Forgive Me?

Our name is Nikki, and this is our story. It's not a love story. It's not a good story. This is the story of the night we forgot how to dream, the day we learned how to die. This is the story of the man who took our life away and the boy who gave us back our freedom.

(Fans of The Fray will notice that every chapter is named after one of their songs, and begins with lines from the song. These are the things that inspire the chapter.)

Taking place in alternate realities, Nikki and Nikki Echo both suffer through the same events. The difference: their views, characteristics, and personalities. Nikki is the byproduct of genetic engineering, mutated and morphed beyond recognition, leaving her less than human. Nikki Echo lives the life her counterpart ought to have had, had fate been kinder.

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3. Heartbeat

I'm tryin' to put it all back together.
I've got a story and I'm tryin' to tell it right.
I've got the kerosene and the desire.
I'm trying to start a flame in the heart of the night

- The Fray

 

Technically, I haven’t lied. Well, only a little.

I guess I should say it straight out, at this point, that I am not human. Even though I think of myself that way, most of the time, because it’s what I cling to, the dry tangle of roots trailing like whiskers down from the edge of a cliff. If I let go, I fall into the abyss, into despair and madness. It feels like a confession of some great crime, and when my master calls me “dog” I do feel dirty, subhuman. 

Does that disappoint you? Do you feel less sympathy for me, now, than you did a moment ago, when I was letting you assume I’m a woman? A few little details, that’s all it took. I include words like “breasts,” “bra,” “panties,” terms that assume I have some kind of dignity worth covering. In reality my master and his kind, and probably you as well, don’t see my body as anything capable of violation. I am a piece of property, nothing more.

Maybe you feel a kind of paternalism, a condescending pity for the dumb brute thus tormented. Most of what you feel is disgust for him, the monster, and not because he’s sadistic and a rapist and ripped my dignity away from me like he might have torn the clothes from my body if I had in fact worn any, but because of what I am. Admit it, you’re more appalled by the bestiality than anything else, shocked he’s defiling himself...Like him, you see me as a thing, an object. Don’t even try to pretend otherwise.

And somehow now’s more acceptable that all I get to eat are the putrid strips of raw meat smelling more decayed than I do that are thrown at me through the bars of a cage.

Because I am a dog. Or so the human race has labelled me. My own people don’t have a word for ourselves, and though we run naked like savages, I can’t help feeling my master, treating me like this, is more of an animal than I am.

So what am I, exactly? What do I look like? 

I’m as ugly a piece of miscegenation as is likely to ever be produced by this world. I do not have breasts, and I do not wear clothes. I have eight nibbles, standing out like brass studs on the taut, hairless plate of my belly. I have  short legs and arms of equal proportion, and a very long narrow body with a curved, twisted spine that looks even more warped and gnarled because of how thin I am. I’ve never seen my face. I don’t know what my eye color is. But I don’t need a mirror to know that the strongest impression I leave in any observer’s  mind is that of being skeletal. I don’t need to view my reflection to know that my cheeks are so gaunt and my eyes sunken in that loose bags of skin hang around them. You can’t see my bruises because I’m covered in hair - except for in patches where my hair’s falling out in clumps and my skin flaking away from my rotting corpse - but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there and that I don’t hurt. All the time, every waking moment.

I’m part of an experiment, to unlock the canine brain. To understand our intelligence, cognitive abilities, our faculty for language. Thus the “bark once for yes, twice for no” episode with the boy. 

At least, that’s how it started out. That was the logic behind such actions as implanting a whole network of wires and tubes and sensors under my skin, to monitor my heart rate, electric impulses, the most imperceptible vibrations of my eyes. These stick out under my thin sheath of flesh, without muscle or fat to pad them. On the hairy parts of my body it’s just a texture, beveling on glass, but on my belly they look like a blue web that could almost be mistaken for veins except that they are too many and too thick. 

It started out as science. But somewhere along the way I think it’s safe to say my master just cracked. He got addicted to studying my pain. He began maying less attention to taking detailed notes than to the erection chaffing against his dark jeans.

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