is nihilistic then you’re really going to struggle the closer this water gets to that mouth of yours.”
“I didn’t mean it that way,” Edward clarified. “Maybe you aren’t a nihilist, but you’re definitely not being honest about why you’re so freaking calm about us dying!”
“It isn’t about us. You know what? Just leave me alone.” The visibly frustrated woman turned her head away from her neighbor—an act that was the closest someone as restrained as she was could get to achieving a sense of privacy.
“So, it’s about you?” Edward asked, undeterred by her cold shoulder.
Facing the opposite direction couldn’t mask the groan that erupted from Tatiana’s throat. “Let’s flip the script here. Have you ever been without, Edward? Have you ever wanted something you couldn’t have or went to bed hungry?”
“No,” Edward muttered. He felt stupid responding in such a way considering how Tatiana framed the question, but he chose to be honest in his answer rather than argue the semantics of wants and needs.
“Exactly. I’ve struggled my whole life, and unlike you, all I have to show for it is a shitty grocery store job. That’s my reality.”
“I get what you’re trying to say,” Edward said. “You’ve lived a hard life and I haven’t, so you can accept this, right?”
“No, that isn’t it at all,” Tatiana replied, frustration present in her voice.
Before anymore words could be shared between the pair of captives, the distinct pop of a hand gripping a microphone boomed through the speaker in the corner of the room. To the dismay of Edward and Tatiana, the Butcher had returned. “Listen up, the circumstances of your situation have changed.”
Suddenly, the water, which had just reached above waist level for the two prisoners, had ceased to cascade into the tank from the ceiling pipe. Tatiana and Edward traded puzzled glances at the bizarre development.
“The stream feed is currently in intermission,” the Butcher informed the duo. “My viewers cannot currently hear us. Right now, it’s just the three of us.”
“Why did you stop the water?” asked a cautious Tatiana.
“I have a proposition to make the two of you.”