A/N: This contains some bad language, so reader discretion is advised. (Don’t I just sound so grown up??)
I sucked in my breath as the team of overzealous fairies surrounded me. No need for them to worry; if I could actually do anything, I wouldn’t be lying on the ground right now. Life had been cruel to me from a young age, no doubt about it. I had just been trying to push out all the cruelty I’d absorbed over the years. I didn’t want it, any of it! All I’d wanted for myself was a good, productive life, and here I was collapsed in a stinking pigsty. My magic, my world, everything was gone. For once in my life, I had no idea what to do next.
“On your feet.” A gun pointed at me and I considered disobeying for a brief second. Just letting myself go and ending it all. But then, I realized that I wouldn’t be killed anyway—not by the wimps who had once been my relatives. Humans were so much more ruthless, so much crueler to life. In my mind, they actually had the right idea—you think population is high now? Imagine it without all the wars and homicides—but underground, I was outnumbered. Okay, then, I’d listen. Let them think that they could control me.
I gathered all of my remaining strength and did my best to stand. Instead, I collapsed on my knees, coughing. The idiots actually expected me to be able to stand up with my hands shackled! Sure, it normally wouldn’t present too much of a challenge, but in the state I was in, I’d be lucky if I could walk. Another thought was hanging in the corner of my mind, trying to break through. How did they even tie my hands? I never noticed them doing it. What was going on here? What had happened? I managed to look up and catch sight of a video camera, and then someone turned out all the lights.
“…happening? What’s wrong?”
“ … Not faking…right?…can you tell…”
“…real, don’t know what to do now…can’t get a connection…”
Those voices may have just been in my head, but I wasn’t sure. I was drifting through dreamland, drifting yet somehow going the speed of light. I saw the wall approaching me, saw it coming faster, faster, but I couldn’t stop. I slammed into it and tasted blood.
“My god, her nose…”
“…not broken, just hurt…”
“Let me try to fix it…”
And then a gruesome crack. I tried to open my eyes, but everything was blurry and in focus at the same time. I couldn’t smell, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t taste anything but my own blood, my own pain. And suddenly it all became too much. I retched. Surely, anything must be better than tasting that. I realized at this point that I was crying; tears were streaming down my face and their taste mixed with that of the bile in my mouth. I thought nothing could be worse than the pain, but now I realized…this was, the taste of my hopelessness and humiliation. I retched again, but hardly anything came up. In my mind, I was condemned to forever be known as Hopeless Opal; Stupid, Demented, Freak Opal. And there was nothing I could do about it.
I felt hands hauling me roughly to my feet, and I did my best to comply. On the way to the shuttle, I kept my head down, afraid that the camera would catch me bloodied and lost, instead of showing the beautiful genius that I was. But the damage had already been done, and no longer was I great. Now I was just Opal Koboi, the pixie who was normal once more.
I had been given a shower and new clothes—prison clothes, of course—but still no food. I was literally starving. Never before had I been forced to work for my food, but that woman…no, that bitch had practically made me her slave. “Fetch this, Belinda, do that. Help your mommy. She’s getting old.” Ha! As if she knew anything about old. I had been around long, long before her. Did she notice? Did she realize that I was so much smarter, so much more experienced than her? No. And since I no longer had the Mesmer, I couldn’t control her. I no longer had the capability to bend her to my will.
Maybe I would be in jail, but somehow that woman would be found and disposed of. I had to know that it had happened. Maybe for proof, I would demand that her heart be brought back to me, just like that mud man fairy tale. But no, her heart wasn’t enough. The heart could belong to anyone, and it wasn’t likely I’d get one from that heartless wretch. For all I knew, it could be stolen out of a hospital donor box! No, as ironic as a heart would be, I would need something more. Her head, I decided. That would do. That couldn’t be faked. And then I could burn it, letting the fire feast on all of my anger at her.
Food—a steaming bowl of soup and a hunk of bread—interrupted my musings. I tore into the bread hungrily, ravaging it completely. Chewing hurt my nose, but there wasn’t much I could do about that. Between a bit of pain and death by starvation, I’d take the pain any day. Even if the food was prison rejects, I’d eat it. I was so hungry, I would have eaten anything at that moment, and I should be glad the food was as edible as it was. I turned to the soup. In the time it had taken me to eat the bread, the soup had become only lukewarm, but I gulped it down as if it were the water of life. For me, it practically was. I was so thin, so underfed that I almost looked anorexic! The soup felt slimy going down, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t get enough. When the guards saw how hungry I was, they brought me another bowl, this one growing cold. I felt both their eyes and the eyes of the cameras on me, but for one second, I didn’t think about my image. Such was the power of hunger; for it to make me forget my predicament for even a second was impressive. Even the indignity of the soup slopping on me and tracing a path down my neck couldn’t concern me at that moment. All I wanted was the food. Finally finished, I set the bowl outside and waited for it to be whisked away. And then I lay down to sleep.