My head throbs as I come around. I feel something hard and cold digging into the bottom of my hands which are suspended above me. I can barely reach the cold floor with my toes. The fog in my mind clears as I realize I’m hanging by my wrists. I look up to see thick iron manacles attached to a thick chain on a hook in the ceiling. Panic begins to rise in my throat.
I look around me trying to get a bearing on my surroundings. I can see a long wall to my left, iron bars to my right. Up ahead, about ten meters away, Andrei lays hunched on the floor, his suit jacket gone and his arms twisted behind him. The wall behind him is shorter, compared to the one on the left. I look down at myself and find that my coat is gone too. I can’t see it anywhere. There’s nothing else except a little metal tray on wheels, covered with a towel. I can’t see what’s behind me.
“Andrei?” I whisper. He doesn’t respond. “Rhoan?”
“I’m here.” A fly lands on my shoulder. I heave a sigh of relief.
I glance at the darkness beyond the bars. “It won’t be long before Logan comes. Rhoan, see if you can get him free. I’ll distract him.”
Andrei groans and starts to sit up. He pulls at his hands, rattling the chains, then squints over his shoulder. His gaze traces over the room until it lands on me. His eyes grow wide as his mind catches up. “Kaitlyn!”
“Shh!” I try to silence him. We should try not to draw any attention.
“Why don’t I set you free?” Rhoan protests.
“No, Andrei first,” I command Rhoan in a tone that brooks no argument.
“Are you crazy! You’re in a worse position than me. Rhoan, free her!” Andrei hisses.
Almost on cue, I hear a heavy door creak open. “Just do it!” Freeing me won’t do much good if I freeze again. I just hope Rhoan doesn’t take too long. He buzzes away towards Andrei as Logan steps into view.
“Good morning, Kat.” He sings as he opens the cell door and steps inside. He doesn’t bother closing it. A pair of hulking corpse monsters stand outside, a noxious green liquid dripping from their stitching.
“Logan.” I spit his name.
He feigns hurt, “Kat, are you upset with me? You know you’re home now. Things can go back to the way they were. Just the two of us.”
“Go to hell,” I growl weakly. I can’t hide my trembling lip.
He sighs, and shrugs, glaring sideways at Andrei. “I was afraid you might feel that way but don’t worry. We’ll be best friends again in no time.” I shiver.
He meanders over to the cloth covered tray, wheeling it over in front of me so I can see it clearly. As he peels the towel away, I see a full array of surgical instruments. I close my eyes, my whole body shaking. Don’t let him see you cry. Be strong.
“What? What is it?” Andrei asks, too far away to see. Logan shoots him a look and rolls his eyes.
I feel something cold touch between my breasts where the dress dips down, then I hear a loud rip. I yelp as the tip of a blade leaves a shallow slash in its path. The front of the dress rips wide open and he takes a step back. “What did you do?!” He exclaims, eyes wide.
I open my eyes and glare at him with defiance. “I erased you.”
Logan’s face twists with rage. He glances over his shoulder at Andrei, who is grinding his teeth in rage across the room. He straightens his jacket and rolls his neck. “Fine. I’ll just have to make more.” I gulp.
“Don’t you dare!” Andrei growls, pulling at his chains harder.
“Why don’t you try and stop me?” Logan mocks him. Keeping up a brave face is harder than I thought, but when my eyes meet Andrei’s I know I can’t break, for his sake. I have to be strong and keep Logan distracted. I just hope Andrei can handle it.
“Do your worst. It won’t work on me anymore.” My voice shakes, but I think he buys it. He takes a scalpel and slashes at my stomach, arms, legs, and chest. I flinch, but I bite back my screams. This only seems to frustrate him more.
He sets the blade on the tray with a clink and holds up two fingers. They glow with a sickening green light. “I’d like to show you something special, Kat. I’ve developed a new toxin. I’m sure you’re eager to try it out.” He presses his fingers roughly against one of the cuts, dragging it along the torn flesh and smearing the green ooze across it. “Don’t worry, it won’t kill you…” He sneers, “Well, at least not for a while. Your body will slowly rot until you learn to behave.”
I bite down hard on my lip. There’s no word to describe the feeling of your flesh slowly dying. It’s like lemon juice, salt, and dirt mixed together and rubbed hard into each wound, stinging as it eats at your flesh. I hold back my screams but I can’t hold back the tears that stream down my cheeks. Logan grins in satisfaction and reaches under the tray to the bottom shelf.
“I’ve made a chamber here, down the hall, for us. I know you’ll be so happy when I take you there. I brought this as a little teaser.” He speaks sweetly, running the back of his finger gently down my arm as he walks behind me. The zipper on the back of my dress is pulled slowly. It falls open, and then he unhooks my bra, tucking the ends into the sides.
“Don’t you dare touch her!” Andrei shrieks, panic in his voice. He winces as Logan holds something up outside of my view and turns away.
Logan chuckles. “Do you see how weak he is? He can’t even keep his eyes open and watch as I make you beautiful again. Pathetic.” He taunts.
There are a few distinct clicking noises, but I don’t have time to make out what it is. My back erupts in pain like it’s on fire, I feel my flesh tear away as he pulls whatever it is he’s lodged into the skin on my back and the exposed nerves scream as the open air hits them. I can’t catch the scream before it escapes my lips.
I think I hear Andrei call my name, but I can’t focus as another blow lands across my exposed back and a new wave of pain washes over me. Again and again, he flogs me; a third, fourth, and fifth time. I begin to lose count, my voice becoming as raw as my back. I flinch as I feel his hand touch my raw flesh. He tugs the bra clasp closed and zips the dress back up. Every movement drags the fabric painfully across my shredded back and I fear I might pass out.
“Now, Kat. Are you ready to give up this silly act, and come back to me?” Logan gives me his best salesman smile. I look feebly to Andrei, his face a tearstained mask of horror. I think I can hear him whimpering. Please, stay strong. What’s taking Rhoan so long?
I glare down at Logan, mustering my strongest voice. “Never.”
Logan’s pleasant persona melts away into one of desperate rage. His head snaps to Andrei with a look that could kill. “I see now. This is your fault.” He sneers.
No wait, focus on me!
“You’ve ruined all my hard work. You think you can take it away so easily? You may be able to remove my marks but she’ll never be yours.” He reaches into the back of his pants, revealing a gun, “The Master wants you both, but I couldn’t care less. You won’t get in the way again. Kaitlyn belongs to me.” Logan walks toward Andrei with purpose, pointing the barrel down at him.
My eyes grow wide at the thought of Andrei lifeless on the floor. Never seeing his smile, or hearing his laugh, or feeling his kiss again… It’s more unbearable than any physical wound Logan could inflict on me.
I let out a wordless cry as his finger squeezes the trigger. Rage and sorrow spill out of my very being. It feels like a bomb going off inside my chest. A wall of fire cuts across the center of the cell, blocking Logan’s path to Andrei and the two creatures in the hall spontaneously combust at the same time.
My body feels hot, but I feel no pain. I drop to the ground as the chains around my wrists snap and molten iron drips onto the concrete around my feet. I focus my gaze on the slime of a man in front of me. He turns the gun on me, hands shaking violently. He somehow finds the trigger and fires three rounds. I feel them like a breeze, passing right through my chest, but I feel nothing as they clatter to the floor behind me. When I look down, my body isn’t there. Instead, I find the shape of my body made of orange flames. I look back up, he drops the gun and makes a break for the door.
I run after him, but just before I have him in my grasp, my body stops. My vision splotches, my body convulses, and I’m racked with painful spasms. I crumple to the ground as the flames extinguish. I’m left cold and exposed on the floor. I feel like I was run over by an eighteen-wheeler, or four.
A voice rings in my ear. I push myself up, but everything is double. My ears are ringing, but I think I can hear Andrei shouting my name from my left. I turn and see three of him. Dragging my body across the cold, rough concrete, I squint in the hopes of finding the real him. In these sorts of situations, it should be the middle one, right? It’s hard to remember as I reach out, almost blindly, until I feel something that is not stone. I crawl a little closer. His voice is clearer now.
“Kaitlyn? Kaitlyn!” He yells through gritted teeth. “What just happened? Are you okay?”
I drag myself beside him and reach behind him until I touch metal. Rhoan scuttles away. These feel like chain links. I grip them tight and close my eyes. Come on fire. Just a little more. We can do this. One more little burst. Please.
The chain snaps. I rest my head on my arm.
“Kaitlyn? Can you hear me? How’d you do that? Kaitlyn, answer me! Are you okay?” I feel his hand on my arm, shaking me.
I lift my head to look up at all three of him, “I’m not dead. Does that count?”
“It’s all my fault Kat, I’m so sorry! I should’ve expected something like this.”
I push myself up, grabbing onto his shirt so I know which one is really him. “Don’t. Don’t do that.” I stammer. “You couldn’t have known what he would do. You don’t know him that well.” I fight the urge to lay down.
“No, I…I should’ve-” He hiccups. Fresh tears pool in his eyes. “I can’t forgive myself for this. I’m sorry.” He mumbles, voice trembling.
“Shh,” I place my hand on his cheek, “Stop. You did everything you could. I know you did. You stayed strong. Thank you.” I lean against his shoulder, exhausted. “You need to jump.”
“What?” He gasps. “I don’t know if I can!”
“There’s no choice.” I clutch his shirt in my hands, “It’s our only chance.”
“I’ve never forced a jump from this time before! I’ve never tried taking someone with me! What if something goes wrong? What if…” He stops, fumbling for the right words. “What if it kills you, or both of us?! Or worse, what if-if I leave you here with him?! I couldn’t live with myself if that happened Kat, I can’t risk it.”
I lift my head to look him in the eyes, “If you don’t, he’ll kill you. He won’t kill me. That I can guarantee.” I kiss his lips quickly, “I can’t watch you die. Please. Jump.”
“I’ll try, but… I don’t know, Kat.” He hesitates. He closes his eyes, his face scrunching up.
I rest my forehead against his and laugh weakly, “Don’t think.”
A few moments pass, and I notice lights through my lids. I open my eyes to see little sparks over his body. I wrap my arms around his neck and hold on. The sparks jump and spread, moving over my arms and up my back. My skin tingles with the energy. I gasp as I feel our bodies catapulted, his arms clamp around my back. I wince, squeezing him tighter. I shut my eyes as we fall. It’s dark, but I see through my lids flashes of light go by. I open my eyes as Andrei reaches one hand out towards one, and we suddenly hit the ground hard.
I squeeze my eyes shut until I hear the sound of birds chirping. I look around to see trees and grass. I feel the grit of sand between my toes, and hear the gentle lap of water. The scene is peaceful.
“Andrei, look… You did it.” I whisper, smiling. I feel heavy. The adrenaline starts to wear off, and the weight of my injuries catches up to me. I feel myself slump as the world falls into darkness…