The harsh lights of the operating room would likely have been difficult to withstand, however I couldn’t see a damn thing. I could only distantly feel the needle as it pierced my flesh and the drag of the thread as I was stitched closed was barely more than the stroke of a feather. Even had I been able to feel the pain I doubt it would have registered; I was in a state of shock.
“What’s with her do you think?” One of the nurses whispered, “We had orders not to use anesthetic and yet she’s not even flinching.”
“Quiet. Vladimir told us not to speak.” Another whispered back, “I don’t know what the fuck is going on and I don’t want to. She’s not even bleeding.”
“Why are we doing this anyway? I’m pretty sure she’s not breathing either.”
“Shut up.” I said, shaking off my stupor. “I don’t want to hear any shit from you goddamn mortals.” I could barely see their tiny candle flame souls burning; they didn’t interest me in the slightest.
“Leave us!” A sharp female voice cut across the room and I heard footsteps retreating. “Listen to me bitch, I don’t give a shit about who you are but the Boss wants you stitched up and kept quiet.”
I looked around the room and saw a small campfire burning beside me. I was feeling tired, irritable and hungry. “Who the hell are you?” I demanded.
“You don’t need to worry about who I am.” She said, moving close enough that I could feel her breath on my face. “You need to worr-aaaaaa!”
I sprang up toward her neck with bared teeth and was snapped back by the restraints on my wrists I hadn’t noticed before. My nerves had apparently deadened to the point that I couldn’t even feel shackles against my skin.
“Jesus fucking Christ!” She exclaimed in surprise.
“Not even close.” I said, straining against the handcuffs. The chains hummed in protest and the cuffs dug into my wrists but they stayed intact. “But give me half a chance and I’ll be your own personal Devil.”
“Well, you won’t be so tough in a second.” She said, sounding much more reserved now. I heard a click and a low electric hum.
The chains on my wrists dragged me back down link by inexorable link until I was pinned to the cold steel of the table. Similar shackles on my ankles also tightened, leaving me in a spread eagle position barely even able to move my hips.
“That’s so much better, don’t you think?” Her calm and smooth voice was infurirating.
“Fuck off.” I growled and tried to thrash away when a thick leather strap was placed over my forehead.
“Oh we can’t have that. The Boss wants you to be nice and safe until he needs you.” After the strap was tightened, more were fastened over my chest, hips and knees. To my horror, I felt a needle pierce the skin of my face right next to my mouth.
“Don’t struggle now or you’ll tear the thread. It’s made of Kevlar and quite strong in spite of being exceedingly thin. It would be such a shame to slash your lips to ribbons, especially since you can’t really heal anymore.”
I went absolutely still. Struggling was useless without the strength of my Gift anyway. I couldn’t imagine a more humiliating way of being treated. The rents in my flesh were efficiently stitched up after my mouth was sewn shut and then the table I was on slid forward on smooth bearings to click into place.
This was a morgue shelf. I was being stored like a lifeless corpse.
An indeterminable amount of time passed, hours blurring into days. I distantly heard people moving outside my prison and wondered absently what they were doing. Vlad had called this the ‘lab’ so likely he was performing some kind of experiments but I was just too tired to care anymore.
“Not that one.” A voice said as my drawer was partially pulled out. “Rebecca said that one’s supposed to stay in storage.”
“Oh fuck Rebecca.” An annoyed voice responded, “I don’t see her around here and if she’s hiding some secret I want to check it out. If the Professor didn’t authorize this little pet project I’ll see her expelled for it.”
“OK, but just a quick look Ian.” The first one said, obviously nervous.
“Hell with that, I’m getting a sample.” Ian said and the drawer slid all the way out. Ian let out a low whistle. “Get a load of this shit.”
“Where do they dig this shit up? Is her mouth stitched closed?”
“Yeah, and look at these wounds man. Why bother to sew up the stab wound on the eyeball… and it looks like the body was already dead when these wounds were inflicted. Look at how the dermis is peeled back from the flesh here; there’s very clear necrosis.”
“I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“I’d bet there’s something in the mouth. You know, like some burial ritual. She always goes in for that kind of shit as though those ancient rites really have the power to bring something back from the dead.” Ian said, “Look, if you’re losing your nerve Phil…”
“No, it’s fine.” Phil said annoyed, “You aren’t the only one who wants to see Bec taken down a notch or six. Just because these cadavers were donated doesn’t mean the donors or the staff are OK with them being used for her weird shit.”
I felt the snip of scissors cut the Kevlar threads holding my mouth closed. The men were breathing quickly and unsteadily; their hearts racing. One tried to pry my mouth open, but I kept it closed.
“Damn Ian, hand me something to pry these teeth apart.” Phil said, “This is just weird.”
“Untie me.” I said, making my voice deliberately low and gruff.
“Holy fuck!” I heard them stumble backward to the accompaniment of a variety of glass and steel implements crashing to the floor.
“Untie me or I will suck the marrow from your bones when I free myself.” I rasped, “It is only a matter of time before I break free on my own Phillip. When I do you and your accomplice Ian will either be very high on my list of people to kill or will share an equally exalted position on my list of people to thank.”
“Goddamn. She really did it.” Ian whispered, “She brought one back.”
“Rebecca is currently on my bad side.” I said, turning the eye that wasn’t stitched shut to stare at him. “Release me or you will join her there.”
It was Phil who approached and unbuckled the strap around my forehead. He touched my face, “You were so beautiful once. Who were you?”
“Am I so distasteful now?” I asked, “Well I suppose I am. No matter.” My lover was dead.
The mechanical hum announced the release of tension on my restraints and then there was a problem. “Hey… where’s the keys to these cuffs?”
“I don’t know, but it hardly matters. Surely you’ve got acid or something here.” I said, “Don’t make me wait. I am not a patient person.” I sensed some hesitation from them, “Or a person really.”
“Uh, I don’t know…”
“Get a fucking hacksaw or a file or ANYTHING, because I swear if I have to break free from these metal bracelets myself you will both be in for a WORLD of pain.” I said, baring my teeth.
“Oh shit.” Said Ian.
“Ohhhh… fucking hell.” Said Phil at the same time.
I licked my lips and felt the razor sharp points that all of my teeth had grown into. It was strange that my being a moving corpse didn’t truly frighten them until they saw my teeth. I guess knowing that I wasn’t a human creation, made the difference.
“Yes.” I said, keeping my voice calm and quiet. “Those are appropriate reactions. Another appropriate reaction would be doing as I request.”
“She… Rebecca didn’t make you did she?”
“Very astute Ian.” I said, “I have been alive for over a hundred years, feeding off the blood of your kind. If you don’t want to be part of that statistic I suggest you do as I say.”
“Shit Ian, if she was trapped by Becks do you think she poses any challenge to us?” Phil said, “We’re gonna be rich once we-”
“She did not trap me you stupid mortal!” Power coursed through me in a random burst and I raised my right wrist to my mouth and bit through the chain with a snap of my jaws. “Just because I ask you do accomplish something does not mean I cannot do it myself.”
A hacksaw began rasping against one of my leg shackles. It took a lot longer than I had thought to cut through the metal that circled my ankle than I thought it would, giving me ample time to puzzle over exactly why I had regained a touch of my Gift? Or A gift anyway. That strength of jaw and teeth hadn’t been mine.
My shackles were gone and I stretched my stiff limbs. Just how long had I been stuck in that gods forsaken drawer? “Find me some clothes.” I ordered, it was difficult to be commanding or intimidating while naked.
“I don’t have any… uh you can have my lab coat.” Ian offered.
I held out my arm, “Better than nothing. Then you can take me to whatever you call your home.”
“Uh… you want to go to the dorm?” Ian asked, sounding genuinely confused.
“I want to go somewhere that is not.” I paused and looked directly at him. His intake of breath led me to believe that my gaze was perhaps not the least distressing thing in the world. “A fucking morgue.”
“Yeah. Yeah, sure.” He said, sounding frightened to within an inch of his life.
“I will not tolerate these conditions.” I used my haughtiest tone, “Bring me to your home. I tire of this.” If one of Vlad’s flunkies came down here I’d be back where I started, only worse.
“I don’t know how we’re going to get you out of here without being discovered.” Phil said, “You don’t know what you look like, but it’s pretty bad.”
Here is where I lost my temper. “I don’t give a FLYING FUCK about your tender feelings you piece of human filth!” I shouted, “You will do as I say or I will EAT you!”
“Temper temper Renyovalia.” Vlad’s urbane voice cut through my anger and I felt fear creeping around my carefully constructed walls of indifference.
“Vlad.” I said, my voice dripping venom. “How wonderful to meet you here.”
“Professor?” Phil said, his voice trembling.
“Oh Renyovalia, you have convinced these cute little puppies to do your bidding? How adorable.”
“If I thought it would do me any good I would flay the flesh from your bones and drink your bitter marrow.” I said, looking around the room in an attempt to find him. He was nowhere to be found.
“He isn’t actually here.” I said, interrupting Ian. “But he’s close. If you don’t want to die you’d better get me out of here as fast as you can.”
“I am closer than you think little rabbit.” Vladimir said, stepping out of a shadow next to me.
I wanted to scream, to run, to do anything but face a demon from my past without anything I could use to defeat him. It took all my self-control to turn and face him without flinching.
“Oh Vladimir. There you are.” I said, smiling a toothy, hungry smile. “I think I’m quite done being stored like some common corpse don’t you? If you want my help I demand you give me clothes, a decent meal and start to treat me with a little more respect.”
“I am glad to see that you have recovered some of your fire Renyovalia. You are going to need it tomorrow night.” He purred.
“Why, are we going on a date?” I asked flippantly.
“Yes. We’re going to a Tribunal formal inquiry hearing.” He said.
“I thought you didn’t give a shit about the Tribunal and their summons.” I said, “What changed?”
“Oh, it is not MY formal inquiry meeting.” He said with a dangerous laugh, “We are going to be uninvited guests. I do hope that you can properly … prepare yourself by then.”