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One Shot | Psych, not Sike

PROMPT

I’d invite you in, but you won’t fit in the house.

Psych, not Sike

*Ting* *Ting* *Ting*

The sound from yet another clumsy set of fingers pounded against the thin glass barrier. It had been happening all day and was starting to give me a headache. I knew they couldn’t get to me, but what did I care? What if they did get me? It couldn’t be worse than being with the ones who returned me.

Sentient. That’s what we pets are. Sentient. Biological constructions who are fully aware and yet not autonomous – legal speak for able to function on our own and make decisions for ourselves. Five inch tall living dolls for the amusement of others.

When I was younger, I fought tooth and nail to be heard. I kicked and screamed and fought with every fiber of my being against my human host. I begged them to listen. I demanded to be heard. The girl who owned me before never listened and simply stuck me in what she called “solitary confinement,” which was a little more than her desk drawer with padding that made my voice muffled.

I stopped eventually. I don’t even remember when. I guess I just realized it was hopeless.

Humans would never listen to a pet unless we were cute, sweet, and did little tricks.

We weren’t human, despite every similarity in the book we had with one another.

*Ting* *Ting* *Ting* *Ting*

“Hey, what about this one? She’s cute,” says a girl with dark brown eyes and dark olive skin. She looks like me, but her hair hangs straight down in two low ponytails instead of frizzing out in impossible curls. She can’t be more than thirteen. A man, who I guess is her father, bends over and examines me.

I’m still amazed that the glass container I was in was still clean after all of those smudgy, grimy hands tapping on the front cover.

“No sweetie. This one is listless at best. You want a vibrant, active pet, yeah? One who will play with you?” he asks.

“Yeah!”

“Besides, this one is a little older. Let’s see what else they have.”

Older? I’m not that old. I just turned twenty-one… right?

They walked off.

Funny.

My heart didn’t even jump.

I wasn’t even scared.

Then again… how could I be? After everything that happened after my self-proclaimed owner left for college and gave me to her cousin, who gave me to her sister, who gave me to her boyfriend, how could I be afraid?

After what they did to me… After everything, I was now here at a pet shop waiting for my “second chance” to be adopted. Basically, a humane society for pets.

How long had I been here? Weeks? Months?

I don’t remember. I used to count the days, but not anymore. It’s not like I’ll be asked.

A shadow eclipses my container. For whatever reason, I look up.

Only now does my heart skip a beat. I’m met with a pale green and a pale blue eye. Two different colored eyes on the same face. They are behind thin, perfectly round glasses that perch on the bridge of his nose. Is he in his thirties? Maybe. His almost sickly pale features are thin, which match his slender body perfectly, so he could be older or younger.

He’s wearing a dark blue turtleneck and has keen eyes, like he can read my mind.

He doesn’t tap on the glass. He doesn’t make any kind of cooing sound. He doesn’t even smile. Instead, he simply nods twice, turns on his heel, and goes over to the counter where one of the attendees is standing.

I look at him for a moment. Something seems familiar about him. Through the warbled tone of the glass, I listen into their conversation. I wasn’t interested or curious. It was mostly out of sheer boredom and the fact they were the last humans in the store. The one behind the counter was looking at his phone as usual.

“Welcome to Second Chance, where we give pets a… oh… Hello doc. Didn’t recognize you,” said the pimply faced brat behind the counter. He shifted his weight from sitting, which is where he usually was, to standing.

Doc? Doctor?

I squirmed against the wall, remembering now where I had seen the guy before. I’ve seen him several times actually.

He was in here a couple of weeks ago – buying pets. If I remembered correctly, he bought four when he came through. One of them was older, right? Why was he back so soon? We have the same lifespans as humans, as far as I was aware.

“I just came from the office and thought I would stop by to see your collection,” he said. His voice was quiet and precise, cold and calculating. Scientist type. I wanted to stop listening, but there was nothing else for me to do.

“Well, that’s nice to hear. We don’t have much left. Just the one. The others are on hold,” said the boy behind the counter. He pointed at my cage.

The doctor casually glances over his shoulder at my cage, not even bothering to turn his shoulders in my direction. Figures. He looked back to the boy behind the counter.

“She’ll do,” he muttered. “I’ll need her records and physical examination papers.”

“She doesn’t have either. Surrendered pet. Last owner called her Sheila, but that’s all we have on the books,” said the boy behind the counter. I think bitterly to myself that “Sheila” isn’t my actual name, but it’s not like they would listen or care.

“I see. I’ll have to conduct one myself then. Please make the appropriate arrangements for transport. Do I have permission to retrieve?” asked the doctor.

“Sure thing doc. Getting a playmate for your other pets?” he asked.

“Something along those lines,” the doctor replied. He walked over swiftly to my container, pressed the appropriate code into the lock, and the glass separating me from the savage human world creaked open.

His hand rested on the entrance for several seconds before turning to reveal his palm. It’s like he was beckoning me forward. Well… fat chance. I stayed where I was and looked away to the dish of water in the corner of my cage. Was there any way I could tip that over and soak him?

No.

Not without consequences.

“Sheila,” he spoke quietly, but it didn’t warm his calculating and cold tone. “Come.”

I didn’t move. I wasn’t about to wander into the hands of my demise.

“She being difficult? If she is, I can do something about it,” called the cashier. I saw the doctor’s chest heave a sigh.

“Unnecessary,” called back the doctor before he looked back at me, crouching lower so I could see him out of the corner of my eye. “Apologies in advanced.”

His hand entered the cage. I knew how I wanted to react. I wanted to stand and move to the far corner of the cage. I wanted to kick and scream as I saw his looming digits approaching me. At the very least, I could’ve bit him once he had a grip on me.

I did nothing.

My heart skipped a few times, and my shoulders began shaking. This was what my life was reduced to – being man handled into complete numb complacency.

His fingers wrapped around my body. For a moment, I braced for the uncomfortable crushing and the sweltering heat that accompanied so many human hands I experienced in the past. I waited for my face to be pressed into his palm as he stood me up and readjusted so my head could peek out of his fist, pinning my arms to my sides and letting my legs dangle.

It didn’t happen that way.

Instead, his thumb and index finger slipped under my arms, allowing him to easily lift me up onto my feet. His hands were cold, but not clammy. What was more surprising is that his hand retracted a few inches away from me once he was sure I was standing. He glanced over his shoulders, like he’s making sure he wasn’t being watched, before looking back at me.

Then, just under his breath, I heard him say something that made my heart skip a beat like a stone skipped across the water.

“Please, don’t give up on me,” he said. Caught in his words, I looked past the slightly splayed digits beside me to his different colored eyes. There’s a moment, a fraction of a moment, where I thought I saw something more. He said something else, which sounded far too precise to be spontaneous. “Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, it is dear to me, and I will defend it. So, defend it.”

I looked into his eyes and could see no malice. I saw something else though, but I couldn’t place it. I was too focused on

I hated being held and especially disliked the idea of willingly subjecting myself to it, but if I didn’t comply, things would get bad for me quickly. I couldn’t move into his hand and, instead, nodded once to give him permission.

His hand reached around and pressed against me, ring and pinkie finger closing around my waist while leaving the top part of me exposed. Again, his grip was cool, like being exposed to a winter breeze. I let myself go limp and, before I knew it, I was slipped into a cardboard box with no windows and the paperwork was signed, sealed, and delivered to my new owner – Doctor Simon Talbot.

The drive wasn’t terribly long, but the whole way I could only hear his quiet, calculating voice saying the same phrase over and over. Please, don’t give up on me. Was it because he had something in mind to do to me? Or was it because he was taking pity on me like some kind of abused shelter animal.

Well…

Maybe that’s how he saw me…

The car comes to a stop and there is some jostling which I can’t see from inside my container. I hear the sound of jingling keys and the creek of a door opening. While I felt numb, my body trembled subtly, heart skipping every few beats.

I hear the doctor’s voice call out, “I’m home; and we have a new arrival. I’ll be in my office.”

Who was he talking to? Was… it a family? With kids?

A sinking feeling overtook my gut as the box I was in is carried from the front door and set down on something hard. The top of the box opened, and my world flipped as the box was tilted delicately on its side. Prone, I glanced past the opening to see a number of interesting scales and weights.

What kind of doctor was this guy?

I heard him outside walking around and shuffling things around. It sounded like he was getting together papers. There were a few beeps and what sounded like a few other voices asking to confirm appointments, but I couldn’t tell.

What I do know is that I had the perfect opportunity to run and hide behind a nearby cup of pens and I didn’t budge. All I could do was sit there, stumped by my own circumstantial frustration and lack of willingness to care. A few years ago, I would’ve jumped at the chance, but not now.

I will be found if I run. I’ll be punished if I try to hide. I’ll be eliminated if I’m too much to handle. I accepted it – whatever is going to happen will happen.

The moment evaporated the moment I heard him sit down. An arm appeared from the side of the box holding a pen. He scribbled something down on a stack of papers shoved under a clipboard clip the size of my body. He cleared his throat and started talking.

“Apologies for the given circumstances and for my handling you without complete consent. I ought to introduce myself if you’ll allow me. My name is Simon Talbot. Could I ask you your name?” I said nothing. What kind of ploy was this?

“Sheila was what the cashier said your name was, but I have a sneaking suspicious that isn’t the case. Is this correct?” he asked. I sighed and shook my head. What was he playing at? I heard him sigh and readjust, arm vanishing from view.

“I… I’m sorry,” he said. There was something different about his voice now. It was warm, thoughtful. “You don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to. I do ask that you listen though.”

“I don’t know you and I don’t know what you’ve gone through, but I know you didn’t deserve it. None of you do. I don’t need to look at your paperwork to know you’ve been passed around from person to person because you didn’t try to fight my grip. I don’t need to examine you to know the humans you were with were abusive, keeping you on what they thought was a disciplined short leash but was actually psychological torment,” he paused to take a breath, and I was glad he did.

It felt like I couldn’t breathe. Everything he was saying was true; but how could he know?

“They don’t know what I know. They haven’t tried. They haven’t tried to see you for what you are – people.”

I felt my jaw slacked and my insides flip. What was he saying? A spark ignited in me that I thought I lost years ago. Was this a tease? Maybe this was a test? Still, I realized a moment later that I had inched a little closer to the opening.

“If you’re willing to listen, I’d like to have a conversation with you – person to person,” said Simon. I felt absolutely swept away, questions starting to form. The headache throbbing in my temple raged for a moment, but I dared to take another step out, barely peering around the edge of the box to see Simon’s eyes.

The moment he saw me, a subtle, charming smile crept onto his face. The cold, calculating brow of this so-called doctor had melted away into a different image altogether. He was actually… almost charming.

It had to be a trick. There was no way. He was luring me. I ducked back into the box, heartrate tripling as I did. I knew I would suffer by retreating, but I needed to get away. I heard a disheartened sigh and crumpled to my knees. My body started shaking again.

“I see. One moment,” said Simon. I heard him get up and walk away.

I wanted to run out and tell him to stop – that I just needed a minute – but I didn’t get the chance. I hear a click on some kind of device on the desk that I can’t see before I hear Simon speak again.

“Boomer Skip? I need your assistance in my office.”

“For what? Look, you’re a big boy. I think you can…”

“I need you to give the spiel.” There is a momentary pause before this guy responded.

“Sure thing, sprout.” The use of names made me think family, and the voice sounded older. I thought about going out there and cooperating with him, but I stay shoved in the back of the box. I leaned back against the box.

A couple of minutes later, I heard a small click and a squeak. “You’d better need me for this one sprout. I was helping with the puzzles downstairs.”

“Sure thing Boomer. She’s the new arrival. Handle with care,” said Simon.

Handle? Oh gosh… I brought my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them. Did he mean handle as in hold? Discipline? I pinch my eyes shut and grit my teeth, nausea threatening to wrack my body.

“Well, hello there darlin’,” said a voice which sounds much older, softer, than I thought a human voice should sound. The pounding in my ears almost made it impossible for me to hear the sound of footsteps approaching me. What?

I opened my eyes to see an elderly gentleman approaching me. It wasn’t his kindly eyes that fascinated me or the proper manner in which he was dressed, vest and all. It was the fact he was just like me – a pet. He had just stepped off of Simon’s hand and walked onto the desk toward the box.

“I understand you are having a difficult time, but allow me to reassure you that you are in good hands, metaphorically speaking of course,” smiled the older gentleman.

“You’re a…” the words left my mouth before I had a chance to stop them.

“Pet?” finished the elderly gentleman with a smile. He placed his hands behind his back and sauntered forward into the box until he was only an inch from me. “Yes, that I am; that is, if I were anywhere else but here. May I sit?”

I nodded numbly and watched as the older man struggle to sit on the ground beside me.

“I’m getting too old for this,” he muttered as he sat down and leaned into the box for support. “So, as I was saying, I understand you are having a difficult time at the moment.”

“I… what…” I stopped short as I heard the elderly gentleman chuckle.

“Believe me, I couldn’t believe it either. Allow me to shed some light on the situation,” said the older gentleman. “Firstly, my name is Skip. You may call me Skip or Boomer or Boomer Skip. What’s your name?”

I hesitated. The look on my face must’ve told him everything he needed because he continued without hesitation.

“We can get to that in a moment,” he smiled. “Simon, the human out there, is a doctor. I know. We’ve all had our experiences with them, but Simon is a different kind of doctor – a psychologist. Specifically, he is a behavioral psychologist. Psychologists study a lot of different things, but what is really important about what he’s doing is drawing parallels between the behaviors of humans and pets.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“You… wait… you’re saying…”

“In short,” said Boomer Skip. “Simon is trying to prove how similar we are for long term legal adjustments; that we’re the same.” I wanted to leap for joy, and I might have if I didn’t see Simon’s hand come by the front of the box.

“Everything okay, Boomer?” asked Simon. The older pet grinned sassily at me before shaking his head.

“Of course. I can handle things here sprout,” Boomer called.

“So… he’s… trying to prove we’re the same as humans?” I asked, suddenly feeling uneasy. “But…”

“I know you must have a lot of questions, but perhaps the others can help answer them,” grinned Boomer. “Care to come with me? I can get Simon to leave if that will make you more comfortable.”

“You can do that?” I ask, voice barely above a breath. My head throbs and swirls dangerously. “And what others? I don’t feel well.”

“Take a moment and breathe. I know it is a lot all at once. Believe me. You aren’t the only one. Let me ask Simon to leave. Do you need a water? Or would you rather have some tea back at the house?”

“Ho… house?” I exhaled slowly and let my head rest between my knees. “You’re talking like pets here are…”

“Free?” finished Boomer. “Because we are. We are free here. Simon makes sure of that. One moment, please.” He forced himself up and stepped beyond the edge of the box. “Sprout, would you mind stepping out of the room while I get our new arrival settled?” asked Boomer.

“Of course. Please offer my sincerest apologies again to our new guest. Dinner at seven thirty. Also, please let Forrest know it’s his turn to select the movie for the night,” said Simon. “Will you be needing tea?”

“Yes, if at all possible. I’d invite you in for tea, but you won’t fit in the house,” smiled Boomer. I watched the way he smiled up, undoubtedly looking at Simon. I admired the way he stood and spoke so freely to Simon. I heard a deep, thoughtful chuckle from the just outside the box.

I stood cautiously and approached the edge of the box, peering out just in time to see Simon stand at his dizzying height and start to walk away.

In that moment, that same fiery passion reignited just long enough to make me step out into the open and call out, making Boomer jump slightly and Simon stop dead in his tracks and turn his multi-colored eyes toward me.

“Simon!” I shouted. “Valentine.”

He turned around and looked me in the eye. Instinct, which was imbedded deep inside me, surged but I held firm for as long as I could as he spoke to me.

“Pardon?” he asked. I took a breath, giving Boomer a quick, unsure glance, before looking back to the doctor.

“Y… y-you asked my name. It… it’s not Sheila… it’s Valentine,” I said quickly, cursing for stuttering. He smiled at me, turning and nodding his head thoughtfully toward me.

“Well, pleasure to meet you, Valentine. I hope you and I will continue to converse; whenever you’re ready, of course. Until then.” Simon dipped his head again, like in some kind of reverent respect, before turning away and leaving the room, the image of his smile sketching itself into my memory.

“Valentine? Beautiful name. Shall we?” asked Boomer. I took a few seconds to process what was going on, but finally shook myself out of it. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I followed my fellow pet to the edge of the desk and along the trim to an opening in the wall. Wherever this was going, it didn’t matter. What mattered was that the fire, even if it was just for a moment, was reignited. 

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