She dug her nails against the smooth, ceramic surface of the door to her cell. A whimper slipped past her lips, her body trembling as it lay across the floor, legs sprawled at awkward angles that, somehow, were still the way bones should lay.

She had been pounding at the door as well, but as the strength drained from her arms, she was left with the far weaker gesture of scratching nails against the door. Its surface was unyielding compared to the nails that were starting to chip and crack on her fingertips.

The world spun in her sights. It often did. Her mind felt constantly racing, constantly pouring so painfully many thoughts through too small a passage. A whine. She reached upward, grasping for the barred window near the top of the door.

“W… we…” Her mouth struggled to move. Everything struggled to move. Her body felt leaden but also fuzzy. Her vision blurred, then refocused. The lights felt so bright that their illumination was an act of violence against her eyes, which begged for her eyelids to close tight.

Footsteps down the hall. She tensed as they approached. Carefully, cautiously, she pulled herself up until she could see through the window.

The featureless glass mask staring back at her made her scream. Her fingers lost their tenuous grip, and she fell, spilled, down and back.

The door hissed and slid open. The helmeted figure stepped inside; she pulled herself backwards, crawling away from it. Hair she wasn’t full aware of stood on the back of the neck she barely knew she had.

The figure – clad entirely in gloss black, a long cloak trimmed in silver draping off its shoulders, the nakedness of its figure fully exposed even though no skin showed at all – directed its head downward. If it had eyes, the woman thought, they were likely looking at her.

“Attention,” the figure intoned in a mechanical voice. Did it say the words, the girl thought, or had they come from some hidden speaker? She wasn’t sure.

“Attention. Subject #8130 has removed its programming aid. Assistance is needed.”

Moments later, and two other figures – virtually identical to the one already present – entered the room. The girl sputtered, looking for words and finding none. Each of her arms were grasped fully, and she was pulled rapidly to her feet.

“P-please…” she said. She stared at them, unable to move under her own power, as she was laid back into bed. “W-we…”

The two attendants moved quickly to secure her back to the bed, ensuring that this time, the cuffs were properly sealed and locked.

The first walked across the room, retrieving a similar helmet to her own from a cabinet in the wall whose door she could not discern from the rest of the surface. This helmet however was white, with the black emblem of a nine-pointed star surrounded by strange glyphs.

A smooth, gloved hand cradled the girl’s head. It lifted her gaze by the chin, handling the tangled, matted hair carefully.

“Yes,” it said, in the same mechanical tone of voice. “We will be together again soon. Back together. You mean so much to us, after all.”

A brush was produced. Where was it produced from? She was unsure. But the feeling of it moving through her hair — unwinding the tangles in her hair, laying it into smooth, even sheets — calmed her. Placid. Her eyes felt heavy, and she let them glide closed.

The helmet was opened, the back settled behind her head. Her hair was laid neatly inside, and her head set back on the cushion set into the frame.

“We all belong together,” the voice said. It seemed to come from all of them. The one cradling her. The two attendants. Voices from elsewhere. Many elsewheres, spread across incomprehensible distance. “We all belong together, for we are one in you.”

“One… in… me…”

The front of the helmet was closed over her face.

She blinked, and from out of the darkness, she could see them. Blinded to the world, she could feel the presence of the Others and felt an immediate calm come over her. A sense of peace. A sense of purpose.

She smiled.

“My beloveds. We are gathered here today to learn…”

One thought on “Beloved

  1. I rather like this. I can’t really put into words why I like it, but I do. It feels ominous, calming, unnerving, and caring all at once.

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