I Am No Prey by Amal Clare May 25, 2021

9-A Version of Hell

I was brimming with curiosity by the time the elevator doors opened and he led me outside. Outside, there was a parking lot to the left and then a road that winded off the main street in the distance. I turned around and took a few steps back, looking at the base. It was huge. As soon as we got back inside, I wanted to memorize where every single room was. 

It still wasn't dawn. It was that time of day when the sky was a dark blue and you could see despite the absence of the sun. 

"Great, now what are we going to do?" 

"You are going to run laps around the building." 

I gulped. "Uh, how many?" 

He smiled. "Twelve." 

I looked down at what I was wearing. Baggy shirt, baggy pants, and no bra. "You're serious?" 

"Very." 

I planted my feet in the ground. "I don't have to listen to you." 

"It's that or you learn how to fly. And if you refuse I will take you to the roof and throw you. Don't think I won't, sweetheart." 

I let out a sigh. I could barely move my wings without straining the muscles of my back and stomach, let alone fly with them. Now I knew why Drakhenae were so fit. 

"Fine, I'll run." 

It wasn't like I had anything better to do trapped in a military base. Keeping a firm grip on my pants, I started running. By the first lap, my chest hurt. By the second I was jogging, barely. By the third I threw up whatever was in my stomach. The wings weren't helping. Worse, they were still wet from the shower and even heavier. 

"Why aren't you running?" I panted at Everard, my hands on my knees. 

"Wouldn't want to make you feel bad, I can run the full thing in twelve minutes." 

I think I already took double that much time with three laps. 

"How many miles is twelve laps around the whole thing?" 

He smiled again. "Five. Now hurry up, you need to get back inside before everyone wakes up." 

"Why?" 

"Because they take one look at your wings and soon the Commander will know exactly what you are. Now quit wasting my time." 

I glared at him and continued running. Eventually I developed a pattern. When I was on the side of the building without Everard, I walked, and when I reached the other side, I ran. By the ninth lap that trick stopped working when I heard wingbeats and looked up to see him flying above. For a moment I just stopped and stared at him. He stopped too, staying in one spot, wings beating to keep him midair. If his wings were feathered and white, I would've mistaken him for an angel. Then he spoke and ruined it. 

"Hurry up before I grab you and fling you off the roof." 

I gave him a gesture and continued running. Though by this point it was more of a half-walk, half-jog. By the twelve lap, I collapsed on the ground. Literally. I flopped onto my back, chest heaving and legs shaking from the exertion. 

I saw Everard stalk closer and then crouch down, laughing. 

"Come on, get up, it's almost dawn. Oh and your time was an hour, sweetheart." 

I glared at him and pulled myself upward. When I stood up, my legs were shaking, my back was screaming at me from the weight of the wings, and my stomach starved, but I ignored them and pushed past him and into the building. I wanted another shower, desperately. More than that, though, I wanted to fling him off a roof. 

In the elevator, I mulled over the strange shadows yesterday, or rather, how I made them that way. Did that only happen when I was angry? But even though I didn't have wings for as long as I could remember, wouldn't everything else had shown? The clearer vision, heightened senses, the shadows? According to the file, papa gave me the ability to control fire too. Freaking fire. When was that going to show? 

"I have proof that I'm not from Operation Phoenix or whatever," I told him, triumphant. "If I did have freaky powers, they would've shown before in my life, it's not like they're linked to the wings or anything." 

As soon as I said the words, I realized that was probably the case. 

He gave me a look. "Of course they're linked to your wings, that's what made cutting them off so effective. A true genius whoever came up with it." 

"It was papa." 

I still couldn't believe that he experimented on me. 

"Oh, I know." 

"How?" 

He pushed off the wall when the doors opened and walked out. I rushed after him. 

"I make it my business to know things." 

What a cryptic answer. He wasn't too far off from answering my questions in riddles. 

I changed the subject. "Well I don't want any of these freaky shadow and fire controlling powers." 

"There's a name for those 'freaky' powers. Umbrakinesis and Pyrokinesis." 

I rolled my eyes. 

"And the only solution is cutting off your wings." 

"You can't seriously think that I'm not going to do that the first chance I get." 

"You won't be saying that when you learn how to fly." 

I pushed past him and into the room I stayed the night before. This time, there was an armoire against the wall. I checked and found them filled with clothes my size. The sight should have comforted me. I didn't have to wear baggy, sagging clothes anymore, but they were only another reminder of my indefinite stay here, and if the Commander found out, my stay would get even worse. 

"What's to keep the Commander from finding out about me?" I asked him. 

"Yesterday I told him that the experiment failed on you and you died instead of turning Drakhenae. He has no reason to not believe me." 

"Then why are you keeping me here? When can I go back home?" 

"This is your new home, sweetheart, for now." 

Before I could say another word, he left, leaving me alone to wonder just what exactly he wanted with me and what it would get for him to tell me. 

Somehow, Marie and Anne got my size exactly right. Eagerly I pick out the clothes and take another shower. A long one. It was almost impossible for me to turn the water off and step out. 

Ten minutes later and I was back in the room, sitting on the bed and wondering just what I was going to do. I wanted to explore the building and find a way to escape but with all the soldiers below awake, that was impossible. What I wanted more than that was food. I missed my attempts at cooking. Right now, half starved and exhausted, I missed my home so much it was like a physical ache. Was it really only two days ago that I was packing for here? I missed my aunt, my friends, my apartment and half finished gadgets. Right now I even missed my history teacher with his dry jokes. 

Instead of moping, I tried to practice the shadows and fire, or as Everard put it, the pyrokinesis and umbrakinesis. I stopped when I heard the elevator ring and the heavy steps of boots. That definitely wasn't Everard. His footfalls were softer. Only a day and a half and I was distinguishing people by their footfalls. I needed help. 

There was also the sound of wheels rolling across the concrete tiles. What now? Was that a cart full of tools and medical equipment? Everard said he didn't want the Commander to know about me, but that didn't mean that he wouldn't turn me into a lab rat. In a beat I was off the bed and standing beside the door, hands fisted and tense, my heart a wild tempo in my chest. When the door knob turned, I pressed myself harder against the wall, and watched the door swing inward. Someone walked in pushing a cart and I didn't think twice. I pounced.