Everything hurt. Her body felt all wrong. Daddy said they would play today, after Nina helped him with work. She loved helping her Daddy, but now she hurt and she couldn’t see very well. Fuzzy shapes melded together in the dark. Why was it so dark? She was afraid of the dark, but Daddy was here with her. Alexander was with her too. She couldn’t see him at all, but she knew her dog was here. She always felt better with Alexander.
Big Brother and Bigger Brother showed up soon after, and she heard them talk to each other for a while until she noticed she was being talked to. Everything was loud and distracting, but she tried her best to listen.
“That person over there is Edward.” Daddy said.
“That... person… Ed… ward.” She repeated. Of course it was Edward, who else would it be? Maybe Daddy was being silly. Her voice sounded wrong though, and it was difficult to pass words through a mouth she wasn’t used to. “That person… Edward.” She tried again, hoping it would make Daddy happy. “Big Brother Ed!” She declared happily, realizing a bit late that if her Big Brothers were here that they could all play together.
They didn’t get to play together at all. Big Brother started hurting Daddy, and Nina got scared. Bigger Brother put a stop to it, for which she was thankful. She didn’t want the to fight, and she didn’t want Daddy to hurt.
The brothers left and soon after another person showed up. Nina didn’t recognize him, and couldn’t see him clearly. She could smell him though. He smelled the same as when Daddy had been bleeding earlier. She was afraid of him, even more so when Daddy started yelling at the man.
The man put his hand over Daddy's face, and Daddy fell down. The scent of pain was everywhere now.
“Daddy’s hurting…” She said, nudging her father’s bloody hand with her snout, staining her fur as tears fell. “Daddy hurts…”
The man put his hand on her head, and she shied away, sprinting out of the door awkwardly on four legs as she couldn’t stand properly anymore. She ran nearly blind, following light as it was the clearest thing she could see until she made it outside. There were two men on the ground, still and hurting just like her father but she couldn’t stop to check on them.
She ran as far as she could, not wanting the man to find her. By the time she had to stop she could barely breathe. Every bone ached, and the rain had made her cold and wet, even though it had stopped for now. She was hungry and thirsty now too, and she moved to drink from a puddle before she could stop herself. She noticed a blurry reflection in the water once she had thought to look, and it cheered her up a little to see the white furry body.
“There… you are… Alex… ander…” She knew her dog would never leave her on her own.
A low whine answered her, coming from her own throat. Her arms and legs then buckled under her, too strained to hold her up any longer. She noticed two white paws near her, and happily buried her face into the familiar fur, wet though it was. Alexander would always be there for her.
Nina woke to movement under her, and she was drowsily confused before she realized she was in the back of a car. It was dark, probably nighttime. She couldn’t see anything, but by feeling around she became aware there were bars on all sides of her. She still hurt, and she was still hungry, and now she was in a cage too. Did she do something bad? What was happening? Why was it happening? Who had put her here, and where were they going? She fell asleep again after a few minutes, too tired to make sense of anything that was happening.
When she woke a second time, she was still in a cage but the ground felt stationary this time. Her cage was among others along the wall of a wide room. There was something slimy in a bowl at the corner. It smelled rotten, but she was starving and moved toward it anyway. A pig-like creature blocked her path, fanning out a feathered frill and screeching. Nina tripped backward and shoved herself in a corner, scared of the animal she had to share space with.
“Help… Daddy...” She called quietly, beginning to cry.
“Oh hell, they’re using kids now?!” Answered a male voice.
The door to the cage creaked open, and Nina yelped as she felt and arm curl around her, dragging her backward out of the cage before the door closed again with a sharp clank. Despite her fear, she turned and burrowed into the first warm, comforting touch she could remember since the pain had started. She had never met the man holding her now, stroking her hair, but he smelled like Alexander which was good. He smelled safe. Overwhelmed, the girl shook and sobbed.
“This shit’s gone too far.” The man growled, causing Nina to flinch, and he softened his tone. “You’re okay. You’re safe right now. I’m Dolcetto. Do you know your name?”
“Ni... na…” She strained to answer through her tears.
“Okay Princess, deep breaths. You’ll be alright.” A woman spoke now, and Nina realized there were five other people in the room.
She still couldn’t see much aside from what what was very close to her, but she could see shadows against the light. Most of them looked like men, aside from the one woman who had spoken. The biggest shadow stepped closer, footsteps heavy as he lifted his shirt off over his head and tossed it over. The lady caught it, and she and Dolcetto helped her fit the still-warm shirt onto Nina, who realized only after that she hadn’t been dressed. Where were her old clothes?
Oh, right. Her old clothes had torn away when she and Alexander had gone to help Daddy with his work mixing animals. There was a light… Then a gate… Then what happened? She looked down at herself and saw Alexander’s white paws she had taken comfort in before. She backed away from Dolcetto to turn and inspect the rest of her body. Under the threadbare shirt she had just been given there was her dog’s white fur and her own brown hair.
She knew Daddy mixed animals together. Is that what happened? Was she Alexander now? Was Alexander gone, or just a part of her now? Nina felt alone, and began to cry again. Her body hurt because of Daddy. Why did Daddy do this? Was she bad? She found her way back into Dolcetto’s arms, the woman joining the huddle. Nina continued her fit until she was dehydrated and numb, then passed out again.