I was surrounded by thick black in all directions when I heard his voice for the first time. It cackled mockingly as I floated in the never ending black.
“Todd?” I heard it ask, “Is that really what they decided to call you? Human names are so simple.”
I closed my eyes and covered them with my hands, which were developing a clammy sweat.
“Don’t be afraid of me Todd. I can’t hurt you here. Back on Canvas however? That would be an entirely different story,” I heard his voice call out from somewhere in the distance, “It seems that you’re stirring. Are you going to leave me so soon?”
The black began to fade to grey and the voice drained away until there was nothing left. I opened my eyes to find myself seated against a wall in the base camp. The only one who was up was Coy, and he didn’t look happy about the possibility of forced interaction.
I rubbed my eyes, trying to shake off the dream, but I still felt tired. Almost as if I hadn’t slept at all. For a moment, my half asleep brain actually believed that my dream was real. I guess meeting with Canvas had messed with my head, as I had never had a dream so vivid in my life.
The voice sounded Canvas, with the thick accent they all had, but it also sounded somewhat familiar. Like the voice of someone I knew once and forgot years ago. I looked up from my thoughts to see Coy staring at me. He quickly looked away, his long hair sweeping over his eyes.
Coy was the only one awake besides me. He looked to be writing something. I walked over to him and he closed the cluttered notebook, looking up at me.
“Hi Coy. Do you know if Georgie or Justin have any extra clothes or something? I’d really like to get out of this disaster the Canvas had me wear,” I said.
He looked at me nervously, his hand resting on his notebook.
“I wouldn’t really know. I have some stuff you can wear if you want. You’re not much bigger than me so I’m sure they’ll fit.”
I hadn’t really realized it, but I wasn’t much bigger than Coy. I was a lot taller than him, but we were both so thin that we probably would wear the same size clothes.
He went and grabbed a long sleeved T-shirt and jeans from a pile of clothes in the corner and tossed them to me. I put them on and immediately felt and looked a lot better.
I noticed Coy hurriedly putting his notebook away in his pile of clothes, but I thought I’d let the guy keep his secrets. He looked uncomfortable altogether at me being the only other one awake. I doubted he trusted me. Why should he have? I had all but barged into his home and taken over. I sat at the folding table placed in the middle of the station and waited on someone else to wake up.
After what felt like hours, Georgie woke up and began to wake the rest of the group. Ricochet seemed very upset about this, especially assuming that this was a schedule they went by daily.
“Oh my God Georgie, let me sleep!,” she spat at Georgie.
“We need to plan out the day. There’s a lot of stuff to do and I would really appreciate it if you stopped slacking off for once.”
“I slack off?! Need I remind you who the only person who can shoot a gun and actually hit things is? I’ll give you a guess, it sure as hell isn’t you.”
Georgie rubbed the bridge of his nose, “Rico, just stop being so difficult. If you don’t like the way I run things than at least help us plan out our rescue for Huston. If Todd can get in the Cage and get out with Huston, you won’t have to listen to me anymore.”
Ricochet looked deep in thought. If they got Huston, she wouldn’t have to listen to Georgie. But in order to get Huston, she had to listen to Georgie.
She sighed loudly and sat up. Georgie smirked at his success. Any day where Ricochet got out of bed on someone else’s orders was a good day.
Georgie gathered up the group and stood on his box again. He clapped his hands and the casual chatter of the group slowly died out.
“Okay team, lets get down to business. We’re going to need to come up with a plan to get Todd into the Cage, and back out again. Coy, I assume you’ve already been working on that?,” Georgie said turning to look at the small figure in the back.
Coy nodded with a small smile.
“Okay then, can you come up here and tell us what you have so far?”
Coy’s smile was vanished just as quickly as it appeared. Did Georgie really expect him to talk in front of everyone?
Coy shuffled his feet up to the box as slow as he could without making it seem obvious that he was stalling. He cleared his throat and spoke softly,
“Um… I was really thinking we could change his appearance; like cut his hair, let him wear different clothes. It doesn’t have to be a good disguise, just enough to get him close to the Cage.
“Then we can take him in one of the taller nearby buildings, and send him across into one of the uppermost windows on the Cage. He can take Ricochet with him to shoot anyone that sees them inside the Cage.
“They can then make their way to the prison section and find Huston. They can come back out the way they came.”
I looked around at the group, all of which looked completely dumbfounded. I don’t think any of them had heard Coy talk for that long. Errin’s mouth was physically open, and Justin’s eyes looked like they were about to pop out of his head.
“Th-thank you Coy..,” Georgie said, stuttering in disbelief, “I guess the only thing left to do is put this into action. Errin, can you cut his hair? Rico, can you get your guns ready please. Everyone dismissed.”
Before I knew it I was being shoved into a folding chair, Errin coming at my hair with a knife. I tried to sit still and ignore the clumps of red hitting the floor.
“Okay I think that looks okay,” Errin said, handing me the knife to look at my reflection. Overall, I was missing about a couple of inches, maybe a bit more on the front. It would’ve looked good, if it hadn’t have been for my birthmark, which was now in plain sight.
Errin made a face, “I didn’t notice how dark it was..,” she said, scratching her arm.
Ricochet looked happier than I had ever seen her. She was polishing a small pistol thoroughly, one eyebrow cocked up while chewing on her lip.
I waited patiently for her to finish. Eventually she did, but I think she was probably taking a long time on purpose. She looked up at me, holding in a snicker, presumably about my new haircut. She pointed at my face and said,
“Dude how are you planning on hiding that giant birthmark?”
Suddenly, as if on cue, Justin skipped over, threw a bunch of dust and dirt on my face, and left. Ricochet shrugged,
“I guess that works…”
She tossed me the pistol, holding the rifle herself, running her fingers through her hair with a sigh. I tucked the pistol into my waistband. We were ready to head out.
It was misty outside, which made my hair stick to my forehead. Ricochet had the rifle swung over her shoulder. She looked unhappy at being forced to help me. We walked toward the Cage, silently planning a building to jump from.
“That one looks good right there,” Ricochet said pointing at a tall building next to the large dome.
I nodded and we walked towards it. Ricochet broke out one of the bottom windows with the end of her rifle and climbed inside. I followed her in and we climbed the stairs.
Once we got high enough, Ricochet busted out another window. She turned and looked at me.
“Listen. When you jump, jump feet first, so you’ll break the glass on the Cage. I’ll come after you,” she said.
I took a deep breath and looked through the hole. It wouldn’t be hard to reach the Cage; it was very close. I closed my eyes and breathed, before running and jumping out the window, feet first.
I felt the glass below my feet give way with a crash, and I fell and rolled on the cold, white floor. I moved out of the way just in time, since Ricochet came rolling through the hole after me.
I helped her up and she dusted herself off. I stood there catching my breath, when I heard footsteps.
“Ricochet, do you hear that?,” I whispered.
I grabbed her wrist and started running, looking behind me to see a Canvas close behind us. She grabbed the pistol out of my pants and pointed it at the Canvas, firing several times. He fell and we ducked behind a corner.
We caught our breath before heading towards the prison ward quietly and cautiously. I heard the screaming of thousands of people. Who knows what had been done to them. I let Ricochet lead the way through the winding hallways.
“Huston?,” she called out.
Suddenly she dropped her rifle and ran to one of the cages lined along the walls.
Huston looked like he had seen better days. His grey hair was matted and dirty. His lips were chapped and his nose looked broken. Grey stubble covered his face and neck. But the most noticeable thing about Huston was his eyes. A large fresh cut was torn across his right eye, which was white and hazy. His other eye, a deep cocoa brown, darted up at Ricochet.
“Who are you?! Get away from me!,” he yelled in a gravely voice.
“Huston it’s me. Ricochet. We’re here to get you out.”
“GET AWAY FROM ME! YOU’RE ONE OF ‘EM I KNOW IT! GET AWAY!”
Ricochet stood up and ran to the ring of oddly shaped keys on the wall. She rushed back to Huston with it and began trying keys on the lock.
Eventually she found one that worked and grabbed Huston’s wrist. I led them out of the prison ward and looked around for a restroom.
I tore around a corner, and came face to face with Princess Persisti. Persisti’s eyes widened in fear as Ricochet aimed her rifle at Persisti’s chest.
“Please don’t!,” Persisti cried out, bursting into tears, “I’ll let you leave just don’t kill me!”
“You’ll let us leave?,” I said.
“Yes. This way. We mustn’t disturb my father.”
Persisti led us through the hallways to the front door of the Cage. Huston was yelling the entire time, at Persisti, Ricochet and me. Persisti hurried us out the door and shut it.
Ricochet looked at me in surprise.
“Did that thing actually help us?,” she asked.
“Yeah. And that one was the princess.”
We walked back to the subway station in silence. Well, silence from Ricochet and me. Huston was screaming his head off.
I had a feeling Huston wasn’t supposed to be acting like this.