Jay was not having the best day, trudging god knew where with their hands bound behind their back. They’d given up struggling – that only resulted in exhaustion and pain. Between the bag on their head and the binder on their chest—which should have come off hours ago—breath was short. Jay didn’t know for certain why they were here but they could certainly guess. Their talent, unusual as it was, must have been discovered. Jay knew this because it wouldn’t work on their kidnappers.
As they were roughly pushed into an icy cold room, something stirred. Fear crushed the last breath of air from them. There was something in the room. Something inhuman. Jay could hear its ragged breath, hear the soft scraping of claw on stone and, most frighteningly, Jay could hear the creature’s mind.
Finally feeding time, is it? the thing wondered, thoughts oozing with gleeful malice.
“At last,” came a cool, feminine voice from directly in front of Jay. “We’ve been waiting for you.”
The mental image of white lights, electrodes and scalpels crossed their mind, as had happened many times on the journey here. Along with the image of the bus. Jay shuddered, red flashing before their eyes. How many people had been on that bus?
“Mmmph umph,” they replied, as good an expletive as they could muster through the gag.
“The subject has been… uncooperative,” said a voice to Jay’s side. One of the kidnappers from the bus—a chunky, block—headed man if they recalled right.
“As has ours,” said the feminine one. “It’s about time they met.”
“Are you sure we should be rushing into this, Caine?” the man asked.
“Why don’t you leave the thinking to someone who’s a little more than a paid grunt? I know what I’m doing.”
Jay was forced deeper into the room as the man grumbled something foul under his breath and shoved down onto a chill metal chair. Rope was threaded between their still bound hands and used to secure them tightly to the seat. What sounded like high-heeled shoes clicked across the floor towards them.
“Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why you’re here,” Caine said. “There are many people out there who’d kill to get their hands on you, to study your gift. You aren’t here as an artefact though – you’re here as a tool.”
The bag was pulled from Jay’s head, their eyes filling with dull red light. The room was long and sparse. Close to one side was a sharply dressed woman in a skirt suit—Caine, presumably—and to the other was the squarish kidnapper they expected. Both wore a band of metal around their heads, glinting in the crimson glow. Some kind of blocker? Jay wondered. In front of them, the lengthy room tapered into darkness. From the shadows, that soft scrape could be heard pacing back and forth.
“You’re going to communicate with the beast,” Caine continued. “Ask it our questions, give us its answers.”
Enough with your pomp, the creature thought, just give me the meat. Its impatience was palpable, emanating from the end of the room.
The man to Jay’s side stepped up to them, jerking their head to the side as he cut the gag free. Jay gasped for breath, still fighting their constricted chest, and flexed their aching jaw.
“What is it?” Jay asked.
“That’s none of your concern,” Caine said, pacing slowly to close the distance between them both. In a sudden movement, she grabbed a handful of Jay’s short hair and yanked their head back. The woman glared down, eyes cold and empty. “Your only concern is self-preservation. Believe me when I say it will be a difficult task that will require all of your concentration. Understand?”
Jay did their best to nod with their hair still in Caine’s bear-like grip, and they were released, head falling forward jarringly. The woman ambled to a low desk by the wall, the echoing of her heels filling the room again, and leant against it.
“Now,” she said, reaching onto the desk and clicking on a recorder. “Ask the beast its price.”
They screwed their face up. “What?”
Caine flicked a hand dismissively. “Harris.”
The man to Jay’s side balled a fist and took a step toward them.
“Okay, okay, I’m doing it!” Jay quickly added. They turned their attention from Caine to the shadows. It wasn’t really an improvement.
Scraaaape. Scraaaape. Scraaaape.
Jay pushed their fears away as best they could, focusing. It was always easier if they could see the person—or thing—but they were skilled enough that it didn’t matter much. They inhaled slowly and began to project.
What are you? Jay thought at the creature.
The pacing stopped abruptly and Jay felt eyes on them.
It speaks the infernal? the creature mused. A moment passed then the realisation struck, that Jay was in its head. Jay didn’t need to see its face to know, they could feel the change on the air – and so could their captors. Both of them straightened, becoming more alert.
Jay sensed the thing throwing itself towards them and screamed just as a deafening thunderclap rang through the room. Everything that followed sounded muffled and far away. More thunder rang out, each strike bringing a flash of light. Jay saw the thing in brief glimpses, watching as it hurled itself against an invisible barrier. In one flash Jay saw a torso, frigid blue in colour. Another revealed an arm. Despite the hue, both looked human but it was a boar-like wail that came from the darkness.
Caine calmly reached behind herself, flicking a switch on the wall. Pain seared Jay’s eyes as brilliant white light flooded the room. Their eyelids were promptly jammed shut but even then it still hurt. The creature’s wailing intensified and they could narrowly hear it scrambling about. A last single thunderclap sounded before calm descended. As their ears began to recover, Jay heard sobbing.
First my body, invaded and violated, and now my mind, came wretched thoughts. They would take from me everything and leave me a husk.
“Tell that beast the light will stay on until it has answered our questions,” Caine said. Her voice was utterly unchanged. Unfeeling.
Jay peeled their eyes open, adjusting to the blazing, clinical glare. The room was properly visible now, a long, grey rectangle of smooth concrete. At Jay’s end were a few desks with paperwork, computers, the recorder and other equipment that they didn’t recognise. The other end was devoid of any furnishings but was covered in a web of black painted runes. The symbols were not like anything Jay had seen before, sharp angled and complex. Right at the far end, huddled in the corner, was the creature.
Human in shape, its skin was vibrant azure. Its only attire was a pair of ragged black trousers, a long, slim tail protruding from the back and wrapped close to it defensively. It faced away, giving the room a good view of the ridges that ran down its back and along its arms. Its hands and feet had long, black claws. Pointed ears rose up far above its head, quivering.
“Tell it!” Caine barked, and Jay flinched.
“All right, I’m doing it,” they replied, voice cracking. They returned focus to the miserable creature.
I’m sorry, Jay thought at it. I didn’t mean to hurt you. They reached out with their mind but with the stress and anxiety they could not concentrate enough to find purchase there. They clenched their teeth, exhaling sharply.
I am a prisoner here, came the deflated reply. You experiment on me. Burn at my flesh with your light, and you do not mean to hurt me?
Look at me, Jay urged, I’m as much a prisoner as you. They kidnapped me to talk to you.
Tell them to return the darkness.
They won’t, Jay told the creature, a little of their courage seeping back. Not until you answer.
It released a long, slow whine.
“Is it cooperating?” the woman asked.
“Slowly,” Jay said.
“Ask it its price.”
Jay took a deep breath. Who are you?
They care? the thing thought bitterly.
I was Gelethil, it replied. He was strong. Fearless. Now I am a worm, caged and broken.
That makes them the pricks, not you, Jay thought to it- to him. One of his long, sweeping ears twitched. How can I get you out of here?
That ear flicked again. You would help me? I would have gladly eaten you.
A cold prickle ran over their flesh, but they forced a calm demeanour. Eat them instead.
Finally, Gelethil turned his head from the cradle of his arms. Greasy black hair framed his face and his eyes were slits, braced against the light. His thin-lipped mouth burst into a wide, menacing grin, baring pointed teeth.
I like you, he thought.
Part 2 coming soon!