13 Mar 2020

Digital Magic - Chapter n

Chapter n

[Author's note: Please see last week's note on why there is a gap.]

The first thing that I'm aware of is a throbbing headache, the type that makes me wish I had gone out for a night in the Market.  One where keeping my eyes closed doesn't help it, but opening them will make the headache worse.  Beyond the pain, though, I can tell I'm on a bare concrete floor, like I'm in someone's basement.  I really should look to see where I am.

Two things occur to me when I try to look.  One, I was right about not wanting to open my eyes; and, two, I wish this was just someone's basement.  The taste of whoever owns this place runs to medieval dungeon chic.  The chains on the wall just add to the dank décor.  I push myself up so I'm sitting.  The pounding in my head gets a groan from me before it starts easing to just the tom-toms instead of the full drum set.  There's no furniture, just a bare light bulb, the floor and four bare walls.  The only way out is through a windowless wooden door.

I close my eyes again.  Not much to do other than wait, either for my head to return to normal or for someone to poke a head in to look in on me.  Lance was right; I'm not ready to do magic except in a controlled lab.  I can't think straight enough right now to focus on the door.

I have no idea how long I sat there, rubbing my temples.  Whoever kidnapped me also took all my stuff, including my watch, leaving me with just my clothes.  I could have been sitting for five minutes or five hours before I heard the lock unlatch.  I turn my head to see who is stepping through.  Steve.  Figures.  "Go away."

"You need to eat."

"You need to let me out of here."  I stare at the wall across from me.

Steve sets down a tray near the door.  "Not going to happen, Jackie.  You better eat."

"Why did you do this?  Because I told you no?"

"Don't worry about the why, Jackie.  Even if you did know, it wouldn't matter."  He steps back out, locking the door behind him.

Bastard.  I get up to take a look at what he left me.  Under the cover is a sandwich and a paper cup full of water.  My throat is parched enough that I down the water in one gulp.  The thought that Steve may have doctored the water comes to me after I set the cup back down.  I eye the sandwich.  I probably should eat it and to hell with the consequences.  If Steve wanted me dead, I would be by now.  At the same time, I don't think I can keep even that down.

It's always the way, whenever you don't have something, you really want it.  I want my watch back, so I know how long I've been in this forgotten cell.  I drift off to sleep a few times just from sheer boredom.  The naps do help reduce my headache to where I think I can eat and keep the sandwich inside.  It's stale, mainly from me putting off devouring it, but it's enough to calm my stomach, despite the excess mustard on the ham.

I start reviewing my math homework in my head to pass the time.  My headache doesn't so much ebb as get ignored, though the tougher calculus problems bring it back to the forefront.  Not the most exciting way to pass my captivity, but it fills the void.  Keeps me from worrying about what Steve's intentions are, too.  I didn't think white slavers asked their victims out for dinner; it'd take too much time to gather a collection for one.  Shows me what I know.

I must have bored myself with algebra; I never realized I had fell asleep.  The lock rattling in the door woke me up again, though.  I sit up quickly, back to the wall, expecting Steve.  Instead, a brunette maybe in her mid-thirties walks in.  She looks at me and gives me a smile that leaves me cold.

"Steve was right, I see."  She has a hint of an accent I can't place.

"Who are you?"  Of all the questions in my head, that was the first one out.

The woman hums a quick melody.  The air around my hands shimmer before turning into steel globes.  The sudden weight pulls my hands to my lap with a smack.  "In due time."  She walks towards me, her heels clicking on the stone floor.  "I just need to make sure you're ideal."

Ideal?  I glare at the bitch.  "I'm not going quietly.  People will notice I'm gone"

The woman bends down in front of me, her brown eyes boring into me.  "That's nice."  She sings another short tune.  A kaleidoscope flashes, covering me.  The woman stands back up.  "Impressive.  I didn't think anyone had that sort of power these days.  Most bloodlines have been watered down to nothing these days."

I lift up my hands, an effort with the added weight encasing them.  "What the hell is going on?"

The bitch stands back up and takes a step away from me.  "You're going to help me achieve great things."  She whistles, and my hands slam together, the metal clanking sounding loud in the small cell.  Turning her back on me, she continues, "You're going to make me immortal.  Thank me now.  There'll be no later."  She starts walking out of the room.

I get to my feet and charge at her.  The woman sings a different song and the chains in the room snake out and wrap around my legs.  I fall to the floor hard; it feels like I've cracked my left kneecap.  The door slams shut and I hear the woman's footsteps fade.

"Damn it!"  I struggle to sit up.  Okay, Jackie, think.  /Concentrate./  What did she mean, "There will be no later"?  Is she planning on ascending?  Or am I some sort of sacrifice to her potentially insane desires?  And where is Lance?  If there was anytime I'd appreciate a knight in shining armour to rescue me, now would be perfect.

I chase that last thought out of my head.  Now isn't the time for fantasy.  No, right now, I'm the only person I trust who knows where I am.  I'm the only one who can rescue me and I don't have the time to waste on foolish ideas.  First thing, getting out of this cell.  I look down at my legs.  No, first is getting rid of the chains, then getting out.

With my hands stuck in solid metal, unwrapping the chains is an tedious task.  I manage to free my legs through a combination of flipping the loose end of the chain with my arms and rolling on the floor.  Who knows how long that took me but at least I can stand up again.  Freeing my hands is another matter.  There's no seam on either of the metal globes, and I can't pull them apart.  I smash my hands against the wall; after three tries, all I have to show for it are ringing ears and sore shoulders.  Thanks to the metal, I can't even use my own magic to get myself free.  I sit in the corner, despair tugging at me.  A lock of hair falls into my eyes, further reminding myself of my captivity and inability to use my hands.

The door unlocks again.  I look up though my stray strand of hair.  Steve enters the cell, flanked by two men who look like mob enforcers.  Leg breaker types, the ones who get sent when someone is late on a loan payment to take the interest out in body parts.  Without a word, one of the thugs picks me up in a fireman-carry.  Thoughts of resistance flee when I feel the muscles in his arm and shoulder; he could break me by squeezing without an effort.

I try to watch as I'm carried out of the dungeon and upstairs.  The décor improves halfway up the stairs as bare rock turns into particle board painted robin's egg blue.  I guess my host prefers a calming influence before torturing her guests.  I'm taken through a kitchen filled with expensive appliances to a stark room with a stone slab in the middle.  The walls are white, but there's the beginning of a pattern on the floor.  Steve tells the thugs to watch where they walk.  Before I can take another look, I'm tossed on to the slab, my breath forced out of me.  As I recover, the thugs have my legs spread and my ankles locked in place.  I look over at Steve.  "You're not going to get away with this!"  I'll be embarassed about the line later.

Steve looks down at me.  "Nice try, Jackie.  I've seen too many bad movies to give in to that line."  He waves away the thugs.  "Try to lie still.  Struggling will just make you uncomfortable."  He follows the thugs out of the room.

I rest my head on the slab.  The ceiling is as white as the walls.  I'm being sacrificed; there's no other explanation for what's happening to me.  I feel tears welling up in my eyes.  It's not how I wanted to die.  Not that I ever wanted to die, but there are better ways to go than being brutally murdered for someone else's delusions of grandeur.  I blink to try to clear my eyes.  There's so much I want to do still: graduate, talk to Mom and Dad, take a trip to Europe with Trish, and, since there's no reason to deny it and no one will know anyway, spend more time with Lance.  I feel more at home with him, more comfortable with him, than I do even with Trish.

"Making peace with yourself?" the woman asks as she enters.  "If it makes you feel better, continue."  She bends out of my sight.

I sit up the best I can to look down at her.  "The police will find you."

She stands up.  "They won't be a bother.  You, however should be laying down."  She walks to the doorway and calls for Steve.  Returning her attention to me, she continues, "Do you want a sedative?  It doesn't matter to me."

I glare at her.  "The only thing I want is out."

"That won't happen.  I need you."

Steve arrives.  "Yes, Donna?"  Now I have a name for her.

"I need her lying down.  Get your men and make sure she can't sit up again."

As Steve leaves, I say, "Donna, how can you live with yourself knowing you're killing an innocent person."

Donna disappears again below my sight.  "No one is innocent, Jackie, not even you.  And consciences are used as excuses by weak fools to avoid doing what needs to be done."

Steve returns with the same gorillas who carried me in here.  Each leg breaker takes one of my arms and, together, they pull me back down on the stone slab.  Leather straps are fastened on my arms just below the metal spheres.  Donna sings something and the globes no longer hold each other.  Steve checks the straps and gives them each an extra pull to stretch me out further.  I glare at Steve, who just ignores me.

Donna stands back up.  "I need to finish the ward.  Anyone who doesn't need to be here can leave.  /Now./"  The two thugs leave.  "Steve, I'll need your help."

"Of course, Donna."  Steve looks at his watch.

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