This is a collab with Jose, go check out their POV whenever it's posted! I will be publishing parts 1 and 2 of my pov today, then Jose will take over the rest of the series once I leave over the summer.
Jose's link: https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/author/jose-valdivia/
I growl at the guard as they shoved me into my new cell, the torn clothes on my back greasy and dirty from the three weeks I’ve already spent here. The iron gate shuts behind me, and I glance up to see a young boy of about 17 sitting in the cell, his tangled brown hair draping over his dirty face. I scowl at him and sit in the corner, hogging the thin rag they call a blanket. A stray rat scuttles across the floor as I sit, clutching a small crumb as if it’s life depended on it. The boy sighs, seemingly disappointed at his current situation.
“Um, hi,” he mumbles, petting the rat on the floor. I stare at him, the corners of my lips turning down.
“I prefer not to make friends,” I snap. “Mind your own business and you’ll have nothing to worry about.” I fingered one of the many scars on my arm, my long black hair lying flat on my shoulders.
I eye the rat hungrily before making eye contact with the stranger. He looks down instantly, his long hair covering his bright hazel eyes. I continue to trace the scars on my arm as he speaks.
“Look, I’ve been alone in here for so long- hey, stop it!”
I look up to find the small rat scratching the boy’s exposed thigh, and I scowl once again.
“You know, you can take that rat and cook it on the brick on the windowsill to make a nice snack,” I mention, gesturing to the sliver of light peeking through the gap in the wall. I smile, softening my tone slightly. “Better than the stuff they serve here anyway.” Better be nice to the boy, else he’ll report me to the guards and send me to solitary confinement again. I can’t risk that, or the mission would be in jeopardy.
He stares at me in shock before clearing his throat.
“Would you ever kill your best friend?” he asks suddenly.
“What kind of question is that?” I ask, slightly taken back. “Is that why you’re here? Kill your best friend? Kill someone else?” I smile eerily, leaning forward.
“Are you sure we aren’t talking about yourself? You seem like someone who wouldn’t have a problem killing your friends,” he asks sarcastically, a ghost of a smile spreading across his face.
Heat crept up my neck as I launch forwards, grabbing him roughly by his collar, his previous smile instantly dropping.
“I may be dangerous, but I am loyal,” I hiss. “I’m still keeping secrets for those throwing dirt on my name, hunting me down, trying to kill me. You, however…” I sneer, relishing in his fear as I drop my voice down to a whisper. “... I wouldn’t have a problem killing.” I release his collar, returning to my respective corner. Most people wouldn’t dare to make a comment like that, but I let the boy slide, considering he just met me. He’ll learn eventually.
We sat in uneasy silence as I examined the cell, adjusting my plan for escape once I finish my mission. I glanced at the boy and felt a pang of guilt for what I would have to do. I quickly looked away as he met my gaze, pretending to pick at some crumbs on the floor.
“What’s your name?” I ask harshly, friendliness never being my strong suit. When he doesn’t answer, I raise my voice, quickly becoming irritated. “What’s your name?!”
“What’s it to you?” he asks with a depleted air. “If I told you my name you’d call me a liar just like everyone else.”
I laughed, a deep, musical one that echoed through the walls. It’s been a long time since I laughed like that, not since the death of… my parents. I stop laughing and look away. I can’t start building relationships with the people here, considering they might have to die soon.
“It’s James. James Knight,” he responds with some uncertainty. He sighs and looks down at his slender hands, grime layering his light skin. “Now you carry out your end of the deal. What’s your name?”
“Rayla. No last name, no known parents. Adds to my mysterious story.” I chuckle, tracing the cracks on the floor. I never knew my parents last name since I was young when they died. “James Knight, hm? Name sounds familiar. Son of the king and queen, I presume? Tell me, what are your opinions on the advisor and his beliefs that fear is the best way to control people?” I send an eerie smile his way, intrigued to see what his answer is. This will decide whether I let him live or if I kill him myself.
“Ok then, Miss Rayla with no last name. Never heard much about you except that you’re bad, like, real bad in the crime world.” He pauses, attempting to steady his slightly trembling voice. “Any person in their right mind knows the answer to that question. Do you really think I’d be in this mess if fear didn’t make people so easily influenced? Threaten people that their farmlands will be taken away if they don’t comply with the law, then tell them that the prince died at the hands of robbers in the middle of the night? Of course people will believe anything if it means their own skin will be saved. What’s this to you?”
“Interesting…” I say, leaning against the grimy cell wall, folding my hands in front of me. This boy had a little fire in him, a fire that was thought to be extinguished long ago. “You’ve passed. See, people are throwing dirt on my name. They say I’m a ruthless killer, yet I’m trying to help those accusing me. I kill those who have mass murdered others. I should be called their savior, but no, I’m simply a criminal. The fear drives them, and that’s what I’m trying to get rid of. And I’m pretty good at it, too, I must say. I never get caught.”
“I passed, what’s that supposed to mean?” he shakes his head in disbelief, becoming more and more frustrated. “Oh, and I'm supposed to believe a stranger who enjoys killing people. Great. Even though you may be doing the right thing, ending a person’s life is a major no, no. Even if the person is bad and a complete jerk, that’s no excuse to kill them. And what’s this about never getting caught because it sure seems like the authorities managed to get you into a cell this time.”
“Who says I enjoy it? I kill when necessary. At first, I simply come in and try to convince them that there are other ways- with the help of a knife, of course. I only use it when they force my hand. You say ending someone’s life is a major no no, but which is better? Letting them live and having them murder hundreds, maybe thousands of other innocents? Or killing them and letting those hundreds live?”
“Of course I’d rather let the innocent people live!” he retorts.
“It’s all about priorities, prince boy. And another thing to think about: have you ever thought that I’m here because…” I lean in closer, our breaths tangling in the air. “... I wanted to get caught?”
“But why would you want to get caught if you’re trying to murder them? That’s ridiculous unless-'' his eyes widen in realization as I smile. This boy is smarter than he looks.
“I won’t disclose the full plan because I’m not sure I can trust you. Telling you even this much is a risk. But I’m pretty sure you’ll stay quiet, won’t you, prince boy?” I toss a small rock up and down in my hand, giving a small smile.
“Fair enough,” he responds, returning the smile, eyeing the rock in my hand. “It’ll take longer for me to trust you as well. I’ve had some… past issues with betrayal.” Before I can ask why, the metal prison door bangs open, silencing the both of us.
I recognize the guard at the door, smiling as I see the prominent scar on his cheek and the hawk-like amber eyes behind the helmet.
“Took you long enough, Jones,” I say, standing up. “Did you bring the stuff?”
“Shuttup Ray. And yes, I brought it. Can’t have an old friend stuck in here now, can I?” He glances at James as he drops a brown bag on the floor. “Who’s the cellmate?”
“Someone we’re keeping in this mission,” I respond, shuffling through the items in the bag. A paperclip, a small whistle, and a sharp knife. I quickly stuff them into my pocket as Jones scolds me.
“We can’t risk more people in this mission. You get attached too easily, Ray.”
“He’s going,” I announce stubbornly, tossing the empty bag in his direction. “Come on, prince boy. It’s time to execute the plan.”
I barely hear James squeak “Who are you guys?”
I turn around, a smile on my face. “Just some people fighting for freedom. Now come on, this guy’s running on a favor and it doesn’t last long. We’re usually lone wolves.”
“I guess I’ll fit right into the group then. You see, I’m also an outsider,” he reaches out his hand to help him get up from his hitting position.
Get up yourself, I think as I turn away from him, stepping out of the open cell door. James frowned before rising from the floor, cautiously stepping out of the cell. This is probably his first time out of the cell in a long time judging by the number of chalk marks on the wall. Seeing James’ hesitance, Jones scowls, being the ever-impatient man he always was.
“Be nice, Jones,” I say. “We need him alive.”
A distinct clunking sound echoed through the stone hallway, signalling the approach of the one legged guard, Mr. Grimm, and we instantly went into action.
Jones pulled out a pair of handcuffs and handed them to me. I latched them onto James’ wrist as I hissed in his ear. “Be quiet, let us do the talking.” I latched on my own cuffs as Mr. Grimm came into view, his silver eyes trained on us.
"What are the prisoners doing out of their cell?" he asked, his gravelly voice echoing through the stone hallway.
“Just taking them over to the yard. Shuffling prisoners for the coal mining,” responded Jones, playing the part of a prison guard.
“Even the high-level prisoners? Hm, guess the warden needs more people mining with the shortage. Careful with the girl though, she’s a nasty one, she is. Got the blood of our brothers on her hands. I think I have something…” He stepped in closer, his breath reeking of alcohol. “...special for this one.”
I scowled and stomped my foot hard on his, causing him to yelp and almost fall over. He leaned in close to me, yanking me by the collar.
"You might wanna behave, girl, or I'll up your execution date. I can put you in the solitary cell in the meantime as well." I hesitated, knowing only the most trusted guards could control what goes on in the solitary cells, something even Jones couldn't manage within his 4 week stay here. Being in solitary would mess up the whole plan.
“No, sir,” I mumble, hating being brought down. I kept the scowl on my face as I imagined several ways to separate his head from his body. I smiled at the thought, and Mr. Grimm shook his head.
“Crazy girl,” he mumbled, turning towards James.
“Oh, it’s only you. The kid who lied about being the prince.”
“What’s it to you?” he asks mockingly. He attempts to throw a punch at his lopsided nose, but the chains help him back, causing obvious frustration. Jones stepped between Mr. Grimm and James.
“Mr. Grimm, the warden sent me to get these rascals working in the mines as soon as possible. They need as many hands as they can get.”
The guard pulled away from James, taking a few seconds to answer as a result of his drunken state. “Well, if it was the warden’s orders then of course, of course. I’m sorry for interrupting.”
Mr. Grimm bows slightly and leaves, a small smile forming on his lips.
The little transaction boiled up something inside of me, and I glared at Mr. Grimm’s head as he walked away, sending imaginary daggers through his skull.
“C’mon,” grumbled Jones. Jones released us from our cuffs when we arrived at the coal mines, the air heavy as small flecks of coal floated in the air.
“Act normal and wait for my signal,” I hiss in James’ ear. “I’ll give a bird whistle and you’ll follow Jones. Don’t wait for me, and stick with the plan, no matter what happens. The less you know, the better in case you’re caught.”
Jones sneaks a small black bag to me, and I make my way to the back of the mine.
I walked to the back of the coal mine, concealing the black bag beneath my clothes. I came across a metal door leading to the storage, just like when I first scouted this place. I pulled out the paperclip from my pocket and fiddled with the lock, twisting and turning the thin metal until I heard a small click. I made my way inside, clouds of dust kicking up from the floor, fingering the walls until I came upon the familiar hole. I thrust the black bag inside, the small red tip of a dynamite poking out. The explosion would cause a chain reaction through all of the other ones I’ve placed around the prison, and it wouldn't detonate until later, but I rushed out of the room anyway. Explosions would probably trigger me, and I wanted to be out of here before that happened. I walked through the mine again and took out my whistle, blowing into the cold metal. A piercing sound cut through the air, and I stuffed the whistle back into my pocket, hoping Jones heard it so he and James could escape in time.