The Thing Above
by Ian Cooke-Tapia
A sound that wasn’t the pump woke her up.
Wetness dribbled out of the corner of her mouth, down her
chin, and by the time it landed on her chest it was cold. It was just a
reaction to try and wipe the drool, an unconscious thing, really. Natural, to
try and touch your skin where something cold touched it suddenly. Normal, when
you just woke up and the world no longer makes sense and you don’t know if what
you smell is your own wasting body or the rotting darkness all around you or
even if its there anywhere. Her eyes went wide, and she wanted to scream. The
bonds that held her arms above her sang and rattled. She followed the vibration
as it went up the black straps, up and up into a tunnel of tubes and cables,
straps and chains and something that whenever she stared at too long it made
her queasy in the stomach and weak in the head. The vibrations like beatings
out of a subwoofer woke it up too. A
glow appeared. A glow and a light that had seen things she wasn’t meant to even
know about. Eyes looking straight down at her with unfathomable intent.
She looked away. Tried to lick the drool, but her tongue
wasn’t long enough. She felt a sob rattle her chest, bit her tongue until it
hurt and she could breathe normally.
Nothing moved overhead. With a sigh of relief, she sank back
into a more comfortable position, as much as that was possible with her arms
overhead and in front, and her legs held so tightly by what she lay on as to be
part of it. Little nubs massaged her back as she lay back. Ergonomic, the numbs
were, warmed by her own body temperature; they moved and moulded to the arch of
her back, the shape of her structure, accommodating any position she could
think of taking to try to escape or, now, after who knows how long, just
alleviate the boredom of these moments before the pump woke up. Whenever she
remembered the nubs, she could not get visions of marine trench life out of her
She missed the sound of her voice, but she had come to
understand that the cover on her mouth was more in her benefit. That thing
above wasn’t too keen on human voices. Nubs, tightly but comfortably pressed
against her mouth by something akin to a surgeon’s mask. They would part when
she was fed, via a tube descended from the tunnel of a ceiling above, but
otherwise she had no mouth.
The light in the room was diffuse, coming from everywhere and
nowhere. Like motes of dust generating their own light, too small to do
anything on their own but mighty in conjunction.
She blinked, realising that the place was growing lighter.
She could see the tell-tale shapes of other chairs, empty and lonely. The pang
of solitude hit her in her chest. It burned brightly in her head when she
realised she could not remember who had been there, but knew that they had been
intimately close. Dank air moved in and out of her lungs, things moved in the
corner of her eyes, dangling lines of equipment that kept her alive and
passive. And made her madder by the day. Her arms vibrated. She breathed in,
slowly, calming down. She had got a hang of not making her arms move too much,
lest the thing above would come down more than it was supposed too. She didn’t
know how she knew that. Maybe she had forgotten; like her name.
Remembering that didn’t hurt as much as it used to.
Her arms vibrated again. She blinked and saw the other chairs
distinctly now. Saw hundreds of them, far off into a darkness that was all
rusted textures and hard shadows. There was just too much light.
She could feel it up
there. Hanging down, staring with its many, many eyes that were but two glowing
suns all to themselves. Just the thought of looking up made her want to swallow
her tongue, but the moment she thought of that the nubs pushed into her mouth.
Would… whatever this captivity was be more bearable with it, or without it?
Her jaw ached. Her guts ached from fullness. The tingling in
her arms was starting again.
The shadows extended off into the distance. A forever. An
eternity. A never.
She heard it moving down the cables and straps and chains. It
was awake now, fully.
For a moment she wondered what had happened to all the
others. Like she did every time she woke up. Had they been—her mind blanked at
the concept. She had known the full of it once, but now all she could conjure
from the fragmented and dark depths of her mind was the word “completed”.
Her friend above was really close. Patiently hanging just out
of reach. She didn’t remember ever being touched by it and there wasn’t single
waking moment when she didn’t wonder about it. Did it have hands, even?
Tentacles? Any appendages with which to touch her? To be touched…
Her belly was too full. Her jaw ached, the nubs protecting
her life. What a life. Her brain couldn’t complete thoughts.
She looked up and saw the eyes look at her and felt all
thoughts leave her head as if they had melted and dribbled down her mouth. Her
head lolled to the side and it took her a minute to come back to herself. By
then she had already evacuated her vowels, and the waste matter pumped away by
something the chair could do. Her skin down there was cooler, freshened up by
cleansing jets of lukewarm water.
The darkness returned. In a blink, she was blind to her
loneliness. In the dark, she could pretend to be somewhere else. Be someone
else. Something else.
And she knew it was a matter of time before she became
The straps vibrated softly.
She smiled, comforted.
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