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Prologue for ‘Safe’ #NaNoWriMo 2010

November 9, 2010

Lila came around with a shock, her entire body raw with pain. She was disoriented, confused and cold. She forced her eyes to open. They were swollen and painful, and she had to keep blinking hard to clear her vision.  It was so black in here that she could see nothing except for a dash of light; small, thin and thread like, that throbbed in and out of focus. It cast no light into the cramped, dirty space.

‘A life line’ she thought. She had once read an article in an old magazine. It had talked about out-of-body experiences and how some people had seen a silvery thread, like a spider’s web, connecting them to their body as they looked down at themselves. She focused her attention and tried to reach for the thread, her arms wouldn’t move.

Her terror was palpable, she shook uncontrollably and small whimpers leaked from her swollen mouth and she began to gasp for air.  ‘Come on Lila concentrate!’ she thought, clenching her fists. A bout of nausea overcame her, and as she threw up she lost control of her bowels. ‘Try to shake it off. Fight! For fuck’s sake, you’re not dead yet!’ She could still feel her heart pounding against her ribs. She tried to lift her head but was overcome by swirling dizziness. She focused her mind on the light, using its throbbing rhythm to keep her breathing regular, and steady her nerves. There was vibration all around her, and a low but insistent humming noise,which seemed invasively loud yet distant at the same time. An intense ringing sound in her ears added to her disorientation.

Now and then she would feel a jolt. It seemed as though someone were shaking her, although she knew, even in her sorry and confused state, that she was alone in here. Trembling violently, sweat beading her skin despite the cold, she tried to get a grip on reality. She concentrated on reviving as many of her senses as she could. There was a smell of diesel, and metal, and leather, mingling with the smell of her own blood, urine and faeces. She tried to focus on her surroundings, tried to get a handle on where she was. She could feel thin carpeting underneath her shoulder and against her cheek, the surface underneath it felt hard, with small ridges and troughs, easily detectable beneath the threadbare weave. Some sort of metal box? The boot of a car? Yes! Of course that must be it. She was shut inside the boot of a car and she was being moved. Terror consumed her again. Where were they taking her? what was going to happen when they got there? Would she die in here?

She was bound in a foetal position. Plastic ties cut into her wrists and ankles, constricting so much that her feet and hands were numb. A convulsive pain emanating from her abdomen hit her in a wave and she almost lost consciousness again. She felt herself vomit bile, but couldn’t summon the strength to lift her head and move her face away from it. The stench in here was acrid; the air thick with fumes, and it was getting harder for her to find the will to take her next breath. ‘Maybe that’s a good thing’ she thought, ‘Maybe it’s time to just…let go’. She felt herself start to drift away, the world of suffering growing pleasantly dim. She looked again for the silvery thread, but with the next tide of pain a shock of adrenaline burst through her, snapping her back to reality. She had wished for death many times over the last few years, but now that it seemed her wish was being granted, she found that she couldn’t just surrender to it. Every fibre of her was screaming for her to fight.

The throbbing light was gone now. The car, clearly not on a tarmac road any more, bounced mercilessly along. She had no focal point at which to direct her attentions, nothing to help her regulate her breathing.  Now and then there would be a jolt so strong that she would lift off from the floor altogether, slamming back down again with searing pain. Eventually the engine noise began to slow and drop and as the driver applied the brakes to stop, she slipped backwards, deeper into the cavity of the boot. Her body slid almost without traction as the slowly widening pool of blood and urine which had collected beneath her greased her movement. She wondered briefly, insanely, if there was somewhere she could hide herself back here. Her memory of what had happened previously that evening returned in flashes of pain and terror,  screams and shouting. Dev… he was going to kill her, he had a knife and something else… a toy?.. a doll?… the memory slipped away. 

She heard distant voices and muffled laughter and held her breath as she heard the car doors pop and creak open, then slam closed again. This was it. Time to die. She closed her eyes again and waited, slowly and quietly exhaling, the last seconds of her life dragging slowly by. The boot of the car popped and gaped open like the maw of some terrible beast. The two men who stood there recoiled as the smell from the interior hit them.

“Fuck me!” said the one who had opened the hatch. “The little bitch has fucking shat and pissed herself in here, and there’s fucking puke and blood everywhere! I told you we should’ve wrapped her in plastic!” he leaned in closer to her and shouted “Disgusting! And in my. FUCKING .CAR!” He punctuated the words by planting his fist into her face. Thankfully, she felt no pain. She made no sound, clamping her teeth together and steeling herself against each blow, the only defence she could think of now was to play dead, maybe if they thought she couldn’t feel it they would be less inclined to try to have fun with her before they killed her.

“So, what shall we do with her now Mike?” asked the other voice.

“Well, Spence, Devin said, and I quote: ‘ Take the cunt down to the river,'” He motioned to the water behind them, ” ‘Finish her off, and fucking’ leave her there for the sewer rats’, so I suppose we  have to do that, don’t we!?” his voice was heavy with sarcasm, “So… do you want to do it? or shall I?”.

The river. She had heard this place being referred to many times before. Usually it was when Devin and his cohorts were talking about somewhere to discreetly dispose of a body, or some other form of evidence. It was their preferred dumping spot . They all discussed these things openly in front of her. They could all see the tight rein that Devin kept on her. She was only ever out of his sight when she was in her room, and she was always locked inside.  At first she used to pay attention, note what they were saying and doing, hoping that some juicy snippet of information would help her get out of there, or provide her with some sort of leverage for securing her freedom. Gradually though she came to realise that any mutiny or dissent among the ranks was met with swift and harsh consequences, the bodies usually ending up right here at the river. Spence and Michael, the men here with her now, were fairly new to the gang. It seemed they came as a pair. Spence, the brawn, and Michael, the brains of the outfit had been given a few minor tasks and ‘clean up jobs’ before, but this was apparently their first proper ‘waste disposal’ job.

“She already looks dead to me, Mikey.” Spencer said, peering at her curled and motionless frame.  “Maybe we should feel for a pulse or something. Maybe neither of us will have to do it!, It don’t look like she’s breathing.” He said, slightly too hopefully. Lila took tiny, slow, shallow breaths and clung to the hope that they couldn’t see her chest rise and fall.

“Go on then,” Said Michael, sounding slightly amused, “let’s see you take her pulse,”  He laughed at the look on Spences face.

“Well, I don’t know how to do it, do I?  What? Do I look like a fucking nurse to you?!”  Said Spence, feeling unjustly mocked by Mikey’s sarcastic laughter.

“Get out of the way then, let me do it.  You’re such a fucking numpty!” Laughed Michael. He planted two fingers against her neck.

‘That’s it then,’ Thought Lila, ‘I am about to end!’ There was no way he could miss the blood pounding through her veins, she could feel it, hear it even.  But somehow he did. Her heart was racing, but by some stroke of blind luck he had missed it, she felt a surge of relief as he said:

“Nope, I reckon you’re right Spence, she’s definitely a goner.” His hand trailed to her shoulder and she was almost sure she felt him squeeze gently with his finger tips, an attempt at reassurance? ‘No’ she thought ‘don’t be a fucking idiot Lila’ after all they were here to kill her and dump her sorry bones in the river, not make friends with her. Why would he?

“Brilliant!” Said Spencer, “That means we don’t have to fuck about. We can just drop her off down there and get going. I don’t know about you Michael but I am in serious need of a cold beverage or two after the night we’ve just had.”

The two men grabbed at the carpet underneath her and started to lift her out, both gagging at the stench and trying not to get anything on their clothes.  Lila felt nausea rise in her again and even the slightest movement felt as though she were being battered from every angle. The tides of pain swamped her now; she felt a scream rise in her throat.  She knew though that if she cried out or moved her tenuous ruse would be discovered, and she would be killed there and then. She bit down hard on her tongue, hard enough to break the skin. Blood filled her mouth, increasing her nausea, but she willed herself not to puke.  As they carried her towards the river, swollen from recent heavy rainfall, they discussed the broken woman, now suspended in the carpet, as though she were no more than an over used toy, about to be thrown in the bin. Which, to them, she supposed she was.

“What was her real name? Did you ever hear anyone use it?” Asked Michael, his voice wavered slightly and as he spoke the words his voice thickened. Was that a hint of emotion she detected?

‘It’s Lila’, she thought ‘Lila Vaughan, my fucking name is Lila Vaughan!’ She had repeated these words to herself so many times, it had become like a mantra over the years. At first, it was as a silent defiance to Devin’s refusal to use it, and then later, to ensure she herself didn’t forget it.

“Nah, no one knew her name.” Replied Spence “He just used to call her ‘Cunt’, or ‘The Cunt’, if we had company” Both men laughed.

The river’s edge dropped steeply here and the banks were heavily populated with nettles, reeds and other dense riparian foliage. Bodies dumped here could not be seen from the path that ran parallel to it. Nobody ever came here, except Devin McArthurs employees. People took their walks, sailed their boats, fished and exercised their dogs further up-stream, oblivious to the sinister double life of the beautiful river. This end of the waterway was not accessible.  The McArthur employees had used this spot several times over the years; it was a safe spot for them. 

On occasion, bodies dumped over the river bank were dislodged, and were swept further downstream into the network of pipes that fed into the water works. They would be caught and trapped by a grid of thick, iron bars,  food for the river fish and sewer rats. These were designed to stop big debris like logs being swept into the smaller tunnels, but they worked just as well with a human corpse. The water works employed a man to clear the pipes of any natural build up. This same man was also employed, and paid handsomely by Devin, to keep his mouth shut about what ever else he might find down there, and, if necessary, take steps to remove anything incriminating.

With a little debate, lots of swearing and a few incidences of nearly dropping her, Mikey and Spencer came to the decision that they would simply stand at the top of the banks and roll Lila’s body down the steep slope into the water. One quick heft, and let gravity do the rest. She felt a jolt as she was hoisted free of the carpet. The sudden movement and subsequent impact against the river bank sent spikes of pain searing through her every nerve, but still she did not cry out. Her desperation to stay alive suppressed her screams, even as she tumbled through the jagged stinging foliage of the river bank. She splashed down into the soft, slick mud and freezing cold November water, she somehow held her tongue and swallowed down every cry. 

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