Here is a strange little story that came to me in the middle of the night. What do you think?

She stayed sane by keeping track of the experiments. They took her to a different observation room for #627. There were never windows, but this room didn’t have the glaring neon lights either. The men who watched her through the two-way mirror must have worn night vision goggles. The steel security door closed behind her with a clang as she drew in moldy air. She stepped forward and sank up to her knees into something soft and wet.

It came at once, slithering up, gripping hard, tasting, licking. “Feed me,” it whispered.

Her heart thrilled. After endless months, after endless torture, they’d made a mistake. This one was sentient.

“Patience, friend,” she whispered back. “I’m taking you to a feast.”

The muscles gripping her body spasmed. “A great feast? With blood and bones?”

“With blood and bones,” she promised.


“Behind the walls.”

“The walls can’t be broken,” it hissed. “We are hungry.”

We? she thought even as she felt a new ripple in the swamp.

“Can you get me to the wall?” she asked through laughter.

The grip tightened for a second before loosening. She didn’t have to hang on. She just had to relax her body, let them wind around her, float her on top of the muck.

The foul smell gagged her, her clothes and hair soaked, even her head bobbing under once, but only for a second. Then she hit something hard, and she scrambled to straighten.

Was it the right wall? She searched the flat expanse for a seam, for the different texture of the glass. She had to move forward, fall, be held up, before she found it.

She could feel them on the other side. They could certainly see her. She laid her hands on the glass and smiled at them.

The guards who’d brought her worn protective clothing. No rips in the rubber this time. They knew better. But there were things they didn’t know. And when the tall one shoved her into the room, she’d stumbled close enough, had raised her head for long enough for him to breathe on her.

A quick breath, not much, but all she needed was a starter spark. Drawing what she needed from him would have been easier through touch, but she could do it from a breath. She’d swallowed it, kept it, had it still inside her.

She focused on that little ball of air in her lungs until it glowed. And then the rest of her ignited. The glass simply melted under her hands, flowed into the cold swamp with a hiss of steam.

Men screamed on the other side, scrambling for the door, but hunger made her new friends fast. The scent of blood filled the air first, then the sound of bones cracking, before the emergency sirens came on and drowned out all sound.

Better not go forward. Something might mistake her for being part of the feast. She stuck to the perimeter of the room and found a stubby ledge, just enough for a toehold, and she shuffled back to the door.

She lay her hands on the lock, didn’t have enough to melt it, but warped the metal enough so that with all of her weight pulling, she could yank it open. Her ears rang from the sirens that were louder out here. Red emergency lights flashed down the length of the stainless steel corridor, blinding her.

Around the corner boots slapped on the floor, guards running. She fled the other way, found a utility shaft and pressed both hands hard against the grate. Frustration mixed with desperation inside her when she couldn’t work up the heat.

“Good feast,” it said behind her, making her nearly jump out of her skin.

It was twice as long as she, one long thick muscle the width of her thigh, ash-gray with four short but powerful legs, talons longer than her fingers, small black eyes that didn’t blink and a double row of razor teeth. She had no idea whether it was natural or man-made.

Half a dozen more came behind it, some darting forward on the walls, one on the ceiling. Blood dripped from their jaws. She rattled the grate.

“Will you feed us tomorrow?” it asked.

She thought of her sisters locked away in the dungeons to be experimented on, to be driven crazy, to be killed. It’d take an army, if she had an army, a year of siege to free them. If she saved herself, then at least one of her kind would survive. That was the primary directive. Yet now that her chance was at hand, she found she couldn’t run. “I will.”

“Blood and bones?”

“Blood and bones.”

It twisted, raised its powerful tail and smashed the grate.

She dropped down into darkness and it came on top of her, followed by the others, all wiggling and shoving.

“What are you?” it asked as it slithered by her in the narrow shaft.

“Nothing.” A queen without an army. The queen of the damned.

“Not nothing. You lead, we follow. There will be feasts.”

“Yes.” She reached bottom and she picked a shaft at random, hurried forward as they slithered and scurried behind her, her new royal guard. Better to be their leader than their dinner, she thought, and pushed forward into the darkness.

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