Chapter 7: Truth or Dare

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Chapter 7: Truth or Dare

When my mental movies started to bring more misery than relief, and remembering spiralled into mourning, then wallowing, I sat up and blinked them away. The grey walls of my cell had lost none of their starkness while I'd been ignoring them. The flickering fluorescent lights on the ceiling that had powered my fictional film projector now only made my head throb harder. I'd been lucky the marble floor hadn't given me a concussion.

I tested the heavy iron shackles binding my wrists, pulling the chains taut and then releasing them; they were bolted into the wall and had no give whatsoever. They were also way too tight to wiggle out of; I'd already lost two or three layers of skin trying. And what if I did free myself? I wondered, levelling a glare at my cell door. I'll never get by that.

I sighed and slumped back against the concrete wall. Might as well dub me Mills, Queen of Impossible Situations. I just wished I understood it all better: the monsters, my alleged supernatural lineage, the role I would play here.

What's there to know? You're a human blood bag. The only difference between you and the rest of them is that you're gonna feed the king.

There was zero point in candy-coating it. It wouldn't make the network of human enslavement on the other side of my cell door any less horrific, and it wouldn't change their purpose or mine. No, the truth wouldn't set me free, but at least it was a break from the lies that had brought me here.

Without a watch or my cellphone, it was impossible to judge the passage of time. I weighed the different possible outcomes – each and every one of them ending in my death. I imagined my pale, drained body dangling limp in the king's clawed hands, my mouth still forming the "O" of a choked-off scream. Or maybe my entrails would end up splashed across the throne room floor, setting a feeding frenzy in motion: dozens of gaunt vampires would drop to their hands and knees, jostling for position to lick my blood off the black marble, while others tore the rest of me limb from limb, sucking on my severed appendages as if they were Freezies.

I clenched my eyes shut, willing myself to think of something else. Anything else. But what? Certainly not the six-inch, metal-meshed drain in the centre of the cell's floor and what its purpose might be. It was all too easy to picture my blood dripping down past the grate into the murky darkness, mingling with the fluids of who-knows-how-many victims who had come before me. I shook my head, trying to force the swelling cascade of morbid thoughts from my mind – hoping, if nothing else, that the renewed ache in my neck would distract me.

Just then, the muffled clang of the prison door rang out, breaking the silence. My eyes flew open. A fresh surge of fear slammed into my chest. I'd done a good job of setting myself on edge. Too good. I crept to the far side of the mattress, which was as close to the cell door as the shackles would allow me to get, and strained to hear what was going on. As I listened, a pattern emerged: short, dull rattle, followed by a brief silence, followed by a cell door slamming shut.

Slowly but surely, the noise and whatever was causing it drew closer. No one's screaming, I told myself, but the comfort that offered was trivial. Who knew how vampires took their meals?

But it's not tomorrow yet.

I almost laughed out loud. If I had, I'm sure it would have come out as a wild, half-mad giggle. When did I become such an idiot? Did I honestly believe monsters would keep their word? Maybe I was as naïve as the king thought I was.

By the time the rattle reached my cell, I'd decided I would use the shackles as a weapon. I couldn't extend them very far, but if I stayed close to the wall, I might have enough range of motion to bash one of the creatures in the face if it got too close. There was no way I was just going to roll over and become a chew toy for another vampire. King or not.

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