Chapter _; book i
Working chapter title: anchors aweigh
Pilot awoke to the burning of florescent lights through his eyelids, scalding his sensitive retinas into a temporary blindness. He didn't open his eyes; he knew better, if they burned so intensely already, he'd be a fool to open them so the light could have direct access. Instead, he waited; allowing for a gradual re-acclimation to light. His ears buzzed with a tedious dripping not far away from him. He was in a lavatory, he could tell by the resounding echoes of each plunk.
He felt warm all over; or, at least, mostly so. The warmth stopped halfway up his chest. He realized he was immersed in something, a thick, bordering on hot, liquid. He tried to breathe in through his nose but a sharp pain manifested itself suddenly and he halted the attempt. His nose was broken. Plunk. His feet tingled with blood loss; he realized if he didn't move soon he would start feeling the uncomfortable pricks of a "sleeping" limb. Plunk. Distantly, his right hand throbbed; he could tell it was swollen and discolored and he didn't even have to look at it.
He'd grown used to the feeling of broken bones since he'd been here. Plunk.
He adjusted his position slightly, using his left hand to support most of his body weight, attempting to ease the burden on his kneecaps. The liquid sloshed around him, splashing up over the side of what had to be a tub. His eyes had stopped burning by now, and the bright whiteness that told him they were blinded had receded to a gray blur around the edges. Plunk. He opened them slowly, careful not to shock them again, and waited for faint colors to develop. Finally, he allowed himself a slow peek at his surroundings.
His observation got no farther than a few inches beyond his own body. Plunk. He was sitting in blood; gallons of it. The tub was more than three-quarters of the way full, and it was still warm.
Impulsively, despite logic, he wondered if it was his own. Plunk. It couldn't be his, he knew; he'd be dead long before this much blood was squeezed out of him. So where had it come from? He could feel the acid that continually ate through his stomach lining bubble over with the slow-coming nausea that followed his understanding.
He didn't want to look up. He had to look up.
He didn't want to look up. Plunk.
He knew what he would see; as much as he hated the thought, as much as it infuriated him, he tried to remind himself that it was too late. That some things can't be changed. Plunk.
He reminded himself that in war, people died. They died for a lot of reasons; some valid, some blasphemous to life itself. Death was inevitable, it would find every living creature on the planet, in time, and take them all. It was futile to fight it, to pretend that saving a life meant the life would continue on perpetually. Plunk. Everything comes to an end.
He didn't look up.
Instead, he used his good hand to grip the rim of the tub and leveraged himself so he could swing his legs over the side. A drop of blood fell onto his shoulder from above him. Plunk. The blood stained his skin. He tried to ignore it. The entire bathroom was covered in pristine white tiles, floor to ceiling, and every step he took left a sickly path of sanguineous fluid that he couldn't stand to think about. Plunk. There were no windows in the room, and only one long florescent bulb was bolted to the ceiling. There was a single door, but it was solid steel and there was nothing to grip on his side.
He couldn't take it. The itching need to know filled him, the questions multiplied in his mind until they were all he could hear. He swallowed down the part of him that wanted to deny this, that wanted to overlook his new trauma and move on, push forward with ignorance and what remained of his sanity; but he had to know. If not for himself, than for whomever it was they had dangling above the tub, leaking out the rest of what could have been his life. He shut his eyes and tilted his face upward, refusing to look any longer than he had to. He counted down in his head.
One. He opened his eyes quickly, not giving himself time to chicken out, and the instant his eyes landed on Artur's mangled body, he began vomiting. Whoever it was holding him captive had found an ancient ship anchor, cast iron and easily three feet wide, and had hooked Artur's spine over one of the points. Intestines seemed to seep out around the entry and exit wounds, a sickly gray color now that most of his blood had been drained.
Beneath him, his knees buckled and crashed against the tile floor; he could feel bone cracking with the impact. He heaved, his stomach practically lurching up through his throat as he expelled mouthful after mouthful of acid and his own blood. His heartbeat rattled in his chest. His entire body shook visibly; with anger, with exhaustion, with a deep-seeded fear that he wasn't ready or willing to acknowledge. Inside of his chest he felt a swelling, molten hot and dark, burning to get out.
All the misery he felt, all the sorrow and panic and agony in his entire being coalesced into a fiery ember that grew and contorted until it filled him. His rage became his skeleton, it supported him where his bones were crumbling, it livened up his deadened nerve endings and woke up his primal, violent, abandoned beast. Somewhere inside of him, his sanity broke open and pure, unadulterated instinct took over. Unstoppable, blinding mania washed over him and suddenly there was nothing else. His body moved, despite his swollen knees and cracked ribs; he gripped the side of the tub and forced his body up. The antique claw feet creaked with the motion, but it was hardly audible over the choked, scratchy howl that tore from his throat.
He strained until slowly, excruciatingly, the tub tilted and the blood that filled it began to waterfall down to the floor. It sloshed over his feet, slickening the tile beneath him. He stepped forward, ignoring the sharp snaps in his joints, pushing until the bathtub toppled over onto its side. Before the dizziness spread much beyond the spiraling feeling in the back of his skull, the room went black and he felt himself falling.
A woman leaned over him, rivulets of perspiration breaking up the patches of ash and soot covering most of her face, dripping down her neck and creeping along the long lines of her collarbones. From above him, her words fell as whispered bombs, crashing into him with a biting realism he'd never felt before.
You are ill-prepared, Dealer.
The day of reckoning is not far.
Her eyes were distant blue pools, shielded mostly by her straggly blonde hair, and hidden behind their glassy facade was a barren wasteland. Something told him he hadn't been meant to see that world.