HBOFF: Feet First Into Hell
Second Runner-Up: Disorder, by Essias Loberg (SargeantSarcasm)
The cell is warm, wet, with the faint odor of sweat permeating the walls. Its floor smooth and sticky in some places, gripping my soles as I pace about. So I sit.
The man across the way stays in a similar space, his conscience in clear battle with the guilt. He hugs himself for warmth and comfort, paranoid about his imminent future, disregarding the humid environment. I suppose they expect a similar reaction out of me. I am calm.
My memory is gone, my mind is corrupted, disordered a bit more than I'd normally allow, I need to think. Think. Think. Cracking fingers, slowed breath, lowered shoulders. I stare at the man, he takes surprise, looks away briskly. I see him glancing every now and then, afraid of even me, his motion is distracting. I turn my gaze to the wall. The thoughts fade.
The paradox that is my mind begins to take shape, the functions stop and my brain relaxes. I focus on nothing, my thoughts reminiscent of my blank stare. I feel gone.
My perception of time means nothing anymore, it is simultaneously motionless and fervent with action. The state stops.
I exit my meditation, my brain is organized, slowed, manageable. A memory appears.
Faint, dissonant, feels close. I'm in a holding room, plain, bright lights bordering the edges of the room, a transparent barrier blocking the entrance. It remains unclear why I am there until a tall beast appears, I've taken care of a few in my years, but never from such a distance, I can see where stories of their intimidating physique originate. He grumbles noises, turns off the gate, and motions for me to move forward.
My steps are hesitant, I will my legs forward, my body beaten and bruised without mercy, I see a man on the floor, blood making him unrecognizable, he's fresh, damn brutes...Brutes, living up to their name. I am past the body now, through a door and down a hallway, leading the beast onward in a labyrinthine ship, he hits me when I turn incorrectly or take too long, "nearly there" I think, only a few more steps, then a few more, and a few after that. It seems to take ages, each room a bit colder and brighter than the last, stumbling over anything in the path, treated like the animal that watches over me.
They don't carry weapons, their domineering power is quite enough they believe, confidence will lead them astray, their ship is safe, no need for protection, ignorance will doom them, a petty person would never attack, my body twitches, I will damn them.
We reach the end of my journey, a large room bordered by my captors, a torturous-looking bed emanating from the center, bindings encircling the spots where I am to lay, holding me down, forcing whatever cruel machinations their fanatical minds can conjure, it is obvious they want me there. My body recognizes my plight, this is where the strings of fate are cut, I consciously accept, my body doesn't, chemicals surge throughout me as I approach the table, senses sharpen and reactions quicken, so begins my escape.
He lowers his hand towards my shoulder, slower than usual, open palmed, seems to be a gesture of calm reassurance, an easier way of getting the feeble minded to walk off the cliff? It doesn't make sense, they've never been ones for subtlety or tact. No matter, he's hit me enough over my short time here, I wait for the blow to land, it moves through the air sloppily, I easily grab it and use his force to my advantage, throwing him to the ground and countering the oncoming guard with a quick punch to the stomach. Adrenaline surge, make quick use, it won't last long, I run forward, finish off the guard with a boot heel, liquid oozes from his head, I run into the long hallway, grunts abuzz, screaming, flailing their arms as they move about, screaming "demon" and other words. They speak a human language?
My ribs ache, I walk briskly, each step hurting more than should be possible. This isn't real. Drown out the pain. Concentrate. Next I am in another room, a trail of grunts behind me, bastards never bothered fighting, sheep to the slaughter, less for my brothers to fight back home.
I stagger on, the blood on my soles a mix of my own and those who crossed my path, I have only a feeling to guide me through this maze, a subtle thought that this is more recognizable than it appears, deja vu.
The hallways no longer resemble a ship, rounded edges disappear in lieu of ragged sharp turns, no more fluid design, the floors' single color have changed into a staggered pattern of black and white, the doorways look familiar, no more autonomy, everything is driven by force.
I push the double doors open and turn a corner, there are more enemies, they don't attack, they wait, breaking their normal formation, irregular, my peek at their position has gone unnoticed, my senses tell me to continue onward, I'm unsure whether its bloodlust, revenge or self-preservation at this point. I give in.
The memory fades. I am over a corpse, the brute seems to beg, an arm outstretched, a dying look in his cold eyes, the same eyes that have seen much worse than what I have just wrought, boot heel.
I soldier on, they said my training would be useful, unfortunate it didn't come with flight instructions, illuminating the path but not the destination, how am I to leave this place? They block a room, the end of a long hallway, I can't sneak up on them this time. I hear more Grunts behind the muffled walls, locked within, screaming for attention or salvation.
A Brute cries my name, preceded by a title, Mister, he calls. I belong to the Corps, I belong to the elite few who fall from the skies, I have no name, why does he call upon my past life? Rather, why does he know of my past life? This doesn't make sense.
He holds out his hand, a manner quite unbefitting of a Brute, I'd expect a roar and charge. He stands calmly, tells me its not as it appears. Mind games? My recollection is corrupted.
I am merciless, my fists; stones, his skull; glass. Some watch as their commander fades, others rip me aside. I should be dead, gutted in anger by my foes, they merely hold me as they scream "doctor!" The Covenant have never been so reserved, weak...human. My mind is impaired.
What happened? I...I can see it all, none of it real, what...did I do?
A flash in my mind, I remember the reality.
I sit in my cell.
I hug myself for comfort.