I’m roused at dawn, tied to the woman, the man tied behind me. We are marched through the Ruins, due north. I haven’t seen a map in years, so I have no clue what kingdoms could be this way, but I do know we aren’t far from one. We never are.
The sun streams down, and I ache for water. The woman, Sarah, begins to beg for water and food. I keep my mouth shut. I don’t like how she grovels and pleads, sounding so weak. She is ignored in the presence of their stoic leader. My eyes often wander to Brutus, to my left and ahead of me. He often jests with two younger freaks. On my right is another alien, his hair a strawberry blond. A few feet ahead of him is the dark haired one.
The Ruins thin until there is no trace of humanity left. Just the forest surrounds us now, which I find somewhat peaceful, save for Sarah’s continued bargaining tactics. I’m starting to not like her, human or not.
My feet ache in my worn shoes, my legs wobbly by the time we are allowed a reprieve. The aliens begin to set up camp, the leader tying us to a tree a few yards away from the fire. They ignore us, cooking, resting, some coming back fresh from some nearby body of water.
“Water? Please, we will die!” Sarah cries. I pinch my eyes shut, thudding my head against the back of the tree. Does she not see they don’t care? I thud my throbbing head a few more times, seeking oblivion. For the first time since my capture, I see this situation for what it is, and a few sorrowful tears escape.
It is dark. There isn’t even any light from the fire. I’m jostled awake as unsteady fingers work at the knot tying me to the tree. My wrists are raw, the skin around the rashes red and peeling.
A gag is shoved in my mouth, stifling me as Brutus throws me over his shoulder, walking me to what I assume is his tent. My stomach flares in pain from his previous kick. Another freak follows, but all I can see are his boots.
“Me first,” the greedy alien insists. Brutus tosses me to the ground. I fall on my tailbone, crying out at the sharpness of pain that radiates up my spine. I’m in their shared tent, on a pile of blankets. Brutus unbuckles his tan pants.
“Fuck off, Kel. You can have her after I’m done.”
I kick away, but my feet are bound together again, making my motions slow and cumbersome. There are four other sleeping aliens in here, and my eyes land on a mop of dark, spiky hair.
I roll as the two squabble, ramming right into his back. I don’t expect his reaction, however, and my throat cries as his thick, strong fingers wrap about it, his dangerous eyes inches from mine. He sneers, and it’s then I realize just how quickly he has moved. He’s on top of me, pinning me down. He lets up his hold on my neck, and I gasp in a breath as best I can.
“You’re not allowed in here, human,” he hisses, raising his hand. Perplexed, I don’t see this strike coming either. The slap resounds around the tent, my face flying to the side. Tears spring into my eyes—ones of pain and frustration. Everything stills.
“What in the fucking hell—” the alien on me growls, standing. I curl in on myself, shivering. Brutus and Kel hold their hands up to declare their innocence as the rest of the monsters begin to awaken. The evidence is damming, though. Brutus’ pants are unbuckled, his zipper half down.
The dark haired alien casts me a glance, connecting the dots. His jaw ticks.
“What did I say about the laws, Brutus?” he hisses.
“Listen, Pax, she’s nothing. She’s going to die before we get home, so we may as well enjoy her—”
“That is not what I asked,” he seethes, his bulging arms straining against his olive toned shirt. Brutus crosses his arms, rolling his eyes.
“Fine, whatever, I’ll obey,” he mocks. “You may as well just take her, since you’re already so attached.”
Pax sneers before looking down at me once more. He reaches down, gripping my bicep and yanking me up before dragging me out into the cool night. No one follows. He finds me a separate tree, one closer to their tent. He takes his time, finding a new length of rope to keep me in place. But I am beyond playing nice.
He reaches for me, and I pull my bound hands away. He ignores it, reaching for me again. I turn my back to him. He lunges, pinning me by my throat to the tree. Hatred rolls off him.
“You will obey us, human,” he spits, cinching the rope tight about my chest. I wrinkle my nose in a sneer, shaking my head. He grits his teeth, yanking the gag from my mouth. I’d spit in his face if I had any saliva left. I settle for the next best thing.
“You’re all freaks,” I say. He’s pissed.
“Some tongue for someone in such a position.”
“Go back to your own planet, you fucking leech,” I hiss. Fury flashes in his eyes. His hands clench and unclench. He’s showing restraint. I intend to push him over the edge. If I make it to wherever they are taking me, I will become a slave. I’d rather die, out here in the wild, where I belong; free.
“Speak to me that way again, and you will regret it, human,” he growls. The gag having been gone from my mouth for a minute or so, I finally have enough wetness in my mouth. I gather it discreetly before pursing my lips and spitting directly between his eyes.
He doesn’t flinch, he doesn’t react other than to wipe his face clean, and when his eyes reopen, they are livid.
“I will enjoy breaking you,” he swears. He stands, smirking down at me as I squirm and glare. He’s wearing loose shorts that reach to just above his knees, his legs rippling with muscle. What have I gotten myself into now?
“You will never break me, freak.”
His fist connects with my jaw, and his boot with my side, so hard I feel as though a rib may have broken on impact. I choke on air, tears coating my cheeks.
“Sleep, human, you will need it come tomorrow.”
And with that, he saunters back to his tent.
I awake as a blast of cold hits my face, and for a moment I feel as though I’m drowning. My eyes spring open as I gasp. I see nothing but light filtering through cloth. A new wave of water hits my nose and mouth. I can’t breathe. Whoever is holding the cloth is tightening it across my aching face. The water relents, and I gulp for air, choking as more water hits me. I hear laughter.
The cycle continues until the cloth is pulled from my face. My chest is heaving for air, my body shivering from the cold. I’m met with Pax’s dark eyes. I glare.
“That is for your words against me, human. Tonight, we can discuss what your actions will cost you.”
“Just kill me,” I seethe. His eyes waver, always on edge, always angry. He unties me from the tree, untying my legs as well. He loops a thinner rope between my bound wrists, anchoring myself to him. My wide eyes search our surroundings. No one else is here. It’s just us two. Panic begins to creep over me like a shadow. They must’ve left while I was being tortured.
He thrusts a metal water bottle into my hands. I stare at it in shock. He quirks his brow before I peer inside, inspecting the contents.
I hold it to my lips, so thirsty I can’t bring myself to care if it’s poisoned or not. I down the whole thing, wiping my mouth on my torn shirt sleeve. He passes me another full bottle. I gulp it down greedily, but his giant hand stops me halfway, pulling the water from my cracked lips.
“You’ll be sick.”
I shake my head, reaching for it with desperation. He frowns, studying me. My belly is protruding with the onslaught of water, but I am afraid I’ll be deprived again, and I need my strength if I’m to keep my wits.
He caps it, placing it in his huge frame backpack. I am disheartened when he stands straight, but hope flitters in my chest. He’s holding what looks to be a protein bar. I remember my mom buying them in the store whenever she was trying to diet.
My mouth waters, my stomach grumbling as he peels the wrapper off. And then, he brings it to his mouth, taking a huge bite of the chocolatey bar. I bite my cheek to keep from flinging more insults at him. I won’t beg, as Sarah did.
He smirks as he chews. He swallows.
“Obey, and you’ll be rewarded.”
I frown, quirking my brow at him. So that’s how it’s going to be. His eyes narrow.
“You don’t own me.”
He stows the other half of the bar.
“I will, human.”
My jaw slackens as he hefts his pack onto his broad shoulders with such ease. He gives a sharp tug on my rope, starting forward. I’ve no choice but to follow.