I sat back, totally in shock. Gryphons don’t exist. And that thing was HUGE! How did they do that? Was that a costume? I got up, my joints aching in protest, and walked to the end of my chain, and tried to peer down the hall a little further, but I couldn’t see anything else.
I frowned, and went to sit back near where I was chained. What kind of place was this anyway?! I watched the door until it was opened once again. The woman from before came through the door, petting on a wiggly nosed rabbit, her laquered nails stroking through its white fur. Behind her a needly little man bearing a clip-board followed. He wasn’t as tall as she was, then again, he wasn’t wearing heels either. I’ll admit, I didn’t pay him much attention.
She smiled down at me. “How are you feeling?” She asked.
“My..joints hurt.” I admitted. “I think the cold’s getting to me. My fingertips are pinpricking…” I said, rubbing them together, trying to get the blood to them, the way I did when they were asleep.
“You’re so…honest.” She said with a chuckle. “That will come in handy if we’re to help you, twenty three.” She said.
I blinked and tilted my head. “Twenty three?” I asked, watching the rabbit struggle briefly. Something about that struggle caught my attention again, and that feeling of anticipation returned, like waiting to go on stage, or wait for your name to be called for a grand prize. I felt my eyes fix on the rabbit, I didn’t want to look away. It was going to get away from her, and when it did…
“Ah, yes.” She said, making me jump, jerking me from my thoughts. “That’s your number, dearest. Seventy one twenty three.”
I frowned a little. “That’s not my name.” I said, rolling the digits around my my head. It didn’t sound right at all. She chuckled.
“It may not be your name, little one,” her voice was cold as she stroked the rabbit’s head lovingly, her long crimson nails making it kick a little uncomfortably. “But it’s what we will call you.”
The needly little man behind her frowned, and shifted to where he could get a better look, at me, I guess.
“It’s thin.” He said, frowning. “The other one was fit.”
The woman hissed a breath to the man. “Sh!” she snapped. She smiled back to me. “You must be hungry.” She said, looking down at me.
“Not really.” I said. Thirsty, yes, but I was more confused than anything. “I want to know what’s going on.” I was finally getting the hang of this breathing and speaking thing. “What’s wrong with me?”
The woman chuckled. “Are you going to be a good boy?” she asked. “You were hungry yesterday.” She kneeled down again. “I saw it in your eyes when I touched you.” she purred. “Come to me, let me see that again.”
I drew away, I didn’t want her to touch me again, I didn’t want her to do whatever she’d done yesterday that had left me feeling so aching and hollow. I felt my lips curl away from my teeth and I hissed. I don’t know why I did, it just felt like the right thing to do.
The woman blinked, looking at me. Her expression hardened, and she stood, took a few steps back, as if gauging a distance, and pulled a knife from somewhere behind her back and drove it into the rabbit. I must have shouted “No!” and leaped for her, because I suddenly found myself on my ass at the end of my chain, gagging and coughing. She regarded me at her feet the same way a toddler looks at a particularly disgusting insect, and dropped the still twitching rabbit carcass to the floor. “We’re here to help you, twenty three.” She said, her voice ringing in my ears. “If you won’t let us, you will find it very difficult.”
“But you were supposed to feed it…” The needly man was whining, pawing at his glasses, as if adjusting them would somehow adjust the world around him. “How am I supposed to study anything if you don’t follow project protocol?”
“I did.” She said. “We’re leaving. Now.” She snapped, and the man went with her, scurrying along like some kind of roach in a labcoat.
I looked at the rabbit’s corpse in its little puddle of blood and felt sad for it. The more I looked at it, the angrier I got. She hadn’t of needed to kill it! And for what? For a show? What did it prove? That she could kill me? I was on a chain! I felt myself get up and begin to pace at the end of the length, near the puddle of white fluff and gore. I’d show her, I thought to myself as I looked at the dark puddle once again. I’d show her she wouldn’t be able to hurt me the way she hurt that rabbit. I drew a breath to growl at it, and i smelled its blood.
It was so much richer than the scent I was used to, deeper, with things in it that I couldn’t even begin to describe. As I breathed that scent into my lungs again, I felt it touch places I didn’t recognize. That feeling of excitement uncurled in my stomach, tickling across the beginnings of pain deep in my body, an oddly suggestive tug in my stomach, almost a lurch. I was hit with the thought of burying my face in the animal’s body and biting and chewing at it. These thoughts brought on a new sensation, a near pleasurable ache across my upper jaw.
All of these new feelings were impossible to ignore, and they swept me along like a twig in a torrent, tearing any rational thoughts from me, and leaving me a shivering mess of painful lust.
It was a sight that brought me back to myself. I realized I was stretched across the floor, reaching for the corpse. I saw my hand stretched out as far as it could go, long fingers clenching, clawing, just barely touching the bloody puddle the small white body had landed in, and I felt a pain in my neck, a cutting pain that I simply hadn’t paid attention to before. The thing that really messed me up was when I noticed something had changed.
One of the things that you’re very aware of as a person is your teeth. Just get a little something stuck in them, and you’re licking and sucking at it for hours until you can get it back to normal. It was that abnormal, that I felt it without even using my tongue. I drew my hand back away from the carcass just out of reach, and pushed myself to sitting once more, using my tongue to feel the foreign shapes against my lips.
They felt huge. Two gigantic tusks descended from my upper jaw, on either side of my mouth where my eye-teeth were supposed to be. As I slid my tongue along them, I got a bit of a thrill, a sensation I wasn’t used to at all. Almost a tickle, almost a shiver inducing ache. I frowned, before I touched my teeth with my hands, feeling the slender sharp points curve gracefully.
I laughed. It was all I really could do. Nothing made sense. These teeth hadn’t been there earlier, because if they HAD they wouldn’t have felt so damn alien. I slid my fingers over them, partially because it felt good to do, and secondly because it was just too much.
And then I tasted blood. I had barely brushed the blood from the rabbit’s corpse, but I tasted it on my finger, and it was like the sweetest drink of water. I dragged my tongue over my dirty disgusting finger, the dry surface of my tongue scraping roughly. I could hear how it scraped, and I just didn’t care, I wanted to taste that flavor again. I looked to the corpse again, and rushed it. I don’t know why I did, it didn’t make any sense, my body just had a mind of its own. I put my shoulders into it, feeling the collar at my throat cut into my skin, but getting that corpse in my hand was all I cared about, tasting that blood one more time…
I lowered my head and tried to tighten the muscles around my shoulders, leaning away from where the chain was anchored. I snarled, not a sound I’d made before, and tried to pull the chain away from the wall.
I’m not entirely sure why I did it. But it felt similar to when I’d broken my hand punching a wall. Not my crowning moment of brains, and neither was this. I looked down, to push myself into the effort again, but then I realized I was bleeding. Blood was dripping from the collar. It wasn’t just cutting into my skin, it was actually cutting my flesh! That snapped me out of my stupidity, and sanity came rushing back.
I backed away from the blood, coughing, my hands at my throat, not caring how dirty they were, as I tried to stop the bleeding. I had damn near cut my own throat trying to get to a rabbit’s corpse to bury my face in it, and tear it apart with my teeth.
My willing participation in removing myself from the situation as far as I could, back against the wall with the chain’s anchor, was rewarded with another cramping pain in my gut. I groaned and curled forward, trying to wrap myself up around the hurt. I gasped raggedly, as whatever was causing the pain abated a little. It was like the worst hunger pangs I’d ever experienced, and the pain of my appendix, just before it had tried to kill me.
I concentrated on that thought, the vague memory I had of a woman looking down at me, stroking my hair back, promising me that I’d be alright, as I, a terrified boy of 14 grabbed for her and was whisked away through a hospital. I tried to remember the woman’s name, because her face was so familar, black hair pulled back into a serious braid away from gentle hazel eyes.
“Mom.” I gasped, whimpering. It wasn’t okay now. Not at all.
It took a while for the pain to fade, and I learned to take little breaths so that I didn’t smell the rabbit’s blood, as the scent of it threatened to send me into another insane fit. Instead I huddled against the wall, and replayed the now clear memory of the scene in the hospital through my mind.
The woman’s name was Lily. She was my mother, and she had been a nurse. She’d recognized the signs of impending appendix failure, and had taken me to the hospital as quickly as she’d been able. I remember twisting in agony in the passenger seat. And then…it got better. I told her so and that just made her drive faster.
Through reviewing this lone memory, I tried to hear my name. I called her ‘Mom’ and she called me “Honey.” I seriously doubted my name was Honey, I’d remember getting teased about that.
I sorted through the memory of doctors and nurses, faces that were barely faces in the fuzzy realm of the past. A mask came into my vision, and that was the end of it.
I uncurled my body, and lifted my shirt. Something here didn’t feel right either, but, as I looked, there was indeed an appendectomy scar on my lower abdomen. I touched it, trying to associate other memories with it.
“So it tried to kill you?” She asked, laughing, her warm fingers sliding along the old wound.
“Yeah.” I said, smiling. “Okay, it’s a lot less dramatic than that. My appendix burst, and the doctors saved me. So, I’m here today” I said, trying to pull my shirt back down, and my pants back up over my hip. I was self conscious, and, nervous.
She giggled. “Lucky for me.” The girl with hair like clover honey said, nuzzling my nose gently.
I frowned, there wasn’t much of that memory either, just the ghost of lingering warmth on my skin.
I began inspecting myself for other scars. As I found them, I could identify what they were from. Like how the teeth of a saw had given me one on my left hand, and the repeated stab wounds of needle marks in my right arm from medical testing. Mom had been worried about … something.
Was that something what was wrong with me? Was that why I was here now?