Neither Autumn nor Edgar knew exactly how they got there; ’twas not as if they just warped there in 1 second—indeed, it seemed mo’ that the prison they now found themselves locked in had ’stead been moved to them, ’neath their feet in such a subtle way that neither had noticed till ’twas far too late.
If Autumn had to pinpoint what she thought was the 1st sign o’ the beginning o’ the experiment, she’d choose 1 soggy fall day when the trucks drove by, their guttural motors shaking the whole district like catfish earthquakes. Pacing the sidewalks was a scientist in a spotless white coat & messy gray hair, rubbing his hand & crab claw together as he watched the trucks with a boyish smile. Autumn swore she’d seen the strange scientist before, but ’ventually chocked it up to déjà vu.
That brief scene had soon ’scaped Autumn’s mind, though there were other signs that Autumn had not considered relevant till hindsight handed her all the puzzles: the construction workers making unknown adjustments to her apartment, as well as completely tearing down & rebuilding other buildings; the rivers blackening with spilt oil, which Autumn was alarmed to see made it to their faucets in all its inky wonder; the graying skies as they were filled with cloud after cloud o’ fog. Autumn began noticing the scientist wearing a gas mask & felt her stomach lurch. A few weeks later, she & Edgar felt a lumpy pain develop in their throats, 1st as a small soreness, & then months later as a clog so thick they gasped for air.
The walls surrounding them seemed to shrink, closing in on them. The windows appeared to shrink as well, slowly shutting them off from the air—as murky as ’twas out there. When they left, they discovered that the buildings being built ’pon the ruins o’ the unbuilt were a litany o’ shops peddling bizarre manufactured food, as well as other commodities.
Autumn went ’head & solicited the 1st shop she saw. As she gazed @ the prices on the long item list board, she discovered that the prices here were much cheaper.
However, when she received her food, she saw that it arrived in an odd li’l cardboard box plastered with colorful designs; & when she opened said box, she saw inside a festering pile o’ green flesh with blue tentacles wiggling out o’ it from various spots. So damp was it that ’twas practically swimming in a lake o’ green liquid @ the bottom o’ the box, sopping it to the point o’ dripping. Accompanying this meal was a tall plastic cup full o’ bubbling yellow liquid. On the label it said, “Acid Quench™.”
Autumn wasn’t going to let a li’l strangeness keep her from perfectly good—’specially for that price!—food, so she scarfed the flesh down without ’nother thought & sipped the Acid Quench on the way home.
However, when she returned, she felt a sharp pain brew in her stomach, as if ’twere lit aflame. @ 1st she tried ignoring it, figuring ’twas just some quick, random upset; but it had prolonged to the point that Autumn could only spend the whole day lying on the ground with her arms clutching her stomach, her face in a permanent wince.
Though she ’ventually became immune ’nough to the food that she didn’t notice the stomach cramps anymore, she noticed it—or something—did seem to have other effects on her physique: her skin felt as if ’twere thinning & loosening, her bones becoming flimsier to the point that 1 o’ her pinkies broke on its own. Her hair gradually fell out. In addition to the difficulty breathing, full o’ heavy gasps, she felt so exhausted all the time that she slept a’least 12 hours every day—& oft spent entire days @ rest.
Worse, she could feel her senses slipping: eyesight became blurry, hearing became muffled, & her nerves became weaker so that she had to muster extra effort just to move her limbs, while her mouth was naturally slack with drool dribbling down her chin.
Though he didn’t eat any o’ the food—being a skeleton who doesn’t need to eat—Autumn could see by the looks o’ Edgar that he wasn’t in the best shape either: always tired, lax, & gasping for air, too.
Finally, Autumn gasped, “We… need to get out o’ here… ’fore this hellhole kills us.”
They crawled to the door & Autumn used its knob to help hoist her to her feet, which shuddered @ the weight they could no longer bear to carry.
“Edgar… grab onto my shoulders for support.”
They pushed past the door as if ’twere a boulder & hobbled down the steps to the ground. Edgar shuddered as he saw what’d happened to the neighborhood; he viewed a farrago o’ humans twisted by the spiked air & laced food: those with green or purple skin; those with long, sharp nails; those with melty stumps where their hands should be, or those who were missing entire arms; some hobbled with bent gaits & some crawled ’long the street, many being thumped to death by apathetic drivers.
Many were fighting ’mong each other with sharp objects & lasers, usually over vials o’ bubbling liquid—the Sweet Juice Edgar had heard was introduced into the neighborhood through subtle means, which soaked its user’s minds in euphoria @ the cost o’ lost brain cells & further mutation.
The district seemed to go on forever, every extra step feeling like an extra hot poker being pressed into Autumn & Edgar’s now-crooked, awkward legs, as if each step sapped mo’ & mo’ energy from them till they felt as if they would collapse in the middle o’ the road & wait for some kind night rider to crush them from their misery.
Luckily, they soon reached the end o’ the district. They could see the jarringly different clean-cut, white wooden houses with smoke-filled chimneys & short-trimmed yards under a warm baby blue sky just a kilometer ’way.
Unluckily, they saw that ’twas closed off by tall wire fences with barbed wire @ the top. Desperate, Autumn made the leap up the fence, clanging it back & forth with rattles like bell tolls ’pon every ravenous grasp upward.
But even if she & Edgar could withstand the barbs @ the top, she still wouldn’t make it that far: uniformed personnel in gas masks outside the gates caught them & pushed them off with long wooden sticks. Autumn was so weak now that after only a few prods, her strength gave in & she toppled back to the ground.
“Sorry, Madame, but to keep the rest o’ the city safe, we must prohibit contaminated people such as you from leaving these gates.”
Autumn gripped the gate, shaking it in her erratic hand accidentally.
“But we can’t live like this… We won’t for long…”
The official only shook his head.
“Sorry, Madame, but to keep the rest o’ the city safe, we must prohibit contaminated people such as you from leaving these gates.”
Autumn wasn’t ’bout to lie ’bout, waiting for her lungs to devolve into gills or her blood to transform into gas: she searched the internet for information regarding what was happening in her district &, ’specially, who that strange scientist was.
Is he the 1 ’hind this? Why? she wondered.
This was rather difficult, as Autumn’s fingers had since merged into 1 hefty claw, & what she’d thought for a while was just a lot o’ sweat from her illnesses was truly a slimy outer layer ’bove her now-scaly, bright orange skin. She also found it difficult to read the websites, still adjusting to seeing with 1 large eye since her 2 merged.
“How you holding up, Edgar?” Autumn asked, turning to him from her monitor.
“Fine,” Edgar said in a muffled, gurgly voice caused by the swelling o’ his larynx so huge, Autumn could see it bulge under his robe. It made her cringe whenever she witnessed it.
“So, what will we do when you find out who’s ’hind all this?” Edgar asked.
“Stop them,” Autumn said, only to end in a coughing fit, causing green mucus to ooze out her nose & mouth.
“How?” Edgar asked.
After Autumn finished wiping her nose & mouth on her sleeve, she answered, “Haven’t figured that out yet. But we’ll need to do it, ’sides.”
Though Edgar didn’t like the images this inspired, he disliked what he imagined would happen if their deterioration continued further.
“Here it is,” she said as she tapped the down button on her keyboard. “The bastard’s name… is Dr. Dysmas Equinox.”
“I recognize that name!” Edgar exclaimed, which surprised Autumn so much that she immediately turned back to him.
Autumn nodded. “Me, too. He’s the crook who turned me into a brain in a jar… & probably stole my diamond, the bastard. I thought I recognized him from somewhere.”
“What’s he doing now?” Edgar asked.
“This site’s not the most… reputable. But, since they seemed accurate… ’bout Equinox’s involvement, I think we can trust the rest. No other choices, ’sides… since I can’t find any other sources.
“Anyway… this site says he’s performing some experiment with Parliament’s permission. Then it gives some buzzword babble…” Autumn paused, squinting harder @ her monitor, so she can read it ’gain & give her mo’ time to breathe. “’…experimenting with the… elasticity o’ how… environmental factors influence… social… whatever…”
“Why would… someone do such a thing?” Edgar asked.
Autumn dug her forehead into her claws. “I don’t understand what any o’ this crap means. I can’t even think anymore. So tired… I just want to lie down & wait for my body to just liquefy already.”
“It’s all right,” Edgar said. “I’m sure if we tell people ’bout this… everything will be fixed.”
“How? You don’t actually expect anyone to believe this website, do you? & the government’s certainly not going to do anything ’cause they’re ’hind it—& even if that’s accidental… you know they’ll want to cover it up mo’ than act to fix it. No. If we want to fix this… we’ll need to do it ourselves.”
This time ’twas Edgar’s turn to ask, “How?”
“We’ll need to track down where this Dr. Equinox is… & force him to reverse all this nonsense.”
“O.” Edgar looked down in worry, but knew that to do nothing would have a much scarier outcome.
“Does that website say where he is?” Edgar asked.
“No,” Autumn said. “& I have no idea where I’m going to find it. If I could still think like a normal human, this would be simple… But I can’t.”
“You need me to help with anything?” Edgar asked, his body sagging, from either distraught or exhaustion, Autumn couldn’t tell.
Autumn shut her laptop & lay down.
“No… We’ll continue this later… For now… let me just rest a li’l…”
Dr. Equinox’s shining glasses were all they saw as he entered the dark office.
Funny: he wasn’t sure why the office lights were off in the 1st place.
The rest was all a blur. He faintly remembered Dr. Equinox passing round papers explaining some procedure that required parliamentary approval, parliament all looking on as they sipped their paper cups o’ water.
He didn’t remember exactly what it said. ’Twas a long day, that was. He couldn’t keep from yawning, which he was sure offended Dr. Equinox.
That innocent smile never left his face, though. He wasn’t sure if Dr. Equinox was just that polite or if he was just hiding his offense.
He knew it was a long day when he saw most o’ parliament’s lax posture & yawning. They all agreed to ajourn early. 1st thing he did ’pon returning home was go right to bed.
’Twas pouring—a neon yellow rain that burned slightly @ touch—when Autumn & Edgar went out ’gain to find Dr. Equinox. The city was covered with a deep gray-brown cast. As they examined their environ, they could see the effects the experiments were having on the district. What they assumed were trees appeared as mere twisted parodies, tangles o’ boughs & trunk so tight they couldn’t tell which was the trunk. The wood was cracked & caked, with shreds o’ bark lying ’long their feet; & from within those shattered holes they could see glowing red, as if they were chest cavities filled with blood. What leaves they still carried on their mangled arms—for most had withered & dropped to their trees’ feet, crumbling into dust soon after—fluttered limply in the wind, sepia.
The rivers were bubbling rainbows from the innumerable chemicals soaked into them. Autumn & Edgar could see thin arms stretch out from them into land in many places: a forecast o’ floods. ’Long the edges o’ the lakes, they witnessed stray sea life flopping desperately: a dull gray fish with half a jaw, a permanently shut eye with thick white liquid oozing, & fins twisted in shapes unseen on fish & a squid with only one tentacle, flopping uncontrollably, leaving purple liquid everywhere it moved.
Edgar pulled his robe & hood tighter round himself to protect himself from both the shivering wind & scorching rain.
The buildings appeared to merge closer farther east till trying to squeeze through them felt as if exploring a maze—1 full o’ trash scattered ’long the floor, glowing chemical spills, & a feral mammal o’ unknown origins here or there. Whether or not any o’ these mammals used to be human or not, neither could discern. In this context, however, they were glad for the clutter, for it gave them a perfect way to hide themselves. They were unsure whether the mammal would have attacked them or not; they didn’t want to find out.
This also gave them a’least 1 reason to be thankful for the darkness they were subjected to in the deeper copse o’ buildings: it made it impossible to see most o’ the manufactured litter surrounding them. They could certainly smell much o’ it—though they couldn’t identify the cacophony o’ odors—& these smells inspired unattractive images.
If the scenery’s freakish features didn’t damper their trip, their bodies’ slow degeneration did, ensuring that they would have to stop a’least every block to catch their breaths. It didn’t help that Autumn’s legs seemed to slowly lose their structure; & every time Autumn turned back to make sure Edgar was keeping up, she thought, any minute now, he was going to just dissolve into a puddle o’ liquid, by the look o’ the waving in & out o’ various parts o’ his cloak.
“I don’t know… if we’ll ever find the bastard,” Autumn said with a wheeze, steam sprouting from her mouth in a heavy exhale. “We may as well just give up & wait till we slowly devolve into protoplasm.”
Edgar said nothing. He didn’t have the strength to, nor did he think he had anything useful to say.
Autumn answered her own question, anyway: “No, there’d be no use in that. ’Sides, sitting round here waiting to croak would be no mo’ enjoyable than carrying forward, so we may as well go on for the .1% chance o’ success.”
& so they did, trudging through the same narrow paths ’tween the same crumbling brick buildings, on & on. If she’d brought a light with her, Autumn would’ve checked the map she downloaded to ensure they were going the right way. She didn’t, so she didn’t waste any mo’ time thinking ’bout it.
She only knew they were getting close when she saw a dim light below her. As they walked farther, the light grew brighter just a li’l, till she could see it seeping out the edges o’ the bottom o’ a building.
“This is it,” Autumn said in a voice croaky from lack o’ use & a long litany o’ obscure diseases.
Edgar merely nodded. A’least he can still do that, Autumn thought.
But they weren’t yet finished with their journey, for they still had to find the front door, which was difficult with the illogical arrangement o’ paths round the buildings. They wandered nearby paths, trying to circle the building, which was when they realized ’twas not a rectangle with 4 horizontal sides, but a boxy shape with a few mo’ sides, going in zigzags—& @ 1 side the building was so close to ’nother that it seemed as if they were 1 long building, ’cept for the crack ’tween them, much too thin for any human, or probably even any atom, to fit through.
I bet the door’s on that side, Autumn thought.
But after going all the way round the other side—rounding a few other buildings, as well—they ’ventually found the door.
’Course, when Autumn twisted the knob, she discovered it locked. But this lock was no match for her needle-shaped claws.
Even with both the smog & the buildings blocking so much light, there was ’nough light was able to get in to dimly see inside. She saw a small, boxy room, similar to the average apartment room: carpeted floor & plaster walls with baseboard ’long the bottom. Everything was covered in a dim blue cast, which made identifying everything’s natural color impossible.
Then ’gain, Autumn had much mo’ pressing issues for which to fret.
For 1, what else was there? She leaned her head in & squinted, but couldn’t see anything but bareness—not even a chandelier ’bove. Then she entered, swinging her eyes in all directions. She slowly moved ’long the walls, hoping to find a hidden door.
But after minutes o’ searching, she found nothing.
“I think that door led us into a dead end,” Autumn said as she sat crouched near the back wall, scrutinizing the baseboard. “I see no way to go farther in from this room. Then ’gain… both my mind & eyesight are going, so perhaps… Edgar, how’s your eyesight doing? Any better than mine, probably?
She was ’bout to turn round to see if something was wrong with Edgar—’bout to ’cause, ’fore she had a chance, she felt cold claws clutch her face from ’hind, keeping her head still &, mo’ importantly, blocking her nose & mouth from oxygen. She knew struggling would be futile, with her physique so weakened by her innumerable illnesses; so she just waited as her brain starved to sleep, accepting whatever fate her strangler had in mind for her.
Autumn woke from the black void ’hind her eyelid to see a dark gray void outside it, blurry & hazy as ever in her malformed eye. She slowly scooted herself up, despite the deep exhaustion in her bones & the overall unnamed crumminess felt all over—in her head, her throat, her stomach, in her joints: the perpetual hangover.
She saw bars in front o’ her, & nothing else to her sides, ’hind, ’bove, or below. Through them she could see a wider room full o’ stuff—stuff she could hardly recognize, & which was so numerous, it’d take days to account for it all. She discovered the source for the constant scratchy buzz she heard as she woke: on some computer terminals were diodes glowing with yellow light, streams o’ zigzagging white electricity crossing ’tween them.
In addition, Autumn saw a convoluted mechanism o’ vials & test tubes pouring multicolored chemicals round each other, all ending their unnatural stream in a bulbous black pot. What ’twas for, Autumn had no idea.
Perhaps she preferred it that way.
She scooted even closer to the bars, clutching them in her claws, & gazed out them, when she saw someone in a lab coat walk in. It had been such a long time since Autumn had seen a human with human appendages or organs that her eyes widened, as if she were watching an alien walk toward her.
Sure ’nough, she could see by his familiar mustache & goatee that he was Dr. Equinox.
“Ah, I see you’re awake, Madame Springer,” he said.
“How do you know my name?” Autumn asked dully, for she was far too sapped o’ energy to do anything as strenuous as emit emotion.
“We met before, remember? Let me just say that I’m proud to have you, my 1st test subject, here with me ’gain for further experimentation,” Equinox said.
He pointed a friendly finger up in the air, as if a professor giving a simple lesson. Everything ’bout him appeared friendly, ’cept the dark red stains on his coat.
That was what made Autumn’s pulse run.
“Where’s Edgar?” she asked.
“Mmm, the skeleton who was accompanying you? He’s undergoing a different form o’ experimentation & examination. His transformation is much different from everyone else I’ve seen, & I simply must know the reason.”
“If you mean… ’cause he’s a skeleton, I can save you time: he’s naturally that way.”
Equinox rubbed his chin, unsure o’ whether to believe Autumn or not.
“When did I give you permission to lock me in this cage & perform experiments?” Autumn asked.
“When did I give you permission to invade my lab?” Equinox replied with a polite smile.
“Good point,” Autumn said. “You know I can break out, right? Let me see Edgar or I’ll do so… as well to your legs.”
Equinox chuckled lightly, as if she’d told a simple pun.
“Madame, there’s no reason to act hostile…”
“I’ll be the judge o’ that,” Autumn said. “Let me see Edgar, prick.”
“Mmm… It seems someone’s getting a li’l grumpy today. I s’pose we’d better get started with the 1st experiment,” Equinox said as he walked over to the table near the terminals with the diodes.
He dug through the mountain o’ trinkets, doodads, & even bauble, picking 1 up, tossing ’nother.
“You come anywhere near & I will… jab this claw o’ mine—thanks to you… right in your eye, you prick,” Autumn said, barely mustering energy in her voice.
Equinox merely tsk-tsked while he continued his search ’mong the gewgaws.
“Ah, here it is,” he said as he held up a golden key.
Autumn continued to watch Equinox with sullen eyes as he walked over to the terminals & put the key in a slot. A loud dinging erupted from it; the diodes glowed & sparked twice as fast. Equinox walked a li’l farther to the main computer deck, where the monitor was, & began typing on the keyboard.
She decided that trying to stop whatever Equinox was doing would be impossible, & so it’d be a better use o’ her time to try breaking out o’ her cage, ’stead. She scooped round her pockets, which reminded her that she still had that file in her shoe.
But as she attempted to drag it out, she realized she’d never be able to hold it, no longer possessing an opposable thumb. However, she did find a way to move the file round while on the floor next to a bar, slowly scraping it ’nough to begin cutting it. She thought if she could hold the file ’long the ceiling & do the same to the top part o’ the bar she could maybe cut her way out.
“1st, we’ll need to put you to sleep so that your… imprudence does interfere with our experiments…” Dr. Equinox called out as he continued his typing.
Put me to sleep? Shit! How long will that take?
Autumn’s question was answered when she felt clouds o’ lavender fog puff through her cage, which made her nerves buzz with exhaustion.
“Augh. You poker,” she muttered.
Her cutting slowed to a stop, her body slumped down the bars like melted ice cream, & her eyes peeled shut till she was curled up in a deep pause. Just ’fore sleep sapped her o’ all consciousness, she felt warm & serene, her pleasure sensors fed in a way they haven’t been for a while.
In the back o’ Autumn’s mind her thoughts shouted in desperation in the last moments ’fore unconsciousness left her completely to Equinox’s hands.
Autumn had not only lost track o’ time; she’d also lost track o’ the difference ’tween reality & dream, awake & asleep. The ensuing transformations challenged her deepest held convictions regarding reality & were surrounded by an endless restlessness & harassment, a mental chaos o’ sights, sounds, & senses—unbearable heat closely connected with cold; loud whirrs, low beeps, & a cacophony Autumn couldn’t recognize, certainly not in this state; blacks, whites, neon reds—all strung together in one uninterrupted mess; seemingly smooth transitions ’tween sleep & consciousness when everything else was a scatter o’ disjointed events.
When, if, or how Autumn ate, drank, or used the bathroom within any o’ these, she had no idea; then ’gain, considering the extremity o’ Equinox’s experiments, she wouldn’t be surprised if he eliminated the need for any o’ these functions.
She’d lost & regained limbs; lost memories & gained some she’d never had before—she’d even had her molecular structure radically altered. Many modifications she could neither pin down nor name, though she sensed them deep inside. ’Course, Equinox didn’t provide her with a mirror—& her eyesight had drastically been readjusted, as well—so she did not know how every transformation appeared.
She figured this was probably for the best.
What surprised her the most—& the alternate she feared most—was that, save a few tweaks here & there, her mental capacity remained mostly the same. She still kept the ability to recognize her own existence as a human & hadn’t literally become a thoughtless animal, or even an inanimate object, a vegetable.
Not yet, a’least.
When she had the chance—when her body makeup was configured in a way that made it possible & when she was conscious ’nough—she continued scraping her file gainst the bars, slowly cutting them millimeter by millimeter, in the hopes o’ eventual ’scape.
Every time she tried, she was surprised Equinox hadn’t figured out what she was doing: he hadn’t caught the file or the deepening cuts on the bars. Then ’gain, he was hardly ever near her cage, preferring to do all his work safely far ’way @ his computer.
When she wasn’t rumination over all o’ this, she wondered what was happening to Edgar. Probably something much worse, she thought with bile rising up her elongated throat. She figured it most likely that Edgar wasn’t even alive anymore—or wouldn’t be by the time she finally ’scaped.
Dr. Equinox seemed happily unaware o’ all these concerns, taping ’way @ buttons here & there, pulling that lever every so oft, whistling & humming all the way, as if she weren’t even there.
Every so oft he would take a break from his experiment to sit in his swivel chair & scribble down notes on his clipboard—not a sheet o’ paper on a clipboard, ’course; just the wooden clipboard itself. Autumn felt a chill—or, a’least, she would’ve if her blood had not been filled with molten lava—when she looked @ Dr. Equinox’s eyes. There was no hatred, bitterness, violent glee, or any other emotion one might expect from someone who would commit such actions as he had only recently. All she witnessed was the calmness o’ the average bag boy sorting groceries & wishing customers a good day.
Indeed, every night ’fore Equinox would leave—a’least, when she was still conscious to know—he’d turn to Autumn, wave, & tell her goodnight. @ 1st she thought he was taunting her: The cottonswabber; & yet, his eyes had that same polite calmness, which made her think that he was not doing this out o’ enmity, but likely didn’t even consider the ethical—or even just objectively harmful to her—effects his button presses had.
This only embittered Autumn further. She could tolerate being twisted & assaulted in the worse way out o’ violent hatred, even if not her specifically; but she couldn’t tolerate her existence being considered so frivolous that this bastard didn’t even recognize that she’d despise him for it, that he should feel either bile or pity for her—or something, a’least! Not that plastic smile that so radically violated the reality o’ the situation—that committed such crimes, & then pretended as if they’d not existed, just to add fire ants to the radioactive scorpions.
She had much time to ruminate over this, for the experiments were long & unbearably tedious—the sharp pain ’ventually becoming so common that her nervous system adjusted to it—though, probably helped by some experiment—& became just a dull pain, just a never-ending harassment. Though she still had lost all bearing on time, she still swore she’d been a subject for a’least a month, probably mo’.
Her fears did spike, however, when she felt simple language & math “lessons”—ideas that were internally consistent, but contradicted the world she was used to—creep into her head that she knew she surely wouldn’t be thinking ’bout in a situation such as this. Are they trying to force “knowledge” into me? & what limits would this have? Could they destroy knowledge, too? Could they replace ideas with those that are mo’ convenient for them?
But there was nothing she could do, ’cept use what mental powers she still had to reject whatever they tried to input into her. Then, perhaps, she’d hopefully develop an immunity or a’least a stronger resistance. ’Twas not a prospect she considered likely, or even logical; but ’twas not as if she had a better solution.
Meanwhile, she continued her filing, ever fearful o’ being discovered any moment. But Equinox never seemed to; to do so would require he remembered she still had independent cognition, which she was beginning to think he didn’t do. In this case she s’posed it had an advantage after all.
All o’ her patience finally paid off when, in the midst o’ her absentminded filing, she felt her file hit a hole & looked to see the final bar fall, leaving a hole wide ’nough to move through.
This made her panic as much as it enthralled her, for now she suddenly had to consider what she should do. After a few minutes o’ consideration, she decided she would wait till Equinox left for the night, giving her ample safety to make her ’scape, & perhaps find Edgar—Edgar! How she’d missed feeling the cragginess o’ his bony hands or looking into the black voids o’ his eyeholes! She decided it’d be less likely that Equinox would notice the hole in her cage, if he’d never seen her cutting the bars; & even if he did ’ventually notice, then the time it took him to move over & fix it would be as safe a time to ’scape as now.
No, she succeeded with patience, & so she would continue to succeed with patience.
But lord, did it feel like hours ’fore he left! & all the while her 5 hearts stirred throughout, expecting him to turn to her & notice the hole—or even just push a button & have it fixed automatically ’fore she could even move! Her mind frantically sifted through various alternate plans o’ action in case things went amok, but she found none that soothed her worries completely.
Luckily, she needn’t worry, for ’ventually Equinox got up from his chair, turned to her, & told her goodbye. She expected him to notice the hole then, her nerves tightening in anticipation, but ’stead he just turned & walked out the door. Just to be extra sure, she waited a’least what she thought was an hour ’fore acting, becoming increasingly incredulous @ such unexpected success.
But then she decided that there was no time like now, & squirmed with her millions o’ tendrils out the hole.
But when she touched the outer edge o’ the cage, she felt the sharp shiver o’ a shock rush through her body from her tendril, causing her to automatically pull it back. After a minute o’ confusion, she tried ’gain, only for the shock to be so severe that it knocked her body gainst the wall @ the back.
’Fore she could get back up, Equinox’s voice rang through the room:
He chuckled lightly. “How clever o’ you to figure out how to break through those bars o’ yours. ’Course, I was not so naïve ’nough to not notice you conspicuously cutting into them with that knife—or was it a file?—of yours, but I didn’t want to tamper with this wonderful mini-experiment. However, I’m afraid I must step in when your mini-experiment might ruin the greater 1, & thus must use this force field to keep you inside, you naughty specimen, you.”
& with that the room was left in dark silence once mo’. Autumn lay there for minutes, trying not to understand what had happened, but to accept what she knew had occurred. How could she ever get through a computer-generated, electrified force field? What would she even use to get through it?
She spent the rest o’ the night in a wakeful mental mire, even though she knew that getting out o’ there was simply physically impossible. For god’s sake, I’m a barely mentally or physically functioning organism, whereas he has the power o’ Star Wars technology! It’d be easier for a hamster to ’scape its own cage by its own doing—& when does that ever happen but in cute anime?
She realized the only chance o’ that happening was if the master himself made a slip—leaving the carrier open when feeding the rodent, for instance—which was what she had been operating under already. However, the kind o’ person who recorded a message specifically to taunt her on her failure would not slip so easily, when he had no reason to ever release her from her cage, letting computer-operated tubes do everything for him.
Thus, the situation was hopeless. ’Scape was hopeless; her chances o’ ever finding Edgar ’gain were hopeless—whatever they were doing to him. The visual made her shutter. It’d be better to forget ’bout all that forever.
She did not completely give up trying to think o’ how to ’scape, ’course, for that would be an utter waste; but she knew in the back o’ her mind while she concentrated on the problem that the solution was as impossible as a triangle whose angles only add up to 180° or lines that never intersect.
So she ended up spending mo’ o’ her remaining time thinking ’bout the unbearable harassment these experiments &, mo’ importantly, wondering how long till she either died from complications or lost her independent thoughts & became a mental vegetable—which was, to her, congruent with death, anyway. Furthermore, she wondered if she should consider the latter a horrific or merciful outcome.