Samantha was unmoving, resting in a fetal position inside the sac, protected from the world.
“Please wake up,” I cried, banging my hand off bone. “I’m here for you! It’s gone!”
No reaction. The cocoon moved slightly, organs above shifting, providing nutrients. I cut away at the side with the knife, forcing my way around the door and flesh. Blood spilled everywhere as I fell into the room, on my knees before the mass of flesh.
I did what worked last time, and burst the sac with a stab. Fluids poured out as I ripped away, reaching in fo-
A single eye the size of her face opened, moving to make eye contact with me as I reached for her. Then one over her left breast, then her right forearm, her right shoulder and her left knee. It was a decoy, meant to delay intruders. A hand grabbed me, the eye on the back of it staring into my eyes. Angry eyes. I stabbed the eye with my knife, gouging it.
The many eyed child let go, beginning to climb out the sack as I backed up, giving her space. Her hair, Samantha’s hair fell off and away as she climbed out. An eye opened at the calf of her right leg as I adjusted my grip on the knife. Three more opened at the navel, looking up and down at me, blinking.
“One of Samantha’s protectors, I assume?”
It charged, reckless and violent. I ducked under an overhead swing with the left arm and went for a stab at the ribs.
A mouth opened, nearly biting my hand off as I pulled away in surprise.
“That’s new,” I said to the many eyed child. It struggled a smirk, or what could be called one.
I charged in again, stabbing the three eye formation at the navel and ramming the right shoulder with my own, pushing her back into the ligament cage. The many eyed child looked at my hand as I stabbed it in the face. The eye exploded in vitreous, pouring down the neck as the many eyed child spasmed, dying.
“I’m the one who protects Samantha,” I said. “Not you.”
I walked out the room and began checking the birthing rooms more carefully, learning from my mistake. Each room I checked had another monster of Samantha’s imagination, ready to challenge anyone who opened the door. Another Many eyed child, staring through the door. A belching screamer, creating a mess and laughing away. A fingerface, unable to sit still. A faceless mother and peekaboo child, trying to cooperate as they pulled at hair on the wall.
I wonder what those poor soldiers that were eaten will become?
The last room had Samantha. It had to be.
It was normal. The only room that looked like a room and not a bouncy castle or some padded cell. No skin floors with body hair rugs. No eyes on the walls like security cameras, no traps.
A carpet, some walls and a ceiling were the confines of the room. Even the door was normal, from when I approached it. Inside contained nothing but a desk and two tables, with Samantha in the corner.
She had a coat over her cloak. Another layer of armour.
I knocked, three times.
“Samantha?” I asked, politely.
No response. “I’m coming in, okay?”
I opened the door slowly. Closing it, I looked at Samantha.
She hadn’t moved.
“S-shut up,” she murmured, quietly enough that I could only catch it now. “Not talking about it. Shut up.”
“Samantha? It’s me, Ryan. You remember me, right?”
“I’m not like that. Not like him.”
I took slow steps, trying to avoid her lashing out. Eventually I got close enough and crouched down beside her.
“Samantha,” I said, placing a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry. I didn’t follow my promise to you. I didn’t know they’d separate us so quickly, okay?”
Samantha was silent in response.
“I’ll take you out, and you’ll let it all be normal, right? I assure you they won’t harm you. I won’t let them.”
Samantha nodded. I barely picked her up and carried her in my arms back through the hallways as the rooms turned to normal, slowly.
Skin dried, shrivelled and gave way to carpet. The bone doors slowly changed back to the painted blue wood, Eye lens returning to glass. Eyes fell away from the walls, rotting like umbilical cords. One door opened. A fingerface, his fingers wriggling in excitement.
“No,” I said, ordering him. “I’ve got her, she’s safe.”
He cocked his head, all but six fingers where his mouth should be laying flat against his skin. An array of fingernails overlapped like scales.
“She’s safe,” I repeated. He backed away, waving dismissively behind me.
The peekaboo child was breaking inches away from my neck. Blue eyes, scanning me from behind.
“She’s fine,” I said, to reassure her, her protective beings and myself.
I had reason to.
One Year Ago: Kingdom of New Austin
It hurts. It hurts. Make it stop.
“Ryan,” taker teased, sitting before me. “You should give up.”
Make it stop.
“No,” I strained.
Taker waved to his men, and another tink of metal sounded as a winch was pulled, the mechanism suspending me moving a little more in response. Pain shot through my body. My knees broke hours ago, it’s the only way to explain how I felt my legs bent against the drum. My arms were next. One more click, then-
Tink. It hurt so much. I could almost faint.
“Just say it. Beg me to let you down. I’ll be nice, I’ll treat you like an important part of the family,” he smiled, sipping some glass of alcoholic drink.
“I’ve always wanted a family pet. I’ll adopt you from Sacrifi-”
“No,” I interrupted, in pain from the act of moving when I shouted. “I won’t. She isn’t like that, she isn’t like y-”
I woke up god knows how many hours later, all healed and healthy. Sacrifice was right there, the cell across from me, still chained up. She’d all but given up.
“Ryan, I’m sorry,” she muttered, in the throes of a nightmare. “Ryan, I’m sorry.”
I shifted, chains clinking. I could move my knees and elbows, thankfully. The one mercy we were given was that New Austin had some very good doctors. Unfortunately, we had some very good doctors.
“Ryan, I’m sorry.”
I’m getting tired of the repetition.
“Hey, Sacrifice!” I called out.
She roused awake, looked around, and sighed.
“I’m still here,” she said to herself, audible only in the pure silence that had been our home for the last two years. It was dark, but not too dark. Stone were the walls and ceiling. A thin layer of dirt covering the stone below was the flooring. Metal bars separated each cell, and an array of shackles and chains as decoration. “Fuck.”
Sacrifice looked miserable.
“Hey,” I said, trying to create a conversation.
“What is it?” she asked, looking at the floor.
“You were having that dream again, right?”
“Don’t apologize. He’d have done it anyway,” I added.
She looked away.
I tried to get her to respond. “Sacrifi-”
“Shut up,” she finally spoke. “Just shut up. I want to sleep. I want to lie down.”
“Sleeping all the time won’t work,” I said, my voice louder. “We have to keep sane minds! We ha-”
“Sane minds!? Sane minds!?” She was shaking, crying in rage. “He’s been fucking with ours! Have you wondered how many times you wanted to give up but nearly didn’t?”
Too many to count.
“You did give up! You did fucking cave in! Every time, we let him win and he puts us back to square one and grinds us down again!” She was shouting at the top of her voice now.
I sighed. I feared this too. He just wanted to play with us, and is holding up his agreement just because it was Trauma.
“I-I thought that too. I wouldn’t dwe-”
“I saw you!” she screamed, furious. “I saw him fucking break your legs and make you beg him to stop! And then he broke your fucking arms anyway!”
Wait, what just happened to me?
“He’s been making me watch, every time I was free he made me watch and now he’s just fucking letting me remember because it’s the last year!”
“Look, Samantha, Lis-”
It didn’t work. She thrashed, angry and terrified at the world, her chains rattling like mad.
She glowed in the magnificence of powers being born and reborn, and chains turned to intestines, tied like knots. The ground and the room slowly changed to human flesh. She’d re-awoken her powers again; she’d reached the twelfth stage.
“I’ll protect her,” I said to the many eyed child, heading for the outside. Only Samantha’s beasts were left. The parodies of the friends she had to kill. The family she was tricked into murdering. “I’ll protect her, Druggie.”
The many eyed child is surprisingly receptive to the name Druggie, just like how the peekaboo child responds to Bloodwitch. Homunculi; perverted and insane representations of others.
I walked out, Unperson, Maxwell, the new cape and Margaret standing in a circle, talking.
Maxwell turned to me. They knew. Margaret must have told them.
“There are a few things in there that you should kill,” I said. “They aren’t that hard to fight, but they are human-ish.”
Unperson looked sick. I stunk of various fluids. I needed a wash.
“Ryan,” started Maxwell, softer now. “You must talk. We can take care o-”
“You can’t,” I said. “You know who she is, and you know what happened. What should be done, and what will be done are complete and utter opposites, and she’s already…”
“I’m going to take her away. Not to the City, the city is a hell hole. I’ll make my own place, I can do it.”
Unperson looked confused, but stopped Maxwell from interrupting me.
“The city isn’t good enough. Too many people get thrown in, regardless of how good they are.”
Unperson spoke up. “She’s not go-”
“That doesn’t matter!” I shot back. “She paid for that more than anyone else ever will! I don’t think a single criminal or fugitive or whatever out there paid for what they did in their entire lives as much as she did in a year!”
“Ryan, she’ll just do thi-”
“I can make spaces, and you know they don’t go away until I wish so. There is only the City, that’s all there is to stop powers from activating,” I explained.
Guards finished off the last monster in the now normal building.
“I can make whole villages to aid others who can’t, just let me take care of her myself.”
Maxwell looked at Unperson. She was partially convinced, but not enough. He looked at Margaret.
“He can do it,” she said. “And Maxwell; I didn’t get it as bad as she did. Nobody did.”
Maxwell growled under his breath, cooling the air.
“Fine,” he relented after too long. “It’ll be under contract with the NHN Ryan. That is if the higher ups agree with it.”
He turned to the unnamed cape. “Aim, go report this to Alliance and crew.”
Aim smiled, and set off in the air. His green spandex didn’t suit him at all. Sacrifice rested, not stirring as I barely held her up in my arms.
I need to put her down somewhere.