Catch of the Day
Year Five of the Addergoole School, Hell Night
He probably should have stayed in his room, but he was hungry, and he’d never let a couple blown bulbs scare him before, or a few creeps playing Hallowe’en a few weeks early. Kid stuff, really, eerie noises and spooky lights. When you came down to it, it was just the rest of the students, showing off their pretty accessories. Finnegan was unimpressed.
He wasn’t even all that moved when the guy grabbed him from behind. Strong he’d seen already – he had PE with some of these people, after all. And, face it, he’d never been the strongest guy even back in his old school, where the people were human and stuck to bullying you without the aid of tentacles (the tentacles had been a little creepy).
But the knife the guy was holding – wasn’t that the D.J., from the dance last week? Those wings looked a lot more real up close, and he actually smelled of brimstone – that knife was real, cold steel, as long and as wide as his forearm, and it was cutting in to the flesh of his throat. He swallowed, and felt it dig deeper. Fuck.
He didn’t see the woman until she was in front of them, and even then, he wasn’t sure whether to be relieved, humiliated, or more frightened. She was sleek and sharp, hot in a kind of scary way in tight pants and high-heeled boots, knives hanging from her belt. He’s seen her around, in the last couple weeks, watching him, coincidentally in the halls the same time he was too many times for comfort.
“Hey, now, Ib,” she drawled, “that one’s mine. Go cut your own if you need to see blood.”
Hers? She wasn’t bad-looking, but he didn’t even know her name.
“Does he know he’s yours, Allyse?” The knife swung away from Finnegan’s throat as the demon spoke, and he took a step forward, and then another. Did he know he was hers? What kind of question was that?
“He will, given time.” She set her hand on his hip, standing close enough that he could feel her body heat, and murmured softly into his ear. “It’s me or the knife, Finnegan. We’re both sharp, but I won’t bleed you.” Bleed him. He touched the trickle of blood on his throat. These crazies were for real! And she no less crazy than the brimstone creep behind him, but he remembered something Professor Pelletier had mentioned – not to him; she’d been talking to Channing, but he’d overheard them. Words have power. Promises and oaths have the power to bind, Down Here. Be careful with what you say.
“You promise?” It sounded so small and silly, asking this girl to promise not to hurt him, but the demon behind him with his wicked-looking knife seemed a little more serious than was comfortable.
Her smirk didn’t make it seem any less silly. “I promise, while you are mine, I will not bleed you,” she said, solemnly enough. Some trick of the ventilation system made his ears pop as she said it, and his vision blur. He couldn’t have lost more than a tiny bit of blood; it must just be hunger and the weird lighting down here.
He nodded slowly, looking between her – she was pretty good looking, but he didn’t like the territorial sound of her voice – and the demon, his knife dripping with Finnegan’s own blood. Well, he’d gotten girlfriends in stranger ways. “I’m hers,” he agreed. “Then leave, Finnegan oro’Allyse. Have fun,” the demon added, grinning. Finnegan wasn’t really sure if he was talking to him or to Allyse… oro’Allyse? What was that? His head was spinning wildly
Allyse draped an arm around his shoulders possessively. He wasn’t sure if he should like it, but he didn’t really want to pull away, either. Had she really just saved him from the monster? He was leaving, at least, probably heading off to terrorize some other newbie. “You are going to make me the prettiest, most wild baby girl,” the girl crooned happily.
“Wait, what?” He stared at her, all thoughts of Ib and his blade fled from his mind, all half-way pleasant thoughts of pretty girls laying claim to him screeching to a halt. “Babies? I don’t think so, miss…”
“Shh,” she chuckled, setting a finger over his lips. He opened his mouth to say thanks for the rescue, but I’ll be going now, and closed his mouth again. She wanted him hushed. He was going to hush.
The hell? He blinked at her, confusion and indignation warring for supremacy. From out of left field, a sudden desire to not piss off this (rather attractive) woman (who may have just saved his life from a madman) rode in and dominated the field. He shut his lips more firmly.
“Good boy.” Her grin was full of very sharp teeth; more disconcerting than the grin was the rush of happiness the condescending praise sent through him. “Forget about the baby thing for now; I’ll tell you when you need to know.”
What? No, no… The memory was gone, leaving behind a vague feeling of unease, struggling with pleasure at the way she was smiling. She was really very pretty, in a kind of intimidating way.
“All better?” There was something hopeful and a little bit insane about the smile, like a girl putting the head back on her doll after she’d thrown it across the room. He gulped, and nodded slowly. Just fine, ma’am. What the hell is going on?
“Good.” He wasn’t sure he liked how good that deadly smile made him feel. “Now, where were you going before Ib interrupted you?” She didn’t want him to talk, but she wanted him to answer. This was going to be fun. He gestured down the hall in the direction of the Dining Hall.
“Of course. Hold still.”
The surreal was getting real far too quickly. He was frustrated but not at all surprised to find that he now couldn’t move. She’d promised she wouldn’t bleed him, but, he realized with horrified chagrin as she closed on him, reaching for one of her knives, there were a lot of ways to hurt someone, to kill them, without spilling a drop of blood. And he was completely helpless right now.
I’m hers. What the hell was I thinking? What the hell does that even mean? Oh. Oh, Christ. A fucking collar? Well, I guess that answers that. There was a certain sense of relief as she buckled the thin brown leather collar around his neck, a kind of muted horror movie well, that’s done of the axe falling. Pets and slaves wore collars, and a certain class of people who liked to pretend to be one or the other.
She patted his shoulder - pet, then. Great. - and tugged the collar experimentally. The pressure on his neck and throat was an lesson in weirdness, the way it pressed against his windpipe and directed him without quite forcing him in the direction she wanted. Which was good, because he still couldn’t move.
“You can move now, and talk.” Before he could manage the second one, she tugged just a little harder on the collar and kissed him, shutting him up again just as effectively. “Don’t take the collar off,” she said as soon as her mouth wasn’t otherwise occupied. “If anyone gives you trouble today, you can tell them you belong to me. Allyse cy’Doug. Do what you want today, but when you’re ready to go to bed, pack a bag and come to my suite.”
Finnegan’s head was swimming. “Look,” he finally managed to get in edgewise, “thanks for the rescue, but you really don’t want a pet Finnegan. I’m not very well housebroken,” he joked lamely.
“You’ll do fine. I’ve been waiting for you for years.” She gave him that same the-superglue-did-its-trick-right? Look, and he couldn’t help but smile back at her. Great. He was a pet and his owner was an over-exuberant five-year-old. “I’ll see you tonight.”
He was packing a bag. All he wanted to do was crawl into bed and sleep – into his bed, this bed here in front of him, with the comforter he’d bought just before coming here, forest-green plaid and looking like home – but he was packing a bag. If he’d needed another demonstration of how much power this complete stranger now had over him, here it was. He’d tried to change into sweats and go to sleep, and his body simply wouldn’t move.
Well, she hadn’t said what to put in the bag, at least. He packed the sweats, a couple changes of clothes – why was he packing a bag? What about being someone’s pet required luggage?
He’d tracked down Kendra and Marje in the lunchroom, but they were spooked, creeped out by something – more tentacles, it sounded like – and not talking much. He’d asked around the edges of what had happened to him, but hadn’t come out and say When she tells me to do something, I can’t disobey. It sounded pretty stupid, put in the clear light of day. Instead, he’d just told them, “I met a girl. I think she likes me.”
He wasn’t sure if he was flattering himself, thinking Marje had looked a little disappointed. Well, maybe Allyse wasn’t interested in him like that. Maybe she just liked owning people.
Owning people. It was all too surreal. He threw in another change of clothes and his toiletries; he had a feeling this might involve an overnight stay or two. Pets. What did people do with pets? Slaves, slaves did manual labor, didn’t they? Field work, house work – it didn’t seem like Allyse needed any of that. No fields in the underground bunker.
If he kept packing, would the second set of her order not kick in? He could delay it at least, maybe? He tossed another shirt in the bag, and all his school books. Some more socks. His one piece of jewelry, a cross from his grandmother. The flower from Marje’s corsage, from the dance last week. He still wasn’t sure if she liked him.
God, Marje and Kendra! He ought to tell them what had happened! He’d told them what Professor Pelletier had said about words having power, but he had to tell them about this thing, this “I’m hers” mess. He moved towards the door – and stopped before he’d taken a complete step. He had to pack his bag.
“Fuck the bag.” He zipped it closed and turned towards the door again. With the bag in hand, he could leave. He could go to Allyse’s suite.
Where was Allyse’s suite again?
Maybe Marje and Kendra knew? They’d been paying more attention than he had, hadn’t they? He could stop by their rooms and ask them, and that made more sense than knocking on every door in the place, trying to find out where Allyse’s suite was.
He found himself hurrying. He had to get to Allyse’s. It was becoming an urgent pressure in the back of his mind. Pack a bag and come to my suite didn’t seem to have a lot of leeway for dithering. He’d really like to dither some more.
He bounded hurriedly on Marje’s door, as hers was the first he came to. “Marje? Marjolaine? Marrrr?” She opened the door just as he was thinking of leaving, too adorable for words in her flannel pajamas.
“Finnegan? What’s up?” She blinked sleepily at him.
“Do you…” He struggled with the order, and managed to preface his question. “I’m sorry, I know it’s late. But I ran afoul of what I think is some bad magic and I really have to find Allyse’s suite, and I was hoping maybe you knew where it was, because then I could explain on the way what was wrong? Please?”
She blinked at him. “Bad magic? Finnegan, what?”
“Let’s just say that apparently some words have more power than others. Um. Words like ‘hers’ or ‘mine’ are really bad, I guess. I’d really try to not say them to people. Or you’ll end up like me, midnight on Saturday really trying to find a complete stranger’s room because she said so.”
“Oh, Finnegan,” she sighed. “What possessed you to say something like that? Hold on and I’ll take you to the Thorne’s suite. Well, I hope it’s their suite.” She slipped on her slippers, still shaking her head ruefully.
He touched the scab on this throat. “She was rescuing me from a demon who was cutting me open.” He was a little defensive and a lot embarrassed about that.
“Oh.” Her tone shifted, and she closed her bedroom door and began ambling down the hall. “Well, that’s reasonable then.” She shuddered. “I think I would have freaked out if the vampire had actually bitten me. I can’t imagine if someone had a knife…”
Feeling not all that much better, but glad Marje wasn’t mad at him, Finnegan smiled weakly. His duffle bag was kind of heavy, and he really needed to get to Allyse’s suite. “Thanks, Marje.”
“I hope it works out okay, Finnegan. I’ll see you at lunch tomorrow?”
“I hope so.” He glanced at the door she’d stopped in front of. “This is it? Thanks.” His hand was already opening the door of its own volition.
Three sharp faces looks up at him as he stepped into the suite, and he had the uncomfortable sensation of being a mouse with the full attention of three cats. Allyse relaxed first, although he wasn’t sure the smug smile she relaxed into was much of an improvement.
“Is this him, Ally?” the blonde asked. She raked a gaze over him so thorough that she probably knew what color his boxers were. “Kind of scrawny, isn’t he?”
Finnegan bristled. Scrawny! Well, he’d packed a bag, he’d come to the suite… “Fish is too small, throw him back,” he snarled, and backed hastily out the door, slamming the door behind him.
Okay, she couldn’t tell him what to do if she couldn’t find him, right? He took off at a run, not sure where he was heading, just wanting to get as far away from her as he could. Sealed underground bunker. Right. Downstairs then, he’d seen a lot of empty space down there.
The urge to look over his shoulder pressed harder and harder on him as he ran, but he’d seen horror movies. That’s how they caught you; you turned, you tripped, and the monsters was on top of you.
Mind you, the monster wasn’t normally a pretty girl who’d already saved you from a demon once that day, but the theory still held. Except she didn’t even need to tackle him, did she? If he could see her, she could just tell him to stop. He was so boned.
He might not be able to avoid her forever, but he had to give it a try. He has to show her he wasn’t just her lapdog. And maybe if he bit her enough, she’d let him go.
Or put him to sleep. He shook his head, clearing that thought, and veered sharply left into the maze of bottom-floor rooms. Overflow classes, storage, more storage… the fifth door he found took him into a room stacked with furniture. He ought to be able to hide in here; even if she found the right door, she’d never see him just looking in. He wriggled beneath a desk - scrawny! and settled in for an uncomfortable night.
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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