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Huldrerealm >LoVeSiCk!>Imaginary Fiend>Bloodrose – 20.93% drafted
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Blood Rose Chapter IX

LoVeSiCK!

Imaginary Fiend: Blood Rose

by M J Robertson

Chapter IX – The Return

~X~X~

This was it; it was finally happening… wasn’t it? Rose and Ollie stood in the centre of the parking lot, the girl feeling a chill come over her. The car was up ahead; they were inside, the person that wanted to take Rose away; her mother, she hoped.

It was her, wasn’t it? They had been waiting for some time. Had something happened to her, what if the director’s people had intercepted her? This could be a trap! Rose looked to the man beside her. Ollie stared straight ahead, focusing intently on that car.

It was fine, wasn’t it? It would be alright. Rose didn’t know whether Poer had prepared countermeasures for any kind of trick his brother might try to pull, but she had faith in him; Poer should able to put something together, should an imposter emerge from that other car.

Eventually, the door opened, and out came a lone figure, one that Rose instantly recognized; she had to stop herself from running toward it. It was her. It was Mother.

Read more…

Blood Rose Chapter VIII

I believe, this puts you in check.”

Ollie Poer stared at his older brother. He could feel his teeth grind. How could he have been so blind? He’d actually felt thankful for his brother’s intervention.

Rexl never did anything unless it benefited him, Ollie should have known. Rexl didn’t care about the girls, they were just tools. Ollie looked to Rose; she looked back, a blank expression ghosting her features.

What could he do? Rexl was right, he had them all against the wall. Ollie looked over to the men restraining Megan; they didn’t appear to be hurting her, but they wouldn’t let her go, either.

What happens now,” the Psychiatrist asked his older brother.

Now, you give up this foolish rebellion and get back to work. I’ve warned you once before, haven’t I? Fall in line, or I’ll kill you here and now.”

I don’t doubt it. You really wouldn’t have any qualms with killing your own brother, would you?”

Don’t test me, Ollie.” That response was all the proof he needed. Rexl knew no remorse, he knew no mercy, he was in full control of this situation. Read more…

Blood Rose Chapter 7

The Escape: Part IV – The Finale

 

The girl’s eyes opened, looking about her.  It was dark, she could barely see anything, save for the man carrying her on his back.  Her muscles felt tight, stiff.  Her entire body hurt and she had a splitting headache.

Where was she, what had happened?

A slight groan escaped her as she came to.  She recognised the man as Ollie Poer.  He had found her?

Why was he carrying her?

“What happened,” she slurred, her voice coming out as a low rumble, barely audible, but the man must have heard her.

“You’re finally awake,” he said.  “I was getting worried, you’ve been out for… well, it’s been a while anyway.”

Rose assumed the doctor must not have had the time on him.

The girl tried to remember, though it hurt her head to think.  She tried to sort through the haze in her mind.

She remembered the voice.  Someone had been following her, giving her directions.  They had chased her.  She’d gone the wrong way.  That voice had been practically screaming at her.

Rose had run faster to get away from it.  She hadn’t been looking where she was going.  She tripped, she fell.  She’d been seen. Read more…

Blood Rose Chapter VI

LoVeSiCK!
Imaginary Fiend: Bloood Rose
Chapter VI: The Escape Part III: Megan

~X~X~

Megan hugged the man, then backed away, the sweet smile never leaving her. “See you on the other side, Daddy.” She then turned and made her way into the forest.

The dense plant life stopped either side of her, leaving just enough room for a narrow dirt path, like a road. The path stretched on, out of sight.

The road ahead would be long, dark, claustrophobic. Megan switched on her flashlight. Her eyes lit up as they followed the beam, as it lit the darkness before her.

Megan’s eyes traversed the long, skinny road, making the journey before her feet.

The path she walked on was more like a corridor than a road. She looked up, trying to make out the tops of the trees, but they seemed to stretch on forever. Try as she might, she couldn’t see the sky.

This forest wasn’t a forest at all, it was a dungeon. They’d been walking hallways all night, and this was no different. This forest was just another room in the facility.

They thought they were out, but it felt as though she were still inside.

Megan pressed on. It felt as though she’d been walking forever.

The girl came to a halt as she saw something in the distance. A distant figure. Was that Ollie? It looked like him, but why was he here? Weren’t they supposed to meet outside the forest?

Could it be a trap? Perhaps it wasn’t him after all.

Megan shut off her light and cautiously approached, keeping an eye on the humanoid figure. He hadn’t noticed her.

The figure wasn’t moving, he seemed to be just standing there. Was he keeping guard, or had he gotten lost?

The figure seemed to grow more familiar, the closer she got. It looked just like him. It was him, it had to be, Megan was sure of it. It was definitely Ollie, but what was he doing here?

Ollie had said he’d take the most winding path. Had it been too winding? Had he gotten lost? Did he take a wrong turn?

Were there any turns on his path? Would there be turns on Rose’s path, or further up ahead on Megan’s? Would they face the risk of getting lost too? Ollie hadn’t mentioned anything like this.

Perhaps the paths weren’t so different after all. Maybe they all converged here, in the forest’s centre. Maybe they could all leave together after all. That wouldn’t be so bad, so long as there wouldn’t be anyone waiting for them on the other side, at the end of the line.

She had gotten so close, but the figure didn’t seem to notice. He hadn’t seen her.

Megan stood directly behind him, but he remained lost in thought, as if in a daze. Was he alright?

Suddenly, the figure spoke, calling her name. It was him, the figure had his voice. It was Ollie. It was!

Daddy?” she voiced. The man stiffened at her call, as if woken from a dream. He turned to face her.

It was difficult to see his expression in the darkness, but she could feel the bewilderment within; It poured out of him like a fragrance. He was a heater in a cold room, and his emotions radiated out to warm her.

She basked in his feelings, his emotions, his confusion.

This was most definitely Ollie, and he hadn’t expected to see her here.

The man didn’t speak, he didn’t approach or move to touch her. It seemed as though he wasn’t sure if she were truly there. He didn’t trust that she was Megan.

She could understand that. After all, she hadn’t been sure if this man were really Ollie. It didn’t seem possible that they could have met in the middle of this labyrinth.

Ollie’s plan had been meticulous, but he clearly hadn’t foreseen something like this. How could he have? It didn’t seem possible.

Something was wrong.

He looked at her as though she were a stranger. She gazed up into the doctor’s eyes as though her sincerity alone would put his suspicions to rest and his mind at ease.

She looked beyond his eyes, into his mind.

Is that really you?

Ollie hadn’t voiced the question, it echoed within the bounds of his mind. He thought… he didn’t trust that she was really there. How could she be, Ollie had sent her on a different path.

But shouldn’t he know? That path had led her here, before him. Didn’t Ollie know the layout of this forest-like labyrinth?

He thought she might be some kind of hallucination, created by the forest to trap him.

It could do that?

In his mind, Ollie had asked whether she were really there, if it were really her.

Of course it is,” she answered, a sweet smile on her face. She wanted to put his mind at ease, but he didn’t look particularly relieved, and he didn’t match her smile.

His eyes narrowed, accusatory. “Don’t do that,” he chastised, his tone lacking the warmth she craved.

The girl’s eyes widened, looking up at him as though he had just struck her. “Do what?” she asked, her wide eyes staring up at him, brow furrowed in confusion, trying to understand. Why was Ollie mad at her? What had she done?

You’ve never directly probed my mind before.” The man looked down at her, examining her, probing her with his eyes. She wasn’t used to this kind of scrutiny. Not from him.

She didn’t like it.

You’ve never been this direct before,” he continued, “responding to my questions without even giving me a chance to ask them.”

Was that the issue? It had never been a problem before. This was how she’d always been. Why was he only making a big deal out of it now?

Yes I have. When you first came for me, remember? You were grieving for your family. I told you that they didn’t suffer.”

Don’t do that again.”

What?” The girl stared at him, wide eyes looking up at him like those of a scolded puppy. What was this all of a sudden? Ever since they’d had their run in with Maybelle, something between them had changed.

Stay out of my head. I don’t want you invading my thoughts anymore.”

Megan was taken aback. Why was he distancing himself from her?

But I… I was just trying to help.” She approached him, wrapping her arms around his body. “I understand you better than anyone. Don’t push me away because of that.”

Ollie held her in a half embrace, placing his arm around her shoulders. “You don’t understand anything about privacy, do you?” he asked her.

We’re closer than words.” Megan nuzzled her face into the man’s shirt, speaking softly. “Why do we need privacy? Why do you want to build walls between us?”

Ollie sighed. The girl looked him in the eye, seeing his disappointment; in what she had said, in what she had done, in her.

Megan heard the thoughts as they rushed through Ollie’s mind. Kayla’s cruel voice echoed in her ears.

Maybe this is madness, but at least here the madness is contained. You would unleash it upon the world.

Was Ollie regretting his decision? Was Kayla right about her? Was it right for her to remain in this prison?

Ollie wouldn’t leave her behind… would he? Maybe he believed that Megan was a psychopath, just like Kayla had said.

No, the despicably cruel woman couldn’t be right. She couldn’t. Ollie hadn’t listened to her. He was on their side, Megan’s side.

But then why was he reflecting on her warning? Kayla was the enemy. She wanted to keep the girls imprisoned, to torture them. Ollie had defied her, he had… they had fought each other, and Ollie had beaten her.

She was no longer… she couldn’t prevent their escape anymore; at least, Megan had thought so.

She stepped away from Ollie; the ghost of Kayla’s words wouldn’t stop her, would they?

Megan’s power was just something that came naturally to her, she didn’t think there was anything wrong with using it; she never did anything bad, she just had better hearing than most. Ollie couldn’t punish her just for having acute senses, it wasn’t fair.

Megan didn’t have to try to use her power, it just happened, it came naturally. It was a part of her, she didn’t know if she could turn it off, but if Ollie didn’t want her to use it anymore, she had to try.

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do anything wrong, I was helping. I just wanted to help you with your plan!”

The man reached for her, ruffling her hair with a gentle hand. Megan’s eyes closed, her body relaxing into his touch, as it always did.

I know,” he consoled her.” Look… we’ll talk about this later. For now, just do as I say.”

Megan sighed, contented. Ollie was right, this could wait. He wasn’t mad at her; for now, that was all the girl cared about. For now, that was enough… until Ollie’s next words caught her off guard, breaking her calm.

Why did you follow me? Why didn’t you just take the path I laid out for you?” The girl looked up at him. Was he joking? He seemed serious. Megan hadn’t followed him, she’d done as she was told. Megan was a good girl. She did what she was told. She always did as she was told, no matter what.

I did follow the path you gave me. I did!”

Then why…?”

I went straight, just like you told me, then I wound up here and found you.”

It can’t be. This isn’t right. It wasn’t supposed to go like this.”

What was wrong? Why had Megan and Ollie run into each other? If they were here, then where was Rose?

Ollie was correct. Something was going on. Something about this wasn’t right.

Something had gone seriously wrong, but what was it?

This forest is moving,” Ollie said, answering her unasked question. Perhaps Megan didn’t need her power after all. Even without it, she and Ollie seemed to be on the same wavelength.

But what he had said, she didn’t understand. “How can it do that?” She voiced her question. She didn’t trust him to read her mind a second time.

I didn’t think it was possible, but it must be. It’s the only explanation, I had it all mapped out. My plan was meticulous; if we each stuck to our own paths, we should have reached the end, but somehow the two of us met in the middle. Some point between now and the moment I mapped out the forest, something changed. This forest is a maze, but the maze has shifted, the paths are different.”

A silence had washed over them. Megan looked up into Ollie’s eyes; they were clouded over, lost in thought, not seeing her.

This is all wrong,” he mused.

Megan’s thoughts went once more to the frozen redhead, the frost-covered flower. What had happened to Rose?

The two of them had arrived here in the middle, would Rose do the same. Was she alright? Had she gotten lost too, or was she still on track?

Ollie had said it, the paths had changed. His plan had been compromised. If Rexl or someone at the facility did have the ability to change the layout of the labyrinthine forest, then maybe this was all part of their counterplan; and if so, Ollie had fallen right into it.

This was a trap!

Rexl wanted them separated. In that case, splitting up was the worst thing they could have done. She understood Ollie’s concerns, but maybe they should have stuck together after all.

They were both here, and Rose was elsewhere, on her own.

Rose was alone, as always.

Had Ollie chosen the correct path for her? Was there even a correct path? Did it matter? Maybe all paths led to a dead end, or maybe someone was watching them even now and controlling the forest.

Was the lonely redhead on her way outside, or was she heading into a trap?

Maybe her path would loop around and lead her right back to the facility. If so, it seemed that the older girl was a higher priority. So what about them? Did Rexl not care if Megan and Ollie escaped, or were they intended to wander the forest for the rest of their limited days?

Perhaps they would die in here, perhaps that was to be their punishment, the consequence of their insolence.

What a morbid thought that was, Megan could only assume that the director cared more about Rose than he did her and Ollie; she didn’t know whether to be saddened or relieved at that. After all, the man had been her father, not that he’d ever acted like it.

Still… as long as she was with Ollie—

The girl’s thought was cut off before it had fully formed. Her eyes snapped open, staring with futility at the direction of that sound. That voice, she recognised it.

She knew that voice. She felt the bubble well up in her stomach. Was it anxiety, or hope?

Perhaps things would work out after all. Perhaps they would all be together.

Had Megan’s pessimistic thoughts been for nothing? She should stay positive. Whatever that commotion was, there was one thing for certain: Her only friend was in the middle of it. Megan knew where she was, now they had to help her.

Megan looked to Ollie, and he matched her gaze. They looked into each other’s eyes and each saw the other’s thoughts. Megan didn’t need her power, they both cried her name in unison, their thoughts intertwined.

Rose!”

Ollie took off in the direction of the noise, grasping Megan’s hand in his, pulling her along behind him.

Let’s go!” he called out. Megan nodded her agreement.

The girl struggled to keep up, but she did her best. Rose was in trouble, she needed their help; but at least they knew where she was. At least they would all be together again. They were a family, they had to stick together.

It wasn’t long before they found her, not that Rose was difficult to spot, even in the darkness of the forest. She was running toward them, yelling, screaming. She was scared.

Something was after her, but what? Try as she might, Megan couldn’t see a thing. “What happened to her,” she asked, looking to Ollie. He didn’t answer. Had he heard her question?

Perhaps he was thinking. Megan looked back to the frantic redhead, she was hysterical. Had she seen something, or someone? Worse, perhaps someone had seen her. She looked as though she were being chased. If that were the case, things didn’t look good.

What should they do? Megan turned to Ollie. “Should we hide?” she pressed. It was more of a suggestion than a question, but she phrased it all the same. It was up to Ollie.

“You go on ahead,” he told her. “I’ll stay and help Rose.”

Megan hadn’t expected that.

Why?

They had just found each other, they had just gotten back together. Why did they have to split up again?

Megan didn’t like it. She didn’t want to be alone. Why did she have to?

Ollie had made up his mind, though. This was his plan, after all, and he insisted on splitting up. “But… why?” The girl looked up, her eyes imploring the older man. Why couldn’t she stay with him? Why was he sending her away?

You already know the answer to that, don’t you? You’ve been reading my mind all this time, right?” The breath caught in Megan’s throat.

Ollie was still mad at her.

He was wrong. She wasn’t reading his mind. She wouldn’t do that anymore, not if Ollie didn’t want her to. Why didn’t he trust her? If only he could read her mind too, then he’d see. Then he would know that she was a good girl, a good girl.

She’d thought they were on the same wavelength, but Ollie didn’t trust her.

Ever since then, ever since Maybelle.

Ollie was mad at her.

Megan looked up at him, on the verge of tears. She could feel the sting in her eyes, but she wouldn’t let them form. She wouldn’t cry, she had to be strong.

She wasn’t reading his mind. She wouldn’t, but she had to make him understand.

“You told me not to do that anymore…” he had to believe her. He had to know she would do anything he asked. She was a good girl.

Ollie sighed. “Look, I don’t know how this is going to turn out. I want to make sure at least one of us escapes. I can’t leave Rose, but I don’t want to put you in danger. You have to get out of the forest. Whatever happens, promise me you won’t get caught.

Okay, Daddy. I promise.” She stepped toward the psychiatrist and put her arms around him, holding him in a tight hug. She turned her attention to Rose, just in time to see her fall.

The redhead had been running toward them, away from something… Megan didn’t know. Rose was hysterical, desperate. She wasn’t paying attention to where she was going. Her foot must have caught on something. She tripped, she fell, she landed flat on her face.

Megan flinched, as though empathy could cause her to feel the other’s pain.

Rose just lay there for a moment. She didn’t move to get up, probably catching her breath, Megan assumed. The older girl must have been exhausted. How far had she run? Her lungs were probably burning, her muscles probably ached. Her face was pressed to the ground. She was breathing the dirt.

It must have been horrible. Megan could imagine, she could almost smell it, taste it; the ground that Rose was still lying on.

“Go!” Ollie ordered, snapping Megan out of her thoughts with a start.

Jumping at the harsh sound of his voice, Megan looked to him through wide eyes. “Right,” she conceded. “I’ll wait for you outside. I love you, Daddy.”

“I love you too.”

Megan hugged the man once more, squeezing him as tightly as she dared before turning and continuing on the path he had set for her.

She took off in a run and made some distance before deciding to leave the dirt path to hide in amongst the bushes. If someone was after Rose, she didn’t want to risk being seen or followed.

From her newfound hiding place, Megan looked back at the scene she had just left in time to watch it play out without her.

As if following her example, Ollie took off in a run, only in the opposite direction, toward the vulnerable Rose.

The redhead lifted her head, only just noticing him. She tried to stand, only to lose her footing and fall back to the ground.

Something was wrong. Was Rose naturally this clumsy, or was something affecting her coordination?

Time seemed to stand still. Ollie was running full speed ahead to help Rose, but he seemed to be moving at a crawl. The scene before her was like a recording on tape played in slow motion. Ollie’s attempt to help Rose proved futile.

Before he even got close, the girl was yanked out of his reach, like a fish caught on a line.

Megan could only stare in horror at the impossibility before her. Whatever Rose had tripped on, it was alive, and it was a predator.

She was being dragged, quickly and without mercy.

Megan didn’t know what was pulling her, but whatever it was, it moved faster than Ollie.

The hidden girl resisted the urge to cry out as Rose was dragged away, out of her sight. Ollie chased after her, and soon Megan was left alone in the darkness.

The brunette was frozen. The forest had gotten so cold, but her body couldn’t even manage the will to shiver.

She was all alone. Those other two were gone. Megan could only hope that Ollie would be able to save the redhead before it was too late, before whatever monster that had ahold of her managed to reel her in.

She heard Rose’s screams in the distance, but as the moments slowly passed, even they disappeared, and in the end, the young brunette was left with nothing.

Megan was on her own. Again.

Her body released its self-imposed paralysis and the girl fell to her knees, tears stinging her eyes. She quietly whimpered. She didn’t like this.

Maybe they should never have come here. Maybe they should have stayed back in the facility, where it was safe, in the secure safety of their prison.

Megan hated it.

The isolation. The loneliness. The darkness.

Even the commotion of Rose’s futile struggling, as she was dragged away against her will, had gone. In it’s place, Megan found an intolerable, deathly silence that mixed with the darkness of the forest to crush her.

Megan’s hand searched the ground around her for the flashlight she had dropped, turning it on; she couldn’t stay here any longer. Ollie had wanted her to get out. He wanted her to be safe, to be free. She would do her best.

Megan was alone.

~X~

Megan made her way through the dark forest, flashlight in hand. It seemed that the further away she got from those two, the quieter her surroundings were.

She pressed ever onward, just like he had told her; just like she had promised. She kept moving forward, but her thoughts reached back. She couldn’t help her mind from wandering in the wrong direction.

Were those two all right? What had been wrong with Rose? Why was she running? Why was she screaming?

The younger girl couldn’t help but worry about her senior, her older sister.

They would be all right, she knew they would. All she had to worry about was getting herself out of here. She had to make sure she didn’t get caught. If Rexl’s men found her, it would make things harder for the other two. She couldn’t get caught, she couldn’t be a burden on Ollie and Rose, she didn’t want them to have to come after her.

If they had to save her, then they might risk getting caught themselves. They had to escape, they had to get out; if they failed, they wouldn’t get another chance, and considering what they’d done, what Ollie had done, things would be much worse for them.

Megan would probably be confined to her room, like Rose had been. Rose would have it worse than ever, and Ollie… after what he’d done… he’d gone against his brother, broken them all out, tried to escape, even killed—shot Kayla. The director would likely have him locked away in one of the white rooms. He’d keep him there, and Megan would never see him again. He’d be detained, imprisoned, tortured, maybe even executed.

Megan’s body halted at the thought.

No. That couldn’t happen, Megan wouldn’t allow it.

Her hand tightened on the flashlight. She held her breath, listening, watching, waiting.

She was alone. She pressed on.

The rest of Megan’s journey was thankfully uneventful. She’d have been alone with her thoughts if she hadn’t emptied her mind to keep up a state of readiness. She had to be prepared, in case anyone or anything happened to come after her. She kept an ear out. If anyone approached, she would hear them. Whatever had happened to Rose, Megan couldn’t let that happen to her.

She walked forward, following the narrow path. Shrubbery and branches brushed against her as she walked past. Megan took care not to trip or let anything touch her bare skin, taking extra care of where she placed her feet; If these trees were alive, they wouldn’t take her by surprise.

The beam of light stayed ahead of the young brunette. Megan clasped the flashlight tightly in her hand, using it to keep an eye on her surroundings. Before her, up ahead, either side of her, even below. She used the flashlight to keep an eye on her own feet.

She wouldn’t forget how Rose had lost her footing and tripped on a branch, that had looked painful; she didn’t want to experience it, but more than that, she didn’t want to experience what had happened immediately after; she didn’t want to be trapped or dragged back to the facility.

It must have been terrifying. Rose had been helpless, unable to defend herself or fight back; she couldn’t even stop the vines from dragging her halfway across the forest. Megan could only hope that Ollie had been able to stop them before it was too late.

The girl shook her head. She was losing focus. She had to concentrate. What good would it do to think about that? She couldn’t help Rose now, she just had to focus on getting herself out. What good would it do to worry about Ollie and Rose? What good would it do to worry about what could happen? She just had to ensure that it wouldn’t, she had to make sure it would never come to pass; she had to prevent that nightmare from coming true, by any means.

Megan took a deep breath, then pressed on.

She must have been close to the exit by now, there was light up ahead. All she had to do was walk toward that light.

Megan licked her lips; this was it, it was right there, she was almost out. She was finally, almost outside. The distant light shone like a beacon of hope, inviting her, enticing her.

It was the light at the end of the tunnel. It was. This forest was so dark and quiet, it really was just like an underground cave, only with grass and thick roots in place of a real cave’s rocky, uneven footing.

The path grew brighter with every step she took. Megan switched off her flashlight, she didn’t need it anymore. The luminous opening up ahead infected the forest’s oppressive darkness, filling it with colour. The area surrounding her was still eerily silent, but that light was a blessing. This forest really was like a cave.

Nearing the exit, even the air smelled fresher. It tasted sweet. The dark forest and the facility it harboured were finally behind her. The air grew lighter, sweeter, and fresher, the closer she drew to that heavenly light.

Megan picked up her pace, breaking into a run, a grin plastered endearingly upon her face.

This was it. She was finally out. She was finally free. For the first time in her life, she was going outside. She’d seen the sky, but only from within those prison walls.

The girl breathed heavily, her body’s lack of stamina becoming clear as she pushed it to do something she’d never experienced before.

Megan liked running.

It was just one more thing the girl had been deprived of. She’d had no cause to exercise, no cause to run or play. She’d never particularly minded, Ollie had provided all he could for her. It was only now she began to realise what it was she’d been missing out on all this time.

Megan couldn’t suppress the giggle that burst free, rising from her stomach. She was almost there. Just a few more steps.

The girl raised her arms as she approached the threshold, her fingertips brushing a low-hanging branch as she slipped through the narrow archway, leaves rustling behind her as she crossed the finish line.

Megan’s breakneck run gradually slowed to a halt; her girlish giggling subsided as she paused to catch her breath.

The brunette looked around; her large, blue eyes eager to take in the unfamiliar surroundings.

She stood alone in what appeared to be a field that stretched on forever. The expansive forest lay behind her, but there were patches of trees and bushes littered randomly about the tall grass. Off to the side, there was a shore. “Wonderful, I’ve never been to the beach,” the girl happily expressed as though she were the child of a humble father, travelling from home for the first time.

In actuality, that wasn’t too far from the truth.

The girl’s grin widened, exposing her pale, white teeth. She must’ve looked like the cat in that story Ollie had once read to her.

A gentle breeze brushed against the girl’s face. She closed her eyes and outstretched her arms, as though she wanted to hug the universe. The air was so light, so sweet. The feel of it on her skin was wondrous, even more so after her time in that forest.

This feels so good,” Megan chuckled. Everything that she had been through, it was all over. Her life was about to begin, the feeling welled up inside her, she couldn’t contain it. Megan felt as though she were a balloon, blowing up with hot air. She might lift off from the ground and float up into the endless sky.

The laughter continued, growing stronger. It was all she could do, it was the only way she could express the emotions growing within her.

She was so happy.

Suddenly, everything went white.

The insides of Megan’s eyelids blazed brightly, blinding her.

The girl’s eyes snapped open, she couldn’t see anything. The silent flash of white overpowered her, robbing her of sight, sound, everything. Her body was stiff, she couldn’t move.

She couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, couldn’t feel, couldn’t move, couldn’t think. Her mouth opened in a silent scream, but nothing came, she couldn’t even cry out.

The moment seemed to stretch on forever.

She gradually became aware of the fact that she was in pain; her entire body was racked with it.

Deaf, dumb, and blind, the simple act of standing eventually became too much for her.

She didn’t know when she had hit the ground, she didn’t feel the impact, she barely even registered the sensation of falling.

Megan lay back, unable to do anything. The pain subsided and the world slowly returned, the pieces gradually fitting back into place, back to where they should be.

The white nothingness faded, and Megan was looking up at the sky.

She still couldn’t move, but she could see, and she could hear.

She looked out into the endless blue. It was the most beautiful thing she’d ever laid eyes on, but she didn’t have time to relish in its eternal splendour, she wasn’t alone.

A figure entered Megan’s field of vision, standing over her, a malicious sneer upon his face.

She didn’t know him.

She didn’t want to know him.

Well, lookie what we have here,” he said.

How sweet,” replied a second voice, standing behind her, out of sight. Was he the one who had attacked her?

Megan’s eyes began to well up. How had this happened? She’d been too careless. Ollie had warned her, she shouldn’t have let herself get so carried away.

Don’t cry, little girl,” taunted the man standing over her. “We’re gonna take good care of you, I promise.”

That didn’t put Megan’s mind at ease at all. She closed her eyes and began to whimper as they filled with tears.

She didn’t want this.

Where was Ollie? Did he know that she needed him? Would he come for her? Would he save her from… these people, whoever they were?

You sound so very cute when you’re crying,” said the man behind her.

I liked it better when she was laughing,” replied the first

Oh well,” the second said with a dismissive air to his voice. Megan felt his hands on her, something cold touched her neck. She froze, fear oozing like ice-cold sweat drops from her pores.

The girl winced as she felt it pierce her skin.

A needle.

They were injecting her with something.

If we can’t make you laugh….” Megan opened one eye, peeking through her eyelid to see the second man kneeling over her. He made her shiver. He had pale grey skin and a greasy mess of grey hair. His grin was vile and crooked. His parted lips revealed a broken smile. His teeth had a prominent gap in the front, and those that remained were stained, like rusted bars in an old iron fence. His foul breath wafted over her, sickening her almost as much as his touch.

The man’s cold, colourless eyes stared into her own, invading them, violating her sight with their presence. She couldn’t look away. When he spoke, his gravelly voice filled her with dread.

His drug was beginning to take effect, she could feel it, the world around her was spinning so fast she wanted to vomit. Only that man remained, his cruel eyes and vile grin drilled into the girl’s brain. She was unable to escape him.

It was so hard to stay awake. As Megan drifted slowly out of consciousness, his twisted face was the last thing she saw. His odious words were the last things she heard. They clung to her like a substance she couldn’t wipe off.

Then we’ll just have to make you scream.”

For the first time in her life, Megan wished that she were alone.

~X~X~

Blood Rose Chapter 5

They were gone. Ollie could only hope he was doing the right thing. Would they be all right on their own? Would they make it out of the forest? Would they be detected? Ollie knew that Rose would be fine, but Megan… she was almost never on her own, the two had become inseparable ever since they’d found each other.

Ollie would have laughed at that thought, if it weren’t so distasteful. They hadn’t really found each other at all, it had been part of Rexl’s plan all along. Rexl had planted his own daughter in his younger brother’s path, knowing they’d latch on to one another in their shared grief and loneliness, to alleviate their shared misery.

Ollie hoped that she’d be all right.

Hope… that was all he could do. He’d said it to Kayla. He had faith in them. He believed in them. He’d done all that he could. The rest was up to them.

Were there really guards waiting up ahead? Would the girls run into them? Could they be walking into a waiting trap? Perhaps Ollie could cause a ruckus and draw the guards’ attention, lead them away from Megan and Rose.

No. It was a plan, but ultimately, Ollie had to decide against it. The ideal outcome was for all three of them to escape together. What good would it do to risk getting caught and leave the girls to fend for themselves? Ollie wouldn’t fail them again, and he wouldn’t abandon them.

Besides, maybe the girls would get lucky and manage to navigate the labyrinth without detection. In that case, alerting the guards to their presence would only make things more difficult.

No, he had to follow the plan, he had to believe in them; they could do this, Ollie knew they could. With a nod of his head, the man stepped forward and began the journey through his chosen path.

It would be long, slow, tense, and hopefully, dull; but their freedom was waiting for them on the other side of this forest. They couldn’t falter now.

This was it. They were almost free. The nightmare was almost over.

As Ollie made his way through the labyrinthine forest, he could feel the dread growing within his mind. Something didn’t feel right. This layout wasn’t what he’d expected. This path was supposed to be more winding, wasn’t it? He had intentionally assigned himself the longest path, thinking that most of the guards would be posted in his way.

It wasn’t as though he wanted to confront them, but it was better they find him than either of the girls.

Ollie’s hand reached inside his shirt and gripped the concealed gun. He didn’t want to run into them, but if he did, he would be ready.

That was the thing though. He’d been in here for a while now, and he hadn’t seen anybody. Did that mean they weren’t here? Then, where were they, could they be stationed on one of the other paths, lying in wait for Rose? What about Megan, had Rexl and Kayla planned around him?

Had they known—or guessed—that Ollie intended to send the girls down shorter paths, they might have positioned guards accordingly. They could be lying in wait for Megan and Rose. Were they guarding the other paths, or were they guarding the area beyond, waiting for them to come out in the open?

Rose had said it earlier. In this forest, they at least had somewhere to hide.

If they were waiting just outside, Rose would walk right into them. She could be heading straight into an ambush!

The girls were on shorter paths. They’d be out1 of the forest before him. What if they weren’t alone? Ollie would be stuck inside this labyrinth, trying to make his way to them, but until he got there, they’d be alone and vulnerable. Ollie wouldn’t be able to help them.

Was that part of Rexl’s plan?

Damn it,” Ollie cursed through grit teeth. He should have realised.

It didn’t matter now. All they could do was stick to the plan and hope that everything went well. Perhaps luck would be on their side.

It would need to be.

In all the time spent traversing the forest, Ollie hadn’t run into any guards, not even a sign or trace of them. If they weren’t here, then they must have been somewhere else.

Megan….” He uttered the girls name, hoping that she was safe.

Daddy?”

That voice. Gentle, high in pitch. It sounded just like her.

Ollie froze. Had he really heard that voice, her voice?

It sounded just like her, but that was impossible.

Megan wasn’t here, she couldn’t be. It made no sense.

This had to be some kind of trap.

This forest, it was playing tricks on him. It had to be.

Come to think of it, this layout wasn’t what he’d expected at all. It had changed completely from the first time he’d snuck out.

It was as though the trees had moved, rearranged themselves to create a different maze, a different puzzle for him to solve. They were trying to prevent a second escape.

Was that even possible? Ollie knew that this forest wasn’t natural. These trees hadn’t simply grown here, they had been bred. This entire forest was one big sentient organism, and it wasn’t their ally.

This forest was yet another result of their unnatural experiments. It was alive, and it was a predator.

This forest surrounded the facility for a reason. It was a final security measure, to stop anyone unwanted from getting in… or out.

They had tested it by releasing animals from the facility gate.

Not one had made it out alive.

They’d run human tests too. Those hadn’t fared much better.

The dark forest was capable of trapping its victims. Thick roots and vines served as limbs, but it also possessed chemical weapons. The vines alone would be difficult to defend against. If cut, broken, or split, they secreted a deadly sap that was toxic to humans. The sap could be absorbed through the skin, but if ingested, injected, or allowed to somehow contaminate the blood, it was significantly more potent.

The sap was capable of inducing hallucinations, numbness, paralysis, even death, depending on the dose.

Thankfully, Ollie hadn’t seen a single vine. He had no open wounds or cuts, and he had no intention of putting anything from this forest in his mouth; the mushrooms growing in this place were not for eating. Still, the vines weren’t responsible for producing the sap, they simply carried it. They were simply one way it could be used against intruders. One of many.

The sap wasn’t even the worst of the dark forest’s defences. There were fungi growing in here, releasing spores, creating a poison fog that acted like a psychotropic drug. If he happened to inhale the air they contaminated, it would be over. He’d be unable to defend himself, unable to differentiate reality from hallucination. Without his wits about him, he’d be defenceless against whatever came up against him, be it human or otherwise.

Ollie looked to the girl before him. Was she an illusion? Was the dark forest messing with his mind? Had he already succumbed to the fog without realising?

He didn’t think so, but in that case, why was Megan here? This was definitely Megan, wasn’t it?

Of course it is,” she confirmed, answering his unasked question.

Don’t do that,” the man chastised.

Do what?” she asked, playing dumb. She knew perfectly well what he meant. She was reading his mind, after all.

You’ve never directly probed my mind before.” Could he really say that? After all, he didn’t know for a fact that it was true, he could only trust her. He rephrased himself. “You’ve never been this direct before, responding to my questions without even giving me a chance to ask them.”

Yes I have,” the girl argued. “When you first came for me, remember? You were grieving for your family. I told you that they didn’t suffer.”

Don’t do that again.”

What?” The girl stared at him, wide eyes looking up at him like those of a scolded puppy.

Stay out of my head. I don’t want you invading my thoughts anymore.”

But I… I was just trying to help.” She approached him, wrapping her arms around his body. “I understand you better than anyone. Don’t push me away because of that.”

Ollie enclosed his right arm around the girl, placing his hand on her left shoulder. He looked into her eyes. “You can’t just invade somebody’s mind and read their personal thoughts. That’s an invasion of privacy on the most intimate level.”

But… we’ve gotten so close because of that… I know everything about you. There’s nothing you can’t tell me, nothing I won’t understand.”

Ollie held the girl to him, returning her embrace. She didn’t get it. “You don’t understand anything about privacy, do you?”

We’re closer than words,” the girl said, nuzzling her head into the man’s shirt. “Why do we need privacy, why do you want to build walls between us?”

Ollie sighed. The scientists had clearly been so busy getting Megan to use her power, they hadn’t bothered to teach her when or why she should hold back, or the consequences that could arise from her actions. They hadn’t taught her anything of restraint, moderation, or ethics.

Of course, that was to be Ollie’s job, as if the scientists knew anything of ethics themselves, the man thought, derision filling his mind. Was it any wonder Megan had turned out like this?

Ollie looked down at the girl pulling on his heartstrings. Rexl’s men had no interest in whether they should do something, they only cared about whether or not they could. Their only concern was with pushing the boundaries of what was humanly possible. Of course they wouldn’t give Megan limitations on her powers. As her carer, that was Ollie’s responsibility. If he’d known what she’d been up to, he could have stopped her, guided her. If only he’d known. If only he’d paid closer attention.

He’d been blind. Now, it was too late. To release her into the public like this would be irresponsible.

One of Kayla’s cruel taunts echoed in his mind.

I’m sorry,” the girl whimpered, shying away from Ollie’s piercing gaze. “Don’t be mad at me, I didn’t mean to do anything wrong. I was helping. I was just trying to help you with your plan!”

Ollie ran a hand through the girl’s short, scruffy hair. She calmed instantly at his touch.

I know. Look, just… We’ll talk about this later. For now, just do as I say.” Speaking of which… “Why did you follow me? Why didn’t you just take the path I laid out for you?”

The girl looked up at him, confusion etched into her features. “I did follow the path you gave me. I did!”

Then why…?”

I went straight, just like you told me, then I wound up here and found you.”

It can’t be. This isn’t right. It wasn’t supposed to go like this.”

What was going on? What had happened to the plan? Ollie had thought the layout was strange. “This forest is moving.”

How can it do that?” the girl asked him.

I didn’t think it was possible, but it must be. It’s the only explanation. I had it all mapped out. My plan was meticulous. If we each stuck to our own paths, we should have reached the end, but somehow the two of us met in the middle. Some point between now and the moment I mapped out the forest, something changed. This forest is a maze, but the maze has shifted, the paths are different.”

Ollie had purposefully given himself the most winding path. Megan’s was supposed to be much shorter and straightforward. She should have been on her way toward the other side, but if she’d wound up here instead, then what about Rose?

Could he have sent the redhead on an incorrect path too? Could she be walking into another kind of trap? Maybe this was all part of Rexl’s plan.

Would Rose’s path lead her back to the facility, into Rexl’s waiting clutches?

This is all wrong.”

Out in the distance, they heard a commotion.

Ollie looked to the source of that noise. They both did. It came from behind them, a little way in the distance, but not far, by the sound of it.

What could it be? Were the guards finally coming after them, or was it something worse?”

Then they heard it. A voice, her voice.

Ollie and Megan looked to each other. With their shared glance, they each knew what the other was thinking. Ollie didn’t need Megan’s psychic power to see into her mind, it was written in her eyes. The word crossed both of their lips, and they cried out her name in unison.

Rose!”

Ollie slipped out of the girl’s grasp and made for that commotion.

Rose was in trouble. Rose needed him, needed them.

Ollie ran. His arm trailed behind him, fingers interlocking with those of his young companion, holding her by the hand, pulling her along behind him.

Let’s go!”

Megan nodded her head in compliance.

It wasn’t long before they found her. She was in the distance, frantic, running in their direction. Her head was down, arms flailing. Her voice pierced Ollie’s ears. What was she doing? They were supposed to be sneaking, but here she was, running, screaming. If he had managed to find her, who knew what else could be on its way, if it hadn’t found her already.

What happened to her?” Megan asked.

Ollie didn’t know what to say. The redhead was hysterical. Was she running toward them, or away from someone else?

Was she being chased?

Should we hide?” Megan suggested, reaching the same thought as Ollie.

It wouldn’t do for them all to get caught. There was a reason they had split up.

You go on ahead,” he told the girl, “I’ll stay and help Rose.”

But… why?”

You already know the answer to that, don’t you? You’ve been reading my mind all this time, right?”

Ollie could see the sting of his words in Megan’s eyes.

You told me not to do that anymore….”

Ollie sighed. “Look, I don’t know how this is going to turn out. I want to make sure at least one of us escapes. I can’t leave Rose, but I don’t want to put you in danger. You have to get out of the forest. Whatever happens, promise me you won’t get caught.

Okay, Daddy. I promise.” There was no hesitation, no argument. She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around his body, squeezing him tight. Megan sent a concerned glance toward the running Rose, flinching as the older girl fell and landed flat on her face.

Ollie stared up ahead. What was chasing her? He couldn’t see anything. Was someone there, or had the forest gotten to her?

Rose had been running at full steam, arms flailing, screaming hysterically, not looking where she was going. She didn’t even seem to notice when she fell.

Why had she fallen? Had she tripped? Lost her footing? Or was there a more ominous cause for Rose’s tumble?

She hadn’t gotten up. Was she too tired? Tangled? Was she conscious? There were many toxins and dangers present within this forest.

Was she breathing?

Whatever the case, he had to hurry.

Go,” the man ordered to the young girl beside him.

Right, I’ll wait for you outside. I love you, Daddy.”

I love you too.”

With one final, tight embrace, Megan stepped away from him and disappeared into a nearby bush.

Ollie had a bad feeling. He didn’t know why, but it was there. Somehow, he knew. Rose didn’t have long.

He had to hurry.

Breaking into a run, Ollie charged headlong toward the downed girl.

She lifted her head. Upon seeing him, panic flourished throughout her. It was present in her body language. She rushed to her feet, only to fall again.

Ollie called out to her. Could she hear him? Was she even aware of her surroundings? This forest contained many spores and saps that could give a psychotropic effect. Could Rose have come into contact with one of them?

The Psychiatrist pushed himself to run faster. He had to get to her. He had to help her, before she hurt herself.

A wave of panic suddenly rode over him, chilling him to his spine; eyes widened, and mouth opened to release a cry that never sounded as the girl was suddenly dragged backward.

Something had been after her, it had caught her, and now it was reeling her in like a fish. It was literally dragging her back to the facility, dragging her home by the leg. The forest was taking her away from him, taking her out of his reach.

This was bad.

Ollie grit his teeth and took off after the helpless girl, he had to act quickly. Rose must have triggered some kind of trap. Her erratic behaviour made sense now; it was those damn vines; perhaps something had scratched the skin of her legs, that’s all it would take. Once the forest managed to contaminate her, Rose would be at its mercy. Her mind, her body: they both belonged to the dark forest.

Rose belonged to the vile, sentient plant that was currently wrapping its clammy feelers all over her. It was collecting its prize.

The flora in this forest were all of a hive mind, but they were still individual specimens. It may have seemed like the vines were dragging Rose back toward the facility, but the reality could be much worse.

If Ollie failed to rescue Rose, she was likely to be devoured.

She’d be forever lost to him; she’d become an empty husk, a thrall of the forest, of the hive mind, unable to leave.

She’d become part of the forest.

Dammit! He had to hurry, but those vines were dragging the poor girl faster than he could run. He could see her struggling. She hadn’t given up, she was still putting up a fight, grabbing at anything and everything around her, but nothing would take hold. It was as though the entire forest were against her.

Rose’s fingers dug into the dirt below, but that wouldn’t save her. Not even the ground would hold.

The girl screamed and cried out as her fingertips scraped against the dry ground.

Suddenly, the situation worsened. The vine, as though tiring of her efforts, chose that moment to change her position. It lifted her by the leg, inverting her. Her skirt rode up, following gravity’s design, exposing the entirety of her legs to the forest.

The girl’s face was left to drag against the hard, dry forest floor. Did it want her to suffer? No, the plant wasn’t intelligent enough to be consciously sadistic. There had to be a method to this madness. More likely… it wanted her cut up. The more it broke the girl’s skin, the more chances this forest had of infecting her.

The vines were restraining her, binding her limbs and wrapping themselves around her body, wrapping her like a package as it pulled her quickly in the direction of the facility.

Her head continued to scrape painfully against the ground as the vine dragged her mercilessly along the rough dirt road like the world’s worst courier.

Finally, it lifted her body higher and she lost contact with the ground completely.

Ollie was both concerned and relieved at that. She was no longer being dragged across the hard ground, but now she was dangling above it, suspended, moving further away from it, further away from him.

Even if Ollie managed to cut her down, would she survive the fall?

He didn’t have much time.

The vines continued to bind their prey, moving in on the only part of her body that yet remained free.

A particularly thick vine wrapped tightly around her head, settling in the facial cavity of her mouth, effectively gagging her.

Ollie had expected it to constrict around her throat. He was thankful that he didn’t have to worry about it strangling her, but this wasn’t a totally positive development either. After all, these vines were the forest’s veins, and the blood they carried was a virulent poison.

Was this last vine simply intended to silence the girl’s helpless cries, or was there something worse afoot?

Was the forest about to force-feed the girl its deadly sap?

This was bad. Was it trying to kill her?

No. Something was different. Normally, the vine would wrap around its victim’s throat and squeeze, then force its way into their open mouth as they struggled for breath. Once inside, the vine would gather sap at the point of entry, swelling until it filled the victim’s mouth. Only then, would the tip burst open and excrete the deadly sap.

This though, was different. The vine hadn’t entered her mouth by its tip, it had wrapped around her head and entered laterally, on its side.

This was a new development.

Ollie approached, staring upward. Did Rexl know what was going on? Was the vine afraid of killing it’s new thrall, or was there more to it than that? Could it be acting under orders?

It didn’t seem possible. Nobody could communicate with the plantlife in this forest. The symbiotic relationship between the dark forest and the facility it guarded was the result of a lucky coincidence, or so Ollie had thought.

It was in Rexl’s interest for the forest to trap her, but only if it kept her alive. Nobody could control the will of the dark forest, but had he found a way to influence it?

Oh no!” Ollie’s eyes widened at the horror unfolding before him.

Rose had fallen.

So much for that hypothesis. This forest wasn’t concerned with keeping its captive alive at all, unless dropping her right now had been an accident, though it seemed unlikely that the vines would break under Rose’s miniscule weight. The redhead wasn’t Exactly skin and bones, but she wasn’t particularly heavy either, and the vines ran thick and strong.

The man ran headlong. He wasn’t going to make it. If the girl hit the ground like this she would land directly on her head, and the result wouldn’t be pretty.

Luckily, Rose was saved at the last minute. Another vine dashed forward and attached itself to the one binding her feet.

It was amazing how they were able to do that. Was Rexl aware? The forest was continually developing and evolving, even now.

The vine had saved the girl, redirecting the inertia of her fall at the last second. She hit the ground, hard. Her chest took the brunt of the impact, but she was alive. The damage wouldn’t be nearly as grave as it could have been, had she hit her head.

The vine had saved her, but where was it taking her? She was being dragged along the ground once more. They were all the way back to where they had started, except now Rose was in much worse shape. She was tied up. Had she ingested any of that toxic sap?

The vine hadn’t invaded her the way he’d seen in the past, but the sap could have seeped through, especially if the girl had tried to fight. If she damaged the vine in her mouth in any way, it would have bled sap as a defence mechanism. She’d be signing her own death warrant.

God, Ollie hoped that she hadn’t done anything like bite into the vine. More than anything, he hoped that she hadn’t swallowed any of that crap. She’d still have a chance, as long as she didn’t….

Don’t swallow,” Ollie uttered under his breath as he ran. “Whatever you do, don’t swallow.”

He had to hurry. The vine was dragging Rose away from him. He had a vague idea of where it was going, and it was confirming his fears. Somehow, Rexl had managed to gain control of the organic sentience surrounding his facility. The will of the forest was now his will. The hive mind of the dark forest now served Rexl. It was a defensive fortification in every sense of the word.

These vines were taking the girl back. Back to hell, back to him. Rexl was about to undo everything Ollie had achieved this night.

He had to hurry. The vines were fast, and they were strong. He couldn’t stop them, he couldn’t pull them out, he couldn’t even cut them. They were too thick, and their roots ran too deep, but they had one weakness.

Everything had one weakness.

Fire.

Ollie pulled a cigar lighter from his pocket and ignited it. He didn’t smoke, but he was glad he’d decided to keep it. The thing had been a graduation gift from his brother. He’d held onto it and had it modified since then. Rexl had given him the seemingly useless gift as a joke, but now it might just save them all from him.

The lighter burned bright, and the flame it produced reached high.

Ollie reached out and snapped off a nearby branch as he ran, touching it to the flame and throwing it up toward the vines.

He threw another, and another.

He was thankful the wood here was brittle and dry. It made for good kindling.

Ollie pushed himself to the limit. He had to catch up to Rose. The vines kept coming. He felt one grab at his ankle, tripping him. They were coming for him, preparing to bind him like they had Rose.

They wrapped around his legs. He didn’t have time!

It was lucky that he had a countermeasure for this: One of the modifications he’d had made to his lighter. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a small aerosol can. The can and the lighter, they were two of a kind, married together.

Connecting the two with a special attachment built into the can, he was ready to defend himself. The can was fitted with a safety nozzle and a trigger mechanism.

Releasing the first, his fingers squeezed the second and the pressurised gas shot out from the can, propelling his light, and dowsing the oncoming vines in flame.

It was a far cry short of a real flamethrower, makeshift as it was, and propelled by gas. The range at which it could actually spit the fire left a lot to be desired. Being reliant on the aerosol can meant he only had very limited ammunition as well. Still, it would be enough.

Ollie imagined he heard the beast cry in pain as he torched it. Of course, it was only his imagination; the vines were simply a plant, and had no voice, but they relinquished their hold on him and shied away.

The psychiatrist rushed to his feet, he was close. He had to remember that he only had so much gas. The forest seemed to be aware of that fact as well, because it sent vines galore after him.

Ollie torched them all, not allowing them to get close. He couldn’t afford to let them grab him, or secrete their vile sap.



Finally, Ollie reached her. He managed to overtake Rose and grab onto the vine that was dragging her.

Mercilessly, Ollie burned the vine that pulled the helpless girl.

So focused on his actions, he was taken aback when he was knocked down by a wooden limb.

Landing on his back, he sprung to his feet. There was no time to waste. He released a safety lever on the aerosol can and pushed in a red switch, causing an arm at the top of the can to swing down sharply. A pin on the end of the arm hit the side of the can in the middle, piercing it.

This was yet another feature of Ollie’s makeshift weapon.

This was his last resort.

Sorry, Rexl,” he said, throwing the entire device as far as he could. The can, the lighter, the gas, the flame. All of it.

He’d never tested it, so Ollie had to hope that it would work. For a moment, there was nothing. Then….

Boom.

A flash of light, and a rush of heat. The aerosol had exploded in a fast-burning ball of fire.

The vine dragging the helpless girl stopped its efforts and fell to the ground, dead.

The vines would no longer be a problem. Ollie released a sigh of relief.

Still, it wasn’t over. He had to hurry and get Rose free of those accursed vines. He only hoped it wouldn’t be too late.

Had the damage already been done?

Ollie pulled at the girl’s binds. They were hard, tight. They wouldn’t come away easy.

It made sense. The beast was dead, but its carcass remained.

The vines were still. They wouldn’t be able to resist, so it should be possible. He should be able able to pull them loose, it would just take a little work.

The man struggled, using all his strength to free the girl.

Slowly, methodically, gradually, eventually he managed to loosen the binds enough to free the girl.

The large, bulbous appendage in her mouth was the hardest to remove. The bulb had swollen until it filled her completely, stretching her jaw to full width.

He wouldn’t be able to force it out of her, not if he wanted to keep her teeth intact. Fortunately, the bulb was designed to detach once formed. Without contact with the living organism, the bulbous appendage would wither and shrink.

Moments passed, one after another. Patience was one of Ollie’s virtues, but even he was becoming tense. Still, it paid off, and his reasoning had been correct. Eventually, the bulb came loose enough to be gently eased out.

He pulled the thing from the girl, unplugging her from the abomination of nature.

It came free, leaving her mouth and bringing with it thick ropes of saliva, mucus, and the tell-tale remnants of the deadly sap. Ollie tried to wake the girl, but she wouldn’t stir. She was unresponsive.

He tried to wake her, but nothing he did had any effect. He lightly slapped her cheek with his fingers. “Come on, Rose. Wake up!” He tapped a finger against her collarbone, he even tried shaking her by the shoulders. Nothing worked, he couldn’t wake her. She was dead to the world.

That was a poor choice of words.

The man found his eyes transfixed to the girl’s chest, staring intently. Surely somebody would find a way to take such a situation out of context, but there was no one around. He watched her chest. It wasn’t moving.

He put an ear to her. He couldn’t hear a thing. The pounding of his own heart deafened him to all else. He held in a breath, focusing, listening intently.

Nothing. He placed a finger beneath the girl’s nostrils, just above her lip.

He waited.

Finally, he felt it. The faintest breeze. He almost thought he’d imagined it, as though his wishful thinking had taken hold of his senses.

He felt it again. Ollie allowed himself to breathe.

Rose was alive.

Barely.

Ollie opened the girl’s eyelids with his fingers, shining his flashlight in her eye. The contact lens was still in there. Her eyes retained their radiant green, spoiled only by her dilated pupils.

Her eyes were dilated, that wasn’t too strange, given their dark surroundings, but with the light shining directly into it… this was a symptom of the sap.

Ollie’s fist came down beside the girl’s head, hitting the ground with a painful thud.

What was the point of all this? Had it been part of Rexl’s plan, or was it an unfortunate coincidence? If Rose died here, then everything would have been for nothing. If this accursed forest hurt Megan as well, then it would have been for less than nothing. What should he do?

If he were a religious man, he’d pray. At times like this, there wasn’t much else he could do; but that wouldn’t accomplish much, save for putting his mind at ease for a moment, however fleeting. Despite the organisation he worked for, Ollie had seen nothing that would cause him to believe in a literal God; he was a man of science, he was sure it was the same with Rexl.

Ollie had no faith in a higher power, so he had to have faith in Rose. He had to trust that her body was strong enough to fight off the toxin.

You can do it,” he said to her, his voice barely above a whisper. “You can’t die here. You’re stronger than that. They made you stronger than that. Use it. Resist. Take the strength they gave you, and use it against them.” Ollie didn’t know if Rose could hear him. He doubted it. He knew his words were to assure himself more than her.

He looked down at the girl. She couldn’t die in this dark, dank hell; he had to get her out, her family was waiting for her. He would take her to them, no matter what. He’d promised.

Rose was better than this. She deserved better than this.

Ollie had long since rejected the concept of gods and magic. There would be no whimsical miracle or divine intervention to help them. He simply had to trust in Rose.

She would make it, she had to. He had to get her out of here, there was nothing else he could do for her.

They just had to hope.

Ollie picked the girl up, propping her up on his back. Her body was so light. She lay against him, arms draped limply over his shoulders as his hands secured her legs at his sides. He attached his flashlight to his belt, hoping it would provide enough light to see them through this winding path.

Ollie didn’t like this. There were too many variables. He had to hope that Rose would survive. He had to hope that he could find his way out. He had to hope that Megan would be alright on her own. He had to hope they would all get away.

He turned his head to look at Rose’s, drooping limply over his shoulder like that of a dead flower. “Just don’t die,” he pleaded. “Whatever happens, don’t die.”

XX

LoVeSiCK! – Imaginary Fiend: Blood Rose – Chapter IV: The Escape Part I

Hand in hand, the two girls ran. Rose allowed the younger to lead her, sincerely hoping that she knew where she was going.

Rose kept her eyes focused, always facing forward. She didn’t recognise any of this. They were beyond the hallways now and seemed to be in an open courtyard of some kind, surrounded by oddly shaped rocks. It was eerie.

At least they were free of the labyrinthine corridors. So many narrow hallways, so many rooms. They all looked the same. Had Rose been on her own, she never would have made it out. It was a wonder that Megan knew her way, perhaps that was a benefit of being with Poer. She’d clearly had free roam of the facility. Rose wondered how many times she’d traversed the endless hallways, mapping them out, practising for her daring escape.

She had to admit it. Without Megan… she’d be lost.

The girls slowed to a halt. Perhaps even with Megan…. The brunette did know where she was going, didn’t she? “Please tell me we’re not lost,” the redhead uttered.

Megan looked to her, an apologetic smile on her face.

That did not bode well.

Suddenly, they heard it, in the distance.

The sound.

The action, the finality, the implication.

The bang.

Rose whipped her head around, eyes wide.

The gunshot.

He… did he do it?

More gunshots. Two more.

He’d done it. He’d killed her.

Kayla… was dead.

That was a good thing… wasn’t it? She wouldn’t be able to stop them now. She wouldn’t come after them. She wouldn’t run to the director. She wouldn’t be able to summon the guards.

Rose swallowed the lump in her throat and felt it settle in her stomach, adding to the nausea that was steadily consuming her. That woman had watched over her for so long, and now she was gone. Rose would never see her again. Kayla would never return, never smile, never laugh. She would never work, conduct her cruel experiments, or sneer down at anybody ever again. Her entire existence had been erased.

Did it have to go down this way? Did she have to die? Did Poer have to be the one to kill her? This was unreal.

The lump returned, greater than before. Rose hardened her heart, steeled her resolve, and swallowed her sentimentality. It had to go, it wouldn’t help her. It had to be this way, it was for the best. For them to make it out alive, that woman had to die. She deserved it. She had betrayed them, betrayed her. She had it coming. She got exactly what she deserved.

But there was still that sickly chill, that unnerving feeling that Rose couldn’t ignore.

It rested in the pit of her stomach and spread throughout her body like worms, infecting her, infesting her. Even with Poer’s jacket, the girl felt cold.

Daddy….”

Rose turned to the brunette beside her. She too, was looking back to the source of that sound, the gunshot. Her eyes, so full of worry, filled with concern. She cared for the doctor, deeply. Her doctor, her father, was now a murderer, and he’d done it for her, for them. So they could escape, so they could have a chance at a better life.

Megan probably wasn’t aware that Poer was capable of this, of killing.

She wasn’t the only one.

Megan knew the man better than anyone, but this had caught even her off guard. She was shaken, her resolve lost. Rose could feel it, but they couldn’t stop now.

Rose held the younger girl close, the way Kayla had done to her. She could feel the embarrassment burning in her cheeks, but she had to do this. Megan needed her.

We have to keep going,” Rose told her. “If we heard that sound….”

Then anyone could have,” Megan finished her sentence.

Right.” Sure, that woman wouldn’t be calling the guards, but what good was silencing her if the sound of her execution alerted everyone in the facility? “Kayla didn’t need to set off the alarm.” Negativity stained Rose’s words. “That gunshot might just have done it for her.”

Megan considered the redhead’s pessimism for a moment, before shaking her head. “I think the walls back there are soundproofed, we might be alright.”

All the same, we should take this chance. He gave it to us. We shouldn’t waste it.”

No.” Megan’s voice was soft, but her words were firm. “He’s coming with us.”

So what, we just wait here? We’ll be sitting ducks if anyone comes to investigate.”

Megan met her gaze. For a long moment, she simply stared into Rose’s eyes.

Just as the silence between them became overpowering, Megan released a sigh and dropped her gaze, slowly nodding her head.

You’re right,” she finally conceded, her voice low, dejected, defeated. “We should keep going.”

Do you know where to go from here?”

Megan looked around. “I’ve never actually been out this far before.”

That’s promising,” Rose snarked. She hadn’t meant to sound ungrateful, but the derision had penetrated her words while she wasn’t looking. She owed this chance at freedom entirely to Poer, she knew that, but this plan of his was falling apart.

I think if we just keep going straight… it’s this way!” the younger girl exclaimed.

Rose simply nodded and allowed Megan to lead the way.



After a few more minutes, the girls came to another halt. The courtyard had come to an end.

All around them were stone walls; the paved stones behind them were cracked; the ground before them turned to gravel. They were boxed in.

In the distance, the far wall was covered in moss. Several trees had been planted, and green growth took over from the dead grey that made up the rest of this accursed facility.

Was this a dead end?

Rose looked to her companion, but Megan matched her blank expression point for point. What were they supposed to do now? Where were they supposed to go?

Suddenly, the younger girl turned and looked behind them as their ears were met with the sound of pounding footsteps and heavy breathing.

They weren’t alone.

Ollie quickly approached them. “Come on, why are you stopping?!” he demanded. “We have to go, now!”

Where’s the way out?!” Megan cried back.” She had a point. From what Rose could see, they were at an impasse.

Over there,” Ollie directed. “Follow me.” He continued his mad dash toward the treeline. They hurried after him and their grey surroundings gradually turned to a dark green. The paved stone floor gave way entirely to gravel, and the open courtyard shifted to a dark forest. Tree branches, shrubs, sticks, and even knee-high grass rushed against them. Rose was inwardly glad for Poer’s jacket, or the greenery would be assaulting and scratching the salt out of her arms, just as it was the skin of her legs.

It was almost as though the vegetation were trying to stop them from proceeding, as though trying to warn them, telling them to go back.

Rose chanced a look behind her. Just at that moment, an iron gate slammed down behind them, locking them out of the facility, blocking any attempt of return.

We can’t go back,” the redhead said aloud.

There’s nothing for us back there anyway,” Poer replied. “Come on, we have to keep moving. We’re getting close. We’re almost there, almost free.”

I’m getting a really bad feeling about all this,” Megan voiced.

Just keep moving.”

It wasn’t as though they had a choice, but Rose couldn’t help the niggling feeling in the pit of her stomach. “Something about this is wrong,” she quietly voiced.

Yeah…” Megan agreed, “but there’s nothing we can do about it now. We’re past the point of no return. Just keep going, and hope for the best.”

Some plan,” Rose derided. It was so dark, she could barely see in front of her.

Here,” Poer said, handing something to each of the girls. Rose felt the thing in her hands. As she fumbled with it, her thumb brushed against a switch and the end lit up.

Oh, a flashlight!” Megan exclaimed. “That should make things easier.” Rose wasn’t so optimistic, however. Why did they each need one? Either Poer wasn’t confident in their reliability, or… “Please tell me we’re not going to split up.”

Bad news,” Poer said. “We’re going to split up.”

But why?!” Megan asked. “we just got together.”

It’ll be okay, but I don’t think we’re alone here. If we move separately, it’ll be easier for you girls to hide. We’ll be harder to spot.”

You think there are guards out here?” Megan asked him.

That gate just closed on its own. The front gate isn’t automated like that. Furthermore, I never opened it. It was set up, ready, waiting for us. I’d suspect Kayla… but maybe somebody else knew what was going on tonight. My brother, for instance.”

What makes you so sure?”

Think about it,” Poer stated. He turned around, looking them dead in the eye. “Somebody had to be standing by, controlling that gate… and it sure as hell wasn’t Kayla.”

Megan flinched slightly from the directness of Poer’s clouded confession. Rose on the other hand, looked beyond it. She didn’t care about that, there were more important things to worry about.

In other words,” she stated, the ice in her voice matching Poer’s own dry, serious tone, “you’ve unwittingly walked us all into a trap.”

To be precise,” the man corrected, “I’ve willingly walked us into a trap.”

You… what?”

I’ve intentionally walked us into a trap, knowing full well what could happen as a result. It was the only way, we have to take the risk.”

I don’t get it,” Megan complained.

I thought you could read people,” Rose criticised. From what the redhead had managed to gather about Megan, she was supposed to be able to read minds. Even if someone was being evasive, she should have been able to see through it and understand just what they really meant. “Why couldn’t you see this coming?”

I can’t see anything in here!” the brunette replied. “I can’t read people if I can’t even see them.”

This was the only way,” Ollie explained. “This is the only exit, the only way out. I had to take a chance.”

So… Kayla wasn’t the only one setting traps to catch us,” Rose concluded.

Yeah. We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Rose let out an exasperated sigh at the painful pun. “I can see that, Doctor, it’s obvious.”

It was a metaphor.”

It was stupid. Just… just tell us what to do.”

This forest is dark, cramped, and a little confusing, but if we keep going straight, we’ll eventually find our way out. If we can all get out undetected and meet up in the clearing ahead, we’ll be home free.”

Rose instantly saw a flaw in the idea. “This forest acts as much as cover for us as it does an obstacle. We can hide in here. Once we get outside, we’ll be wide open.”

So what do you propose?” he asked her, “Would you rather hide out in this forest for the rest of your life?”

Rose looked away, not that the gesture went noticed in the surrounding darkness. Poer was right, she didn’t want to remain lost in the dark forest forever, but hiding out here had to be preferable to whatever would happen to them should they be caught. Was the dark forest really any worse than the white room?

You have a point though,” Ollie conceded. “Once we get out of here, we will be exposed. I’ve already made preparations for that, but we have to actually get out in the open to take advantage of them. Trust me, once we’re clear of this forest, we’ll be able to move much faster.”

I hope you’re right.”

So do I,” the man echoed.

Poer’s faith in his own plan was far from reassuring.

Is that good enough?” Megan asked, looking to Rose, interrupting her thought.

The redhead shook the doubt from her shoulders. “It has to be,” she told the younger girl. “It’s the only chance we’ve got. Right, Doctor?”

Right…” the man agreed, clearly eager to move on. “Kayla and my brother are crafty… but so am I. Are we ready?”

Let’s do it!” Megan all but shouted.

Might as well,” Rose added, “but this had better work.”

Alright, let’s get going then,” Poer directed. “Rose, keep straight. It’s the fastest route.”

What about me?” Megan asked.

Come here,” Ollie said, guiding her with his arm. “There’s a path veering east, this way. You just follow it. I’ll give you more details in a minute.” He turned back to the redhead. “Rose, your path is the most direct, just keep going straight ahead and you should reach the other side first. When you do, find a secluded vantage point and keep a lookout. Watch out for any guards and wait for Megan to emerge from the forest. When she does, signal her and keep her safe until I get there. I’m counting on you.

I’m working under the assumption that you’ll be the first one out of course, but don’t feel like you have to rush. Be careful, take your time. If in doubt, shut off your light and find some place to hide until the coast is clear. Don’t get caught.”

What kind of advice is that?” Rose dryly complained.

That goes for all of us,” Poer announced, ignoring the remark. “If any one of us is found or captured, it’ll put the rest in jeopardy.”

I’m not an idiot, Doctor.”

Then off you go. Good luck.”

Rose nodded and made for the path Poer had laid out for her. Just before she disappeared into the shrubbery, she turned back to face them. It was the last time she’d see them before they all—hopefully—emerged safely beyond the forest. “Thanks,” she said, “for everything.”

Poer nodded, and she was off, making her slow, careful, deliberate way toward the clearing up ahead, to her freedom.

There, her life would begin.

This was it.

Megan watched her go, watched her walk away, slowly, silently, until she was out of sight, until she was gone.

Megan stared into the treeline that had swallowed her only friend, until Ollie managed to get her attention. “Okay, now for you,” he said, approaching her and reaching out a hand to ruffle the young girl’s hair.

He led her to the solid line of trees and gestured to an opening. “Just follow the path and you shouldn’t run into any problems. You’ll probably reach the end before me, so just find a place to hide and keep an eye out for Rose. Meet up with her and wait for me. Lie low and make sure you find a good hiding place with a view of your surroundings. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around right now, but there could be guards hiding in the forest, or even outside of it. Keep your guard up, it won’t help if we get captured after everything we’ve gone through to get here. Things have been going our way so far, but… just be careful.

Megan nodded, stepping closer to the man and wrapping her arms around him in a brief, but tight embrace.

She backed away, the sweet smile never leaving her. “See you on the other side, Daddy.” She then turned and made her way into the forest.

~X~

Slowly, carefully, the girl made her way through the prickly, thorny pathway that lay before her. She’d spent so much time traversing hallways this night. The one she was in now was no different. This was just another hallway, only much darker than the others.

Poer’s words echoed in her mind. Carefully, quietly. Don’t get caught. Were there likely to be people in this dark forest? Had the Director really posted guards outside the facility walls? Just to catch them off guard?

Rose supposed it was an acceptable countermeasure, a final line of defence in case they happened to get past Kayla, which, of course, they had. The woman had been sneaky and had allowed them free reign of the facility, just to get their hopes up, just so they would let their guards down.

It had worked.

The girl allowed a scowl to stain the unblemished skin of her soft, sheltered face. She never should have trusted the woman. Kayla had used her.

The girl stepped on a twig, her body freezing as the sound radiated in the silence surrounding her. She’d been careless, not looking where she was going.

Had anybody heard? Had anyone noticed? Was anyone nearby? The girl stood still for a moment. She couldn’t hear anything, but she had a feeling.

She peered out as far as she could in the oppressive darkness. No, there wasn’t anyone up ahead. Were they behind? Was she being followed?

She couldn’t continue to stand there. She had to keep going.

Rose moved on, unable to shake the feeling. She could sense a presence. Someone, or something, was watching her, following her. She could feel it. She increased her pace, breaking into a run.

The girl moved as fast as she could. What did it matter if the guards who may or may not even be up ahead heard her? There was a threat coming from behind. She had to push forward. She had to make her way out of this—

Great,” the girl hissed, a fork in the road bringing her to a sudden, unexpected halt. Poer hadn’t said anything about this. “Keep going straight. Great advice, Doctor.” Why hadn’t he thought to tell her which path to take, did it matter? Why the branching paths, was this all a trap? Had the director designed this vegetation as a maze, just on the off chance that one of the lab rats happened to escape?

The girl shook her head. There wasn’t time to think. She just had to pick a direction and move forward. No looking back.

Her eyes suddenly widened, panic wrapping its clammy feelers around her body as she heard them approach. She turned around, searching frantically with her light.

Nothing.

The girl couldn’t see them, but they were close, she knew it; she could feel it, she could hear them, talking, whispering, murmuring amongst themselves. Rose couldn’t make out what they were saying, but she could hear their voices. They were getting louder, closer.

There were so many. It was overwhelming. Suddenly, one of the voices reached her. “Don’t stop,” it said. The girl’s eyebrows shot up. Weren’t they trying to catch her? Didn’t they want to return her? It spoke again. “Don’t stop. Keep going. Leave this place. Get out of here. Leave!”

Who are you?!” the girl called out, her panic-stricken voice unable to control its own volume. “Where…?” that was a good question.

Run away, little girl,” the voice taunted. “Leave, now, while you still can.”

Rose tentatively turned her back on the voice, and was reminded of her dilemma. “Which way?”

Keep to the right… now go.”

Rose hesitated.

Go right, go now!”

Could she trust this person, this… presence? Were they really trying to help her? She didn’t want to fall into the same trap as she had with Kayla. For all she knew, this could simply be one of the facility’s workers trying to mess with her, leading her to a dead end. Did she really want to take the risk?

What are you doing?” the voice commanded. “Move! Now!”

The girl shook the hesitation from her head and broke into a run. This changed nothing, she’d already decided. She couldn’t trust that voice, but she also couldn’t trust that it meant her harm.

The girl took a left and ran as fast as she could.

Wrong way,” the voice called out. It was getting louder. It was getting closer. More voices joined the chorus. “Wrong way,” they chanted. “Go back… go back… go back!”

Shut up!” the girl pleaded, covering her ears with her hands as she ran blindly. Head down, she ran headlong. Not even looking where she was going, the girl broke into a flat-out sprint, moving as fast as she could, the presence gaining on her.

Shut up, leave me alone. Leave me alone!” she cried.

That was when she tripped.

The girl fell flat on her face, breathing heavily. She tasted dirt. The dank air, and the unpleasant scent of the surrounding trees invaded her. Her burning heart pounded against her aching chest. Her lungs were on fire, her throat hurt from all the air rushing in as she gasped and gulped lungful after lungful. Her frail muscles protested and tormented her. She wasn’t used to this. Part of her wanted to simply lie here. She’d spent most of her life locked away in a white room; she wasn’t exactly in the best shape athletically. Why hadn’t she ever once thought about exercising or working out in her seclusion? It wasn’t as though she didn’t have the time.

Rose’s entire body ached. She was so tired, but she couldn’t simply remain here.

The girl lifted her head and saw a figure up ahead. He was moving, running. She couldn’t make him out in the dim light. She couldn’t see his face, but he was coming for her, and coming fast.

Panic overwhelming her, Rose acted without thinking. She scrambled to her feet, only to trip over again, on the same root as before.

At that moment, she felt it move.

It wrapped around her ankle, trapping her, pulling her.

Eyes wide, she tried desperately to shake it off. She kicked out in desperation, in urgency, in futility.

If anything, her actions seemed to cause the hard, root-like vine to latch on tighter, pull harder, dragging her backward against the hard, dry, uncomfortable ground. Every sharp blade of overgrown grass felt like a razor against her skin as it scraped and cut her, as it attacked the soft, white flesh of her exposed limbs.

The girl tried with all her might to fight the thing off, clawing at the ground, the grass, the rocks. Low-hanging vines, branches, roots, bark; everything she touched seemed to break off in her hands.

This entire forest was against her.

Rose had no other choice. There was nothing else to hold onto. Her fingertips scraped along the ground, trying desperately to find a foothold. Something, anything. Her fingers dug into the hard ground, caked with dirt, fingernails cracking and breaking.

The ground behind her was a little softer, less arid. It wasn’t much, but it was just wet and soft enough. Her fingers broke through the tough surface, anchoring her.

If she could only pull herself free.

The girl struggled against the force pulling her. It took all her strength just to stand her ground. Her feeble arms were barely holding. She felt the dry mud between her fingers and under her nails. The thirsty ground crumbled beneath her lame, claw-like grasp.

The sentient vine continued to pull at her leg as it receded, retreating toward the stone-grey concrete of the facility, dragging the helpless girl with it.

Rose screamed. Fingers bled. Nails splintered as the ground crumbled, giving way to the force of that… thing.

A second vine wrapped itself around her other ankle as the girl tried desperately to find some way to fight back, clawing at anything and everything her hands could find.

It didn’t matter, the vines managed to pull harder than her strained muscles, faster, and with seemingly little effort. Kicking and screaming, Rose was being returned, against her will, to the hell she’d called home for the last ten years.

Not thinking, the girl’s body acted on its own, arms reaching out, grabbing at anything and everything within reach. As the vines pulled faster, her flailing arms began to bang and crash painfully against everything around her, until more vines approached to restrain them, forcing them behind her back, binding them uncomfortably in place, tying them together. She was every bit the prisoner, at the mysterious being’s mercy.

More vines came at her, wrapping themselves around her body like ropes, like snakes. The vines dragging her feet began to lift her upward. Her skirt rode up, exposing her thighs to the ground’s rough terrain, the forest floor’s unrelenting assault. The vines inverted her body, leaving her bruised and battered face to drag along the ground. The vines used the opportunity to enclose around her, binding her legs together, binding her arms behind her, wrapping her entire body like a spider trapping its prey. She was like a mummy wrapped in bandages.

She felt them coming for her head. They wrapped around her. They were hard, tight, prickly, painful, and uncomfortable.

The vines enclosed on her face, wrapping around it, wrapping her head to toe, pressing against her cheeks, squeezing her head, breaking the skin, cutting, drawing blood.

The vine passed over her mouth, through which her hoarse, burning throat continued to scream. The vine wrapped around her head and bound her tight, gagging her mouth, effectively silencing her, taking away her final form of protest, taking her last method of resistance.

The vines lifted her until she was fully inverted, hanging upside down. The ground below her sunk lower, falling further away. The terrified cry erupted from within, but came out as little more than a muffled moan of inept impedance.

It was hopeless, but she couldn’t give up, she had to fight back. Rose bit into the vine in her mouth, teeth clamping down.

Instantly, she regretted it. The thing was rock hard. It was like biting into wood. Her teeth hurt and her jaw ached, but it hadn’t been an entirely pointless move. She had managed to damage the thing. Her teeth dug into the woody, branch-like vine, and a foul substance began seeping out of it. Was it bleeding? The fluid was vulgar. It tasted… to be honest, the girl didn’t know. Nothing quite this offensive had ever passed through her lips. The only word her frantic mind could find to describe it was… rot.

Rose was filled with the ardent stench of wet mud and grass; she supposed the taste to be similar. The foul fluid continued to seep forth, bleeding from the damaged vine, gathering, pooling.

Rose opened her mouth. She couldn’t spit with the vine in the way, but perhaps if she opened wide enough, the accumulated fluid would simply dribble out….

She was to have no such luck. The vine in her mouth… it was swelling, enlarging, engorging.

No matter how wide she opened her jaw, the vine grew in thickness to fill the void.

The loathsome excretion was pooling in her mouth. It was disgusting; the taste, the smell, the surprising warmth of it. It made her gag. She almost vomited, and was eternally thankful that she hadn’t. In her current predicament, with her mouth covered and quickly filling with enough foul fluids as it was, it was truly a godsend that her body had resisted the urge to retch.

The vine’s sickening sap filled the back of her mouth and she began to choke. She felt it in her nose. It stung. It was like the time that man had taught her to swim all those years ago, but worse. Was she going to drown like this? Hanging upside down in this jungle? Strung up like prey for some giant, carnivorous spider? She would drown, with this foul taste on her tongue, with this foul stench in her lungs. She would drown. Unless….

It was horrible. There was no way to get rid of the sickly, repellent discharge filling her mouth. She had only one option.

She swallowed.

Face contorting in despair and disgust, eyes watering, a sallow, pathetic whimper escaped her. The girl had no choice but to drink this foul creature’s strange, sickening, vomit inducing discharge.

The fluid burned her throat as it went down. Her head was swimming. The world spun uncontrollably around her and phased out of focus. She could feel her body growing numb. The tight bindings that had been so painful only a moment ago, no longer continued to bother her. Her rapid breathing slowed.

The vine in her mouth ceased releasing its vile, poisonous liquid, and instead began filling her with something else. Something worse. Something solid. Something hard.

Rose felt it first on her tongue. It started small. She imagined this was how wood was likely to taste. The vine was sprouting within her, growing out from the damaged vine that gagged her. It could do that?

There was only one place it could go. Would she… would she have to swallow this too? Could she? Would it tear through the back of her neck, or would it worm its way through her body?

Would it creep down her throat, into her stomach and beyond? She’d be impaled in reverse.

She’d be impaled!

She’d die!

The vine… it was going to grow through her, it was growing right through her body!

She felt it on her tongue, expanding, enlarging. It was round, not long like the vines, it was growing out evenly on all sides, round… like a bulb.

The bulb swelled, quickly filling her mouth, prying her jaw open.

Upside down, she hung, mouth forced open as wide as possible. There was no more slack. The bulb continued to push against her teeth. Her tongue was pinned to the bottom of her mouth.

The pressure….

The girl gave an uncomfortable groan. Saliva seeped from the corners of her mouth and ran down toward her forehead. There was nowhere else for the bulb to grow.

Only then, did it stop. When there was no more room for it to grow, the bulb settled, filling her entire mouth, right to the back. Just when Rose thought it couldn’t get any worse, the foul fluid returned.

The bulb began pumping her full of it’s sickening sap, and there was nowhere for it to go. Rose was forced to drink the sap, swallowing gulp after gulp. This creature was pumping straight down her throat, into her stomach. All the while, Rose was trying desperately to breathe through her nose, feeling light-headed.

The girl whimpered. This was almost worse than the experiments back in the white room. When they’d first started, their drugs had racked her entire body with intense, blinding pain. She’d passed out from it on more than one occasion.

Rose’s current predicament wasn’t quite as painful as that, but it was certainly uncomfortable, and she knew it was going to last much longer.

The sap eventually stopped spewing forth, though Rose hadn’t noticed at the time. The more she swallowed, the less aware she became. The sap had stopped, the well apparently running dry, though the bulb remained lodged in her jaw, plugging her.

Rose’s stomach hurt, her throat burned, her jaw ached, her head swam. The bindings bit. The world around her was spinning.

The girl cried, for the first time in years.

Her slow ascent continued, pulled upward by her feet. What was going to happen to her? How high was she? She’d surely be swallowed by the treeline soon.

The sounds that entered her were not reassuring. The hisses, the whispers, the creaks. There was some kind of monster up here. Would she be eaten, or was she going to become part of this strange, monstrous plant?

The girl’s heart suddenly stopped when she heard a loud crack. The single vine supporting her weight had broken. There was now nothing to hold her.

Limply, her body fell, plummeting fast toward the hard ground, head first.

The scream that burned in her throat sounded choked and muffled as it struggled against the bulb that gagged her.

The ground rushed closer. Her wide eyes couldn’t look away. The light was so dim, but Rose could see it clearly. It was coming closer, in all it’s hard, dry, punishing glory. She wouldn’t have been able to look away if she’d tried. She couldn’t manoeuvre, couldn’t struggle against her tight, restrictive binds. Her head was locked in a straight down position. Her face was forced to stare at the fast approaching ground, preparing for its ultimate outcome, planted within it. Rose had no other choice. She Braced for the impending impact.

Her eyes closed tight, waiting for her untimely death, her ultimate doom, her final fate: embedded within the ground, her body providing nutrients to the very forest that killed her.

Suddenly, she felt a force tug at her. She was being yanked backward, once again, by the feet. Another vine? Had it latched on while she was falling, after the first one had broken? Had the strange, sentient forest saved her? The force of the vine pulling at her feet had been enough to make her limp body fling out in front of it. She was now plummeting horizontally, parallel to the ground, flying backwards as much as she was falling downwards.

Her rapid descent inevitably came to a crashing halt when she hit the ground, unable to protect herself. Her arms remained tied behind her back, useless. She couldn’t save herself. As she landed, prone, her chest took the full brunt of the impact.

The breath caught in her lungs. Her horror-filled eyes stared straight ahead. Even without the vines wrapped tightly around her, she wouldn’t have been able to move. She was regretfully grateful for the numbing effects of the plant’s sap. Her entire body hurt, but she knew it would be much worse when the effects of the strange drug she’d been force-fed wore off.

Rose couldn’t do anything. She couldn’t move, couldn’t protest, couldn’t scream. She could barely even breathe.

The vine continued to drag her back toward the facility, and there was nothing she could do about it.

Eyes closed tight as they began to well up. Her shallow, laboured breaths weren’t enough to feed her insatiable appetite. It was too much of a struggle to stay awake.

She gave up.

There was nothing she could do, nobody was coming to save her. It was over.

The pain eased and the disjointed world around her faded to black. The girl phased out of consciousness.

She was going home.

XX

XXX

LoVeSiCK! Imaginary Fiend: Blood Rose Chapter III: Escape

Rose couldn’t believe it; it was finally happening, this was really, finally going to happen. Ten pain drenched years in this cold steel hell were finally coming to an end. A decade with the devil, and It had been hell, but it was almost over. Doctor Poer had been the one to bring her into this forsaken ground, this cold, clinical nightmare. He had been the one to drag her down to hell with him, but now, he was the one leading the expedition back out. He was the one heading for the exit, the one holding the door, the one who had found the tunnel. He had brought her here, and now he would get her out. He would escape, and she would be right behind him.

She would be free, in just a few more days. Just a few more days of this torture, this torment. A few more days of being these scientist’s plaything. Just a few more odious days, and freedom would be hers.

She was so close. So close, she could almost taste it.

“Oh my, but you do seem happy today,” observed a smug voice, taking note of the girl’s unusually tranquil demeanour. “Did something happen to our budding rose?”

“No,” the girl replied.

“Oh? But you seem so calm.”

“I’m always calm,” the girl dismissed.

“Of course you are, but now you seem… different somehow. I can sense it within you. Before, you were only calm on the surface. Now… I don’t know.”

“I’m just happy that Megan’s back.”

“Megan?” the older woman echoed. “Now, why should you care about her?”

“I don’t know,” Rose replied. “I suppose I sort of… missed her. I’m glad that she’s back. I’m glad that she’s okay again, back to herself.”

“I had no idea you two were so close.”

“Neither did I. She came to see me so often. I guess she just grew on me… like a fungus.”

“You mean Poer sent her. To check up on you? To spy on you?”

“No, actually. I thought that at first too, but it turns out he didn’t send her at all. Megan wanted to visit me, and so she did.”

“You mean it was her idea all along? Interesting… I didn’t expect this.” The woman’s face cracked open in a sneer. “The fool Poer has clearly given his little puppy too long a leash. Why she would be so interested in you though, from where does this curiosity stem, I wonder. Jealousy, perhaps?”

Rose quirked her brow. “Why should she be jealous of me?”

“A good question, with everything that Poer has given her. I can only speculate that you have the one thing she yet craves.”

“And what would that be?”

“The illustrious Dr Poer’s undivided attention.”

“You think he still wants me? He has a younger, cuter model.”

“Yet he still fawns over you.”

“He… I wasn’t aware.”

“Well, he’s the kind of man who prefers to stay behind the scenes, not one to get his hands dirty. What’s the word for it, coward? In any case, I wouldn’t expect you to notice, but Megan is quite good at picking up on these things.

“Interesting. I thought she’d ensnared him completely… perhaps her failure in that regard has left her feeling insecure.”

“Is that the only possibility?” Rose asked. Did the younger girl really resent her? As annoying as she was, Megan was the closest thing Rose had to a friend. Had their relationship been spawned out of hatred and fear? Was it simply an illusion?

It was fitting, considering their home. Rose dropped her gaze, her heart sinking like a stone in the pool of her stomach. It made too much sense to be anything but the truth.

Perhaps it was too much to hope for after all, that the younger girl might actually want her friendship. The thought almost stung, in a dull kind of way….

Wait, why did she care? Was she actually disappointed by such a possibility? Did she actually need Megan’s visits after all? Was she truly so vulnerable, so starved for companionship?

Rose had never wanted Megan’s friendship, nor did she offer her own in return. When did that change? Could Megan have picked up on the subconscious vibrations in her brain that even Rose wasn’t aware of?

The Doctor was right… Megan was good.

“Of course,” the scientist reasoned, “this is all speculation. Maybe Megan didn’t get to know you for her own reasons, to quell her own feelings of inadequacy. Perhaps it was Poer after all. Perhaps it was simply as I thought… that he sent her to spy on you, to watch you, to turn you back in his direction. Soften you up, break the ice, so to speak… not that being used in such a way wouldn’t lead to said feelings of inadequacy in the first place… yes, I think that makes much more sense, don’t you?”

“No,” Rose countered. Megan had come of her own accord, of her own free will. She befriended Rose because she wanted to, not because Poer had forced her. It had to be, it was. Rose knew it.

“Oh?” Kayla asked, her brow perking. “What are your thoughts on this?”

“Megan didn’t see me because she was being sent. The Doctor didn’t even ask her. She wanted to see me. She wanted to be my friend. She called me her sister. That was all her.”

“What makes you say that? I mean… I know it sounds nicer than the alternative… but—“

“It’s true,” Rose confirmed.

“And why do you believe that, how do you know Poer didn’t send her, what proof do you have? To know such a thing in the wake of more likely outcomes… someone must have told you. Who was it, to whom have you been speaking?”

The woman eyed Rose as though she were a caged rat in some experiment, examining her, watching her with a critical eye.

Finally, Kayla pressed the question. “Did he tell you that himself?” That was what she had said, but it wasn’t what she had asked. What she really wanted to know, her true question: ‘Was Poer here?’ “Because that’s the only way you could know for sure, and even then,” the older woman smirked, “he was probably lying. He’s good at that, lying. He does it all the time. To me, to you, to Megan, even to himself.” Her smirk deepened. “Especially to himself.”

“He wasn’t lying,” Rose defended. “It was the truth, I know it.”

“So it was him. He told you himself, did he? Now, when did he do that?”

Rose looked away, keeping silent. She didn’t even notice as Kayla closed the gap between them. She felt the woman’s hands on her, felt the warm, soft skin of her slender fingers upon her cheek, then under her chin.

Kayla directed the girl’s face gently upward, turning it toward her, facing forward. She stared into the girl’s eyes; her lip curled in a rare smile, not one of her patented cold sneers, but a genuine smile. It was a rare moment of warmth; the woman wasn’t known for them often, but she did have them. She wasn’t playing politics now, this was for real. Rose looked into her eyes, her entire demeanour had changed, shifted. Rose knew, she could trust her. She had to trust her.

“I know I’m hard on you sometimes,” the woman spoke, “but that’s only because I want you to progress, to fulfil your purpose and make the director proud. You don’t want to know what happens to test subjects who fall into obsolescence. Those who are considered unviable specimens for further research are disposed of and given new stations most befitting them. That is truly a terrible fate, and a beautiful young thing like you… I’d hate to see you broken by such cruelty.

“I want to help you, but you have to let me. Tell me what’s going on. When did Oliver Poer speak to you, and what did he say? What’s going on? Whatever it is,” she pressed, “I can help.” The woman spoke softly, as she occasionally did when it was just the two of them. I will help you, I promise. Okay?”

“O-okay,” Rose finally answered.

“Now, let’s start with Poer. Did he come by and see you?”

“Yes.”

“Just the once, or…?”

“It was more than once.”

“And what did he say? What does he want from you?”

“He hasn’t asked anything from me, only my forgiveness, and my trust.”

“Forgiveness? What is there to forgive?”

“It’s not like I was holding a grudge… not exactly, but he feels responsible, for bringing me here, for abandoning me.”

“Well, it is his fault,” Kayla reasoned. “And when was the last time you saw him?”

“He was here today. He told me his plan.”

“Plan? For what?” Suddenly, the scientist’s voice changed back to the stern tonality that it so frequently exhibited. Kayla could be soft and kind when she wanted, but evidently, the conversation had taken a turn in a serious direction; she had turned instantaneously from nurturing carer, to strict authoritarian; she was wearing the face that the rest of the world recognised. “What’s he going to do, Rose? I need to know, it’s important.”

“He… he’s leaving.”

Kayla didn’t respond right away. She remained silent, lost in thought, but her smile returned, it never faltered, and the warm glow remained in her eye.

Rose wasn’t sure if she should be telling the woman this. Poer seemed to regard her as some kind of enemy, but he didn’t know her, not like Rose did. He hadn’t seen her good side.

Somehow, the girl knew. Kayla wouldn’t stand in their way, she might even be willing to help. She’d said it herself. Rose’s usefulness here was coming to an end. When the girl ceased yielding positive results, the scientists would have no further use for her as a guinea pig. Rose didn’t know what would await her after that, but Kayla had hinted at it numerous times, and from what she’d heard of it… Rose had to assume it was a fate worse than death. Kayla was the last person who wanted to see that befall her, especially after all they’d been through.

They’d bonded. Kayla was like her mother. She could be cold, cruel, and distant… just like her real mother, but she wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to her, not if she could help it, and she would help, wouldn’t she?”

“What will you do?” Rose asked her. “Will you report this?”

“No… if Poer wishes to run away, that’s his business. I don’t think much of the wretch to be honest, but maybe I can use this… tell me, he intends to take you with him, doesn’t he?”

“Yes. Will you help us? Will you come with us?”

Kayla regarded her with a neutral expression, as if considering her position. “I can’t go where you’re going, but I can certainly help you get there. After all, what kind of person would I be if I stood between you and your fate? The experiments on you have been scheduled less and less frequently, and with frequently less and less optimistic outcomes. I’m sure you know what that means. You cannot continue to stay in this room for much longer. I can’t protect you anymore, but I can help you get to where you’re supposed to be. I can help you get exactly what you deserve.”

“So you will help us?”

Kayla smiled once more, that rare, warm, motherly smile. Her hand moved to gently tuck a loose strand of scarlet hair behind the girl’s pale ear.

Rose couldn’t help the grin of relief that erupted across her face. Eyes closed, she embraced the woman who had been both so kind, and so cruel to her. It was a rare display of emotion.

Rose wrapped her arms around the woman’s body, hugging her tight. Kayla in turn reciprocated the embrace, holding the girl close, if only briefly, before gently pulling out of her grasp. She stepped back, looking Rose in the eye.

This is what a mother was supposed to be.

The warmth never once leaving her lips, Kayla spoke, her voice soft and feminine, a tone reserved for when it was just the two of them.

“Tell me everything.”

~X~

Ollie poked his head through the door. The halls were empty. Nobody to the left, or the right. The coast was clear.

The man made his way swiftly through the corridor, careful to make no sound, despite the evident lack of security. He looked behind him to see Megan pop her head out of the same hole and scurry over to stand behind him.

She looked up at him, blue eyes staring intently, a content smile resting upon her lips, as though she didn’t realise how much danger they were in, of what could happen to them both if they were caught, of what could happen to her; or perhaps it was that she simply didn’t care.

They could be doing anything, so long as they were together, and that warm smile would continue to grace her.

The pair were lucky enough that their journey so far had been entirely dull and uneventful. They found themselves outside Rose’s room. Ollie didn’t know who to thank for their luck. He hadn’t expected it to be nearly this easy to sneak around the facility at night; they must have timed this perfectly. He turned to the young girl standing beside him. She looked up at him, but said nothing.

“What do you think?” he asked her.

“It shouldn’t be this quiet.”

“This is too easy,” Ollie agreed. “Are you worried?”

“Worried? No. There’s no point. Either things are going in our favour, or they know what we’re up to.”

“So, you think this is some kind of trap?”

“Possibly… which means everybody already knows what we’re planning, even the director.”

“So you’re saying we’re doomed to fail.”

Megan shook her head. “You’re so pessimistic, Daddy. I’m saying we have nothing to lose. We can still turn back, we haven’t actually done anything wrong. Not yet. They won’t be able to punish us, but they will suspect. As long as we stay, they will never stop watching us.”

“Then I guess there’s no reason to remain here.”

“The choice is yours. Whether we turn back or go ahead, this is likely the only chance we’re going to get.”

“Then I say we take it. Is that okay with you?”

Megan grinned up at him, looking through those wide, innocent eyes. “I’m happy with whatever you decide, Daddy… so long as we’re together.”

Ollie reached out his hand to ruffle the child’s hair, pulling her to him. “We will be, always,” he promised.

Their embrace was brief. Ollie released the girl, and she took her position behind him, waiting for him to start.

Ollie made his move. Putting his faith in Megan, he used the pass she’d procured and waited.

The door stood before him, barring his entry, blocking his progress. The red light on the console stared back at him defiantly, greeting him with open hostility. All Ollie could do was wait and hope that the pass would work, that it wouldn’t be blocked by the security system. Megan refused to tell him where she had found it, or how she had managed to bring it back to him, and while that worried him, he trusted her enough to not press the issue. He knew she had gone to personal risk to find this pass for him. He was sure it would—

Suddenly, the console beeped. The light changed from a belligerent red, to a genial green, signifying that the heavy, steel door was unlocked.

He was sure it would work. He knew it would. He turned to Megan and gave her one more genuine smile of appreciation. This was all because of her. The young girl had made this possible. Ollie couldn’t thank her enough. It was unfortunate, but he had neither the time nor the means to show her his gratitude and appreciation, to lavish her with the praise and happiness that she deserved. He wouldn’t be able to thank her properly until they were safely away from this facility. He’d have to find some way to reward her once they were free.

His arm reached out to pet his companion. “Let’s go,” he told her softly, to which she simply nodded. That small gesture would have to suffice, at least for the moment.

They proceeded through the door, and into Rose’s chamber. The girl within sat in the middle of the cell, watching them, silent, staring intently. Ollie found her eyes followed him as he moved about the room. Using the pass once more, he inserted it into yet another console, and after what felt like an even longer time, this console too, beeped in accordance with his wishes, giving way without protest. It took longer to undo Rose’s shackles than it had to open her cell, but it was a more pleasant delay, not an anxious one. This time, he was confident. He had faith in the pass Megan had provided him. He believed in it. He believed in her.

Ollie turned around in time to see the redhead’s shackles come open and fall to the ground with a loud clang. Rose met his eyes, retaining contact. She didn’t thank him verbally, nor in her barren expression, but he knew her gratitude.

The doctor pulled the backpack from his shoulder and tossed it to the ground before her. Rose looked from it, to him.

“Open it,” he said. She did so, reaching inside and pulling out several garments. “I’m sorry if they don’t quite fit or suit you,” he apologised, “but I wasn’t sure of your exact size, and I didn’t have a great selection to choose from.”

“That sounds rather passive-aggressive, doctor,” Rose drawled. “It hardly matters. I haven’t been permitted to wear clothes for some time. I don’t have a style, and as for my size… we’ll find out, though these will have to do, regardless.”

“Put them on, and let’s get out of here,” Ollie hurried her, and she complied with the briefest of nods.

Rose quickly dressed in the attire Ollie had provided. It wasn’t really anything to brag about, though basic as it was, it served its purpose. A white t-shirt, black skirt, and white sneakers with white, ankle-high socks. The t-shirt was a too large for her, swimming on her malnourished body and draping low, reminding Ollie of the shirts his wife would wear to bed towards the end of their…. Ollie banished the memory from his mind.

Still, it was clean and it covered her. The stark white blended with her pale skin and contrasted with her cold, blood red eyes and the long, flowing, scarlet hair that ran down her back.

The girl might not have won any style awards, but it didn’t matter. The look wasn’t flattering per se, but it didn’t exactly look bad, either. It might have actually suited her, had the shirt been a better fit. She looked like a normal teenager, rather than some caged animal.

For the first time in who knew how long, she was dressed like an actual human being. She was going to be a normal person for once, and she looked the part. The only flaws were those red eyes of hers. They would mark her as something strange, something different, something unusual. Something inhuman.

Thankfully, the psychiatrist had a way around that unique feature. He had a way for her to hide her abnormal trait. Without such a measure, she would doubtlessly stand out from a crowd. She would be easily traced, discovered, and, if she were lucky, recovered. The alternative, if she were unlucky… that scenario didn’t bear thinking about.

“Well, Doctor?” Rose spoke, breaking the silence after who knew how long. “You’ve been staring at me for some time. How do I look?” Ollie turned to Megan.

“I like it,” she exclaimed, an enthusiastic grin upon her face.

“Doctor?” Rose enquired, drawing the man’s attention back to her. What do you think?”

“Your eyes,” Ollie replied. “They will give you away.”

“My eyes?”

“Their colour. Red eyes are an extraordinary feature. We need to hide them.”

“What… what are you talking about? What’s wrong with my eyes?” There was almost a hint of panic buried within Rose’s passive tone.”

“You didn’t know?” Ollie was caught completely by surprise. He hadn’t even considered… she really had no idea. Hadn’t Kayla thought to mention it to her? Perhaps she thought it unworthy of the bother. Evidently, this girl was never intended to be released from this room. They never expected her to see her own image. “Rose… when is the last time you saw your reflection?”

“I don’t know, Doctor,” the girl curtly responded. “This room didn’t exactly come with a vanity cabinet.”

“That’s… unfortunate. I hoped you’d be aware of the changes that have taken place within your own body. So Kayla said nothing to you?”

“No. Is… is this bad?”

“Honestly, I don’t know enough about it to hypothesize the potential long-term effects.”

“Figures. That’s what guinea pigs like me are for, right?”

“If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say the effect is purely cosmetic. We can cover it up.”

“What do you have in mind, dark sunglasses?”

“Not quite. What I’m considering is a little more invasive, and a lot more subtle.”

“What are you going to do, change the colour of my eyes?” the girl dryly retorted.

“Exactly,” Ollie responded, catching the redhead off-guard. He produced a plastic container and approached the eldest of the two girls. “Hold still,” he told her.

“What are you doing?”

“Relax, I have to put these in your eyes.”

“What are they,” Rose asked, but did as she was told, remaining completely still, complient, submissive, allowing the doctor to do as he pleased. She didn’t even flinch as his fingers pushed open the soft, pale lids of her eyes and inserted the pair of foreign objects.

“Contact lenses,” Ollie explained. Once he was done, he stepped back to admire his work. The girl’s eyes had returned to their old, natural, emerald selves, the way they had been before she was abducted, before Rexl’s experiments had mutated her body and changed it into what it was now. “Your eyes will never go back to the way they were, but these should help you to disguise them.”

”So these will help me look… normal?”

“That’s the plan.”

“Your eyes were green?” Megan asked.

“Uh… yeah. Why, how are they now?”

“Pretty!” the younger girl exclaimed.

“That’s helpful,” Rose replied, sarcasm dripping from her words and running down her chin, but that only made Megan’s grin widen.

“They look fine,” Ollie assured her.

“They suit you!” Megan chipped in.

“They should,” Ollie supposed. “They look just as they did when I found you. You look good, you look like—” Ollie closed his eyes and smiled as the realisation suddenly hit him. He allowed his breath to escape him in an amused snort. How had he not seen it before? He hadn’t noticed it until just now, but with her natural eye colour returned to her, it was so obvious. She was obviously younger, thinner, paler, and her hair was much longer, but beyond that, the resemblance was uncanny. Those eyes; he’d seen them before,

He recognised them. They were hers. “You look just like your mother,” he answered to the girl’s questioning glance.

“I do?”

“yes, the likeness is extraordinary.”

“So, these eyes, are they permanent?” Rose changed the subject. Was she embarrassed, or was there another reason? Did she hold a grudge against her mother? If there were any lingering resentment, it could be a problem. Ollie made a mental note, but let it rest for now, deciding to move on and answer the question.

“No. These lenses only disguise the colour of your eyes. They only work while you are wearing them.”

“So I have to keep these things in my eyes for the rest of my life? Great.”

Ollie let loose a small chuckle. “Well, whenever you’re out in public at least, and when you have company or when people can see you. I recommend you take them out when you sleep.”

“I have to take these things out of my eyes, and then put them back in again? Every day? By myself?”

“I’m sure your mother would be happy to help you with that. How do they feel?”

“They’re a little uncomfortable,” the girl complained, blinking awkwardly.”

“They just take some getting used to, I’m sure.”

“They feel weird… You’re sure these things are safe, right? They’re not going to make me go blind or something?”

“Of course. Megan’s been using contacts just like those for years now.”

Rose turned to the younger girl. “You… you have?”

“Yup!”

“Megan’s eyes were just like yours when I found her. Rexl’s experiments have left their mark on her body, just as they have on yours, but with these contacts, I’ve been able to at least give her the appearance of her old self. I have one more thing for you.” Ollie removed his coat and handed it to the redhead. “It isn’t too cold this time of year, but we will be going outside. You’d better put this on.”

“What about you?” Rose asked.

“I’ll be fine, and Megan has one of her own. Don’t worry about us.”

The girl said no more and put on the garment. The black coat went with the achromatic colour scheme of Rose’s outfit. Ollie hadn’t intentionally colour coordinated the outfit, but seeing it all put together, it did look good on her. The only colour breaking through the black and white was that of her bright red hair and green eyes.

The man looked between his two companions. They nodded in understanding, all reaching the same conclusion, all processing the same thought. “It’s time to go.”

The three walked in silence down the deserted hallways of the compound. Ollie went first, the other two walking a little behind him.

The thought struck him again. This place was like a ghost town tonight. The psychologist didn’t like it. It felt too easy, too convenient, too suspicious. Too much like they were being baited, too much like they were walking into a trap.

He felt his heartbeat pick up.

“Oh, I think we’re almost there,” Megan said, giving voice to the psychologist’s thoughts.

They were getting close. The exit was just up ahead. It felt as though they were approaching the mouth of a great cave. The artificial light in which they bathed was about to abandon them, leaving them alone and helpless in the darkness of that tunnel.

The reality of course, was the other way around. This facility was the true cave. It had been their burrow, their prison, and beyond these concrete walls was their true freedom.

The wide world, the unknown. They were so close. Any second now, the trap would spring, and their aggressor would make itself known. Ollie knew that it would happen. There was no way security could ever be this lax. There was no way Rexl didn’t know what they were up to. There was no way he would allow his brother to steal away his two greatest assets without a fight. It was only a matter of time.

Rose followed behind the man who was leading her toward her chosen fate. The man who’d found her all those years ago, alone and abandoned. The man who dragged her into hell. The man who was pulling her out again.

She looked between the other two, catching Megan as she made anxious glances between her and Poer. Why? What was she so concerned about? They were almost free. They had almost done it, they had almost escaped. Why was she so worried? Did she know something Rose didn’t? Was there something else going on? Didn’t she trust Poer? No, that couldn’t be it. Megan was Poer’s loyal lapdog. There must have been something else, someone else.

Maybe that was it. Was she suspicious because of the lack of security? Didn’t she know that was a good thing? Things were going well, better than they ever could have hoped. Did she suspect some kind of trap? Didn’t she know they had someone on the inside?

Oh, of course not! Rose could have slapped herself. Of course Megan would be worried. She didn’t know about… but Rose had been clearly instructed not to tell. It was vitally important. Poer especially, was not to find out. He wouldn’t be able to trust her, and if they were overheard, who knew what it could mean for their silent partner? Still, she had to say something.

“It’s okay,” Rose uttered quietly, trying to calm the younger girl. Megan simply looked at her, saying nothing, those blue eyes calmly piercing through her. “It’s going to be okay. We’re not alone. Someone has set all this up for us.” Megan’s eyes narrowed, but she said nothing. “There’s somebody else involved, someone on our side. This is all part of the plan.”

Megan continued to stare. “That’s exactly what worries me,” the smaller girl stated in a serious tone. It was cold, distant. Was this how Rose had treated her all this time? Talking to her in this manner? Guarding her responses? On the receiving end, she had to admit, it wasn’t exactly pleasant.

Rose moved to ask what Megan meant by that, when Ollie cut her off.

“Quiet, you two. No talking. Stay silent until we’re clear. There could still be someone up ahead.”

“But I have to tell you–”

Ollie hushed her, preventing her explanation.

At that moment, their secret conspirator stepped forth, appearing from seemingly nowhere. “He’s right, you know. You should have kept your mouth shut. You know you weren’t meant to say anything.”

“I knew it was too good to be true,” Ollie cursed.

“So, I guess this is your ‘person on the inside,’” Megan supposed.

Rose cracked a smile and ran over to the woman that stood before them.

“No, wait!” Ollie called out, but it was too late. Rose was already firmly entangled in Kayla’s grasp.

“Did you change your mind?” the girl asked. “Are you coming with us?”

“No, I just wanted to see it for myself. It seems the wretch has actually managed to pull himself together. He really is organised… of course, he has had help… hasn’t he?” Kayla’s eye focused on Megan, if only for a split second.

“Sis, come back!” Megan called out to the younger of the two redheads. “You can’t trust her!”

Rose looked back at the other two. “It’s okay. She’s been helping us,” she looked back at the older woman, “Right? Tell them.”

“So now what happens?” Ollie asked, eyes peering directly at those of Kayla. “You’re responsible for all of this, right? You’re the reason why we’ve had it so easy tonight. You arranged this somehow. But why? You didn’t do it to help us.”

“Yes, she did!” Rose looked up into Kayla’s amused eyes. “You did it to help me, right?” she asked the older woman. “Tell them.” Kayla didn’t respond, she simply stood, silent, a smug smirk adorning her.

Ollie’s eyes narrowed. “But why would she do that?” he wondered aloud, voicing his thoughts. “I don’t understand. She has to have some kind of angle. This place isn’t just a job for her, she lives for this work. She wouldn’t simply turn on this place, or the man who allows her to do what she does best.”

“You’re right,” Megan agreed. “She’s hard to read… but I don’t think we should trust her. She’s up to something, but…”

Ollie shook his head. It didn’t matter. “We’ll never figure that one out, I don’t understand her at all. I don’t know the how, and I’m sure the why is incomprehensible to those of us that are still sane.”

“Those are strong words,” Kayla sneered, “coming from someone in your position. Just look at the company you keep. One of those girls is a psychopath, and the other’s psychotic. And then there’s you, planning on unleashing the both of them upon an unsuspecting public.

“I’m not a psychopath,” Megan argued, “Right?” she asked, looking to Ollie for assurance. It touched him. She seemed so vulnerable. The psychologist placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“Far from it.”

“So… that means I’m psychotic?”

“Don’t listen to her,” Ollie assured the brunette. “She’s just playing mind games. It’s a hobby of hers. Take anything she says with a grain of salt.

“I’d rather not take it at all,” Megan pouted. Ollie smiled at the remark, and Kayla continued to smirk.

“Whatever the case,” the woman sneered, “You three trying to break out of this place just proves that you’re mad.”

“So, are you going to tell us what you’re up to? I assume you’re responsible,” Ollie suggested. “Why help us? Why make it so easy for us? Why have you let us get this far?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Kayla responded. “Simply put, I made it impossible for you to get caught. I made sure that you’d make it this far, solely because I wanted to be sure you’d make it this far. It’s as simple as that. If you had run into one of those pesky guards, they might have shot you on sight. I couldn’t have that, I wanted to be the one to meet you here. I wanted to see it for myself. It was just as you said, Rose.”

“Well, that answers that,” Ollie muttered. Clearly, Rose had been unable to keep the plan from Kayla. She’d told her everything, from the looks of it. Ollie kicked himself. He should have planned for this.

“Nothing we can do about that now,” Megan said. “What’s the plan?”

“That’s a good question.” Ollie focused on Kayla. “So, what happens now? You didn’t do all this to help us, so what is it you want?”

“So many questions,” Kayla teased. “Let’s just play this by ear.”

“Fine…” they weren’t getting anywhere like this. All the same, the psychologist would have liked to at least know how she’d managed it.

They hadn’t run into a single guard all night. In fact, they hadn’t seen a single soul until they got here. That was quite the feat. “How did she pull this off? Convincing Security to abandon their posts for the night? That’s a miracle in and of itself, but to do so without Rexl being any the wiser. How the Hell did she do it?”

Suddenly, Megan’s eyes grew to the size of saucers. “She didn’t!”

“What?” Ollie’s brow furrowed. Rose turned her attention to the young brunette, confusion etched into her face as well.

“I couldn’t figure it out either,” Megan continued. “How did she manage to hide all this from the director? But that’s just it. She didn’t. He knows all about it, doesn’t he?” the young girl accused the older of the two redheads. “You told him!”

“No!” Rose exclaimed.

“Yes!” Kayla revealed. Her face bore no shame, only the sly smirk that contorted what was once attractive, into a twisted visage of madness.

“No… but… why?” Rose spluttered.

“He’s been in on it from the beginning, hasn’t he?” Megan challenged. “You’re just acting on his behalf. All this time, you’ve been drawing us into your trap. You planned this, all of it, didn’t you?!”

Kayla’s grin widened further, impossible though that might have seemed. “You got it in one,” she applauded. “I knew that freakish abnormality of yours would come in useful.”

“It’s a gift,” Megan retorted angrily.

Kayla laughed. “And quite well nurtured, it would seem. I guess you really are good for something other than sitting in that pervert’s lap.”

“Why?” Rose asked, stepping back from Kayla. “You said you would help us. You said it yourself. I’ve lived to the end of my usefulness. I’m approaching my sell-by date. Soon, the scientists won’t have any use for me.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. We’re rather resourceful here. They’ll find a use for you, one way or another. Director Poer is far too economical and pragmatic to throw anybody away. Especially a bright, young specimen like you.”

“But my growth is slowing, isn’t it? I’m approaching the ceiling of my potential, isn’t that why the tests are happening less and less often?”

“You needn’t remain a test subject your entire life. There are other uses for you.”

“But… you warned me against that! You said you didn’t want to see me at the end of that road! You said it was a—”

“A truly terrible fate,” Kayla echoed, her face twisting even further into an impossible mask of madness. The smirk continued to creep along her face until it engulfed her entirely. That sick smile was swallowing her whole, truly a disgusting sight to behold.

The madwoman continued. “You don’t want to know what happens to test subjects who fall into obsolescence. Those who are considered unviable specimens for further research are disposed of and given new stations most befitting them. That is truly a terrible fate; and a beautiful, young thing like you… I’d hate to see you broken by such cruelty.”

<p class="has-white-color has-black-background-color has-text-color has-background" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">The words were familiar. Kayla had said them before. But back then, they’d had an entirely different meaning. Back then, the two of them had been alone. The woman had seemed kind, caring, maternal. Now, she was cold, cruel, mocking. That smirk continued to twist her poised beauty into an abhorrent abomination.The words were familiar. Kayla had said them before. But back then, they’d had an entirely different meaning. Back then, the two of them had been alone. The woman had seemed kind, caring, maternal. Now, she was cold, cruel, mocking. That smirk continued to twist her poised beauty into an abhorrent abomination.

Had Rose misjudged her? The redhead thought she could trust the woman. Sure, she was stern, often rigid, and strong; much more so than Doctor Poer, but deep down, Kayla had wanted what was best. She had always done what was necessary. Deep down, Kayla’s actions had ultimately been to protect Rose from the worst… hadn’t they? Was she really willing to throw her to the wolves now? Had Rose been wrong all this time?

“No…” the girl shook her head, disbelief flowing from her in place of tears she couldn’t shed. “You were supposed to help me. How could you turn on me? You sold us out… you betrayed us. Why?! How could you do this? I trusted you, I believed in you. You—you lied to me….”

“Did I lie?” Kayla asked, her response rhetorical. “No, I never lied, you simply misinterpreted what I said. My words still ring as true now as when I first said them. The only thing that’s changed is their context and your perception of them. I meant everything I said. And as for betraying you…” Kayla’s grin widened as she leered down at the girl, “I was never loyal to you to begin with. I owe you no loyalty whatsoever. My allegiance is and always has been, to the one who gave me this position.”

“So now what? What’s going to happen to me? Are you going to kill me? Break me? Or am I going to end up the same as Doctor Poer’s daughter?”

“I don’t know where you’re going, but I can certainly help you get there. After all, what kind of person would I be if I stood between you and your fate? The experiments on you have been scheduled less and less frequently, and with frequently less and less optimistic outcomes. I’m sure you know what that means. You cannot continue to stay here for much longer. I can’t protect you anymore, but I can help you get to where you’re supposed to be. I can help you get exactly what you deserve.”

The girl turned away, casting her eyes down. “You betrayed me,” she accused, her voice barely above a whisper. “You abandoned me. Just like… just like her.”

Rose had put her faith in the wrong person. It was so obvious now. Poer might have left her alone, but only after she pushed him away.

After all this time, he’d never completely given up on her. Megan had taken Rose’s place, but Poer had still continued to help her behind the scenes. They both did. While Megan was sneaking in to visit her, Poer had been sneaking out, making connections, and getting in touch with the ghosts of her old life, from back when she actually had one.

All the while, Kayla had only cared for her as a specimen, a lab rat, no better than a hamster. She was simply an object, a job.

The girl receded into her own mind, eyes blank. She recited the ever-growing, years-old mantra.

“Daddy protects the little girl. Daddy keeps the little girl safe from all who may try to harm her. Daddy keeps the little girl safe from the world. Mother abandons the little girl. Mother leaves her alone with her nightmares. Mother doesn’t care. Mother doesn’t care…”

“So, what happens now?” Poer asked. “Is this where the guards come out? Will they shoot us, or just lock us up?”

“Not at all,” Kayla replied. “I didn’t want the security division spoiling this little get together of ours. I intend to march you into your brother’s office myself.”

“Really… why do you suppose I would comply with something like that?”

“What are you going to do, overpower me?”

“If I must… we’re leaving. You’re not going to stop us.”

“Oh dear. What is a helpless woman to do when faced with such violence? Your brother will be so shocked when he hears.”

“I hope he won’t be too disappointed in you. After all, you were the one who made it so easy for us. It was you who sent the guards off-duty.”

“They’ll be back soon enough, after I set off the alarm. Besides, he can’t be too angry with me. I may have failed to keep you here, but at least I prevented you from kidnapping his dear children.”

“His dear children… if he truly cared about them, he would never have condemned them to a life of torture and misery in the first place. It’s only natural they would flock to me.”

“Ah, so you are the piper, and these, your rats. It’s just too bad that these rats still have a purpose to serve, whether in the lab, or outside of it.”

“You really think I’ll just leave them behind?”

“You don’t have a choice. It’s the only way you’re going to get out of here alive. I don’t really care about you, but I’m not going to let you steal our specimens.”

“Specimens? They’re not just things. They’re people, children. Say it, they’re children!”

“They’re objects, things, test subjects, no better than animals,” Kayla sneered, “and they belong to us. Go on, run away, get out of here while you still can, I won’t stop you, but leave the girls behind.”

“I’d sooner sacrifice myself and let them escape.”

“Wow… I do wonder how long they’d survive on their own. A naïve, sheltered mind-reader, and an isolated, out-of-touch, psychotic shut-in. What a pair, I can’t wait to see their debut on Most Wanted. Tell me, which side of the crime scene do you think they’ll be on?”

Ollie scowled at the woman. He knew what she was saying. These girls were like animals raised in captivity. Did they have the skills to function on their own? Perhaps he was being naive, but… he shook the doubts from his head.

“Even so,” he said, “they’re better off out there than they are in here. With or without me, as long as they have each other, I trust them to make it through. I believe in them. Besides, they have family out there.”

“A fat lot of good that would do them. Besides, Director Poer is the only real family either of them have. He’s their father, and you’d take them from him? Dump them alone in the wild rather than let them stay with him?”

“If he’s truly their father, maybe he should act like it. You call Rose a psychopath, but Rexl is the one willing to put innocent human beings through hell, utilise them like mere tools, and resort to any means to achieve his end; even these barbaric human experiments. He’s condoning torture on innocent, living human beings… even his own children.

“He claims that the end justifies any means, but it’s not even his end.” Poer shook his head. “My brother may have convinced himself, but he hasn’t convinced me. After all, the end goal he’s shooting for isn’t even his. He’s simply acting as a drone for somebody else. I’ve sat by and let this madness go on for too long.”

“You seem to be under the impression that you can actually do something about it.”

“Maybe I can’t… but I have to at least try. I have to act. I can’t just do nothing. These victims, these children… they’ve suffered enough.

”Kayla looked from the man, to the girls before her. “Maybe so,” she admitted. “Maybe this is madness, but at least here, the madness is contained. You would unleash it upon the world.”

“I don’t care. All I want is to protect these two.”

“It’s too bad then. It’s unfortunate, but I can’t allow that to happen. There’s no way in hell.”

Ollie sighed. “You’re right,” he said, flashing a sad grin. “That is unfortunate.” The man loosened his tie and pulled open his shirt, revealing a concealed pistol. Holding it before him in one hand, he aimed it straight at the red-haired woman. “The doorway to freedom is open, I can taste the sweetness of the outside air. I’ve promised to get Rose out, no matter what. I’m not going back on that promise. I can’t let you stop me. There’s no way in hell.”

Kayla’s eyes widened. For a moment, she was silent, but then, her face cracked. Her signature smirk crawled up her cheek and the woman erupted in a fit of mad laughter.

Megan looked between the two adults. To Ollie, then to Kayla. The psychiatrist was serious, she knew. She always knew. He held the gun in front of him, aimed square at the red-haired woman.

Kayla simply laughed it off. She didn’t seem to take the threat seriously. Did she think Ollie was bluffing, or had she simply gone mad? Megan couldn’t tell. Kayla was so hard to read, even for Megan. The young mind reader could usually get a feel for what other people were thinking, what they were feeling, but not here, not now. When it came to Kayla, she got nothing. She was like an empty shell, unfeeling. Megan couldn’t read the mad scientist at all.

She did get one feeling though. A bad one.

This was not going to end well.

“Daddy…” she started. She had to get his attention. She had to stop this, before it was too late. Ollie had said he was going to put an end to this madness, not join in.

“Megan,” Ollie ordered. He spoke softly, yet there was a strict firmness to his words. His voice, it was so calm, so… authoritative. It was unfamiliar, so unlike him. It was scary. “Take Rose and get out of here.”

“But….”

“Quickly! This is the only chance we’re going to get. You have to take Rose away from here, no matter what. Protect her, get her home.”

“What about you?”

“I’ll hold her,” he replied, maintaining his focus on Kayla. “She can’t stop you without going through me, and she can’t call the guards… you have a free run to the world outside. Take it, and don’t look back.”

“But…” Megan didn’t want to leave without him, but he was right… she didn’t see any other way.

Poer smiled. “It’ll be fine,” he said, keeping his focus on the enemy before him. “I’ll catch up with you outside.”

“Wanna bet?” Kayla hissed, the smirk never once leaving her. She lunged forward, charging headlong. “Let’s see if you have what it takes. C’mon, kill me. Kill me, before I kill you all!”

She moved so fast. Poer had never expected the scientist to be capable of such agility. He didn’t have time to think, he just acted. He pulled.

Poer’s hand squeezed the trigger. The gun sounded. It was deafening.

The woman had begun her charge, hellbent on striking him, but suddenly stopped, standing less than a meter short of her intended victim. Her grin faded. Only a shadow of the malicious smirk remained. Her hand gripped at her chest.

The sound was like a wake-up call. Rose looked up and saw the scene before her for the first time. What was going on? She’d been catatonic, trapped in thought, lost in her own world. What had she been doing? What had they been doing?

Poer, he had… he had a gun? Rose looked to Kayla. She seemed to be gripping her own chest. She’d been shot? Poer had shot her!

Megan ran toward her, gripping her tightly by the arm. “Let’s go,” she said.

Rose remained rooted to the spot. Part of her wanted to rush to Kayla’s defence, but then she remembered. Kayla was the enemy. Kayla would have taken her back. Kayla would have stood by and let anything happen to her. Kayla didn’t care about her, the only ones who had ever even tried to protect her… were Poer and Megan. They were the only ones she could trust.

Rose’s catatonic mantra came forth once again, mumbled, incoherent. “Daddy protects the little girl from the world. Daddy keeps the little girl safe. Mother doesn’t care. Mother leaves the little girl alone with her nightmares. Mother betrays the little girl. Mother doesn’t care…. Mother doesn’t care….” Her eyes glanced back to Kayla. “Mother deserves everything she gets.”

“Come on!” Megan whispered into the redhead’s pale ear. “We have to get out of here, now.”

Rose nodded. “Okay.”

They ran.

The girls moved together, Megan still holding Rose by the arm. They ran as fast as they could, while the adults, unable to do much else, locked in their mutual stand-off, simply watched them leave.

“Do you really think they have a chance?” Kayla asked. The sneer was gone. She was finally being serious, though Poer couldn’t help but notice the contempt that laced her voice.

“I have faith. Megan knows where to go, I made sure. She knows where to find Rose’s parents. Her true parents.”

“You mean her mother?”

“That’s right,” Ollie smirked. It wasn’t often he had the opportunity to feel superior. “I found her. She’ll take her daughter in. She’ll protect her, protect them both.”

“You’ve spoken to her?”

“That’s right. Rose is better off at home with her mother than in this cold steel hell.”

This time, it was Kayla’s turn to feel superior. She laughed, loosing a short, staccato cackle of disbelief. “Do you actually believe that? You poor, deluded fool.”

“You don’t think they’ll make it, or you don’t think she’ll take them in?”

“I have my doubts about both those things, of course, but that’s not what I was talking about. Frankly, I think the girl’s better off just about anywhere than with her mother, if you can even call her that. Don’t forget, that woman knowingly abandoned her own daughter.”

“She didn’t have a choice!”

Kayla looked blankly to the man before her. No smirk, no sneer. She was completely dumbstruck. “Interesting that you would rush to her defence… did you really buy in to whatever fabricated story she fed you, or are you the type of person who blindly sides with the mother regardless? I wonder if your ignorance is clouding your judgement.”

“I was there,” Ollie reminded her. “I know what she did, and I know why she did it. She made a mistake.”

“That’s putting it lightly. More than one, actually. I can’t help but wonder if you even know the whole story.”

“Why don’t you tell me?”

“The director tells it better than I do,” Kayla spoke, nonchalantly deflecting the question, shrugging it from her shoulders as though it were nothing. “Maybe you should ask him. Too bad you won’t get the chance.” Ollie noticed a strange look overcoming her. What was it? Excitement? Bloodlust?

There was something wrong with this woman.

She hadn’t moved. She was unarmed, wounded. She’d been shot. Though not fatal, the redhead still clutched at the bullet wound in her chest. Even though she hadn’t moved and Ollie had the clear advantage, he got the distinct impression that Kayla was advancing on him.

She was staring him down like prey. There was a hungry glint in her eye, and a predatory grin making its way onto her lips. A low, threatening voice; cold and cruel, unfamiliar and unlike any sound Ollie had ever heard her make, emerged from the sly woman’s throat, rumbling from deep within. Crackling with unrestrained danger, she spoke the final words that Ollie would ever hear from her.

“You’ll never get out of here alive.”

Ollie stared into the woman’s eyes, unable to look away. He was the cliché deer caught in the headlights. He felt himself trembling, and suddenly became aware of the sweat forming upon his forehead. Part of him wanted to back down, to run away, even surrender to her. Was he actually afraid of this mad doctor?

He overpowered his weak, timid doppelganger and squashed it deep down, into the darkest recesses of his gut. He had a purpose. He would not break. He’d made a promise. This was for Rose. Everything he did was for her.

His eyes hardened as his hands steadied the gun before him. Resolve conquered fear, and he met her challenge head on, responding in kind, speaking the last words that Kayla would ever hear from him.

“Neither will you.”

~X~X~

LoVeSiCK! Imaginary Fiend: Blood Rose Chapter II: Conspiracy

This place was so cold, so sterile, so lifeless. It hadn’t seemed quite so bad when he’d had Megan with him, but now… for the first time since Ollie had heard about his wife’s unfortunate end, he was truly alone.

How long had it been since they had taken Megan? Why had he let them? Sure, the girl had been using him, maybe even manipulating him, but he hadn’t realised until now just how much they both needed each other, how much he needed her, needed… someone, anyone. He couldn’t survive a place like this on his own, and he was risking his sanity by trying.

Then again, the state Megan had been in the last time he’d seen her, he doubted she could continue to ease his mind. She was traumatised by whatever Maybelle’s power had done to her, and Ollie couldn’t do a thing to help her. Sure, he could hold her and try to comfort her, but that wouldn’t solve the problem.

It was funny: the root was psychological, buried deep within. It was supposed to be his field of expertise… but there was nothing Ollie could do, nothing he could say. The psychiatrist was helpless, hopeless… useless. There was nothing… nothing he could do. Read more…

Design change, looking for input

First of all, I think I know what the cutoff point for Chapter 3 of LoVeSiCK! is.  I’m almost done editing everything before that, so I should be ready to upload Chapter 2 soon.

Now that that’s out of the way, I really need to tidy up the site.  The way I have it now, The menus up the top require you to hover over them with a mouse to navigate, and when you finally reach the end, clicking on a story title takes you to a list of chapters within that story.  Basically, it shows you all the posts set with that category.  The problem with this is that it isn’t full-proof.  If I forget to tag a post properly, or upload chapters out of order, they may not show up right.  There’s also the fact that chapters appear in reverse chronological order.  Also, the menus may be difficult to navigate. Read more…

…so this has been done before!

You know, I had to answer the door to a cop when I was writing my last post.  I don’t remember if it was during or after… hmm, don’t suppose it really matters now.  Anyway, turns out there’d been a stolen car parked right outside the house all day.  I had that day off, so I didn’t actually go out that day, it was mostly spent writing and sleeping.  I did notice the car, and somebody hanging around, though I couldn’t remember what time that was so I wasn’t much help to be honest.  After dismissing the usual paranoid delusions of “Are they watching me,” I didn’t give it too much thought.  So yeah, a cop showed up, asked me a couple of questions, then eventually towed the car away.  I never heard anything about it since, so I guess it was resolved.

Anyway, that has nothing to do with what I have to say, just thought I’d mention it.  I’ve been thinking about my plans for LoVeSiCK! and how I’m planning to essentially rewrite the first part from alternative points of view.  I just realized something, somebody has actually done something similar before.  Granted, my version handles it a little Read more…