Beneath the thumping floorboards, Ilsa hugged the hatbox and shivered, eyes squeezed shut. She tried to make herself as small as possible, pulling her knees up to her chest, collapsing inward, crumpling her consciousness into a tiny, infinitesimal wad. The final, fearful refuge of a prey animal, retracting into the crevices of the mind. I'm not here, I'm not here, I'm not—
Above, the Ukrainians were making a mess of the Professor's lab. Drawers yanked from desks bounced hollow and metallic, papers fluttered like her heart. Something heavy crashed into glass again and again. Strange liquids began to seep and smoke into the crawl space. The sting in her lungs yanked her out of her mind-hole and a wave of panic gushed after.
"Here!" an accented voice bellowed, "There's a trapdoor under the table! The old man was lying! You two, move it!"
More crunching glass, grunting and a low scrape vibrated the boards above her head.
Ilsa looked at the hatbox. "I have no choice," she whispered. But the Professor said—
Another scrape, longer this time. A sliver of light slashed her face.
"Forgive me," she breathed. Ilsa upended the hatbox and the pearlescent garment spilled out, finer than silk, unrolling like liquid moonlight. She peeled her own dress up over her head in the cramped space, kicking her shoes away. Her bra came off with the one-handed trick, the envy of all man-kind, and she briefly bridged to peel her panties down over her pear-shaped ass and rolled them off her legs and gone. She gripped the second skin, oily and vaguely luminescent, hesitating for what could very well be the last time.
Above, more boots now, more grunting.
"I want her alive!" the voice barked. Scattered laughter followed.
Ilsa's hesitation broke and she thrust her feet into the legs, feeling the thing snug about her toes; she pulled it up, over her hips and cool across her tummy. The impossible task of finding the arms in an everyday bodysuit was absent—the thing wanted to be worn. She didn't so much slip into it as it slipped onto her. All that was left was the hood. What will it be like, she wondered, will I ever come back?
Another scrape and more light.
She yanked the hood over her head and it swallowed her face, her self, whole. The Insanitard claimed another rider.
Black was white, the moon was made of kittens. And knives, knives came alive in throats.
So close, so close, grown men struggled with a mere table.
"Hurry it up!" Ilsa growled, flexing against the trapdoor.