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An Eye For An Eye

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There were dead bodies here.

It wasn’t just the smell that gave it away, though as soon as Strade opened the door, the stank of stale blood and rotting corpses wafted up to her. Slith could feel them. Empty vessels, waiting to be filled. What was keeping her from feeling them before? When she tried to take control of them, nothing happened. They were… just out of reach. Or too light. Too heavy? Too something. This had never happened before. Something… about this room was negating her talent.

Fuck. Fuck.

“What’s wrong?” Strade’s voice was bright and upbeat still, but now it held an air of mockery rather than friendliness.

Frantically, Slith looked back to Strade, his dark outline starkly contrasting with the light behind him, and was met with his hands connecting with her back, shoving her down the stairs. Her stomach dropped as she fell, knocking the wind out of her when she hit the ground. The dull pain in her legs was barely noticed; the stench was overwhelming further down, and permeated with a strong ammonia scent, it made her want to vomit.

A slam of the door plunged the room in darkness, and she had only a moment of scrambling up off her scraped knees before Strade pounded down the stairs. She ran a shaky hand along the wall to guide herself.

“I’d be careful if I were you,” Strade’s jovial voice cut through the dark. “Don't want to run into something now.”

Just as he said that, she stepped in something wet and cold. The room came alive with light, old fluorescents flickering overhead.

She drew in an audible gasp, blood running cold.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

 

All she wanted was a high.

Wandering out in the middle of the night without her weapons probably wasn’t the best idea. Renoe hated that she did it at all, and she hated disappointing him, but addiction was a hard thing to break. So she turned to sneaking out in the middle of the night, exchanging sex for a dose, usually getting back before Renoe woke.

Usually.

It had been a few days since her last fix. When she arrived at the usual spot, her dealer wasn’t there. Instead, he was there.

Scruffy, tall (but, at five-foot one, everyone was tall to her), a bit stocky, and piercing cognac eyes, he would’ve been intimidating if not for his kind smile. He introduced himself as ‘Strade’ in a light german accent. Asking her what she was doing there, she was honest. After all, whatever he was doing there at that hour couldn’t be any more innocent. He admitted to her that her usual dealer was caught up in something, but he could supply her for tonight.

It was suspicious, but she was desperate, and he seemed friendly enough, even if he didn’t seem to have a concept of personal hygiene. She said she’d offer anything in exchange, leading her here.

To his basement.

Where her dealer’s body was strung up by rope in front of her; naked and mutilated but still recognizable. A puddle of crimson fluid was pooled underneath it. And her foot was in the edge of it.

Normally bodies didn’t bother her in the slightest - they were just tools to her - but the context was sick.

Behind the body, the spacious room looked like a normal enough basement with a table, a counter, and among other things, a tool rack mounted to the wall with various sizes of axes, saws, and other tools. She steeled her stomach. She had to fight back. She darted around the body, sprinting toward her only hope of escaping this psychopath.

Unfortunately, she’d already forgotten about the blood. She slipped. Her foot flew out from under her and she landed hard, her outstretched palms the only thing saving her from a broken nose or worse. She surged forward, but something was caught on her ankle.

Strade’s hand, she realized with dread.

It pulled with such force, her hands scraped on the concrete. Flailing her legs futilely, she was dragged to the far side of the basement and flung in the corner. Slith scrambled up to see Strade leaning lazily against the table, a hunting knife now in his hand. He had a soft, crooked smile on his face like a little boy frying ants with a magnifying glass.

A few seconds of silence passed as they exchanged looks.

“So…” she asked hesitantly, curious if he’d been at all honest when luring her down here, “do you really not have any dope?”

Strade laughed. “Of course not. What do I need something like that for,” he held his knife up, admiring the blade shining in the light, “when my greatest pleasure is right in front of me?” He turned his gaze to her. “Take your clothes off.”

She considered her options for a moment (there weren’t many) before pulling off the oversized sweatshirt Renoe gifted her a few months prior, followed by her shirt and dropping her pants. Instinctively she covered her breasts; they were small enough that she never wore a bra, but now she wished she had. She was glad at the very least for her boxers. He stared at her, making her squirm. His gaze fixated on the thick, ugly scars wrapping around her upper arm, marking where the healthy, pale-pink skin met the darker grey, pallid skin of her lower arms. His eyes flitted back up.

“Your talent chip too.” He waved his knife.

“No, that's like… a part of me. You're not even a player are you? Why do you want it?” She couldn't believe he asked for it. As far as she knew, talent chips were only able to be utilized by someone aside from the original owner if acquired through killing them with a kill switch.

“Well, either you give it to me or I'll pry it off your dead body.”

Her face paled. “O-okay.” She tossed it to him. He caught it and pulled a plastic bag out of a drawer. Slith felt her stomach tighten into a knot. The bag had multiple talent chips in it. Just how many players had this guy killed? Was this… some kind of sick collection? He dropped hers in the bag and returned it to the drawer.

He turned back and neared her. She backed up slowly, jumping when she hit a wall. He got even closer, and she started to panic. “P-please, don’t h-hurt me…”  

“Aw…  Are you scared?” He leaned in closer.

Slith squinted her eyes shut and cringed back, nodding her head.

He stroked her cheek with his thumb. “I promise I won’t hurt you!” He laughed to himself. “Does that help?”

It definitely didn’t. He was so close; she felt trapped, so she slid down against the wall into a crouch, wanting to get away from him. He followed suit. Somehow, it made it worse. The way he leered at her body made her feel so uncomfortable and dirty. Just as she opened her mouth to tell him not to touch her, he reached his hand out to her inner thigh. Her throat constricted and all she could do was watch.

He rubbed her inner thigh, striped with old, fine scars. He didn’t need to ask what they were from. His hand lazily trailed up her thigh and she shuddered. It was mortifying  to be laid bare and vulnerable like this, him touching her like it was nothing… A hot flush burned her face and her chest rose and fell quickly in suspense.

Strade, clearly, was enjoying how worked up she was just simple touches. His hand moved up to a scar stretching across her lower abdomen. It was relatively fresh, only a few months old at the most, and the cut and stitches were clean enough to have been done purposefully and by someone who knew what they were doing. “What is this…” He breathed, caressing it. He glanced up at her, expecting an explanation.

She gulped down a lump rising in her throat at his hand wandering around her pubic region. “I got pregnant, so… The person I was traveling with cut out the baby.”

“Wow!” He raised an eyebrow. “You know you don’t have to… cut it out, right?”

She averted her gaze. “...He wanted to teach me a lesson. He’s… an assassin. I kept trying to convince him to let me join him after all of… this is over. He wanted to prove to me I couldn’t handle it.” She felt oncoming tears as he kept touching her. Was he going to rape her? He wouldn't be the first. Or was he planning something more sinister? The myriad of tools on the wall, and of course the rotting body behind him didn't help to comfort her. The lump rose in her throat again and she swallowed harder.

“He got you pregnant and then cut the fetus out? That seems a little extreme.”

“I… guess it kind of was. I willingly let him though. And he wasn’t the one who got me pregnant…”

Strade cocked his head to the side, seemingly genuinely interested. “So, who did?”

“I, uh,” she squirmed under Strade’s unrelenting stare. “You know how I offered you anything in exchange for a fix? I… wasn’t careful enough once.”

He gave her a sympathetic look. “You’ve had it rough, huh?”

She laughed weakly. She could hardly believe this was real. Was he really being genuine? He had to be, there’d be no reason for him to be acting anymore. He had her. So why was he being so… receptive? Acting like he cared? It made no sense. “Yeah,” she squeaked out. “Maybe you could help a girl out and… let me go?”

Strade burst out laughing. “Bahaha! No.” He eyed the scars on her thighs. A smile played on his lips. “You have experience cutting yourself.” A knot grew in Slith’s stomach as she realized what he was going to ask her to do. His eyes shifted to the knife, and delicately he picked it up, twisting it in the air and admiring the blade.

She felt him put something in her hand. The knife.

A grotesque simper spread across his lips. “Cut yourself.”

A shiver ran through her body, looking up at him in horrified shock. What would he do if she refused? His eyes were bright and excited. Something- it wasn't her- moved her hand to her thigh and slowly ran the edge along her skin. A light sting seared along the line cutting into the soft flesh. A tiny stream of red trickled down.

“Again.”

A hotter, brighter pain seared next to the tiny first cut. More red welled at the new line, running down her thigh in thick rivulets.

“More,” the order came quietly. His eyes were shining.

Slith shook her head. “It h-hurts. I-I don't want th-this.”

He pressed his nose to hers, staring directly into her eyes. Pupils dilated, his lids drooping over earthy-golden irises - not with fatigue, but lust. Hot fetid breath wafting over her mouth, daring her to recoil, his lips curled up in a smile, almost touching hers-

More.

The command came as a whisper, a simple breath. But it was enough. With a shaking hand, she drove the knife deeply into her thigh. Agonizing, burning pain shot along the fresh wound, and she let out a whine, watching blood swell around the silver blade. She pulled it out, tears rolling down her cheeks. “Str-rade,” she sobbed, “it h-hurts.”

He smiled. “That’s the idea!”

The look he was giving her… it sent chills down her spine. He was so happy and cheerful. It was fucking sick. But… she was afraid of what he’d do if she stopped. Maybe he’d go easy on her if she just obeyed. If she just played along… maybe, just maybe, he’d watch, get bored, and let her go.

She brought the knife back to her thigh and clumsily shoved shoved it in, biting back a cry and glancing at Strade to see his face.

Lips slightly parted, he was captivated. He murmured something she didn't understand and brushed his fingers over the cuts, smearing her blood all along her inner thigh. Then, on her cheek, holding up her chin with his bloody hand as if admiring a piece of fine china. “You're so fragile. How many people have shattered you? I know I won't be the first.”

Her stomach clenched and shifted her eyes to the side, anywhere but his face. A blush bloomed on her cheeks, tears accumulating in the corner of her eyes. “P-please…” Her voice shook.

Strade dug his fingers into the cuts, making her cry out. “Does putting yourself back together get harder each time?” He fingered the cut even deeper, pushing into undamaged muscle, making her scream. “Or do you walk around in pieces, not even bothering to fix yourself because you know it’s not worth it?”

His words almost stung as bad as the cuts in her thighs, and she squirmed away from him, hitting at him with her arms. “Get away from me!” She sobbed, but he just lunged forward and grabbed her wrist.

“You seem to be in a bad mood. I think we should play a game. Everybody likes games.” He dragged her by the hair and took something off the counter. A nail gun.

Slith panicked. She thrashed her head, ripping out hair and sending shooting pain through her scalp. Strade tightened his grip and pulled her to the table.

“Get up,” he ordered. She shakily rose and he pushed her into the chair in front of the table. He leaned in to her ear, close enough that she could smell sweat and machine grease on him. He whispered, “If you make this hard on yourself, it'll only hurt more.”

A chill went down her spine. Even if she wanted to keep fighting, she couldn't. He was so much stronger than her. He extended her arm and positioned the gun behind her wrist.

“St-strade, please,” she begged, “p-please-”

He pulled the trigger. It went right between her bones. She let out a strangled sound and started crying. “Clean,” he murmured. When he reached for her right arm, she tried hitting him but it didn't do much. He nailed her other arm too, both hands palm-down. This time she screamed; the nail went through one of her bones. Blood seeped out around the nailheads.

He set the nail gun back on the counter and picked something else up: a hammer and nails, and pulled a hunting knife from a hilt on his waist. Then took a seat across from her and beamed at her.

“The rules are simple.” He pulled a coin from his pocket. “You know how to play heads or tails, right?”

She nodded her head reluctantly.

“If you guess right…” His eyes drifted to the nails and he picked one up. “I'm going to hammer one of these into your fingernails. If you get it wrong, I'll cut off your finger. I'm going to flip it eight times, once for every finger. Except your thumbs. You might need those later.” He smiled cheerily. “Are we ready to play?”

She merely stared horrified, at her arms and at him. His smile disappeared and he stared back at her for a moment, making her shake, and she looked away.

“Well, if you're not going to be a good sport-” Strade started to stand up.

“W-wait,” she interrupted, scared of what else he might do. “I- I-I’ll play.”

He sat back down, regarding her coldly for a moment longer. He leaned forward on his elbows, holding up a coin, and smiled wide. “So, what’ll it be, buddy? Heads or tails?”

Either way, she would be condemning herself. She didn’t want to play along, but she didn’t want to anger him either. “...Tails.”

He flipped it on his thumb, and she bit her lip so hard she was sure it’d bleed waiting for him to say. His eyes flashed. “Lucky girl. It’s tails!”

She cringed; she wasn’t sure how lucky she really was.

Strade lightly tapped a nail on her pinky, watching her wince. Then he brought the hammer down; the fingernail cracked, and Strade hammered down again, this time penetrating the sensitive fleshy bit underneath, and again, pinning the finger to the wood.

Slith screamed. It hurt so much worse than she anticipated. “Strade, please, no m-more, please-”

“Begging already? But we just started! Heads or tails?”

She shook her head. “Please, don’t make me-”

“I’ll choose for you if you don’t.”

She bit her lip. “Tails.”

He flipped the coin. His face lit up. Her stomach dropped. “It’s heads!” Swiftly he brought the knife down on her left ring finger at the middle knuckle. She sobbed, straining against the nails embedded in her arms. The knife wouldn’t go all the way through, so Strade chewed his lip and pushed down on the blunt edge with the heel of his palm. Slith shrieked harder. The joint cracked, ligaments tearing as Strade pulled and twisted on the digit. “That was a tough one, eh? six more to go.”

“No, please, I can’t do this anymore. It hurts…”

He cocked his head a bit. “Not having fun?”

She hissed. “Fuck you.”

“That’s not very nice.” Chuckling, he flipped the coin and covered it with his hand. “So?”

She glowered at him slightly. “Heads.”

Strade lifted his hand and gave Slith a twisted grin. “It’s tails.”

“P-please, Strade, anything else, I don’t want to do th-this,” she begged. “Anything else.”

Strade shrugged. “Sorry, I don’t make the rules!" The knife dug into her joint, coming loose with a sickening pop. “So, whose arms are those? They’re clearly not yours.”

Slith glowered at him through her tears. “I don’t know,” she hissed through her teeth. “I wasn’t… awake.”

Fully severing her finger, he raised an eyebrow. “What happened to yours?”

Jaw clenched tightly, her face twitched and let out a pained whine. “Someone cut them off. As punishment.”

“Jeez, everyone around you goes for the extremes. What did you do?” He flipped the coin.

“I… was being defiant.” She eyed him. “...Tails.”

Strade grinned. “Defiant?”

Slith writhed, desperately trying not to scream as he hammered down her index finger. “They were dumb rules,” she hissed. “Heads…”

He tsked and shook his head. “It’s tails. What were the rules?” he asked, bringing the knife down on her right index finger.

She shrieked, beating her foot down on the floor. Tears streamed down her face. “..Can’t.”

“Hm?”

“I can’t…” She hicced, “-do this anymore.”

He looked at her with fake pity. “Aw, do you need a break? I’ll choose for you, then. Heads!” He flipped it. “Luck is just not on your side today!”

She cried before the knife even touched her finger. The nails dug at her flesh as she struggled to move, to free herself, to get away from this hellhole

He hammered down her remaining two fingers. At this point, there was a growing flush on his cheeks. “Aahhh I’m getting too excited,” he mused to himself. He softly ran his finger over one her bloodied own, tracing around the nails. “Would you like me to remove these?”

She nodded reluctantly, though she wasn’t even sure what he’d do if she said no.

“Alright.” He strode over to the counter and picked up a pair of pliers, and yanked the nail from her left pinky and index finger. The alleviated pressure was reliving, but it still hurt, and she hissed through her teeth with both.

He gave her a sympathetic look, brows furrowed. “That hurts, huh?”

She was tempted to mouth off at him, but seeing as he was armed and she nailed to a table, it probably wasn't a very good idea. So she bit her tongue.

“Here. This'll be faster.” Undoing his belt, Strade pulled it off and wrapped it around her right arm. It was tight, so tight that her arm started immediately to ache, and she realized what he was going to do. Her heart rose in her throat.

“N-no, p-pl-please, Strade, please… Don’t…”

He fiddled with something at the counter, then came back holding a circular saw. He glanced at her and flicked the saw on.

“Pl-p-ple-ease,” she sobbed, shaking violently.

Tears ran down her cheeks and she took gasping sobs, Strade watching her expression intently. Then he pressed the spinning blade down on her forearm.

She howled. Blood sprayed everywhere. The rush of adrenaline numbed the pain, but it was still blinding. Saw grinding through the marrow of her bone, she kicked her legs frantically under the table, throwing her head back, screaming. Tensing her arm, she couldn’t help but tug away, which tore the flesh and only made it worse. Suddenly she couldn’t feel the wood beneath her hand or the aching nubs, there was a give in her arm, and she knew it was gone.

Hyperventilating, she only vaguely noticed Strade unbuttoning his shirt and pants. Blood ran down his arms, smearing down his chest. Then he was up on the table in front of her, face flush, eyes heavy, breathing slower. Slith could only stare in horror at his erection; she had never been more disgusted and horrified in her life.

He gripped her bleeding arm, blood squelching as he prodded at the edges of the ripped, ruined skin with his penis. Her vision went blank for a moment as he dug into the flesh surrounding the bone, grip so tight she’d bruise. “Ah, too small to fuck…” He lamented.

Slith’s head was spinning.  Bile rose in her throat. She hiccuped sobs, and Strade took hold of her chin with his free hand. He leaned down and licked her tears off her face, shuddering at her cries.  The scent of sweat and pheromones was much stronger now, and made her even dizzier. Stubble rubbed against her face, his tongue running up and down her cheek.

Strade straightened and ran a hand through his hair, and pushed the chair back, making her fall. Her head cracked against the concrete and she gasped, quick to scramble on her feet.

The stairs. She only had to make it to the stairs.

She ran as quickly as she could, blood pounding in her ears. Her whole body was shaking, sweating; they were right there, so close-

Something slammed into her and knocked her breath out. Suddenly she was on the cold floor, a weight on her back, and she shrieked. She craned her neck to look, but Strade’s boot struck her head, pinning it to the floor. She tried pushing her way out, but with one arm she only managed to scrape her forehead and fling blood across the concrete. She kicked and scratched in futility, screaming and crying.

Then the boot lifted off her head. She tried to make a mad dash for the stairs, but Strade grabbed her waist and dragged her back, blood smearing along the floor from her stump. Dread filled her as her underwear was pulled down and her hips into the air. Strade cupped her ass with his waist and bent over her, a new wave of his rancid scent hitting her like a truck. She instinctively recoiled when he pressed his mouth against her ear.

“Let’s play another game, liebling,” he purred, and bit the cartilage. The warmth almost felt good until she heard a crunch and  dripped down it. Then pain seared along her shoulder, and she felt a hot wetness on it. He was… Licking the blood.  

She screamed and struggled, but to no avail. He was so much bigger than her. She could feel him touching her, and an overwhelming suffocation came over her.  He rubbed against her, then pushed inside her and moaned softly. She cried and strained against his grip. He cut into her again, deeper this time, and thrust his tongue inside.

“You taste…” he bit the edge of the cut skin and pulled. She shrieked and writhed as it ripped. “So good.” The knife clattered to the ground, his hands found their place, one at the base of her neck, painfully grinding her cheek into the concrete, and one held bruisingly tight in the fat of her hip. Then he slammed his hips into hers.

“Mm- fuck,” he panted, “I forgot-” He thrust again, “-how good this felt.”

She whimpered under him, tears accumulating under the cheek ground into the floor. How many times had he done this before?

Her knees scraped against the concrete with every violent push of his hips. “Hey, Slith- did you do this- Ahn-” His voice was rough with lust, growling out words between pants, “A lot when you were- Ah, fuck- a junkie-? Sorry I don’t have- anything to give you.” The last words were chortled, blending into a moan. This was all just a joke to him.

His fingers tightened around her neck, his movements getting faster and less controlled as he came closer to climax, silent in the wake of heavy breath and pleasured groans. Slith could feel his stomach slide against her back in their joined sweat, his muscles contracting with every thrust. The smell of blood, adrenaline, and rich, stank musk was overpowering. Everything hurt so bad.

She was in pain, she was terrified, but she had to do something. He tensed, then let out a disturbing growl like some kind of wild animal. He relaxed, breathing heavy above her, and she took the chance.

Whipping around, she shoved him off her. She must’ve caught him off guard because it actually worked, and she frantically grabbed for the knife.  Strade recovered quickly and lunged after her, but she kicked him in the jaw.  It didn’t deter him at all. She swung the knife at him, grazing his cheek. His smile turned disturbingly excited.

He rushed forward and slammed her against the wall by the neck. She made a small squeal, and the knife fell out of her hand as his grip tightened around her throat. “Aahhh, meine kleine Maus, you like playing rough?” He touched the scratch with his free hand. He was smiling but it was a terrible, brutal smile. His grip only got tighter as she scratched at his hand. The hand on her neck moved up into her hair. He moved his other hand to her face, smearing his blood across her cheek, then held her chin up. Her breath shaky, she directed her gaze to the corner of the room. This sudden gentleness made her nervous.

“Look at me,” he ordered.

She was sure if she did, she would start crying. But she didn’t have any choice, not if she didn’t want to be hurt anymore. So she did. Blood was messily spread on his face. His eyes shone, marbled tawny and savage, framed by stringy, greasy curls. They bore into her soul, and an awkward cry choked its way out her lips. Her eyes and sinuses burned with tears, and she couldn’t hold it back.

She started crying, sobbing, shoulders convulsing. “Please… If I-” she gasped, “-if I d-did something to y-you, if- I did something to… deserve th- this.” She choked. “I’m s-sorry, I-I… I don’t want to be hu- hurt anymore. Ple- ase .” Her voice cracked. She could feel something wet dripping down her trembling thighs, which only made her cry harder.

He let go of her chin but tightened his grip in her hair, expression softening. “You’re having it rough, huh?”

He said it so innocently, like he had nothing to do it with it. It made her so angry. “Of c-course I am! Y-you, you torture me, and then you ra- rape me, a-and…” she broke down again. “If- if there's s-something you w-want, if-” She slid down the wall onto the floor.

He crouched down in front of her and rubbed her cheek with his thumb. “You didn’t do anything but wander into the wrong place at the wrong time. Or… the right place.”

“How can y-you think th-this is right?” Her voice was shaking.

“There is no right or wrong. Morals are bullshit.”

He was looking at her with… pity? “What… do you mean?”

“The concept that anything can be right or wrong, black or white… They were just made up by the weak. Religion, government, societal morals - All comprised of weaklings and cowards flocking together out of desperation to protect themselves. From nature, from those like me, from facing themselves. They’re all afraid.”

“I… I don’t understand.”

“They’re all joined by fear. It makes sense, of course. Fear is our most primal emotion. It’s what kept us alive in our early days as a species. Nowadays, we don’t often need it for what it originally what meant for. It manifests itself deeper, slower, ingrained into our being. It drives us, it motivates us. Fears of failure. Fears of being disliked, or losing control, or having control… Everyone has fears. Your fears define you. I want to know who you are.”

“Well… that… Makes sense.” She didn’t want to agree with him, but he was right.

He grinned. “I’m glad you understand!”

“Wait, but-” she was desperate to prove him wrong. Even if his thinking wasn’t, what he was doing…  “How can you do… this with a clean conscious? How can you justify this to yourself?”

“There’s nothing to justify. It’s survival of the fittest. It’s just the way the world works. The strong and smart win. The weak and stupid lose. I caught you. I win. You lose. If the authorities caught me…” He took a breath. “They win. I lose. You see?” He laughed at her horrified expression. “Unpopular opinion, maybe.” He said it like he’d just said, ‘I don't think the Big Bang Theory is that bad,’ not, ‘I think it’s okay for me to rape and torture people.’

“I-I still don’t understand how you-”

“Let me put this a way you will understand. I do this because I want to. I can.” He shrugged. “Like I said before, fear is our most primal emotion. It’s what’s coursing through your blood right now, coating your skin with sweat, and making your heart beat faster and harder. Reduce someone to fear, and I see who they truly are. Send them into fight or flight when they can’t fight back or run, and I see to what lengths they'll go just to please me, or scare me, or hurt me; all in hopes of stopping me. Tell me, how many people have you cried for? Screamed for? Shown your innermost thoughts with? So many people are afraid of showing their true self. And when you finally get to see it, it's so…” He sighed wistfully. “Intimate.” Something sinister glinted in his eyes.

Her eyes grew wide. He was mad. Fucking insane. “I’ll… I-I’ll tell you anything you want to know. Y-you don't have to hurt me-”

“Oh no, I think you misunderstood. You can't simply tell me. I want to see your very core. I'll expose things not even you are aware of. It's exciting, you know. Even at their fundamental level, people are all different.”

She had no idea what to say to that. She had met cold people before, people who could kill without a second thought. She was even in love with one of them. But to meet a killer who wasn’t cold, whose thinking was so twisted, who took such delight in it, that it was all just some kind of game to him… There was no way she could reason with him. Rebel, fight back, and he’d enjoy it. Obey… and he’d enjoy it. She was just a plaything to him.

He smiled. “Let’s get you patched up, hm?”

She nodded hesitantly, and rose on shaking legs. He firmly took her arm and led her back to the table, where she promptly sat down.  

Strade pulled a plastic tub from a cupboard, humming some upbeat tune. He sat across from her and, pushing the severed fingers out of the away, pulled out some gauze and bandages out.

Pain made her wince as he pressed the gauze against the stump end and began wrapping the bandages around it. Neither of them bothered to speak. He took her hand and bandaged the finger stumps too. Then he prodded her to the wall, where there was a rope tied to a large eye bolt embedded in the wall. He tried the other end around her remaining wrist, suspending her arm above her head. Then he pounded up the stairs.

Finally… finally alone.

She was still shaking from the adrenaline and pain, but she had to do something. She inspected her bindings. She couldn’t untie the rope with her only hand being bound, but maybe Strade was careless. She stood and looked at the eye bolt. It was just screwed into the concrete, and even seemed a little loose. Or at least, not tight. She tried twisting it, but it didn’t budge. She tried again, pushing as hard as she could, but still it wouldn’t move. She kept trying, but it only made her discouraged. Just as she was about to give up, it moved a tiny bit.

Her eyes lit up. That little bit was enough to fill her back up with determination. Her hand would begin to cramp and so she had to take the occasional break, but slowly and surely the bolt was coming loose. And finally, after what had to have been hours, it fell out. Slith was frozen for a moment with elation. Now came the truly difficult part: sneaking past Strade. She had to avoid confronting him. It hadn’t ended well last time and she was sure it definitely wouldn’t end well again.

She snuck up the stairs and stopped right in front of the door. Her breath got caught her throat and she became tense again, adrenaline flowing freely. She was really going back up there… What if he was right outside the door? What if he saw her?

She shook her head. She had to try. The alternative was giving up, and that likely meant death.

She groped for the handle and, finding it, turned it. It clicked, and she pushed it open. It was heavier than she expected. She peeked out around the door.

And her blood turned to ice.

Strade was already making his way to her, taking large strides across the hallway. “What’s this ?” He demanded, yanking the door open. Her eyes widened and she stumbled back down the stairs. He pounded down slowly after her. “Up and about, sneaking around.” That look he was giving her….

She backed into the wall, crouching down in an attempt to make herself smaller. “W-wait, wait, I-I was just hungry!” She rushed out, desperate to stop whatever he was about to do.

He raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

“Y-yeah.” She swallowed nervously as he regarded her for a moment.

“Hmm.” He stopped by the table. “Alright.” He crouched before her and dropped something in her lap. Her severed fingers. “Eat them.”

She stared in shock for a moment. “The… the whole… thing?”

“You can leave the bone.”

Slith swallowed hard and quickly looked down to the fingers. She lifted one to her lips, and glanced up at Strade, who was watching intently, eyes twinkling with sadistic pleasure. Slowly she bit down, eyes closed, hand shaking. It was tough, but without pain, easier than she expected. The skin tore, she dug into the softer flesh beneath, coppery-sweet blood filling her mouth. The meat made its way to the back of her throat and she gagged, blood dripping out of her mouth.

“Come on, buddy, chew before you swallow,” Strade coached, delighted.

Numbly she ground her teeth together and swallowed the growing lump in her throat along with the chewed flesh. Then she took another bite, picking all the flesh off the little bones, and repeated the motions. What was most horrifying wasn’t that he was forcing her to do this, or that she was actually doing it. What was most horrifying was that it didn’t taste bad. It reminded her of a rare steak, how she’d always joke about how she liked blood on her plate.

Well, she certainly had a lot on her plate now.

Soon they were all gone, a pile of little white bones on the floor replacing them. Strade let out a slow whistle. “Wow, you must’ve really been hungry.” He pursed his lips. He took her hand in his own and rubbed her pinky. Their eyes met, Slith's stomach flipping in knots. “Bite your pinky off,” he ordered finally.

She started to shake her head.

“Come on.” His voice had an edge to it.

She raised her pinky, shaking, to her mouth and closed her teeth around it. Her eyes flicked up. Strade was staring intently. Her teeth chattered around her finger. Sharp pressure- more pressure, digging into the joint-

She couldn’t do it. She pulled her pinky out of her mouth.

“No?” Strade moved closer to her. “Then I’ll just have to do it myself.” Forcefully, he grabbed her wrist. She yanked back, but he wrenched her arm backwards. Pain shot through the joint and she instinctively relaxed for a split-second. Unfortunately that was all he needed.

“Please-” Her voice wavered, but he already had the finger in his mouth, and the next moment, pain exploded from the joint. She whined, yanking back but he bit down harder, breaking the skin. A sick crack came from the joint and she sobbed. His face contorted with effort, taking hold of her hand and ripping the finger off.

He let go, letting her cry over her hand, and grinned, pinky wedged between his teeth. He sucked on it for a moment, and moaned , then pulled it out, holding it with his fingers like a cigar. “Mm… that’s good.”

Slith watched him reach for the knife at his hip. His hand shot out and grabbed her wrist, yanking her towards him. A shudder ran through her. “No,” she whispered. He pushed her to the ground and straddled her. She pleaded more, tears gathering in her eyes as he squished the meat of her forearm in his fingers. Then he sawed into it.

She shrieked, straining against him. He cut rugged and fast, and soon he’d gouged a hole in her arm. Her chest was shuddering with her sobs, snot bubbling out her nose.

“Hm.” Strade looked down at the wound for a moment, then to her. He dropped the chunk of flesh on the floor and stood up. Slith shakily pushed herself up, blood pouring down her arm. Strade brought back the dressings from earlier. She willingly let him dress it, staring emptily at the floor next to him.

He patted her shoulder. “Good as new!” He grinned, and directed her chin toward him. “I’m sure you’re hungry still.” He lowered his voice. “I know I am.”

Reluctantly, she looked his way and immediately started shaking her head.

He held up the chunk of flesh and pushed up her lip. “Open up.”

She started sobbing again and shook her head. She couldn’t do it again. She just couldn’t.

“Come on, I said open up .” Steel rammed into her teeth, forcing its way between them. Strade twisted the knife sideways, forcing her mouth open. She didn't dare bite down, it would only end in more needless pain. He pushed it in her mouth, but she pushed it back out with her tongue. He let out an exasperated sound. “Or would you rather eat something else?” He stuffed it back in and took out the knife. The vague threat made her start to chew slowly.

“Good!” Blood seeped out her lips and down her chin. Strade let out a soft moan, face flushing as he watched her struggle to down the meat. “Good girl…”

She swallowed down the last bits painfully. Her voice was thin and high as she showed off her empty mouth. “I… I’m done.”

Strade licked his lips. “Good girl,” he repeated, and shuffled forward on his knees. Slith's eyes widened and she only had a moment to wonder when he dropped his pants before he forced himself in her mouth. She let out sounds of protest, but he only shoved himself in further.

Though she was gagging, she bit down.

Strade bellowed and pulled out. Instantly, she regretted it- he sneered, eyes burning with shock and rage, and slammed her face into the floor by her hair. Immediately she was sure her nose was broken, and he kicked her face, the blow knocking her head against the wall. She cried out, vision briefly cutting out, and he pressed his boot her face and ground down hard. She could feel abrasions forming under the unforgiving sole.

Face twitching with fury, he breathed raggedly for a moment before calming down and smiled. “A biter… huh?” He mused, holding her face up and admiring the blood trickling out her nose and down her mouth. He turned around to the counter and rummaged in a drawer. “I know what you need…” He returned and crouched in front of her. Something… metal and leather glinted in his hand. A ring gag.

Shots of pain throbbed through her skull as he dragged her back up by the hair. When she opened her mouth to apologize, he shoved his fingers in her mouth and forced the metal ring in between her teeth, latching it round the back of her neck. He forced her to look up at him, and pushed his fingers back down her throat. A vicious smirk grew on his lips. “Why don't you try biting me now, hm?”

A flush crept up her neck as he played with her tongue. She wanted to cry from humiliation. He pinched her nose closed and pulled her tongue forward so she was panting.

He laughed. “Like a little bitch in heat.”

She was so mortified. She didn’t have time to dwell on it however; he knelt in front of her and ground his knee into her crotch.

Please, please no…

He yanked back a handful of dirty blonde hair and stuffed himself in her mouth freely, no more worries about her teeth. The taste alone made her eyes water. Rank and foul, she tried to pull back, but he pulled ruthlessly on her hair

Moaning long and hard, he pushed into her deeper. Her stomach clenched and she shuddered and wretched, bile rising in her throat. Her mouth started to salivate, bitter fluid biting the back of her mouth. He rut his hips against her, pushing her nose into his hair and getting blood matted in it. She heaved heavier, fingers pressed helplessly into the fabric of his pants. Yellow bile and acid came up and spilled out of her mouth messily, chunks getting stuck between him and her tongue, in her lips, her cheeks, even up her sinuses. Nose pressed into Strade’s vomit soaked pubic hair, she couldn’t get away from the smell and it took all her willpower not to puke again as he continued to fuck her mouth  She looked up desperately at him, tears running down her cheeks.

A twisted smile spread across his face. He gripped her hair tighter. Then he pinched her nose shut. Fresh tears streamed down her face as a moment passed, and then another, Strade ruthlessly slamming into her mouth again and again, Slith desperately trying breath between thrusts. Her lungs burned and she let out a strangled sob. She couldn't breath. She was going to die.

A tremor ran through his body above her, letting out a long groan as he came. But still, he held her in place. Eyes heavy with afterglow and lips parted in a slight smile, he panted heavily above her as if he was mocking her.

Her lungs were going to explode. He had to let go. She’d die. But he’d like that, wouldn’t he?  Tears blurred her vision. Everything went numb. A shit-eating grin looked down on her, but it was so far away. She was really going to die like this.

Right as her vision faded, he pulled out and and she fell against the wall, come spilling from her mouth. Pain came flooding back- it hurt, everything hurt- and her chest rose and fell with rapid, frantic breaths. Vomit and come mixed with her extra spit, forming a vile film that ran down her chin and neck.

She coughed hard, head throbbing. Spots slowly emptied out of her vision. She straightened herself, taking deep breaths of sweet, sweet air, and resigned to watch warily as Strade rummaged through her backpack and came back with a bottle in hand.

He smiled wide. “Alright. I’ll make you a deal. You had vodka in your pack. If you can down the rest of it, I’ll leave you alone the rest of the night.”

Her brow furrowed. She wasn't really in the position to be making a choice right now… and she had a feeling he wasn't really going to give her a choice anyway.

He held it up and swirled the alcohol. “You ‘spose there’s enough for five or six shots? I’m sure you can handle that.”

He was right… if by “handle” he meant not die. She’d still get very drunk. She shook her head and made sounds of protest, but he ignored her. He spun the cap off and held her jaw still with a vice-like grip. She struggled, thrashing her head to the side as he tipped it into her mouth. “C’mon babe, swallow. I don't want you to choke!”

Her resolve vanished. She guzzled down mouthful after mouthful, burning her throat, sicker and sicker to her stomach with every gulp. She shuddered as Strade stepped back, watching with a smirk. Her body shuddered again and retched, acid and vodka burned her throat as it came right back up. She whimpered, and looked up at him pleadingly, spit and bile dripping from her lips.

He re-approached her with a plastic bottle of water in his hand. “Want something to wash it down?” He shook the bottle and opened the cap. She readily accepted it, a little suspicious of what he might’ve done to it, but glad to have water. Halfway done with it, she moved her head to the side to show she was done, but he just grabbed her chin and made her drink the rest. Then he cracked open another and tipped it into her mouth. She could hardly keep up, sputtering and coughing, a lot of the watering spilling out of her mouth. He didn’t really seem to mind.

He laughed and clapped her shoulder. “There you go! I’ll stay true to my word. See ya tomorrow.” Metal jangled as he pulled out a fetter from...somewhere, and chained her down. “Don’t want you running around again.” She didn’t bother to fight back, until she realized with alarm that he was heading toward the stairs. Leaving her with the gag on.

She made a loud, urgent sound and motioned to her mouth with her arm stump.

Strade smiled at her. “Goodnight, Slith.”

She yelled at him but he ignored her, flipped the lights off, thumped up the stairs.   

She wanted to cry. Her jaw was starting to cramp, and she felt so dirty. Her head still throbbed. Since she couldn’t spit or close her mouth, even with the water the taste of him, her vomit, and the alcohol stained her tongue. The various fluids slowly dried on her neck and chest.

She eyed the corpse still hanging from the rafters. If only she could take control of it, she could free herself and fight back. If only she hadn’t relied solely on her talent for protection, it wouldn’t have mattered that she couldn’t. How had Strade discovered the talents could be disabled by something, and how had he managed to make the whole basement like that?

Then she wondered if Renoe would come save her - he did implant her with a tracking device incase something like this happened, didn’t he? So where was he? Maybe whatever was blocking her talent was blocking the signal too. Maybe he didn’t really care about her… he was an assassin, after all. Maybe he was just using her as a tool, hoping to obtain her talent chip or garner sympathy and trust others. Maybe…

She couldn’t keep torturing herself. He would either come, or he wouldn’t.

Her eyelids drooped, aching body exhausted. She was both mentally and physically tired, and despite knowing that sleep would only bring him faster, she let herself fall into sleep.

-

Slith woke up to the sound of the heavy metal door opening. Adrenaline shot through her veins as she momentarily forgot where she was. Quickly though, she was brought back to the nightmare by the pain all over her body and remembered the previous day’s events. Her jaw ached, and her lips were dry and cracked. And she had to pee, really bad.

Light outlined Strade as he pounded down the steps. He was wearing nothing but a pair of boxers and was smoking a cigar.  “Hey, morning buddy!” He greeted her. “You want something to eat?

She just regarded him coldly, not trusting anymore offers from him.

His crooked smile faded and crouched before her, holding his cigar between two fingers. “Tch. I’m trying to be hospitable.” He pressed the cigar butt into her breast.

She hissed in pain and glared at him, kicking her legs at him.

He chuckled and stood up. “Full of piss ‘n vinegar, eh?” His eyes narrowed and he pressed his foot on her lower abdomen. “Lotsa piss.”

Her eyes grew wide. Her bladder could only take so much, it was already so full. He saw this, and smiled even more, pressing down harder. This… was why he gave her water. She started crying and made sounds of protest, a hot blush growing on her cheeks, but it only seemed to encourage him. He pressed harder.

The pressure was too much. A dark yellow liquid pooled around her legs. Physical relief flooded her, but whatever dignity she had left was crumbling. It kept coming - he made her drink so much - and she wanted to cry.

“You want something else to drink? I'm sure you're thirsty.”

She was confused for a moment; she still couldn't talk with her mouth gagged. Then she realized he was pulling his boxers down.

No. No. Please no don't-

He grabbed her hair and forced her to look up at him, then positioned his penis about an inch from her face. “Drink up.”

She let out a strangled sound as urine filled her mouth. God the smell, it filled her sinuses- was it in her nose? It sprayed on her face and spilled down the sides of her mouth. She coughed and sobbed. Covered in her own dried vomit, blood, tears, his come and urine, sweaty and terrified, sitting in her own piss, her mouth still forced open- it was all too much. Tears gathered in the corners of her eyes. What did she do to deserve this?

He leaned around her and unlatched the gag, carefully removing it. Slowly, finally, she closed her jaw. The taste was foul, and it ached so bad tears stung her eyes.

“You made quite the mess of yourself, didn’t you? You want a wash?”

She nodded quickly. “...Y-yes, pl..please.” Her voice was hoarse and frail.

“Oho, so polite! Come on, then.” He helped her up by her armpits, steering her stumbling across the basement to a small bathroom. It was crude, clearly either not finished or given much thought, with a simple concrete floor and raw wooden counter. The toilet didn’t have a lid and the shower was just an open faucet and drain in the floor, no curtain to divide it from the rest of the room. Strade shut and locked the door, and pulled his boxers off.

“What are you doing…?” She asked with some alarm.

He flung his underwear in the corner and sat on the toilet. “I want to watch.”

She fidgeted, a flush creeping up her neck. “Oh.”

“Unless you want me to help.”

“No! No…” She was quick to decline, though if he really wanted to “help” she was sure he wasn’t going to ask.

He smiled. “Just ask if you do.”

She surveyed the area. There wasn’t any soap or anything. She turned around. “Do you… have soap?”

“No.”

Ah. His smell made sense now.

She turned back to the faucet. A few second later she was assaulted by a cold stream of water. She shivered, but didn’t mind it too much. She was just desperate to get all the dried gunk off her body. Slowly it warmed up, which helped her relax. Still, it stung her wounds, making her aware of small scrapes she wasn't even aware existed, and she couldn’t shake Strade’s stare boring into her back.

Slith glanced over her shoulder at him. He was just watching her with that unsettling smile. She considered asking him to stop looking, but instead just turned back around, trying to lose herself even just a little in the warm water. When she scraped at the white caked on her thighs, her body went cold with a realization. “What if I get pregnant?”

“Oh, don’t worry!” He pipped up immediately, like he had a perfect solution for that. “You won’t live long enough for that to happen.”  

A shiver ran down her spine. He was really planning to kill her.

“But you know…” She heard wet slapping and turned around just in time to see Strade press himself against her back. He buried his nose in the crook of her neck and groped her breast, his other hand caressing the scar on her abdomen. “If you did, we could always cut you open again.”

Slith felt herself shutting down. Not again. Not again. Not fucking again.

Strade shoved her against the wall and breathed hard, running his hands down her body. She let out a small whimper. His hand fell down further and pushed his fingers inside her. He was crushing her. With her mind racing, the only thing she could think to do was stomp on his foot. He just rumbled a laugh. Right in her ear…

She threw her head back and felt it solidly connect with his nose. Momentarily his grip loosened and she ducked down, slipping on the wet floor, scrambling to get away.

Strade yanked her back by the ankle. Writhing, she kicked back, but he just grabbed her other ankle, flipped her over, and crawled up to straddle her. He was bleeding from his nose, blood running into his wild grin. He slammed his hand down on her forehead and reached to the counter where a knife she hadn't noticed lay. “Heh… I’m a little surprised you still have energy to fight back.”

“I-I’m sorry, p-please-” She tried pushing her way out from under him, but he was far too heavy.

“I know you are.” He bashed her nose with the hilt. She half-screamed; if her nose wasn’t broken already, it certainly was now. Something shifted inside when he beat her with it again, and blood trickled down her lip, and down her sinuses into her throat. He dropped the knife and wiped the blood around, contorting her nose and pushing around the pieces of broken cartilage and bone. Tears welled in her eyes and coughed, spraying a little blood into the air.

Strade’s eyes grew feverish with excitement. His rough fingers gripped her wet hip and fumbled for the knife. Then he plunged the blade into her abdomen, cutting right along the scar.

She shrieked, body tense, devolving into a higher pitched whine, and another loud cry when Strade ripped the hole wider as he shoved his hand inside.

He was drunk on sadistic pleasure; eyes heavy and cheeks flushed deep red. Smearing her blood on his mouth and down his neck, a lustful growl rumbled in his throat. He roughly grabbed her cheeks, lopsided grin growing even bigger as her panicked expression.

“P-please…” Slith’s eyes darted wildly about. “Strade, plea-”

“Ahaha! Haaa…” He shouted gleefully and twisted her head, the cracking of her neck and her resulting scream causing a breathy moan to escape his lips. Her eyes rolled back into her head as he forced her head to the side even further. Her scream only lasted a few moments more until a final crack cut it down to a wheeze.

He tugged tautly at the edge of her skin and, with bright eyes, ripped the knife upward through her skin, practically tearing her open all the way up to her collarbones. Then pulled back the skin.

A scream ripped its way from her throat so forcefully that it burned, and the next scream was hoarse. Streams of tears ran down her cheeks; as she hit him weakly through her blurred vision, another wave of pain barraged her.

Strade was pulling the skin, the fat, the muscle- he was exposing her ribs. Heavy throbbing pounded in her head; she was so dizzy, her mouth went dry and constricted, vision spotting-

“Hey, c’mon buddy, stay awake…” Strade lightly slapped her face a couple times. “We’re not done yet .” His voice dropped in pitch; his grin turned vicious. He sliced across her neck. Breathing hotly on her neck, he eagerly sucked at the blood spurting from the wound with every beat of her heart.

Slith sobbed under him but she was far too weak to fight back, quickly losing whatever strength she had. A migraine throbbed in her skull and down her spine. Was she paralyzed? Her neck had to be broken. Everything hurt so bad. When she tried calling out, nothing but more wheezes came. Her voice was gone.

It was funny, she thought bitterly with a detached calm. How often she had dreamed of dying when she was younger? Now, in a sick way, finally, she was getting her wish. Unfortunate it happened after she found a reason to stick around.  

She couldn't muster the strength to open her eyes, or perhaps she was blind, but she vaguely noticed Strade pat her cheek and laugh, “Finally giving up on me? Wie schade…”

Something was cutting into her neck, it hurt so bad, but she had no energy left to fight back. She felt tugging on her hair, opening, something opening, spilling out- her eyes were opened but not by her, everything blurry but a sea of grey and red. Pain coursed through her body, so powerful she barely could register it. Face pulled clumsily into the blood, there was so much blood, up in her nose as she took a shallow breath, her body going cold and numb, her thoughts fuzzy, vision blurring even more, cutting in and out-  

Then something soft and endless enveloped her; all the pain stopped and everything faded to black.