'It's dark. Why is it so dark? Oh god it hurts. What..what hurts? I can feel pain on me but…where is my body? What's happening? What is this? I can't breathe! The pain is getting closer. My legs. I can feel them now, so heavy. It's my stomach hurting. The skin. A-and my fingers. My fingers are digging into my stomach. My teeth. I've got to open my mouth, I have to breathe!' I manage to writhe, feeling my face press against a cold floor as I do. I desperately tell my jaw to open and when it does, I take in a breath so deep that I start coughing. My body slacks. I hadn't realized I was so curled into myself.
"Hahaha right in the gut!" that wasn't my voice. That wasn't even in my head.
I pull myself, gasping, on to all fours. The floor feels like steel. There is now a slit of light high up in the darkness and for some reason it causes my heart to race. Without warning, my body throws its self away from it, to the right. I cannot stop myself. I feel so anxious. I need to get away. I make it four pathetic crawls away from my original spot when I slam into a cold barrier. What the hell? My hands grope at the obstacle, still out of my control as they prod for a way around it. My heart sinks when my fingers find a corner to my left attached to a steel wall running parallel to me. I am disoriented but my hands know to make their way the other edge of the blockade I crashed into. Again a corner, this time to my right, followed by an icy wall. My head twists over my shoulder to look at the slit of light coming from what I now know is a wall to the left. It darkens as something is put in front of it. The rest of my body sloppily turns and I am on my ass with my back to the immovable material. Facing away from the back wall, the danger is now at my right. A small, glowing blue orb appears where the light was and begins to descend in my direction. My throat trembles with a terrified moan and I all know is that I am very much afraid of this thing. My legs have begun thrashing, pushing me as far into the nearest corner as they can. Unfortunately, that is the corner closest to the blue object- alas nothing seems like a good plan. Every move I make creates a terrifyingly loud sound, giving away my position in the darkness to this thing that I would very much like to hide from. I do not know when I started to cry and I am only aware of this because there is a tightness in my chest. The blue orb gets closer until it touches my calf.
It only grazes me but instantly my leg feels broken. It is like someone has gone and lit a fire inside of the bone until it began to melt. I am screaming. I can feel the corners of my lips stretching. The pain shoots up to my hip and my body jerks to the side as though it can detach from my pelvis and escape the ungodly sensation. I have no balance, despite the desperate thrashing of my tail, and so I fall, knocking my head on the wall across from where the orb appeared. My teeth are clenched shut again and my nose is burning- dry from my erratic breaths. "Ack, let me show you how to do it." That voice was different from the last. Another slit of light opens up, this time on the left wall, where my head is. I can just barely see part of a shelf through the space and like a wave ending its run to the shore, my thoughts organize. 'Shit. I'm still in this fucking box!' My heart is pounding against my ribs as I see yet another blue orb enter the slot. This time, I catch a glimpse of the rod it is attached to. I can at last feel my ears and they are pressed flat against my head. My lips curl back in a snarl and a growl vibrates in my chest. The one who has the rod misinterprets my terror and takes my vocalization as a challenge. He slurs a string of curses at me while thrusting the rod in my direction. I manage to lift myself to a half kneeling positing and press against the back wall once more. The clanging of my attempt to evade gives me away a second time. When the orb hits the skin below my right collar bone, the wielder doesn't let up and instead jabs it in harder. It is like I am going to die. My throat closes up and my body seizes. My head feels like it is exploding. I don't remember rolling onto my stomach. All I am aware of is my entire body jerking violently. I can hear the echoing thud of my limbs and tail involuntarily contorting, hitting the walls and the floor.
The area around my mouth is cold. It's something like a vapor. My head is fuzzy and most of the pain from earlier is gone. Even with my eyes closed it is bright and so I do not open them. The presence of so much light tells me I must have been taken out of that infernal box. I can only keep my lids closed for a few moments more before curiosity overcomes me. Sure enough I am blinded by a light above my face. While it intrigues me as to how this flame does not flicker, it is too painful to look at head on. I know I am lying in a slightly bent position but I do not move to sit up. My eyes look to my left and I see a pale blue counter with many beige cabinets. In the middle of the counter there is a strange silver tube that runs up and then bends, facing back down to face the surface. I watch it for a moment but it does nothing. My ear swivels to my right as it registers a small sound. I shift my eyes to look and I jump when I see an old man there cleaning tiny, glinting items on a silver table. I try to inch away from him but when I look down at my body, on top of noticing there was a clear dome over my mouth and nose; I see a brown leather strap going across my chest. I try to move my arms and legs. Same deal. I can't even lift my head. The only parts of me that can move are my ears, my fingers, and the tip of my tail, which is pathetically thrashing side to side. I am not surprised but it doesn't mean I am not scared shitless. I know I was captured but my memories are scattered. I have a name..I just do not know what it is. I know I have..or had..a home, a family, friends, but I can't picture their faces or the surroundings. The old man finally notices me watching him. He stares for a moment before returning to his tools in a bored manner. I am not happy to be strapped down with yet another stranger at my side but hell, even leaving me alone for five minutes feels like saintly mercy to me right now. A squeak regains in my attention and I watch him rise out of the chair. My mind is scrambling, trying to figure out what to think of this person. He is fat, but his skin is not taught over his weight and I can see that his belly droops under the white fabric loosely clinging to his body. It hard to see below his waist with how close his is to me but I can see that there is a light brown fabric covering his legs. His face is meaty with many thick wrinkles that start small under his eyes and fold like fabric down to his jaw line. There is a thin, pale line for his lips and from his chin the skin hangs until it reaches his collar. Right now, his is the only face I know. I fear him and yet I love him, just for the fact that when I look away I can remember what he looks like.
He steps closer to me and with each advance I feel my ears sink to lay low. His hand lifts and before I can react he places it on the mask.
"Deep breaths. Deep breaths." His voice was firm but not jeering or angry.
I keep my gaze on him but I follow his instructions. His fingers are thick and short. There are brown speckles going up his wrinkled arm until they disappear under the stark sleeve. The deeper the breath I take, the more I can feel a chill going into my lungs and passing through my limbs. I feel almost calm as he lifts the mask off, sliding it down to my neck. In order to remove it completely he would have had to undo the strap on my head. The chill lingers on my cheeks and my lips. I lick at them, wondering if my senses were damaged from my time in the box. My ears perk at the sound of screeching wheels and I notice the man is pulling a chair over to my side. A huff leaves him as he sits his large body down. He picks up a pair of dark grey gloves that look worn and ripped in some places. My stomach has the returning sting of anxiety.
"Chh,chh,chh its ok kitty. It's ok."
In the back of my mind I glower at the baby talk. He picks up one of his silver objects and looks to me. 'Ok, now I'm really nervous'. It is cube shaped, but it is made of only thin, rounded edges. It is not tall and so while the top and bottom spaces are square, the other four faces look like narrow rectangles. On one of these narrow spaces, there is a small, circular bit sticking out of each corner.
"Come on, I'm not going to hurt you."
I watch as his hand gets close to my chin. I attempt to snarl a warning but my lips hardly twitch. His gloved hand reaches my mouth and he prods one finger past my lips. Another one follows and the two digits press on my teeth until they wedge a small space open. I whine my distress and the feeling of helplessness is all too real.
"I'm sorry little one. Come on."
With that he further spreads my jaws and he props them open with his thumb on the top row and a finger on the bottom. Without comment he slips the cube frame into my mouth. I try to move my tongue and push out the device but it also is paralyzed. He removes his hand from its job of holding my teeth apart and begins adjusting the frame. I feel a series a snaps and realize that my canines have been inserted into the circular pieces. At this I try to make some sound of protest but none rise from my throat. Sitting back, he takes in his handiwork and removes the heavy gloves. When they are placed back the table, he returns to the contraption. I can feel my mouth being opened further each time he twists something on the cube. I manage to begin yowling though it pains my throat. It must be sore from before. A few moments pass until he looks me in the eyes.
"Shh, quiet kitty. You know that won't do you any good. I am trying very hard not to hurt you, see? You feel no pain."
He was right, physically I feel no pain. But he could not tell me that the confusion and fear of this place is not wreaking havoc on my sanity.
He turns away for a moment and picks up something new from his silver table. It is small and shaped like a tiny stick. On the end there is a white ball. As he comes closer all I can think about is how sick I am of steel and rods with things on them. His empty hand moves towards me yet again but this time, it lands on my shoulder and he gently squeezes.
"I am going to try and make this quick. It will not hurt but…" He trails off and looks down at the tool in his hand. I am having a hard time feeling comfort or understanding for his empathy with my mouth agape. He positions himself over my face, his beady eyes, which I can now tell are blue, peering at my teeth. "All I can tell you is that more likely than not, it will get better."
I know he is not talking about what he is going to do, which is still unknown to me. A part of me is glad for his compassion and, while I do not know what my life is going to be like from this point on, I store away a hope that this man is right. There is a shrill noise that comes from the thing in his hand. My ears pull back, trying to block out the sound. He positions the white ball near my teeth and I whimper. The ball touches my canine and I can feel the vibrations in my skull. Confusion strikes me and for some time I attempt to wrap my mind around what the man could possible accomplish by vibrating my tooth. When I feel the first particles of my canine fly on a trajectory to hit my outer cheek, I feel sick with realization of his project. As best I can with my tongue trapped and my throat torn I start shouting at him.
"No!" It barely comes out sounding like a word but I keep repeating it.
I am overcome with energy and I call upon every muscle in my body to fight against the thick bonds. I thrash so hard that now I can hear the leather straining and whatever surface I'm lying on starts creaking. Still the man toils, the little tool sanding away my canine. He does not offer words of comfort anymore. I feel that he is about midway, the bottom half of my tooth turned into dust. I had hoped he'd be done by now, that all he wanted to do was round off the pointed end.
Again it is barely understandable; double so with the loudness of the machine. When he doesn't pause, I scream out of pure frustration - trying to twist my head away from him.
By the time he stops it is as though he is grinding my gums. He leans back and cracks his back, before coming over me again. My vision goes blurry with tears,
If he understood me, he didn't show it and he went to work on the point of my second upper canine. I lay still for a while, crying silently while the vibrations get closer to the roof of my mouth. But it's not long before I go back to writhing. I try not focus on the sound of my mutilation and instead test each and every strap for weakness- twisting and pulling each limb until it burned. The tool stops and he starts on the point below it. Attempting to haunch my shoulders up, I hope to pull my neck down, taking my head out from under the strap on my forehead. After trying over and over, I thrash my whole body in aggravation. It would work if I was just a little lower and the strap placed a little higher. The third was now filed down and the old man was moving to the forth. I scream as loud as I can at him but still I get no reaction. But I know in my gut that if I give in now, I will always think back and regret the time I didn't try to fight till the end. Exhausted, I continue to pull, twist and push at everything holding me. He finishes and puts the tool down, leaving me shaking, worn out and tearful over my ordeal. 'Fuck. What is happening?' I just want to close my eyes and sleep. The man watches me as I groan and attempt to push the device off of my aching jaws.
"Almost over." He breathes, at last, breaking his silence.
I wish I could bang my head on something when I hear the word 'almost'. I tremble as I watch him picking four things up off a low shelf on the table, setting three of them down on a corner nearest to me. He comes to me holding one of them up. It looks like a miniature bucket with no handle. It is a light, delicate, silvery white color with what appears to be pinpoint sized diamonds going in a single vertical line, top to bottom. He grabs a small tube and squeezes a drop of its content into the object. He then brings it to my mouth, and very slowly, I feel him push it onto one of my trimmed teeth. 'Great. Now I am being decorated. I'll pull those off first chance I get.' I think bitterly as he does the same to the next three caps. When he is done, he walks away and out of my sight. I can still hear him and it sounds like he is shuffling through his things. It feels like an eternity passes with me staring at the blank walls, too engulfed in my emotions to sub come to my need for sleep. The man walks back into view, and his hand goes to the contraption. I can feel my jaws coming closer together until they are at the original height of the cube. He puts his thick gloves on and picks up a tool with two handles and a triangular top. My eyes light up but he is quick to console me.
"Shh, shh. Two seconds."
I feel the pressure on my canines being released as he clips open the circular bits. After he puts the clippers down, he grabs hold of the frame.
I am more than happy to oblige and he pulls the thing out of my mouth. I wiggle my jaw as much as I can, massaging my lips against my teeth in an attempt to awaken feeling and regain control. Now that my tongue rests against my teeth, I can taste the caps.
We sit in silence for a while as I register the events of the past hours. He sits in his chair next to me, hands clasped together, elbows on his knees. I am first to break the silence.
"Wh-why? Who are you? Why did you do this?" I look to him, asking with my eyes as much as my words.
Despite what he has done, he has still shown me the most kindness. I can't help but feel…betrayed and so I demand an answer.
"Here take these. If you can move your lips, you might feel pain soon."
He opens a bottle and pours two small, white pebbles into his palm. He goes to my left, towards the counter where the silver tube is. He pulls something to the side of it and water comes flowing out. While he fills a tiny cup, the water makes an odd sound inside of it and I can tell it is not any cup I would know if I had my memory.
Holding the pebbles over my mouth he explains, "I will answer you. Do not worry. These are not to harm you. They come apart in water and they help with pain."
I wonder how many more times this person is going to mess with my mouth and I sincerely hope this is the last. I swallow the tiny ovals after he pours the water past my lips. He returns to his chair and takes a moment before he speaks.
"I assume you know why you were captured. The-"
I cut him off with a look of confusion.
"Do you..really not know?" He looks puzzled now after I croak out a raspy 'no'.
The word reminds me of my earlier pleading and it makes me shiver. He lets out a deep breath through his nose and looks at his hand seriously, as though disappointed in them for not telling me.
His mouth opens and closes a few times with false starts before he begins, "You were taken from your homeland by traders." My heart pounds but I listen intently. "They capture your kind and train you…as pets."
The information does not hit me as he intended and I retort, "They cannot keep me. I will just go. I do not want to be here!"
My muscle control is finally back for the most part.
"You might come to like your new life. I hear most nekos do."
I scoff, "So far all I've received is torture and bondage." I pull at the straps to emphasize.
"I am sorry I had to be a part of that but if you just follow along with your training-"
I feel my lips pull back in a snarl, "I will not be trained!" the force of my statement makes him jump. I almost feel guilty.
"You cannot get out of this. Your teeth now mark you as a pet. No matter if you managed to run away, even your own won't have you. Only very powerful people can own a neko and should their prize escape, no expense would be spared to recover it."
At this I am silent and it feels like there is something cold in the pit of my stomach.
"Why. Why are you a part of this?" the question tumbles from my lips softly as though it were only an escaped thought. I do not look at him but I hear him sigh through his nose.
He takes a moment, "This can be a painful process. I believe mentally more than physically. I honestly do believe that many of you go on to lead happy lives in your new homes. I am here to try and make some good from one of the more…harrowing experiences. I'd rather it be me than some prick who just wanted his check at the end of the week." He said the last sentence with an anger in his voice that made the loose skin on his jowl tremble.
I do not know what a check is but I understand what he was trying to say. I close my eyes, taking in the information. My tongue again sends me a taste of the caps on my diminished teeth.
"Forgive me if I'm not exactly grateful." I cannot help the resentment for his work from spilling into my words.
"I do not expect you to be." My lids open halfway and I look over to him, catching a fleeting sad smile.
"Where did I come from?" I ask tentatively.
He looks puzzled again but he responds, "I honestly do not know. Most of you come from a mountain range that stretches across many territories. There are many cultures and many mysteries around your kind. Questions that even your own elders do not know the answers to. The only thing I am told when you come in, is your sex." He pauses for a moment, but he looks deep in thought and so I do not interject.
"They really hurt you back there, huh. In the box." His inquiry is confirmed when I tense up and look away. "It's probably why you've forgotten so much. Though, it might be better for you that way."
The rest of our time is spent in silence. He has no answers, and while I do not loath him, I will not try to become friends with the man who maimed me. I fall asleep after a while. It is a dark and dreamless sleep, but I am completely drained. A hand on my forearm awakens me.
"I did not want to startle you. This is where we part ways. I wish you a happy life." I feel a prick on my skin that makes me gasp.
"What are you doing to me now damnit!"
Silently, the old man pulls away, a clear item in one hand. He walks out of sight and I feel the same coldness that was once in my lips begin to creep up my arm. As it reaches my shoulder, my eyes start to droop. The weight of sleep overtakes me and I give in, not having enough strength left to fight it.