1) We meet Laura on a Saturday, deep in thought in her home office where Roy thinks she is writing her book. Instead, we learn that she is trying to write a letter explaining why she is about to leave. Her thoughts take her far away, and only a loud noise brings her out of the trance. Upon investigation, Laura learns that it was only wind that slammed the previously open window shut. Relieved, she tries to write, but nothing satisfactory makes it onto the paper. A pile of discarded balls of paper surrounds the trash can. Roy returns home with groceries to make dinner. When Laura confesses she was not able to write anything, he comforts her by saying she will do better next time. [AGFTAO Part 1]
2) Roy returns with groceries on another Saturday afternoon to a quiet home. Assuming that Laura is writing, as per usual, he unpacks the bags and begins to make plans for dinner. After a while, he grows slightly agitated and looks for Laura in her office. In the dark room, all he finds is what looks like a gift bag placed on the desk. In the meantime, we learn that Laura is on a moving train, but we are unsure of her immediate plans. Her fellow passenger – a young boy keeps swinging his legs and kicking her in the shins, but his mother does not even seem to care, excusing him as: “just a kid.” Laura gets up and walks out in search of a more peaceful seat. Then, we jump back to Roy who is finishing reading a letter from Laura. There is a teddy bear for Tommy in the gift bag. When Tommy runs into the room and tells Roy he is hungry, Roy puts the gift away and tells his son they will get pizza for dinner and watch TV. They leave the room, the letter, and the bear behind. [AGFTAO Part 2]
3) About a week or so later, Laura fires her gun reflexively and kills an enemy combatant, which leads to her being chased by his compatriots. As she runs away, she trips and falls down a hill, but manages to get up quickly and runs towards the forest where she hides and tends to her injuries. Unfortunately, shortly after, she is apprehended and taken away on horseback. Her captors bring her in before a woman on a throne. [AGFTAO Part 3]
4) Once Tommy falls asleep, Roy laments the fact that, just like him, Tommy might be destined to grow up without a mother. In the shower, he finally allows himself to cry. In the living room, he pulls out a hidden piece of paper containing wedding vows. Afterward, he rereads the letter Laura left behind in hopes of finding some comfort but it only makes him sadder. Before going to bed, Roy wonders why all the women in his life end up leaving one way or another. [AGFTAO Part 4]
5) Laura finds herself in front of a woman who is stylized differently but is undeniably her friend for whom she was looking. ” Queen Naayelli,” the locals call her. Although Laura is pleased to see that their mutual friend – Jason, was right about the fact that Olivia was not dead, she finds herself confused with how unperturbed the queen is by her arrival. Laura was hoping for a warm welcome, but instead, she gets thrown into a small, dark cell for the night. The next day, Olivia comes to meet Laura in her cell, but, to Laura’s surprise, she continues to act coldly and does not ask about Roy or even Tommy. The chapter ends with Naayelli calling in the guards as she is leaving, to presumably inflict some pain on Laura. [AGFTAO Part 5]
6) When another day goes by without Laura making contact, Roy runs out of reasons to excuse her actions. Instead of taking care of his son, he starts to rely heavily on the babysitter to help with Tommy as he goes out drinking with his mates. We witness Roy undergo a change. He starts being more and more selfish, pointing fingers at everyone around him and being especially resentful towards women. When his babysitter quits, Roy leaves his son with his co-worker and goes to a bar to meet someone. There, he has a hard time finding a woman receptive to his questionable charm until a full-figured red-head joins him. They have a grand ‘ol time. The only problem – she is gay. [AGFTAO Part 6]
Laura laid sprawled on the ground for quite some time after her attackers had left. Nothing seemed to be broken but her face was swollen, her mouth tasted of iron, and her stomach cramped. The guards definitely did not hold back as they punched and kicked her.
“It’s just a myth,” Laura said out loud. “It’s just a myth. It’s just a myth,” she continued in a feeble attempt to comfort herself.
When Jason told Laura about his suspicions of Olivia being alive, he also told her that had heard that Olivia had flipped, killing multiple innocent people, including her partner. That she became one of them.
“I don’t believe it,” Laura said to Jason in reply and repeated to herself in the dark cell. It was then that the image of Naayelii, or whatever it was they called her, nodding at the guards, silently ordering them to beat Laura up, jumped into the forefront of Laura’s thoughts. She could not reconcile her beliefs with potential reality. She screamed, unsure whether it was to release her confused emotions or in hopes of tugging on Olivia’s heartstrings.
However, the Queen was all the way on the other side of the compound, looking out the window and wondering what to do with the new prisoner. Her people wanted to kill her right away for what she did to one of them, but Naayelii was not sure if haste was a necessary part of that. She knew that killing someone quickly was the most merciful thing you could do sometimes. If you wanted them to suffer, you tortured them. You killed them slowly. You made them beg for you to kill them.
The following day, the guards returned to Laura’s cell and added a few punches, albeit they did not seem as strong as the first time.
“Maybe they are trying to make sure they don’t kill me,” Laura wondered, hoping that meant Olivia was not really all that cruel. Surely, she would not want her best friend to be hurt.
In the hallway, when Naayelii was passing, one of the guards informed her that the daily beating was done just as she requested it.
“Good. Give her a break tomorrow and the day after we can start incorporating some tools and make this a bit more fun.” The Queen winked before walking away.
The guards chuckled in reply.
“Anything can be used as a weapon,” Laura’s father’s words rang in her ears.
She felt around her in the room but could not find anything. It was just her and the chains. She tried pulling at them in hopes the security anchor holding them to the ground would give way but it would not even budge. Laura let out a loud groan. She had been there for days and was slowly losing hope of ever getting out of there, let alone breaking Olivia out.
“Rise and shine, sleepyhead,” Naayelii announced two days later, after entering Laura’s cell.
Laura rose to her feet. There was a light source in the far corner of the room, barely illuminating the chamber. A table, which was not there before, stood next to it. Numerous tools were laid out on top of it. Olivia stood in front of the table with a hammer in her hand.
Laura recoiled, going back to the traumatic memory from her childhood. “What’s that for?” she asked.
“This?” Naayelii lifted the hammer? “This can be used for a variety of things. I guess we shall see. Please, be patient,” she added, slowly walking towards Laura. She nodded towards the door and the guard walked out, closing the door behind him.
“Please put this away,” Laura sobbed.
“Why is that?” Olivia was surprised by how strong Laura’s reaction was. “Maybe she’s not as tough as she used to be. Maybe she lost it all completely… Family life can do that to ya.” Olivia placed the hammer on the table but remained close by in case she needed to grab it promptly.
“Did I ever tell you why I joined the agency?” Laura took a deep breath.
“I assumed it was like me and everyone else – you wanted to play the superhero and put the bad guys in their place,” Olivia replied.
“That’s what I’d say to whoever asked. But the real answer is a bit darker… When I was just a kid, I came home from school only to find the house in utter disarray and my dad was nowhere to be found. I went to the shed and there he was. On the ground…” Laura sniffled. “The look on his face… It was so empty. I knew he was dead right there and then. It made me scared but it also made me angry. There was no one left in the world to take care of me. I had to take action into my own hands. And so I did. I grabbed the first thing that I could – a hammer, and I whacked the guy who was frantically looking for something in my dad’s toolbox. The hammer came down a couple of more times before I let it go.”
Olivia’s eyes widened. She always saw Laura as the sweet, innocent agent that could not harm a fly. She often wondered why she joined the agency in the first place and was not surprised when she heard Laura was leaving that line of work.
“My dad was one of us. I found out years later. That day, that man was looking for some information on a clandestine case he thought my dad brought home with him. I guess he didn’t know my dad always went by the book and never carried any sensitive information out of the CIA building.”
Naayelii’s stare was blank. “Oh, poor you. You killed a bad guy when you were just a kid.”
“What happened to you that made you so jaded?” Laura walked towards Olivia to try and comfort her but the chains did not give her much wiggle room and soon she was yanked back into her corner.
“WTF? Did you really flip? How could you?” Laura was at her wit’s end. Her reckless decision to come looking for her friend seemed to cost a lot more than Laura had bargained for. It was not just her own life on the line but also the lives of Roy and Tommy.
Olivia rolled her eyes. She approached Laura and looked her straight in the eyes. “I flipped because once I got captured, the agency disavowed me. No one was coming to save me and I had to take care of myself. Take care of myself AND them. They were going to kill my family, too, if I did not do something to show them I would leave my past life behind.” Olivia straightened up. “So, I killed Jimmy,” she added before walking back to the table.
“We could have helped you.” Laura felt bad for judging her friend too quickly.
“Didn’t you hear what I said? They didn’t care about me. No one would have found out what happened to me.” Naayelii’s eyes were filled with rage. Her hand tightly gripped the hammer.
“This could knock out your teeth. A bit of an overkill, if you ask me, though. Or, it could shatter your kneecaps.”
Laura pressed her back against the wall. The fear was permanent in her eyes.
“It’s all about being creative!” Olivia added before she picked up the tools from the table and walked out.
“She’s still too weak today. Let’s give her another day,” the Queen announced to one of the guards.
Once the door closed, Laura reached out for the hammer and hid it behind her.
“Write a story inspired by the word ‘myth.'”
– prompt used for this CW piece.
P.S. As always, you are more than welcome to use this prompt to inspire your post. If you decide to write something, be sure to pingback to this post so that I can get an alert and check out your piece. (A post on how to do pingbacks can be found here.) If pingbacks are not your thing, feel free to simply leave a link to your piece in the comment section below. The more, the merrier!
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