Only Human

Only Human

“What have you found?”

The voice echoed strangely in his ears, reverberating through the vaults of his mind.

“It’s only a human.”

The ground – at least, what he thought was the ground, rushed up to meet him. His left shoulder impacted the cool surface, sending a sharp jolt down the left side of his body. Colors shifted beside his cheek; rose and cyan melted into emerald and amber then transformed into violet and copper before starting the process all over again. His eyes refused to focus. It might have had something to do with the bizarre landscape and its rotating coloration, but it probably had more to do with the double image that caused each object to half-overlap itself.

“Perhaps you should not be so quick to dismiss it.”

“Pah,” the second voice snorted, oozing disdain. Something jabbed his ribs, leaving a dull, aching throb in its wake. “Pathetic, weak things. What good are they?”

“Give it some credit. It is still alive.”

Something massive loomed over him, impossibly large, its body a mobile fortress. He tried to comprehend the jagged shapes and sharp angles that made up its form, but every breath demanded more effort, slowly sapping his ability to think. He closed his eyes, let the shadow embrace him, and oblivion carried him away.

He was propped upright when he woke, his wrists bound above his head, his legs splayed uselessly in front of him. He tried to move. Pain lanced through his wrists as they impacted the sharp edges of his bindings. Something rough dug into his back no matter how he shifted. Even small movements exhausted him. He forced himself to relax, gasping to regain his breath.

It was hard to focus on the shifting landscape, even without the double image. He could have been in a cave, or it might have been a hall. The figures were even more difficult to discern, grotesque creatures covered in bulbous shells.

“…don’t understand why you’re so concerned with a human.”

“They are adaptable. It is how they survive. Unlike we, who cannot change without the intervention of our brethren.”

The voices rebounded through his skull, shattering what little concentration he could muster.

“Proceed with the injection.”

He didn’t recognize the last word. Panic seized him as the smaller creature ambled to his side, lifting a pair of delicate claws. He thrashed against his bindings, desperate to find a hint of slack, to no avail.

Pain blossomed in his abdomen. It spread in waves throughout his body, immobilizing his limbs until it consumed every inch of him. Liquid fire pulsed through his veins, searing the space beneath his flesh.

He screamed until his throat felt raw.

Time crept by, measured only in alternating waves of agony and exhaustion. Through it all, the mobile fortress loomed in the background, framing a gigantic, lidless eye. It observed every gasp and grunt, every thrash and spasm. It wanted him to beg, he thought, but he refused.

Did this happen every time he passed through the monument?

He needed to escape. To return to the land of light, where objects and sounds made logical sense. Blood slicked his wrists from his struggles and, yet, his bindings did not give way.

He refused to die. Determination revived him after every wave of fire.

He waited. Waited for the strength to return to his limbs. Waited for the creatures to loosen his bindings. Waited until the eye turned away to make his escape. If he was going to die, it would be fighting for survival, not tied to some rock for his captor’s amusement.

The ground jerked and shifted beneath his feet in the same way the colors on the walls and floor melted and transformed. He stumbled and tripped his way forward, earning new bruises for his already battered body. He ignored them and plowed onward.

They chased him, a stampede of too many limbs filling his wake with footsteps. But he could see the exit, the tiny slit in the wall of reality. The sun shown beyond it. Puffy white clouds peppered the sky. Green grass bent to a breeze. He could almost feel the warmth, could almost smell the damp earth. His heart pounded and his hands shook. Just a few feet more and he would be free.

A pair of too-long fingers closed around his ankle.

He threw himself forward, arm outstretched, as if he could catch the grass and pull himself free of this hell.

The alien hand dragged him back. The sun receded as the exit grew smaller. He tried to claw his way forward, digging his nails into the unrelenting, unnatural landscape but, though his nails broke and bled, he gained no ground. He didn’t even have a voice left to scream while they dragged him back to his prison.

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Please check out my writing partner’s version of this prompt.

If you’d like to participate, share a link to your response in the comments and I’ll feature it next week. Don’t forget we’ve got a wide array of other prompts to choose from ;)

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