Thursday, June 12, 2014
I saw Finiuld standing within our environment, only feet away. He pointed something that looked like a garage door remote at me. I had barely started to move when darkness closed in.
I woke up all at once. I was laying on something similar to a chaise lounge, what they used to call a ‘fainting couch’. Fainting, my ass. The Little Creep had knocked me out somehow.
Speaking of the tiny bastard, he sat nearby on this cushioned thing that reminded me of a toadstool. It was even a poisonous sickly green color. Finiuld had traded his usual waistcoat for something that looked like pajamas. If I’m lying, I’m dying. He looked like he wore cherry red satin pajamas. It clashed horribly with his ruddy coloring and funky orange-red hair. He wasn’t pretty to begin with, but he really took ugly to new lengths in that get-up. He was barefoot too. He had funny duck-like feet, which his tail curled around as he sat hugging his knees to his chest.
He watched me as he sat, waiting for me to wake up. He had what looked like an incense stick clenched in his tombstone teeth and was apparently smoking it like a cigarette. Wispy tendrils of smoke wafted from the lit end. It smelled kind of peppery and stung my nostrils.
We were sitting on a kind of ledge that ran in a circle over a floor, which I came to call the Arena. I’ll get to that part in a moment. First the ledge. It was this ring of blue marble-like floor on which was scattered various seating furniture. Lounges like the one I reclined on, mushroom poufs like Finiuld’s, couches, cushions ... all kinds of arrangements. There were the floating trays that served as tables as well. Most were empty. The one next to Finiuld had a cup of some brown liquid that I swear tiny things were swimming in, along with that garage door remote-looking device.
The hateful freak smiled at me around his stick of incense. “So glad you could wake up in time for the entertainment, Shalia. Sit up and get ready for the show.”
I did so, noting I was still clad only in Oses’ vest. Finiuld took a big gulp of whatever it was in his cup. Ew. Then I saw his ‘entertainment’ on the Arena floor below us.
The surface of the thing had the same marbled look as the stone ledge where Finiuld and I sat. Smooth and polished, it allowed for easy clean up, as I was to learn later. The walls ringing it had what at first I took to be murals painted on it. Later, I was to discover the art was more like frescos. The scenes depicted what I imagined an intergalactic Roman coliseum might have put on for shows: various species battling each other and animals from all reaches of the galaxy, fights to the death. Beautiful and gory all at once, it was a stunning glimpse into hell.
That should have provided a clue about what I was about to view. However, I barely noticed the artwork because of what was on the Arena’s floor.
In the middle was Oses, chained naked on all fours. He, my big mighty Nobek friend, looked incredibly small like that. I could never have imagined him seeming so helpless, not that brute of a Kalquorian. But seeing the five cages around him, each containing a grunting or squealing hulk of a Tragoom, made Oses as vulnerable looking as a newborn baby.
My heart slammed into overdrive. “What the fuck is this?” I demanded, standing up to confront Finiuld.
“This is your punishment for defying me,” the Little Creep sneered. “I keep a group of Tragooms for such instances. They get just enough food to keep them alive and nothing more. They stay hungry that way. I imagine they think Oses looks delicious right about now. When I open their cages, they won’t bother killing him before they begin their meal. They like their flesh alive and kicking. And screaming.”
I couldn’t believe he would do such a thing. “You’re bluffing. You said yourself it was rare to be able to keep a Kalquorian, especially a Nobek.”
Finiuld laughed. “It’s even harder to get hold of an Earther female. Even non-Kalquorians are doing all they can to keep your kind safe in the wake of your Armageddon.” His grin was pure evil. “I have no doubt this man would immediately capitulate to my demands to keep you alive. I’m curious to see if you’ll do the same for him.”
“Don’t do it, Shalia!” Oses yelled from the floor. “Don’t give in. I have no fear of dying. Once I’m gone, he’ll have no hold over you at all.”
That statement alone told me Finiuld wasn’t above sacrificing Oses to keep me in line. Otherwise, the Nobek would have been telling me it really was a bluff.
I stared down at Oses, meeting his eyes. Maybe he wasn’t afraid to be eaten alive by five monstrous Tragooms, but I sure as hell couldn’t handle it. Even if I wasn’t forced to watch it, I wouldn’t have been able to sign his death warrant. Oses was not going to die this horrible death because of me. I and my child needed him alive.
Little Creep tittered. “You will obey my every order from now on, or this is the Nobek’s fate. You will watch him get torn apart by starving Tragooms who don’t give a fuck about anything but filling their bellies. Do you understand, Shalia?”
My lips were numb. Finiuld had me. “I understand.”
“Will you obey me?”
“No!” Oses shouted.
“Yes,” I said.
“Damn it, you swore! You promised me, Shalia!” Oses actually sounded livid that I would spare his life.
Finiuld ignored him. “No matter what I tell you to do, you will do it? Because one slip-up, and he dies like this.”
“I’ll do whatever you want,” I said.
I had an instant to see Oses turn his head away so he didn’t have to look at me. Then Finiuld raised his device, and everything went black once more.