She picked her nails enough to make them bleed.
When she sucked on her thumb, the taste of blood was sharp against her tongue and settled against the raw crevices in the back of her throat. She bit it down more and then moved to the next, the next, the next, the next until they were tiny nubs. She rubbed over them with her dirty, sweaty fingers just so she could feel the sting.
That’s all she could do to make sure she wasn’t too crazy.
But it didn’t hurt enough. It didn’t hurt more than everything else. She needed more.
At the sound of the lock clicking above her, she tucked her knees to her chest.
The small, square cellar door opened, the sound of a television buzzing in the background of footsteps, and, too, a screaming alarm. The lantern he was carrying gleamed a bright white light that made her eyes water. He locked the door and shoved the key into the open pocket next to the one with the bulging outline of his gun.
Each footstep down the rungs lasted achingly long until he finally planted on the concrete.
He sat in the corner furthest from the door for the first time in the entire time she’d been stuck with him. It was unprecedented. Unheard of.
“Tornado,” his voice scratched. “Should only be a little bit.”
Her eyes flicked to the door.
It wasn’t blocked anymore. He was down here. Which meant he had to get out. Which meant she, too, could get out.
“I’ll bring you food after.”
“No,” she growled, testing how far she could go without an attack. She wiggled her toe just to see if her body would move for her but immediately stopped it as she heard the whisper of his boots scrape the floor.
In the darkness, her eyebrows furrowed. His shadow hadn’t moved. He’d only shifted.
Something was different this time.
So she tested him in the dead silence that followed, eyeing the door as she sat up, grunting at the soreness of her muscles. “Ah!”
“You weren’t meant to…” She could hear swallow. “I didn’t mean for it to get so far…”
She snorted picking at a silent nail. She put the nub in her mouth and sucked off the dry blood. “Why’d you do it then? Take me?”
His heavy breathing filled the silence. “You were a distraction.”
The laughter that came from her throat was involuntary. “A distraction!” But then her voice fell dangerously frail and quivered. “You took everything from me…”
The springs in the mattress beneath cracked and squeaked. Spit dribbled down her lips and down her jaw. She sucked it back inside of her mouth.
For once, she wanted to cry, and she tried so hard to force it. Her head ached from the effort. But still, she couldn’t make tears that were large enough. A clump of hair fell out of her head with the brush of her fingers through it. She wanted to pull on it, just to feel something. “W-Why’d it have to be me?”
A clatter caused her eyes to flick up to him. A handgun replaced the empty space between them. “Don’t get your blood on the walls.”
She laughed again. Reflex. “It’d just be a hassle for you, wouldn’t it.” She reached for it, and in her hands, the metal stung like ice. It was heavy and whispered to her: you’re going to die. And she wanted to whisper back, finally.
But not yet. She didn’t have peace yet.
He hesitated. “Three days.”
“No.” Her throat burned from the cry. “No. This whole time. How long has it been?
“Why does it matter?”
“Three and a half, four years. It’s June right now. In October—”
She took a moment to digest it, running her thumb over the texture of the handle. “Are you at least sorry… at all?”
His dark eyes looked her up and down. “For what?”
Her lips flattened against each other before she started laughing. A cold, monstrous, mad laughter that she couldn’t keep down.
Because that’s what you do when you’re insane. You can’t cry anymore, so you laugh instead. And when you’re angry, you laugh. When you’re scared, you laugh. When you’re in pain, you laugh.
It echoed against the walls.
“Here or here,” she asked through her laughter, moving the gun between her head and chest.
“Where you want,” he bit.
Again, she threw her head back, the gun pressing against her chest as it bobbed up and down.
“Would you just shut up already,” he bit.
“What are you going to do about it?” She chuckled before sucking on her bottom lip, biting it enough to taste that same copper. “Are you going to hit me again? Are you going to kick me again? Are you going to cut me? Are you going to kill me?”
A flash of anger rang her throat dry. “You can’t do anything to me anymore! You’ve run out! You’ve already done everything. It won’t work.”
“I can kill you myself. Take that away from you, too.”
The gun whispered to her, her grip now firm around the handle. Him. Kill him. He deserves it.
Her finger snaked around the trigger, though it still pointed towards her. Blood pumped through her ears. She didn’t know her heart still worked like this. One more shot of adrenaline. “You’re weak.”
“I’m not,” he growled. He shifted again.
“You are,” she matched his tone. “You’re a coward. A wimp.”
He stood with violent force, lunging toward her, but in the time it took him to stand, she flicked her wrist, pulled the trigger, and he flew backward with a howl.