I’m not sure how I made it across the border; through the one mile strip called no-man’s land. Everywhere the Earth was scorched and the ground littered with the remains of would be defectors. Bits and pieces of bone and flesh were strewn about. Hair flapped in the breeze like a banner, still attached to a scalp and stuck to a mummified mass that could only have been human once.
Rats and carrion birds ripped at fresh and not-so-fresh corpses. They hopped and scurried about, growing fat from the feast. The paid me little mind, their bellies too full to give a second glance. It was the one place between myself and freedom, but less frightening than where I’d been. Somehow, I navigated the hazards.
Now I huddled on a cot in a six by six cell, shivering from the cold. I hugged my arms to my body and rubbed. Darkness wrapped around me, but I could still see my breath. It danced in the inkiness like a ghost. I blew out again, watching the vapors twist and shift. For a while, it entertained me, but soon, I grew bored and restless. Had I escaped only to become prisoner again?
Before I could dwell longer on my situation, the door cracked open and light poured in. I sat up and dropped my feet to the floor. A woman walked through, followed by a tall man. I couldn’t see them well with the backlighting. I smiled.
They couldn’t do anything that hadn’t been done to me before. I’d escaped once. I could do it again. I braced myself for an attack, gripping the bunk so tight my hands went numb. I’d kill them. I’d found my free will and nobody would take that from me again.
“God, she looks just like her.” A man’s deep voice. He stepped forward and the lights came on. I threw my arm across my eyes to block the sharp stabbing pains.
“Do you think it’s the clone that killed the doctors and nurse over in Europia?” the woman asked.
“If it is, it’s our lucky day.” He walked up to the bars and wrapped his fingers around them, leaning in. “What do you say? Are you the clone they’re looking for?”
I stared into his eyes. A brave thing to look a human in the face. I didn’t care. I’d earned my freedom. I shifted my gaze to the floor, keeping my mouth shut. Would they kill me? Was it safe to talk?
“Are you the clone responsible?” His voice took on a demanding edge.
“Yes.” Rule number three was so ingrained I couldn’t stop. “I am.”
The man whistled under his breath. “Because of you, Europia is locking down. They’re afraid of a clone rebellion.” He chuckled. “Serves them right if you all turn on them.”
“I want to live,” I said.
“And you shall.” His words contained a tone of kindness. Something I’d only heard exchanged among the keepers, among families. I raised my gaze to his, wanting to get closer, wrap myself in his kind voice, revel in it, saturate my soul and feed the hunger for contact. He pulled a set of keys from his pocket and they jingled as he unlocked my cell. “Come with me.”
“Who are you?” His face was not what I expected. No hate, no anger or revulsion. Strong features that studied me, held my gaze without judgment. My heart jumped. He was different, this human.
“Dante. I’m a friend.”
Mind manipulation was a very real thing. A person could be twisted to become whoever they wanted you to be; given memories that were not their own. It was like a data download to the brain and often resulted in bouts of violence from the one who received the treatment. It had been the cause of murders and various other crimes and for that reason it was illegal on both sides of the planet.
I just learned to speak four languages fluently and received my doctorate in psychology.
I stared at my hands and they shook. I could tell you the rush of emotions is unlike anything you would expect, but living it is the only way to truly know.
Even now I battled the strange feelings. I knew what chocolate tasted like even though I’d never had it. Still, I could taste it in my mouth and my brain told me I had.
I studied Dante. He stood by the door to my new room. His arms were crossed and he hadn’t blinked in the last five minutes. Not once. The woman had left, but he remained, observing me in silence.
“Do you have any chocolate?” I needed to know. The demon memories in my head morphed larger, demanding it.
Dante reached into his pocket and pulled out a foil wrapped bar, holding it out.
Tremors rumbled through me. I eyed it. Waiting. Should I take it? I shifted my gaze to Dante who nodded.
I unfolded from where I sat and jumped up to snatch it from his hands and shred the wrapper. A sweet smell wafted up. My mouth watered. I ran it under my nose, inhaling, taking in the flavor I was certain it possessed. Sweet, earthy, I popped it in. It sat on my tongue melting. Yes. I laughed out and slid another piece between my lips.
I closed my eyes and let it dissolve, the sweet and bitter mingled in my mouth. A strange buzz came over me. My stomach fluttered and a tightening in my pelvis nearly took my breath. More emotions surged through me, sending my heart pounding frantically as it tried to keep up with them. I wasn’t sure of these strange feelings. I wasn’t prepared to open my eyes and find him still there.
My heart skipped and another wave washed over me. His eyes were bottle green, like wet glass. Deep. Intelligent. The look they contained—my belly fluttered again.
I exhaled slowly and felt my lower body clench and knot. More emotions. I bit the inside of my cheek and tasted blood. A sharp stabbing in my brain took my breath. Then just as quickly it was replaced with warmth.
I could barely draw a breath. I’d been denied feelings for so long, I couldn’t control them. I let my gaze slip back to Dante’s face. Right then—I felt–needful. I dropped the chocolate to the floor. He smiled and stepped into the room, kicking the door shut behind him.
“I…” Liquid heat pooled through my body, washing through me like lava. I could smell him, so intense the need. “I…” I grabbed his shirt and shoved him against the wall, ripping the front.
“Yes,” he said.
I didn’t know him, only his name, but I wanted him. I wanted him bad.
He bent his head to kiss me, his lips felt both soft and hard. I reached up and grasped his hair, clenching tight to hold him to me. Some from fear he’d break contact, most because of the hunger, the overwhelming high of… My heart cart wheeled.
“Please,” I broke from the kiss and whispered in his ear. I ground against him, rubbing like a cat in heat, needing to climb on him, in him, merge, meld and feed the need that pulsed through my body.
Closer. I hooked his belt loops and yanked him against my hips.
The taste of chocolate still teased my mouth. Combined with the taste of him… I groaned and reached for the front of his pants, driven past primal instinct.
Needing, wanting, taking.