Find more from this author on:
About the author:
Dori Hoxa is a translator with a law degree, who works in marketing, and writes. She’s also married, and since her plate wasn’t full enough, she decided to get a dog recently, and named him Happy. Her biggest influence is Harry Potter, and she still expects her Hogwarts letter to arrive in the mail every day.
Here is a short sample from the book:
The sound of silence was heavy, especially up on the top floor of the Howling Building. Shadows moved—real, or just a figment of my imagination—like they always did. And I watched them, afraid to even let my breath come out with a sound, no matter how small, like I always did. The feeling of being watched was always there, settling in the pit of my stomach, the second the moon took on the dark sky. I sat and waited for whatever it was, all by myself, swallowing the fear that turned into a ball in my throat.
When it got too much, I sometimes pretended I was with someone up there. Anyone. A friend.
What an illusion. No one wanted to talk to me. I was a freak. I’d been a freak among the normal. And I continued to be among the homeless and the junkies in the streets.
I would have made my mother proud.
So, alone I stood, and alone I looked at the darkness ahead. At what was left of the city of Boston. There wasn’t much. The Massachusetts Bay stretched forward, as dark as the sky. I could see all of it, yet there was nothing to see.
I was in the Howling Building, at least fifty feet above ground. It used to be a church. It still had some pieces of colorful glass left in the corners of the broken windows. That, and the golden cross on top of it, were the only indicators of it once being a house of God.
It took its new name after the explosion, when it became home for dogs who would howl all night and day. Until the ROB killed them all. Pity, since they harmed no one. But lucky for me, the building became my shelter.
When I got bored, I jumped off the window and made it all the way up to the round roof. I wrapped my arm around the golden cross at the top of the building to make sure I wouldn’t fall. I took out my pack of cigarettes and my match, and inhaled deeply. The smoke moved and spread in my mouth, on every surface and every crack of my teeth, then went down to my throat. I loved how it killed me. Slowly. Painlessly. I loved the taste of it.
Up there, I could even say a word every once in a while without fearing that someone would hear me.
The ROB Wall of Protection stood proud in front of me, making it impossible to see the streets on the other side. Protection. What a joke. As if they didn’t know that there were still people on the other side of it who needed their protection, too. As if they didn’t know that people starved, every single day on this side of the wall, while they threw leftovers away.
Ever since the explosion almost twenty years ago, when the Renewed Order of Boston was created, things only got worse. I didn’t remember much of the world before. I was three at the time and lucky enough to have been living in Boston, the only city on earth where bombs didn’t go off. Well, at least the better part of it.
After that, the ROB created the “safe” circle, and built a wall around it, isolating the parts of the city that still worked from the rest of what was left after the explosions.
No one knew what caused them. They went off everywhere, and all at once. Some mountains and unpopulated areas were still intact, but no one dared to move from fear of what was out there. I guessed that was why I’d never moved, either.
I used to live on the inside of the wall until two years ago. I had a mother and two older sisters. My mother was a prostitute, or escort, the way she liked to be called. Escort, because she only fucked the wealthy. The powerful. Prostitutes didn’t care who it was as long as they got a little money out of it. What a perfect logic.
She was dating the mayor of Boston at the time of the explosions, hence the house in the very center of the city, and away from all the mayhem across the world.
My two sisters, Harley and Jessica, were the jewels in her crown, perfect in every way, just like my mother. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes on. Hair a light golden brown, eyes big and green, face heart-shaped, skin flawless. No wonder every man lusted after her. No wonder all three of us had different fathers. I, too, like Jessica, looked just like her, except for the hair. Harley was just as beautiful, but she was not like my mother. She was lucky; I always envied her.
My hair was a shade lighter in color than that of my mother, and the only thing I liked about myself. The only thing that reminded me that I wasn’t completely hers. I was someone else’s, too. She played her games so masterfully that everyone we’d ever come across loved her. Respected her. A single mother of three girls. What a hard, hard life. Poor her.
She was everything but poor. I hated her. I hated every second of living with her. I hated her as much as she hated me. And she did hate me from the second I was born.
One night, after fighting with her like I usually did, I ran to my room, crying, and took off out the window. She didn’t know that I’d picked the lock of the bars she’d mounted outside it long ago. I sneaked out, kept my hood drawn, feeling as pathetic and as alone as ever.
Two hours later, I came back to find the house torched. ROB soldiers everywhere with guns and masks and expressionless faces. I hid behind the cars and the bushes, and got close enough to hear them speak. Apparently, someone had gone inside, had killed the owner and her three daughters, and had set the house on fire with an explosion. They figured it was thieves. Someone from the outside who’d somehow managed to get past the walls.
I ran as fast as I could. I couldn’t go back. What would I go back to? I was always alone anyway, so it wasn’t that hard.
I threw my first cigarette butt from the top of the Howling Building and watched it fall down until I could see it no more. Norman’s voice echoed through the night. It was good to hear it. The bar, or the shithole that sold alcohol on the other side of the wall, kept people there all night, and occasionally, Norm, the owner, threw someone out in the streets. He didn’t want trouble in his joint. The man had been a doctor before the explosion, or so they said. Now, he was left with nothing but that place and a bad breath of stinking alcohol.
A long time passed before I heard another sound—a noise that came from below me, and this time, it wasn’t Norman. I leaned as far as my position would let me without falling. I saw the shadows again, which was a bit strange. I’d never seen them in that time before, never so close to dawn.
I kept looking and followed the movement, until I heard something crack. Right after that came a scream, but muffled, as if whoever was trying to scream had something in his mouth. Adrenaline pumped the blood to my heart, which was already pounding in my chest and ears. Without so much as another thought, I started to crawl back from the roof and inside the broken window.
I was as silent as always, not a sound made from my movements, a trick I’d practiced since I was five to escape my mother’s wrath. I became a professional in no time. I descended the stairs, heart in my throat, not enough air in my lungs, my body freezing cold. Something was wrong down there. Nobody killed anybody on this side of the wall. Not unless the ROB soldiers came out. I would’ve seen them if that had been the case. And the scream I’d heard was definitely a scream of someone hurting.
I made it outside, shaking from head to toe. The cold air seemed heavier down there. Or maybe it was just my imagination. Maybe it was because my blood was all but frozen.
Outside, I hid in the dark and behind the wooden and metal trash on the streets, leftovers from cars and shelves and a million other things. I stopped when I heard another sound, a whoosh in the silent air, something sliding down the concrete wall, a body falling to the ground. I didn’t know how I got my knives out of my pockets, but the next thing I knew was that I was jumping forward with all my strength, knives in hand, and chin quivering.
A man was lying on the floor, right next to the wall. His chest glistened under the dim light of the moon. Like it was wet. And it was red.
I was shaking with fear. Before I could go to him, movement caught my eyes. Fast as lightning, another man turned around the corner. That motherfucker had slit the man’s throat and killed him. I had no idea what I wanted to do about it, but I sure as hell didn’t expect him to stop and wait for me when I ran after him around the corner.
He was tall, much taller than me, and considerably wider. His whole face glistened like it was covered in wet paint. Wet red paint.
My gut turned.
“W-w-who are you?” I managed to say, arms stretched in front of me defensively, knives in hand as if I would know what to do with them if I needed to.
The man smiled a sickening smile.
“Are you out of your fucking mind?” Disbelief always made me grow balls for some reason. “You just killed a man and you’re smiling?”
I took two more steps forward. My hands shook terribly. The metal of one of my knives reflected the light of the moon on his chest. He took a step backwards and hissed. Actually hissed, like a freaking snake.
That made me braver, heated the ice in my veins somewhat, and I took another step forward. He had nowhere to go and I had cornered him. Now, what I would do with him, I had no idea, but he was going to pay.
I took in a deep breath and prepared to call for help, when he stepped to the side and out of the shadow. Moonlight fell on his face and chest. My hands shook violently. I forgot how to breathe, and think, and move.
His face was no human face. It was a monster’s.
Teeth as big as my pinky fingers hung on his upper jaw, one on each side. The others were small, but pointy as well. His mouth was covered in blood. His eyes, gleaming, colorless spheres, felt like they were touching me with cold, sharp needles. He closed his mouth but the two teeth still hung outside his lips. His hair was long and shiny, one with his black leather jacket. He took another step to the side and fell into the shadows again.
I wasn’t breathing. I was completely lost, nothing but my eyes moving. They followed his shadow as he climbed the wall behind him, too fast to be normal, and then disappeared from my sight.
My knees gave and I fell on the dirty ground. Air came into my lungs in short, heavy gasps, and my vision blurred completely. I kept seeing those teeth in front of my eyes. His mouth looked almost like a piranha’s. I’d never been more scared in my life.
What was that thing? Where did it come from? Were the movements I always saw in the shadows him? Or were there others like him?
My head was a mess. I considered screaming. Screaming with everything I had in me, like I never did before. But what good would that do? How would I explain the dead man with the cut throat behind me? No, that wasn’t it.
All of a sudden, it was crystal clear. I had to get to Anthony.
I scrambled to my feet and I slowly moved backwards, making too much noise. But I couldn’t control my feet. The fear had swallowed me whole. I trained my eyes on the space around me, on the darkness, and tried to not let them wander back to the dead man lying against the wall. He had his throat slit, but now I was sure that it wasn’t slit with a knife.
I reached the main street, paranoid, scared, and very much shaking. I looked around for one last time, and then I ran.
I kept jumping in place every time the image of the man came alive in front of my eyes. Less than a mile, and I would reach the wall. I just hoped that I could find the edges I’d used to climb down when I first crossed to the other side, two years ago.
I never looked behind me. If I did, and I thought that I saw movement, I would freeze, and I needed to be unfrozen. I needed to be able to move and run.
I reached the wall, the cold concrete as dead as the night under my fingertips. Only, it wasn’t night anymore. The sun was casting bright orange light around me. I hadn’t even noticed. I looked up and saw no broken concrete, nowhere to climb. I made my way west looking up, hoping to find the holes I knew were there. Good thing I was short and tiny, and I could easily support my weight and climb almost anywhere.
Finally I saw them, the holes in the wall, made by those who had tried to break it but couldn’t. No one could break a four-foot thick concrete wall. Not anymore. I put my knives away in my pockets, and I prepared to climb without looking around. I couldn’t care less if someone saw me. I needed to get to Anthony and fast.
He used to be my mother’s lover before she was killed. He had his family, sure, but no man could resist Mom’s charms. Once she set her eyes on someone, he was done. I always pitied them. She had a heart made of ice.
Anthony was on the Director’s Board of ROB. If there was someone who could do something about this, it was him.
I made it to the top in no time. I looked down and would have felt a little dizzy if I wasn’t so freaked out. Fifteen stories high with nowhere to hold onto was high, even for my standards.
Getting down would be the tricky part. I had to walk another ten steps to my right to find the holes on the other side of the wall to help me climb down. And when I did, I jumped to them, wasting no time to check. It was past dawn and people were going to be out soon. I didn’t think they’d appreciate someone from the other side trying to break into their precious safety zone.
The problem was, I realized, that the holes had been covered almost halfway up the wall. I looked down, hanging on for dear life on the edges of the small, dirty holes, trying to figure out if I would die if I just let go. It wasn’t that high, if about twenty feet wasn’t high.
I heard the bell that signaled the start of a working day in the ROB. In the next five minutes, people were going to come out of their homes to get to their jobs, and I would be spotted and probably killed on sight.
Good thing I knew that, since it made my decision for me. If I was going to die, I was going to die because I wanted to, because of something I did. Not because someone shot me, thinking I was the enemy.
I let go.
It felt like I was falling head first, though I jumped with my feet. I had my eyes squeezed shut tightly and air stored in my lungs. That could’ve very well been the second before I died.
My body landed with a deafening noise, and my head slammed hard against the ground. I felt like I became one with it, dissolved until I was as hard as it. I didn’t dare open my eyes or draw in breath.
A second passed.
Searing pain stabbed my leg, my hip, shoulder, and the back of my head. I must have fallen on my side. My leg felt weak as a toothpick, and my ribs felt broken. But I was alive. I was alive, and I was breathing.
I opened my eyes and was greeted with clouds of brown dust. But at least I could see them. I tried my good hand, the one lying on top of my stomach, and my fingers moved. The bell rang again. I’d run out of time.
I bit my tongue to keep from screaming from the pain and cried it away silently with my tears. I sat up and moved slowly, blazing hot pain cutting through my every cell.
I breathed fire. My foot was the worst. I barely moved it a little to the side. I wasn’t going to be able to walk on it, but it wasn’t like I had a choice. I was going to have to walk.
I put my good hand on the concrete, freshly painted wall, and I took a second to catch my breath. I rose on my good knee and took my body up on it. I bit my tongue to hold another scream and tasted blood in my mouth, moving down my throat, making me nauseated. I hated blood. Hated the very sight of it. It drained all my energy.
Doors began to open. The closest building was at least ten feet away. There was no way in hell I was going to make it. But I tried anyway.
I hopped on one foot and fell on my hand every few seconds, and then hopped again, until I made it almost halfway. The vision of the teeth popped in my head whenever I breathed. It gave me enough strength to want to hop a hundred miles to do something about it. To tell someone about him.
“Hey! You! Stop right there!” someone shouted from my left. I cursed shamelessly under my breath, though I was sure whoever it was that was calling me, heard.
I turned around and saw a man, no older than me, dressed in the military green of the ROB soldiers, gun in hand, slowly coming to me.
Damn my luck. I stopped, standing on my good foot, and swaying to the sides. Standing was much harder than moving with one foot, I realized. I fell on my knees, and a scream escaped me once my bad leg connected with the ground.
“Hey, are you okay?” the soldier asked, coming even closer with his gun pointed at me.
“Anthony Bush.” I said the name as if it was my medicine. I looked up at his concerned and suspicious face. Behind him, my audience was watching me with hatred and disgust, but most of all with panic. Men and women, children of all ages had formed half a circle around me, waiting for what I would do, sure that I would grow horns any second now.
“Ma’am, I’m going to need you to put your hands behind your neck,” the soldier said.
“I can’t,” I said through gritted teeth. Couldn’t he see the blood on me? “I need to see Anthony Bush.”
“I’m going to put handcuffs on you now and take you with me.” He spoke slowly, like I was some sort of a retard. I rolled my eyes and showed him my bad leg.
“I can’t walk. I can barely move. Handcuffs are really unnecessary. I just need you to get me to Anthony Bush,” I hissed.
“Okay, I’ll help you walk. What happened to you?” he said, nodding and sweating, with no idea what to do. He looked back at the people around us, at his gun, and then at me, trying to decide if he should buy my words or not. When even my good hand gave and I fell flat on my stomach in front of his feet, he seemed to make up his mind.
He took my arm and pulled me up, wrapping it around his neck. I stood on my good leg, head down, tears in control. I was in enemy territory.
“What happened to you, ma’am?” he said again, putting his arm around my waist to support my weight and lead me. I started hopping forward.
“Don’t call me ma’am. I fell.” I grunted.
“You fell,” he repeated.
“Yes, I fell,” I said. “Take me to Anthony Bush. I need to see him. It’s an emergency,” I said for what felt like the hundredth time to me. People started to move to make way for us. They looked at me like I was a disease. I tried my best to ignore them.
Nothing new there, actually. Even though they were people just like us, the fact that we were outside the ROB’s protection made us slums, viruses. I wondered if they ever thought that they could’ve been on the other side, too, if they hadn’t lived where they lived. Probably so, but they were too afraid to say anything. In a way, I couldn’t blame them.
“Base, we’ve got an outsider who crossed the wall.” Another soldier had appeared to my right, and he spoke on his tiny microphone attached to the almost invisible earpiece around his neck.
I rolled my eyes but kept on dragging my feet after him, already away from the crowd of people, though I could still feel their eyes on my back. A car, black and dark green, was parked in front of us, huge and dusty. Another three soldiers dropped out of it. They immediately walked behind me, guns pointed and ready. As if they couldn’t see the state I was in, the blood all over me. I probably looked like shit.
“Let’s go.” The soldier unwrapped my arm from around his neck and pushed me towards the backseat.
“Stop pushing me. I’m not going anywhere,” I hissed. He ignored me and sat right next to me. “Are you taking me to Anthony?”
“We’re going to check on some things—” he started to say, and all I heard was hell no.
“There’s no time to check anything. I need to see him right away.”
“There are procedures to be followed, ma’am,” he insisted. The others were already inside, and we were moving ahead to the center of the city, where the metal building of the ROB stood proud and ugly.
“I don’t care about procedures,” I shouted.
“Do you know Mr. Bush personally, ma’am?” he asked, his voice calm despite the anger I could see in his eyes.
“Yes, I do. And stop calling me ma’am. Do I look like a fucking ma’am to you? I’m twenty-one years old, you twit!” I struggled to move away from his grasp. When I saw that there was nothing I could do, and I was too weak to break his hold as it was, I forced myself to calm down and try again. “Listen, mister…” I started, and looked at him, waiting for a name. He watched me with his brows raised like I’d just asked for his ROB security number. But I swallowed my pride and gave him a smile, and waited patiently until he spoke.
“Sergeant Major Vince McCarran,” he mumbled reluctantly.
“Sergeant McCarran, I do know Mr. Bush. Can you please just tell him Morta Fox wants to see him? I can assure you he will look for me immediately. And he would not appreciate it if you take me in and don’t tell him right away.”
As soon as Anthony heard my name, he’d come running. He thought I was dead, just like everyone else did, so he was going be curious, to say the least. I was the daughter of his mistress, and he was my only hope.
“What kind of a name is that?” the driver asked, then flinched, like he just realized he thought out loud.
“Death,” I answered, keeping my head high. It wasn’t my fault for my name. I didn’t name myself, but I wasn’t going to be embarrassed about it. The two soldiers in front of us chuckled and grinned, probably thinking this was funny. But not Vince.
“Do you have a RSN?” he asked me instead.
“Do I look like I have a RSN?” I did have a security number when I was living inside the wall. But to the ROB, I had died together with my family two years ago. I doubted they’d saved my RSN.
“It’s procedure. I need your answer, yes or no,” he continued, his face as hard as cement.
“Do you live inside the ROB?” I rolled my eyes but gave him a curt ‘no’ again. “Do you have any relatives who live inside the ROB?”
“No.” They’re all dead.
“Do you have any relatives who live outside the ROB?”
“No.” I was starting to get really pissed off.
“How did you pass the wall, and why?” Now we were getting to a more serious matter.
“I climbed and I will tell the reason only to Anthony Bush.”
“You climbed?” the driver spoke again and flinched. I could see Vince giving him the eye through the rearview mirror.
“Yes, I climbed,” I repeated. My voice showed loud and clear how annoyed I was. And I was hurting so damn much.
The car stopped. We were already there. Under other circumstances, I would have felt good having the door opened for me and having three soldiers walking behind me while I dragged my bad leg forward. It almost made me feel special and important.
I was pushed to the entrance door of the ROB. I knew the procedures that were waiting for me by memory. I’d been there with Mom once for my picture for the RSN card. I had been eighteen at the time.
I was thrown against the guards who shamelessly put their hands all over me and took out my two knives, leaving me almost naked without them.
Next was the sterilization box. It was made of steel, and I had to stand still in the very middle of it while a thousand smells hit me at once from all sides.
They took my fingerprints, my picture, my body’s x-ray, and I found that I had two fractured ribs, and of course my right ankle was a mess. Broken, but not all the way through. I barely stood on my feet.
They made me undress, burnt my clothes right in front of me, and then gave me a robe. It was white and blue and smelled like plastic and medicine. I didn’t mind. This would all be over once I talked to Anthony.
Or so I told myself.
When they thought I was clean and decent enough, they let me in the hallway of the first floor. The space was huge, metallic, and cold. Nothing had changed from the last time I’d been there. The windows were bulletproof, the square pillars reinforced with many layers of steel, everything as safe as it could be. I never understood why, though. The place was a fortress, as if designed to withstand a war and keep the enemy outside. I didn’t know who they were trying to protect themselves from, but it sure as hell wasn’t from the people outside. They didn’t have the means, though they might have had a motive.
A soldier that wasn’t Vince pushed me inside an elevator, and he and his friend walked in with me. They were taking me down. When I saw them push minus 4 on the panel, I knew that they weren’t going to take me to Anthony.
And there was nothing I could do. Even if I wasn’t injured so badly, they were men with guns.
“I need to see Anthony Bush.”
My words fell on deaf ears, as expected. The soldiers ignored me completely.
The building had eighty-three floors. Anthony was probably on the very top. I looked around for something I could do to cause enough panic and alarm to reach his ears. If he would ask what was going on, and they’d tell him my name, I would be saved.
I didn’t know why I was so sure he’d come. Maybe because every time he was around the house, he smiled at me. No one ever did that.
The two soldiers walked by my sides through the hallway, so dark that I couldn’t see the end of it. There were other soldiers, posed like statues in front of every beeping door along the sides. They didn’t move an inch while we passed them, not even their eyes.
At the very end of the hallway, the soldiers stopped, put their hands on the scanner by the door, and it finally opened with a whoosh. Behind it was an entirely different world.
The room was bright and white. The people were all dressed in white doctor robes. There were white tables and white beds, some taken, but most empty. At least forty people were in there. Bile rose up my throat when I saw that none of the ones lying on the beds were conscious. They didn’t look dead, just unconscious. I knew that that fate was waiting for me, too. I froze in place, and the soldiers had to drag me to put me on one of the leathery white, cold beds.
The voice came from above my head. I looked up to see a man, probably around fifty, with a grey beard and dark eyes, and thin glasses that made him look like a professor.
“I need to see Anthony Bush,” I said through gritted teeth.
“Sure. But first, we need to run some tests and fix you up,” the man said, smiling. He looked delighted to see so many injuries on my body. “I am Doctor Laskaris, and I will attend to your needs.” He grinned proudly. My needs? I only had one of those, and I said so one more time.
“All I need is Anthony Bush. Please, this is very important. Just tell him—”
“Sure, sure. All in due time. First, health. You won’t feel a thing, I assure you,” he cut me off, and went around the bed with a syringe in his hand.
I sat up as my body trembled with pain. I wasn’t going to let him do what he wanted to me. Before my legs touched the floor, the soldiers laid me back down, hard. Pain cut my breath in half, and I couldn’t even move while they tied my wrists and ankles with leather cuffs to the bed.
“Are you fucking kidding me?!” I shouted, but it was too late.
“Oh, we’re not kidding. But I can tell you this, when you wake up, you’ll be as good as new,” the doctor said, a second before I felt the cold, sharp tip of the needle right above my knuckles.
I hated needles. I hated blood. I hated being pierced. I felt nauseated. Alarms went on in my head. I squeezed my eyes shut tightly and chanted the word no to myself, as if that would make the reality change.
Someone began to shout. Footsteps, running away from me. I opened my eyes, and when I did, the alarm in my head didn’t stop. No, it hadn’t been in my head at all.
It had been in the room. Loud, piercing sounds came from the door. Everyone who was conscious ran for it before it closed. It closed and left me alone with fifteen unconscious bodies.
“Hello?” I called. They couldn’t just leave me there, could they? “Hey! Let me out of here!” I shouted. Other than the alarm, no sound came through.
Apparently, they could.
“Hey, you fuckers! I’ll show you…” I shouted again, though what I was going to show them was very much unclear at that moment.
I looked down at my tied hands and legs, then looked around for something sharp that could help me cut my bindings. The small metal thingy with wheels and lots of sharp things on it, things that made me sick to my stomach, was too far to reach. But maybe I could undo the leather cuffs with my teeth. It looked easy.
I rose to my elbows, and once I decided on the right hand first, I doubled over. A scream escaped my lips. My gut hurt like it was being torn open. I struggled to draw in air to my lungs and stayed that way, because I knew if I lay down, I wouldn’t be able to try again.
Tears blurred my vision as I stretched my neck towards the cuff around my wrist. Good thing I was small. By the time my teeth could graze the ends of the leather, the pain in my gut had turned me numb. I worked with my tongue and teeth, and each time the taste registered in my buds, bile rose to my mouth.
In what felt like hours, I managed to free my right hand.
Joy, until I sat up. I was far from numb. My bones were shaking from the intensity of the pain in my body. I didn’t stop to think. My hand was free now, and it freed the other the next minute. I removed the needle that was still in my knuckles. The syringe was still full with clear liquid. The doctor hadn’t used it.
I freed my legs, and I took the needle with me. It could come in handy for my attempt to get the hell out of there.
I stood up and ignored the instinct to double over from pain, knowing how much more pain that would cause me. From the small shelf on wheels, I chose two knife-like objects, the biggest and sharpest I could find.
The man, the unconscious man closest to my bed, looked just a bit older than me.
“Wake up,” I said and took his hand to shake him. He wasn’t tied to the bed. None of them were. “Wake up!” I shouted, but he wouldn’t move. I went to a woman, and I shook her, too, harder. I even slapped her. Nothing. They weren’t going to wake up any time soon.
I headed for the door.
The blue light of the scanner mocked me as I put my palm on it. I had no idea if it was going to work, and I held my breath. My heart was in my throat. And then the light above the door turned green.
The door opened with another whoosh, and I felt like I could cry from joy. Only, when I stepped in the hallway, I found it completely empty. Just minutes ago, it had been filled with soldiers. Now, no one.
Voices came from the other side, and I dragged my feet forward to find a door that didn’t have a scanner to the side.
I finally found one, and it led me to a stairway. I started up, but then I heard voices coming from above me, and I went back.
On the floor below was another door just like the one that had led me there. I opened it slowly, heart in my throat, and I stood silent for a second. Nothing. Complete silence.
The hallway was the same, too. Completely deserted. I dragged my feet forward, looking for an elevator. Anything that could help me get out of there.
I froze when I heard a cry. A scream. I turned around with my eyes wide, praying and hoping and begging that it was nothing, that I’d heard nothing, and it was only my imagination. I held on tightly to the syringe in one hand and the knives in the other, and waited. Until I heard it again. As clear as day.
The cry was filled with pain. The last time I’d followed one like that, I’d run into a monster, and it had led me there. I looked at the elevator, not ten feet away from me. I looked back to where the cries were coming from. The fifth door to the right was the only one half open.
I should’ve just run for the elevator. But the thought of another person tied to a white bed, just like I’d been, made me sick. I swallowed the fear that was vibrating in every cell of my body, and I turned around. I dragged my feet to the door and inside it, sure that I would see a room filled with white beds and unconscious bodies.
I was wrong.
What I saw there made me want to claw my eyes out. A monster, same as the one I had seen outside the wall, was on his knees, face buried in the neck of a bald man wearing a doctor’s robe. He was white as a sheet, not a drop of blood left in him. His fingers twitched, and he let out another moan, his eyes wide and filled with terror, like they’d seen all the evil of this world.
I stepped back and fell against the door, because my leg gave up on me. Bile rose in my throat when I saw another body, dressed in a white robe, lying just a few feet behind the monster’s back. I moved back the wrong way with my working leg, farther inside the room. My brain couldn’t function well enough to know that I should’ve gotten out. I trapped myself.
And then the monster looked up. Its teeth, razor sharp and two of them longer than the others, glistened with dark red blood. I wanted to scream, but my throat was dry, my heart racing, my voice gone. I froze and watched him watch me, knowing that a death as terrible as that of the two doctors was waiting for me as well. I was going to get sucked dry by a sharp-teethed monster.
He stood up, looked at me for a couple of seconds, and then turned around. A scream finally escaped my lips. If I could make a loud enough sound, the soldiers would know where to look. They would come to take the beast down. Wouldn’t they?
But before they made it, the beast turned around to face me. Only now, it wasn’t a monster. It was a human being. A beautiful human being.
His dark skin and his green eyes made a scary, yet perfect contrast to his jet black, shiny hair. His full lips and his high cheekbones made him look like one of those actors I’d seen in the pictures from the nineties. He was short, barely taller than me, but he was wide enough to hold three me’s in between his arms. And then he smiled.
His teeth were those of a normal human. Nothing out of the ordinary. He took a step forward.
“Stay a-a-away from m-me,” I managed to say, only it came out as a pleading.
“This keeps getting better and better. They keep throwing snacks at me. I feel special,” he said, his voice a liquid melody that reached my ears in a caress. I backed farther away against the wall, though there was nowhere else to go.
“You monster. What did you do to them?” My voice broke, but I didn’t care. It was the end, anyway. If I was going to die, I was going to do so insulting him.
“Monster?” he asked in surprise as he came closer to me. “I am not the monster here, silly human. Your kind is the monster.”
I drew in air and hated every slow step he took toward me. Where the hell were the soldiers with their big guns? I wasn’t going to make it out alive, and that was fine, but there were others in there. There had to be.
The good leg gave up on me, too, and I slid down to the ground, shaking, cursing the life I’d been given, over and over again. What the hell had I done to deserve it? As far as I knew, I’d never hurt anyone intentionally in my life. Except for my mother, but no matter how hard I tried, I knew I never caused her any pain. She never even gave me the chance.
“You drank them d-d-dry, you…monster.” There really wasn’t any worse thing I could call him. It only made him laugh as he kneeled before me.
And then, white smoke sprayed from all four corners of the square room.
“See those?” He pointed above our head, grinning. “Tranquilizer. They think it’ll knock me unconscious.” He laughed. “But you want to know a little secret? It won’t, unless I stay here all night,” he whispered and leaned even closer to me. A whimper escaped my lips. “You want to know another secret? It’s poison to humans. They don’t care that they left two of their doctors and another girl here with me. They don’t care that you’ll die.”
“They…t-t-they’ll come. T-t-they…” I couldn’t keep my voice from shaking.
“T-t-they…” he mocked me, “are not coming, human. But you can say hi to them for one last time.” He pointed at the far end of the other side of the room where a small camera I hadn’t seen before followed the monster’s every move. And he waved at it, smiling brightly.
They could see us. They could see us, and they didn’t care?
I had no idea why the hell I was surprised. They left their own doctors to die. Why would they care about me?
Now, even if by some miracle the monster didn’t eat me, I would die from the tranquilizer. My fingertips had already begun to feel numb.
“You filthy creature!” I shouted, because I’d always imagined I would die fighting. Since I was in no position to fight, I could at least shout. “How dare you c-c-come in here and eat people! Who the hell d-d-do you think you a-a-are?” The stuttering didn’t exactly make me sound like a fighter, but I took what I could.
He started laughing again and came closer to me, too close. I gasped when his hands, fast as lightning, grabbed my face. It was like being held in place by steel.
“Filthy creature? Why, I use the same words for humans!” And he laughed some more. “I love the hatred I see in your eyes, silly human. It reminds me of me,” he said, grinning, and opened his mouth. I could swear I saw his teeth slowly starting to turn into sharp points.
“I am nothing like you,” I spit.
“On the contrary. I had the same look in my eyes the day I was turned. One thousand and ten years ago.” He grinned widely.
“I hate you,” I said and closed my eyes. My time was up. I would feel his teeth in my throat any minute now; I would be drained of blood and fly away from this world. For a second there, I welcomed the knowledge without fear. It was okay to die. No one would miss me; no one would even notice that I was gone. I had nothing to live for. I never really belonged here in the first place.
But, same as the day I saw my house burnt to the ground, the place that was never even my home, I felt a longing I couldn’t explain. A pull that threatened to not let me give up. I remembered that I still had the knives in my hand, though I’d dropped the syringe somewhere. I could always push one in his neck—he was standing too close to me. But my body wouldn’t move.
I should’ve just stayed on top of the Howling Building. I should’ve never climbed down. It was just this thing I once read on a notebook. I was three, and it was right before the explosion, but strangely, I still remembered. The covers of it were so pretty that I had to stare. Harley told me what the words were when she saw me looking. It said Follow your curiosity.
Somehow, those three words had gotten inside my skin, and I’d been living by them since forever. A little smile spread on my lips from the memories of a world whole.
“Oh, you think it’s funny? You wouldn’t think I was a monster if you were like me, would you?” The cold, soothing voice blew on my skin and traveled to my ear with ease.
“I’d kill myself first.” Any second now…
He laughed loudly. I couldn’t open my eyes. The thoughts in my mind were swirling around each other fast. I was slowly losing consciousness. I couldn’t have been luckier.
“You know, that’s exactly what I said right before my Lord turned me. See? You’re exactly like me,” he said cheerfully. “Therefore, I am going to do to you exactly what he did to me. I promise you, you will thank me one day, just like I did my Lord.”
And then it started. I wanted to scream, kick, move, anything.
I couldn’t even move a finger. The tranquilizer had done its job. I felt the sharp pain of a bite—literally—on the side of my neck, and I heard the sound of my own skin tearing. Strength left me like a leaf does a tree in fall.
After that, everything went dark.