I had this chapter and chapters 10, 11, and 12 done already in November, but I never posted them. So, here's Chapter 9! AND I WILL FINISH...SOMEDAY. BUT I SHALL FINISH!
We weren’t gagged, but we did have our hands tied behind our backs. The rope hurt like crazy. “Hey, Adi,” I asked. “What do you think they’re going to do to us?”
“I have no idea, but whatever it is, it’s bound to be bad,” responded Adi.
“I hope it won’t be too horrible!” said a voice. Adhit and I turned to see a slightly chubby girl with curly brown hair. “Sorry! I just love being involved in conversations, so I talk even when I’m not being talked to… My name is Gabi, by the way,” said the girl.
“You’re so lucky,” said Adhit. “People would take the money you pay happily because it’s blessed, but my money causes people to be greedy, so it’s hard for me to buy stuff.”
“At least people don’t take too much advantage of you,” Gabi pointed out. “Since my name is close to the CMN of Gabbeiriliara, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, people try to mooch as much money as they can off of me.”
“And I forgot to mention… my name’s Adhit, but you can call me Adi,” said Adhit. “And she’s Anita.” He pointed at me.
“Hi,” I said. “Sorry that you have to stuck with us Cursed Ones.”
“Nah, it’s fine! I don’t care, really, as long as I have someone to talk to. If I don’t, I go crazy!” said Gabi. “I wonder who else here is Cursed?” She didn’t get an answer. I looked around and saw that people were either lost in their own world or asleep. “So, how’d you guys get caught?”
We told Gabi our stories. “Aw, that has to suck! And you guys were close to escaping!” she said, sympathetically. “I wasn’t even trying to escape. I didn’t know even about the EIS—I just don’t keep up with current events. I don’t watch the news; it’s boring! I should have, though. So I was volunteering at Eitgerha Park to help little kids make crafts. I love little kids! They’re so cute. And I love arts and crafts. It lets me be creative! And the little kids are so creative! Well, when they’re not trying to eat the glue, anyway…
“And so, when I was helping them, these people came in—they looked like regular people, too—and they looked at me and asked, ‘What is your name?’ I presumed that they were just curious, so I said, ‘Gabi.’ And then, before I knew it, they were dragging me away into this truck! So I asked them why they were kidnapping me, and they told me all about the EIS and their ideals.”
“If they can even be called ideals,” I snorted. “I hate all this name discrimination. But, wow, I feel lucky! I, at least, knew about the EIS and knew what they were going to do, so I had an advantage…”
“But your own principal was a part of the EIS! So that undermines any advantage you might have had,” Gabi pointed out. Just then, the truck jerked to a halt. “I wonder what awaits us here…” muttered Adi, reflecting all of our thoughts.
Of course the building the EIS would put us in would be drab. What kind of prison would it be if it wasn’t? It was completely gray with no windows but many stories. I tried to wriggle out of my “escort’s” grip, but he was far too strong. “You’re not going anywhere,” he growled, as his grip tightened on my shoulder.
When the guard opened the glass door, I nearly gagged. The stench was awful! It smelled like manure. I supposed that they didn’t have plumbing here. The dim lighting allowed me to see the prison, but the sight of the sorry place wasn’t much better than the smell. At least the aisle was clean. On the sides of the aisle where we walked, there were cells holding some rather emaciated looking people. I wondered if the EIS even bothered to feed their prisoners. It probably didn’t get much money, so it must have decided that food for the prisoners was unnecessary. Some of the cells had carcasses, too, with rotting flesh that didn’t make the stink much better.
We turned a couple of corners, seeing more of the abomination freak show. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to becoming skeleton-skinny; I was already rather slim, underweight, to be precise. Then we stopped at an elevator, the only hint of modern technology in the place. One of the guards pushed the up button. Ding! The elevator opened its doors to reveal a spotless interior.
I felt the ground push up as the elevator traveled to its destination. I looked at the panel of buttons. “11” was lit up. I gulped. At least there weren’t any windows up there to reveal exactly how high up we were. I despise heights with a vengeance. I failed PE once because we had to rock climb. I couldn’t even get one foot off the ground. The PE teacher, a large and gruff woman named Mrs. Fwirsole, had taken no pity on me (she never took pity on anyone) and gave me an F because I “didn’t participate.” Thankfully, that was in eighth grade, so it didn’t count for my final transcript.
Ding! We reached the eleventh story, and it was no better than the first floor. We kept walking until we reached a cell. Our guards then unlocked it and shoved us inside. The ground felt a bit sticky. Ew. I looked at the ground to see what I had rested my hand on. “You might want to get out of the bloody area. Just a suggestion.” I turned toward the source of the voice to see a black-haired boy wearing a slightly worn blue T-shirt and some jeans. “Did someone die here or something?” I asked.
“Yeah, my old cellmate wasn’t cooperating with the EIS, so they killed him. And that’s how the blood came,” he replied. “And, by the way, most people would introduce themselves by this time.”
“Oh. Well, I’m Anita,” I said. “And who are you?”
“I’m Howard,” he replied. “Hmm, Anita, eh? So, you were named after Anilokalmosia?”
“Yes, that is true,” I said.
“You’re dressed rather modestly for someone who’s got a name close to the CMN of the goddess of seduction.” I glared at him. “What? It’s true!”
“Just because it’s true doesn’t mean it has to be mentioned,” I said. “I could easily point out that for someone Cursed with the Chosen Mortal Name of Houaaremwint, the God of Jealousy, you sure don’t have much for someone to be jealous of.”
“Touché. And—hey! Watch where you sit! You nearly sat on Sid!”
“Sid?” I looked underneath where I was sitting and saw a stuffed squirrel. “You still have a stuffed animal with you? How’d you even get it in here?”
“I snuck it in. And, yeah, I even still sleep with him—not it—at night. What’s it to ya?”
“…The second to last sentence that you just said sounded… wrong…”
“Yeah, thanks, I, uh, just realized that…” He turned red. “Anyway, welcome to this dump.”
“You’re welcome. I figured that the EIS guard-person didn’t ‘welcome’ you here properly, and you deserve some sort of welcome.”
“You’ve got a point. Huh. Where are Adi and Gabi?”
“Who and who?”
“Yo, Neetu, we’re over here!” I looked at the neighboring cell and saw Adhit and Gabi. “I thought I told you that I don’t go by nicknames,” I told Adhit.
“It’s easier to say ‘Neetu’ than ‘Anita,’” said Adi.
“So, Howard,” I said, turning back to my cellmate, “That’s Adi, as you may have gathered. His full first name is Adhit. And the girl is Gabi.”
“Ah, I see. Hi, people,” he said. “Oh, and by the way, Anita,” he turned back to me, “don’t sit over at that back left hand corner. That’s, um… well, you’d see if you looked there… ” I looked at the corner, but was darkened due to the lack of working lights above it. I walked near the corner, but I noticed that the stench worsened as I went closer to it and then I noticed a pile of brown… stuff. Now I knew where the “bathroom” was.
A guard dressed in actual military clothes (as opposed to the regular clothes of our “escort” guards) strolled through the aisle and stopped by every cage. “Yum. Lunch is served,” said Howard. “Don’t get your hopes up. It’s prison food under a tight budget.” The guard unlocked our cell door and slipped in a tray with two dishes that contained grayish goop that looked like oatmeal. “Enjoy your meals, abominations!” he jeered, as he continued walking through the aisle.
Howard looked at the meal with indifference. “As much as I hate prison food, they did remember to give us something to eat this time. They don’t always, as you can probably tell from the emaciated prisoners,” he remarked.
“Yeah, I could gather that,” I said. I took a bowl of the food—if it could be called food—and ate a spoonful. It tasted too bitter for my taste, so I ate the food quickly so that I wouldn’t have to taste it. At the end, I thought I felt the food come up my esophagus. “Wow, you’re fast,” remarked Howard.
“Eh, I just wanted to get the food over with, so I ate quickly, trying to taste it as little as possible,” I replied.
“Anita, is that you?” That voice sounded familiar. I looked at the cell next to mine and saw Megan. I grinned. “Who else would I be?”
“I’m so glad to see you!” Her smile quickly turned into a frown, though. “But I was hoping that that mean principal Mr. Esakon wouldn’t be able to send you here! How was my clone like?”
“I actually escaped from Mr. Esakon… only to be caught on the bus, later,” I said. “And your clone definitely was not like you. The first thing she did was insult Mr. Sifuhn.”
“Oh, how terrible! Was Mr. Sifuhn mad?”
“No, just really confused. As was the rest of the class.”
“Will you two shut up! I’m trying to burn these stupid butterflies that a guard let in,” said Jennifer, who was apparently Megan’s cellmate.
“You can’t burn butterflies! They only bring joy into our lives!” said Megan.
“WHICH IS WHY THEY MUST DIE! I HATE ANYTHING THAT BRINGS JOY!” And Jennifer turned toward the monarch butterflies that she was trying to burn, but they weren’t there. “Now look what you did!” she screeched. “You let them get away! I hate you [unprintable word]ing do-gooders!”
Megan pouted. “I don’t like my cellmate very much. Can you introduce me to your cellmate?” she asked.
“Sure. Howard, wanna introduce yourself?”
“Uh, okay,” said Howard. “Hi, I’m Howard. And you are?”
“I’m Megan,” said Megan. “And—ooh, is that a stuffed squirrel?”
“Um, yes. Please do not insult me because of him.”
“Why would I insult you? That squirrel is sooo cute! And do you still sleep with him at night?” I snickered. “What? I was just asking him a question,” said Megan, genuinely confused.
“Just… just forget it.” I chuckled. “Go on.”
“Um, yes… I, uh, hug Sid while sleeping.”
“Oh, is Sid the name of the squirrel? How cute!”
“Um… thanks?” Howard reddened.
“So… how did you end up here?” asked Megan.
“Some EIS members invaded my house,” said Howard.
“Ooh, that’s like how I got caught,” remarked Adhit. “And your parents didn’t try to stop them, did they? That’s what happened with me.”
“Actually, my parents did try to stop them. I’m fortunate to have parents like them. They genuinely care for me, even though I ruin their reputation. It’s nice to have parents who don’t give a crap about what other people think and instead do what they feel is right. Never have I ever felt that I was a punishment to my parents. Never!” Howard sighed. “I really miss them.”
“Aww, Howie, don’t worry! We’ll get out of here somehow so that you can see your parents again!” said Megan. Howard smiled. “Thank you, Megan,” he said. “That’s reassuring. But this place has really tight security. Anyway, the EIS people forcibly pulled me away from my parents, and, before I knew it, I was put in the truck and then I ended up here.” He hugged Sid, looking almost vulnerable. “Hey, Howie-boy,” said Jennifer. “How old are you, anyway?”
“Eighteen. What’s it to you?” said Howard.
“Boy, you sure look like a five-year-old with that stupid stuffed squirrel. You’we thooo cuute!” Jennifer said, mockingly.
“I think you’re really funny,” said Howard. “Especially the way you think I actually care about your opinions.”
“Jennifer, don’t be mean!” said Megan.
“Come on, you know I can’t be anything but mean, cotton brain,” snorted Jennifer. “Telling me to not be mean is like telling… well, you, to not be nice. It’s not possible, you know, ya moron!”
“That is true,” admitted Megan. “I just wish we had a choice on these sorts of things… being ‘Blessed,’ I think, is just being Cursed in a way more acceptable to your parents. I hate being ‘Blessed.’”
That caught Adi’s and Gabi’s attention. “But why?” asked Adhit. “How is being Blessed anything like being Cursed? How is all the attention you get, all the praises you’re showered with, how is all that like being ostracized by society, being mocked and teased, or being neglected by your parents?!”
“I’m not saying it is!” complained Megan. “Being Cursed is horrible, and I know I’m in a slightly more favorable situation by being Blessed…”
“‘Slightly’? That’s an understatement if I ever heard one,” muttered Adi.
“Please, just hear me out,” said Megan, patiently. “I think being Blessed robs me of opportunities to be the very best and pious that I can be…”
“Oh, please. Being Blessed forces you to be the very best and pious you can be!” exclaimed Jennifer.
“Please, just let me go on,” said Megan, calmly. “To be the best you can be, you have to be faced with adversity. You need temptation to go over to the dark side, you need to know what the evil side has to offer you, and then, while knowing all that you can gain by being evil, refuse to join that side because you are strong enough to overcome that temptation! That’s what makes someone really good; that’s what makes someone pious! I’ve just been living life without any adversity. I’m naïve! I don’t know about the temptation of the evil side. So how am I better than a Regular who manages to stay good through all the tempting of evil? I’m not better, and I can never be better. I can’t be the very best I can be. Some Blessing I got!” Tears welled up in her eyes. “Aw, but I’m being selfish… it’s not that bad! But I still can’t help but wish that I could be the most pious… I just want to be the best I can be. But I can’t!” Megan sighed.So, even the Extremely Blessed weren’t happy with the gods’ method of punishing and blessing, and they were supposed to enjoy the gods’ reward. That only went to prove that the gods’ system was flawed.