Inferno by Rhiannon Matlock

This is a little something I cooked up.

The fire burned hot.

So hot I felt it singeing the depths of my lungs with every breath I tried to draw in. I felt like I was choking on the plume of smoke that surely was escaping from within me and I tried to wriggle free but something kept me restrained. I couldn’t figure out why but everything inside me was in flames and not a small kitchen fire but a wild forest conflagration. It seemed like I was locked in an inferno, the blaze inching closer and closer, getting hotter and hotter. Sweat beaded and dropped from my head and back. I felt those capricious, searing fingers of flame reach out and lick me, singeing away my hair and flesh. I started to scream from the pain and my heart beat faster and faster, making the pain worse.

Terror rose up like bile. I sought out anything that could tell me where I was and what was going on but I found nothing aside from the raging heat building to unbearable intensity all over and inside of me. Coherent, logical thought was not possible with the agonizing heat torturing every cell of my body. I was frantic; I had to get out. Out of my body, out of this place, just out.

There was a prick against my skin and a few moments later an icy sensation spread throughout my body. Swiftly it spread and as it worked its way through my system, bringing the heat down to manageable levels as it traveled, I slowly became aware of something else besides the fire.

My name was the first thing I heard but in my current state, I wasn’t sure if I was just dreaming. It was quiet then and I thought I was going to fall off into limbo again but moment by moment consciousness started to prevail, pulling me from the bliss of the abyss back to the real world. All the aches and pains aches incumbent with that state rushed in all at once and I wanted to vomit. God, my head was killing me.

“Ms. Davenport?”

The voice cut in like a badly dubbed sound track and I tried to not listen to it. I just wanted to curl up into a ball and go to sleep.

“Ms. Davenport,” he called again though more loudly this time.

His voice was so grating. Couldn’t he just shut up for a second? I heard a shuffle of feet and realized I might’ve said that aloud. With a groan, I opened my eyes and found Agent Jones standing not far from where I sat. Oh fuck.

“Surprised to see me, Ms. Davenport?” he said in a slightly taunting voice.

Despite the pounding in my head and the still present heat in my body, I had an urge to fight back.

“You mean surprised to find out you like holding a woman against her will? No not really. I’m guessing most of your dates go this way.”

He clenched his jaw and slapped my face. The sting exploded across my cheek and it hurt worse than any slap I’d gotten in the past. Then again, I didn’t usually get cuffed by a man.

“Wow, didn’t realize you hit like a girl,” I said when I got my senses back.

I don’t know why I was insulting him but it felt good. He didn’t seem to like it though as he drew back and punched me. It hurt twice as bad as the slap. I heard the patter of feet scrambling and then next I felt a couple of hands on my face, tenderly touching my flesh. I blinked and saw the face of the doctor from the hospital. The one who’d released me. What was his name? It was hard to think through the increasing pain of the burn but eventually his name came to me. Doctor Franklin. That son of a bitch.

Without even thinking, I shoved my forehead into his face, landing a hard and successful crunch against his nose. He screamed and backed away. Again I had no idea why I did it. It would seem I was acting on every little impulse at the moment. Suddenly I felt dizzy and the world tottered a bit before my eyes.

“It’s the drug,” a new voice said and I recognized it instantly.

McCall. He also said he was with the Agency but I wasn’t entirely positive about that one.

“What did you give me?” I asked as I worked to right my world.

“Penzatine.”

“Never heard of it,” I said and my sight finally stabilized.

I found McCall sitting in the open chair in front of me. He shrugged.

“Not surprising. It’s something we developed,” he said as he took out a package of mints from his suit pocket and popped one in his mouth. “The problem with hallucinogens though is you never know where they are going to take you.”

“Good to know,” I muttered.

“I’m sorry about the arrangement you find yourself in. It is necessary though,” he said.

I glared at him but he sat forward, elbows on his knees, and looked at me with something resembling remorse. I knew it was a lie.

“I’m going to be candid with you, Ms. Davenport,” he stated.

“That’s a novel concept,” I replied but he ignored it.

“We have a problem. We need the information you have about John. It’s imperative that we get him back and you are our strongest link. Over the last few hours, we’ve tried several things to get you to tell us but your system is metabolizing them too quickly.”

“That’s a damn shame,” I said.

“It is,” he agreed quickly, “because according to the doctor, you don’t have much more time. The serum that is dripping into your blood is slowing down the effects of the virus you have but there’s nothing else we can do at this point.”

He said it like he was talking about a cavity that he couldn’t fill rather than my life. It was as once disquieting and irritating.

“Now, both of the things that I’ve just told you are irreversible facts but there is something that you do still have some power over,” he said and looked at me pointedly.

“Let me guess: this is where I ask you to spare me the pain of what you’re going to do to me if I don’t talk fast right?”

“You are quite clever but it is not so much of what I’m going to do to you as what I’m going to let happen to you.”

I didn’t say anything. Didn’t really see much of a point in talking right then but my mind was working like a nascar driver to figure a way out. McCall must’ve sensed this.

“Escape is not your best option because without that IV, you’d beg me to kill you.”

Still I said nothing and he sighed before he gave a little nod to the doctor and all at once the drip stopped. At first nothing happened and I started to feel a little smug.

“Don’t worry, it’ll come. In the mean time I think I’ll introduce you to someone,” he said and turned to the Doctor.

“How far along is patient 421?” he asked.

The doctor squirmed, “Almost there.”

“Good. Bring him.”

If the Doc was going to protest, it was eliminated with one look from McCall. A smile split Jones’s face, making him look like a jack o’ lantern as Franklin disappeared. Arrogant ass. A tingly sensation started at the base of my wrist and started to spread outward. It was hard to feel through the ever increasing heat in my body but the ascent up my veins was relentless and increasing. I wanted to believe that it was a good sign but I had a feeling it was really, really bad.

There was absolute silence until I heard the screams. They were horrific. I kept my face a picture of composure though as I didn’t want to give McCall the satisfaction. A door opened and the next moment Franklin carted in a man bound to a wheel chair.

McCall got up and pulled his seat away, indicating to put the man in front of me. The tortured soul was aware of none of this as he was in the thralls of mind numbing pain that I could relate to all too well. Red welts lined his bare chest and arms. Sores bubbled under his skin and looked they were going to rupture. He was bursting forward against his bonds with a viciousness that was literally sawing into his hands and feet. He didn’t seem to care though as his flushed face alternately gritted and then screamed. McCall and Jones did nothing but watch and my heart kicked up several notches as I watched the savageness before me.

I tried wrestling with all my might against my bonds. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I’d gotten out of them but that poor man didn’t deserve what was happening to him. Sweat poured off of him and slid over the sores along his body, making them sizzle. At the same time I felt the tingle in my own body start to turn from an itch to a burn.

The man’s face jutted forward then, eyes bugged and teeth bared as he let out one final, terrifying scream and the bubbles along his skin burst. I shut my eyes, anger coursed through me. I didn’t need to see his final state to know that it was gruesome and that it was to be my own fate soon enough.

The next time I opened my eyes, the man was carted away and McCall was seated in front of me again. A rolling heat swept my body, kicking up my core temperature and I felt sweat start to collect along my brow. The fire from before was returning. I started to panic.

“You fucking bastard,” I hissed.

“Perhaps I am,” he said, “but there is a reason for everything I do.”

“You mean beyond madness? You’re insane, no matter how you look at it.”

He tapped a finger against his knee. He was starting to get irritated.

“I’ve never once lied to you,” he said. “I will watch you go through that entire process right up until your last breath if you don’t tell me what I want to know.”

“Go to hell.”

“Come on, you’re no martyr. Your sense of self preservation is too good for that.”

“Fuck you.”

Jones stepped around McCall and punched me. Against the fever starting to ignite within me, it felt like a branding iron. Anger swelled in me, intensifying the burn.

“Heightened emotional states only accelerates the process. I’d try to calm down if I were you,” McCall clarified.

I wanted to tell him to go to hell but I realized that I’d already said that. The notion I had nothing but cliches to throw at him suddenly struck me as funny and I found myself laughing. It hurt, making tender muscles stretch even more and aches burrow in deeper but I couldn’t for the life of me stop.

I felt like I was going insane. Considering what was probably happening to my brain cells at the moment, it wasn’t beyond comprehension. At some point, I looked up and saw both Jones and McCall with frustrated looks on their faces. It made me laugh even more.

“Stop it,” Jones said, clearly disconcerted as he stepped toward me again.

My glee wouldn’t abate and neither would the sizzle that was starting to cook me.

“Or what?” I asked between breaths. “You’ll torture me? You’ll throw me in some dark hole and watch me die. Oh wait, you’ve done that already haven’t you, you motherfuckers.”

Jones shot forward and grabbed me by the hair, yanking my head so far back that I saw the ceiling clearly. He was hovering over me, trying his best to look as menacing as possible but he only looked ridiculous to me and made me cackle harder. He didn’t seem to take kindly to my response as he punched me in the face. Blood pooled in the back of my throat and I spit it out in his face. He staggered back, surprised and I took one look at his expression, then burst out laughing again.

“Go ahead and kill me you piece of shit,” I said. “I don’t really care.”

Jones looked like he was going to when McCall called out.

“Stop.”

McCall looked at me curiously and Jones propped me up again. My laughter subsided as I watched the look in McCall’s eye turn from troubled to satisfied.

“That’s it, isn’t it?” he asked but it was more of a statement. “You don’t really care if you die or not. But there is someone you would trouble yourself over, isn’t there?”

And just like that any remaining glee I had was tarnished to hostility.

“I wouldn’t think along those lines if I were you,” I said with deadly calm.

“I can do it. Get the Olivers down here before you perish,” he clarified.

I leaned forward, “You do that and I will kill you.”

Jones snorted but McCall had no amusement in his eyes as he leaned forward.

“I’ve no doubt of your belief in your words but have no doubt about mine either. I will sit them down in front of you, inject each of them and let you watch them. Considering Mrs. Oliver’s pregnancy, that really could be quite terrible.”

He continued to talk but I heard nothing more as hostility turned to hate and hate to wrath. It was blinding and exploding, amping up the burn inside of me like coals set afire but even the searing pain of the burn took back seat as my emotions raged and I quite literally ignited.

Heat poured out of me and I felt the plastic of the zip tie burn itself into my skin while I screamed and yanked against them. They finally melted away as I reached up and latched my hand against McCall’s face. Flesh boiled under my touch and he screamed, ripping himself away from me too quickly for my taste.

Jones came for me again but this time I reached out with both hands and grabbed his wrists. They singed under my grasp and he crumbled in pain to the ground. I leaned down to the blackened face of McCall.

“Touch my friends and I will burn every inch of your body,” I seethed.

Though I would’ve loved to stick around and see his expression, it wasn’t necessary. I got up and raced to the door. The electronic buttons melted under my fingers which was unfortunate but the wiring short circuited which caused the door to swoosh open. I ran as fast as I could, deathly heat at my heels and nothing but escape on my mind.

Two guards came out of somewhere but I shoved them aside. Up the stairs and around the halls I went until I finally found an emergency exit door and slammed through it. The cold air did nothing against my searing flesh, making my flight bittersweet. I don’t know how long I went for but it didn’t seem like much before my over-expended body just could not handle it. I dropped to the ground, the pavement scrapping against my hands and knees, tearing at me and causing me to scream in agony.

The sounds of dozens of feet stampeding towards me broke into my awareness and I knew I was done for but I couldn’t find the decency to care. A vague whimpering noise filtered in then and I knew it was coming from me as heat spread to my lungs. With nothing but death to look forward to, I looked back to see why I hadn’t been picked up yet. I knew that I didn’t have much longer but still I wanted to see. I expected to see Agents scrambling out from their hideout and rushing towards me like ants.

Instead I saw a half dozen men on the ground and the man I’d dubbed Silver standing over them. His white, wavy hair was sticking out in all directions and he was bathed in a warm light that made it seemed like he was glowing. As if sensing that I was looking at him, he turned toward me and I thought he almost looked like an angel.

A smile cracked my face. I wondered what he would think about me calling him heavenly. Before I knew it, he hunched down over me, the light around him increasing as it reached out and encased me. I wanted to reach up and touch his face to see if he was real or if this was just another hallucination but I was falling back into darkness faster and faster. My eyes closed and a second later, there was a loud boom but it barely registered as I sank into oblivion, certain I’d never wake up again.

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