A/N: Hey guys! The story is really long so I won't take up all the space by talking. This is just a rough draft so please send me a postcard with what you thought and how I can improve it. Please don't steal my story, I worked really hard on it. Happy reading.

English I
28 September 2017
The Cage
Mom always told me to stay away from the Cage. Guess I should’ve listened. The Cage was monstrous, it sat squarely in the middle of town, its once polished iron bars had know rusted to a dull red color that came off on your hands whenever you touched it. The Cage is a dangerous place. It breaks you both physically and mentally, makes you long for the cold hands of death; for the light at the end of the tunnel to bathe you in its blinding splendor. It does everything that it can to confuse you. It takes away your entire being and replaces it with a stranger.
I was in that situation once. A stranger who longed for death inside the rusted Cage, I didn’t die though. If I had died I wouldn’t be able to tell you this story and warn you about the darkness in the world. When I was fifteen I had an encounter with the Cage and the monsters that hid in the shadows within. It was late at night, while the moon was beginning its slow decent into the horizon, when I sprinted through the alley by Thomas’ Bakery. I was going on an adventure. I, and a few of the other boys who scavenged the street for food, had decided to run away and join the circus as clowns or whatever other position they had open. A black cat streaked in front of me as I sprinted to our meeting place, the middle of town. I was the first to arrive, I always had been a fast runner, I plopped myself down on one of the green painted benches and awaited the arrival of my friends. The only problem with the middle of town is the fact that the Cage is there. Back then nobody knew the horrors it contained and merely wondered who had placed the iron artifact in the center of town. Despite it appearing harmless, the Cage still placed a tinge of fear in me. Especially when the full moon was illuminating the box, making the rust appear red as blood. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something lying inside the box. A ray of moonlight was reflecting off the object giving it a shimmering silver color, and like a magpie, I was attracted to shiny things. Leaving my perch on the bench I crept closer to the Cage to investigate the shimmering object. As I got closer I realized that what had been reflecting the moonlight had actually been a half-dollar, a brand new 50 cent coin. Before grandpa had died he used to tell me that finding a half-dollar foretold future riches, and considering my current state riches were exactly what I need. Being the greedy pig that I was I stuck my skinny arm through the bars of the Cage and scooped up the promise of future riches. Before I could extract my arm from in between the bars something cold and strong gripped my forearm. A scream rippled up my throat but before it could be unleashed into the world I felt a blinding pain on the back of my head. The world went dark as I crumpled to the ground. The next thing that I remember is waking up in a spacious warehouse where two other kids close to my age lay bound and gagged in the same fashion that I was. I’m sure that the fear in their wide eyes exactly mimicked my own fear. We all jumped as the sound of car doors slamming echoed throughout the warehouse. Due to our bonds we were unable to turn around to look at the vehicle but we didn’t have to wait long to find out who had just arrived as footsteps approached us.
I had no idea what was happening nor why it was happening, all I knew was that I was terrified. The footsteps kept getting closer and with each step my fear grew tenfold until I thought it would explode right out of my chest. The sound of shoes connecting with the concrete floor stopped abruptly, my heart stopped beating and my lungs refused to take in oxygen. It was like my body was trying to kill me in order to spare me from whatever horrors awaited me with the arrival of the owner of the footsteps. “Ah, I see that you’re all nice and comfortable.” the voice belonged to man and a faint accent was present though I didn’t know from whence it came. One of the people next to me, a boy with black hair, mumbled something through his gag. Whatever he had said had been muffled and distorted by the piece of cloth tied around his mouth but I was pretty confident that it was something along the lines of “Yeah, we’re all bloody comfortable!”, i’m sure that if our circumstances had been different I would have been friends with brave, or stupid, boy. An ache in my chest started to grow, and it felt like my insides had been set on fire. I suddenly realized that I hadn’t been breathing and my body in fact didn’t want me to die quite yet. Breathing deeply through my nose I began to take in oxygen to satisfy my aching lungs. Because of my severe need for oxygen, upon which I was intently focused, I hadn’t noticed that our captor had once again begun speaking in his strange accent. “. . . .I am going to unite your bonds and you will follow me like loyal dogs, do you understand?” we nodded, our eyes still filled with fear. A pair of fingers snapped and bald men appeared out of nowhere and untied the bonds that held us. With wary eyes I scrambled to my feet, watching the bald men, I held out a hand to help a girl who had been bound along with me and black hair boy up to her feet. She stumbled but righted herself quickly, too defiant to show weakness in front of her captor. Black hair boy spoke up, “Where are we?”, the only answer he received was a fierce glare. Now that I was standing and free to look around my eyes set upon our captor. He appeared to be middle aged with slicked black hair, he was dressed in a gray suit that most likely cost more than a new car, and his shoes were polished so they reflected the large overhead lights hanging from the rafters in the warehouse. Overall, his appearance wasn’t intimidating but he let off an ominous persona that would strike fear even into a battle hardened soldier. I quickly averted my eyes and stared at the ground as if it was the most interesting thing that I had seen in my 15 short years of existence. “Now, if you’ll all follow me I’ll show you what the rest of your time here will be like.” not wanting to be struck with a fierce glare like black hair kid had been we all quickly followed our sharply dressed captor through a door on the other side of the warehouse. A cool night wind struck us as soon as we exited the warehouse, I considered bolting and seeing if it would be possible to somehow get away from whatever horror awaited me. Before my legs gained the courage to flee from the scene the bald headed henchmen formed a box around the three of us as we were escorted by our new best friend. The only noise that was present was the whistling wind and the sound of steps echoing across the vast wasteland that surrounded the lone warehouse.
I caught glimpses of my surrounding from between the broad shoulders of the bald men when they took each step and I realized that it wasn’t completely a wasteland. There were a few buildings dotting the land although they were quite hard to see in the gloom of the night. Our merry group approached one of these buildings and the man who had spoken to us pulled out a ring of keys from somewhere inside his suit jacket. Flipping through the keys with a practiced ease our captor soon inserted, what appeared to be, a silver key into the padlock that kept the door firmly shut. “Welcome to your new home.” the man said, pulling open the door and letting the screams from within emerge into the night. The cool breeze that had been blowing now felt a thousand times colder, cold enough to turn the blood inside my veins to ice. “N-now h-h-old on. . .” I stammered out, my voice cracking until it ended in a high pitched squeak. There was no way on this round earth that I was going to enter that building, I didn’t care if I got caught by the hulking bald men I would run if I had to. “Silence!” our captor yelled, he had spun around to look at me, there was a fire in his eyes. My blood grew colder despite the heat of his gaze and my mouth clamped shut in order to contain even the quietest whisper. My legs turned to jelly under his intense stare and I believe that I would’ve crumpled to the ground if black haired boy hadn’t placed his hand on my soldier to lend me whatever crazy bravery he contained inside his soul. We were ushered into the building and the stench of blood instantly overwhelmed our senses, drowning out the sobs and screams. My breathing became ragged as I began to panic. A light was flipped on and I wish it hadn’t been. The walls were lined with dozens of people, nearly all of them had cuts and were bleeding profusely, those who weren’t bleeding looked far worse than those who had been wounded, their faces told stories of hardships and guilt. Despite all of the blood I noticed something strange about the people in the building. They didn’t have any hair. There were both girls and boys but neither gender had any hair. None, whatsoever. Their heads were bald, they possessed no eyelashes or brows, and on the legs that were visible there was no hair either. All of their hair had been shaved off. I remember reading about how prisoners of war had been dehumanized by being forced to wear dresses and bows and for some reason that is what I thought of as I surveyed the hairlessness around me. I had never really thought about it before now but I realized that your hair is a part of you, it defines you in a way. Your hair is part of your style, you can have it short, long, curly, straight, dyed, or whatever you choose. That’s what dehumanization does, it takes away the parts of you that make you...you. It takes away your entire being and puts a stranger in your place. “Meet your new roommates,” our captor said “but don’t worry you won’t stick out so bad in a few minutes.” he chuckled maniacally as his bald henchman wrapped their burly arms around us three captives and began dragging us toward chairs at the back of the room. Hanging on the wall behind the chairs were large assortments of razors and tweezers. I wasn’t anywhere close to being as strong as the bald headed man who held me, neither of us were, but I struggled for all that I was worth. My legs gave out and he began dragging me towards the back wall, black haired boy had somehow already been strapped to a chair and wa now screaming at the top of his lungs as he tried to free himself from the leather straps that restrained him. The girl who had been kidnapped with us was a sobbing mess while she pleaded with the men not to hurt her. Despite my best efforts to escape, I too was placed in a chair. The leather straps dug into my skin as I fought against them, getting very clearly annoyed with us the bald cronies filled an empty syringe with an amber liquid and injected it into our necks. I felt the sharp pinch from the needle and the fire that ran from my neck all the way into my toes, I began to lose control of my body, before long I couldn’t move at all. I was still conscious when the razors were taken down from the wall, and I was able to see my brown hair as it was shorn from my head. I couldn’t see how my fellow captives were doing since I had lost control over my neck, along with the rest of my body, but I assumed that they were in much the same state that I was. The hair on my arms and legs were shaven next, and slowly but surely every hair on my body was stripped from me. The drugs that they had injected into us had begun to wear off and none to soon as our smartly dressed imprisoner returned. “Ah, I see that you three are ready for your first fight. 1, 2, and 9, please escort our little fighters to the arena.” he walked away as ‘1, 2, and 9’ unstrapped us and hauled us to our feet. We were all still regaining our body functions so there was a lot of stumbling as we were forced down a dimly lit hallway into an arena. After being shoved into the arena I don’t remember much, just having a club placed in my hand and another hairless fighter charging me with a club of their own. After that all I remember is darkness and a headache.
That process continued for I don’t even know how long. We were slowly broken inside the building as they stripped us of our identity and made us into strangers, into monsters. I no longer struggled when the took me to the chairs with the razors, I was to paralyzed with fear and hate for the sharp metal objects that I couldn’t move. Every time I saw one it was like that amber liquid had been injected into my veins again, injected might not be the right word, it was more like gallons of it had been poured into my body. The girl who had been captured with me and the black haired boy, his name turned out to be Kreed, had disappeared after that first night. I feared for her even though I knew I didn’t have to, whatever state she was in was much better than the state Kreed and I were in. Like the other people in the building I soon acquired scars of my own and on various occasions I was the poor bleeding wretch who was screaming from pain. I was ready to die from the pain but Kreed refused to let me die, saying “Keep up strength Xyrix, we’ll get out of here eventually” while his optimism was helpful I didn’t believe him in the slightest. Kreed was right though, we did get out.