Chapter 9: Life in Captivity

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Chapter 9: Life in Captivity

Boras was true to his word. My life in the compound was eating, being eaten and twice weekly being hosed down with freezing cold water, with my clothes on. Except during that womanly time of the month, when the hose-downs were daily. I refused to speculate about what the monsters might be doing with the sanitary napkins Boras supplied and then dutifully collected – though only after I'd sealed them in airtight Ziploc baggies for him. I was on twenty-four-hour lockdown, seven days a week. Solitary confinement consisting of long stretches of boredom, divided by brief interludes of hell, with clockwork regularity.

Boras also had a guard installed at the door. I heard the two of them talk often, but I never saw him. My keeper and the king were my sole visitors.

As my imprisonment stretched into days, then weeks, hopelessness took root and grew, polluting my soul.

Boras remained stoic and uncommunicative. Apart from the orders he squawked at me – Shove your plate over here! Hand me your mattress! Hold still and let me bandage this! – he refused to answer my questions or humour my pitiful attempts at small talk. When the loneliness became too crushing, I began talking to myself, afraid if stopped speaking altogether, I might forget how. Or maybe I was just going crazy.

I worried about that. Whether I would or already was. And I worried that worrying about it would be the thing that tipped the boat, plunging me into the turbulent, bottomless sea of insanity.

What concerned me most, though, were the moments I caught myself thinking I might be okay with that.

The wobbly scratches in the wall now numbered more than five dozen. During the first couple of weeks, I'd been ambitious: I spent four days chipping away at the concrete around the plate securing me to the wall with the edge of my right shackle, only giving up when my wrist was bruised black from the repeated reverberations and so swollen the cuff was beginning to cut off circulation. After that, I spend another half-week trying to pry open one of the chain links, but it wouldn't budge.

At one point, I became so distraught I even tried to "activate" my powers, which like everything else, proved useless, since I didn't have any. The two days of fruitless meditation and concentration and focusing really pounded that home.

Without anything else to do, I went back to reliving my old life over and over again in my head. Every birthday, every Christmas, every date, every field trip, every stupid party. When that wasn't enough, I tried to dredge up details about those events I'd forgotten. And when I could mine nothing more from my own experiences, I gave myself over to my imagination with wanton abandon, dreaming up new episodes for all the TV shows I couldn't watch anymore, and even fixing up Anna and Henry in my head. Someone deserved to be happy. They not only went to the spring dance together, but every one after that, for ever after. I rode unicorns and comets, ran with tigers, and slept beneath the starry sky every single night.

I created a whole world inside of myself. And I spent more and more of my time there.

Sometimes I still cried, but not often.

My hours with the king hardened me. Over time, I found a way to distance myself from his excruciating ministrations and deny him my screams. Though, the first time I did this, he left me with a bruised rib. The next time, he gave me two black eyes. The last time, he peeled my fingernails off one by one, like the tops of pop cans. I sure as hell screamed then. Three nails in, Boras stepped into the doorway of my cell and asked him to stop, said my wailing was upsetting the other cattle.

Later, I realized that was likely a lie, as none of my screaming bothered them before. They hadn't even responded when I'd shouted at them through my door. Had Boras shown me a small mercy? I wondered, knowing neither of us would ever acknowledge it.

Not one of those nails had started to grow back yet.

Just another disfiguration to add to the rest that riddled my body, scabbed-up evidence of what the king had taken and how. My skin was a roadmap of his mealtime sadism. Sometimes I traced the wounds he left behind – lumpy, painful, ugly tracks of thick, pocked flesh covered my limbs and torso; in those moments, I thought it might be better to die down here, forgotten and anonymous. Even if by some miracle I escaped, how would I ever live a normal life? I'd never wear a dress again or a swimsuit or even a t-shirt and shorts. If I did, I'd forever be explaining away my gnarled, bark-like skin, an accident victim with no believable tragedy to call her own – mauled by a pack of dogs, maybe? Perhaps people would think I'd done this to myself and lock me in another small room, the only difference being fewer monsters and more padding on the walls.

As the first two months of my captivity drew to a close, I started sleeping more.

I told myself I was just tired, but deep down inside I knew I was giving up. Just because I wasn't willing to admit they'd broken me, didn't mean they hadn't.

Now, every time I heard that prison door swing open, I turned my head just like the rest of the cows. Not because I was waiting for food or waiting to become food or because I could see anything – I couldn't – but because it broke up the monotony. Even Boras was more interesting to look at than my sparse lodgings and ruined flesh.

But lately I'd been sleeping through that too, forcing the king to drag me to my feet before sinking his fangs into me. The scars he left behind were always ten times worse when he had to do that, but what did it matter? He'd take till he had what he wanted and then it would be some other vampire's turn – or else it would be time to die, just like hope had.

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