What does it mean to be evil? Who decides what is right or wrong? There are questions that seems simple at first, but are they really? Killing another person is evil. Killing another person in self-defense is not. If you attack someone, they fight back, and you then kill them in self-defense, is that evil? You attacked them first, yes, but with no intention of killing anyone. What about assisted suicide? What about assisted suicide where the other person is too drunk or sick to know what he or she is asking for?
Picture this: You are sitting in a box on a busy street. The box is designed so you can see out, but no one can see in. You can hear everyone outside the box, but no one can hear you. Every day, you see people walking past, smiling, laughing and being happy. Every single day, you see people hurrying to get to work, arguing with each other, meeting friends, meeting lovers, couples breaking up, children laughing and playing. And every day, no one knows that you are inside the box they walk past. What would a life like that do to a person? What would it be like to live like that for more than 20 years?
I don’t have the answers for any of that, but this book was an honest attempt to find out. It’s a book about loneliness, and being so desperate to be loved that you are willing to do anything just to get one more day with someone saying they care.
**]THE STATEMENT OF SHARON CARTER
“Sharon, Sharon, Sharon…” the doctor sighed. “What are we going to do with you? You have been here for six years already, but you show no sign of improvement. Or to be precise, you keep saying you have improved, but I think you are only saying what I want to hear. So let’s go through this one last time, OK? You called yourself… the Valkyrie, was it?”
Sharon Carter slowly counted to ten in her head before dignifying the doctor with an answer. They had discussed this countless times already, and she doubted this would be the last time. Annoyed, she sunk a but further down into the chair and sighed too heavily to be believable.
“The Valkyrie, yes,” she said low and showed a great interest in her fingernails. “What about it?”
“Sharon, you need to understand the seriousness here,” the doctor said firmly. “This is your future we are talking about. If you don’t show sign of getting better, you might not get out of here at all.”
“I don’t care,” Sharon whispered. The doctor asked her to repeat, and she looked directly at him for the first time since the conversation started. “I don’t care. I have no interest in getting released. If you had seen what I have seen, you would gladly return to solitary too. Instead you are trying to have me released? Do I have to remind you why I am here in the first place?”
“Normally I am the one who says that,” the doctor tried a smile. When Sharon didn’t return his smile, he quickly shuffled through her journal. “You were found standing next to two dead bodies holding a bloody samurai sword, dressed in…”
“Ninjato,” Sharon sighed, then gave her fingernails her full attention again.
“Excuse me?” The doctor asked. Sharon sighed again.
“The sword,” Sharon said in an annoyed tone. “It’s called a ninjato. Most people are aware that the samurai used a big sword, and some knows it’s called a katana. That’s what most people think of when they say samurai sword. But they also used a smaller sword called a wakizashi. It was a smaller version of the katana and was rarely used alone. Then there’s the daisho. It sounds cool, but it’s just the combination when the samurai wielded the katana and wakizashi at the same time. Some idiots thinks the ninjas used a katana, but if you think about it, it’s too big to be of any practical use. theninja had to be able to draw the sword in a hurry, often in a tight spot like inside, then sheat it again in a hurry when they were leaving. A katana is simply too big for that purpose. It’s the same reason they used a blowpipe, shuriken and small bows. They had to be able to use get the weapons as quickly as possible, then sheat them as quickly as possible after use. Anyway, the sword they preferred does look a lot like a katana to an untrained eye, but it’s smaller and is called a ninjato. Funny thing is the sword doesn’t even officially exist, making this whole discussing pointless.”
The doctor looked confused at her, and the police officer standing guard in the corner rolled her eyes at her, like she couldn’t believe the sword-details were more important to Sharon than the fact she might be stuck in a mental institution for life. The doctor looked in the journals instead, then corrected himself. “It says you were found holding a bloody… ninjato… and standing next to two dead bodies. Is this correct?”
“It would have been three, but the last one got away,” Sharon said, apparently not caring what they were talking about. It could just as well have been if she preferred her coffee black or with milk and sugar. “Not that it matters. It’s the dragons problem now.”
“The dragon,” The doctor asked, looking in his journal, trying to find the reference. “You’re talking about this… half dragon woman?”
“Something like that,” Sharon sighed and yawned. “Can I go back to solitary now? I’m sick and tired of this bullshit. You know my whole story and I have no interest in being let out, so what am I doing here? You can’t force me out of the nuthouse against my will.”
“Miss Carter, you need to try to see things from my side. You killed two people… and it was only the lack of evidence that saved you from being accused of killing the third. If he were to speak up, your case will be reopened. If so, you risk execution. I hope you realize that. The method you used to take their lives were not exactly usual, which led you to the psychiatric hospital after a short stay in a regular prison. You have in many ways been an exemplary patient the last four years, but you still prefer to stay in solitary than being released into the public area. The fact is, you even work against us every time we try to get you released. You do see why we wonder what your motives are?”
“I just want peace and quiet,” Sharon said annoyed and looked at the doctor. “To be honest, I don’t if I am safe even here, but she will find me if I am released, and you will have my life on your consciousness. Do you really believe she will let me go just like that? And if you send someone with me to babysit me for my own safety, they will be killed too. Do not think she won’t do it.”
“By her you mean this dragon,” the doctor said skeptically.
“It’s a nickname, moron,” Sharon was getting upset, and tried to calm down. “I called myself the Valkyrie, and she called herself Dragon Girl. And then there was Annie. Annie Oakley.”
“Not Billy the Kid or Buffalo Bill?” the doctor smiled, but took it back when he saw Sharon didn’t respond to the little joke.
“Not the real Annie Oakley, dumbass. But she based her name on her.”
“So was it a nickname or her real name?” The doctor asked. “I am just trying to understand.”
“Call it whatever you want,” Sharon leaned back in the chair and stretched her arms. “Dragon Girl, Winter Wolf, Cara Vasquez… it doesn’t matter. You don’t have a smoke too many?”
“It is not allowed to smoke in here,” the doctor said and sighed. After a while Sharon got the feeling he really wanted a smoke too and couldn’t help smile, but she got serious again when he repeated the question. She sunk down into the chair again and sighed even heavier than before. To be honest, she was sick of this talk. It wasn’t the first time they had had it, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. But all in all, it might be a small price to pay… all things considered
“You know my name is Sharon Carter, but I called myself the Valkyrie. With an i, not the stupid spelling the Scandinavians use. The others didn’t really have any real names, but dragon called herself Cara Vasquez most of the time. Dragon Girl and the Valkyrie were just a stupid nickname we came up with to sound more like superheroes. Annie chose her name based on that western-woman for some reason. It probably was just a coincidence, though she is a bit too good with firearms for my taste. Just like that western-chick. But to be honest, she never really fit in with me and Cara. She was just… different. She focused too much on the job and not enough on having fun, but to each her own, I guess. She was a damn good soldier, and a decent friend. I think. I mean she gave up trying to kill me and even helped me and Cara from time to time, so I guess she considered us friends. Or as much friends as she allowed herself to have.”
“Where did they come from? Where are they now?” The doctor asked. Sharon sighed theatrically, far too exaggerated to be true.
“You are not going to let me go back to my room, are you?”
“Not any time soon, no,” The doctor smiled. Sharon didn’t return it. “How about you take it from the start, one more time. Just so we are clear. We are just trying to help you, miss Carter.”
Sharon looked from the doctor to the police officer to the doctor again, and knew she had lost. Again. With a low groan, she leaned forward and placed her elbows on the table and pointed at the tape recorder.
“Turn off that thing first, then I’ll tell. You don’t even have a tape in it.” The doctor looked at the female police officer for advice. She nodded discreet, and he reached for the off-button on the tape recorder. Sharon allowed herself a weak smile and expected the police officer to be getting tired already, and she would have to remain standing until the talk was over. “I’ll take it from the start,” Sharon said and winked at the police officer. If the woman had to stand here the whole time, she was going to take her time telling her story. That could take a long time. A really, really long time if she put her mind to it, and she had all the time in the world…
“It all started with a car crash six months before I got here,” she said in a slow, dramatic voice. “It’s funny how time seems to slow down… to a stand still… when you know you… are going to hurt… I know I was going to be in pain… lots of pain… I could see my hands on the steering wheel, but I couldn’t move them… I could just look fascinated on them… like they didn’t belong to me, but a stranger… I could feel the sweat coming down my forehead, even thought it wasn’t all that warm outside. It’s funny, you know? I could sense every little detail around me and in my body, and it looked like had set the whole world around me on pause. I mean, I knew I was going to be in pain in a matter of seconds, but it felt like hours. Then the world kicked into motion again, and I knew I was about to get hit by severe pain in five seconds… four seconds… three… two… one…”
Hurt! Sharon tried to open her eyes, but was hit by an incredible pain all over her body and gave up that little project. Instead, she tried focusing on moving a single finger, but it didn’t obey her. A short while she wondered if she had been paralyzed in her entire body, and if so, if it mattered. As much as her body hurt, she wasn’t interested in moving anyway. Instead, she tried focusing on lifting her eyelids, then braced herself for the pain it would lead to. The light blinded her and hurt her eyes, and she winced and quickly closed them again. She held them closed several seconds before she tried opening them again. This time was more successful, and she started seeing silhouettes of some things around her. As far as she would tell, she was laying on her back and stared up into a lamp, or neon light like in a doctor’s office. The ceiling was quite low, and she had her head facing the wall in the corner. The room was square shaped, more or less, and so small her feet reached around a third towards the corner on the other end. On the other side of the room was a small stair up to a weird door that didn’t seem to have a doorknob or any kind. Was she trapped here? Not that she cared. Unless the pain would ease soon, she wasn’t able to go anywhere anyway.
A swishing sound made her turn her head, and she moaned in pain and closed her eyes again. She heard someone move closely and gently down the stairs towards her, and she considered for a short while if she was in any kind of danger. The room was small and had no obvious windows, so she could be trapped by some idiot. But on the other hand, she was laying in her underwear in a soft, comfortable bed, so if she was kidnapped, at least she was taken great care of.
“Awake?” A soft, female voice asked her. Sharon couldn’t quite tell if it was friendly or not, but hoped for the best. She tried answering, but only managed a short cough that sent great pain through her entire body.
“Relax, you are hurt,” the voice said. Not quite friendly, but not directly hostile either, Sharon decided. It was a woman’s voice, which meant the chance of being raped was a bit less. Not non-existent, but less. She could have a male partner, or perhaps she was into women. So to say. The woman gently touched her arm, and she felt a strange feeling spread through her arm and into her body. Sharon smiled as the worst pain eased.
“Better?” The voice asked again. Sharon opened her eyes and turned her head to see the stranger… then screamed in surprise and fear! The woman was Latino, in her mid-thirties and wore black, knee-high, high-heeled boots, black cargo pants, a black tank top, black biker gloves… and had yellow, reptilian eyes. Her face was mostly human, but definitely had some feral features Sharon couldn’t quite place. It reminded her of a werewolf in the really old movies from the 1940s, though with a reptile instead of wolf. If that wasn’t bad enough, she had two inches small horns on top of her head, poking up through her hair. Sharon gasped and tried to sit up in reflex, but the woman pressed an arm firm, but gently down on her shoulder to make her stay down. To her surprise, Sharon found that no matter how hard she tried to struggle, she was unable to move.
“Relax… I’m a friend…”
“Who… what…” Sharon asked, but her voice was weak and barely audible. She tried to clear her troat, but it was too dry. The woman gently stroke her forehead, like a mother calming a sick daughter.
“One thing at a time, Sharon,” the woman said. “You were in an accident, but I managed to save you before… before… just call me Cara, ok. I am a friend, and you are safe here. Please just get some rest, ok? We’ll talk later.”
“Be… fore… what?” Sharon stuttered, but knew it was a silly question. Before she died…
The small room had no windows or a clock, so it was impossible to tell if it was night or day. The pains slowly ceased enough that she could sit up in bed, but when she tried to climb out, the room started spinning and made her nauseous. She grabbed the bed with one hand and tried to force herself in the direction of it, allowing herself a slight smile when she felt she crashed on something soft. Floor hard. Bed soft. Ergo, she hit the bed. Based on the severe pain she had, it was probably the painkillers that made her feel bad, but she preferred less pain and more sick than more pain and slightly less sick. The sick she could handle. The pain not so much. Not that she could go far anyway. The room was quite small, the door on this side lacked a doorknob, and Cara had placed an IV-needle in her left arm. She said it was mostly to give her strong painkillers, but also for nutrition. According to Cara, she had been in a coma ‘for some time’, but that could mean just about anything. More disturbing, Cara hadn’t said anything on how bad the injuries where or what really had happened other than ‘an accident’. In fact, she hadn’t said anything at all other than that she would be fine soon. The feral features were another mystery she had refused to talk about… as well as when Sharon could go home. She never said Sharon was a prisoner here, but always avoided the issue entirely. That puzzled Sharon almost more than the feral features. If Cara intended to let her go, why not tell her directly? And if she didn’t, why avoid the issue? It didn’t make sense. The more Sharon thought about it, the more she was convinced there had to be something seriously weird going on…
Swish! The door slid open again, and Cara walked in with a tray of food. Sharon dared smile. It was the first time since she had woken up that Cara had given her solid food instead of the IV nutrition, but the smile vanished quickly when she saw what kind of food she had been served. It reminded her of some emergency ration some military wacko would have given her: A dry, porridge-like goo, a glass of water, three raw carrots and a yellow semi-liquid thing she had no idea where sauce, porridge or drink. She shivered when she looked at it and felt sick, but strangely Cara smiled sympathetically.
“I know… but you need food,” she said and pulled out a set of small legs on each side of the tray, so it could stand in the bed without tipping over. “It’s better than it looks, I promise. Try, please?”
A thousand thoughts raced through Sharon’s mind. Could the food be poisoned? Drugged? No, it didn’t make sense. Cara seemed nice enough… all things considered… and if she wanted her dead… well, she was trapped anyway, wasn’t she? Nervously, she picked up the fork (metal, she noticed. No crappy don’t-kill-yourself plastic crap) and shoved into the dry porridge. Cara laughed low, making Sharon blush. “What?”
“It’s better with sauce,” Cara smiled. “Then it won’t be so dry.”
“It’s still crap, though…” Sharon said and tried a smile. She poured all the yellow goo over the porridge and mashed it up with the fork, until it was all a semi-liquid, ugly, disgusting think that looked like a dog had been sick, eaten it up again and barfed it out again. The smell wasn’t much better. But her stomach cried for food, and Cara was smiling. Sharon had no idea if Cara was a doctor, nurse, wackjob or whatever, or even entirely human. Still, she seemed nice enough, all things considered, so how bad could the food be? She carefully dissected the porridge and placed a small bit of it on the fork, studying it like a scientist doing an autopsy of an alien life form. With a sigh, she jammed it into her mouth before she could regret her decision, then let it stay there a few seconds before summoning up enough encourage to swallow it.
Strangely, it wasn’t all bad. It wasn’t good by a long shot, but it was… edible. She tried slicing off a bigger piece with the fork, then put that in her mouth too. Then a third, and a fourth… At no point did she even consider chewing it, but to her surprise, the tray was empty sooner than she thought. She almost asked for seconds, but decided that would be testing her luck in many ways.
“So how do you feel?” Cara asked when Sharon was finished with her food. When she said she still felt thirsty, Cara brought the tray out of the room to wherever she had come from, then returned a few minutes later with a big jug full of water with ice cubes, two glasses and a stool. She placed the stool next to the bed, then poured a glass full of water and handed it to Sharon, Finally, she poured herself a glass too, then placed the jug on the stool.
“Much better, thanks,” Sharon said after having finished her second glass.
“Nothnig to thank for,” Cara smiled. “I only did what I had to do, that’s all.”
“So…” Sharon started, wondering how to ask what she wanted to ask. She didn’t want to be too direct, but she knew there was no point in being vague either. But she couldn’t risk insulting Cara either. That could get a few… fatal… results… “So… who are you? I mean… your eyes… they’re not contacts, are they?”
Cara looked at Sharon a while, like she wondered what to say. After a while, she sighed and gave her a weak smile.
“No, they are real,” she said and laid a hand gently on Sharon’s. “It’s man’s nature to fear the unknown, so even though I saved you from the accident, brought you here when you were in a coma, nursed you back to life and fed you, you still don’t trust me. I don’t blame you, of course. Part of the reason why you don’t trust me is simply because you don’t know me, but it’s also because you know I am not entirely like everyone else. What do you say if I tell you everything will be explained later?”
“I’ll say that’s bullshit. This is not a crappy B-movie,” Sharon said angrily, but was surprised when Cara laughed.
“Haha, that’s what I figured,” Cara laughed. “Don’t worry, I will tell you everything about what’s going on, why you are here instead of in a hospital, and who… and what… I am. But it’s a long story, and not without risk. I am deeply to say it like this, but before I can tell you anything, I need to know you understand how serious this is.”
“So if you tell me anything, you have to kill me?” Sharon laughed. The smile faded when Cara didn’t return it. “You’re kidding…”
“No…” Cara sighed heavily. “You are here because you know too much already, so the chance of you getting out of this alive is not very great. I am deeply sorry for that…”
Sharon was speechless. Sure Cara was not quite like everyone else, but did she hold her captive? Why would Cara save her and nurse her back to life only to kill her again? Why not kill her when she was in a coma?
“As I said, the chance of you getting out of here alive is not very big,” Cara said low. “I don’t even need to kill you directly. The door over there don’t have a handle, as you can see, so all I need to do is leave you here a week or two without food and water, and let nature take it’s course. Of course I am not that cruel. I would rather give you a quick and painful death. I can kill you in your sleep instead, so you will simply fall asleep and never wake up. Please know I am not your enemy here, Sharon. I really did not want this… I swear…”
“So let me see if I get this right?” Sharon said in disbelief. “You saved me, then threatens to kill me? Then you dare say you are not the bad person here? Are you freaking kidding me?”
Cara tried a weak smile, but it didn’t quite work. “I said the chance is very small, but it’s not… non-existent. You absolutely have a chance of getting out of this alive. It’s up to you. If you can convince me that I can trust you with my life… and more… I can let you live. It will not be easy. You not only need to convince me. You need to convince yourself about that, too. But again, please know I do not want to kill you. I am not a bad person. I really am not. Killing you is the last thing I want, but I might not have a choice.”
“You have to trust me?” Sharon laughed. “You kidnapped me, threaten to kill me, and you have to trust me?”
“Yes…” Cara said, her voice dead serious. “There are too much at stake.”
“You already said that,” Sharon was getting irritated. “What about explainig what the hell is going on? Yes, you can trust me. There. I said it. I won’t be getting out of here anyway, so what do I have to loose? I won’t tell anyone. Stop acting like we’re dealing with the end of the world!”
“It’s both worlds, actually…” Cara sighed. When she saw Sharon looking like a question mark, she knew she had said a bit too much and blushed.
“What do you mean both worlds?” Sharon demanded, then lowered her voice a bit. “This is about your eyes and horns, isn’t it?” Cara nodded, then left the room without a word. When she returned a few minutes later, she carried a pile of clothes: A black hoodie, black jeans, black army boots and a black tank top.
“Get dressed. This is not the place to talk about this, and you wouldn’t understand half of it anyway. You would believe even less, so I’ll take you to my headquarter. Then you’ll see for yourself.”
Sharon shook her hands in feet in turn to get the blood circulation again, and even if she felt dizzy after having laid several days in a coma without normal nutrition, she managed to walk slowly around with Cara’s help. Cara held her arm firmly around her waist and was ready to support her if she fell, making Sharon feel both embarrassed and grateful at once. Together, they walked through the room and up to the door out. Cara said a small command, and the door swished open.
“Voice activated,” Cara smiled. Sharon didn’t quite know what to say. Cara definitely wasn’t like anyone else she had met, the food was different than anything she had seen (or tasted), and a voice activated door and elevator? None of this was anything like her version of ‘normal’. And then there there was this little detail about Cara killing her if she couldn’t be trusted.
“Up,” Cara said. The elevator door slid close with a swish that made Sharon think about science-fiction-series like Star Trek. When the door was closed, the elevator started moving. Sharon tried counting the seconds to see how deep they were, but it was impossible to know when she didn’t know how fast the elevator was going or how accurate her seconds were. The painkillers still screwed her brain quite badly, and she tried her best not to pass out, throw up and slam into the wall. Or all of them.
“It’s a safety precaution,” Cara explained. “Firt of all, your voice is not calibrated, so you can’t use the elevators or doors on your own. As you probably realize by now, all I have to do is take you down there, and you won’t be able to escape. Even if you can somehow open the door on your own, the whole thing is operated with vacuum, like the tubes they used in the old days to send messages around in big buildings. Just drop a tube in the, uh, tube, and it would be sent around to the destination by vacuum. That means the walls above the elevator are smooth, so there are nothing to hold on to. No cables, no ladders, no nothing. And if you climb into the chamber when the elevator is up, I can simply lock the door with my voice and send the elevator down. You can imagine the results…”
“And for the second?” Sharon shivered.
“Most things can be controlled with my voice, and my voice alone. That means I don’t need to physically touch most things to activate them. I can run through the front yard, enter the house and duck into my headquarter and activate all defenses along the way without even slowing down. Even if I am on a mission, I can activate the defenses here remotely… if you were to try to run away. Think it’s cool to kill someone simply by looking at them? I don’t even need to be here to kill you. On top of that, I have a chip installed near my heart. When I fall asleep, the defenses goes on automatic and… takes care off… anything and anyone that can be a threat. Anyone, even me, if you carry my unconscious body out somehow. I wouldn’t try that, though. If my heart stops, this place goes boom. Big time. Think about that before you try to attack me from behind, or surprise me. You won’t get out unless I say so.”
Sharon gasped when the elevator door opened. She had no idea what to expect when Cara said she had her headquarter up there, but this was nothing like she had imagined. She wasn’t very interested in superheroes, but she knew Batman had a big cave under a mansion, and Superman had a headquarter on the North Pole. Iron Man lived in a skyscraper, and Cara? A run-down farmhouse from a few centuries ago. The walls were made of wood, but the paint were falling off many places, the ceiling had holes in it, and she could see directly into the floor above. A door to the kitchen was too broken to be closed properly, and a painting in the corridor had fallen down and cracked the frame. Sharon sighed when she saw it was a copy of the Mona Lisa with a painted mustache and nerdy glasses. The living room table still had four feet, but one was standing in a weird angle. The green sofa had definitely seen better days, and the TV could be from the 1950s for all she knew. And this was the headquarter?
“Elevator, hide,” Cara said, and part of the wall slid shut in front of the elevator door. Even though Sharon knew where the door was, it was very difficult to spot. Cara said a quick command more, and another part of the wall a bit further down the corridor slid to the side and revealed another elevator. This door opened with a swish just like the other had done when Cara told it to open.
“This one goes down to the real headquarter,” Cara smiled. “This house is just a disguise. If anyone were to stumble in here, they wouldn’t find anything of any interest here. Just like the other elevator, this one is voice-controlled, so if I leave you down there, you won’t get out on your own. That leaves you with three choices. One. You can come down to the headquarter, listen to my story and try to convince me that I can trust you. Two. You can come down there with me, listen to my story and stay there. Permanently. Or three. You can try to run away. Trust me, you won’t get far. So which one will it be?”
Sharon didn’t need long to make up her mind. “I guess number one.”
Cara smiled and held out her hand to indicate that Sharon should enter the elevator first. She followed and spoke a quick command. The door closed behind them, and the elevator started the descend down.
“This… is it?” Sharon was confused. Cara’s main headquarter was about twice as big as the other room, and she couldn’t see any other exists than the elevator. Like the other room, this one had a small stair with four steps going down from the door, and she made a mental note to ask Cara what the point with the stairs was. Surely it wasn’t a construction error in both rooms, so it had to have some sort of purpose she failed to see.
Like the other room, this one had a low bed in one corner, though it had a small table next to it and a chest at the foot end. A place and water glass stood placed on the table next to a small table, and a small fridge was place under the table itself. On the opposite wall she could see a bench with a long row of monitors that all showed static black and white images of the house and the surrounding area mounted on the wall. That way Cara could easily keep an eye on the entire area around her, so it was impossible to sneak up on her without being noticed. On top of that, there were motion detectors spread around and placed on strategic places, so if a person got too close, he or she would set off an alarm, and a red lamp would glow above him or her on the monitors. Cara also had other ‘safety precautions’ she couldn’t talk about, and Sharon suspected it was in case she tried to run away. The security-stuff she could see was more than enough to scare her and prove that running away way futile, but if she tried, she would see the real security-stuff soon enough. If she lived that long…
In the center of the monitors were a keyboard under a big monitor, and a microwave oven was placed at the end of the monitors, along with a breadbox and a rack of knives. Under the bench were a bigger fridge, an office chair and a normal closet Cara said were for random dry food, toppings and things like that. On top of that, she had an armchair with a matching stool, a round table and a vase with a few wildflowers. Cara said they lit up the room, though she had no other decorations here. No posters. No pictures. No photographs. Nothing. All the walls were grey and boring, like the room she had woken up in.
“This is it?” Sharon asked. “This is your headquarter?”
“It’s all I need,” Cara shrugged. “Bed there, food there, toilet, laundry machine and shower upstairs. What more do you need?”
Sharon was stunned. “What more you need? How about more room? Some kind of entertainment? Contact with the rest of the world?”
Cara looked puzzled. “What do you mean? I am not here to take things slow. I have a job to do, and entertaining is just distracting. Security-measures takes care of the security when I’m not around or when I’m asleep, but it’s important that I am warned as quickly as possible when it’s needed. Sleeping here is the most practical. Besides, if anyone finds the house up there, I can hide here until they leave.”
“Hide here?” Sharon was confused. “What are you doing here anyway?”
“I can’t tell you until I know I can trust you,” Cara said. “What I can say is I have to be invisible to the rest of the world as much as possible. If someone finds me, I have to kill them. You saw… well, noticed…. your own reaction when you saw me. How do you think others will react?”
Sharon didn’t know what to say. Normally she would say Cara was the definition of crazy, but the eyes and horns said otherwise. Even her teeth were sharp and pointy, like on a wolf. If all of them were fake, it was an extremely well-made hoax. And for what? But if they were real, it could seem like there were far more to her than Sharon had first assumed. But what? What was Cara doing here?
Cara pulled out the office chair and sat down, pointing at the armchair. Sharon sat down, but couldn’t quite get herself to relax.
“As I said, I need to be able to trust you,” Cara said. “How do you assume I can do that? The alternative is to kill you, so I suggest really think this through.”
“This is too stupid,” Sharon sighed. “I was in an accident, ended up in a coma and woke here. And now you are threatening to kill me becauase I know too much? That doesn’t make sense!”
“Quite the contrary,” Cara said. “You were in a car accident because you kenw too much. What do you say if I say Annie Oakley?”
Sharon tried to remember what she knew about that name. It wasn’t much. “Wasn’t she a cowboy? Or cowgirl, to be precise? Back in the wild west era?”
“That was the original, but who is the other one?” Cara asked. Sharon didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. “What if I say you crashed the car because of her?”
“Then I say she either crashed my car on purpose, or I had insanely bad luck,” Sharon said. “I mean, what are the odds of crashing in the first place? And crashing due to someone who has the same name of some historical person? Was she in the other car?
Cara didn’t say anything for a while, but considered Sharon’s words. “She shot you.”
“She did what?” Sharon was shocked. “She shot me? Why?2
“Because you knew too much,” Cara didn’t even flinch. “That’s why I saved you, ironically. Relax, amnesia isn’t that uncommon after waking from a coma. But to take a quick review, you are… were… a police detective investigating a few strange deaths. I know it sounds like a cliche, but you discovered too much and had to be taken out. Annie almost made it, but I saved you and brought you here.”
“Just to kill me again,” Sharon said angrily. Cara laughed.
“Not necessarily. If you can make me trust you, I’ll let you live.”
“And how do you suppose I do that?” Sharon asked, getting annoyed.
“Put this on,” Cara said and opened the chest next to the bed. She picked up a small wristband made from some sort of plastic and handed it to Sharon. “As you said, you wanted me to explain everything now, right?” Sharon nodded and put the wristband on, in lack of a better option. “Make sure it’s placed directly on your skin, with the small dot on your vein near your wrist, then I will tell you everything. If you trust me, and I mean convince both of us that you trust me, the wristband will glow green. If it turns red, you are dead. But keep in mind if it’s not in direct contact with your skin the way I said, it won’t glow at all. I know this sounds like a lot of hassle, but we have to do it this way. The wristband will read your pulse, body temperature and a couple of other things to read your through emotions. Think of it as a lie detector. No matter how much you say you trust me… or not… the wristband will tell the truth.”
Sharon looked at Cara to see if she was serious, but Cara wasn’t smiling. Apparently she was serious. Nervously, Sharon pulled up the sleeve on her shirt and made sure the wristband was attached like Cara said. Cara asked her to press a small switch, and the wristband started glowing green. After a few seconds it turned red, then green, then red, then green, and finally yellow.
“It’s calibrated,” Cara said, and started telling her story.
Cara leaned back in the chair and considered how much she was going to tell, and where she would start, but decided to take it from the start.
“Ever since man were able to think about more than food and sex, they have been aware that there is evil in the world,” she said, thoughtfully. Sharon wanted to ask what the point was, but Cara raised her hand. “Please, don’t interrupt. This can take a whlie, but you are not in a hurry to die, are you?” Sharon didn’t respond, and Cara continued.
“As I said, there is evil in the world. Man have always had to believe they were the good guys, so naturally anyone who looked or acted different were the bad ones. You can see it everywhere. If you are a little bit different than the rest, you will be an outcast. If you have a different skin color than the majority, you will be an outcast. If you like a different type of music than the majority, you will be considered strange. Did you know heavy-metal music is illegal in some parts of the world? In other parts, heavy-metal musicians are superstars.”
“What does that have to do with you?” Sharon asked. “Are you a musician?”
“I have never even listened to music,” Cara smiled. “But you are right, let’s cut to the short version. We see good and evil all around us, even in religion. So when people decided they needed to explain how the world was made, they came up with lots of creative ways to reward people for being nice. Christendom, for instance, say people can go to Paradise if they are nice. The new Hindus say we can get reincarnated, and the better we are, the better we’ll be when we are reincarnted. But even the oldest form say the world is divided into three: One for us humans, one for the Gods and one for the Ancestors. The Gods live above us, the Ancestors below us. If we are nice, we can go to the Gods in Paradise. If we are bad… well, you get the idea. It’s the Christian Hell all over again. Or before again, or… well, you know.”
“And the point is?” Sharon was impatient.
“The point is they are not entirely wrong,” Cara said. “You know how Christendom say this world is created in the image of Heaven, and the humans are created in the image of Angels? What if I say there is another world out there, created in the image of Hell?”
“Then I say you should stay off the weed,” Sharon was uninterested, but Cara smiled.
“Look into my eyes. Look at my teeth, or my horns. Are they human? And what about these?” She slowly removed one of her gloves. Sharon gasped. Her hands were in many ways normal, but instead of fingernails, Cara had small claws she could extract and hide at will, almost like a cat. But unlike cats, Cara’s claws looked more like small knives. Even if the eyes, teeth, horns and the feral features in her face could be fake, the claws were not. And they were absolutely not human.
“What… what are you?” Sharon was stunned.
“As I said, this world is created in the image of Heaven, but there is another world out there created in the image of Hell, as we know from the Christian Bible and several other religions. The humans can be compared to angels, except for the wings and all that. The humans in the other world look a lot more like what you know as demons. In fact, that’s where the pictures of the devils you know in religions come from in the first place. As for me, I am… a combination, I guess you can say. A half-breed. One of my parents were from this world, and the other from the other world. But don’t ask which one was which, or who they are. I have no idea, and honestly it doesn’t interest me. They were just donors, and were probably killed right after they… did what they came for. Either that, or they just donated their… stuff, and are completely unaware that they have a daughter. It doesn’t matter. I have more features from my angelic parent, but as you can see, I have features from my demonic parent too. Of course, when I say demonic parent, I don’t mean demon parent. The demonic people are regular people, mostly. They just look different. They are not demons or anything.”
Sharon didn’t know what to say. She didn’t want to believe Cara, but it was kinda hard with evidence sitting right in front of her, talking to her. Cara was not a normal human being, so could at least part of her story be true?”
“Let’s say I believe you,” Sharon said. “What are you doing here? What am I doing here?
“To start somewhere, I am a Guardian,” Cara said. “Man is by nature afraid of the unknown, as I said. When you saw me the first time, you were afraid of me, even though I had just saved your life. So what do you think happens if you found out that there is an entire world out there full of people who are not even remotely similar to the people you know here? You would probably be terrified. If the right person, or wrong person, to be precise, get to know about the other world, they can start a war, and millions of people on both sides will die. My job is to prevent that from happening. Fortunately I am only responsible for part of the city, but it can be hectic enough. This is where you come into the picture. I could use a partner.”
“A partner?” Sharon was skeptical. “To protect the world against demons?”
“Two worlds full of people,” Cara corrected her. “The people on the other side are mostly human, just like you. They just look different. If the wrong person finds out that the other world exist, we’re facing a war for control, resources, safety or whatever they decide to call it. The same goes for that world, so there are Guardians on that side too protecting it agaisnt us.”
“Right…” Sharon wasn’t convinced. “So you… what do you do, anyway? I mean, how do you protect the world? Or both worlds?”
“To be short? One life for many,” Cara shrugged. “If one person learns too much, I kill him or her. If there’s a risk he has told someone else, I kill that one too. And anyone he might have told. Remember a few weeks ago when that gas station blew up? Fifteen people were killed in the explosion alone, and seven people died shortly after. That was me. One person was in danger of knowing something he shouldn’t have, so I blew up the gas station to silence him. His wife and six-year old son died in a car crash tw odays later, but that didn’t make the news.”
“Oh… my… God…” Sharon was pale. Cara shrugged.
“One life for many. If someone finds the other world, we’re talking a war leaving millions of people dead. What’s twenty-four people against twenty million?”
Sharon was pale and didn’t quite know what to say. A few hours… weeks, she reminded herself. A few weeks ago, she had investigated a homicide most people said was a suicide. Yes, the guy had held a pistol, and yes, he was shot in the head and killed. The bullet he was shot with was even the right caliber. The problem was the angle the bullet had entered with wasn’t quite the right angle, and when she looked closer, it turned out that even though a bullet was missing in the gun’s magazine and the man had gunpowder on his hands from recently firing a gun, the gun he was holding had not been fired. Someone had gone through an extensive work making it look like it was suicide. The gun was ‘proof’ well enough, but on top of that he had been alone in his apartment late at night, meaning no witnesses. Most people said suicide… but not Sharon. She hadn’t given up trying to find out what had really happened, and the clues led her to a rumor about a ‘supernatural sniper’ of all things. She didn’t believe in the supernatural at all, but assumed it was a professional sniper. With a handgun. Inside an apartment. It didn’t make much sense, unless the person was heavily trained for close combat and stealth, and if so, he must have had military training at some point. There weren’t much evidence to point her in any directions at all, but she refused to give up. It ended with a car crash, and until now she had thought it was an accident. In truth, the killer had been either Cara or Annie, and they caused the car crash to keep her silent. They had almost succeeded, but for some reason Cara had decided to save her? And now she wanted Sharon to become her partner? It was absurd!
“You know I’m a cop?” Sharon asked. “I’m probably wanted over large parts of the country already, and when they find out what you have done…”
“They are not looking,” Cara shrugged. “They think you died in the car crash. You weren’t in the busiest street in town, to put it mildly. We should have left you for dead, but I killed a homeless woman, put her in your uniform and stashed her in the car. Then we set the car on fire. In other words, Sharon Carter is dead to the rest of the world, and she has to stay that way. If I were to kill you now, no one will ever bother come looking for you. They think you are already dead.”
“You’re kidding…” Sharon whispered in disbelief. Cara didn’t say anything, just smiled slyly. “And you think you can get away with this? Seriously?”
“I already have,” Cara said. “As I said, you ‘died’ in the car crash, and your body… the body people figured was yours… are buried, so no one will come looking for you. And you do remember that the elevator is controlled with my voice? You can’t force me to let you go, and if you were stupid enough to try, you’ll be trapped here until long after I’m sure you are dead. Or I can kill you quickly, if you prefer. I don’t care either way. As I said, you are dead unless you can prove I can trust you. I would prefer to avoid that. I know what you are capable of, Sharon. Even if you are just a regular angelic human, you definitely have your strong sides. With a bit of training and equipment, you can perhaps go far. The question is if you join me or not. But I’m not in a hurry to kill you. You can think about this as long as you want. Until you die of dehydration, I mean.”
“That’s blackmail!” Sharon was angry. Cara just smiled.
“I see it as one life for many.”
Sharon opened her mouth to say something, but couldn’t find the words. “Come again?”
“One life for many,” Cara shrugged. “I told you that. Taking a life to save ten is a price worth paying. All that crap about saving everyone and every life being precious belongs in boring movies. The real world isn’t like that. Sometimes one has to die to save many. A serial killer are thrown in prison for life, but why? To punish him? Wouldn’t it be better to kill him and be done with it? A pedophile will never learn. Putting him behind bars a few years doesn’t help. The children he has abused are already damaged for life, but if we shoot him, we make sure he can’t hurt anyone else. One life for many. Me and Annie operate like that, except we eliminate a threat from or for the other world in some way. Like you. If you had been allowed to continue your investigation, you would have figured out that something is not entirely right, and with time your work would have led to someone discovering the other world. Then millions would have been killed in an inevitable war. Therefore you had to be killed. One life for many.”
Sharon was speechless, so Cara continued.
“Believe me, we don’t take this responsibility easy. Taking a life is never something we enjoy, but when it has to be done, we do it quickly without remorse or regret. Is he a threat? Boom, off with his head! Does he have a family he can have told things? We’ll kill them too, just to be sure. It sounds brutal, but we can’t take the chance he has told them anything. We are trying to prevent this world from discovering the other world to avoid a war between the two worlds. Killing a hundred thousand people in this world to save millions in each world is a price we are willing to pay. Not because we want to, but because we have to. Why do you think there’s so much war going on in the world today?”
“Are you telling me you are behind wars too?” Sharon asked skeptically. Cara laughed.
“No, of course not! I am a Guardian and protect part of this city. Annie is a Hunter, operating where she is needed all over the city. But where do you think we come from?” Sharon failed to answer. “There’s a company who’s behind everything. They choose the best candidates to deliver sperm and eggs, and grow the children in a laboratory. When the children are old enough, they are trained to become Guardians or Hunters, and every year we hold a tournament where the children fight to survive. Literally. The children have to fight each other to the death, but never more than two and two, and usually just one on one. It’s quite fair.”
“That’s horrible!” Sharon was shocked.
“It’s necessary,” Cara shrugged again. “As I said, I am guardian two worlds from each other. If one world finds the other, a war would break out and millions of people would die. The job as a Guardian and Hunter are extremely important, so only the strongest of the strong can do the job properly. We have to live in solitude, all alone our entire lives and never reveal ourselves to the public, and when someone has to die, we can’t show mercy or regret. We can’t have compassion with the targets and let them live if they are a threat. Age, sex, skin color, religion, it doesn’t matter. One life for many. Even our own.”
Sharon wanted to speak, but no words came out. Was Cara insane? Did she just confess killing dozens of people? Even children? Sharon didn’t want to believe her ears, and part of her wanted to escape. She got up to her feet and was about to demand Cara let her go when something caught her eye. It was a strange, green light. On her arm…
The wristband glowed green. Sharon looked puzzled from the wristband to Cara and back again, unsure what to say. It had to be a mistake. Cara was sitting here admitting she was a serial killer of the worst kind, and Sharon’s subconsciousness said she should help her? She was a police detective and who locked people like her away!
“I am not the bad one here,” Cara said with a smile. “Deep down, you know it. Me and Annie, and others like us, are invisible soldiers fighting an invisible war. Or to be precise, soldiers fighting from the hiding to prevent an all consuming war. If we countries on Earth goes to war, a lot of people can die, but they will both hold back to avoid blowing up their own home. Their own planet.
But if Earth goes to war with another world… the other world can be blown to smithereens without anyone here noticing, or even caring. Why then would they hold back? If you put it like that, we are saving the world on a daily basis. Isn’t it worth sacrificing a few lives to prevent a war like that?”
Sharon was speechless, and looked from her wristband back to Cara. Then back to the wristband, and to Cara. She shook her head.
“A mistake… it has to be a mistake,” she stuttered. “You… me… it has to be a mistake! Partner… me… you…”
“Maybe, maybe not,” Cara shrugged and pointed at the wristband. “You can remove that now if you want, but it’s made from a technology that origins from the other world. It reads your pulse, your sweat, your brain impulses and so on to see how you really feel. You knew people cold sweat when they are nervous or lying? The pupils dilate, the pulse increase and so on. All small signs that the person might not be telling the truth, even to herself. You can say what you want, but deep down you know I am telling the truth. Or at least that you don’t have a choice, but have to become my partner. Probably not because you want to, but because you feel you have to. Just like me. Trust me, I regret deeply that I saved you and damned you to this fate, but what’s done is done. Your choices now are if you choose to believe me and becomes my partner, or if I should kill you. I am not the bad one here, so it’s your choice, and I respect it either way. I promise you I’ll kill you quickly and painlessly, if that’s what you want. Trust me, I know how to kill people quickly and efficiently… not to mention slow and painful, for that matter.”
Sharon looked puzzled at her, then back to the wristband. After a few seconds, she ripped it off in anger and threw it on the bed.
“This crap doesn’t work. I am not helping you kill people!”
“Save people,” Cara corrected her. “Haven’t you heard anything I said? One life for many! Even my own, and now yours.”
“Yes… I…” Sharon considered it. “So you mean we should go around killing people we decide is a threat? You do realize how stupid that sounds?”
“I don’t mean it like that,” Cara sighed heavily and tried to explain is as best she could. “Believe what you want, but I am not a psychopathic sociopath who enjoys killing people. If I had the option, I would quit this job right now and live a normal life with a normal family and normal job. I want to live. I want to go see a stupid movie. I want to go to McDonald’s and have a burger. I want to have friends. But I am a Guardian. I never had the luxury of choosing what I want to do with my life. It was always a fight to survive, and that’s it. My whole life is protecting the city against danger. It mainly means preventing anyone from finding the other world, but things… can go a bit wrong sometimes. When that happens, I need to eliminate the threat, no matter the cost. I don’t enjoy killing anyone, but a threat has to be eliminated as quickly as possible. If I hesitate or show mercy, it can have dramatic consequences for a lot of people. Maybe even the whole world. Even if the threat is a kid, I can’t show mercy. I don’t have a choice…”
“One life for many…” Sharon said low when she realized what Cara was talking about. “You mean your own life too. You never had one, and you never will…”
“As I said, my job and my life is the same,” Cara said. “I don’t have a choice.”
“That’s the worst part about this whole story,” Sharon said in a bitter tone. “Yes, I was a police detective, and yes, she was a homicidal maniac. She had no problems killing a whole bunch of people she decided what a threat. And I mean it in the worst sense possible. Think the Columbine incident was bad? That was a high school. Cara would blow up a kindergarten to ‘take care of’ a teacher, or even a kid. She kidnapped me, held me hostage and threatened to torture me to death unless I did what she said. True, she wanted to kill me quickly and painlessly, but as she said, she would make it last if she had to. I was dead to the public anyway, so what did she care? My whole life was in ruins thanks to her and Annie, and she wanted me to help her! But do you know what the worst was? What was even worse than the way she threatened me?”
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Good. Evil. These are words we all know, and we all think we know what they mean. But do we really? Picture you live in a box on a busy street. Every single day, people walk past you, lauging, crying, smiling, arguing, dancing and hurrying from one place to the next. Every single day, you see a society you can never be a part of. You can see out, but no one can see in. You see people all day, every day, but no one sees you. What would a life like that be like? What if you lived like that for more than 20 years? How would you turn out? Is it possible to stay sane all these years, or would you drown in madness and loneliness? While the box is retorical, this story deal with a woman having lived outside society all her life, always risking her life to protect a society she will never be able to take part in. Every day, she risks her life for people who will never know she exists. It was all she knew from she was born, and it was all she thought she would ever have... until one day, a friend shows up. For better or worse, neither life will ever be the same.