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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2. Heartless

In the night I hear 'em talk, the coldest story ever told

Somewhere far alone this road he lost his soul

-The Frey

 

"How can you do this?" I sobbed at the boy when he came into view between the bars of my cage. I had eaten the meal he provided - scant as it was - as soon as he'd given it to me. That was three days ago now, and I hadn't seen another living thing since then. Some part of me told me the solitude and hunger and degradation were part of my punishment for fighting my master, but the rest screamed at the injustice of it all.

The boy looked at me with his distant, empty eyes, and didn't respond. He did, however, stride closer to my prison, close enough that, had I been so inclined, I could have reached out and grabbed his arm, but I didn't. The last time I'd touched him, he'd left immediately, and I needed the comfort of having another sentient being nearby. Even a sick, insane sadist.

When he was within reach, he held his hand and I saw that it held a tray with a wedge of rancid, bloody meat and a small bowl of water. The sight of food overcame my hesitation and I grabbed for it. Just before my hand came within grabbing distance of the dish, he lifted his arm, bringing it out of range. Backing up, the boy tore a small chunk from the meat and inspected it, in distaste, then looked at me.

"Are you hungry, dog?" He asked me, looking down at me with evident disdain. I was too afraid to speak, so I just nodded, my eyes never leaving the morsel of food.

With an almost contemptuous flick of his wrist, my new tormentor tossed the grizzly tidbit down into my cage and I pounced upon it greedily, swallowing it whole just to fill the void that had become my stomach. The boy laughed once, harsh and cutting. "Good dog," he spit down at me, tearing off another piece of flesh and holding it tantalizingly out of reach.

"Here's the deal, dog," he leaned down and petted my dirty, greasy hair almost fondly. "You answer my question, I give you food. You refuse to answer or lie to me, well..." he let the threat trail off, leaving my imagination to fill the blanks. "Do you understand, dog?"
I nodded vigorously, but he raised one eyebrow. "Yes, Master!" I squeaked fearfully, my heart beating with both dread and anticipation. Sometimes it felt like the two were the only thing sustaining me.

"Hah, good dog," he praised me, tossing down another scrap of meat, which I ate a little slower than the first. "Remember, you’re a dog. So give me one good bark for yes, and two for no. Now, dog, is your name Nikki?"

"Yes," I whispered the answer, hoping it wouldn't displease him. My other master always hated when I remembered my life before this, my name and family, the friends who had certainly given up on my by now.

"That was an easy one, just to make sure you’ve got the idea. Now, do you know how long you have been here?"

I seriously didn't know the answer to this question, and so I hesitated. When I failed to answer, the boy crouched down beside the bars of my cage and put his face right before mine. "Answer me, Nikki, or I swear you will wish you had."

"But - but I can't! I don't know how long I've been here!" My voice was shrill and hysterical, loud enough to make the boy flinch back and glare at me. This time the scrap of flesh I received was noticeably smaller, but I still snatched it up instantly, shoving it into my mouth and swallowing before he could change his mind and take it away again.

"Have you ever had sexual intercourse with a man?"

"Y-yes," I whispered, and the boy frowned.

"Voluntarilly?"

I indicated the negative and his eyes cleared a little. I only received one piece of food for the two answers, but it was larger than usual and I was glad for anything. When the boy didn't immediately rattle off another question, I mustered my meager supply of courage and forced myself to open my mouth. "Who are you? Why are you here? Why me?"

Surprisingly, the boy gave me no sign of the anger my master would have shown at my speaking out of turn, instead thoughtfully scratching at the stubble on his chin. "I suppose you’re wondering why you’re being accustomed to a new visitor - me. Why I’m the one feeding you, now, instead of your master. I'm here because my father has purchased you and I am assisting with the transition. Your master and my father agreed that it would be easier to ensure obedience if you were used the the directions of one of us."

"And why me? What did I do to deserve this?" The questions were barely a whisper because I couldn't force my voice any louder. The idea of it, of a new master, perhaps a better one, frightened and excited me. I wasn't naive enough to believe that I had any chance at escape, but the small freedom of leaving this prison - even for a new one - was better than facing a life of torment and agony here.

The boy's answer - at least, I took it for an answer, but he was probably just musing to himself - delivered over his shoulder as he walked away, was issued as a breath, barely audible over the pounding of the blood in my ears. "Because the world is heartless, and so is everyone in it."

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