Music: Reavers Chase Serenity
Composer: Greg Edmonson
Warnings: minor language warning, lack of editing warning, allusions to torture.
They can block the windows, they can keep the room constantly lit to try and block the world outside, but the angels can’t stop the grace within me aligning with the outside world anyway. I know the turn of the world, almost as well as they do. I can feel the subtle shift in temperature that heralds the night, can hear the silence that falls at midnight even through the soundproofing.
Did their Father know, even back then, that this would happen? Was this a glitch of a rushed job, or an awareness of what His children were capable of doing to each other in the name of winning?
I’m not sure I want to know.
The midnight guard change is soon. Soon, two angels will wander the corridor. One will rush down to the other end, to where the other prisoner is kept. I don’t think his name. Not anymore. He was caught trying to save me- he would have escaped, easily, if he hadn’t tried to protect me. Every scream is a reminder that his kindness is getting him killed. Every scream from him is my fault. So many screams, all because he didn’t want me to drown. If I put a name to the screams that echo down the stonework, I think it might kill me. He’s just the prisoner. Nothing more. The first guard will go inside the prisoner’s cell, and his screams will sound soon after. They will last about forty minutes, and then the guard will leave. They do not lock the doors when they enter because there is no reason to do so, but worse because a locked door implies concern that they cannot control the broken, pitiful creatures they’re torturing.
It doesn’t look good to management, so the doors stay unlocked.
The second guard will come into this cell to check on me. He- always a he, somehow- will stride in, angel blade already drawn, sadistic grin already in place, and soon after, I will scream and bleed, too. Usually. Not tonight. There are precious few weapons capable of actually killing an angel, but they can be knocked out, same as any other creature. It’s taken days to dig the stonework from the wall beneath and behind the lumpy, vile smelling mattress in the corner. Days of shaking hands, slick with blood from the torture and slick with blood from the scraping of random objects against stone in hopes of digging away enough to be of use. Days of his screams ringing in the brickwork like the worst kind of motivation.
It’s not much of a plan, when you get right down to it. It relies far too much on hope and prayer. But it’s going to work. It will work because there is no other option. We’re going home, or we’re dying in the attempt. Anything is better than this.
The thick wooden doors slam open, fueled by grace because the sound lets the prisoners know that they’re about to be tortured, and lets them get good and afraid before their cell doors open. Usually.
It’s easy to hide in the blind spot beside the door. Too easy. Something could go wrong. No. Nothing will go wrong. It’s all going to be okay. It’s the only option left. It’s going to be fine.
The door creaks open, because unlike his tormentor, mine likes to prolong the anticipation between us, likes to build the tension to the crescendo only he can feel or see. It’s fun to see the grin falter and fall to open mouthed shock, to watch his hands clench into fists. His eyes scan the darker parts of the room, assuming I’ve hidden there. It’s the smart call, after all.
He steps into the room, fast, slams the door shut behind him like it’s muscle memory rather than intention, his gaze focused on the darkest corner, the corner furtherest from him. One more step, that’s it. One more step, and I can swing.
He falters, mid-step. He’s shaking his head, slowly-slowly, his fists clenching and unclenching as though trying to calm himself enough to continue searching. It’s going to be okay. He’ll step. One more step. It’s going to be okay.
His head swivels, side to side, like he’s hunting something. Like he’s hunting me. A string of words- cursing in Enochian, if I’m not greatly mistaken- hissed out under his breath as he steps forwards, towards the darkness.
The piece of rock is heavy, hard to swing. He’s half-way to turning when it collects the side of his face, collects his ear and jumbles his brain about his skull for a moment. There’s no shout for help, no cry of pain, just the sound of stone and skull colliding, and the thud of a body collapsing onto the floor. I snatch the blade from his grasp, drop the rock only long enough to check him for hidden keys or weapons.
I aim the rock’s fall towards the angel’s nose, find myself grinning at the crunching break that results. Maybe he’s not the only sadist in the room. When he’s good and unconscious, I drive the blade into his heart, hope he isn’t able to feel the death coming to claim him.
No food, no keys, no weapons. No point to him, really. The rock’s texture catches on the skin of my hand, my hand bleeds like it’s been attacked with a grater.
The screaming from the other prisoner is loud, too loud. Loud like it’s right outside my door rather than down a corridor with heavy wooden doors to silence it. Go anyway. Anything is better than this. The door swings open, though it’s an effort. Human bodies, even powered up on grace, require food and water, and it’s been days between meals.
The stonework is painfully cold, rough under my feet, catches and tears at the skin until I’m leaving bloodied footprints wherever I go. Who cares? Go. The screaming is so much louder now, so much worse. It’s a physical presence in my mind, hurts the way the angel’s head must hurt now it’s been cracked in with a rock. I hold the rock more tightly in my hand, ignoring the pain.The pain can stop when the screaming does. Make it stop. Save him.
Angels could be lurking in any shadow, and it’s hard not to run like hell at the first sign of movement. Humans are born and die in the time it takes me to reach the other cell.
When the door creaks open, the sound is lost to the screams. The prisoner is curled in on himself, trying to protect his organs while his torturer drives his blade into the prisoner’s wing, over and over. No wonder he’s screaming.
It’s easy to run, easy to slam the blade into the side of the angel’s throat and watch it startle, struggle, and die. The prisoner stares at me, eyes blown wide in pain and fear. I pat his shoulder awkwardly, unable to say his name, unable to say anything more than ‘can you move?’ He runs his hands over his body, checks himself for injuries in a way far too human for my tastes. Slowly, warily, he nods.
‘Good. Let’s go.’ I drop the rock, snatch up the other blade and hand it to him before helping him stagger upwards. His weight settles against me, arm thrown over my shoulder. Every step hurts worse with the added weight, and time slows to a crawl almost as slow as our movements.
There’s no flying out of this, no rescue possible. We’re going to have to sneak our way out. Stupid as angels can be, I’m pretty sure they’ll notice the footprints eventually. And they can certainly outpace us right now.
No, we’re probably going to die.
Death is the better option.
Mal told me once that they designed all of the facilities and safe houses to be the same. Makes it easier to fall into line, to not get lost when you’re transferred. Left should lead to the morgue, and the back entry points. Right should lead towards the front of the building. Left it is. The prisoner nods when I point that way, too scared to speak in case anyone is nearby. The blade shakes in his hand, shakes so hard I’d take it off him if I had the hands to hold it. Shakes so hard I’m scared he’s gonna drop it, scared the echo of metal hitting stone will bring someone running.
I pray to Dad because I can’t quite bring myself to pray to Grandfather for help, wish for salvation, or at least no attacks. We’re shit outta luck if someone finds us. It’s not like the prisoner can stand on his own, let alone fight.
It’s unlikely an angel will give me time to help the prisoner lean against a wall or something before they attack. Better dead than here. It’s not much of a mantra, really not a great motivator. But it’s true, and it’s enough right now.
The prisoner falters, grabs my shoulder hard enough that it’s near impossible not to cry. He’s shaking, shaking more, his head turned so far to the right it has to be painful. He’s listening to something. I’m good, but I’m not an angel. If he’s acting like that, there’s a good chance that he’s hearing something I haven’t noticed yet. Shit. I shake him, gentle as possible, watch his exhausted gaze slide towards me, not quite focused.
He holds up two fingers, but his face is scrunched in confusion, like he’s not quite sure anymore. I’d be surprised if he realised there were two of us. It’s hard to drag him forwards, to try and get him to stop trying to count and move faster. We can still do this, maybe.
The staircase looms to the left, dimly lit. Follow it up, and there’s the front door, bold as brass. But then, it’s likely there’s a mess of guards there. And an open space between door and safety.
No. It’s safer to keep going this way. I force the prisoner to move faster, force him towards the shadows.
I can hear the footsteps now. Soft, unhurried. It feels like someone runs an ice cube along my spine. Angels, no matter which side of the fight they’re on, were trained the same way. That’s the way Dad moves when he’s hunting. The way I move when I’m hunting. If you weren’t trained to it, you’d never notice anything wrong until it was too late. Most don’t.
The prisoner slows, grabs weakly at the wall. There’s no chance to talk, not now. All I can do is turn, hope he can see the frustrated question in my eyes. He gestures for me to go, to leave him behind.
No. Hell no. I did not work this hard to abandon him. I shake my head, heave him forwards until he falls into line behind the plan again. We don’t have time for this.
The footsteps speed up, just a little. Another set joins them, keeping perfect time with our original stalker. Shit.
We’re nearly at the morgue. There are weapons there, at least. And a hearse. That’s the important part. We’re nearly there.
The white morgue door is barely visible before an angel calmly steps in front of it. The prisoner almost stumbles when we stop so suddenly, and my shoulders ache at the strain of stopping him falling. The footsteps behind us are loud in the silence now, like they’re wearing shoes designed to be loud, like it’s for dramatic effect rather than practicality.
Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me.
‘I really thought you’d go upstairs, try to get away that way.’ Michael’s voice is a quiet drawl, politely confused, but there’s something there in the tone that screams of violence, and rage. There’s something in his voice that screams to the primal part of my lizard brain to run like hell, no matter what. But there’s nowhere to run, and no real ability to manage it anyway.
Better dead may not be an option anymore.