Ashes2Ashes – Part 2/3
WARNING: The following story may be offensive to some readers.
“Oh, but I know you’re the one… I know you’ll appreciate the lessons.”
That furtive scurrying again.
As she was drawn back into the cage of her flesh, she drew in a breath and held it to better listen to the gloom. Whether rats or the Reaper himself, they fell silent… but footsteps approached.
The air went out of her in a rush and her heart began to hammer erratically in her chest. Habit found her straining against her bindings – though time had already proven such endeavours useless – and a fresh flow of tears leaked unbidden from her eyes.
As the door swung slowly open she fought to control her panic and lay perfectly still. He seemed to grow bored with her so much sooner if she didn’t fight or scream or cry, and while the pain would come regardless, she’d lost hope in everything else but that the lessons would be over quickly.
A flick of a switch, and the room flooded with cruel florescent light. Her eyes burned and her skin itched, but she still she didn’t move; didn’t even blink; as she kept her gaze trained on the far wall. From the corner of her vision she could see him grinning as he leaned in the doorway, but she did her best to pretend he didn’t exist.
“You must be hungry,” He said. His voice was dripping with that false sweetness he sometimes assumed. This only served to heighten her terror; she’d come to understand that his rare moments of kindness were the worst.
When she didn’t respond – she’d stopped responding some time ago – he heaved a sigh and cooed, “Aww, my poor little wounded bird.” He came across the room to kneel at her side. “Please talk to me angel, I miss your voice.”
She refused to play into his games. If he wanted her to eat, he’d feed her. If he didn’t, she’d go hungry. Rewarding him with a reaction of any kind would do nothing to alter his designs. She held her tongue and maintained the blank, unwavering stare.
Beside her, his tone gentle – almost lulling – he said, “Oh, my sweet girl, those ropes look so tight. I am sorry, you know that right? Sometimes I’m so afraid of losing you that I forget myself. You know that would break my heart.” And then the familiar knife was in his hand. He turned it this way and that before her eyes, letting the light bounce off the blade as it carved through the air.
She suppressed a shudder. She knew the kiss of that steel… quick little nicks whispered against the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet. It seemed she used to pray for him to plunge it through her heart up to the hilt, if only so that she could be gone from this misery. She’d since given up on prayers however; no one was listening anymore, at least not to hers.
She felt his fingers brushing along the inner part of her thighs. She felt them pinch cruelly at her sex. She remained corpse still and morgue silent.
“Ash…?” but her thoughts were already dragging her away from the dank basement…
… Back to the last time she’d ever seen the sun…
It had just begun its slow descent towards the sea. It cast shimmering fingers of silver and bronze and liquid gold across the sandy shore. Some celestial artist had painted the sky in wispy, pastel strokes and punctuated the heavenly canvas with gossamer clouds.
The current had been lazy – lapping gently at the beach and murmuring softly against the breakwater. Ships dotted the horizon beyond the seawall in a myriad of bright colours; orange and blue, yellow and red, green and purple; their sails tempted by the mild breeze as they bobbed cheerily towards destinations unknown.
The day was a flawless; a perfectly resplendent vision.
Ah – but his beauty had paled the day by comparison.
He was tall, lean – yet muscular – with a crown of wavy chestnut locks and eyes the exact blue of cornflowers. The words had dripped like honey from his lips, with every syllable carefully designed to beguile her and blind her to his true intent. When he smiled at her, she never glimpsed the evil behind the mask; she could see only a fairytale future laid out for her taking.
As they strolled hand in hand along the shore, they moved steadily further away from the pier and the crowds that had gathered to enjoy the afternoon. The casual pace he set for them was – in itself – a distraction; they’d pause to watch the little creatures trapped in the tide pools, or flip over stones to watch the tiny crabs scurrying away; and nothing about his demeanour suggested premeditation. As they left the sand and began to move between the immense rock formations, he paused twice to point out the little caverns painted into their faces by years of the ocean’s unrelenting abuse.
It all felt so natural; she couldn’t remember a time when she’d felt more secure… more content.
Somewhere overhead a gull had cried out; in retrospect, she wondered if it had been in warning, but if so, she’d missed the alarm. She’d been too lulled by lust and false elation to pay the bird’s call much mind; she’d been too sedated by his splendour and enchanted by the sweetness of his words.
He’d pointed out a single purple bloom that sprouted from a crevice in the rock, and as she leaned in to better inspect the blossom, pain had shot through the back of her skull like an explosion.
And then darkness…
“Ash? Ashley? Are you with me angel?” His voice was close to her ear, his words dragging her unwillingly back into her body. A little disoriented, it took her a moment to realize she was no longer lying on the floor, but unbound and emerged to her waist in a tub of steaming water. He was leaning over her, his face a mask of false concern.
She trained her eyes on the slow dripping faucet and didn’t as much as flinch as he touched her naked skin. She didn’t resist him at all as he soaped her body and used a washcloth to wipe away the dried blood from her hairline. She maintained a near-catatonic facade as he lifted one arm and then the next to wash beneath, and was careful to show no greater interest when his fingers lingered on her breasts or between her legs.
She was dully aware of the welts and abrasions that marred her body, but she’d grown so used to them now that they no longer served much to unnerve her. They really didn’t seem all that important anymore, not when she knew her mind was so close to the breaking point.
He washed her hair with lemon scented shampoo, and gently trimmed and cleaned her nails. He chattered to her in a friendly tone as he worked, talking about their bright future together once he was certain he could trust her; once the lessons were complete. From time to time he’d ask her a direct question and when she didn’t respond, he’d smile and answer for her. Afterwards he lifted her from the tub and dried her skin with a soft green towel. He hummed her songs that she couldn’t quite place, and occasionally brushed her cheek with a soft kiss. He wrapped her in an oversized white robe and tenderly combed the knots from her hair.
She knew the pain would come soon, and she knew that it would be terrible; the greater the kindness he showed, the worse the lesson that followed inevitably would be; but she showed nothing of her fear. Maintaining perfect silence and absolute stillness seemed to be growing easier all the time.
When the grooming was done, he lifted her in his arms and started across the basement. She was certain the lesson was about to commence, but he went straight to the door and carried her up the stairs. This was new – she’d not seen beyond the basement since waking up there that first day – and the unknown stroked her fright and fondled it into a barely containable horror. She showed him nothing of this however; she refused to give him the pleasure.
He sat her in a chair at an oak table in a dimly lit dining room and brushed another kiss across her brow. The room was adorned in earth tones; perfectly normal and not the likely domicile of a sociopath; and the sheer commonness of it struck her curious. She sat perfectly motionless as he slipped into the kitchen at her back, and remained as such until he returned with a plate of food. He sat across from her and fed her little morsels of beef and honeyed carrots. She took each mouthful, chewed, swallowed, but gave no other indication that her mind was still functioning.
“Ashley,” he purred. “Please come back to me baby.”
She watched an unmoving speck on the table with staunch concentration.
He lifted a glass of water to her lips and she sipped the cool liquid, but still she remained impassive.
“Ash,” his tone was sweet and slightly tinged with sadness. “Ashley? Would you like to go outside for awhile? We could go for a walk… if you wanted to… but you have to tell me if that’s what you want.”
She cautioned herself not to be tempted by his lies, and gave no answer.
He smiled sympathetically at her, and then cocked back and punched her in the face. She tumbled from the chair and landed on the floorboards with a dull thump. A second later he was on her. He twisted a hand cruelly though the hair at the back of her head and dragged her up, only to shove her away from his body a heartbeat later. She went reeling, stumbling forward, and tripped over her own feet. Her face connected with the edge of the oak sideboard, and she could hear the rattle of china in the glass casings. She could feel a trickle of blood loosened from a fresh gash above her brow, and knew her lip was already beginning to swell… and then – thankfully – she was floating again…
They’d agreed to meet at a little bistro overlooking the bay. She’d been wise enough to persist on a public place – and he’d insisted that she choose the restaurant –so she’d picked a place she’d frequented in the past.
She’d felt a sense of overwhelming relief when she first glimpsed him sitting at the little table out on the veranda. Though she wasn’t a shallow person, it was comforting to know he was – physically – everything she’d been expecting; one heard horror stories of how these things often ended up. She was further relieved when – shortly after joining him on the patio – he gushed about how she was everything he’d been expecting… and more. He’d been quick to add that mutual physical-attraction was no more than icing on the cake; the deep connection they shared was what mattered most.
The meal had gone better than she’d even dared to imagine. Their conversation flowed easily; not once were they plunged into awkward silence; and by the time dessert was served, he’d been holding her hand across the table. When the coffee cups were cleared away and the bill had been paid, she was all but certain that they had a bright future together.
Afterwards, when he’d invited her to walk with him along the beach, it had seemed like such a perfectly romantic notion that it never even occurred to her that he might not be all that he appeared to be…
To be continued…