I miss the sun. I miss the warmth that the sun granted. Remus’s home is air-conditioned and cold and the more time I spend here the more it seems that the walls were made of glass solely to torture me. I keep my eyes focused on the greenery that spans beyond Remus’s living room, my fingertips tingling in anticipation. I can always see the scenery that surrounds us but never touch it.
“Step away from the glass Iris.”
My excitement immediately fizzles out as Remus steps into the room. He never allows me near the glass. I turn to face him, and he’s focused on something in his hand, not bothering to ensure that I move away from the glass. He keeps his head down the entire way, taking a seat on the couch. I use the moment to turn back to the glass, taking in the scenery, my longing, and despair growing by the second.
“Iris.” Remus’s voice comes out like a whip causing me to tense from his tone. I slowly back away from the glass making my way to where he is seated.
His eyes drop back to the device in his hands, and I round his shoulder taking in the object in confusion. Symbols and numbers are moving across the screen, and I don’t understand them in the slightest.
“Curiosity killed the cat,” Remus murmurs. He looks up at me with those captivating irises and I immediately look away unable to hold his gaze. After a moment of silence, he finally speaks again.
“You have an issue with following directions.” I keep my eyes down but I don’t miss the unmistakable sound of him rising from his seat. I close my eyes as a chill runs through me the moment he touches my cheek.
“You don’t understand how lucky you are to be taken as mine instead of death, or where we send able-bodied prisoners of conquered planets to live out their lives.”
He runs his fingers through my hair, his grip tightening on the strands as he speaks.
“You’re just a wild mongrel that lacks the ability to obey. When I say to move, does that mean to linger until you feel like it? No. You are to follow my command immediately. Why is that so difficult for you to comprehend?”
Remus takes my silence as his chance to think about a decision he’s making, and I know when he finally makes it. He steps away from me no longer interested in talking down to me before calling out his command.
Remus is taking me somewhere. My eyes travel out the glass window of the machine we’re in. The world flies by me so quickly that I don’t have the time to take it in. I shift my gaze to Remus, and he is focused on the scenery in front of him.
Where could he be taking me now?
I use the silence to study the creature that is Remus. He’s as emotionless as he always is. I can never tell what he’s thinking let alone what mood he’s in. He never lets it show. If he wasn’t so keen on speaking his mind, I’d never know when he was “pleased”.
My stomach dips as the machine we’re in begins its descent out of the sky. I’ve only ever seen airplanes when I was young. They would fly through the air at high altitudes, blasting up the runway just to be able to take off. And yet, the Leviathan have invented a technology that allows a car-like machine to easily glide through the air at low and high altitudes. It’s another reminder of how advanced their society is.
“How did you make this possible?” I find myself asking the question before I can think of the consequences, my curiosity getting the best of me. I keep staring out the window as the clouds pass by before I finally look over to Remus. I don’t expect him to answer or even acknowledge that I’ve spoken, but he does.
“We learned to travel on the energy that light provides,” he says simply. His answer does nothing for my question, and he realizes it, smiling before launching into an explanation.
“We learned eons ago that to keep moving forward and conserve our planet, we had to learn how to use our resources. All of them. Your people came to a similar conclusion when it came to harnessing the natural energy given to them. Whereas they built ships to travel using the wind, we built ships to travel using the light. Your people focused on building and physical objects in mass and volume to do their bidding, and we learned to manipulate matter.”
My eyes widen as he speaks. Manipulate matter? I can’t imagine that he’s being serious, but his face gives no indication that this is a joke. He takes my silence as a lack of understanding and continues a more in-depth explanation.
“Light is nothing more than a plane. Our ships take that light and use it to travel at the speed it allows. Taking us weeks, days, even hours depending on how far the location is.”
I take in what he says, my fascination for his race growing by the second. He wasn’t lying when he said he feeds off my essence, why would he start now?
The thought of his feeding sends an involuntary shiver up my spine. I hate the feeling it gives me. I hate when he does it, and I hate what it entails.
Remus seems to be in a conversating mood, so I tread lightly with my next question.
“Why haven’t you killed me yet?” I ask.
Now I’ve caught his attention. He turns his head, his purple gaze studying me closely before responding.
“Because I do not wish it.”
I shake my head.
“No… I mean, you take my life away each time you… feed. So, how much longer do I have to live?”
Remus smiles. The corner of his mouth upturns slightly, and a breathy laugh escapes him.
“The liquid you drink daily. It keeps you as youthful as you were yesterday or last month. Which gives me plenty of room for feeding,” he says. That must be why I feel refreshed when I drink the strange drink. I frown looking down at my hands.
“What’s in it?” I ask.
Now, he frowns.
“I think you’re getting too bold with questions, pet.” I immediately close my mouth going back to my brooding.
Even though I’m set on staying silent, my mind keeps wandering back to his race. Remus himself is terrifying. But that doesn’t keep the questions from rolling around in my head about his race. They are a mystery. A complete mystery.
How did they come here? Why is Remus so different than the rest of them? How did they even discover our planet? How could we have never discovered Remus and his people if they’ve always been out there? But most importantly…
Why are they still here?
The way Remus talks about the Earth sheds light on his hatred for humanity. If he’s nobility, why would he stay on the “most primitive” planet that he has conquered?
The questions become too much to keep in my head, so I try again.
“Why are you still here if we are conquered?” I ask. Silence stretches over us.
“Tell me something, Iris. Do you like having your tongue?” The question is random, and I find myself stumbling over my response.
“Then no more questions. Or you will no longer have one.”
The rest of the ride is silent, my nerves growing more shot by the second. I look up as we descend upon another section of the city, this one completely different from the part that held the ball. The building does the same as the last as we approach, opening up its walls to allow Remus a landing place inside.
Once we land, Remus turns to me, his tone completely different than it was earlier.
“Do not try and run, Iris. This is your only warning… unless you want to give me another challenge.” He eyes me with such intensity, I find myself shaking my head vigorously. I can see the excitement in his eyes at the thought of another challenge. He’s a sadistic being. He wants me to defy him just so that he can exercise his power over me.
When he’s pleased with his intimidation technique, the doors to the craft lift open and we begin our trek into the mystery building.
The halls are dark as we make our way to our destination. I look up at Remus’s looming presence before me. He’s dressed in his signature white, including a shorter cape that wraps around his body. I assume these are a part of his royal regalia. Today, however, his hair is not pulled away from his face as it usually is. It’s free of its restraints, flowing around him as he walks without a care in the world. The longer I study him, the more I find myself giving in to the thought that… Remus is an attractive being.
We finally reach our destination, and instead of a wall dissolving upon approach, the double wooden doors open. My eyes widen as I take in the sight before me.
The building itself is grand, the glass ceiling vaulted so that everyone below can see the sky they will never touch. There are humans locked behind bars, arms bound, and eyes filled with hopelessness. Each of them is dressed in simple clothing. I take note that at the center of the room, there is a podium where a line of humans in chains stand, awaiting their fate.
There are Leviathan entering rooms and walking to look at each person on display behind glass walls. It’s an open market for humans. It’s despicable.
I feel my legs carrying me backward and I want nothing more than to flee from this place. Remus immediately notices and grabs ahold of my arm, his grip like steel.
“Do not disobey me,” he growls.
My heart thunders against my chest and I have to fight myself tooth and nail to remember my place.
My attention is pulled away by a woman that is making her way in Remus’s direction. She says something to him in their native tongue, a smile on her face. She’s a beautiful woman wearing high stilettos and a tight dress that hugs her frame perfectly. She’s tall and lean with hair that’s dark brown and glossy in texture. I immediately look into her eyes, noticing that they are black.
She bows once she reaches Remus, staying with her head down until he murmurs something in their language, after which she stands up tall and proud, extremely pleased to be in his presence.
They continue to speak in their language, and Remus gestures to me once before her eyes light up and she nods her head turning away from him. The sound of her heels pressing against the floor is enough to frighten me further.
“Pet. I can hear your heartbeat,” Remus chuckles in front of me. He finally turns to face me, and I hate the excitement I see in his gaze.
“Why are you frightened?” he asks.
Just as the question leaves his lips a scream erupts in the room pulling my gaze. It’s a man, and he’s pulling at his chains.
“No! No! Please, No!”
I watch in horror as a Leviathan holds onto his chains with ease, pulling him towards another Leviathan that looks irritated with the exchange. The man is fighting for his life, but it does nothing against these monsters. They drag him to his fate, snatching him roughly around the throat to cut off the noise he makes. A sickening gurgle fills the room, and we all watch in horror as the man pathetically attempts to fight for his life.
My eyes shift to Remus who is watching the drama unfold with a smirk on his lips. As if sensing my gaze, his eyes shift to mine.
“Foolish,” he says before making his way to one of the doors.
I force my legs to move, keeping my eyes down even when I begin to hear more struggles behind me as more people are given their fate in this place. Tears burn my eyes. I don’t understand the point of Remus bringing me here yet, but I know it has something to do with my lack of following his directions.
We continue our trek across the main hall, and I hear humans begging as we pass, some going as far as reaching towards us, crying for freedom.
“This is where we bring humanity from this region of your planet that isn’t killed on sight. This is where it is decided what the role for your lives will be,” he says. We reach the door on the far side of the room and the woman that greeted Remus in the first place appears with a smile on her lips.
Instead of Remus speaking in their native tongue, he switches to English. And I immediately understand why.
“I’ve come to inspect the production rate of your facility. I hope there is nothing out of place, Yura… for your sake.”
The woman, Yura, visibly pales at Remus’s threat, and whips away from him, gesturing for the doors to open. Remus takes the moment to turn to me, pulling a familiar object out of his pocket. A heavy weight washes over me as I take in the necklace. My necklace. He pops it open looking at the picture.
“What a quaint little family,” he smiles.
My hand twitches, the need to snatch it from him coming over me. He knows I won’t though. This is another test.
“I like to think of myself as a fair being. I want you to use this time to learn about what could be. And what will be. And I want you to comprehend where you stand on the spectrum of my society.”
He glances at me, taking in my reaction, a wicked grin finding its way onto his lips when I don’t move. He then closes the locket, tucking it away in his pocket.
“Come. There is much to see.”
The tour of this place is hell. I walk closely behind Remus keeping my head down, but I don’t miss the screams. The screams of pain, torture, and begging for death.
The Leviathan have created a system to sort out humans imprisoned and find a proper place for them in society. Whether it’s as a slave, a servant, physical labor, or sexual pleasure. Some of the rooms have been created for obedience training, while others have been created to beat the will to live out of us. It’s terrifying.
Remus walks slowly in front of me, making sure to stop at each glass and make me watch the horror that unfolds beyond the glass. He wants me to see what could easily become of me if I don’t play my cards right. I have to fight the vomit that threatens to leave my stomach when he makes me sit in front of the glass of a man who is being whipped into obedience.
When we reach the end of another hall, Remus asks her another question in English. He makes sure to ask questions that I understand.
“How many shipments are incoming per day?” he asks.
“We currently have thirty per day, each carrying a load of fifty to one hundred humans,” she answers quickly. I take note that even she seems terrified of Remus’s judgment.
“Show me,” Remus quips.
The woman quickly leads us through more winding halls until we finally reach where they receive new slaves. At this point in the tour, my footsteps begin to falter. And Remus takes notice. My eyes widen as I take in the massive ship that hovers close to the bridge, the dock opening to reveal hundreds of humans that have been torn from their lives.
They’re bloody, dirty, and scared. There are children among them, and even some people that have reached their elder years. I watch in horror as the Leviathan corral them out of the ship, cracking a terrifying-looking whip through the air. Some even grab them, pushing them for not moving fast enough.
Tears brim my eyes as mothers scream for their children who are being ripped from their arms.
The sound of Remus’s voice pulls me from my gaping. I tear my gaze away from the scene before me, looking at the irritation on his face. Not an ounce of remorse. Not even a shred of pity. I open my mouth, unable to form a sentence. What can I say? What can I do? I am weak myself.
I force my legs to move, bowing my head in shame as I make my way behind him, ignoring the cries and screams. Even when we leave the loading bay, I can still hear the echo of their cries in my head. The sound feels like it’s been burned into my skull.
I don’t know how much more of this I can take. But I know Remus is set on making me appreciate the position I am in when it comes to belonging to him. Remus finally stops, his attention completely drawn to the scene unfolding within the next room.
“What’s this?” he asks.
I feel a sinking in my stomach as I take in the display beyond the glass that Remus is so fond of in this moment. There’s a group of slaves all standing in a circle. A leviathan stands above them, speaking and I can see the fear in all of their eyes as they stare at the ground.
“This is group,” she chuckles as she stands next to Remus.
“Come, Pet. Take a look,” Remus says in amusement. I will my feet to move, standing in front of the glass. The Leviathan in the room points to a man and a woman, pulling them out of the circle. Their faces visibly pale after the command is relayed to them, and when they don’t immediately obey, the whipping begins. I flinch as blood begins to splatter from the relentlessness of it.
This isn’t training. It’s instilling fear. Pure, unfiltered fear.
I let out an audible gasp as the Leviathan in the room snatches the man by his hair, tossing him to his knees, and begins pressing the sharp edge of the heel into his back. I watch in horror as she continues to press, breaking the skin and digging her heel into his flesh with ease. I turn my gaze away, squeezing my eyes shut. I can’t watch. This isn’t training. It’s abuse. No one moves to help him. No one would dare be on the receiving end of the Leviathan wrath.
Remus finally notices my terror and speaks to Yura in his native tongue. She bows before leaving the room, and Remus slowly begins to follow.
I make a move to follow Remus when a human beyond the glass catches my eye. I recognize her immediately. Her brown hair is pulled into a low bun, and her gray eyes are filled with terror deeper than the one I saw in the blight.
I don’t think as I forcefully hit my hands against the glass.
“Margot!” I scream her name hoping she can hear me.
I begin to beat against the glass with my fists, tears streaming down my face as I take her in. She looks awful, her body littered with bruises. I feel all the rage, and will I had stuffed deep down crashing back to the surface and I immediately begin using my elbow to try and break the glass separating me from the person I thought was dead.
I’m cut off as my body is ripped away from the glass. I feel the rough pull of my clothing as Remus grabs me, but I don’t care. I don’t care about any of the pain he is willing to threaten me with. I begin to claw at his hands, kicking and screaming, never taking my eyes off of Margot. My brain moves quickly, and I straighten my arms, slipping out of the shirt that I have on, freeing myself from Remus’s grip.
I watch in horror as her head slowly turns, and I know the moment she sees me. Her eyes fill with tears and she’s moving towards the glass with as much intensity as I have on the other end. Her mouth is open, and I can read my name coming from her lips. A smile forms on my lips the closer she gets to me. Her fingers are outstretched towards me, inches from meeting mine against the glass.
My body is wrenched away from the glass just as the whip on the other end connects with Margot’s flesh. I watch in horror as pain flashes across her eyes and her body seizes up in pain.
“No!” I scream.
That’s the last thing I am screaming when I feel the press of something against my temple. My body immediately seizes up, a heavy weight washing over me as my words are silenced.
The tight grip that Remus had on me is loosened, and against my own volition, I stand silently in front of him, keeping my gaze on his chest. It takes a moment, but I finally realize that he’s put an inhibitor on me. I want to scream and fight, but I can’t. I feel Remus’s fingers underneath my chin as he lifts my gaze to meet his. My heart beats faster at the sight that greets me. His eyes are burning a hole into my soul when finally, a smile graces his lips.
He doesn’t speak. He only searches my face and looks back beyond the glass where Margot screams as she is beaten. A light scoff leaves his lips before he stands tall, handing me the shirt I pulled off.
“Very good, Iris. Show me every weakness you have so that I may exploit it.” Remus stands to walk away from me towards the exit of the hall. He doesn’t have to verbally command me. My body knows what he wants me to do. I immediately put the shirt on and he doesn’t wait for me to finish, making his way towards the door that remains open. I wait for the usual verbal command, but I get none. Against my will, my legs are moving to follow my master away from Margot.
We finally reach the end of the tour, and the woman, Yura, takes Remus into her office. The window in her office overlooks the entire facility. I take note that there are two women and two men standing silently in her office holding trays, without inhibitors on.
Remus makes his way to one of the women, eyeing her closely. He reaches towards her, brushing her cheek softly. She doesn’t even move. The training they do here works like a charm.
“You truly are the best, Yura,” he says.
Yura takes a seat behind her desk gesturing for one of her slaves who silently makes their way towards her, pouring her and Remus a drink.
“You are too kind, your Majesty.”
I notice that Remus doesn’t touch the drink that’s been poured for him. He doesn’t even acknowledge it. He seems more interested in the slaves she’s trained.
“How do you do it?” he asks moving to take a seat.
“It takes a lot of training… I’ve come to discover that humans are most receptive to pain,” she smiles taking a sip of her drink. Her eyes drift to me, and I can do nothing. I am paralyzed.
“Would you like me to take this one off your hands?” she asks. Remus chuckles.
“Not exactly… but I think this was a very eye-opening experience for the both of us. Right, Pet?” he chuckles looking at me. Words of hate and disgust burn at the tip of my tongue, but they won’t come out. I can’t even let a mutter leave my lips. Remus chuckles softly before turning back to face Yura. He switches back to their native tongue, and I immediately notice that her eyes drift from Remus to me, and back to Remus. She slowly stands, nodding her head before leaving the room.
Whatever it is Remus spoke to her about, she wasn’t all too pleased.
“Leave us,” Remus calls to everyone in the room. I feel my heart beating faster at the thought of being alone with him, but as per the hierarchy, everyone follows his command. Once the door closes, Remus reveals his lesson
“Yura is known far and wide for her role in our empire. She collects imperative information on the surrounding species and finds the best ways to break them. This could be your life, Iris. Think very carefully. Is this what you want? Do you want to end up like the woman you were screaming for?”
In the silence, I realize I am trembling. After everything I’ve seen today, I am trembling in fear from Remus’s threat. His clear threat hangs in the air. This will be my life. Remus places his hand under my chin lifting my gaze to meet his. A soft smile plays at his lips as he removes the inhibitor from my temple.
I’m trembling in both rage and fear, this entire day leaving me in a pathetic state. I open my mouth, letting the tears stream down my cheeks. I look behind him to the door trying to find the strength. Any kind of strength to go after Margot; to fight for her freedom. But I find none. Something that Remus loves.
“Your display today is more than enough reason to leave you in the hands of Yura, but I pride myself on being the one to break you, Iris. You will be disciplined for today’s actions. And I will be the one to break you down, the way Yura has her own human servants.
A light knock sounds at the door and Remus keeps his eyes focused on me for a second longer before responding in his native tongue. The door to the room opens, and my eyes widen. Yura looks between me and Remus, and a smile appears on her lips. I suddenly know exactly what the conversation they had before she left the room was about, and Remus’s cryptic words earlier.
“Show me every weakness you have, so that I may exploit it.”
Margot steps into the room, her eyes dull and lifeless from the inhibitor at her temple.
My body is shaking, and I can’t move. Tears spring into my vision, spilling down my cheeks as I take her in. I can’t even bring myself to say her name. Not when I know she cannot respond to me.
Remus turns back to me, a wicked smile playing at his lips.
“Would you like the rename this one as well, Pet?”