i’ve been watching the world burn for a while now.
I've been watching the world burn for a while now. For three or four or perhaps several hours at most, I think, I've planted myself right here on the warm sofa, where Ms. Kapoor has told me to stay put until I am ready to be collected for further testing in the formaldehyde-splashed rooms floors below the facility. I'm not quite fond of the testing sessions, but it is Ms. Kapoor who whispers in a hushed voice that I am to remain quiet and docile and obedient if I am to be good, that I am to speak only when spoken to if I am to resemble the sweet, rescued princesses during her surveillanced nighttime visits for bedtime stories, that I am to move as slow, as unthreatening, as unhostile as possible if I am to reassure the young interns and newer scientists that there is, really, absolutely no need for unnecessary bodily bindings and further restraints of daily comforts to keep me satiated. Ms. Kapoor repeats versions of the speech almost every night, turning dog-eared page after page of the worn book to simulate narration in order to disguise the words, reaching with one or two-fingered caresses against my palms beneath the blankets to comfort me after the more painful sessions of my routine here. The bright-eyed reporter on the television begins to scream as the shufflers of the mob behind her become quickly overwhelmed by the runners of the hungrier, thirstier type, and I absentmindedly begin to pick at the fraying seams of the sofa, humming. Ms. Kapoor is never late. My dark-haired, dark-eyed guardian, with her perfectly pressed lab coat and clacking shoes and nearly indistinguishable, nearly inaudible hum, is never late in her efforts to emulate the perfect image of punctuality and cleanliness and elegance -- perfection, I admit, is what she truly is -- and I force myself to quell the emerging anxiety and worry settling at the bottom of my stomach. Ms. Kapoor is almost never late, I correct myself. Not always. The woman previously on the screen begins to gurgle in between uncontrollable shrieks out of sight of the dropped view of the camera, and I decide to cease the picking for a moment in order to turn the television off and focus my thoughts. Ms. Kapoor is almost never late, I repeat to myself in accordance with the popping of strands on the old couch of my holding cell, so there must be a perfectly good reason for it.
"Done with the shows already, I presume?"
I nearly jump at the sudden rush of her delectable scent as my guardian enters the room -- they've kept it almost completely shut off from outside sounds and smells since my last wave of hunger -- and retract the instinctual maw before she can press her curious face too close. I'd learned to be careful after the last assistant had failed to step back a second too soon. Ms. Kapoor smiles in spite of her tardiness. "And here I thought all adolescents were prone to becoming figurative zombies for hours on end," she continues, "though obviously there isn't much else to do here other than reading. You do what you must, I suppose." A sigh escapes from her lips, sanitizer-tipped fingers rubbing the edge of her nose before returning to her coat pocket. "But that doesn't matter right now. Now, sweetheart, have you watched the news lately?"
I'm not sure what I'm supposed to say. A flashed smile typically indicates a nod, a quirk of the lips a refusal, a stony expression a definitive signal to remain quiet or I will be punished by the lab in some awful, uncomfortable form. But her perfect lips are pursed and patient and waiting, and I've failed to follow her glance to the security camera nestled in the corner of my cell.
I nod. Safety first.
"Wonderful!" she exclaims, clapping her hands together. "Then I can correctly assume that you've realized the new, lovely nature of our world? And you don't have to cater your responses to the cameras anymore by the way -- I've already taken care of that." A genuinely excited grin, all teeth, warps the pretty contours of her features into something I've seen for only split seconds during the long hours of injections, of pain management, of the raw, unintelligible, induced hunger caused by days and days of starvation in the beginning stages of development that she'd gleefully led me through. Into something desiring and simplistic, like the children in Christmas movies unnaturally eager to reveal to themselves their presents of the year. She levels herself with my position by crouching, hands on knees, low and animated and hushed voice saying, "I've done so, so, so much for this world and you and your place in this world, my little princess. So much. An unfathomable amount, if you'd believe so." She stops to take a breath for an unguarded moment, and then I --
I s m e l l i t.
The sweet stench is quite prominent, actually. So obvious that I wonder how I could've ever missed it. Ms. Kapoor had leaned in close for a fraction of a second, and then suddenly the monochromatic walls and tile floor and old, frayed couch were bathed in it, reeking of it, begging me to t a k e a n o t h e r w h i f f, to breathe it in, what else could it do? What harm would it cause? Ms. Kapoor had leaned in close no more than two or three inches away, and I had blinked, and suddenly she was drenched in the delightful, palatable, thick and sticky redness that had so kept me wanting in the long stretches of my allotted nighttime and daytime hours, that figment of reality that had nearly suffered itself to be considered only a dream since the incident that had caused me to be locked up and deprived of normal food for days for my disobedience. But it was here now. And it was ready. My guardian had all but bathed herself in perfume and rubbing alcohol and sanitizer in effort to hide the stench, but I know. My guardian is perfect and beautiful and takes all measures of safety in the arrogant belief that there is no possible way that I, her perhaps equally as perfect and engineered princess, will disobey her commands. I'd already suffered through a relatively small but impressionable series of consequences once during my one slip-up in all of my years of existence here.
It's all I can do to keep my maw from visibly lengthening. I force my lips into a pursed smile to disguise it.
Her image is swimming with crimson as she explains something to the point of her reasoning for beginning the program, her desire to create a better, purged world, her need for a daughter figure to inherit this new and improved plane of existence. I was the only result who had managed to develop the most human, logical conscience to mold into the perfect humanoid, the perfect ruler, the perfect -- didn't I see that? Didn't I know why she loved me so much? The guards and fellow intellectuals and other building workers had all been either eaten, killed, or otherwise cared for in the short few hours since the beginning of this new world, and she hadn't meant to take so long. She'd never want to keep me waiting. And then her skin is s o so f t s o soft sosoftsosoftsosoft and warm and inviting and urging me to come take a little bite, just a little one, just so it doesn't hurt her too much. She's still speaking now, her grin as peculiarly wide and set as ever, but I can't make out the words. It's something good, I think.
She extends a blood-encrusted finger to trace the edge of my cheek, her features softening, her delicately human mouth breathing: "And I think you'll quite --"
... I hadn't meant to do that. Never in a million years and a day would I ever mean to do something like that, I reassure myself, but it had happened and there was nothing else I could do to remedy the fact. I chew lazily on the end of Ms. Kapoor's more than blood-encrusted fingers as I stroll down the ransacked, zombie-infested streets, overlooking what the world had become. Passing remnants of shattered mirrors and broken storefronts and staring back at what I had become -- the princess of Ms. Kapoor's created kingdom, the newfound ruler and dictator of things gone wrong to right. The one successful experiment. Obviously she had meant to be my rescuer, but her role doesn't matter as much as it does now, with towns and cities laid to waste by the subjects to be under my command. I gaze back into the dark eyes of young girl I would've never expected to resemble my perfect, beautiful guardian so much through the reflection of a more intact jewelry store mirror, curiously pulling at the seemingly human skin, the hidden, retractable jaws, the intricate braids that my guardian had wrapped into a bun this morning before her several hour-long departure.
I've been watching the world burn for a while now. And I think I quite like it.