Elise, pt. 2

Here, for your reading pleasure, is my first entry in a chain story being written by myself and the excellent Joe Blame. (that’s right, he’s the top button under my ‘affiliates’ heading).

BEFORE you read my part below, go visit his site using either of the links on this page, or go straight to the entry itself here. I very much enjoyed the opening he created for us, and can’t wait to see where goes with part 3!

The hours dragged slowly in that little room, and a dull ache bloomed in the small of her back. Elise shifted uncomfortably from time to time, increasingly aware of it, but never moved from her spot. It was better to keep still, just to focus on the cracks in the floor, or the stains on the ceiling; Elise felt a swell of panic behind every thought or action, and she needed to stay calm tonight. The kunai was hard and reassuring against her leg – at least she could defend herself until Caleb got there. If he’s even still coming, she thought. It wouldn’t be the first time.

The room light faltered again, catching her attention, and Elise’s eyes flicked upwards to look at it. It was almost gone. The bulb had waned from a pale orange to a deep purple, and with a pop, it suddenly gave out. A rush of angry shouts from below made her tense, but it was unlikely anyone would bother her now – the power grid had been failing for months, and people knew that their night was over if the juice ran out. Juice. Elise shuddered at the crassness of the term. Everyone knew where the power came from, what actually drove those great turbines in the grid stations, but nobody was about to pop the illusion by speaking about it directly. Ignorance was bliss, after all.

After a moment her eyes adjusted to the gloom; the starlight – a weak source of illumination to anyone else – was a bright beacon to her eyes, and it lit up the dank space in whites and blues. Suddenly a hand flashed across the window, and made two sharp taps on the glass. Elise was on her feet at once, her hand already closed around the hilt of the kunai without her realising it.

“H-hello?” she whispered.

“Open up, quick!” said a voice, and relief washed over her as Elise recognised the speaker. She rushed over to the window, legs stiff and awkward, and fumbled with the catch until it opened.

“I thought you weren’t coming,” she said, tugging at his shirt to get him in inside.

“No time,” Caleb said, shaking his head. Elise dropped her hands. “The lower-quarters grid is down. Out of juice. We’ll never get a better chance, and it could come back on at any time! Come on.”

Elise blanched. “O-out the…”

“Window, yeah, hurry up.”

With that, Caleb dropped noiselessly out of sight. Elise gasped, alarmed, and shoved her head outside, but saw him sliding down a gutter pipe. He looked up at her from the ground and winked, his boyish features perfectly clear in her vision, then slipped around the side of the building, away from the main street.

Elise knew that no-one must see them, and glanced nervously at the door behind her. I can’t back out now. She steeled herself, then turned and clambered out onto the window ledge. It was far too narrow. Please don’t fall, she pleaded silently, and tried not to think about what hitting the ground from two storeys up would feel like.

*

As predicted, the streets were dark and empty, the people all tucked away in their houses, and after twenty minutes Elise and Caleb arrived at the grid station. It was a black square building, with pipes leading away from it along the ground, and a pyramid-shaped roof. A chain-link fence surrounded the building, and Elise spotted a lone guard slumped against the main entrance.

“Look,” said Caleb darkly as they crouched behind a tree, away from the road. “The tip is starting to light up again.” He pointed to the top of the roof, which was a different colour from the rest of it. Semi-transparent panels made up the tip, and a faint blue-green light swirled inside. Caleb spat on the ground beside him. “Must’ve had a new shipment in already.” Elise cringed at his casual phrasing.

“H-how do we get in?” she said quietly.

Caleb flashed her a smile, and nodded in the direction of the perimeter fence. “Easy – I cut a hole in the fence last night. Almost no guards, either. Nobody expects people to break into this place. Why would they?” Elise felt a flash of anger at that, knowing how true it was. “We’ll get in through a side door. Come on.”

Elise was shaking as they scrabbled through the small slit in the fence. It was off to the side, away from the guard, but anyone could find them. Find her, in this place. She could smell the staleness in the air, almost feel the grinding of the generators inside, and it set her teeth on edge, like fingernails down a blackboard. In a heartbeat or two they had crossed the intervening space, and reached the side door. The lock was old and degraded, and Caleb forced it making almost no noise at all. Elise followed him inside, and pushed the door closed behind her.

“My God,” she whispered, her breath faltering.

Directly opposite them was a single generator: two large turbines, encased in steel and each taller than a man, and between them a perspex tube, with a body trapped inside. Faint blue-green light pooled above its head, and the turbines grated as they turned, slowly. Elise glanced back at Caleb, shivering, and saw the answering fury on his face.

“Makes me sick,” spat Caleb, his fists clenched into tight balls. It made Elise nervous to watch him. “They lock them inside, use them like pack beasts, to drive these… these machines, until all their their magic, all their strength gives out.” He shook his head angrily. “This way.” He made for another door just next to the generator, but Elise felt herself walk towards the perspex tube, watching it in horrified fascination.

She came to a stop, and stared up at the elf trapped inside.

Her skin was grey and blue, and glistened with a sheen of sweat. Her naked body hung awkwardly from two metal restraints that coiled around her shoulders and armpits; her breasts drooped to one side, covered in dark splotches, and her legs dangled freely, looking withered from lack of use. Her ears were long and pointed, curling back around her head, and Elise felt her own ears with her fingers. It could so easily have been me. Elise looked at the elf’s eyes, barely slits but still open, and felt sick as she realised that the elf was still awake. Still conscious.

A grunt escaped the elf’s lips, and her eyelids flickered.

“Elise, come on,” whispered Caleb, tugging at her arm. “It’s too late for that one, you know it is!”

“I.. I’m sorry,” she mouthed, and allowed Caleb to drag her further into the nightmarish place.

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  1. August 6th, 2010
  2. August 26th, 2010