I Am No Prey by Amal Clare May 25, 2021

18-Burn Bright

The wind ruffled my hair and I took a deep breath of the crisp outside scent, it smelled of citrus and flowers. The wind rustled the leaves of the trees that surrounded the base, and beyond that, I could make out the yellow glow of citylights. 

I stretched out my wings and exhaled. It wasn't about leaving anymore, it was about hiding now. That was why I was barely prepared and had only a vague plan in my head and it was also why I didn't care that I was leaving in what could be the least furtive way possible. I was going to escape through the window, not caring and fly away. In truth, I was probably most excited and nervous to be able to fly in the open. I would have to rely on hope and my shadows that no one else flying or any one below would look up and see my wings, wings that were like a bird's instead of reptilian like. Slowly, I pulled myself up, tucking my wings tighter and gripping the ledge harder, but I stopped. They had my blood. What would be the point of escaping if they still had my blood? Who knew what they would do with it? 

I slid back to the floor and thrust the bag I filched under the bed. Quietly, I stepped out, peering outside and stepping quietly, then I chided myself. I knew he had better hearing, walking quietly, or trying to wasn't going to help me in any way. Speed was my only option, so I rushed to the elevator, pressed for the basement and repeatedly pressed the button for the doors to close, and they did without Everard popping up. I let out a sigh of relief and leaned my forehead against the cool metal. If things went according to plan, I'd live the rest of my life in hiding, if they didn't, then I'd still be a prisoner and a step up from a lab rat. It was a lose-lose situation, but at least going into hiding was my choice. 

When I arrived at the medical rooms, the hallway lights were off, everything cast in darkness. As soon as I stepped out of the elevator, the lights turned on, detecting my motion. I refused to believe that Everard was here and turned on the lights to mess with me. He didn't seem like the type. 

I went to the room I had taken the tests for the past few days and let out a sigh of relief. They were right there, two vials, one pure red, the other with a blue tinge. I didn't hesitate and emptied the contents in the small sink. Letting out a breath, I turned around and rushed to the elevator. Done with the detour, time to fly away and hide for the rest of my life. When did my life get so bleak? I quit sympathizing with myself and kept my mind blank instead. I cringed at the ding that sounded when it opened. When I stepped into the hall, it was empty. I relaxed slightly. No sign of Everard.

 I focused on the shadows and they leapt off the wall, almost as if they were eager to do my bidding. With no effort, they covered my wings, and like an artist would layer a painting, I darkened the shadows, and made them take the shape of a Drakhenae's wings. They didn't look very realistic, but from a distance it would be believable. In my room, I had left the window open and jumped out, unfurling my wings and flapping them. 

Flying outside was infinitely better than flying in the wind tunnel and I wanted to let out a whoop of joy and laugh. Instead, I flew higher until I caught a draft and leveled out, at awe with the city below. There were many others flying in the sky, some children chasing each other and daring each other to fly higher. 

It was beautiful, the city lights illuminating the buildings and parks. I remembered staring at a postcard of Rome when I was younger, and now that I was seeing it in person I couldn't take it all in fast enough. If I could, I would've toured it, visited every tourist site and regional park. I probably would've walked around the entire city until I had every place mapped out in my head. 

Letting out a wistful sigh, I flew higher and higher, not caring that my wings were beginning to get sore because I had never felt this way before. Felt utterly free and light. I veered left, heading towards the countryside. I flew into a cloud, and this time, I let out a shout of happiness, grinning. I didn't know how long it would take to get to the countryside, but I knew I couldn't fly for half the night, let alone the full night. Already I needed to stop and rest. 

Without meaning to, my thoughts went to Everard. Did he realize I left by now? I told myself that I imagined the pang of regret and I wondered how Daniel would take to my disappearance. Would he miss me? Stop thinking like that, I scolded myself. 

Eventually, the only thing that did snap me out of my thoughts was the sound of wingbeats. I stopped flying ahead, staying in place and looking around. It was hard to see anything in the night, and the clouds around me were thick, but the sound of wing beats were getting closer and closer. It was impossible for me to tell from where though and I had no idea where to go. Higher? Down? If I could hear whoever was there, he/she could hear me. So I did exactly what Daniel told me not to do until I had enough practice. I tucked my wings in midflight. For a moment, there was a feeling of weightlessness, as if time itself stopped. And then I dropped like a stone. The wind rushed past my ears, pulling at my wings, and my vision blurred as my eyes watered. I closed my eyes shut, then opened them. I'd have to know when to spread my wings out again. 

As the ground came closer, I tensed, waiting for the right moment. This was crazy. I never found out whether I would've done it correctly or not because with no warning, a hand wrapped around my ankle. My stomach lurched when whoever it was spread their wings out and abruptly stopped my drop. I flapped my wings, but I was upside down, my world disoriented and the grip on my ankle was unrelenting. So I gave up and crossed my arms over my waist to keep my shirt in place. Tilting my head down, I found blue-green eyes boring into mine, furious. 

"And what are you doing?" he snapped.

"Escaping, clearly." 

"We're going back, now," he growled out, pulling me up and flipping me right side up as if I were a sack of potatoes. 

No. I was done with that place and him. His secrets and the reminder that I would never get home, so I lashed out, kicking and punching. At least I tried to punch, kicking was easier. I made contact with what I hoped was his spleen, and he let out an oof, but I was still caught. I kicked again, harder, and tried to push back with my wings. And then I made contact with his jaw. That filled me up with a sense of satisfaction that only increased when he finally let go. I didn't waste a moment and shot out of his grasp, flying down to the city. There was no way I would escape him flying or running. I had to hide. I landed hard against the ground, and bolted into the alleyways and shadows. 

I ran faster and faster, adrenaline and anger urging me on. I stuck to the shadows and walls. When my thighs began to ache and my lungs burned, I stopped, listening. I heard nothing. It was silent, too silent in the outskirts of Rome. I knew Everard, he never gave up. I was a mouse in a trap I couldn't even see. 

I stayed until my breathing calmed and tentatively, I stepped away from the wall, looking up. The skies were empty, so were the streets and from what I could tell, the closed shops. I let out a breath, could I have just gotten lucky? I stepped onto the street, debating with myself whether to fly away. 

I didn't get to make the choice when I saw a flurry of movement in the corner of my vision and then someone barrelled into me, roughly pushing me against the wall. I winced at the pain that flared in my wings. 

"Do you-" 

I didn't let him finish. I punched him in the jaw and tried to knee him. He saw both coming and grabbed my wrist with my hand and my knee with the other. I made a move with my other hand. He grabbed that one too and when I struggled in vain, he pinned both my hands above my head. 

"Let me go!" I seethed, my shadows were writhing over us, their whispers loud in my ears. I tried shoving him off with my body. 

That was a wrong move, because now we were touching everywhere, and I wanted to puke at the proximity. 

He tsked. "So violent." 

"Violent! I'll show you violent!" 

"You should know it's only getting me on." 

I sputtered an incoherent reply. That was disturbing, on so many levels. And then I head slammed my head against his. He let out a yelp of pain and I used the moment to push against him and run. I didn't make it five steps before he yanked me back by the collar. 

"Dammit!" I yelled. 

"Wrong answer." 

He wrapped his arms around me, pinning my arms to my sides and squeezing hard enough that I couldn't even budge. 

"You monstrous, vile-" 

I felt something hard press against my earlobe and slowly realized that he nipped it. And then flicked his tongue over it. What the-? 

"Anyone ever tell you it's rude to call people names?" 

"When it comes to you, I make an exception." 

"Still the wrong answer." 

I let out a moan of frustration. But I was nothing if not stubborn, and like hell I wasn't going to try again, because I would try again, and again, and again. 

"Fine, I won't run." 

"And?" 

"Fly away." 

"And?" 

I groaned, now would be a really great time for me to master whatever control I had over fire. Too bad nothing happened. "Fine. I make no promises about not trying to hurt you, it can be too hard at times." 

"Perfect," he murmured, and launched into the sky with no warning, pulling a shriek out of me.

By the time my racing heart calmed down and I no longer felt like throwing up, I noticed that he shifted from tightly pinning my arms in place to having one arm beneath my knees and the other around my shoulders. Never mind that I had wings and was perfectly capable of flying. It made me want to punch him again. When we neared the military sector, and I remembered the small boy who only wanted his brother, bile rose in my throat. I wanted to ask him why and how he was okay with doing something like that. I highly doubted he would give me an honest answer, and I knew that the next time I tried to escape, it wouldn't be until I hurt him, and in a way he would forever remember. 

*******

It was no surprise that I was in a horrible mood the next day. I'd been so close, so close to escaping. 

The fact that Daniel was crushing me with his weight right now didn't help at all either. And struggling didn't get him off. 

"You're in another one of your moods today, don't worry you'll get it. You just need to roll your hips and try to push me off." 

"I am trying to push you off! And rolling my hips isn't helping!" 

He was teaching me in defence again today, and had explained that when it came to this, it was always harder for females to get the person off, having less body mass and slimmer torsos. Before, I had scoffed, how hard could it be? It was very hard. Emphasis on very. And it wasn't like I could ask him to show me, because every time I tried doing it to him, he just gripped my hips and literally lifted me off him. I had a feeling he was enjoying this particular lesson a lot. 

I gave a shriek of frustration, and tried to lift him off me, only failing. 

"If I were someone else, I'd either have taken advantage of you now or you'd be dead." 

"So glad to know my virtue and life are safe with you." 

His grin turned feral. "For now." 

I hoped he was talking about the former. 

"Oh God, you're so heavy." 

"There are many who would do anything to be in your position right now." 

That was it. I called the shadows to spring off the wall, turning them into snakes that slithered toward him out of nowhere. Even though they couldn't actually be felt, Daniel's eyes widened in alarm and he got off me. Instantly, the snakes turned back into regular shadows and I got up. 

"And what if someone did that to you in the dark, complete dark with no shadows?" 

He had a point. I shrugged, even though I needed these lessons badly. Even though Everard ended hauling me back here, I did hold my own against him longer than expected. 

"Rolling my hips isn't working." 

"You're right, although that does work for other things." 

I ignored the suggestive, mischievous look he gave me. 

"Stick to the point Daniel." My patience was another thing affected by last night. 

He let out a sigh, the one he made whenever I was being no fun. "Fine, until you get it, just bang the person with your head or....try to distract them." 

I grimaced and gave him a glare. He ignored it and grabbed a piece of gauze like cloth from a chair and walked up to me. Taking my hands, he slowly wrapped the cloth around my knuckles and palm. I watched his expression as he gently wrapped the cloth around my other hand, his gaze intent. When a lock of hair fell over his eyes, I wanted to reach over and brush it back. 

He looked up then. I expected him to smirk or say something suggestive now that he caught me staring, but he stayed quiet and held my stare, his green eyes brighter. I broke away first, taking a step back. I fisted my hands and lifted them up, getting into position. He got into position and we started, me mainly dodging and him clearly trying to restrain himself. 

Eventually, I wasn't fighting Daniel but Everard, and I'd never make it out if he always managed to beat me. Before I knew it, I was going from defensive to offensive, not trying to go soft and not being tactical. It was Everard and I wanted him to hurt like he hurt me. Hurt me when he reminded me that all I would ever be was a captive and that he wasn't who I thought he was. 

"Cerise!" 

I stopped, panting hard, sweat beading between my shoulder blades and making my hair stick to my neck. 

"What?" 

"Getting angry and letting your emotions rule you when it comes to a fight are not going to make you win. It will do the opposite." 

"Yes, sensei," I grumbled. 

He stepped closer and tucked a wayward strand of hair behind my ear, his hand lingering. 

"What's wrong?" 

I shouldn't tell him, I didn't even know if he reported everything back to Everard anyway. "I can't take it in here anymore." 

It was true, other than wanting to escape Everard, I wanted to escape here, the same thing everyday, being confined to this floor and a prisoner in everything but name. It could be worse, I knew, but it was starting to feel more and more like a prison. I knew it also sounded ungrateful, but I missed my old life, and I missed touch to the point that I craved it. 

His eyes grew distant, and his fingers played with a strand of my hair, absently, but hesitantly, almost as if he wanted to for a long time and was unsure if the gesture was welcome. 

"It's almost sunset, the acrobats usually perform and I want you to know that if your life wasn't at risk, then we'd go." 

Hope sparked in me. Going to see acrobats seemed...normal after everything. And I needed that, badly. 

"What about now?" 

Like before, the shadows covered my wings, and I added to them, making the illusion seem more real and more like a Drakhenae's wings. 

He grinned and reached out, running his hands over my wings. I shuddered. 

"Great. Now let me show you Rome."