The sound of trickling water fills the air. It is the only sound being made.
The being sits across from the tub as the servants clean the woman brought in from the ruins. He doesn’t look up while they clean her. The process of making her presentable holds little interest for him. The state of his empire holds more importance. Eventually, he raises his purple gaze in curiosity. He stands, placing the screen down on the counter to better gaze upon the woman he discovered attacking his people.
The words cling to his memory like a bell setting off the beginning of this challenge. She’s either very brave or very stupid. She tried to kill him with a weapon created by humanity. She didn’t seem to care about what would result in her life. He can’t get the defiant gaze she held out of his mind.
The servants sense his approach, stopping what they are doing. They each step away silently, their vacant expressions a reminder of the prison they now live in. He briefly glances at the inhibitors placed on their temples as he approaches the bath. He stands over the human’s naked form. Her body is still submerged in the water up to her face.
She was filthy when he discovered her. He wrinkles his nose in disgust as he recalls the pungent scent wafting off her from the years of dirt, grime, and blood. The clothing she wore was the very same color as the dirt beneath her feet. But what more could he expect from a human living on the outskirts of the Leviathan civilization, fighting to survive?
It’s taken several wash cycles and excessive scrubbing, but her skin has finally begun to peek through the dirt, the awful odor that clung to her skin now all but gone. At this stage, her hair has been trimmed down four inches due to the damage. Now, it barely rests on her shoulders. The water causes the dark tresses to wave slightly; it’s a curious thing.
A frown finds its way to his lips as he studies her, now standing over her naked form. She shouldn’t be here. She isn’t servant material. If anything, he should have placed an inhibitor on her, thus taking away her will to fight. She is strong. Mentally, she is a powerful adversary. And, if there’s one thing he enjoys most in the world, it’s breaking those who believe themselves to be strong.
His gaze moves from her face taking in the state of her body. Her bones are poking through her thin skin from lack of food. She is dangerously close to emaciation from starvation, making her features harsher than they should be. Calluses cover her hands from fighting to survive, something he saw for himself.
After a few weeks of regular feeding and treatment, he’ll have her just how he likes his slaves. Except she won’t be a slave in his care. She’ll be more like something he keeps around for entertainment. Something he takes care of and expects to obey his every whim because she knows he owns her.
He smiles to himself. Not a slave, but he knows the English term for it.
Something is tickling my nose. It’s soft, almost like the wind. But it feels too cold to be the wind. I scrunch my face, swiping at the tip of my nose before rolling over into the soft material under me. The tickling shifts, dragging across my face to the rim of my ear where it stays. I frown in my sleep as I try and sink deeper into the warm-
My eyes fly open, my brain finally registering the unfamiliar textures that surround me. I swipe at the soft sheets, clasping the material. I’m in bed. A large, circular bed. The material of the bed is so soft, I fear I might sink into the floor.
I look around the room, but nothing seems familiar. The wall I’m facing is dark. I quickly look around, finding that all the walls are dark. All except the ceiling that has a realistic-looking starry night sky. I furrow my brow in confusion when I realize the tickling has reestablished itself on my nose. As it continues, my head finally understands what this is. It’s cool air. From an air conditioner.
Confusion surges through me as I try and wrack my brain for an explanation. My head is groggy, my memories muddled. The last thing I recall is walking back to the blight and finding it up in flames. Everything from there is just images. A boy, a bloody man, rubble, and fire…
The images in my head begin to clear up with each passing second and I feel a wave of panic come over me. Tears spill down my cheeks, the loss of life and the blight… the alien…
“I see you’re awake.” I sit up quickly, my gaze whipping in the direction of the intruder’s voice. My heart speeds into overdrive.
The being snatched me up like I was nothing stands in the doorway of the room, his vivid eyes focused on me. I blink in complete confusion. How is he completely unscathed? How am I? I know I pulled the pin on that grenade. I saw his shocked expression as I did so. I vaguely take note that there seems to be a hallway behind him but it’s only for an instant. He steps into the room and with his entrance, the wall appears as solid as it was moments before.
I blink in confusion. He didn’t press a button or close it with his hands. The door just appeared.
He’s wearing a dark shirt with sleeves that stop just shy of his elbows. The shirt hugs his frame perfectly and I can see the lean muscle that lies beneath the foreign material. My eyes drift to his face. A face I have to convince myself exists. There isn’t a flaw on his smooth skin. He’s eerily perfect. Right down to the unusual hue of his hair that falls down his back.
My instincts register that this predator is approaching me causing fear to squeeze my throat like a vice. All the hatred I’ve garnered over the years flies out the window in the face of this being, replaced by fear.
“Stop!” I cry out. I don’t know if I’m asking him to stop coming near me, or if I just need it all to stop. The memories, the emotion, the fear. All of it. I open my eyes, not having realized I had closed them. To my shock, he’s already here. Sitting inches away from me at the edge of the bed.
The way he looks at me is terrifying. There is no expression on his face. Only vague attention is directed towards me. I can tell there is so much on his mind that I couldn’t possibly begin to understand.
He angles his gaze slightly, taking in my features.
“What do I call you?” The sound of his voice is one that’s hypnotizing. I fight myself from closing my eyes just to relish the sound.
I take a few deep breaths, steadying myself before answering.
“Where are my friends?” I ask. It shocks me how brave my voice sounds in the face of this terrifying predator. I want to ask him more than this, but all that matters now is their lives.
For the first time since I’ve met this being, his face changes. It’s a small change, just a subtle lift of his brow and the slight upturn at the corner of his mouth.
“I don’t like to repeat myself,” he says. Even though his face gives off the misdirection of amusement, the tone in his voice makes me want to crawl under the covers and cower in fear. Gone is that soothing charm. Now, there’s nothing but a sinister gaze waiting for me to challenge him. He’s craving it.
“Iris,” I whisper.
He scoffs at my response, “I see you possess some sense of intelligence.” He stands from his position making his way across the room to a bureau pulling it open. His soft chuckle echoes over the room.
“Which can’t be much seeing as you tried to blow yourself up promptly after I caught you attacking one of my own.”
A wave of nausea washes over me as I recall the moment he barreled his way into my path. His gaze is haunting.
“Where are my friends?” I ask a little stronger this time. He’s coming towards me with white fabric in his hand.
“Dead,” he says as if it isn’t the most earth-shattering news I’ve encountered. I fight through the tears threatening to force their way up.
“H-how do you know they’re my friends?” I ask.
He unfolds the fabric placing it on the edge of the bed. It’s a dress. A white dress with lace trims intricately placed.
“Anyone living in that wasteland that encountered us will be dead… Unless they were taken, prisoner. Something I wouldn’t think is a much better fate.”
He rises motioning to the dress.
“Put this on,” he says. I slowly look down at my body realizing I’m only wearing a strange top that only covers my breasts and underwear. I reach for the dress to put it on getting out of the bed in the process.
The Leviathan’s gaze never wavers as he watches me with those strangely colored eyes. Even from this distance, I can see the blue flecks within them are burning a brighter tone.
Once I have the dress on, he makes his way to a place in the wall. I watch in awe as the wall disappears again, revealing the hall beyond.
I immediately follow behind him lightly pulling at the strange material of the dress that tickles my skin.
The hallway is concise and simple. It’s made completely of glass leading to one double door at the end. I take note that the floor is dark marble, and outside of the glass, I can see nothing but the clouds that blow gently against the obstruction. It’s either extremely foggy, or we’re very high up.
I take note that the Leviathan is still making his way to the doors at the end of the hall, so I quickly force myself into a jog to catch up.
“Why did you bring me here?” I ask.
He doesn’t respond, nor does he look in my direction. His face holds no disclosure of his current emotional state.
Once we reach the end of the hall, the door slides open unlike the wall in the bedroom that reappears and disappears at will. I take in the strange-looking box on the other side of the door just as the Leviathan steps in. He then faces me, clearly expecting me to do the same.
Horror finds itself across my features when I realize he wants me to step into the room.
“You won’t like it if I have to force you in here,” he says. His tone forces me to quickly make my way into the room, standing uncomfortably close. The doors slide closed and there’s a sudden dip in my stomach.
We’re moving downwards.
It’s terrifying being this close to a Leviathan. I know nothing about him or his people. I don’t know his name, what he is capable of, or even who he is in their society. Our world has gathered little to no information about the Leviathan.
I try my best to keep a brave face. I can tell by his interactions with me, he likes fear. He wants me to show weakness. I can’t give him that satisfaction.
After a few seconds, the room we’re in stops its descent, opening to reveal an entirely new location. It looks like a dining room. The ceiling to floor windows are tall letting in the light of the world around us. I can see greenery surrounding us like the forests in the geography books I used to look at with my older brother. The floor itself is a beautiful wood, and in the center of the room is a long dining table with chairs on either side. I eye the Leviathan curiously as he steps around one of the chairs, motioning for me to have a seat.
His gaze is still intensely focused on me, daring me to challenge his unspoken authority. So, I force my legs to move, and I take my seat at the table. I jump when suddenly a plate of food is set down on either side of me. I don’t hide the shock as I take in the servants. They’re human.
I look around for the Leviathan, but he is nowhere to be seen. So, I take the opportunity to speak. I look at the woman nearest to me. She looks to be in her twenties. Her blonde hair is pulled up into a bun to keep it out of her face.
“You have to help me- “I trail off as she completely ignores my presence. Her eyes are completely trained ahead, with a lack of interest in anything. I focus on her closer and take note that her pupil is dilated heavily. The black is so expanded the blue of her eyes is nothing more than a thin ring that sits on the outer edge.
I notice another woman walking towards me, this one with brown hair. I immediately reach for her.
“Please, listen to- “
“She can’t hear you.” I jump, letting go of the woman. She never falters as she walks away from me. My gaze shifts to the Leviathan. He has an amused grin on his lips as he studies me. I hadn’t even heard him enter the room. He holds his hand out to the left of him, watching as the servant comes willingly into his arms. He gently turns her so that the side of her head is visible.
“They all have inhibitors. They can only do as I say. What I command them to do,” he says with a cruel smile. I take in the circular silver point on her temple, the proof of her unwilling service. I shake my head in horror. She is a slave. All of them are. Their free will has been taking from them by the terrifying being that stands over me.
“Why am I here?” My shaky whisper fills the silence in the air. He lets go of the woman and she walks away, her blank expression still plastered onto her face. He watches her exit, his eyes holding no emotion. He finally turns to face me, making his way to where I am seated. His smile is painfully beautiful but utterly terrifying. It’s inhuman.
The being stands directly over me, reaching his hand towards my face. I flinch, closing my eyes to wait for the pain. But I only feel the featherlight touch of his fingers against my temple. When I open my eyes, his smile is gone, his eyes focused on the stray curl he tucked behind my ear. I take note that I am shaking before him. He notices it too, his eyes dipping to take in my state before meeting my gaze.
“Right now, to eat,” he says. My breathing hitches and I blink trying to figure out his motive. But he proves his words by reaching across me, pulling one of the plates in front of me. He’s serious.
He tilts his head as he studies me, his hand gently grabbing my chin to lift my face towards his.
“Do try your best to outsmart me. I haven’t had a challenge in years. I am looking forward to the fight you will put forth, Iris…” At this close proximity, I am in full panic mode. My natural-born survival instinct can easily pick up that this being is the predator, and I’m his prey. Every nerve in my body can sense that.
I don’t know how long he searches my face, but he finally lets out a soft laugh before stepping away from me. He turns away from me, making his way to the solid wall.
“I expect you to have eaten something before I return,” he calls over his shoulder. He finally reaches the wall, and just like it did in the room, the solid object disappears, only reappearing when he walks through it.
Silence overtakes the room, giving me the opportunity to look around. To my dismay, there are servants standing in the corners, but they aren’t watching me. Their gazes are blank. Unfeeling and emotionless. I push the chair back so that I can better stand, walking towards the wall he just disappeared behind.
Could it be a visual trick, or automatically open once something approaches? I keep walking towards the wall, and the closer I get, the deeper I feel my heart sink. It doesn’t move. I press my hand lightly against the wall. It’s solid.
How is that possible?
I continue my inspection of the room I’m in. The floor has a glossy texture covering the black hue. The walls are glass, letting a natural glow wash over the room. The glass table that sits in the center has chairs surrounding it as if this room were made for dinner parties, not for someone like me.
What is this place?
Who is this being that has me here, and more importantly, why?
I trudge back to my seat as horrible thoughts overtake me. Humanity’s fate within these Utopia’s has always remained a mystery. No one ever comes out once they’re within. I don’t have the slightest idea of what to expect with this Leviathan. As I take my seat, the food in front of me catches my attention. It smells amazing. It’s warm and fresh. There are vegetables, meats, bread, and fruits.
I choke on a sob. All this food, yet we were hanging on by a sliver of a thread in the blight. All of us. Either dead or enslaved. Margot’s gaunt face flashes in my mind. She’s gone. Never having experienced the feeling of a full belly… never having gone to sleep without fear in her mind. The rest of them as well. They were the only family I had. This far in my life, I barely remember my own family.
I reach up, involuntarily reaching for the necklace that holds the photo of my family. Terror grips me when I grasp nothing. It’s gone.
My necklace is gone.
I sit on the edge of the bed waiting for the Leviathan’s return. One of the servants he has under his control brought me back to the room, and since then I have been waiting for his return so that I can confront him. I will not let him intimidate me as he has been from the moment I awoke here.
Right on cue, the wall disappears allowing for his entrance. He’s wearing different clothing. The attire is more regal. His gaze is focused, his face not amused as he enters.
I slowly stand from my spot on the bed, pulling my shoulders back. I tilt my head up trying my best to show that I am not scared. On the inside, however, I am terrified.
His eyes find me immediately and he takes in my stance, the only indication that he acknowledges my resolve is the small twitch in the corner of his mouth.
“Where is it?” I ask. I’m only greeted with silence.
“Where is my necklace?” I shout. My voice comes out strong.
“It’s not yours any longer,” he says simply. He doesn’t even bother to elaborate. He just turns away from me, walking in the opposite direction of where I stand.
My feet are moving before I can think of the consequences my actions will entail. I take note that his hair is pulled into a low ponytail that falls down his back. I reach out, my fingers inches from closing around the easy target.
In one moment, I am reaching for his hair, and in the next, I am locked against the wall, my arm clasped tightly in his grasp.
The world around me shakes and a wave of horrible nausea washes over me. My eyes close, and I force myself to calm my raging nerves. The skin he holds in his grasp is on fire from the contact of his hand and when I open my eyes, he’s gazing at me with excitement.
“Reckless…,” he says searching my face.
My breathing comes out in shallow pants and panic threatens to overtake my consciousness. The Leviathan squeezes my wrist causing me to flinch from the pain.
“Just like the rest of your race.” He places his free hand over my chest, feeling the rapid beat of my heart. He laughs.
“Feel that? I know you fear me. I know your body senses the danger. It warns you not to act against me… Yet, you ignore your biological chemistry. With no weapon, skill, or even a simple battle plan to back you up.”
His words burn at my skull. To my brief happiness, he drops me, walking back to his original direction in the room. I immediately cradle my wrist, a bruise already beginning to form from his tight grip. He takes a seat in one of the chairs, motioning for me to come to him. I eye him hesitantly, but immediately make my way in his direction when I see pupils dilate dangerously. As I make my way in his direction, he begins to speak.
“The purpose of today was to give us a deeper understanding of each other. I wanted to see how smart you would be when faced with these situations, as I’m sure you wanted to see what kind of situation it is that you have found yourself in. And now that I have learned all that I need to, it is only fair that I give you a brief lesson.”
Once I’m standing over him, he reaches towards my hand, holding it in his as his thumb lightly traces the veins running through it. Chills already begin to break out across my skin from the constant contact.
“As you are aware by now, I am Leviathan. I’ve come to this planet to add it to our empire…,” he trails off chuckling softly before continuing, “Compared to others, you are a very primitive species.” He lets go of my hand his fingers tracing the hem of my dress.
“You’re a selfish species. Instead of coming together to fight a common enemy, you close off your borders, play the blame game on who caused what, and even shoot missiles into neighboring lands. It’s the biggest weakness of your planet. The easiest to exploit.”
“Even when your planet’s first crew discovered our planet, your superiors kept the information from all of you...It’s your biggest flaw…. And your greatest weakness.” His eyes finally look up, his strangely colored eyes meeting mine. My breathing hitches from the intensity of his gaze. He slowly stands and I have to crane my neck to keep eye contact.
“You, however, my brave little… pet, you are here, because you have shown me something that I haven’t seen since my arrival to this planet. You did the complete opposite of everyone in that wasteland. You attacked a being you knew you had no chance of defeating to save the life of another. A complete and total stranger. And even more impressive... you challenged me.”
He laughs in disbelief as if remembering the moment.
“Even in your weakest state, you were willing to risk it all for someone. And that showed me, how… strong you are.” He tilts his head, angling his gaze. The action makes me feel like he’s studying my very soul.
“Even now, I can see that fire inside of you.” My eyes widen and fear coils deep within my belly as he speaks his next words.
“I can’t wait to snuff it out. Until you are nothing but a hollow shell of your former self.”
My mouth is suddenly dry, and I try my best to stay brave. To remain strong in the face of this challenge.
“Why not just put an inhibitor on me? Then you won’t have to beak me,” I whisper hoping he’ll take the bait. I’d rather be placed under the spell of an inhibitor than go through whatever it is he’s planning.
He laughs. It’s low and filled with amusement. His thumb trails over my cheekbone, draping the length of my jaw before settling on my chin, where he forces my gaze to hold to his.
“Where would be the fun in that?”