Tabitha could swear she heard heavy breathing or sniffling or both. It was slight, but felt unmistakably despondent. She was not under any outside influence when she acted next. It was merely a brief moment of compassion followed by deep, red regret when she said, “Yes. I’m here.”
The door clattered and Chela jumped, jutting forward, prepared for it to swing open so that she might attack whatever came through. But it remained closed, pressed more firmly into its jambs with the weight now apparently resting against its other side. “Good. That’s good. That’s so good,” the door said, now somehow even closer, louder than Tabitha knew it could be.
The room seemed to compress under the weight of this presence at the door. The space felt more confined, more like a prison than it had before, even with its barred windows and locked door, such can be the oppressive nature of a guard. Each breathing body became even more aware of the others joining them in this cramped space, wondering how long they’d be trapped together, who would turn foe and who was already. Even time was found needing to squeeze itself into the space, folding onto itself to make room, giving the short delay at the door the illusion that it was longer, making it pregnant with dark conjecture and apprehension until the silence finally broke. “Are you the only one?” the door asked.