I had to concentrate. Whatever sort of creature this was, monster, alien, or zombie infected with some kind of disease that turned their blood black, or... my imagination failed me at around that point. I tried to forget that I had thought anything about disease since I was spattered with her blood or... whatever fluid filled her insides. If the doctor's condition was infectious, I'd definitely caught it.

I couldn't help it. I retched. I coughed. It didn't seem like there was anything in my stomach to throw up, though. When was the last time I had eaten? No, even the mere thought of food made me feel horrible in the presence of the doctor's mangled body. I nudged the corpse with my foot. It was still warm. I rolled it over, looking intently at the far wall so I didn't have to see the arms flop lifelessly over, and then I darted and and grabbed the hatchet. It slid right out of the doctor's grip.

It was surprisingly heavy. The blade was painted red-- a fire hatchet? Well, I was lucky. If she'd hit me with it, it would have been over for me right there, and it would have been my body lying on the floor, red blood-- red?

Was my blood red? Was I even human? I hadn't thought to check. I stepped over the doctor's corpse and set the hatchet down for a moment to look at my palm. Where the saw had cut into my skin, there were a set of shallow cuts, red and sticky. It was funny, but those wounds made me breathe easier.

I was definitely human. At least, for now...

I shook that dire thought out of my head and headed back down the corridor to the other prisoner. She was waiting for me, obviously, although I'd had the fleeting idea that maybe she would be gone, and this was all some kind of weird nightmare... but no, she was waiting, and her head turned as if she was watching me as I approached her. It was unsettling, even though I knew she was just following my footsteps.

"You killed her?" the blind woman asked.

"Uh... I think so," I said, with only one quick glance over my shoulder to make sure that a headless body wasn't shambling down the corridor in our direction. No, it was totally empty. She didn't push for more details, which I was glad about. "Okay, I'm gonna get you free..."

She didn't respond, just watched me, her chest rising and falling. I wedged the flashlight into the shelf across from her, so that I could have light while wielding the hatchet with both hands. I studied her restraints carefully... there were two big bands across her torso, one below her breasts and the other across her hips, and then four clamps pinning her arms and legs to the wall. The bolts were as wide around as my palm. I hoped they didn't pierce her flesh.

No, wait, something seemed strange. Her arms and legs didn't extend out from the other side of the metal clasps, and white scars trailed up her flesh...

She didn't have arms and legs. They'd been amputated right above the joint, and fastened into the huge metal clamps that protruded from the corridor wall. I must have gasped aloud, because she turned her head to face me again.

"Have you figured out how to get me free?" she asked, cooly. Not that I wanted to say that she should have been crying and panicking or something like I felt like I should be, but she seemed awfully calm and demanding for a blind person with no limbs.

"No..." I said, not very proud of either my train of thought or my slow so-called powers of observation. "Uh, I'm not sure how to get you down, and I just noticed that you don't have any arms or legs... how are you going to get out? I don't think I can carry you..."

The skin around her nose crinkled slightly. I couldn't tell if she was smiling or squinting at me. "Don't worry about that. Just knock the bolt off of the clamp on my arm."

"Which arm?"

"Either one." Her voice sharpened a bit, any amusement, if that was what it had been, gone. "And hurry. We don't have as much time as you think."

"But what if I hit you?"

"I trust you."

She trusted me...

I gripped the haft tight.

That seemed to be the end of that conversation, as far as she was concerned, because she tipped her head back up to look towards the ceiling. Unless she heard something I didn't... shit. I hadn't even considered that there might be more people like the doctor. More doctors, or more zombies or whatever she was. It took several deep breaths and a few repositionings until I was sure I both wasn't blocking the light and had a steady stance to swing from.

Then I swung towards the base of the bolt, where it met the metal. The impact jarred my arms much worse than the doctor's head had, another thought I immediately pushed out from my mind. The bolt wasn't loose yet. I swung again, and again. My aim was definitely better each time, and I could see the head of the bolt peeling back from the clamp.

The fourth stroke cut it loose, and it clanged onto the ground. I stepped back to position myself to take off the next one. My arms already ached, but neither of us could rest until we were safe. Just as I lifted the hatchet to swing again, she spoke.


I lowered the hatchet. She had just said one, but I had no idea how she intended to free herself with just one--

--or at least that was the thought I was about to finish right when she wrenched the entire clamp off the wall, forcing me to jump backwards as she swung it forward. The shaft of the bolt clattered to the ground next to the head.

No, it wasn't a clamp, and it had never been a clamp. It was a long mechanical arm, and the arm had been bolted directly to the wall.

She swung it around, claw clamping and twisting free the other bolts with the shrill shriek of tearing metal. First her other arm came free, then her torso, and then her legs. Her torso and head were human, but her legs... they were mechanical as well, and unfolded into something like elongated raptor claws.

Except for her ordinary hips— or so I assumed, since they weren’t really so different from mine— and upwards, her whole mechanical body seemed like it had been designed for something nefarious and painful. She towered way above my head; I felt like she was twice my height, which probably wasn't true, but she did have to stoop a little to keep her head from brushing the ceiling.

Only then it occurred to me that she might have been locked up for a good reason.

"Don't hurt me," I said, holding up the hatchet and hoping that she moved as slowly as the dead doctor had.

She laughed. Well, I didn't think it was funny, but if she thought I was funny, that was a good sign that meant we would get along, right?

"Why would I? I'm going to help you get out of here."

She'd helped a lot already, and I didn't know anything about her, plus I'd just stood in the corridor gape-faced and dumbstruck for about a minute just from her standing up. Maybe I should try to regain a semblance of manners.

"Hey, uh... what's your name?"

"I am the surgeon."


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