The Thing Above
by Ian Cooke-Tapia
A sound that wasn’t the pump woke her up.
Wetness dribbled out of the corner of her mouth, down her chin, and by the time it landed on her chest it was icy cold. She reacted, attempting to wipe the drool. An unconscious move, really. Natural, to try and touch your skin where something cold touched it suddenly. Normal, when you just woke up and the world no longer makes sense and you don’t know if what you smell is your own wasting body or the rotting darkness all around you or even if that smell is even there to begin with. She attempted to move, and the darkness echoed, echoed.
Her eyes went wide, her mind quick enough to bite her tongue, stilling the scream before it had time to escape. The bonds that held her arms above her chest sang and rattled. She followed the vibration as it went up the bonds, up and up into a tunnel of tubes and cables, straps and chains and something that whenever she stared at too long it made her queasy in the stomach and weak in the head. The vibrations like beatings out of a subwoofer woke it up too. A glow appeared. Flickering lazily as her own eyelids had just done. A glow and a light that had seen things she wasn’t meant to even know about. Eyes looking straight down at her with unfathomable intent.
She looked away. Tried to lick the drool, but her tongue wasn’t long enough. She felt a sob rattle her chest, bit her tongue until it hurt and she could breathe normally.
Nothing moved overhead. With a sigh of relief, she sank back into a more comfortable position, as much as that was possible with her arms held aloft, and her legs held so tightly by what she lay on as to be part of it. Little nubs massaged her back as she lay back. Ergonomic, the nubs were, warmed by her own body temperature; they moved and moulded to the arch of her back, the shape of her structure. Her chair-like prison accommodating any position she could think of taking to try to escape or, now, after who knows how long, just alleviate the boredom of the endless moments between unconsciousness and the pump coming alive. Whenever she remembered the nubs, she could not get visions of marine trench life out of her head.
She missed the sound of her voice, but she had come to understand that the mask covering her mouth was in her benefit. That thing that lived in the dark rafters wasn’t too keen on human voices. She had seen it descend on other human shapes in the dark, those who had somehow made a noise and voiced their emotions. She didn’t remember anything else about them. These nubs tightly but comfortably pressed against her mouth by something akin to a surgeon’s mask kept her alive. They would part when she was fed, via a tube descended from the tunnel of a ceiling above, but otherwise, she had no mouth. No mouth; no voice. No voice; alive.
The light in the room diffused and bent, coming from everywhere and nowhere. Like motes of dust generating their own light, too small to do anything on their own but mighty in conjunction.
She blinked, realising that the place was growing lighter. She could see the tell-tale shapes of other chairs, empty and lonely. The pang of solitude hit her in her chest. It burned brightly in her head when she realised she could not remember who had been there, but knew that they had been intimately close. Dank air moved in and out of her lungs, things moved in the corner of her eyes, dangling lines of equipment that kept her alive and passive. And made her madder by the day. Her arms shook with her heartbeat. Her head snapped to look at the darkness above. The glow threatened her identity. Averting her eyes, she breathed in, slowly, calming down. She had got a hang of not making her arms move too much, lest the thing above would come down more than it was supposed too. She didn’t know how she knew that. Maybe she had forgotten; like her name.
Remembering that didn’t hurt as much as it used to.
Her arms vibrated again. She blinked and saw the other chairs distinctly now. Saw hundreds of them, far off into a darkness that was all rusted textures and hard shadows. There was just too much light.
She could feel it up there. Hanging down, staring with its many, many eyes that were but two glowing suns all to themselves. Just the thought of looking up made her want to swallow her tongue, but the moment she thought of that the nubs pushed into her mouth. Would… whatever this captivity was be more bearable with it, or without it?
Her jaw ached. Her guts ached from fullness. The tingling in her arms was starting again.
The shadows extended off into the distance. A forever. An eternity. A never.
She heard it moving down the cables and straps and chains. It was awake now. It was hungry.
For a moment she wondered what had happened to all the others. Had they been fully pro—her mind blanked at the concept. She had known the full of it once, but now all she could conjure from the fragmented and dark depths of her mind was the word “completed”.
Her friend above was really close. Patiently hanging just out of reach. She didn’t remember ever being touched by it and there wasn’t single waking moment when she didn’t wonder about it. Did it have hands, even? Tentacles? Any appendages with which to touch her? To be touched…
Her belly was too full. Her jaw ached, the nubs protecting her life. What a life. Her brain couldn’t complete thoughts.
She looked up and saw the eyes look at her and felt all thoughts leave her head as if they had melted and dribbled down her mouth. Her head lolled to the side and it took her a minute to come back to herself. By then she had already evacuated her b
The darkness returned. In a blink, she was blind to her loneliness. In the dark, she could pretend to be somewhere else. Be someone else. Something else.
And she knew it was a matter of time before she became something else.
The straps vibrated softly.
She smiled, feeling the fading sensations where it had touched her.
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