This is the first half of a semi-sequel to Discovery Channel
The supply trucks had stopped coming around the first of the year; the TV broadcasts had more or less stopped around Thanksgiving time, and the radio broadcasts were getting rarer and rarer, so the fae residents-slash-captives of the “voluntary relocation center” (internment camp) didn’t get an explanation as to why they were abandoned; the food just stopped coming.
At first, they assumed that the remnants of the human government were trying to quietly get them rid of, and shrugged philosophically. They’d been expecting that for a while, after all, and they had their gardens and their little farm already. They’d be a bit short on some more exotic foods for a while, but they were magic beings; they’d make do.
Weeks went on, though, and the mood of the guards that still patrolled the halls of their former-high-school prison shifted. They stopped eying their captives with belligerent fear and began eying the livestock in the courtyards and the greenhouse with the overwintered vegetables with obvious hunger. They talked, when they didn’t think any of the internees could hear them, about their hungry families and the paychecks that didn’t come anymore. They talked about how the monsters in here were safer than their own children were.
Finally, Dita, called the Riddle of the Sphinx, who had ended up being their leader by inevitability and force of will, pulled the guards aside and suggested they just move their families into the compound. “They’ll be safe here,” she assured them, “and we have food to spare.”
The guards hemmed and hawed – they were supposed to be guarding the internees, not fraternizing with them, not locking themselves in, too – but their so-very-friendly prisoners had the magic to make food grow faster and produce more than it ought to, and the walls around their internment camp were high and sturdy. In the end, hunger and a continually deteriorating situation outside won over fear. Their guards became their companions, and they locked the gates from the inside.
That had been mid-February. When the flowers started coming up in earnest, some time in early May, radio broadcasts had trickled down to maybe one a week, there was wheat growing on the rooftops, and something was horribly wrong in the halls of their camp.
At first, they thought one of them had gone stir-crazy. They’d been in this prison for over two years now, in conditions that, while not crowded, were nowhere near ideal. That none of them had gone off the deep end yet was more surprising than that someone had finally cracked.
It was a pretty bad crack, too; people went missing, first one, then two more, and then another three. By the time the three had gone missing, the first one to vanish had been discovered, so very very dead, the dismembered, desiccated, mummified parts spread over the playground. It was the sort of death only another one of them could pull off, at least that quickly, that efficiently. They started eyeing each other with distrust, travelling only in groups, and making locks for their doors and walls to put locks in. The barracks became a warren of tiny, dark, locked rooms… and still people vanished.
They had the magic, in their group, to read minds, too, three mind-readers. Dita set her foot down, and the mind-readers read each other’s minds, then set up a double-elimination queue to find their murderer.
Cynthia, the most junior of the mind-readers, tried hard not to think about some of the things she’d found her fellow inmates to be guilty of. Not this string of murders, no – she found not the slightest shred of evidence that anyone here had even witnessed anything related to these deaths. But there was a lot of untidiness in these minds. There were tiny peccadilloes and crimes that would be felonies, if human law still cared about them, guilty consciences and sordid desires. Some of it was really, really creepy.
By the time she reached the last person, her friend Aaron, she was ready to destroy large portions of her mind just to get rid of the slimy memories. The walls around their prison had never seemed so constraining. And she had never been less happy to see Aaron.
“How’s it going, Synthie?” He plopped down in the comfy, ratty armchair she was using as an interrogation seat and grinned at her, only the off-skew cant of one ear suggesting he was at all worried.
“Urgh.” She wrinkled her nose at him. “I don’t want to know what’s in your brain, Airhead. It had better be just air and stuffing…”
“Or what? You’re too good a person to cut out the parts you don’t like.”
“I swear, if I find anything in your mind that I don’t want to see, Aaron, I’m…”
He was out of his chair with his hand over her mouth before she could finish the sentence. “You know better, Synth… Cynthia,” he whispered urgently, his cobalt-blue eyes staring at her. “You’re tired, and they forgot to feed you, here,” he pressed a cookie into her hand while she stared in worried confusion at him. “You’re not going to like everything in my brain,” he explained quietly, and comprehension finally worked its way through her exhausted mind. She nodded, and he removed his hand.
“Sorry,” she muttered, and devoured the cookie. I swear were words one didn’t say casually; that she’d forgotten enough to slip was an indication of how worn out she was. “Well… let’s hope there’s not too much in there, okay? I really want to bleach my brain out.”
“That bad?” He sounded worried. That, in itself, was worrisome; Aaron never showed concern.
“That bad,” she agreed quietly. “Let me get this over with, please?” There, let him chew on that; she never said please.
“Okay,” he agreed quietly, and leaned back in the chair, closing his eyes. “Do your worst.”
It couldn’t be him. She shouldn’t even look. But what if it was? If she trusted friendship and doomed them all? She closed her eyes, too, pretended this was someone else, and murmured the Working that would let her read his mind.
Don’t let Synthie see what she doesn’t want to see was at the forefront of his mind, fences neatly lined up, pointing her towards hey, about those murders? I didn’t do them. He was anxious, little bits in the back of his mind dancing around. Her threat had worried him; more than that, the drawn, tired way she looked worried him. Is she okay? Is she going to forgive me for…
She knew better, but she poked a little bit, telling herself she needed to find out for certain that he wasn’t the murderer. …forgive me, no, not there, ack, PORN! His mind flashed naked cat-girls in improbable positions, and she reeled backwards, falling off her chair.
“Synth?” She was still far enough inside his consciousness that she could hear his worry and guilt as he scrambled onto the floor next to her. “Synth… Cynthia, damn, sorry, are you okay?” C’mon, be okay. Be okay and don’t poke anymore, please? Stupid murderer. Messing up our friendship.
She shook her head carefully. “Airhead, if you ever assault me with porn again…” She made sure to make the not-a-threat cheerful, and tried to stifle the headache that wanted to leak out.
He flushed. “It’s the mind-blanking technique they taught us, you know… pink horses.”
“Purple elephants,” she nodded, but this time, let the exasperation leak. “Airhead, you’re not supposed to be blocking my mind-reading. You’re supposed to be proving your innocence.”
“Synthie, if you don’t already know I’m innocent, you’re not going to find it in my brain. Look, this was a nice idea, but if it’s not any of us… doesn’t it occur to you that that’s even worse?”
“Worse?” She blinked at him. “Worse than being trapped in her with a monster?”
“That’s how the guards feel all the time, isn’t it? What I mean is… we know each other. We know our flaws and our powers and everything else, every one of us. We’re too close not to. But if something managed to sneak in here with us and remain hidden, except to pop out and kill us…”
“We’re dealing with a completely unknown, invisible enemy.” Cynthia gulped. “Okay. That is pretty bad.” She chewed on her cuticle, nevermind what her mother would say. “Aaron, what do we do about something we can’t see?” Why was she asking him?
“Well,” he mused, “we have to find a way to make the invisible visible.”
dailyprompt ‘making the invisible visible.’
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/47613.html. You can comment here or there.