Would you like to continue the story with me? I'm specifically looking for rebecca, but perhaps other people may want to join in. My idea is to see the relationship between the two women develop through very tryig circumstances - perhaps a breakout and chase
I stood and unfolded myself from the seat. Though I’d taken care to get up and move around during the 9 hour flight, my body was heavy and unresponsive. John, an American man I’d sat next to on the flight helped me retrieve my hand luggage from the overhead storage and I joined the shuffling queue of passengers alighting at O’Hare International airport. I was booked into the Congress plaza hotel and had absolutely no idea how far or how much longer I would need to endure before reaching a comfortable bed. I followed the signs through passport control and baggage retrieval and loaded my trolley with suitcases. John caught my eye and smiled, mouthing ‘you OK?’ to ensure I was coping with my first solo trip abroad. I nodded, grateful to have a guardian angel, and I followed the stream of travellers, through customs with surprising ease and speed. My heart sank when I saw the length of the taxi queue, but what was the alternative?
Chicago was immense compared to the insignificant pin prick in the UK from which I originated and I gave thanks that Hotel and expenses were being picked up by the company that had invited me for the job interview. The line took a step forward and I moved with it.
“Hey Cathy.” A voice called and I instinctively looked around, though there was no possibility that anyone was calling me. “Hey Cathy! Can I give you a lift? My wife is coming to pick me up. We’d be happy to drop you somewhere.”
My white night was once again coming to my rescue. “John, you’ve saved my life.”
He grinned and threw his own case on top of mine, before pushing the trolley towards the pick-up point. At once, his phone rang.
“Ah Ok.” John said into the device. “How long?” He paused, while the other person spoke. “OK not a problem. We’ll grab a coffee while we’re waiting.” He hung up and turned to me. There’s heavy traffic on the Kennedy Expressway, Jen’s going to be around 30 minutes. I told her we’d grab a coffee. She’ll call when she’s on her way.
Usually I’d have worried about being picked up by a strange man, but his expensive business suit and the fact that his wife was collecting him put me at my ease. We made our way back into the airport terminal and found a table in Starbucks. I rambled on nervously, about my home, my family – how it felt to be invited for an interview at the illustrious Baker and McKenzie law firm. For the most part he listened, nodding here and there in my story.
John fished out his phone. “She’s almost here,” he said. “Best drink up.”
As he reached for his coffee, his phone fell to the floor and rattled around my feet. ”I’ve got it!” I cried, and ducked under the table to retrieve it.
“Thanks.” He said coolly. “Now drink up and we’ll go and meet Jen.”
I swilled down the remains of my drink in two large gulps and followed John to the door. His pace had quickened and I struggled to keep up. “Jen only has 15 minutes before she gets a ticket.” He explained and I half walked and half jogged alongside him to match his stride. I was exhausted by the time we reached the car. “OK if we put your bags on the back seat?”
“Sure.” I replied, feeling strangely lightheaded after such a mild exertion. I flopped onto the backseat, hardly able to keep my eyes open.
“Everything OK?” A woman’s voice asked.
“Perfect,” John replied.
I awoke aching and bitterly cold. Bleak stone walls surrounded me and above a naked low wattage light bulb hung from the ceiling. I sat upright, trying to pull my senses together, trying to understand what had happened, where I was and why I was naked. The bed on which I sat was little more than a foul smelling mattress laid over a low bench and there were no bed clothes to keep out the chill. I lowered my foot to the floor and instantly regretted it. The floor was soaked, as though water seeped upwards through the stone. I pulled my knees to my chest and wrapped my arms about them, both warming and protecting me as I waited for my eyes to focus.
I looked around. The walls were bare stone and the ceiling cracked with flaking white paint. There were no windows and a single small door, which I instinctively knew to be locked. I was in a cellar of some kind and horror overtook me as the gravity of the situation became apparent. Naked and alone in a strange city. At least I assumed it was a city. If I’d been unconscious for any length of time I could be almost anywhere in the American Mid-west. Tears began to flow and in the dim light there was no one to see the streaks of mascara on my cheeks. I opened my mouth to call for help, but held my voice. Perhaps if I remained silent, my abductor may leave me be for just a little longer.
At the edge of the crowd I watched with interest. The humiliation ritual was exactly the same as the one I had wept and cried through six month earlier and which I had witnessed twice since. This girl seemed stronger, I thought, and hoped that it would not count against her.
“Please, take me home.” The woman begged, but although there was a slight tremor in her voice there were no tears. There was something strange about her accent too, European Perhaps. I took a step forward, and for a moment the woman’s eyes fixed on me and I shivered despite myself.
“It’s OK.” I mouthed silently, hoping that my false smile had reassured the woman as intended. However, I knew from experience just how intimidated she must feel standing naked in front of a crowd of monsters.
The man I knew as John stood proudly next to his new woman, showing her off as he would a horse. He repeated his demand. “Tell me how you should be punished?” He grabbed her chin and turned her face towards him “Fuck you!” She snarled and spat in his face.
John stood frozen for a moment and I could not stop myself from smiling. Perhaps he’d bitten off more than he could chew this time.
For a moment John stood shaking with anger, but as much as he wanted to strike, he did not raise his hand. Instead he grabbed a handful of hair and dragged her to one of the posts that held up the ramshackle roof of the porch. At once two men jumped up, armed with ropes and secured the woman to the beam so that she was held fast looking out upon the expectant crowd.
John left her tied and helpless, striding across the square to the open doors of the forge and emerged a moment later with a branding iron, its tip glowing bright orange.
To those present it was clear that this was all carefully choreographed; the men with ropes conveniently at hand, the iron already in the fire, but I remembered the effect its appearance had had on me; I’d wet myself in fear I recalled with shame and screamed until my lungs burned. But the woman made no sound. Even as John held up the iron so that its heat warmed her face, she did not cry for mercy as I had done, she simply screwed her eyes together and waited. A single tear trickled over the woman’s cheek and John took this as a victory. He moved the iron downwards hovering over her breasts and belly to her shaven mound.
The woman screamed in agony, though I now knew how the trick worked. John had pressed a piece of ice to her flesh and it is well known that under such stressful situations the mind cannot distinguish between fire and ice. In the victim’s mind the iron had been pushed into her tender skin and even now she would be able to smell the acrid scent of burning flesh.
The gathering laughed, but my face remained impassive.
“Free her.” I voice said with authority and I averted her face, though my eyes followed the new arrival. The master approached arrogantly, his evil smile distorted by the scar on his lip.
As the bonds were released, the woman fell to her knees, her hand searching tentatively for her seared flesh, confused to find it unblemished. “The mind is a powerful tool” the master said simply squatting down and raising her chin so that he could look into her eyes. “But it is weak and will break long before your body.” Catherine tried to look away, but he held her fast. “You will quickly learn obedience or we will break you, both mentally and physically.” He stood and turned to John. “Take her to my villa and have her prepared.
As I was led away I glimpsed across to the woman at the edge of the group. Throughout my initiation, her eyes had never left me and at one point I was sure she’d tried to send me a message, perhaps tell me I was being tricked. She was whispering to the large man at her side, and somehow her svelte, boyish looks seemed exaggerated by his overpowering bulk. He seemed pleased with what she was saying, but my thoughts were largely selfish as I worried about my own fate. I was half carried, half dragged to the main building, a large stone homestead in stark contrast to the ramshackle hut in which I’d been staying thus far. The tiled floors were meticulously clean and felt cool beneath my feet. I imagined a young servant following me around sweeping and mopping as the drying dust and sand crumbled and fell away from my body as I walked.
I was shown into a small room, little more than a cupboard, with walls and floor tiled white. There were no seats, no furnishings and no windows. The harsh light from a flickering neon bulb overhead, intensified by the bright decor blinded me and I closed my eyes putting my back to the wall and I slid to the floor, pulling my knees to my chest. The reality of my situation was beginning to sink in and I fought the terror that threatened to take hold. Before, it seemed too incredible to be true, too bazaar, but here in my white cell it all felt so uncomfortably real. My eyes were reddened with tears when the door opened 30 minutes later. I looked up and struggled to focus.
It was the girl from the courtyard. She squatted down beside me. “Hold it together.” She whispered, “They’re playing with your mind.”
I nodded in understanding, but the knowledge did not ease my suffering. She helped me to my feet and only now did I notice that she too was naked, though she carried it with such ease that at first I hadn’t noticed. She seemed to find an invisible button on the wall and at once water showered down from the ceiling. It was bitterly cold, but the woman seemed not to notice.
“I’m called Rebecca.” She said.
“Catherine.” I shivered in reply.
“I know,” she assured me, ”but if it’s not from the bible you’d better get ready to change it.”