Chapter 13: Block
Well, this definitely used to be a prison
It seemed that these creatures had an incredible love of manhandling humans, and Kai found herself no exception to this. She’d somehow fallen asleep in the nightmarish craft she’d been transported in, and awoken in what was disturbingly similar to a prison cell. This cell lacked the previous attempt at seeming clean and sterile, with concrete floors and a barred door that offered no privacy.
The bed was the only part of the cell that gave Kai any sense of comfort, being equipped with rather comfortable blankets. Her cell did have a window, which was double-crossed with thick steel bars. It certainly was not as empty as her previous facility, and Kai found herself avoiding eye contact with a woman directly across from her. She was much older than Kai herself, perhaps in her thirties. She, unlike Kai, did not seem in the least distressed, but rather she seemed restless. The woman paced her cell, muttering quietly under her breath. She didn’t seem to be deterred by the glares sent her way by Kai, nor by the quiet mumbling of those around her. Though Kai couldn’t make out their faces, she certainly could see that nearly all of the other cells were full, though the thick walls between each made viewing any other besides the woman in the cell parallel near impossible.
Kai sighed, dropping her head against the wall.
Wonder if they’d stop me from giving myself a concussion.
Slowly, she turned her head toward the pacing woman, “Can you stop?”
The woman froze, head whipping toward her, “What?”
“Muttering and pacing. It’s annoying.”
The woman stepped closer to the bars, folding her arms. Kai was for a moment happy her glasses had been confiscated once again, as she was certain this person wore an unpleasant expression.
“Preparing. Everyone does it here.”
“Preparing for what?”
“Meeting our husbands.”
Kai tilted her head, “Is this place women only?”
“Usually.” The woman sniffed.
Kai sighed, deciding not to press further, “How long have you been here?”
Internally, Kai grimaced.
I am not spending two weeks here.
Another look at the woman confirmed she wore different clothing than Kai herself, a jumpsuit with unfamiliar text scrolling down the arm. Kai was growing tired of the constant hospital gowns made of the fabric that somehow seemed both flexible and crunchy.
“How often do they feed us?”
“Twice a day.”
Well, that’s something.
“Do people ever leave?”
“God, enough with the questions.” This voice was new, and tinged with an accent, one Kai associated with a summer trip to New England, “Some of us want quiet.”
Kai’s newfound friend looked down the aisle, squinting at what Kai assumed to be the general direction of the newest voice, “Loosen up, Carol.”
Carol didn’t reply, but a few laughs could be heard from neighboring cells.
“What’s she talking about?”
The woman across from Kai shrugged, “They don’t always like us talking.”
Kai bit the inside of her cheek, turning her head back to the window. The last thing she wanted was to anger her captors, she was certain they wouldn’t be all too friendly.
“Kid,” The woman across the hall called out, “What’s your name?”
As if on cue, a sound like a thousand hornets cut through the relative quiet, shaking the walls. The lights flickered, vibrations shooting through the floor. A wave of panic hit Kai, her hands clenching into the blankets as she bit down on her lip. As the sound began to fade, the laughing, this time of the woman who had spoken, drew her attention.
“Just the lights out warning, dear. Nothing to worry about. Now, what was your name? Mine is Amy.”
Slowly, Kai exhaled.
The place felt much more like a prison after the lights went out.
There was no talking among other “inmates”, and all seemed to have ceased pacing or otherwise moving and put themselves to bed. In the silence, the sound of heavy footsteps could be heard, moving down the hallway. They most definitely were not from any of the prisoners, as Kai herself hadn’t been given shoes, and Amy wore thin slippers. Slowly, Kai rolled onto her side, squinting in the darkness. As she’d expected, a tall being was outside her cell, standing still. The being looked into Amy’s cell for a moment, and then turned on heel, turning its gaze to her. Kai quickly shut her eyes, fearing it would see her open eyes, even in the darkness. She found herself struggling to regulate her breathing, to keep her breaths even enough to seem like sleep. Seconds passed, perhaps a minute, but to Kai it felt like an eternity. As soon as she heard the footsteps resume her eyes sprang open once again. It took perhaps a half hour for the footsteps to cease, and a door to slam rather loudly.
Kai sat up, wrapping the blanket around her shoulders, “Hm?”
“Keep your voice down.” Amy hissed, “Don’t know when they’ll be retrieving tonight.”
“Thought I’d explain it. Three checks a night. First they count us, then a bit later, they’ll come by and take people. Always at least one. Then, just before dawn, they leave clothes and breakfast.”
Kai nodded, slowly reclining back down, “Where do they take us?”
“Matching us, I think.”
“Do they ever come back? The people they take.”
“Why the middle of the night?”
Amy let out a laugh, earning a chorus of shushes.
“At least the food’s good.”
Kai found sleep to be ever-elusive as she lay in darkness, staring out her window. She could just barely see the moon -- if she turned her head just right -- and there was no shortage of stars. They were most definitely out in the countryside, she thought, There was no city that was this free of light pollution. It did not look cold, wherever she was, and Kai found herself imagining what the breeze would feel like if she was able to open the window. The block, previously slightly chilly, had grown stuffy. A breeze, Kai decided, would make her current situation bearable. She imagined pine trees surrounding the prison --which was, in her mind, a squat building made of red brick -- and the lovely smell of pine in the air. She closed her eyes a moment, picturing herself laying on a cool bed of grass beneath the stars. The image made her chest ache, and made her remember why she’d deemed daydreaming a dangerous activity. Kai opened her eyes just in time to hear footsteps, two pairs this time, stomping down the hallway. She rolled onto her back, fixing her gaze on the ceiling, staying still as she could.
Not me. I haven’t been here long.
The footsteps passed her cell without pause, stopping nearly at the end of the row. She could hear muttering in an unfamiliar language, and a beep as a cell door was presumably unlocked. A groggy woman’s voice met their mutterings, and words Kai couldn’t make out were exchanged. There was no struggle Kai heard, and the door on the other end of the hallway slammed shut after a moment.
Kai shuddered, rolling to put her back to the cell block and closed her eyes.
The rumble of departure came a few minutes later, just as Kai knew it would.