Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wyre-rat (part 22)

"What guarantees can you give me?" he asked after a long moment of silence. "We never go hungry, in the Center."

I easily heard what he didn't say--that in the Center there was no risk. A lie, and we both knew it. "None," I said flatly. "Whatever you do out there will be up to you. I can't even guarantee the next twenty minutes."

He stared down at his hands, and they stretched as mine had. What that meant for a cat, I couldn't guess. Interesting that those mannerisms would be so much the same when the animals they represented were deadly enemies.

"I'm not sure I even understand what you mean. I could go back right now, and you couldn't stop me."

Or so he thought. I kept my mouth shut over the challenge I wanted to give him. "Do you want to go back?"

His breath hissed, in and out. "No. I want...I want to be free." I heard him swallow. "But I don't even know what that means. Free right now means not having to go back."

One step in the right direction. "It may be dangerous. You may die, I may die. We'll need to take action, and that's never safe."

His slump against the wall didn't change. His head didn't come up, his shoulders didn't straighten. The sound he made might have been a sigh. "You're not a supervisor."

"No." If he'd made that connection, it could only increase the danger. I sensed that he was close to the breaking point, where he must go entirely in one direction or the other. "What made you decide that?"

Another nearly inaudible sigh. "They would never give a choice, and they would never say 'we.' They would never suggest that any action was less than entirely safe, even when they know otherwise."

I shivered. That could have been my life, if I'd been born here. "So you don't want to go back. What do you want to do?" I held up a hand, hearing the first stirrings in the house. We couldn't risk this conversation with other ears around.

We both fell silent, listening. I heard it, the stealthy sound of footsteps toward the door of this room, and motioned him toward the miniscule bathroom.

He moved as instructed. I quickly tossed the blankets he'd slept on across the bed and curled up under them as if I'd not moved all night. Through slitted eyes I watched the door.

The shape was not the shape of our hostess, but someone much larger who held himself as if he was armed. Inside the bathroom I sensed a shiver of motion. With any luck, the attacker would not hear it.

I shifted, stirred, pulling my legs up so that I could move in whichever direction seemed necessary.

Part 23

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

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