This was something I finished last night, but because it was late and I needed to write up a nice note to go with it, I'm not posting it until now. Please read the note that goes with this, as it is crucial to understanding where and when the story takes place. This story follows the history flashback in the "Within the Tangled Webs" doujin. It's an alternate take on Aaeru's past that I have loved and marveled at. It's not a very long doujin and the art is beautiful so it's worth taking a look at for understanding. The alternate history for Aaeru is quite dark, but not a lot of background is given. I think that it works well in this case. To read the doujin, please visit the "General Simoun Discussion" section of the rimajon[dot]forumotion[dot]com Simoun forum and you'll find it in the doujin thread at the top. I only began drawing from that storyline for this fic because I was in a bad mood the day I started it. All I knew is that I wanted to torture a character and that I wanted it to be young Aaeru.

Her eyes drifted toward the door of the cell. She could see the bars that held her in, but they were of no interest to her. She couldn't leave. She couldn't get near them and call for food. Men who didn't show their faces walked by all the time. They would shoot anyone who cried out for food or water or help. She'd seen death at a young age and knew it was something horrible. From the stench to the sight of the dead body that slowly lost blood, she knew it was something she wasn't supposed to see. Every time she heard the clack of boots against the hard floor, she cringed. Maybe if she made herself small enough, they wouldn't see her. Maybe they wouldn't take her. Maybe they wouldn't—

The creaking of the cell door alerted her senses. She felt herself become fearful, felt the feeling that made her feel like running. She wanted to run away, knowing that she could run really fast. But the men… with those sticks… she knew she'd be the one bleeding and dying. She didn't want that, but she also didn't want to stay here. She curled herself tightly, her tattered, dirty blanket covering her completely. She closed her eyes tightly, even though she already couldn't see. All she heard was the clack clack against the floor. As she listened, she realized that the sound stopped right near her.

A sudden tug and her blanket was snatched from her. Bits of her hair were pulled and she yelped in pain. The man in front of her laughed. She shook as she cowered, still trying to stay away from him. She was jerked to her feet as the man gripped tightly around her small wrist. "Come with me!" he spat.

Out of the cell she was led. It was hard for her to keep up with the man's large steps; he dragged her along behind her, knowing that she couldn't keep up. She tried to keep up, but her feet only dragged against the floor. Silent tears rolled down her cheeks. She didn't know where he was taking her, but it didn't seem good. Nothing was ever good in this place.

A door opened and she was suddenly met with bright light. She squinted, trying to cover her eyes. However, the man picked her up and tossed her onto the table. Her cheek touched the cool metal and she kept her face there, glad for the difference in temperature. Rough hands yanked her into a sitting position. Instantly, she was being poked and probed by things she had no name for. Men spoke, but she didn't understand the things they said to her. She squeezed her eyes shut, wanting it all to be over. She wanted to be back in the dingy cell with her blanket pulled around her. She could hide there, deep within the shadows and no one would notice her.

A cool feel on her skin made her eyes shoot open. She looked to her arm, which was being rubbed with something. The large hand picked up something behind him. She took one look and began scooting back. More hands grabbed her and held her in place. She screamed as the needle pierced her skin and slid inside.

The needle was soon withdrawn and something wiped over her skin. She was then pulled from the table and heard the men still talking as the one took her from the room. He dragged her along the hallway again and shoved her into the cell. Her knees scrapped against the dirt, but she didn't care about the pain as she scrambled for her corner and her blanket. She pulled it against her as she scooted against the wall. Her arm throbbed and she reached out to touch it. Her fingers grazed against sticky liquid, and she knew it was blood, her blood.

She didn't know what the men wanted or why they had used the sharp stick in her arm. It had hurt so much. She didn't want to go back to the room ever again, didn't want the stick in her arm. A clanging against the metal bars caused her to look up. One of the others she shared a cell with was banging, calling out for food and help. He often would do so, but usually the men ignored him. She wished he'd quiet down soon. He always brought attention to their cell and she didn't want to be taken again.

Bang.

The sound resonated throughout the cell and she watched as the man fell backwards, dead. She squeezed her eyes shut, and covered her ears. Would she be next? She didn't want to know what it felt like to have that sound pierce her skin. The sharp stick had been enough. She shrank into the blanket, her only protection. The ratty, dirty fabric was the only security she had. She was nothing more than a pathetic child locked away, and she didn't even know why.

She drifted off to sleep as she blocked away the noise and fear bit by bit. In a way, she would have preferred to stay asleep. It would mean that she didn't have to wake up to this hell or feel sharp sticks in her arm. She wouldn't be treated like dirt. But she didn't know any better. This was all she remembered. She couldn't remember what had come before this.

No one noticed the lump in the dark corner of the cell. Neither guard nor prisoner disturbed the dirty thing hidden beneath the blanket. There was no love for the child. She was a young girl who wasn't suited for the kind of life she lived. She was lucky to be alive by all counts, and yet, had no one to call her parent, no one who loved and spoiled her dearly. She was just another thing, trapped in hell. Another child thrown into a life that wasn't fit for a mouse. Some might say she would have been better off not being born, if this was all her existence would turn out to be. Tiny hands clasped at the edges of the fabric. Someday, perhaps. Someday…