Brilliant, white light pried Vivian’s eyes wide open. She remembered stepping into the shower and the luxury of hot water saturating her skin. She remembered very little after that moment of reprieve, just the hot mist on her flesh. Instead of water, she now felt metal against her body.
Sounds washed over her with the dissonance of a scalpel on skin. At once, she realized something was poking her body. Vivian looked down.
IV lines were threaded into her arm, a conglomerate of plastic snaking into her veins. Transparent liquids filtered through the tubes in her limbs and a two-lumen catheter above her left breast. Her gasps sounded magnified as she reclined on her back against a steel table.
She was tied down in a surgical ward.
Vivian strained to look around the room, but her head just flopped to the side. That effort afforded her a plentiful view of the floor and adjacent counter. A collection of flesh-rending tools lay beside her. Hooks, scalpels, knives, and prongs seemed to grin at Vivian. A million thoughts raced through her head, colliding and rebounding in a terrifying dance of chaos. She tried to swallow but her throat was parched.
What had her captors done to her? It felt as though her nerve endings had been singed off by a blowtorch.
Every surface in the room was sterilized to zealous perfection. Her clothes were neatly organized in the corner of the room. She felt cold, acutely aware of how naked and defenseless she was.
I have to get out of here.
Her vision was one of the first senses to malfunction. It felt like she was looking through a vintage television screen instead of her own flesh and blood eyes. A tiny voice was screaming in her head to get up, but she was too lethargic to answer that call. Something was pinning her down aside from the restraints.
A strange voice buzzed through her brain. It sounded whistling and insect-like. The speaker repeated itself and Vivian could barely comprehend the words. The toxins from the shower were still working their way through her brain, peeling it apart, stripping it layer by layer.
“How does defeat feel?”
The voice shook Vivian. Her mind almost shut down at the sound. She strained her neck to look at her tormentor, mesmerized by those four words.