Abie Prinsloo opened his eyes. The grey ceiling had not changed in the last couple of weeks since his incarceration. Yet in his dreams, the ceiling had been replaced with clear blue skies, and a single ray of sunlight streaming over the stubble growing on his chin. Birds would chirp. The wind would rustle nearby trees. He could breathe in lungfuls of fresh air. He sighed and turned away from the solid concrete slab above him, to the solid wall now bearing dark etches of symbols and markings he didn’t recognize.
Abie ignored the voice. Eventually it would keep silent, but in the last few days it had become annoyingly incessant.
<Escape! Abie! Escape!>
His voice thrummbed along the wall in visible sound waves that made his teeth buzz. The, almost male not really female voice, made its first appearance when he’d walked out to meet Bravo squad in the enemy compound. It seemed so long ago now, like a childhood memory seen through fogged glass. The only thing he remembered was the voice telling him to accept the power, to feed off it and be victorious. In the next moment, he was being cuffed and thrown into the back of a transportation vehicle at the Swartkoppies base, as a fearful Bravo Squad cast furtive glances at his struggling, shouting form.
And then he was here.
<You must Escape! They come for you!>
“Who is coming!” He rolled over and threw his legs off the bed into a sitting position; it made the sound waves more bearable in the empty cell. In the distance, crawling across the surface of the walls towards him, came the sound of boots. A lot of them.
<Let me in! I can help us escape!>
The voice was not panicked as it was agitated. He could feel it’s anger radiate across his skin like harsh sunlight.
“Running makes us look guilty.”
<Guilt isn’t on their minds. Only power.>
The sound waves were growing louder, followed by the grating, erratic wave of a metal gate sliding open. Abie held his jaw between his fingers, hoping to ease the reverberations coursing through them.
“I will not run. If we have to escape, we will.”
By now the boots had become audible thumps across the hard floor. Familiar soldiers crowded the outside of the cell in a clump, weapons raised pointing at him. He noted that a few of them had a slight shake to their grip; one wrong move and a nervous soldier would put a bullet in his brain.
<Hey. Can you put them to sleep?> Abie asked the voice in his mind. Silence was his reply. <Hey!>
<It won’t speak in my presence.> A mellow voice that was more female than male filled his head. Abie looked at each of the men outside the cell, hoping to see who had spoken. None of them seemed a likely candidate judging by their posture. For soldiers they were a disgrace.
<Yes they are, aren’t they, a disgrace I mean. And should you wonder whether I read minds, let me assure you. I can.>
“Who are you!?” Abie asked out loud. One of the men flinched and almost pulled the trigger; Abie could feel the vibrations of the rattling trigger in his left wisdom tooth. He wanted to stand up, see if there was someone else behind the troupe but he feared the soldier’s nervousness now more than ever. He stayed perfectly still.
<You are the reason they are so fearful, your oh so greatly indebted Bravo squad.> The voice continued. That explained the recognition Abie had felt, but who was controlling them now?
<Who are you? Where are you?>
<For that you should ask the parasite in your system. Perhaps you haven’t seen it as a parasite yet… or maybe you have.>
Abie stared at one of the men, the one who shook the most and happened to be the one with the jingling keys in his hand. He pushed his mind towards the man. That was the only way he could explain it, and what he would tell others who would ask him about it in the future. A push. Did he know it would work? No, but it was better than waiting to be killed by the very men you had saved.
Within moments he was in the man’s mind, more as an electrical pulse than a coherent thought.
Stephen van der Walt. Age thirty two. Single. Lives in Kroonstad. The middle of three children. Joined the army when his youngest brother was killed by enemy troops during a school outing.
Abie calmed the man down and let him lower his weapon as he steadied his hand to open the cell door. He let the rest of his mind push out towards the two on either side of Stephen van der Walt.
Kagisho Mpelani. Age forty. Married. Lives in New Transkei, on the border of an enemy base. Oldest of four children. Joined the army to keep his family and siblings safe.
Lucas Lesufi. Age twenty five. Single. Lives with girlfriend in Thokoza City. Last born of three. Forcibly asked to join the army by his parents when he lost his job and home.
He pushed his mind across to the rest of them, learning of their pasts and fears as he went, until he had the whole group under his influence. He lulled them into a quiet calm and had them lower their weapons. They stared glassy eyed at the space where he was.
<Oh the man is talented. I look forward to meeting you Abie Prinsloo.>
<I’m coming for you! Are you in the compound? Where are you!> Abie left the guards in their stupor, grabbing a pistol from a slack hand before running past them towards the exit. He pushed his mind out across the compound as far as he could, hoping to sense the owner of the voice in his head. A single mind waited in a room at the top of the stairs. An impenetrable mind. He ran all the way to the top and barged through the door with the pistol held out, ready to pop a bullet in whoever’s brain. He stopped just inside the brightly lit detainment room, eyes widening. His grip on the pistol loosened. His arm fell to his side in one fell swoop.
“Hallo Liefie. Kom sit.”
*Liefie is an Afrikaans term of endearment which basically means my love.
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