The tiniest pocket of light slowly peeked out from the horizon, signaling that the morning had arrived. The farmhouse was quiet, besides the snores of people and the occasional clucking of chickens and mooing of cows. But besides that, everything felt peaceful. If you were strolling by the farmhouse, you’d see two girls sitting on the roof. One of them is staring at the sunrise, like a girl on a mission. The other is turned to her as if she’s trying to talk to her and not breaking through the emotional barriers the first girl has set up…
“Don’t you find the sunrise beautiful Gia?” Badia asked me. She was nudging my side, prodding at me to answer. And sure, the sunrise was pretty. The golden sun was surrounded by swirls of orange and red and yellow. Birds are soaring on the horizon, flying around without a care in the world.
“Yea, it’s nice” I replied blankly. Badia sighed and turned to face the sunrise. I could tell there were things she wanted to say, the way she glanced back and forth between me and opened her mouth, and then closed it and then opened it again. I chose to ignore it, I needed a second to think. I moment to myself before I set off to do something that would probably get me killed.
I jumped from the farmhouse roof and started to walk inside. Badia noticed what I was doing and jumped down to follow me. I simply ignored her and continued walking.
“Gia I know how upset you are about leaving Noma behind, but don’t you think this is too much. It’s s dangerous and risky to go back, you’ll be risking everything we-you’ve worked for!” she grabbed my arm and I stopped in my tracks. I sharply spun around and turned to face her.
“None of this is worth it until I get Noma back” I replied sternly.
“But we don’t even know if Noma’s still alive! After we escape, the guards probably interviewed everyone in the pound to find out how we left. And since Noma was the closest one to us, who knows what they might’ve done to her!” Badia tried to reason with me.
“And that’s why I need to go. If she’s alive, I need to bring her home” I declared, and started back towards the farmhouse, ignoring Badia’s shouts for me to come back.
I laced up the dark cherry combat boots I was wearing and quickly threw on a black hoodie. I planned to be in and out, and not have to fight any guards. Badia was leaned on the doorpost, her wings drooped towards the floor in anxiety. I stepped out and started walking past her. She opened one eye, noticed what I was doing, and ran after me.
“Hey wait up! I’m coming too!” she perked up and ran after me. It’s not that I wanted to be mean, but I didn’t pay her any mind as I stepped outside and walked into the barn. The Jeep was already sitting outside, waiting to be driven. I grabbed my keys from my pocket and hopped into the front seat.
“Wait!” pant “for me!” Badia ran up to the car and placed her hands on her knees, breathing heavily.
“What, you’ve decided to come?” I asked.
“Obviously, Noma was my friend too” she climbed, or more like flew, into the passenger seat. Badia looked over in the trunk, where I’d stored food, water, a few blankets, and 3 shotguns along with ammunition (what? who knows how bad things could get?).
“Well heck, you’re prepared,” Badia said, rummaging through the back.
“Don’t touch anything Badia” I snapped at her. Badia sat back in her seat and pouted, but I didn’t notice. I inserted the keys into the Jeep and revved the engine. As the car hummed and slowly came to life, I took a deep breath. This was it, it was time to save Noma.
The drive was long, but it gave me time to think. While Badia spent most of the time we drove trying to convince me this was a bad idea, I thought of a plan. The Pound had the tightest security in the world, even tighter than Area 51. It was a complete and utter miracle that we managed to escape. The facility was located in a dense forest, completely secluded from the outside world. You can’t get through the forest by car, it’s too dense. We’d need to ditch the car and find Noma ourselves. The good news we could access the Pound through the vents, which can be entered from the outside. All we needed to do was get to the back of the pound.
And if we were careful, we could do that easily. If we made it to the back, Badia could fly into the vents while I climbed. Once we were inside, we’d crawl around until we found Noma. Once we found her, Badia would guide Noma into the vents and help her escape. I could fight off any guards trying to stop them and meet them by a lake Badia and I found when we escaped. We could rest there until we could get to the Jeep and drive back to the farmhouse.
Yeah...that’ll work I thought to myself as I continued to drive. I took a deep breath as we finally reached the outskirts of the forest.
“Phew, I think my legs are cramped!” Badia jumped out of the jeep and started to walk around the car to stretch. I climbed out of the car and went to the back. I grabbed one of the large black packs from the trunk and stuffed it with a few things. 3 smoke bombs, a shotgun, loads of ammo, one pack of food, and a few cases of water. I stuffed another pack with the same contents and handed it to Badia, who was done stretching.
“I’m gonna ask you one more time Badia, are you ready?”
“Nope, but I have to do this so I can pretend I am” she replied a little bit shakily. It wasn’t the answer I was hoping for, but it worked. I gave her a little nod and started walking towards the forest.
“Were here…” Badia said breathlessly as we approached the clearing the Pound was located in. It wasn’t much, just a large grey building with no windows and one vent in the back, the weak spot.
“Start flying,” I told Badia and started to move back from the wall. Badia nodded and flapped her wings, twice, before springing into the air. With one great flap of her wings, she pushed herself into the air. It only took her three more flaps to reach the vent. She took out a screwdriver from her belt and unscrewed the door of the vent. She looked back at me, and when I gave her a thumbs-up, she took off her pack and pushed it into the vent. Then she crawled into the vent herself and disappeared from view.
Now it was my turn, I crouched down and finally let the eas and tail I was repressing re-appear. Instantly, I could hear the tiniest things. Rushing water from the lake, mosquitoes, and flies buzzing and even muffled voices from inside the building.
I guess this is what happens when I suppress my hybrid form for too long, I thought and shook my ears a little bit. I instantly felt a lot better. I was about 10 feet away from the wall, which meant I would have lots of running room to climb the wall. I crouched down and sprinted towards the wall and jumped. Quickly, my fingernails sharpened and I latched them onto the wall. I didn’t have time to pause and breathe from the jump, so I continued to climb, latching one hand to the wall while unhitching the other one, then latch that hand onto the wall. I scaled the wall quickly and climbed into the vent.
“Took you long enough” Badia chuckled.
“Oh, hush. You can fly, that gives you an advantage. Now shut up and let’s get moving” I quickly said and started to crawl. We started crawling through the vents, stopping from time to time to see if we could see anything, like a cell or a lab room or the cafeteria.
We turned another corner and heard a weird noise coming from below us. Badia walked over one of the vents and turned around so she and I both could peer down the vent. The room below was large and plain. There was a tank full of water in the center, it kinda looked like a dunk tank. Next to the tank was some kind of device, it was black and square like a microwave. The device had a dial on it too, a lot like a microwave. Besides the tank, the room was pretty bare, just lots of tables with monitors.
I heard a shout, kind of like someone barking a command, and a moment later a guard entered the room. The guard was holding a rope, and he tugged on it repeatedly. He gave it one final tug, and a figure stumbled into the room. She was short, kinda frail-looking, with almost red-ish brown skin, sagging brown ears, and a thin tail. Around her neck was some kind of loop, connected to the rope the guard was wearing. As soon as I saw the girl, I knew exactly who she was.
I looked up, Badia was staring right at me. Her eyes were wet and wide, “It’s Noma” she whispered.
“Where are your other freak friends!” one of the Pound workers shouted at Noma.
“Like I’ve said several times, I don’t know!” Noma cried. A pound worker grabbed her “leash” and pulled her up onto the platform. He quickly unhooked the leash and pushed her into the tank of water. Badia quickly covered her mouth to keep from screaming. But I kept looking, I think it was because I was paralyzed in fear and anger.
“I won’t ask again!” the guard barked. Noma simply swam to the surface of the tank and glared at him.
“Why are you people so stubborn! I said I don’t know!” Noma replied once again. The guard only shook his head and nodded at one of the other Pound workers. She stood up and walked towards the strange device. Noma’s eyes widened and she quickly attempted to get out of the tank.
“Gia what’s going on?!” Badia whisper-shouted at me.
“I have no idea” I whispered back.
The Pound worker turned the nob on the device, “40 bolts!” she shouted.
The device hummed and Noma’s shouts rang around the whole room.
“When she says bolts does she mean like electricity?!” Badia’s voice slightly cracked as she asked.
“I’m 100% sure that’s what they mean” I answered.
Noma’s body shook and jolted in the water, for about a minute. The whole time she screamed and cried.
“Make it stop! Make it stoop!” Noma cried. Badia and I covered our ears and closed our eyes. It felt like an eternity, but the screams finally stopped. I opened one eye, and then the other, and peered down the vent. Noma was gasping for air and trying to climb out of the tank. The Pound worker who turned the device on just laughed.
“Now are you willing to talk?” she asked.
Noma coughed, “N-never…”
“Well then I guess we’re gonna have to go again” she grinned and went to the device. She bent down and turned the dial again.
“55 bolts!” she called out.
Once again, screams and shouts filled the room. Badia closed her eyes and ears once again, but I couldn’t. Something about closing my eyes felt...cowardly. Like I was turning my back on Noma somehow. I needed to ride it out and search for openings. No matter how much it hurt.
The worker dragged an unconscious Noma out of the room, Badia and I quickly crawled through the vents to follow him. We reached the cells, where lots of other hybrids were being held. They were just as unsanitary and miserable as I remembered. The guard threw Noma into her cell and walked away.
“What do we do, what do we do, what do we do, what do we do!?” Badia cried. She was confused and scared, I could tell from her voice.
“We just have to go now. Screw the plan, just try not to die. You grab Noma, I’ll handle anything else” and with that, I unscrewed the door of the vent and jumped down, ignoring cries for me to wait.
I landed safely and looked up. Badia flew down from the vent and joined me. There were no guards around, and it was a bit dim, a perfect cover while Badia and I got to work. Badia ran over to me and took a hairpin from my bun and ran to Noma’s cell. She quickly picked the lock and opened the cell door. While I kept guard, Badia lifted Noma and placed her on her back.
“Ok, I have Noma, let’s go,” Badia said. I nodded back and started running towards the back door. We ran down the hall of countless cells, and seeing all the hybrids in there made me want to stop and save them all. But I knew I couldn’t I didn’t have enough supplies. We ran past several rooms, quickly but stealthily.
“There!” Badia pointed. A grey door with the words “ROOF ENTRANCE” written in big red block letters. The way we exited the first time we escaped the Pound. I went to the handle, and as I expected, it was locked. I took out another hairpin from my bun and picked the lock quickly. When I heard a satisfying click, I pushed the door open. A cool breeze of evening air flew through the door.
As Badia ran out the door with Noma on her back, I quickly closed the door behind me. We were out, even if we weren’t far. We. Were. Out.
We finally reached the lake, which was very far away from the Pound. We sat down at the edge of the bank to rest. Badia slid Noma off her back and made a make-shift bed out of our hoodies and a blanket she put in her pack when I wasn’t looking.
“Gia...we did it! We actually did it!” Badia half-sighed, half-exclaimed.
“Yea...we really did,” I replied, and softly laughed.
“There’s that laugh I know and love” Badia nudged me on the elbow.
I rolled my eyes and lied down on my stomach, peering into the lake.
“Ah finally, starting to relax I see” Badia joked.
“Oh shut up” I rolled my eyes once more and sat up “Let’s try getting Noma into better condition”
“Good idea” Badia replied, and sat up a little straighter. She took out a canteen from her belt and filled it with water.
“Should I just pour it on her…?” she asked.
I shook my head, “We should make sure shes actually breathing and stuff, I have a feeling today wasn’t the first time Noma was tortured like this”
Badia nodded and placed her middle and index fingers on Noma’s neck. She looked up and gave me a thumbs up.
“Hey, Noma…?” Badia whispered.
Noma stirred in Badia’s lap, her tails and ears twitched, and she was mumbling things under her breath.
“No….no why...no…” she murmured. Badia looked at me, concerned. I scooted over closer to her. Noma continued to murmur until her eyes fluttered open and she inhaled sharply.
“Noma!” Badia exclaimed.
“W-where the heck am I…?” she asked.
“You’re out Noma, that’s where you are,” I told her.
Noma blinked, slowly, as if she was trying to register what I just said. It only took her a moment.
“No way! You’re kidding!” she exclaimed. She attempted to sit up but almost fell over. Badia helped position Noma on her shoulder to prop her up.
“How did that happen?! Did you guys...oh god did they hurt you in any way!” Noma asked.
“No we’re fine, I should be asking you if you’re ok,” I said, back to my serious and concerned self.
“I-i’m fine, just a little shaken that’s all” Noma replied, though it didn’t take a genius to see she was definitely not fine.
“We can’t do much now, but once we get back to the Barnhouse I promise we’ll treat your wounds” I guaranteed.
Noma nodded, “Thanks Gia, I really owe you one”
“You don’t owe me a thing” I replied.
“Badia why don’t you get Noma to the Jeep while I clean up around here. I’ll meet you there but you guys can get a head start”
“Sounds good to me!” Badia said, and picked up Noma once again, and started walking.
The area around the lake was all clean, I was about ready to go. I looked down at the lake and caught a glimpse of the moon. It was a full moon that night, I hadn’t noticed that before. The moon was shining bright and it was whole, kind of like me at that moment. I took a deep breath and smiled, I finally had all my friends with me, and that was all that mattered.