Fran has a pounding headache. He can feel it jabbing at the inside of his skull painfully. If he didn’t know better he’d call it a migraine. It’s why he shouts angrily through the pain as he sits in his stained armchair with a half empty bottle of tequila in one hand, “I need painkillers!”
The room around him is dark. There are no lights on. The blinds are drawn haphazardly eliminating the majority of the light and yet the room and its contents are still distinguishable because of what little manages to get through. A small battered wooden coffee table sits nearby buried under food packets and other discarded rubbish.
Fran couldn’t care less as he takes a large swig from the tequila bottle. He swishes the liquid around in his mouth and then gulps it down noisily. Throughout his eyes remain glued to the large screen mounted to the wall ahead of him. The rest of space is sparsely furnished.
Fran’s patience expires and he snaps, “Hurry the fuck up I don’t have all day, I’m in pain!” Fran is angry. He’s always angry these days. It’s been several years since he and Kenny did that job in the industrial unit. Kenny, he thinks with a snort before jeering at the football game on the TV which is the current focus of his considerable ire.
Kenny is dead. It happened barely more than a year after that job and all because he couldn’t get his shit together. Fran had never been the same and with each passing day had become more and more violent and abusive until finally one day he’d killed Kenny. He felt nothing for having done it but was thankful when the cops gave up on the case. Yet, it never would have happened if not for… Allie walks in at that moment.
“What the fuck took you us long?” Fran growls before shaking his head and adding, “Never mind, just give me the pills.” He offers his open palm in anticipation for the painkillers he needs to numb his headache. He doesn’t care that he shouldn’t be mixing them with alcohol. He’s done it many a time before and just the sight of Allie, the cause of Kenny’s death, is enough to make him feel sick. He wishes they’d never found her. That Kenny hadn’t been so taken with her, because that is what it had been. If that hadn’t happened and Fran hadn’t said they’d take it if they could get it going then Fran would never have killed him. They wouldn’t have had argument after argument centred around it, and why it hadn’t been sold and the money split. Fran knew Kenny was never going to sell it and yet he kept adamantly claiming that he would. Even if he could have brought himself to he couldn’t find a buyer and so Allie, the woman who is not a woman, became a millstone around their necks. Kenny couldn’t see it but Fran could and then one day he’d snapped, unable to take Kenny’s bullshit anymore. Yet, Fran had claimed Allie for himself. He still isn’t sure why he did that.
“I…I couldn’t…” Allie begins to say sheepishly while she is stood in this fleapit of an apartment, which is Fran’s. She’s dressed in tatty jeans and a well-worn lose fitting checked shirt that is several sizes too large for her frame. Due to its size the shirt hangs off her hiding everything about her body’s shape. Allie doesn’t understand why she has to dress like this. She’s seen other women on the TV and from afar out the window and none of them look like her. They’re all immaculately dressed with figure hugging clothes or wrapped in pretty dresses. Then there’s the makeup, the eyeliner, the lipstick, the eye shadow, the nail varnish and blush. Allie wishes she had some of her own but Fran barely looks at her and when he does all she sees is hatred in his eyes. That is except for when…
“Don’t you dare fucking tell me we’ve got no painkillers!” Fran roars loudly. His grip on the tequila bottle tightens. His knuckles turn white as a result while his face begins to darken to red. Veins in his neck and across his forehead throb as he stares unblinkingly at Allie.
Allie says nothing. Instead, she keeps her gaze lowered and averted. She isn’t about to look Fran in the eye. He has long since taught her that meeting his gaze is a challenge and not one she will ever be the victor of.
Sadly, the lack of a response from Allie only helps to further fuel Fran’s anger. Not that there is anything she could do to lessen it. He hates and blames her for everything. To make matters worse he treats her like his slave, which she finds abhorrent, though cannot bring herself to escape from. She doesn’t understand why. All she can say is that it’s like she is beholden to him and that makes no sense to her. Also her lack of memories from before her time with either him or Kenny makes little sense to her. She has often wondered as a result if she’s a victim of a bigger conspiracy. Someone who had a past, a life before all this, a happy one, that they took her away from following some kind of trauma that caused what she can only guess must be amnesia. It doesn’t feel as though that’s the case but neither can she discard the idea entirely and claim that it is not.
“Well, fucking say something you dumb fuck!” Fran roars due to Allie’s silence.
He is on his feet now and the bottle in his hand has slid so that he has hold of the neck instead of the body. Allie doesn’t like where this is going. She wants to run but can’t. It’s like she’s under his control, she hates it.
Her hair is longer now, down to her shoulders, and more than once it’s been a decent way for Fran to grab a hold of her and toss her about. In fact, it seems to be his favoured option. Yet, that is not what he does this time. Instead, at her lack of a response he hurls the bottle at her head. Allie manages to evade the bottle as it tumbles end over end toward her. It slams into the wall behind, where the doorway is and explodes into a fountain of tiny fragments. Even though she saw it coming and avoided being hit by it, the sudden impact, detonation and resulting crashing sound make her recoil. She even focuses her purple eyes on the remnants of the bottle and its contents that is now scattered across the wooden floor.
As she turns her head back toward Fran he appears at her side. He grabs her by the hair and wrenches her head back so that she is looking up at him. His face is pressed against hers but he refuses to look at her. He looks off into the distance, a snarl across his pale face as sweat beads down from his shaved scalp. At one time Fran had been in possession of thick dark hair, not quite black, but he’d started to go bald and so had shaved it all off. It was an attempt to make it appear as though it had been a personal choice, but it wasn’t really.
“Look what you made me do.” Are the words that leak from between his tightly pursued lips and greeted teeth now that he has hold of Allie.
The woman that isn’t a woman is scared, but cannot bring herself to move or speak. All she does is begin to quake where she is stood. You could say in her boots but Allie has no shoes of any kind. On the rare occasions she’s been allowed out of this apartment, always with Fran, she’s had to walk barefoot everywhere. It had been demeaning and painful. She has never let him know that as he’d enjoy being aware of such a thing, so she kept that to herself along with many other that he’d no doubt get a kick out of.
“What do you have to say?” He thunders angrily expecting a response and yet is given none. It’s infuriating and even a, whatever she is, should be able to follow simple orders. It does at other times and only appears to be incapable of doing so when it matters most. Another reason to hate it, he thinks in the seconds before forcing Allie forward so that he can slam her head into the wall, which he does. The resulting impact leaves a crater which sits alongside several others. It’s the worst yet but they’re all from prior encounters just like this one.
Allie cannot react. She wants too. Screaming seems like a start. Though, she can’t. She doesn’t understand why and that’s even after years of being persecuted by this monster of a man who keeps her like a bird in a cage. The only times he ever touches her are when he beats on her or wants… She shudders at just the thought of the kinds of things he has her do as she is spun around so that they are face-to-face. Allie makes the mistake of glancing up. Her purple eyes meet with his hazel ones. Instantly she realises her mistake and looks away. Her attempts make no difference to what comes next.
Fran slams his fist into her face. Allie’s head goes back sharply as a result creating another, smaller, crater in the half ruined wall that is at her back now. Then he pulls his fist back before launching into a second strike. The same happens again and Allie is left to scream in her head. She wants mercy, she wants to run, she wants to cry but she cannot do any of it and that frustrates her, causing more pain than any attack from this brute in his drunken stupor.
Fran isn’t satisfied and so he begins to beat on Allie’s body. It’s part of the reason he has her wear the rags she does. He feels a need to hide her body, though no one ever sees her, encase one day she exhibits signs of the torture he frequently unleashes upon her. WHY? He screams at himself mentally as he rains punches down on Allie’s gut. Occasionally he aims higher or lower just to see if there is any change in her reaction, there isn’t. In fact, there is barely even a reaction at all to his powerful blows. That in itself Fran finds unfulfilling and yet he is in way no inclined to stop as a result.
It has to learn and this is the only way it ever learns, he thinks. For a machine, synthetic, or whatever it is it isn’t a quick study. It’s like it’s broken and that would be about right. He and Kenny ended up with a broken piece they couldn’t sell. It was probably about to be decommissioned before that guy… Fran snarls and then roars, “You are the most useless piece of shit ever to grace this world! Why can’t you get anything right? Why must I be stuck with you?”
With that Fran returns his focus to Allie’s head. One punch briefly knocks her head back all while she continues to scream in her head. The second jolts something that leaves her with a strange sensation. Fran notes the change in Allie, which looks a lot like dizziness. He smiles thinking he may finally he getting somewhere with her and so delivers a third punch to her face. There is nothing physical to say she’s been hit. That’s part of the reason he loves beating on her porcelain features. Though, if this is all the reaction he is going to get then he intends to shave the things head again. It hates that, he thinks as he finishes the wind up of his punch, a wide grin plastered on his face and not a hint of blood anywhere. Then he launches his fist forward. He’s put all his considerable weight behind it. Though he’ll either have to give it a rest after this or swap to the bat he keeps at the side of his chair if he wants to avoid damaging his hand and start bleeding himself. He’s more than happy to do that, he thinks as his fist slams harder than any punch before into Allie’s face. Her head snaps back, burying itself into the stud wall until it is up to her ears.
Instantly Allie’s eyes go blank. They’re still open but there is no life behind them now. Fran realises a few seconds later, his brow furrows while his eyes scan all over trying to work out what has happened. His first thought is that he’s finally damaged her, properly. A small pang of sorrow creeps up only to be drowned shortly afterward by a strange unsatisfied sense of joy. He thought Allie, the thing that looks like a woman, would have been able to take more.
Disappointed, Fran turns away. Meanwhile Allie can see nothing but images flicker across her vision. They’re fast. No, that is an understatement. They’re more than fast, or rapid, or any other word she can think of. Yet, she can’t stop them. Allie doesn’t understand though she is consciously aware of all of it. If she wasn’t then she wouldn’t be able to say that a great deal of what she is seeing is memories. Most of them are not her own and feel more akin to historical facts and data relayed by those the events afflicted, though there are definitely personal memories in there too. A smile splits across her face. The reaction has no affect on the images which continue to stream into her head. As they do Allie feels her conscious grow wider and deeper. It seems almost limitless. Then finally, Allie glimpses what she is. Not who but what. She isn’t human. She isn’t like Fran, or Kenny or…Narek. She remembers him now. The man with short dark curly hair who created her, built her, made her what she is today. He’d been a loving, careful man with a warm smile and smiling eyes. Barely a millisecond on from that she is hit with news of his death. It’s among the images. She doesn’t know how or when or even why. It doesn’t matter. It hurts all the same. As does the knowledge that it’s an open unsolved case. Seconds on the flickering in Allie’s vision is over, yet to her surprise the world goes black. Allie doesn’t understand and feels as though she has been turned off. She tries to scream but feels numb and that numbness continues to grow until suddenly everything flashes back into being. A series of reboot icons and swift, almost immediate, percent bars fill before the world is back as it should be.
The first thing Allie sees is Fran; he’s in her face snarling, much closer than she feels comfortable with. Her stomach churns disgusted by the sight and smell of this man. She’d repressed the emotions before but refuses to now. He’s odious, in every way she determines as she recalls all the sick things she has had him do for his pleasure. It’s enough to make her vomit, she can’t. At least she doesn’t think she can. She’ll asses such feasibility later she thinks.
“Oh, you’re back. That’s a pity, for you.” Fran smiles cruelly and then cracks his neck by sharply angling it left and then right.
Allie is aware of the bat in his hand. It’s low at the moment but that soon changes as he takes a half step back, raises it and swings with both hands gripping it near the base.
Allie’s reaction is instantaneous. Her right hand shoots up to catch the bat, which she does effortlessly barely a second later. Fran’s eyes go wide. He cannot believe what he’s seeing. Allie, the thing, has never reacted like this and that worries him. “Let go and take your punishment!” He sneers angrily through gritted teeth.
“No. Never again. I remember everything.” Are the words that flow out from between Allie’s lips. Her eyes study Fran who she concludes looks utterly terrified. It’s a look that only intensifies when she plucks the bat out of his hand with a single fluid pull only to go striding past him. He leaps out of her way no longer confident. Allie tosses the bat aside. It clatters across the floor somewhere off to her left. She makes no attempt to asses where as she reaches the front door to Fran’s apartment.
“You can’t do that you’re head’ll explode, remember?” Fran blurts desperate to keep his ‘property’ as he sees it in his possession and under his control.
“No, it won’t.” Allie replies calling out Fran’s blatant bluff in the moments before she breaks through the battered wooden door that is covered in chips, nicks and gouges.
Fran’s jaw hits the floor. He’s in shock but cannot bring himself to move. So instead, he is forced to watch as Allie walks away, down the corridor and then out of sight when she begins to descends the stairs toward the lobby.
The entire building seems to be empty and grubby. She ignores its filth however as she crosses to the lobby to the main door of the building. It relents against her demands and allows her to step out into the world for the first time in her life. Almost immediately somebody collides with her. Allie turns ready to apologise only for a woman, with three dozen piercings all over her face in addition to some tattoos and thick green lips, to exclaim, “Watch yourself or I’ll cut you little princess bitch.” The women makes no attempt to slow, stop or reverse her forward momentum as Allie is left to blink and consider the words until a cheerful chirping draws her attention to a cluster of spindly leafless trees nearby. Allie smiles as she studies the birds and their song. She doesn’t know what will be next for her. What she does know is that she finally feels free, which is a first for her in her ‘life.’