When I wake, I am blinded.
All I see is bright white. It kind of hurts.
I blink, and the white is channeled into a circle. A hanging light fixture slowly comes into focus.
My chest feels heavy, and it's difficult to breathe. I gasp, gulping in air.
"Who are you and how did you find this place?"
The dark haired girl leans over me.
I look around without lifting my head. I am tied to what looks like a dining room chair. Most of the room is dark, and I can't see anything else clearly.
"What?" I mutter. My voice is raspy, and the effort sears my throat with pain.
"She's dehydrated." A woman steps out from behind the girl. "It's to be expected."
The woman has tan, leathery skin. With her regal expression, she almost looks like royalty. Her thick hair is tucked under a tight bandanna. She is short and lean, and looks vaguely familiar... I recognize her as "Aunt"... "Aunt" something, but I can't remember. The girl who shot an arrow at me had called to her.
"Give her a chance to drink." The woman continued.
The woman steps forward and screws the cap off of a bottled water. She holds it to my lips. The water is so cold and pure as it flows down my throat that it causes a burning sensation.
I cough, probably spraying the girl based on her disgusted reaction, but continue to drink. Immediately, I feel better. Before I know it, the bottle is empty.
"There ya' are," she says, still frowning. The lady hands me another one, and I down it with ease. Soon, five empty bottles litter the ground by a table leg.
"Thank you," I gasp.
I can't read the woman's expression. "Queenie," she simply states.
"Now," the girl, Queenie, says, pressing a knife to my neck, "who are you and how did you find this place?"
Oh yeah. This is an interrogation.
"I don't have one."
"Likely." She presses a bit harder. The burning sensation is back. "Where are you from? Who are you with? The Chess Pieces?"
"I'm from an orphanage..." I managed. "St. Opal's."
Queenie turns back to Aunt, a funny look on her face. "Maybe," she shrugs, glancing at me. "I've passed the building a few times on my..." she pauses, her face darkening. "Excursions."
The lady nods. "But that's at least twenty miles out."
"No way she could have run the whole distance," Queenie breathes.
"Well, it would definitely make sense of her dehydration." She offers.
"Wait," I cut in, "I ran twenty miles?"
"If your story is true," Queenie counters.
"And if you were running on quite an adrenaline rush," Aunt adds. She smiles, but there is a coldness to it. Before I can think too much about it, Queenie steps between us.
"And how did you find us?"
"Uh, I was just running..."
"Myself," I mutter, too quiet for her to hear.
The knife digs into my neck, and I can feel the warm blood running down my neck.
"Say it louder."
"Nobody. I wasn't running from anyone." Queenie's eyes narrow. "Just the Mistress, Lady McCarthy."
"Oh, yeah? The abusive Mistress? Just like in every other story?" The pressure of the knife is removed, and relief floods my body. Queenie waves the knife at me in a gesture I don't understand, speaking to the woman. "She's gotta be faking. I'm done with this." I watch as she turns and walks from the room.
The short woman stands over me. There is a moment of silence as she looks me over. Finally, she speaks, leaning in closer. "I don't know who sent you here, but you aren't getting back to them anytime soon."