Starting out on something that's been in my head for a bit
|He was out of his mind.
Despite all the other thoughts racing through his mind, this was the one he kept coming back to. Sure, Arnela was even farther gone than he was, but in the end it was he who stood in front of the iron door, steeling his nerves. As always it was Arnela the instigator and Jace the fool, who ended up following along with her ideas.
He forced himself to yank his hand from his jeans pocket, pulling along a ring of keys. It was difficult work, trying to fit the right key into the right lock while his hand trembled so much that he missed an embarrassing number of times. After he had unbolted maybe half the locks, the keys jumped from his fingers and clanged loudly on the cement below.
Jace closed his eyes briefly, summoning some inner strength to control his emotion. Stooping to retrieve the ring proved difficult on his legs, as they seemed to have decided to become something like jelly.
Damn Arnela, he thought to himself bitterly, fitting the keys into the remaining locks. At last he heaved the door forward and stepped through into a small space, one that inspired claustrophobia, and came face to face with the second door. He'd been told about the extra defenses, of course, but he still cursed out his employer under his breath.
First firmly closing and locking up the first door he'd come through, he began the same process on the second. It was a pain in the ass.
A pain the ass to him, but to their captive?
He somehow doubted it meant anything to it.
Jace determinedly avoided looking into the cell as he entered it, instead opting to focus all his attention on securing this second doorway. Several moments passed before he dredged up the resolve to turn, barely concealing his surprise upon seeing it.
Gods but it looked human.
Chained and chained again, it hung limply by its wrists, head bowed. It, Jace noticed despite himself, was very much unclothed. Of course, why bother attempting to cover it up? Giving it some privacy or saving its "visitors" some sense of shame hardly surpassed the need to keep what remained of their organization safe and alive. Still, he couldn't quite stop his eyes from wandering perhaps too far down.
He cursed himself this time, and clenched his hands into fists to try and control the tremor surging through them. One more breath and he'd speak to it. Just another second to gather his resolve.
"You smell like fear."
Jace startled, but did his best to conceal it, digging his fingernails into his palms.
"It's awful," the creature continued, lifting its head so that their eyes met.
Oh, so this was how he'd remind himself it wasn't human.
Never mind that no human told someone else that they smelled bad because they were afraid, its eyes were horrifying pits of black. No whites, no irises, just black. Jace simultaneously thought they might hold the entire universe and also the absence of everything within them.
Covering his shock by moving toward its left, where a table and chair sat stuffed in the corner, he chose not to speak. A variety of tools Arnela had so thoughtfully left him littered the smooth metal surface, and he weighed several of them, pretending not to feel its eyes boring into him.
He took his time deciding how to start, ultimately choosing the short laser. His fingers drummed against its hilt as he turned back to it, disturbed but not surprised by how it continued to stare at him.
"I'm going to ask you some questions," he told it, his voice forced even.
It seemed to...sigh? "The same as the others, then." When he didn't say anything in response, it added, "Go ahead."
He took several deliberate steps toward it, brandishing the glowing weapon. Its eyes flicked from it to him, but it didn't betray any fear on its face. Could it even feel fear?
"Where are your siblings?"
It huffed. "I already told the other people who asked: I don't know. Why would I?"
Jace continued forward, coming close enough to reach out and touch it. He didn't, though some morbid curiosity planted the idea in his mind. "Why wouldn't you," he countered, "They're your kin. You're one and the same. I'm sure you can sense their presence. Or maybe you can smell them too?"
It cocked its head oddly, and Jace thought it might be trying to imitate some emotion, though he couldn't tell which. "I can smell fear. Which, I should probably say, they don't have any of. So, no. I can't actually smell them."
"How about the fear of all the thousands they're slaughtering?" Thousands? More like millions, but Jace didn't amend his statement.
Its head hung. "I... I can sense the... terror." It met Jace's eyes again as he opened his mouth and quickly added, "But I don't know what's causing it! Is it Michael? Is it Gabriel? Or maybe it's just the idea of what's happening out there? Or maybe they're just afraid for their own reasons. Afraid of something that has nothing to do with us! I don't know. I have no way of knowing."
Jace bridged the remaining gap between them and plunged the blade into its thigh without hesitation. That was the wrong answer. The world relied on it giving him the right answers.
Its responding scream was the worst he'd ever heard, shredding the insides of his ear and clawing all the way into his brain, like nails running right across the inside of his skull. Pressing his free hand to the side of his head, he was surprised when he didn't feel it wet with blood. God damn, how weren't his ears bleeding?
It finally cut off its cry and dragged in several sharp breaths, staring wide eyed at the blade sticking out from its leg.
As it seemed like it wasn't going to speak, Jace continued his questioning.
"What are you doing here?"
It swallowed audibly. "Actually, I'm sort of hoping you could answer that for me," it gasped out, sounding of all things wry. "I think I remember waking up and then... Being dragged down the street. By a rope. Tied to some sort of car? That hurt a lot, in case you were wondering. And then I was here, wherever here is. So, yeah. What am I doing here?"
Jace slowly pulled his blade from its skin, and it inhaled sharply.
"What are you doing in this world?" he growled, flipping the knife so he could hold it against its neck.
"Another great question," it breathed out, throat bobbing against the edge of the blade. "I don't remember being born this time around. So how am I in a living body? I'm as confused as you are."
"What do you mean, 'this time around'?" Jace pressed, narrowing his eyes.
"I mean usually I choose when I enter a new life. I pick a child and come into this world through it. But I didn't do that this time. Or at least I don't remember doing it."
"You possess children?" Jace growled, astonished.
Its brow furrowed, as if confused. "No, I just inhabit a newborn body before another soul does. I possess bodies as much as you possess yours."
"'This time around'," Jace repeated, leaning closer toward it.
"Yeah, as in I've lived through many lives. A lot of lives. And 'this time around' is whatever this life is. However I got here. If I'm even alive." It seemed to wade into its thoughts, becoming distracted.
Jace gladly brought it back to the present. With a stab through the shoulder.
Again it screamed, but this time Jace was prepared and didn't move to cover his ears.
Through gritted teeth he muttered, "I have one more question, and I expect a serious answer."
It gave a small nod, though its face was still twisted in pain.
"How do we kill you?"
It took some time for it reply, though he could tell it tried several times by the way its mouth gaped like a fish.
Finally it whispered, "You don't."
"Fuck yes we do," he retorted, again freeing his weapon. Its eyes followed it warily.
"You can't," it said, meeting his eyes straight on, its face stony.
"How. do. we. kill. you?"
Done trying to reign in his temper, he drove the blade into its gut and turned away, leaving it there. Its agonized shouts followed him out the two heavy doors and didn't leave him until he reached the end of the passage and the elevator waiting to take him up.