By Serena Wooten
Her heart was racing faster, as if she had just finished a marathon. At least my heart’s still beating, she encouraged herself. Her eyes were useless. With the black abyss that surrounded her, she had to keep reminding herself that her eyes were actually open. Her heart beat twice as fast with the spot of light she saw ahead. 'Almost there. I’m almost there!' A smile broke out across her face for the first time in months, the feeling tightening her cheeks and almost unrecognizable. She was so close to the light, the light she hadn't seen in eleven months. For a split second she regretted leaving the rest of them behind, but the guilt passed. When freedom is denied for so long, the overwhelming desire leaves no room for guilt. She could feel dirt and rocks beginning to cut into her palm, the ground beginning to have some semblance of warmth. 'Almost there! Yes!' She touched it. For one glorious moment, she was able to touch the heavenly sunlight and rejoice, before her foot was restricted and she was yanked back by her hair. She wailed in despair, her last chance of freedom ripped away from her. 'Idiot!' her conscious scolded her, 'You took too long! They've found you again!' She screamed and kicked with all her might, but it only tightened the grip. Her cries spontaneously stopped as a cloth was stuffed down her throat. “Shut her up! Shut her up!” A voice barked. She was dragged back into the darkness. Her throat tightened as the words were spoken into a communicator, “Prisoner 667824 detained.” She felt a sharp prick, and then the world started to spin. “Good, bring her to me.” Now it was time for her punishment.
It was a strange thing to not have a concept of time. It was that point where day and night are no longer polar opposites, and minutes, hours, days - they all seem like theoretical concepts, as if they were words Aristotle just pulled out of nowhere. Luna used to take advantage of time. 'No not Luna anymore', She reminded herself. 'Your name is 667824'. No name. No identity except the one they want you to have. 667824. The metal cuffs dug into her wrist. Titanium. It assured that she wouldn't get out. 'They are afraid of me'. This thought filled her with pride. The feeling evaporated the second the heavy door creaked open in the solitary room. A broad shouldered woman stepped through. Ms. Mortia (aka the “Mortician”) was a woman who people could recognize as once being considered beautiful, but somewhere along the road life had kicked her down one too many times. Her figure was as thin and sharp as a blade, her pale oblivion eyes emulating. Her glossy acrylic nails were so long and sharp that they could give the talons of an eagle a run for their money, her hair pitch black with streaks of silver and grey coursing through was pulled back into a tight, controlling bun. “667824”, her voice sliced through the air, holding an incessant undercurrent of condescension. She mocked them for the state she put them in. 'A sadist takes pride in recognizing suffering. It's hedonism for them to decode the pain others choose to ignore'. Smack! The sharp sound that cut through the silence awoke her from her deviating thoughts. How Ms. Mortia was able to move across the room so fast eluded her. She felt the warmth of fresh blood spilling across her cheek from the point of where her nails made contact with her skin. “667824, you answer me.” “Yes, Miss?” She barely recognized her own voice. So timid. So broken. “Is it true that you tried to escape via hatch 327?” 'Yes'. “Yes.” “Is it true that prisoner 662348 tried to assist you in planning?” 'Yes.' “No.” Smack! 667824 clinched her teeth together to hold in a submissive whimper. “Yes.” She gave in with a defeated sigh. There's no point in lying anymore. They live in lies. This facility is a lie. All of our lives are lies. Ms. Mortia gripped her chin and forced her head up, making 667824 look her directly in the eyes. “It's not good to lie, is it?” The question was patronizingly sweet. Hypocrite. “No.” 667824 responded sharply. Ms. Mortia’s smile was a shark’s - vicious and hungry. “Good. Now, do you know where 662348 is?” Probably dead,she thought. 667824 looked down once more. “No, Miss.” She saw the hand move out of the corner of her eye and flinched, awaiting the pain that would come, but it only tilted her chin up once more to meet the cruel smile. “Yes you do. Would you like to see him?” No. “No thanks, Miss.” “Just as well,” Ms. Mortia waved off. “There's not much of him left.” 'She's trying to get a reaction out of me,' she thought. So all 667824 did was stare, not challenging nor submitting, but instead showing that she was refusing to shed a single tear for a boy who hadn't learned that being benevolent was the equivalent of signing your own death sentence. She could see the Mortician’s eyes tighten in frustration. “667824, do you know what the punishment is for attempting to escape?” “Death.” Simple. Easy. “No. I like you. So I'll make an exception.” No, please. “I will let you back out again.” No. It can’t be that easy. “All you have to do is follow the Order. Just one last time.” The prisoner gulped. “And if I refuse?” The Mortician’s eyes darkened. “I may not be authorized to kill you 667824, but we both know that there are things worse than death. Death would bring you peace. Oh, no. I will make sure that peace is a term you are only able to glance at in the Bible. Not only will you never see the precious light of day again, but I will make sure that you will beg me to kill you once I’m done with you.” The Mortician spat out “peace” as if it were blasphemy. The prisoner wriggled in her seat. She finally gave a sigh of resignation. “When do I start?” Ms. Mortia smiled that sabertooth smile once more as the door creaked open. The doctor walked through, a guard standing behind him to block the only exit. “Is she ready?” he asked, his voice monotone. “Of course!” Ms Mortia leaned over her prisoner. “You start now.” 667824 was released from the table, only to be bound in portable titanium cuffs. As she was herded out the door, the Mortician grabbed her arm and lifted her chin once more. “Remember 667824, you are being watched. We are watching you. Don't think for a second that if you fail this task we won’t follow through on our promises.” Not a threat. A promise.
She was released and ushered down the hall. I wonder how long it’ll take for them to kill me this time.
And that was how Raelyn woke up in the middle of the night, sweating and crying out in anguish, yet not recalling a single thing.
Lit. Mag. Staff
Table of Contents
~"Sonnet" by Pavan Dayal (Poetry)
~"The Five Performers" by Javier Flores (Poetry)
~"Don't Forget to Remember" by Jillian Wolstromer (Fiction)
~"Waterfall" by Tianna Perry (Poetry)
~"Bipliophile" by Ye Yee Mary Song (Artwork)
~"In the Dark?" by Maya Tisdale (Poetry)
~"Outcast" by Michaela Gathings (Poetry)
~"I am Woman" by Oluwajoba Ogun (Poetry)
~"Enigma" by Serena Wooten (Fiction)
~"Robbery on the Dusty Road" by Emily Guettler (Fiction)
~"Seasons and Relationships" by Kaylee Kalaf (Poetry)
~"Lullaby" by Caitlyn Doan (Poetry)
~"The Crown" by Olivia King (Fiction)
~"Skull" by Ye Yee Mary Song (Artwork)
~"Dying Ugly" by Maya Tisdale (Poetry)
~"The Haunts of Brynmor House" by Emily Guettler (Fiction)
~"Swamp Town" by Samuel Asabor (Fiction)