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LoVeSiCK: Imaginary Fiend Chapter I (Preview)

March 16, 2016

©Michael Robertson, March 16 2016

The man stumbled haphazardly down the dimly lit corridor.  It was difficult to see.  The main lights were off, and most of the doors were locked.  The facility was scarcely populated this late.  There were guards posted and a few doctors on hand, but most of the personnel were at home, with their families.

Ollie winced at the thought, barely holding back a sob.  They were gone.  His wife, his child, even Rose.  They were all gone, taken away from him, by that bastard.

He’d lost everything!

His hands were clenched into fists so tight his fingertips were threatening to tear open the soft flesh of his palms.

Let them, what did it matter?

The man’s dazed, swollen eyes peeked out from under his messy bangs.  His glasses were askew.  Clothes were ruffled, and face unshaven.  He was drunk, but who the hell cared?  Why should he bother to present himself?  What did it matter now?  He hadn’t shown himself at his workstation for almost a week.  He was sick of torturing these unfortunate, forsaken souls.  He wouldn’t do it anymore, he couldn’t.  He was through.

Not that it made a difference of course.  They’d just give the job to somebody else.

Ollie couldn’t even leave the facility.  He was as much a prisoner as any of the subjects.  Should he try to break out, they would shoot him on sight.  The guards, they were everywhere.  If he tried to leave, he was dead.  If he approached Rose, he was dead.  If he moved against Rexl, he was dead.  Whatever he did, he was dead.

But so what?

Fuck it, he was just waiting to die at this point, so why postpone the inevitable?  Why not get it over with?  And if he took that sadistic son of a bitch with him, all the better…

 

Eight Years Later

 

Ollie Poer sat at the desk in his office, resting his bespectacled face in his hands.  He’d allowed his hair to grow out over the years.  The long, black ponytail in which he wore it ran down to the back of his chair.

“Damn…” he cursed.

“Daddy?” asked the girl sitting beside him.

Ollie turned to her, taking her in.  Short, unkempt, auburn hair sat upon her head, messy bangs framing her face.  He’d offered to tidy the muddle for her, keep the hair out of her blue eyes, but the young girl insisted she liked it the way it was.

 

The man let out a grunt as he took another kick to the gut.  The man holding him from behind had restricted his movements perfectly, not that the man’s intoxicated state would have stood a chance, outnumbered by these guards.  Hell, even sober, his weedy body was no match for them.

“Don’t kill him,” the bastard ordered.  “In there, let the trash rot.”  Rexl entered a code into a nearby wall-mounted console, opening the door to one of the cells.

The guard dragged Ollie to the door and tossed him inside, leaving him in a heap on the floor.

“Because you’re my brother,” Rexl spoke, standing over him, “I’m going to give you one more chance.  Think it over while you get sober.  For god’s sake, clean yourself up and fall in line, and we can pretend this unfortunate incident never happened.  Otherwise, I really will leave you in here to rot.”

The door closed, leaving the younger brother in darkness.

 

Ollie lay on his back.  He’d crawled his way from the door and into the centre of the room.  There was a bed.  He managed to pull his stiff, sore body up and relaxed onto the mattress.  It was hardly comfortable, but still better than the floor.  He’d been alone in the dark room for what seemed like hours.  At least, he’d thought he was alone.

Rexl had taken everything from him.  His family, his future, his freedom, even the death he so desired.  What was worse; his only daughter was now at the sick bastard’s mercy.  Would she be made to suffer because of this?  Would he take this foiled rebellion out on her?

The man’s eyes closed so tightly that it hurt.  Teeth grinding, he felt the warmth leak from between his eyelids.  What was the use in trying to hold back the tears now?  “Dammit…”

“Don’t be sad, Daddy.”

Ollie bolted upright.  “Who… who’s there?”  In the darkness, he could just see her.  “Maybelle?  Is that… is that you?”  Slowly, she crawled closer to him.  She climbed onto the bed, sitting beside him, peering up at him, uncomfortably close with wide, innocent eyes.  No, this was not Ollie’s little girl.  Her short hair stuck out at odd ends, her brown eyes almost looked red in the dim room.  Brown eyes… no, this one’s eyes were always blue.  What was going on?

“Don’t worry about her.  It’s okay.”

“What?”

“She may be gone, but she didn’t suffer.  She didn’t feel any pain.”

Ollie swallowed, feeling as though he had gravel in his throat.  “What do you mean?”

“When she died.”

Ollie froze, staring into her eyes.  He couldn’t breathe.  This girl… what did she know?

“When who died?”

The girl gave a tiny giggle.  “Why, your wife, of course.  She’s at peace, you don’t have to worry about her.”

The girl continued to beam up at him, staring with those welcoming eyes.  She was cute, he had to admit that, but that eerie grin… and what was she saying?  Ollie began to feel anxious.  It trickled down his back, coming to rest in his stomach; a cold, sickly feeling.  All the same, there was something about this girl.  Just by looking into her eyes, he felt he could trust her.  He wanted to trust her.  He needed her comfort, her support.  Her voice, and those eyes.  He was entirely captivated by this strange, little girl.  But it was impossible.  How could she know these things?  Who had told her?

“How… how do you know all this?  Who told you?”

“Nobody.”  The girl’s smile faltered.  She looked downcast for a moment before she spoke.  “Nobody comes to see me anymore.  I’ve had nobody to talk to, until you came.  Nobody told me, I just know.  I can feel it.  They didn’t make her suffer.”

“You just know?”  The girl nodded.  “What else do you know?”

“I know that you’re sad.  You’re grieving for your lost family.  He took them away from you.  He killed them, but if you don’t pull yourself together, he’ll kill you too.  You can’t give up, you’re the only hope any of us have, and if you don’t play his game, he’ll take you away from us.”

“What do you mean?”

“You have to move on.  You have a new family now, and you have to look after us.”

“You mean…”

“Me, and big sister too.”

“Big sister?”

The girl nodded once more, inching closer, dropping her voice.  “The one you call Rose.”

“Rose…  No, she doesn’t want me anymore.”

The girl rested her head against the man’s chest.  “She made a mistake.  She needs you, we all do, some of us just don’t know it yet.”

“I…”  The man looked away.  “Maybelle…”

“You can’t help her now, no one can.  But don’t worry, she’s okay.  He won’t kill her.  If she’s gone, he won’t have anything to control you with.”

“But she’s still been taken from me.  Even if you’re right, and I hope you are, but… it feels as though she’s already dead.”  Maybelle… the day she was born was among the happiest of Ollie’s life.  His family was the best thing that had ever happened to him.  He knew he didn’t deserve them, either of them.

He didn’t appreciate them enough, hell, he took them for granted.  He hadn’t meant to, but his career had taken the front seat in his life. It just kind of happened.  He’d just wanted to get things in order, get everything ready.  He had plans.  Their future would be set, it would be golden.  But now…

Now they had no future.  Now they had nothing.  “Now… I have nothing.”  If he could go back and do it again… things would be different.

“You just want a second chance, huh?”

This girl understood perfectly.  It was as though she could tell what he was thinking.  “I’d give anything to see them again, to apologise.  I just… I wish things could have been different.”

“They’d have forgiven you, you know.  For whatever it’s worth.”

“I’m not sure I deserve their forgiveness.  Because of me…”

“They don’t think that.  They didn’t hold any resentment, they loved you.”

“You think so?”

The girl embraced him, curling into his body.  “I know what it’s like to be alone.  To be neglected.  To be unloved.  It’s horrible, I hate it.  Your wife, your child, they had no idea what it’s like.  They were lucky.  Their Daddy was a kind one… I wish mine were like that… like you.  They knew that you loved them, in your own way.  Nothing can replace them in your heart… but if it helps at all… you can be my daddy.”

Ollie almost choked on that suggestion.  “What?!”

“You said you’d do anything for a second chance.  I know it’s not the same, but you need a reason to keep going, don’t you?  Someone to look after?”  Ollie had to admit it.  It was true, or at least, it felt right.  “And I need someone to care for me, to love me… to protect me.”

“What about Rexl—your real father?”

“He doesn’t want me, he never did.”  The girl sat up, peering into Ollie’s eyes.  “He already gave me to you, didn’t he?”

There was no point in lying.  Somehow, the girl already knew the truth.  “Yes.”

“Deep down, we both want the same thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Family.”

“I see.”  Ollie raised a hand to the girl’s head, gently pulling her into a hug.

“I can be what you want… what you need, but you have to do the same for me.

The girl was right.  Deep down, he knew it.  He did need her.  He needed someone to care for, someone to live for.  She would be his reason to keep going, and he would do everything in his power to keep her from harm.  “I’ll do whatever it takes.  I won’t fail again, I promise you.  I’ll protect you.  I’ll keep you safe, from everything.

The girl curled into the man’s body, nuzzling in beside him as she drifted closer to sleep.  As her eyes closed, her lip curled into a smile.  “I know you will,” she replied in her sweet, innocent voice.

“Goodnight Daddy.  I love you.”

The man held her tightly to his chest.  He couldn’t help himself.  Eyes closed, welled with fresh tears once more.  They were the words he would never hear from her, never speak to her.  Maybelle, and his precious wife who had given her life to protect their daughter, because he hadn’t been there to do it.  He wasn’t there.  He was never there, and now they were gone.  Neither of them would utter those words to him again, and it was entirely his fault.  He had failed them.

“It’s okay if you want to cry Daddy, I won’t tell anyone.”

Ollie hugged the girl as tightly as he dared.  The tears flowed freely.  This girl wasn’t his.  Not really, but she was the closest he was ever likely to get.  She was the closest thing he now had to a daughter, the only family he had.  It was the same for her.

He felt her return the hug, briefly squeezing him, before relinquishing herself to the sound slumber that hovered above her.  “I love you, Daddy,” she drawled, drowsiness dripping from her sleepy tone.

Ollie felt her tiny body relax into him. Despite himself, despite his loss, despite everything, he uttered the words.  He couldn’t help it.  They just came out.

“I love you too.”

 

X

 

It had taken a while, but eventually Ollie had been granted permission to take the girl out of her cell.  She still had to return for the experiments, and she slept alone in that cold, dark dungeon, but at least Ollie was permitted to clothe her and keep her with him.  She needed that.  She needed somebody to look out for her, to care for her, and God knew her real father wasn’t going to do it.  It was far from ideal, but at least she hadn’t been forced to whittle away her life, her sanity in solitary confinement.  Far less could be said about Ollie’s biological daughter.  And the same went for his first charge.  He wondered how Rose was doing under that mad sadist’s care.  He hadn’t seen her in years.  Had she ever been let out of that room?  Had she even been out of her restraints?

Ollie wondered if she’d even remember him.  She’d only been five when he’d placed her in this hell, under his brother’s orders.

Ollie’s teeth grit, his fists clenched, his entire body tensed and shook at the thought.  She was a couple of years older than the girl staring up at him from the second chair he’d had brought into his office.

Damn, Rose must have been twelve, even thirteen by now.  How much had she changed?  Was she even human at this point, or had the scientists evolved her?  Had they succeeded in turning her into something else?  Would she be as psychologically grounded as she would have been under his care?

Ollie doubted it.  How long did that bitch take to break the poor child in?  Was her mind broken completely?  Was she still in there, or was she just an empty husk, an empty shell?  Without him to stop them, the scientists would certainly have their way.  Had their experiments killed her yet, or had they just left her brain-dead?

“Shit…” how could he have let this go on?  He’d always intended to help her; secretly, if he had to.  Yet to this day, he’d done nothing.

For eight years, he’d done nothing.  He was too afraid, too cautious, too concerned about the safety of his own child, but he couldn’t just sit back and do nothing.  Not anymore.  Not with the information on which he was currently sitting.

He hadn’t forgotten about Rose.  At least not entirely.  He’d been checking into her background, finding out where she’d come from, who she was, why she’d been abandoned, how his brother had known just where and when to send Ollie to retrieve her.

The answers all added up.  They all made sense, though he wished to god that they didn’t.  Ollie had prayed and hoped beyond hope that his theory was wrong, that the scenario in his head stemmed from the kind of perverted fancies he was rumoured to harbour.

Unfortunately, as was so often the case, the truth was more sobering, more horrifying, more disturbing than anything the younger Poer brother could have dreamed up.

He’d tracked down Project Rose’s mother, met her family, and she’d confirmed his suspicions, his fears.  All of them.

In the end, Ollie supposed he shouldn’t be so shocked.  Why had it come as such a surprise?  It all made so much sense now.  All his talk of legacy, placing the child of his second marriage in Ollie’s care, rather than one of the more radical scientists who would likely yield better results.  She was to be his backup in case something went wrong, his second chance.  After all, why should it faze Rexl to use his second child as Project Rose’s understudy, when the leading role was being played by his first?

Of course, Rexl still waved Ollie’s daughter over him as a threat, should he act on any of his suspicions, but from what he’d seen of her condition… it wasn’t as though she had much more to lose.

Hypermania, depression, psychosis, violent mood swings, and heightened appetites of all kinds…and that wasn’t the worst of it.  His bastard brother hadn’t bothered to tell him of course, Ollie had had to discover it for himself.

His daughter, his own flesh and blood, had been on suicide watch.  Nobody could tell him when or how, but during one of the teen’s low moments, she’d begun to self-harm.  Hell, she’d gone further than that.  Intentional or not, the girl had almost died.

That unfortunate child was out of his reach, sad as it was to admit.  He could do nothing to help her, at least for the moment, but he could help Rose.  He could take her home, put her back with her family, where she’d be safe.

Eight years ago, Rose had begged him to release her, to sneak her out, to turn a blind eye and let her escape.  Perhaps now he could actually help her.  Maybe he could break her out, and with his help, she might actually get somewhere.  She might actually find her way home, reunited with her mother at long last, where she belonged, where she always should have been.

Ollie could only hope that it wasn’t too late.

“Daddy?” the girl asked once again, patiently and gently waking him from his reverie.  “You were thinking about her again, weren’t you?”

“Who?”

“Big Sis, of course.  Why don’t you just go and talk to her?”

“I don’t think she wants to see me… or maybe I’m just too afraid to go and see her.”

“Sis isn’t scary, I’ll show you.”  Ollie could only beam down at her uncompromising optimism.  How had such a beautiful flower managed to bloom in this concrete junkyard of a prison?”

 

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