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b o u g h t \ bȯt \ [ verb ] : past and past participle of buy.

 

Las Vegas, Nevada, 2154

He turned to the left, just as he was told. Louis blinked under the bright beam of light shining down on him. Standing on the small stage had always been intimidating for him, but considering no buyers had ever shown interest in the past, Louis just considered today another day. Stand, turn, pose, spread, fold.

"Item seventy, please turn further to the left," the voice from the over-head speaker system requested politely. "Buyer number eighty would like for you to spread your wings, as well." Honestly, the voice in the auction room was always so nice that Louis couldn't deny her mannerly plea. She had the type of voice that was coated in honey and all things good; just the simplest of sentences could make you feel instantly comforted and at ease. The faceless voice was one of the only people Louis felt like he could trust. She was always polite, kind, and patient. She always did what she said she would do, and never asked Louis to do anything he wasn't comfortable with. She was one of the only people he could consider anything close to a friend.

Obeying her respectful behest — which, in reality, was nothing less than a demand — he spread his wings. It felt natural to stretch out to his full wingspan, and it saddened him that he couldn't do it more. Being locked in a cell prevented such things.

The day that Louis first arrived at Nox, it was his eighteenth birthday, and he was there to celebrate with friends. His mother had been relocated from England to a small town in Nevada for work when he was a young teen, so naturally the only option for his big birthday was to go to Las Vegas. There had never even an alternative plan. Louis had been planning for this day since he was a child: he'd go to a casino the first day that he could, gamble and drink all night, maybe hook up with a couple of randoms, and then crash in one of the suites in the conjoined hotel. It seemed like a pretty basic plan; nothing too extravagant. Just a small coming-of-age ritual-type thing that he hadn't wanted to miss out on.

Looking back now, he wishes he had.

When Louis was young, he had been told that the world had begun to change around the time his mother was born. Humans evolved in a strange, unnatural way. At first, everyone was scared. Obviously. People, just your every day run-of-the-mill people, were learning to "unlock their mind". They could now access parts of the brain that had never been touched before, and the consequences were...abnormal.

Eventually, it got to the point where the majority of the world's population was made up of these "gifted" beings, so people had no choice but to accept that they were the inevitable future. Gifts were different depending on the person, that much was obvious. Each one was specific to the personality and mind of it's host.

Somehow, Louis had ended up with wings.

And, not just any wings. No. His wings were huge, monstrous, even. They began to sprout from his back when he was a child. He thought they were an embarrassment, a scarlet letter, showing everyone just what a demented monstrosity he was. Most people's gifts were internal, or could be easily hidden. Unfortunately, Louis' was anything but lacking in subtlety.

As a child, Louis would lock himself in the bathroom for hours with a bread knife, looking over his shoulder in the mirror as he attempted to saw the unwanted appendages off. Sometimes, he succeeded. Other times, he was left with bloody, protruding stumps, bulging from his back as a painful reminder of what he really was: a freak. Though he would be free of the wings for a week or two, they would always grow back. With each hack job, the wings grew back stronger, brighter, fuller, and bigger. They spread to either side of him like some sort of archangel wings, though he felt more like an abomination than a divinity.

Over the years, Louis grew, just as any child does. He grew into his nose and ears, and his face suddenly seemed proportional. Beautiful, even, to some. Though he was complimented frequently on his looks by women, his stomach seemed do always to an entire gymnastics routine when a man commented on his appearance. Sexuality had never been a huge concern for him, but he was fairly sure he knew where he fell on that spectrum. Sure, he'd fooled around with plenty of girls in his time, but that's all he was ever doing with them. Fooling around, and they were a fool to ever believe it to be more than that.

"Item seventy?" the voice said from all around Louis, her voice bouncing off the velvet lined walls. "Please flap your wings once to show their use, and then return them to the folded position."

Louis nodded, and complied without hesitation. Usually, he didn't pay attention to the fact that there were actually people — potential buyers — behind the one-way glass, staring at him like a piece of property; something to be purchased and handled as if he weren't a living, breathing, functioning being, but rather as if he were an inanimate object crafted to make their lives as satisfying as possible.

With a sick stomach, Louis realized that's exactly what he had unwillingly become.

For some particular reason, he could feel the eyes on him today. Burning through the glass, evaluating him and picking him apart mentally. He turned again, per the faceless woman's request, to Buyer eighty's shielded booth. Though Louis couldn't see through the glass, he knew that his prospective owner may be sitting behind the mirrored window, and his heart suddenly felt like it dropped into his feet. The blood drained from his face, and his wings curved around his front, guarding him from the scrutinization of the stranger's gaze.

"Please refold your wings behind you, item seventy. I'm trying to get a good look at you," a new voice implored. Something about the man's voice made Louis' heart beat ten times faster than normal, causing his wings to flutter slightly. The mystery man's low chuckle was picked up by the microphone, and Louis was mortified when he felt heat creeping up the sides of his neck and across his cheeks.

A low, clearly masculine, appreciative sound rattled through the speakers. The stranger sounded amused, and all Louis wanted to do was to wrap himself in his wings and hide forever. "Do I make you nervous, item seventy?"

Louis nodded slowly; it's all he could do. His voice seemed to have run far away from him, along with any ounce of his courage that he had had left.

"Answer me, item seventy," the voice demanded. The man had taken on a rough tone, causing his voice to sound gravelly and primal. He cleared his throat, obviously seeing how timid and afraid Louis was quickly becoming. This time, his voice was smooth, silky, and enticing. "I want to hear your voice."

"Y-Yes," Louis managed, his wings fluttering once more behind him instinctively. "You make me very nervous."

Whoever was behind the mic readjusted themselves, and Louis swore he could almost hear the stranger smile. "Good," the man cooed. "That'll come in handy."

A buzzer sounded throughout the room, and the faceless woman's voice returned to the speaker. "Item seventy, you have been purchased. Please exit to your right and return to the holding area."

Louis stood stunned in place for a few minutes before the voice had to, ever so kindly, remind him