Plato shivered. He did not like the cold. He’d never particularly liked the cold. His cell was very cold.
“May I have a blanket?” he asked the guard.
The guard grunted, but otherwise did not reply.
“I said, may I have a blanket?” Plato urged sadness into his voice, not a difficult task.
The guard turned to look at him, eyes glowing white, pupils eclipsed. “Shuddup. Stop yer quackin’. Don’t speak freak.”
Plato rustled his chains as best he could, though his hands, bound to the walls, couldn’t move a whole lot. “Please… I’m so cold…”
The guard’s heavy frown grew heavier, and his brows narrowed beneath his helmet. “I just fuckin’ told you, I don’t speak freak. Ye deaf as well as a monster?”
Stopping his speech, Plato shivered violently while the guard was peering into his cell. Just to illustrate his point. Surely the man would understand, surely.
If the guard understood he didn’t show it. What he did do was pull a heavy set of keys from his pocket, open Plato’s cell, and punch the Non in the stomach eight times. Plato screamed out his pain, but the guard was relentless, gauntlets leaving deep impressions in Plato’s malleable gut.
“Freak, freak, freak,” the guard whispered when he’d finished, drool sliding down his chin. “They say yer a freak so yer a freak, freak. All for my masters. Now shut up.”
The guard went back to his post. Held up by his chains, Plato drooped as comfortably as he could. His stomach, a blotchy black field of indents, slowly settled back to his usual clothes-covered paunch. Plato suspected that traitorous green blood was oozing out of his bill, but it hardly mattered now anyway. These people knew what he was.
Plato had never loved himself. He knew, almost from the moment of his birth, that his species was somehow wrong. The Non weren’t supposed to exist for some fundamental reason, some quirk of existence that Plato’s teachers understood but wouldn’t reveal, and on a sad, terrible level, Plato agreed with the regulators. The Non should be shoved back into captivity forever.
But at the same time, Plato abhorred captivity. He’d lived in a limbo for far too long to enjoy being penned up. His release from imprisonment… such joy! Such rapture! He didn’t like himself, but he didn’t want to lose the freedom that had, until a week ago, been his to enjoy.
A week ago the regulators had come. A week ago, riding atop a fleet of dragons, they’d surrounded Iko’s home and forced everyone inside into imprisonment. A week ago they’d separated Plato from the rest, putting him in a solitary dungeon with only a string of guards as company. A week ago they’d begun the process of beating Plato down, destroying his defences one-by-one with harsh words, poor, inadequate food, little water, uncomfortable accommodations, chains, and, yes, cold.
Plato spat a glob of blood onto the ground, inspecting it with hazy eyes. It glowed a faint green. He hung his head, shivered, and went to sleep. Sleep was the only place where they could not get at him.
I wonder what happened to that rat. His final thought as he drifted off to sleep. I hope he’s okay. I liked that little fella.