Author's Note: This story was written in a few hours and based on a very short plot idea that I had. It is a small little moment that is or was probably very real to someone, fictional or non-fictional, and is certainly very real to the speaker in this story. It was originally intended to be a fanfiction one-shot, but turned into something else entirely when I realized that it was too generic to fit into one fanbase. I enjoy darker stories, and what better way than to write a tale in which the darkest thing imaginable happens to a person – to a young woman? I am not sure where the idea for this came from, but I know this – this story does concern torture, though none is shown explicitly in the tale. Needless to say, if you are not one for this sort of thing, you may not wish to read this very short little tale.

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These iron bars speak at midnight.

I know.

I've heard them.

They groan and screech as if tortured, and each time I know that it is a warning, a harbinger of the misery I will soon endure at the hands of…

Him. The man who haunts my nightmares, whose hands are stained with my blood, whose hands have marred my soul and etched thick, red lines into my flesh. He who burns with acid and binds with ropes, whose voice just barely betrays insanity and whose harsh laughter rings cold in my ears. Him…

It is dark, but then again, it is always dark. He keeps me in a cage in a larger room, and this room has no windows, no light to speak of. It is difficult to tell if it is night or day, but I know, very roughly, what time it is by the sounds of others walking and speaking outside.

It is night.

Every night, he comes. Every night, after he is done with me, I am returned to my cage, wounded worse than before. But you can only play so long and so hard with something before it breaks, and someday, I swear he will destroy me completely.

I wasn't always like this, the pitiful being that lies alone in a mesh of metal. I was once a child in a small village, a child who grew up with Imperial guards watching her and everyone's actions, a young, innocent girl who watched her father and mother die in front of her, stabbed by a soldier for not paying their ever-growing debt. I grew into a bitter young thief who roamed the land and took only that which she needed to survive, seeking nothing but the man who had orphaned me and knowing that he would soon be dead by my blade, a young woman who found the murderer and slaughtered his small party as he slept. A young woman who soon was one of the most wanted criminals in the king's land, and who soon was caught and convicted for murder, a most grievous offense under the king's rule.

A broken young woman who knew too much, and for that was sent to the dungeons instead of the guillotine.

Oh, yes, I knew. I overheard what the guards said in the places they thought were private, the camps they thought that nobody could reach. I knew that he controlled the underground drug ring, perpetrating heinous crimes that would mean certain death to a normal citizen, selling those who did not obey his oppressive laws into slavery and taxing the citizens so much that almost nobody had money. He was a king that reigned with violence and bloodshed, and I was not shy about voicing this in front of his council.

I always did have a horrible temper.

I was damned from that day on. I was condemned to die a slow death, first of the mind and soul, then of the body. I thought I could take it, hardened as I was.

How foolish.

The man, the monster who comes in the night to destroy me, is the king's second-in-command. He is a twisted fiend with a sick mind, a vicious predator who loves only the taste of blood and the sound of agony. He has rules, strict rules, and he is painfully well-organized for all of his madness – every blade must point perfectly straight, each whip must be in its rack exactly, the acids labeled neatly and the metal brands polished well. If one thing is wrong in any way, he will punish the man who last organized things unmercifully. And then, always, he will turn to me.

Always, it is the same, regardless of whether a man has ruined something or not. First, he will walk to the cage and speak to me in that dreadfully betraying voice of his, low and smooth and silver, mocking and soothing at the same time. He will attempt to calm me, and with a voice like his, it is almost impossible not to. But if I am too upset and will not calm, which is most of the time, he will grab me by the wrist, slice it open, and pour a cold, blue liquid into the wound. A tingling spreads up my arm, and before long, I am too weak to do a thing, my limbs too heavy to move.

Then, and only then, does he take me.

He then will lay me on the metal table not far from the cage and bind me to it by the ankles and wrists. He will speak some more, and all throughout he will speak, even as I plead for mercy. Even as the tears stream down my face, warm and wet and salty. He will begin – and I never know what he will do to me, for he never does the same thing twice in a row.

But I am not afraid of the pain or the fear – I have gotten used to that a long time ago. Not that… but his eyes.

Those eyes, so clear and bitter. Those eyes, as sharp and cold as shards of ice. They are almost hollow, as if they no longer wish to see the abuse that their owner so desperately craves. They are a penetrating blue, contrasting greatly with his dark hair and so very, very piercing. There is no life in those eyes, and yet I know that they are very much alive, very real, and always watching. I know. I can feel them. Even before he enters the room.

Even as he opens the door and stares at me from across the darkness.

I keep my back turned to the door. I do not want to set eyes on that man, yet I always must in the end.

I hear his footsteps echoing off of the walls as he approaches, and each one had a heavy, dead weight, like the tolling of an iron bell.

He is standing beside my cage. I know this because I can feel his gaze on my neck, burning into my very core…

"Good evening, child."

I smile sadly. So it begins.

His voice is hypnotic, soft and low like that of a teacher conferring with a young child. Sometimes I wonder if he is a sorcerer of some sort – one could so easily slip under his spell with a voice like that, could so easily fall victim to his evil ways…

I grimace, but I do not speak.

"You still refuse to talk? You still will not tell me what you have heard?"

He leans in close and brushes a pale hand through my long, red hair, whispering into my ear.

I shudder.

"You know what will happen if you do not speak..."

I flick my eyes towards his, even though I know I will find nothing there. Oh, yes. I know what will happen.

He lays his hand on my shoulder, an oppressive weight.

I attempt to stifle a whimper of protest, but I cannot. I do not trust a human's touch, not after all I have seen and heard, not after what has been done…

The cage door whines as it opens.

"No! No… please… please, not again…"

I writhe into a corner of the cage, trying vainly to make myself smaller, to keep myself safe…

I am surprised when he closes the door and smirks.

"So she can still speak," He murmured, his eyes afire with joyless laughter. "Can it be true that you are so broken already after only a year in my care? How pitiful…"

He laughed then, rough and loud and shrieking, and as always, the juxtaposition with his much deeper speaking voice is terrifying. He turned those horrible blue eyes towards me, and I knew, as I always knew when he stared, that this time, the consequences would be dire.

I knew, even as he gripped my arm in a stranglehold and aligned the blade of the knife with the previous scars.

"I see, child," he whispered menacingly. "I see what has happened. I can see it in your eyes. Your mind has changed."

I smiled bitterly. Madness? He seriously believes I'm insane?

He smiled, too, a twisted grin of pleasure. "Yes, girl. You finally have lost it for good…"

Two slashes, and I see blood begin to drip onto the floor. A sensation of a liquid upon my skin, and I feel warm, red life beginning to mix with cold, blue chemicals…

I chuckle bitterly as I feel weakness seize my limbs and hear the iron-barred door squeal open…

I'm not insane. Even here, I could never go insane…

The chuckle grows into a laugh, and by the time I am bound to the table, I am in stitches from the irony of it all.

I don't stop laughing, not for a moment. Not even after the first blow.