Nischa, pt. 2

Nischa woke curled in a ball, her legs clutched tightly to her chest. The dark was oppressive, tangible; she could feel it brushing against her skin. She wanted to scream, to cry out, but she knew that would only bring more pain. So she lay there, making herself as small as she could. She sensed others around her. She heard the soft cries and whimpers of fear. They were all around her, yet she was more alone than she had ever felt before.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Nischa woke to voices, coming from somewhere above her. Their speech was thick and slurred. One sounded angry. “This one is damaged. As are these here.”

“Sir, we have brought in many specimens”

“You’ve also killed nearly half of what you had tried to collect. Your methods are crude.”

“But they are effective. No other has brought you this many… even if you count only the unspoiled ones.”

“True.” A soft jingle of coin could be heard. “You will get one quarter the rate for any damaged ones. And one tenth for any dead. I may still have use for those, but understand I would prefer them intact.”

“Of course. I will instruct the others to use more care.”

See that you do.” Steps retreated in the darkness and Nischa felt her world shift. The pressure that weighed down on her lessened and she heard a soft moan from her side. Her world shifted again and suddenly she felt motion. She let out a yelp as the darkness moved to cradle her from below like a hammock. “Oh, another one alive? No need to struggle, you’ll be in your new home soon.” The world turned upside down and the darkness shattered into light. Nischa shielded her eyes with one hand, cringing from the shadowy figure before her. There was a soft click of metal and then the figure turned away. In time, her sight became clear again. Beyond her hands, she saw the straight and rigid form of the bars. She was in a cage. The dark figure was some steps away, leaned over his work. He was sorting through bags, tossing them into one or two piles. Every so often he would get up to walk to another small cage around the room and dump out its contents. Nischa saw others such as herself, wide-eyed and frightened. None spoke, and few she recognized. Those awake crawled to the edge to cling to the bars and watch in silence as the unknown figure continued his work.

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