Illumination (Part 2/2)

(TW: Imprisonment, poison)

Kendle had been in her cell for 48 hours. No food or visitors. There was a tap in the corner that leaked dirty water. By hour 36 she stopped noticing the taste of its filth. It was water. She could drink and cool down her face in the muggy heat of her cage.

Her head swam from hunger and withdrawal from her medication. She had found a way to sleep on the floor. Not having anything else to do had made it simpler.

She was in a small cement room, devoid of furniture or light. The door was thick wood. It seemed odd to have something natural in a place like this. She leaned against it, pretending to be in her woods.

It opened outward and she landed heavily on the ground. Her vision blurred for a moment but adrenaline began to clear her mind as soon as she saw Fry standing above her in a bloody uniform.

“Food?” Kendle asked.

“Later.”

“Are we going somewhere?”

“Yes.”

Kendle nodded and tried to stand. Fry waited, not helping her. Kendle put a hand on the wall to steady herself. Fry began to walk down the hall and she followed slowly. There were a lot of rooms with unmarked doors. She had been in so much pain when she was brought in that she hadn’t taken in her surroundings.

The air held a staleness only found underground. There were a few uncovered bulbs hanging from the ceiling, widely spaced so shadows abounded. The shadows loomed, full of unknown danger.

Fry opened a door at the end of the corridor, revealing natural light. There wasn’t just light waiting, but a courtyard. There was no grass, but there were a few plants. Kendle recognized some as poison ivy, deadly nightshade, and various other toxic plants she had read about when she moved to the woods. It was an obtuse intimidation tactic. Kendle laughed uncontrollably.

Fry smiled without mirth. “Is the fresh air going to your head?”

“You tried to murder me! You locked me in a cement cage! Did you think a garden could make me more scared than I already am?”

“These aren’t for you. I had them brought in as a memorial for the men you killed.”

Kendle stopped laughing.

“It was hard to get them here,” Fry continued. “But it seemed the most appropriate tribute.”

“You attacked me.”

“You were drawing attention to us.”

Kendle grinned despite her situation. At least she would go out having shone light on them. She had dreamed of being a journalist. Maybe this was close enough. “Which article was the final straw?”

“A filmmaker found your site,” Fry said, as if she hadn’t heard Kendle. “He was going to make a documentary. Most of your stories were completely baseless, but a few…”

“A few were right?”

“Yes.”

Fry picked one of the flowers, unrecognizable to Kendle. It had royal purple petals and thorns with gray tips. “Now I have dead bodies to explain. I can explain one or two easily enough, but you killed a lot of my men in a very public way. You contacted too many people. If you turn up dead, people will come looking for me.”

Kendle watched her, unsure of the purpose behind the monologue or flower.

“But with your medical records it won’t be hard to convince them you’re a serial killer.” Fry’s spoke as if explaining why certain ingredients went in a pie.

“…What flower is that?”

“We call it Mania Root. It’s not the best name. It doesn’t start any kind of mania, and it isn’t a root.” She stepped toward Kendle. “If a thorn pricks you, the paranoia will take over. You won’t be able to keep the wolves at bay. All of your darkest, most intrusive thoughts will be even more real. I mean, I’m real. What if everything else is, too?”

Bitter tears welled in Kendle’s eyes. She’d come too far, fought against her mind too much… “Just kill me.”

Fry’s arm shot towards Kendle with surprising speed. She was stopped when a small prick hit her arm. It was like a bee sting. Nothing more.

Kendle held out a flower of her own. It had long white thorns and blue petals. “You shouldn’t have planted Indigo Death.”

Fry’s mouth began to froth with thick white foam. Her eyes rolled back in her head, revealing a spiderweb of veins. She fell to the ground heavily.

Kendle picked up the gun Fry had holstered on her belt. She was still weak, but blessed adrenaline was keeping her standing. Fry shouldn’t have moved into arm’s length. Had she shot her, there would have been nothing Kendle could do.

For once, Kendle was glad people underestimated her. Exiting the garden, she hoped the guards would do the same.

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