I came to, still feeling a lot of pains from the electric shocks. I did however, feel Ashley laying next to me, and she stirred, holding me against her when she realized I was awake.
"Matt...," she cried, "I... I... I'm so... so... scared."
"It's... it's okay," I said.
"No! It's not okay! We're prisoners of a mad scientist!"
"I... I don't think he's going to try to hurt us... badly," I said, "I'm... I'm going to try to convince him to let us call Dad, and we can work out some kind of negotiations."
"And what if that doesn't work?"
"No," I said, "we are going to get out of here. We aren't going to lose hope."
I achingly moved, and sat up, getting a better look at the room. Very little to be seen. It again like the other room I'd been in reminded me of an old school room. In one corner of the room, there was a pile of some books.
"They brought those in when you were asleep," Ashley said. "Said they were providing some 'entertainment' because they 'weren't completely heartless.'"
"Well they need to at least get us some movies if they want me to develop Stockholm syndrome."
I felt the involuntary call to lick my nose, and it reminded me of how dry my mouth was.
"Did they leave us food and water at least?" I asked.
"That...," Ashley said, "is one of the suckier parts."
She pointed near the door to the room, and I saw... two dog dishes. Two for each of us, one with water, and one with... dog food. They even had the audacity to label them with our names.
"Okay," I said, "forget this guy's plans to do all these awful things, this is what makes him a heartless jerk to me."
I stood up, and walked over to the dishes.
"The... the dog food," Ashley said, "it... it isn't as bad as I thought it would be. I'm not.. Not sure if I'll get used to the... the toilet situation though."
She pointed in a new direction - at plastic portable toilet things, reminiscent of what a toddler might use to potty train, but in a more generic color and style. They had no place to actually sit on them. Disgusting.
I resisted giving into the stupid joke they were playing for a while, and considered going on a hunger strike - they couldn't use me as a pawn if I refused to eat and starved... but I was afraid to call their bluff.
I bent down, and lapped up the water. I was going to push aside the dog food, at least until I reached a point where I got really hungry... but its smell wafted into my snout, and I had to give in. Ashley had been right - it didn't taste terrible - but it didn't taste good either. It tasted very faintly of meat.
No, far worse than the taste of the dog food was the message it was sending - you do not deserve to eat human food. Because you are not human.
I woke up. I looked around. Nothing had changed. Ashley was sleeping, curled up on the dog bed that was too small for her. There was no natural light in the room, or something like a clock. This felt far too reminiscent of when I had changed - no way of knowing how much time had passed, what day it was, or even if it was day or night - and that had been in a relatively much nicer room where I could actually look out a window. I did see though that the bowls of food and water were refilled again. I walked over, and when I was almost there, I got a jolt in my ankle.
I fell down on my hands - if I had been my old human self, I probably would've skinned my palms, but my pawpads absorbed the impact better. There was still a quivering feeling in my ankle.
"I'm hurt down there too," Ashley said. "I tried to test out the doorknob - and it gave me an electric shock. It hurt really bad."
There was a short buzz sound, and the door opened. Melina walked in.
"And when I thought that I couldn't be in a worse mood," I said, standing up and glaring at her.
She had a stoic expression on her face, taking a breath. Then she typed out something on a tablet in her hands. When I didn't remove my gaze from her, she lowered the tablet to her side.
"Reminder," she patted her waist and the device there. "I don't imagine you want that again, after Micah gave you that nasty shock."
She was silent once again.
"Why," I said in a flat tone.
"What do you mean why?" she asked incredulously. "Because it'd be incredibly painful, that's why."
"No," I said. "Why are you doing this? Why are you helping someone like Seth kidnap people?"
"It's not anything that concerns you," she said. "If your father meets Seth's demands, then you two will be free to go."
"Do you want us to talk to him?" I asked, trying my best to pacify my rage.
"No," she said. "It does not concern you."
Heat began to rise up into my face, and Melina pointed back to their stupid little stun gun thing. She made more notes on her tablet, and then crouched down next to me, looking me over. She had a look of curiosity on her face, and then stood back up. She left the room.
A few tears came to my eyes. I just... didn't know what to do. I was a stupid high school kid that wasn't trained to deal with anything like this. I had no expertise on how to get out of such a tense situation. My only outlet for accomplishing something, trying to negotiate with our captors, was not working. I knew that it was in Dad's hands now. If Dad was able to find us, they could get the police and stuff, and we'd be alright.
But I didn't know that Dad would find us. I didn't know whether our captors would leave us unharmed. All I knew was that I was entering a terrible boredom, far worse than any I'd endured since becoming canis. It felt all too reminiscent of those days with Jackie, slowly transforming with no control over what was happening. I had stood against the cruelty of the universe, had decided to make good with what had happened to my life. And now I was powerless again.
Even when I'd been changing, I'd felt at least somewhat secure. As uncomfortable as it had been around them at first, I'd known my parents and other people were trying to help me. But here I only had Ashley, someone who likely felt even more lost than I. It only heightened my feeling of uselessness. She was inconsolable. I did not feel like crying though. I didn't feel like anything.
But I knew that whining about my awful circumstances would not change them. And while I could not save my sister... I could be strong for her. I could be a confident support. After more food and water, I went over to where she was sitting by the books, looking over an open one with a blank stare. It wasn't anything interesting - it was an old textbook on Biology - a really, really old textbook, copyrighted 2009 - around when Grandpa Hewitt would have been in junior high.
Ashley seemed disinterested in reading it. I began stacking the textbooks like a tower of cards. Silently, emotionlessly, Ashley began helping. It toppled over eventually, and then we built one in a different shape. It was a very simple distraction... but it was a distraction.
It was a way to ignore. To forget. And I wanted to forget.
A golden retriever that knows how to use a computer
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