JB Lacaden’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: Numbers - II
She opened her eyes and immediately leapt off the bed and into a fighting stance. 39 found herself inside a small room that contained a bed for one and a bedside table with a bowl of soup on it and a book opened halfway through the end. She was also lacking any piece of clothing. But before she had any time to think where she was or how she got there, the knob on the door started to turn. 39 leapt into action. Right after the door opened, she quickly grabbed the forearm of the person and pulled hard. It was a man, 39 realized. She got on his back and placed one knee on top of him as she twisted his arm at an odd angle.
“Where am I?!” 39 shouted at her prisoner. She twisted his arm some more and the man let out a cry of pain.
“Stop! STOP!” he shouted.
39 brought her face closer to his ear and she whispered, “Answer me or I break you bone by bone. Did the Company send you? Who are you? Did you bring me here?”
The man was breathing hard. “Company? What are—I don’t know what you’re talking about. Yes! I brought you here. I found you lying unconscious by the willow tree beside riverbank outside. I think I just saved your life, damnit!”
The man was no agent of the Company. That much she was sure. If he were, he would not have allowed himself to be taken down that quick. He seemed to be speaking the truth as well. 39 released the arm and got off of him. The man slowly sat on the floor, cradling his arm by his chest.
“What’s wrong with you?!” The man shouted. “Gods, I think you broke my arm.”
“No, the amount of pressure I placed was enough to give you some discomfort but not enough to dislocate your shoulder,” 39 simply said.
The man stared at her with an incredulous look plastered all over his face. “Discomfort? You call that discomfort?”
The man made a move to stand but 39 reacted immediately.
“Whoa, whoa,” the man said scrambling backwards. “Look, just...I saw you unconscious and I decided to bring you in. I’m sorry for helping, OK? I don’t want any trouble. You can leave if you want. Your clothes are hanging out at the back of the house.”
39 had not seen any man besides those within the compound owned by The Company and none of them were like the man lying helpless before her. This man was...too weak and emotional. Two things that, as was drilled to her and to all of the other Numbers their entire lives, would surely get you killed. The man before him also contradicted everything the Company said to her. She was told that the world outside the compound was nothing more than a huge wasteland filled with mutants and other savages. Obviously, the one before her was neither a mutant nor a savage.
“Wh—Who are you?” She asked again.
“Can I stand first?” The man asked.
39 calculated the possible scenarios that might happen. The man was clearly no trained fighter. She knew she would be able to knock him down again in close quarters combat. The man had no visible weapons on him. He was wearing light clothing and the number of places to hide a weapon was quite few. Unless...the weapon was miniscule in size. 39 decided on the best possible way to approach this. Still locked in her fighting stance, she slowly circled the man and stopped directly behind him.
“Now stand slowly,” she commanded him. “Do not move your hands. If I see movement, I will tear them off of their sockets.”
“There’s something very, very wrong with you,” the man said as he got himself back on his feet.
“You will answer my questions,” 39 said.
“It’s not like I’ve any choice, now, do I?”
The man was a complete conundrum to 39. He had poor hand-to-hand combat skills and he was facing someone far superior to him and yet showed no fear. He was surprised when he was assaulted off-guard and he displayed anger and annoyance and confusion but, strangely enough, he was not afraid of her.
“What is your name?” 39 asked.
“Zane,” the man answered.
“Are you working for The Company?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about so I guess the answer’s no. I hunt. I don’t work for anyone.” Zane answered. “Are these the ones who are after you? You kept on talking in your sleep about how you’ve to get away.”
“Yes,” 39 simply said after internally debating whether to give information out or not.
“I don’t know why they are after you but I can assure you that you’re safe. You’ve been down for two days and during that time I’ve seen no one looking for a missing girl.”
“Two days? I’ve been asleep for two days and you have not killed me or brought me back?”
“Kill you?” Zane laughed. “Why would I do that? Look, I have no idea who you are or what you did but you’re safe here. Now, I’ll turn around and you will not punch a hole in my chest.”
Zane slowly started to turn around. 39’s muscles tensed. The normal way to react to this scenario was to once again pin the man to the ground until all queries have been supplied with their proper answers...and yet, 39 somehow trusted the man. She fought hard against her instincts and allowed Zane to face her.
“Oh shit,” Zane quickly closed his eyes upon seeing 39’s naked body.
“What’s wrong?” 39 asked, confused.
“I forgot you’re not wearing anything. I didn’t mean...I...we’ll have to get you your clothes. For the meantime, cover yourself with this.” Zane pulled the blanket from the bed and handed it to 39.
39 still did not understand Zane’s embarrassed reaction to her body. Within the compound, every Number was taught to fight in various conditions. She had seen the others without clothing and they have seen her naked as well and none of them had the same reaction Zane was having. She wondered whether this was normal for those who lived outside the compound. Nevertheless, she covered herself up and followed the man as he walked out of the room. A warm feeling blossomed within her as they made their way down the stairs. She felt...safe—a feeling she had not felt for a very long time.
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JB Lacaden dreams of someday being a published writer. He currently resides in Manila, Philippines. He's a lover of comic books, science fiction, and high fantasy. Check out some of his works at http://www.jblearnstowrite.com/ and follow him at @jblearnstowrite.