November is over and December has begun. That means thousands of writers are either heaving a sigh of relief or beating their heads against the wall and all because of NaNoWriMo. Those sighing in relief (and quite possibly imbibing heavily) are the ones who met their 50k word challenge. The rest? Well, they are cursing themselves for trying what often turns into an exercise of futility. It doesn’t matter how many words per day/week you normally write. There are those of us who more often than not find NaNo participation and invitation for Murphy to visit. I know. Murphy almost always takes up residence at my house during November, laughing as he prevents me from coming close to the 50k mark. But this year. . . Hah! This year I beat Murphy by undertaking the 50k challenge but NOT on something new. And, without that temptation to Murphy of sabotaging a new title, I hit the 50k mark and surpassed it. Of course, that was mostly due to suffering insomnia all month thanks to the stress of “real life” right now. But I did it and that is why I have been able to post my schedule for new titles through Summer 2022.
Three days ago, my handlers appeared at the door to my cell and asked what I wanted for my birthday. Not that they really wanted to know. It was merely another way for them to torment me. A reminder of the years, I’m not sure how many, I’d been forced to live this hellish existence thanks to my parents. I may not know exactly why my parents condemned me to this existence, but I had learned a lot since my arrival. I knew not to rise to the guards’ bait. That denied them the chance to “discipline” me again. No matter what they said, I said on the edge of my bunk, staring at the floor, for all the world unaware of their presence. They finally gave up and left, securing not only the inner door but heavy metal outer door as well. Since then, I’d been left alone, my meals appearing through a slot in the door.
A reminder I continued to live only at the whim of my captors.
I can’t say I was fine with it, but it was better than dealing with the guards. You learn to welcome the respites after so long. Just as you learn ways to occupy your mind or risk going insane. Not that I was exactly sane any longer. At this point, I’m not sure if I’d ever been sane. Some days, it seemed preferable to think these years were nothing more than the ravings of an insane mind. Otherwise, true evil did exist and I’d fallen prey to it.
Worse, that evil included my parents, the two people who should have protected me, no matter what.
At other times, when I knew this was real, I knew something else. I might not be exactly sane any longer, but I had a better grip on sanity than those who guarded me and who took such pleasure in tormenting me and reminding me I would never again be free.
Damn them and damn my parents who put me here in the first place.
I lay on my cot, eyes closed, my mind replaying my latest plan for vengeance should I somehow manage to get out of this hellhole. There wasn’t much of anything else I could do. I learned early on I could exercise only so many hours a day. The guards who monitored me through the cameras set high into the ceiling refused to let me sleep more than a few minutes at a time unless it was the allotted “sleep period”. I hadn’t read for pleasure since being brought here and I knew every inch of the cell, every mar in the floor, every tile in the ceiling. That left only plotting my escape and vengeance on those who put me here to help pass the day.
The faint sound of metal grating against metal crept into the silence of my cell. I waited, listening closely. Someone had opened the outer security door. Curiosity mixed with concern and I turned my head, waiting. There had been a time when I would instantly stand any time it sounded as if someone might be at the cell door. But I learned, usually the hard way, to stay where I was. Because I didn’t look forward to another beating, I would take my cue from them. It was much safer that way.
Besides, it wasn’t like I could leave the cell without their permission. Even if I somehow managed to overpower the guards, I was stuck here thanks to the “doctor”. If there was any justice left in this world—and I doubted there was—he would spend eternity in Hell, suffering as he’d made me suffer.
Just thinking of him sent cold fingers of fear down my spine. From my first day here, he made sure I understood who was in control. Drugs, beatings and worse were his tools of choice. Then, maybe six months or a year after my arrival, he added another layer of what he called “defenses” to everything else he had done to me. This time, he implanted a small capsule, barely larger than a grain of rice, at the base of my skull. Then he gave me a demonstration of what would happen if I tried to leave my cell without permission.
God, I still had nightmares about what happened that terrible morning. Guards entered my cell and forced me to my knees. They made quick work of securing my hands behind my back. Then two guards stood on either side of me, making sure I didn’t climb to my feet. A third guard took his place behind me. Gloved hands held my head on either side, forcing me to look straight ahead. None of them spoke, even when I asked what was going on.
“Watch and learn. This is the only lesson on this matter you will receive.”
The doctor appeared in the corridor outside my cell. I watched—what else could I do when my head was held in the vice of the guards’ hands—as he did something to the wall opposite my cell. The stone of the wall seemed to shiver and then it dissolved and I found myself looking at a heavy metal door identical to the one that cut me away from the world. Until then, I hadn’t known there was another cell directly across the hall from mine.
Kneeling there, fear turning my insides to water, I swallowed hard, mouth and throat suddenly dry. The “doctor” looked back, his expression one I knew all too well. Someone was about to be hurt and I prayed it wasn’t me.
If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have prayed for something very different.
“Make sure she doesn’t look away or you will join the demonstration,” he ordered the guards.
The doctor placed his palm against a scanner panel next to the cell door. There was a soft hum that intensified when he bent slightly and placed his eye up to a second, smaller scanner. A moment later, the outer door slid open. Then the secondary door, nothing but bars with a lock plate, opened. The doctor glanced back into my cell, making sure the guards held me where I could see. Then he turned back to the other cell.
“It’s all right, Three. You can come forward. I want you to step up to the doorway.”
He held a hand out, encouraging someone I couldn’t see to come forward. I wanted to yell for whoever it was to stay where they were. Before I opened my mouth to do just that, the guard behind me clamped a hand over my mouth, his fingers painfully biting into my cheeks. The message was clear. I was to watch and nothing else.
I wanted to close my eyes. If I did, they would find some way to force them open. I didn’t want to think about how they might do it for the consequences of doing so. So I watched as the doctor coaxed the person, a man near my father’s age, to come forward. From the blank look in the man’s eyes to the way tremors shook his entire body, his terror filled the area. But he obeyed. You always obeyed the doctor. That was the first lesson learned upon arrival here.
One slow step after another, the moved toward the doorway. Just before stepping into the corridor, he looked at the doctor, his eyes pleading. He knew what was about to happen and could do nothing to stop it. That haunts me as much, if not more, than what happened next. The doctor retreated down the corridor as the man took his first step out of his cell. He never took another. I watched, forgetting to breathe, as he stiffened a split-second before his head exploded.
I pissed myself and vomited as bits of brain matter and blood and bone struck me. By the time I had myself under control, the doctor was back. His message went straight to the point. That would happen to me if I ever tried to leave the cell before the signal keyed to my implant was deactivated. I got the message, not that I haven’t considered more than once using the implant to end my time here.
But I guess you could say I’m stubborn. The truth is simpler than that. I’m a vindictive bitch. These bastards and my parents before them made me into one. I’ll die one day, but not before I’ve made every one of those responsible for putting me here pay dearly for what they did. Until then, I would bide my time. If nothing else, these people taught me patience.
And I can be very, very patient if I have a reason and they’ve given me a very good one.
Fire Striker will release Jan. 4, 2023.