She was cold, a chill filling the dark void where she stood, naked and alone. The world seemed to spin and distort although she could not actually see anything. The echoes rang in her ears, bouncing around wherever she was. A cave, yes that was it. She started to remember why she was there, she had run, charged away from her oppressors. Although she had not, yet something told her she had.
The sounds were getting louder, she knew what they were but her mind would not remember the word. They seemed silly, preposterous even, but she could not work out why. She waited there, not in a corner, not behind a rock but in the middle of the cavern, right in the open despite the darkness.
Ducks, that was it, that was the sound. Quacks echoing around the cave, bouncing off every wall, off the ceiling, off the floor. But why was she so afraid? A simple duck was not going to hurt her. But these were not ordinary ducks, or at least that is what her brain told her.
A light was coming, approaching from a distance she could not fathom. She tried to back away but her legs would not move, someone had shackled them to the floor. She felt around in desperation but there was nothing there. Was it fear pinning her to the spot? She turned and ran, suddenly aware that she was actually free. A few minutes passed so she felt she could afford herself the luxury of looking back. The light was still there but it was somehow closer now, she has not moved, she was no further from her quarry.
The noise was deafening now, the quacks taunting her. Then she saw them, there were hundreds, all mallards, just as many chestnut brown females as beautifully green headed males. They wanted something, they wanted her.
Their advance was slow and rhythmic, not intimidating at all but the sheer number of them was enough to set terror deep within her bones. As they waddled forward the cave continued to lighten. No matter where she looked, however, she could not see where the light was emanating from. There was nothing here but hard rock and a flurry of water loving birds. She half expected one to be carrying a torch in its beak but as she scanned the feathered horizon no light source could be found.
There was something in her hand, it had not been there before. She held it up to her face so she could keep the ducks in view. It was soft, white with a brown crust around the edge. It took her a few minutes to realise it was a slice of bread. This was it, her ticket out of this hell, throw the bread and the mallards would fight for the scrap of food whilst she escaped to wherever she could find.
Without a moment's thought she tossed the slice, watching it arch over the front row and land some way behind in the main throng of ducks. They did not even look, not one glance, every single creature had eyes for one thing and one thing only, her.
She could not think now, there were no sounds other than a deafening quack, no sights other than an army of feathered assassins. She sat, pulling her knees into her, head tucked between them, eyes screwed shut. She rocked, she cried. Cried and rocked.
It was light at first, like some small child poking her arm, but soon the intensity increased as more and more pecked at her bare flesh. It stung, the only way she could describe it was to liken it to when she had run past a stinging nettle as a child. Then it got worse, pain flared in every part of her body but still the quacking did not stop. It was like they had somehow gotten into her head, as if the sound left their beaks and just appeared in her brain. It was too much now, a million stab wounds, a drill in her head. She did all she could in that moment, she screamed out. An ear piercing shriek that she hoped would frighten them and end the pain.
She was breathing heavily, sweat on her brow as she sat bolt upright. The room slowly started to fade into view. She was clutching something tight to her chest, it was soft and comforting. She stroked it as she acclimatised to her surroundings. When she found the strength to look down she wanted to run again, it was a small duck. She breathed in deeply as she realised it was just a plush toy, her plush toy, the last remaining link to her old life.
As with all who wake suddenly, her memories flooded back and almost brought a tear to her eyes. There was a clank at the far end of the room and a door burst open.
She stared past the rusted pole at the bottom corner of her bed as fear struck her once more. The creature that walked in was not of this world, it was human in shape but had dark grey skin. It was tall, towering over every man on the Earth. So much so that it stooped as it walked between the bunks. It was completely naked and totally hairless, its elongated head pulsing as it scanned the room. There were noises like small bells being rung as it stepped forward on its three toed feet. The sound was the echoing of metal bed frames from the rhythmic thumping of its bony tail.
All she could do was close her eyes, screw them up tight. She wanted the ducks back, wishing that was her reality rather than this. But the tighter she made them had no bearing on the real world.
She felt its breath before she heard the scream, on opening her eyes she was presented with its fanged mouth inches from her face. Before she could react it had taken the plush toy and tossed it aside, now it had hold of her. She felt pain as her body bounced off the hard floor and she was dragged from her prison.