0. THE FALL
STAGE 1: THE FALL OF THE WEAK
LOCATION; UNKNOWN- 2046
The stench of blood was inescapable, practically palpable in the muggy heat of the summer. The looming wooden giants, once her comfort and refuge, stood tall above her like fearsome gods, deciding her fate. They blocked the harsh and cruel sun, yet provided a painful and thick fog that served to strangle her. The girl’s legs wobbled, unable to cope with the strenuous task of carrying her own body, and trembled like pathetic sticks of meat. She finally sat, too tired to keep going on, and eyed her arm. Both days old and hours fresh blood rested on her ivory skin, making her and the whole forest, it seemed, smell like a metal playground fresh out of a thunderstorm.
In the distance, about 100 yards away, she could hear rustling. Another one had come to attack her, and probably knew how weak she would be. All this time, she had been hacking through people like they were tall weeds, blocking her path. Slashing them down as she navigated towards God knew where. And now she was here. In the middle of nowhere, exactly as she was in the beginning, with a dull dagger as her only means of protection. The rustling grew closer. If they were going for the element of surprise, they were certainly fucking it up with all the noise they were making, the girl thought. She huffed tiredly, pulling herself up and grabbed a nearby stick, not much bigger than her arm and just as thick.
Eventually, the second girl appeared from the shrubs covering her. She had eyes as black as onyx and a frown quite similar to the girl in front of her. Disappointment? Regret? All these swirling emotions, and possibly more, stirred inside them as they faced each other, knowing too well that they were only two left.
“Why are you hesitating?” The girl with the dark eyes questioned, her eyebrows slightly raised and brow laced with sheen. The other sighed and stood to her full height, which admittedly wasn’t much in the face of the Amazonian who faced her.
“Maybe, I’m giving you a chance,” she puffed out, her cheeks already flushed. The black-eyed girl rushed towards her at a steady pace, obviously smart enough to not go full out in case she wasn’t the only other person left. Maybe, the girl hoped, she was tired too.
Her opponent lunged forward with her knife, incredibly intent on piercing the heart. She was forced to stop however, when the blade rushed through the Asian girl’s hand. The black-eyed girl cursed, as did the Asian girl, her narrow eyes clamped shut in anguish and agony. She stepped back, now weapon-less, and glared at the small girl in front of her.
“You’re wasting your time, you know that right? Is it even worth it to try and struggle?” The girl with the black eyes asked her opponent angrily. The truth of the matter was that she too was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to escape this literal hell. This was going to be a quick kill, not some climactic battle.
The Asian girl said nothing, tightening her grip on the stick, and approaching the other. In a move out of sheer madness, the girl twirled her stick, letting the dirt, leaves, and matter of the earth, blind her black-eyed friend- causing her to stumble back and cough. Her arms flailed about violently, and her leg had lifted to kick the small girl in the knees, but she quickly dodged, jabbing and forcing the stick into her opponent's thigh. The girl let out a pained wail and slowed down. Her movements staggered and lagged, and she hissed bitterly as she tried to grab onto the Asian leg. There was more blood seeping from the open wound than the girl would have hoped, a deep red trail of liquid staining her already dirty jeans.
She was by no means religious, but she had the innate urge to start praying that her adversary hadn’t struck a fatal blow to an important artery. Her medical knowledge was limited, but even she knew that this amount of blood was dangerous.
When she could finally tear her eyes away from her gaping wound, she’d realised that the Asian girl was simply staring at her. Her face, laced with a layer of grime and blood, was emotionless and held no pity, malice, or even envy for the black-eyed girl with only anger in her heart.
“I’m sorry,” she said with an unmoving expression. The black-eyed girl glared at her words, her eyes so narrow that there was nothing but an empty void staring back at the Asian girl. “For what?” The girl croaked out, placing a firm hand on her wound, whilst trying to stand. A small pale hand pushed her back, however, sending her right back into the dirt. She gasped out in a mixture of anguish and disgust as the granules of the earth met her lips and blended with her dark skin. She felt pressure on the small of her back, pushing in the stick even further into her thigh, and for the first time since the two met, the black-eyed girl screamed. Her face crumpled into itself in absolute agony and tears mixed with the dirt form a clear brown coloured liquid that rained down her skin.
“I’m sorry I didn’t kill you in a more dignified way. Please forgive me.” The Asian said, a darkness now cast upon her eyes. She inhaled solemnly and bent down to lift the black girl’s head by her curls. The ’useless’ weapon she had cursed herself for picking would be the last thing this poor girl would see before meeting God.
She kept her eyes on her ’prey’ as the blade slid across her throat, a fountain of crimson erupting from the incision. She fell, just like the ones before, and continued to give her a death-like glare. Her eyes were so black, and wide, the girl felt as though they would consume her if given the chance.
She turned away from the dead girl, and wheezed, the world suddenly turning on its head before all went dark.
Daniel watched his partner from across the room. She was small. Too small for what they had in mind, in his opinion. He huffed in frustration and stood, starting to pace around the blank room, waiting for the unconscious girl to wake. His eyes darted over at the sound of a groan and shifting inside the silent cage.
She sat up, finally, and groggily eyed her surroundings. “Where am I?” She asked, already standing up. She glared at him accusingly, to which he scoffed at and raised a dismissive hand. “Spare me the drama. I don’t know where we are. I just know that we’re the winners.”
“Of this,” He answered, raising his hands to display the room to her. “Some sort of battle to the death, or some shit.” The girl stayed quiet for a while, examining everything around her. She was still dressed in her clothes and her wounds had been tended to. So had his. The tall, dark, tank of a boy had many bandages and scars littering his body. His gaze jerked to hers, catching her staring at him. “What?” He asked, a bit defensive. It was obvious that he was just as cautious as she was.
“Your scars. Are they all from this thing?” She questioned, all of a sudden nervous. There were no weapons in this room, so if it came down to it, there was no chance of her beating him in a fight of physical combat.
The boy sighed and scratched his head. “Obviously. They’re all fresh. Like yours.” She eyed her wounds, especially the large one on her hand, masked by a layer of gauze.
“I’m Emily.”She said, reaching her hand out to him. Her gaze followed his movements, as he reluctantly reached out to secure her hand in a firm grip. “Daniel.” He grunted, quick to let go and start pacing around yet again.
Emily too was soon feeling agitated by the deafening silence and lack of anything that surrounded them. Four walls; one door; no windows; and seemingly no escape.
“So, if we’re the winners- what’s our prize?” She asked, turning her sights back on Daniel. His face saddened, a deep frown now on his lips. “I heard them say the word breed.” He said, looking her dead in the eyes. Emily kept quiet, but her mind was buzzing. She hoped to God that he wasn’t implying what she thought he was. Truly, she was unsure of whether she should ask: have her questions answered and suffer the consequences, or remain wandering blindly in blissful ignorance. She wanted to choose the latter.
But Daniel had already made his choice.
“I think they want us to breed.” He finally said, breaking the unsettling tension between them. Emily stepped back, and Daniel noticed, yet did not react. He also was not too keen on breeding with someone any time soon. If that was what they would be doing. It was out of his nature to be hopeful and optimistic, but maybe he was exaggerating the whole ordeal. Maybe they were going to be let go and set free into the wilderness. It would much safer out there than in here; he was certain even Emily knew that.
“That can’t be right,” Emily whispered- more to herself than to Daniel. “I didn’t kill all those people, just so I could be a fucking breeder!” She shook with anger and tears had started form, welling up in her eyes.
“Calm down!” He barked at her, not wanting to panic himself. He gnawed on his lip furiously and spun round to see the whole room once again. There was a door, of sorts. That meant there was an exit. “Let’s just figure out how to escape this place.” He then said more calmly, walking towards the door with a level of caution and apprehension that one would think it was sure to jump out and grab him. The door, of course, did not grab or even touch the boy; instead radiating a white glow. It was like death itself waited for them on the other side.
“There’s a small panel next to it. Maybe that’s the way to unlock it.” Daniel followed his partner’s finger with his eyes, until they rested on indeed a very small panel, it too emitting a death-like glow. They both approached the plastic square and started to reach out to touch it. “Wait-” He stopped, and stepped back. “What if this sets something off?”
Emily narrowed her eyes at the glowing panel and squeezed round Daniel, her expression serious. “What if it does? Either way, they’ll come for us and we won’t be able to leave. I say we bolt before we even find out who’s taken us here.”
Daniel mused on her reasoning, eventually giving her the go-ahead to make contact with the unknown object.
Her finger now resting on the white square, the white light turned an ominous red, and then green. The door gasped and slowly opened, revealing the creature on the other side.