I am not inherently stupid. I’d seen enough movies, read enough books, and lived in a shitty neighborhood long enough to know that drawing attention to myself was the worst thing I could do – in almost any situation. A voice inside my head yelled sarcastically, “Then why the hell are you here?” I winced.
This was the worst of all my fears, being dragged off by some sick f**k in a van, raped, left for dead. From the first day I realized my body was changing, there had been no shortage of perverts on the streets, telling me exactly what they’d like to do to me, all of me. I’d been careful. I followed all the rules in becoming invisible. I kept my head down, I walked fast, and I dressed sensibly. And still, my nightmare had found me. Again. I could almost hear my mother’s voice in my head asking me what I’d done.
There were four of them. Tears flooded my eyes and a whimper escaped my chest. I couldn’t help it.
Abruptly, conversation around me halted. Though I struggled to not make a single sound or movement, my lungs heaved for breath, rising and falling in the rhythm of my panic. They knew I was awake. My tongue laid heavy and thick inside my mouth. Impulsively, I screamed, “Let me go,” as loud as I could, as though I were dying, because for all I knew I was. I screamed as though someone out there would listen, hear me, and do something. My head throbbed. “Help! Somebody help!”
I thrashed wildly, my legs careening in every direction as one of the men tried to capture them with his hands. As the van rocked, my captors’ Arabic voices grew louder and angrier. Finally, my foot connected solidly with the man’s face. He fell back against the side of the van.
“Help!” I screamed again.
Incensed, the same man came at me again and this time struck me very hard across my left cheek. My consciousness faded away, but not before I acknowledged my body, now inert and at the mercy of four men I didn’t know. Men I never wanted to know.
The next time I came around, rough hands dug into my underarms while another man held my legs. I was being dragged out of the van, into the night air. I must have been out for hours. My head throbbed so hard I couldn’t speak. The left side of my face felt like a soccer ball had smacked it and I could hardly see out of my left eye. Dizzy and with practically no warning, I vomited. They dropped me and I simply rolled onto my side. As I lay there dry heaving, my captors yelled amongst them, meaningless voices, in and out, broken and jarring. My vision flashed, clear then hazy. This continued, one action triggering another. Too weak to resist, I lay my head next to my vomit and passed out again.
Sometime later I regained consciousness, or some state of being, similar to consciousness. I jerked. I felt pain everywhere. My head throbbed, my neck was stiff to the point of searing pain, and worse, when I tried to open my eyes I discovered I couldn’t. There was a blindfold over them.
It came to me in flashes. Screeching tires. Grinding metal. Footsteps. Running. Musk. Dirt. Dark. Vomit. Hostage.
Summoning every ounce of strength and resolve I attempted to lift myself. Why couldn’t I move? My limbs wouldn’t budge. My mind was telling my body to move, but my body wasn’t responding. A new wave of panic rushed through me.
Tears burned behind my closed lids. Fearing the worst, I attempted to remove the blindfold by moving my head. Pain shot down my neck, but my head barely moved. What did they do to me? I stopped trying to move. Just think, I told myself, feel.
I took a mental assessment of my person. My head rest on a pillow, and my entire body lay on something soft, so I was probably on a bed. A shiver ran through me. I still felt clothes against my skin – that was good. Fabric around my wrists, fabric around my ankles, it wasn’t difficult to figure out I was tied to the bed. Oh god! I bit at my lip, holding in my sobs as I acknowledged the fabric of my ankle-length skirt lay high up on my thighs. My legs were open. Had they touched me? Keep it together! Exhaling a deep breath, I stopped the thought before it could grow.
I felt intact, no missing fingers. Mechanically, I focused on here, now. Knowing my faculties were in order, I expelled a small sigh of relief that sounded more like a sob.
That’s when I heard his voice.
“Good. You’re finally awake. I was beginning to think you’d been seriously injured.” My body froze at the sound of a male voice. Suddenly, I had to instruct myself to breathe. The voice was eerily gentle, concerned…familiar? The accent, what I could comprehend over the sound of the ringing in my head was American and yet, there was something off about it.
I should have screamed, afraid as I was, but I just froze. He had been sitting in the room; he had been watching me panic.
After a few moments, my voice trembled, “Who are you?” No response. “Where am I?” My words and voice seemed to be on some sort of delay, almost sluggish, like I was drunk.
Silence. The creak of a chair. Footsteps. My heart hammering in my chest.
“I am your master.” A cold hand pressed against my sweat-slick forehead. Again, a nagging sense of familiarity. But it was stupid. I didn’t know anyone with an accent. “You are where I want you to be.”
“Do I know you?” My voice was raw, stripped of anything but my emotion.
Behind my eyelids the world exploded into violent streams of red; my dark vision drowned in adrenaline. Acid fear ate down my synapses carrying Danger. Danger. Run. Run! to my limbs. My mind howled for every muscle fiber to contract. I willed everything to fight all of the constraints: I twitched.
I gave way to fits of hysterical crying. “Please…let me go,” I whimpered. “I promise I won’t tell anyone. I just want to go home.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that.” Just like that a sea of despair dragged me under its crushing waves. His voice was devoid of so many things: compassion, inflection, emotion, but there was one thing that wasn’t missing and that was certainty. I couldn’t accept it, his certainty.
He smoothed my hair back from my forehead, an intimate gesture that filled me with foreboding. Was he attempting to soothe me? Why?
“Please,” I cried as he continued petting me. I felt his weight on the bed, and my heart stuttered.
“I can’t,” he whispered, “and more than that…I don’t want to.”
For a moment, only my crying and deep, anguished sobs punctuated the silence that followed his statement. The darkness made it all the more unbearable.
His breathing, my breathing, together, in empty space.
“Tell you what I will do, I’ll untie you and get these bumps and bruises cleaned up. I didn’t want you to wake up in a pool of water. I’m really sorry about the hit to the face,” he stroked his fingers across my cheekbone, “but that’s what happens when you fight without thinking of the consequences.”
“A pool of water?” I jittered. “I don’t want to get in any water. Please,” I begged, “just let me go.” His voice was too calm, too refined, too matter-of-fact, and too… reminiscent of Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs.
“You need a bath pet.” Was his terrifying response. Hello Clarice….
All I could do was cry as he untied me. My arms and legs were stiff and numb: they felt too large, too heavy, too far away to be a part of me. Was my entire body asleep? Again I tried to move, I tried to hit him, to kick him. And again my efforts reflected in twitching, jerky movements. Frustrated, I lay inert. I wanted to wake up. I wanted to run away. I wanted to fight. I wanted to hurt him. And I couldn’t.
He kept the blindfold on and lifted me off the bed, carefully. I felt myself rise and become suspended within the dark. My heavy head draped over his arm. I could feel his arms. Feel his clothes against my skin.
“Why can’t I move?” I sobbed.
“I gave you a little something. Don’t worry, it’ll wear off.” Scared, blind in the dark, his limbs wrapped around mine, his voice took on texture, shape.
He shifted my weight in his arms until my head lolled against the fabric of his shirt.
“Stop struggling.” There was amusement on the surface of his voice.
Halting my struggle, I tried to focus on details about him. He was perceptibly strong and he hoisted my weight without so much as a strained breath. Beneath my cheek I could feel the hard expanse of his chest. He smelled faintly of soap, perhaps a light sweat too, a masculine scent that was both distinct, but only distantly familiar.
We didn’t walk far, only a few steps, but for me each moment seemed like an eternity in an alternate universe, one where I inhabited someone else’s body. But my own reality came crashing back to me the moment he set me down inside something smooth and cold.
Panic gripped me. “What the hell are you doing?”
There was a pause, then his amused voice. “I told you, getting you cleaned up.”
I opened my mouth to speak when the initial burst of cold water hit my feet. Startled, I let out a skittish yelp. As I pathetically attempted to crawl out of the tub by rolling my body toward the edge, the water turned warmer and my captor hoisted me back against the tub.
“I don’t want to take a bath. Let me go.” I tried to remove the blindfold, repeatedly smacking my own face as my lethargic arms countered my purpose. My captor did a horrible job of stifling his laugh.