Lucky slammed his good eye shut, certain Malice had seen him. Drawing in a shuddering breath, he waited, sensing the creature as it slid closer to him, heard its claws on the cold stone floor.

“Lucky,” the monster cooed, closing the gap between them with a few final sliding steps. Pressing his palm against the wall so close to the man’s head he could feel it, the creature pulled closer still, teeth resting inches from Lucky’s face. Lucky said nothing, holding his lungs still as he felt the hot dry breath of the creature on his cheeks, the thick, scaled tail as it wrapped around his ankle, just enough to touch. Claws rattled as Malice drew his opposite fingers together, clacking the tips against each other and stretching his jaws into a wide smile as he watched the newly sighted man struggle to keep his eye closed.

“Lucky,” he said again. “The blind don’t need to try to keep their eyes shut.”

Lucky swallowed hard, pressing his back tight against the wall and squeezing his eye farther shut as his hands balled into clammy fists. Malice laughed and suddenly the lizard’s hand was on his face, nails stabbing into the flesh of his eyelids to rip them wide. Hissing in anger at the clear green beneath, he slammed the lids closed again, striking Lucky hard across the face.

“You are not meant to see,” Malice snarled, grabbing him by the neck and lifting him off his feet, “You reject the master’s gift?”

Lucky cringed, legs skittering against the wall and fingers scrabbling at unyielding fingers. The scent of Malice was heavy around him, like dry leaves, fungus, things of the dead. He could feel it all around him, pressing in against his head, his temples. Even without his good eye open, he could feel the creature’s terrible snarl, hear the hot breath snuffing out between his sharp teeth. Lucky’s cheek stung down to his teeth, a thin line of blood tracing its way down his jaw where one sharp knuckle had cut him. Desperately he searched for the light, begged for it to come. Forcing himself to withdraw despite the fear, stalling for time and struggling for breath, suddenly it was there. Deep like a river but warm. Strong, fierce, alive.

Letting out a shallow breath, Lucky opened his eye, still mostly sealed by the scars running over his lids. He had spent the whole night scraping free even what little vision he had, working with the light to get free. Now he looked down at the creature holding him, fire blazing in the clear pool of green half-hidden behind his red lashes.

“I do,” he said. “Because he isn’t my master.”

Lucky winced as the first fist came in, the second, the third, the fourth. His teeth rattled in his jaw as each blow came, eyes rolling like dice. By the time Malice finished, Lucky could barely move, stomach and legs clenched in agony and face a flower of pain. His eye was swollen shut again, a fact checked by Malice personally. When the lizard was sure he had done his work, he laughed, spitting on his victim.

“You will be blind. He is your master.”

Lucky slid down and away from the lizard along the wall, avoiding a final kick by the mere fact of his weakness and collapsing when he hit the bottom. Malice walked away, black claws echoing against the stone in time with his laughter, and after a moment of silence, Lucky curled still farther in, going inside, seeking the light, finding the river once more.

No, he isn’t, he thought, smiling in the dark when he felt it again, felt it lap at his wounds. Not now and never again.

I will be free.


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