not as strong as imagined

“Giles? Can you come over here?” Miranda beckoned for Giles to move from where he apprehensively stood in the doorway to beside him. “You see this window here? I could have sworn that I locked it last night, and Anders didn’t say anything about unlocking it before he left to work.”

Giles picked up one of the shards of the broken window lock, confusion crossing his face as he gazed over the window hanging from one tattered hinge. From behind the loose pieces of glass and framing, a few disturbed wildlife prowled around the thawing oak and pine tree skeletons. “Anders wouldn’t have trashed his own window, and the lunatic subjects were locked up downstairs last night.”

A gust of wind blew through the busted window and rustled through the room, and Miranda tucked one of his locks of hair back behind his ear. “You sure it’s not an animal?”

“No animal around here is big enough to do that. Please just let me call someone to fix it while you come downstairs for breakfast.”

“How about I get changed first before I do anything else?” Miranda waved off Giles, who rolled his eyes and departed from the room. He zipped open the noticeably lighter bag of clothes and changed into some day wear, looking up from putting his pants on when the door opened a crack and offered a subject’s red-haired head topped with Miranda’s underwear.

The subject slunk soundlessly into the room, betraying the rest of her scarred and bruised body as she approached Miranda with her back bent forward. Looking up through the mop of curls with the underwear concealing one eye, she hissed, “You be Miranda, correct?”

“I…” Miranda pulled his pants up all the way and removed the underwear from the freak’s face, exposing a yellowed and puffy eyeball. Attempting to remain calm as he set it somewhere else, he continued, “Yes, I’m Miranda. And who would you be?”

“I’m nobody of consequence.” She reached up and dragged one ragged fingernail along Miranda’s collarbone, forcing him to brush the hand away and take a few steps back. “Why? Are you afraid of me?”

“Well, for starters, you came into my room uninvited.” Miranda backed up onto the mattress and the subject followed, the mattress making up for some of the subject’s stunted stature. “Why are you in here?”

“I have some unfinished business with the gods.” She shot for Miranda’s neck again, scraping a few angry marks before he jumped back. “Do you want to play? The winner gets more life marbles.”

You seem to have lost all of them already, life or not. He shook his head. “I’d really rather not.”

The subject burst off the bed and clung to Miranda’s chest, throwing him to the ground and tearing recklessly at his shirt. Her head rung with a few of Miranda’s halfhearted slaps, at which he spat, “What? You don’t want to play?”

“Get off of me, you prick!” Thrashing about, he feebly pushed the subject off, who got on all fours and hurled herself back at Miranda’s body. He was able to deflect the creature into the wall the first attempt, shaking some of the dust from the floor, but a repeated attempt sent Miranda straight back to the floor with a writhing monster sliding towards his belly.

“Oh? Is the mommy pregnant?” The subject smiled, revealing two wide sets of yellowed teeth lowering towards Miranda’s bellybutton. Squeezing the taut belly with both hands and digging his nails in, he snarled, “Can I have a taste?”

Miranda winced and opened his mouth to speak, but a trio of flashes interrupted him and threw the subject against the wall. He put his arms around his pierced belly, knots of pain beating from beneath the surface, and rolled to his side. Giles re-entered the room, crouching by Miranda with a smoking dart stunner in his hands. “You okay?”

What do you think, Captain Obvious? “I feel nauseous.” The subject rolled back up to a standing position and crouched to leap for the cringing Miranda again, stopped by Giles launching another dart into her leg. She collapsed onto the floor, waving obscene gestures with her fingers until her body stilled. “What exactly is going on?”

“A few of the caretakers are getting fired today because they were lazy with enforcing the lockdown on those subjects, that’s what.” Giles returned the dart stunner to his belt and picked the limping Miranda up. “Anders is going to be absolutely livid with me.”


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