I could hear the sound of his footsteps as they neared my room. They always had the same alarm to them. How he figured me out, I will never know. He takes the same pause each time before opening the door, like he's nervous I won't still be here. If the chance arrived, I would be out, gone, far away from this dungeon. A light knock of the lunch tray hitting the door echoed through the walls. Click, the door was open and a slither of light caused my pupil to dilate. The tray sat, waiting on the desk by the door, its contents perfectly aligned. It held one small apple, a neatly trimmed tuna sandwich, and a cold glass of milk.
The day this became my life was just like the rest. Men waltz in and out of the bar, searching for some girl to take home for the night. Some even try to take me home but it is a game never won. This man, he played no games and asked all the right questions. Where did I live? How old was I? When did my nails become claws and my hands become paws? How long ago was it that I had stopped a bank robbery? Christopher Ward was his name, Christopher instead of Chris, a classy man. After closing he proved himself wrong, kidnapping an innocent girl who only sought to help.
Days turned into weeks and he refused to speak, refused to tell me why I was here and when I would be set free. No one ever visited him; perhaps I was his only companion. One could feel bad for a man so lonely, but I resented him. My freedom was gone and this room had no windows, only a small lamp, a clean bathroom and a decent sized mattress. The walls were grey and damp, this was a basement I was sure. There were no familiar sounds, only his occasional breathing.
The slither of light cascaded across the room and the door widened. Was he letting me go? The lock clicked again and the switch to the lamp was pulled. His face was all too familiar. Several times I had saved him from gangs trying to kidnap him. A man so suave was also a man hunted. A chill crossed my spine when he came closer, sitting only inches away from me. Tension was in the air and breathing was difficult.
"Echo,' he whispered my name like poetry and it bounced from the walls. Time for pretending was over, my secret was discovered. A girl who changes into a feline does not live unseen, un-researched. Though I am no lab experiment, my abilities came from an unknown source and these monsters only wanted to test me.
Throughout the city was crime and I was always there to stop it. Why would the government seek to squander such talent? They would defile me until the good left inside was filled with resentment. My companions are few with good reason. People who discover me only ever want to hurt me or turn me over to some man with a gun. Running was all too common and my house was never a home. Deadbolts can keep out bad guys but are never enough to squander the fears. Now I was finally captured and this man stood in my way of freedom.
"Echo I do not want to hurt you. This is for your protection. Think of it this way, I am not confining you, I am keeping them out," he sighed. None of his words would be enough to move me. Locking me away with light or even speaking to me proved to be no protection.
"Keeping who out?" My voice is cracked from days of screaming, hoping someone would hear. It frightens me to hear it so diminished.
"The government wants to experiment on you, duplicate your genes."
"And you know this?" He had discovered what I was, of course he would know what to do with me.
"I own the company that they are planning to overthrow. We try to stop them from making these crossbreeds, it takes lives. Finding you proves it can be done, making our contract with the government difficult."
"Why kidnap me and wait so long to tell me what was happening?"
"Sorry, you must be frightened. I mean it; I'm not going to hurt you. It was better I keep everything quiet, until it could all be sorted. Our company, it won. You are free to go but feel free to stay. There are better rooms upstairs. I made salmon for dinner and bought you some clothes to change into."
Gripping the edge of the mattress was the only way to calm my nerves. This man, he was trying to protect me, not expose me. The days I worried if I would see light again, he had done all that was possible to keep it shining. If only he had said something, anything, the fear I felt could have been diminished so quickly. Now, none of it mattered, I am free. Cold lonely nights are a past time; I could go home to be with whom?
The friends I had were abandoned when I left my home town. Once they knew my secret I was taunted. Small towns are not homes to secret laboratories, they housed harsh words. Discarded from the neighborhood I grew up in, left to wander alone. Those I met along the way proved to be no better.
Without this man, without Christopher I truly had no one. Suddenly the urge to leave was gone and I just wanted to be held. No one had tried to protect me before. I knew I was profit, a way to pay off a house or car. This loneliness weighed in my chest and I wanted it to be over. One can go so long until they need feel the warmth of another; hear the hum, drum heart beat of another. My arms wrapped about his waist, he was stunned and not even I knew how to react.
"I think I'll stay."