No sequel this week. Instead, I’ve got a story that while Sci-Fi focuses more on a vital drug that doubles as a tool for oppression. Don’t really want to say much more about the story than that, but will say it’s about 9,500 words long and that I hope you enjoy, Devil Comes Knocking!
Cheek pressed against the rough asphalt Kayla has tears streaming down her face. The pain she feels is excruciating but she refuses to look toward the source. She knows without looking what has been done to her. The lack of feeling where her left arm should be is enough of an indication and yet she never thought it would happen to her. Sure she’d heard the stories that people were being attacked and butchered for limbs but at no point did she think it would be her who would be targeted. She was wrong, she knows that now, not that it changes the circumstances she finds herself in.
Kayla doesn’t recognise the space around her, what little of it she can see. With the shadows and darkness in this alley she is barely able to make out much more than murky ill-defined outlines. It’s why she attempts to focus on something in the darkness. It has little effect. She still fails to make out anything of import which might inform her as to where she might be. Not that she knows every alley and avenue in the city. It’s doubtful any one person does or could, no matter how hard they try.
Prior to the attack she was walking down one of the cities brightly illuminated streets heading for home. Having spent the night out with a group of her friends as is their weekly ritual. In that moment she considers as to whether this routine is why she has been targeted. It’s plausible but offers not an ounce of help with her current situation and so she forces the consideration aside. Just as she does Kayla is hit with another wave of pain from the wound that has been inflicted upon her. Flashes fill her vision as she recalls, unwillingly, the sight of her arm being rended from her shoulder. The agony that hit her, the screams she expelled as a result and the blood that poured from the wound. Even in the gloominess of the alley Kayla could see her blood as it spilled. It was and is a different shade of darkness compared to the shadows, which was no comfort to her at all. She’d tried to flail and break free. All her thrashes seemed to succeed in doing was to aid those attacking her. Still, she managed to break free of them, an arm down, eventually. Two short stumbling steps of a retreat followed but further progress was ended when a fist slammed into her jaw, spinning her around to ultimately deliver her to the unrelenting asphalt she is now splayed out upon.
Back in the moment, the now, Kayla realises the ground is wet. She dares not think about what the wetness is, though she does recall it hasn’t rained recently. Yet, being an alley there is no telling how long any precipitation may be able to last.
Suddenly there is a rustling, movement. The injured woman is not the cause of the noise, of that much she can say for certain. You see, Kayla hasn’t dared move since she was knocked down. Instead, she has been lost in her head, which is continuing to spin. That she had forgotten. She considers how that would be possible. She does not have an answer. Then concussion shoots into her head, the word not the actual affliction. It’s a possibility that she could be suffering from it. However, she pursues the thought no further because her attention is returned to the sound of movement.
A quick inhale of breath is followed by her holding, as if doing so will somehow make her invisible. It does not and Kayla feels a hand grab a hold of one of her ankle. She screams an ear-splitting shriek and kicks. The kick does the trick and the grip around her ankle is lost. Right then her only thought is that she must flee. How? She queries this because she doubts she’ll be able to stand. Her legs are heavy, too heavy and slow. They respond lackadaisically a full second after any order is issued to them. That won’t do. Will never do. Kayla hears her say to herself. And so with little other option afforded to her she dares to stretch her arm forward. There is no reply. Panic fills her and she considers that perhaps she has lost more than her left arm. Quickly realisation hits her that she tried to use her left arm, the one no longer a part of her. The injured woman curses her irrational behaviour and then insists her right arm do something. It does, mercifully, and stretches forward.
Sharp stones dig into the underside of her arms tender flesh painfully. Kayla ignores the pain. It is nothing compared to the burning around just below her left shoulder.
She is hit with a demand to consider as to why anyone would want her left arm. She has no answer and angrily cries causing more tears to stream down her blood flecked and bruise swelling face because now is not the time for such thoughts. That can come afterward, if she survives and it is an if. At least in her mind it is if and not a foregone conclusion. After all it seems doubtful that whoever her attackers are, she has yet to see them as they accosted her from behind, that they would leave her capable of conversing with authorities. The most appropriate form of denying such a prospect would be murder. Fully aware of that but having not quite accepted the possibility until now Kayla feels a massive ball of fear swell inside her chest. It chokes off her ability to breathe. Panic sets in soon after and the injured woman wonders if she’ll suffocate. Throughout that feeling, as brief as it actually is she manages to continue crawling forward.
A voice in the darkness says something along the lines of, “Where do you think you’re going my pretty?” The tone is cruel, sick, playful and… Kayla can’t think of the right word. There aren’t the right words her brain screams. She is inclined to agree but upon hearing a round of cackles, numerous but giving nothing of her attackers true numbers away, the injured woman attempts to drag herself forward.
With only one arm it is ruthlessly difficult and yet what other option is available to her? The response is nothing. Just an empty burst of silence in her head. Exactly, she thinks ending the non-argument while continuing her escape attempt.
Sadly Kayla gets only two stretches of her right arm in prior to hands falling upon her. They don’t grab at her ankle on this occasion. Rather, they aim for her centre mass, her back. It’s the largest target. Kayla screams feeling the hands upon her and begins to thrash. The cackles return. They quickly grow so loud they bury her screams. Then she is flipped over onto her back. Now forced to stare upwards she is greeted to the sight of four masked faces and eight dome shaped red eyes. The sight is horrifying and not at all natural.
The dome shaped eyes, she is fully aware, are a part of the masks each of her attackers is wearing and yet that knowledge does nothing to dispel the boundless fear she can feel tightening around her. Again she goes to scream only this time something soft and malleable is forced into her mouth. Sadly the forcing does not stop there as the cloth is quickly lodged to the back of her throat. Kayla gags hard and then keeps on gagging. She can’t breathe through her mouth and more worryingly through her nose either. Her blue eyes go wide as a result.
“She’s got pretty peepers. Do we want ‘em?” One of the attackers says. Kayla can’t make out what sex the speaker might be as there voice, all of their voices in fact, are being digitally altered. The tone of the words that meet her ears a mixture of child-leaning chirps and gravelly booms that flip-flop between the two with every word spoken.
“Nah, we got what we needed. Time to finish this.” Another voice with the exact same flip-flop, pitch and intonation of switching between chirps and booms advises.
Kayla can feel her thrashes becoming weak and her body numb but attempts a last desperate flail. It works. The hands retreat seemingly knocked back and that shocks her. Yet, now free she wastes no time in rolling back onto her stomach.
Unfortunately, her roll sees her push hard, though briefly, across the ruins of her missing limb. A squeal manages to perforate the gag at the back of her throat. With her vision little more than pinpricks the injured woman digs the fingers of her right hand into her mouth, blindly seeking out the material lodged deep, suffocating her.
Kayla’s slender fingers probe deeper than she would expect them to have to go. Finally however they touch something wet. Reflexively her hand withdraws a little. Her initial though is that her fingers have glanced across something they shouldn’t have. She’s wrong and forcing herself to that conclusion Kayla returns her fingers to the wet material. It is soft but well packed, forcing Kayla to pick at the edge in hopes of locating a corner or edge.
Hands are on her again, they drag her back. She doesn’t attempt a scream on this occasion; rather she elects to keep focus on freeing the cloth choking her to death. She can see nothing now and so it is just as well sight is not needed for this task. If it were it would already be too late.
It is then that Kayla feels an edge to the cloth, her fingers grab at it and clamp as tight as they feel capable. Following that the injured woman pulls on the rag. It begins to work free. Kayla feels victory. A small sense of achievement swells to sit alongside a sudden hope that she might survive.
“Oh no you don’t little lady,” is the statement that comes a moment prior to the woman feeling foreign fingers inside her mouth. Her face twists in disgust as her hand is yanked free from her mouth. Big mistake she thinks and bites down hard. A digitised scream fills Kayla’s ears and she tastes blood. Her jaw releases at her command, the fingers withdraw allowing her fingers to dive back in. Within a second she grabs the edge of the cloth and rips it forward. A painful rush of air tears down her throat informing the woman that the rag is free and she is able to breathe once more. Relief boils valiantly. Sadly her relief lasts only a brief moment because it is replaced by the sting of pain as a kick is delivered to her side. This first kick is swiftly followed by a second. It hurts, making her eyes water but continues to pale in comparison to the agony coming from the remains of her arm.
Kayla feels it prudent to lash out in response to her attackers’ assault now that she is able to breathe and kicks her legs. Both make contact separately and result in grunts and muffled cries of pain. Kayla smiles and then seeing no time like the present elects to attempt her crawling escape once more.
Beginning to drag herself over the asphalt she notes that it is a far rougher surface than she would have imagined. It tears at her clothes and scrapes against her exposed flesh, principally of her one arm.
For the first time since hitting the asphalt Kayla raises her head. The woman’s efforts reward her with a glimpse at light, the end of the alley and the street beyond. A fresh set of tears well-up in her still narrowed vision.
Truthfully she wishes she could wipe away the moisture for a better view at potential freedom but now is not the time and she knows it. That is why her focus continues to be on her forward crawl, as slow, strenuous and painful as it might be.
How long before I’ve lost too much blood? The question strikes her from out of the blue and carries with it the weight of a freight train. She feels herself pause. Only for a split second and then her brain roar that she cannot afford to do as such. The roar is enough and sees her resume the crawl only for a few short pulls later for her to be once again grabbed by an ankle. Instinctively Kayla kicks with her free foot but evidently the outburst was anticipated because another pair of hands grabs her kicking foot and ankle to restrain that also. She screams, curses, roars, shrieks and makes any other noise that her damaged throat feels able to.
Somehow, she isn’t sure how, it works and her legs are released. A sudden renewed vigour blooms allowing Kayla to scurry forward at increased speed.
“Kill the bitch.” Are the muffled words which reach Kayla’s ears. In response to hearing them she feels no fear. At any other time she might consider as to why that this but not right now. All her energy and remaining will is fixated on escaping.
The injured woman with black hair down to her shoulders, when it is not a tussled mess from being attacked, gets within a metre of the bright street lights when someone kick rolls her onto her back. She wails and curses them. In response an outline slides into and fills her view. There it looms over her large and frightening. Kayla spits angrily and attempts a backstroke on solid ground. It fails.
“Fuck you.” A voice that she can only guess is from the outline standing over her spits.
It is then that a series of angry shouts growing ever louder pierce the air. The head of the outline snaps in the direction of the brightly lit street. A grumble escapes their lips and then a boot comes down on Kayla’s head.
Kayla wakes with a start, her breathing heavy, sweat pouring off her body. Her head snaps left, right and then down. Upon realising that she is in her bed at home in her apartment which is dimly lit by neon signs outside she slumps back to her mattress and the pillows. They are damp, stained by the sweat that has been pouring out of her for however long that mixture of nightmare and memory kept her hostage.
Instinctively she reaches toward her left shoulder. Her right hand immediately lands on the joint between her flesh and the mechanical limb that was affixed to replace what was violently stolen from her. Kayla sighs heavily between deep loud breathes. Her heart continues to pound angrily in her chest and though the darkness terrifies the black haired woman she makes no attempt to spark the light and illuminate her surroundings fully. If she were anywhere else the demand would be unignorable but she isn’t anywhere else, she’s in her apartment. It’s her one safe place in the entire world. Chiefly because there are sixteen locks on her door and the windows have been sealed shut save for one which has four locks on. All this security Kayla had installed following her… She puts the thoughts out of her head. Now is not the time to think about…that, she concludes.
However, with her surroundings being as dark as they are she dreads to imagine what time it might be. And that is with the subtle distant bleed from neon lights. It’ll be an ungodly hour; of that much she is confident in saying. I need to know, is the thought that hits her before much time has passed. She’d been waiting for the need to afflict her, though doesn’t welcome its existence. Regardless, she rolls over onto her side and slaps at the pillow blocking her line of sight to the digital clock next to her bed to find that it is thirteen minutes past one in the morning. Kayla lets out a groan only to flop onto her back once more.
Now gazing at the ceiling somewhere above her but hidden in the darkness of night the black haired woman makes no attempt to return to slumber. In truth there is little hope of her getting anymore ‘rest’ than she has and that is because she is fully awake now. So try as she might her brain is not going to turn off. Cruel twist of fate, Kayla thinks while lying there motionless.
Several minutes pass, or at least Kayla believes it is minutes that have passed. She could be wrong and is fully aware.
Regardless of how long it’s been that she has been lying here staring upward the young woman with dark hair is hit by a sudden burst of pain. Her response to the pain is immediate and comes in the form of a gritting of her teeth.
She knows this cycle well which is why she rolls, with some difficulty, onto her side and reaches for her bedside table. Unfortunately, she is further from it than she would like and with the pain from her replacement arm as severe as it is Kayla isn’t sure she’ll manage to reach the bottle of pills that are a requirement for anyone with mechanical limbs prior to her passing out. That does not mean Kayla is about to accept defeat however, and so with some difficulty undertakes a shuffle that sees her nearly paralysed pain riddled body edge forward ever closer to her prize. As she performs this undignified and frankly comical looking shuffle-slither the pain in her arm continues to mount to ever greater heights. Kayla even instinctively reaches for her arm to brace it, for all the good that would do, which is none. But alas these are subconscious reactions not conscious ones. Right then the woman feels a thick wet substance. If this were her first time experiencing these withdrawals Kayla would be panicking but after nine months she is well versed in the early stages of body rejection, and the fact that withdrawals commonly result in flesh tearing around the socket to which the mechanical limb is attached. Such tearing leads, unsurprisingly, to bleeds and that is what this thick wetness she can feel is, blood.
With Kayla having successfully shuffled forward, what she hopes is enough because her body refuses to comply any longer, she reaches out with her one organic arm. The tips of her fingers catch the edge of the bottle cap within which are housed the anti rejection drugs. They have a proper name but Kayla cannot recall the pharmaceutical moniker. Most users instead resort to calling it Antrej. It’s uninspired but fairly short and effective.
The bottle begins to rock due to the probing of her fingers. Kayla sucks in a breath of air and then holds as if that will somehow sway the direction the bottle might fall if it does indeed settle on doing so.
Knowing her luck it will topple away and out of her reach, which is why she lunges awkwardly forward, rolling off her side and onto her stomach. Mercifully her hand manages to wrap around the bottle and withdraw to her side just as she lands on her front.
Bottle of Antrej pills claimed, Kayla breathes a sigh of relief and hoists the pill bottle up and close to her face. She rattles it, hearing perhaps four pills skitter around inside. “Fuck.” Is her only exclamation and following it she risks attempting to flip herself onto her back once more and then go about propping herself up so that she is in an almost sitting position. It’s a difficult struggle made worse by a fresh round of sweat pouring out of her body and mixing with the blood from around the socket tears in her flesh. Nevertheless, the dark haired woman prevails.
Without hesitation she pops the cap of the bottle and downs two of the pills. At one time she’d required water to swallow the tablets but after nine months of downing them four times daily such a requirement has been long buried. Nothing will change the fact that she can feel the tablets slide down her throat however. Thankfully, they taste of nothing which is about the only upside to their existence and her having to consume them. With the tablets swallowed and them working their magic, which isn’t magic at all but a dependency curse, Kayla slides down and waits in silent motionless for them to take effect. They aren’t as fast acting as she would like and the only thoughts going through the black haired woman’s head are in relation to how she is going to afford the next round of pills. Antrej is extortionately priced at four hundred dollars a pill, but if you have a mechanical limb and want to keep it that is the price you are forced to pay. To be honest Kayla doesn’t know how she’s going to scrounge the money together. Her job as a cleaner certainly isn’t going to cover the cost even if she didn’t have to pay rent, bills and eat. Unsurprisingly she does have to do those things as she is an example of organic life. To make matters worse her attackers have as yet to be apprehended, so it’s not as if Kayla has had much in terms of closure on the matter either. Not that there is ever likely to be closer when you’ve been brutally attacked and robbed of an organic limb for lord knows what reason.