The pain came and went for a while now. Caroline didn’t know how long she’d been sitting, strapped down, in what felt like a straight-back, wooden chair, all she knew was that she couldn’t feel her hands.
She couldn’t feel most of her body, all she felt was the pressure of a needle in her arm from time to time, but afterwards of the world of nothing-numbness swept over her until the next shot. She wasn’t sure how long this had been happening. She tried counting once but lost count after 12.
Falling in and out of consciousness was certainly not a good way to keep track of time, and the blindfold didn’t help either, if only she could see the sun or the outside world, escape would feel more possible. Instead, as she struggled with the nylon ropes binding her arms and legs to the wooden chair, hopelessness spread like a rash. She was stuck, captured, in an unfamiliar place with no possible way out.
But all of that fell behind her preoccupation with her hands. She could still wiggle her toes a little; she felt them in her fish-net stockings. Her hands, her fingertips, she could not move them as if they weren’t there at all.
She desperately wanted to scream. To give a horrifying reaction, and hopefully, the one who was playing this awful joke would pop out and tell her it was ok, but she couldn’t. Whoever it was went the extra mile with a rubber gag and duct tape over her mouth. Why go to such lengths? She was only a 12-year-old beauty pageant winner with little ability to defend herself. Her talent was singing and yet here she was, treated like a criminal. It wasn’t fair!
She hadn’t done anything wrong. All she remembered was leaving the Hilton conference room after giving a stunning performance of “Teeth” by Lady Gaga. She remembered she received two 10s and an 8.5, but that judge was hard to impress anyway… Regardless, she was going to win, but then…
She felt it now. Feeling was coming back; she could feel the bruises on her arms and legs from hands as well as needle punctures. She also felt her clothing. It all seemed to be intact from her purple velvet jacket to her silk leotard and leather boots. Her purple velvet hat was missing and as the numbness drained away like a sleeping limb regained blood flow, she knew for certain now that her hands were indeed gone.
Panic. Caroline breathed in and out, quickly. Her body squirmed and her wrists reached out as far as they could, looking for their lost appendages, but they were gone.
In and out, in and out, rapidly her chest inflated and deflated, her teeth clenched around the gag in her mouth. Who had done this? Where was she? There were no discernible noises in the room she was in, but she could smell onions and garlic… She must be in a kitchen.
She also remembered the increased security at the pageant, due to the kidnappings at other pageants and shows. Many young girls were missing. The police believed it was a some sex offender, but nothing had been found. Caroline struggled against her bonds and wondered how much of her body had been violated since she arrived in this hell.
Then she heard a scratching noise, like a key being forced into a lock. A door creaked open and Caroline ould hear a man and woman talking and the crinkling of paper bags.
“I’m telling you, babe,” said the man, “This chipotle BBQ sauce is going to make it taste amazing.”
She heard their footsteps come closer until she knew they were right in front of her.
“Oh look,” said the woman, “She’s conscious.”
“Gotta fix that if we want to eat tonight,” said the man, “Can’t deal with all that screaming.”
“What?” thought Caroline. She struggled, wildly against her restrained, but it was no use.
“Wing or drumstick, darling,” said the woman. Caroline heard was sounded like metal scraping across a counter.
“What do you think would be the easiest to saw?”
“I think the femur would be significantly harder to cut through than the upper arm bone.”
Sweat collided with her tears as she continued to struggle against her restraints.
“Aww, she’s scared,” said the woman, “You won’t die, yet. We’re just going to eat pieces of you until you can no longer live.”
“You’ve got plenty of time before you die, baby,” said the man laughing. He pressed the saw teeth against her arm, but then he hesitated.
Many thoughts ran rampant through her mind, but the most curious one at the moment was ‘What’s going on?’
It was quiet for a moment, and then the woman said, “Who the hell are you?”
Caroline concentrated on her hearing, but she could hear a thing.
“Speak up, creep, or get the fuck out!” said the man.
Still nothing. Not a word, not a sound echoed from the supposed intruder.
“Ass,” said the man, “I warned you!”
Caroline heard a bang, a gunshot, she smelled the powder, and then she felt the round cut through her eye, and then, she felt nothing…
Caroline looked down. Her body felt pinned to the ceiling. But it wasn’t a body at all. It felt… light. Weightless. She raised her arms to her face; just as she suspected, her hands were gone. Gingerly, she raised her right arm to her right eye. It, too, was gone; the bullet must have shot it out.
She didn’t know why, but she wasn’t scared anymore. Her feelings of panic and despair were replaced by an overwhelming gratitude that felt like joy, but not, like love, but not. She couldn’t describe it. She didn’t even feel anything when she looked down on her assailants.
The man lay decapitated, eyes looking up, nearly all white, mouth agape, tongue lying dead on the ground. His body told the story of a mutinous right hand that raised a bone saw to his neck, dragging back and forth, blood spurt on the floor and walls. His wrist still twitched, fingers tightly wound around the saw’s handle.
The woman’s face wasn’t recognizable. A gun blast split her lower jaw; her cheeks dark and bloody, her eyes also turned up into her brain. Her right hand clenched the gun’s handle, shaking, finger stilled squeezed.
Caroline felt nothing; no, she felt relief, sorrow, guilt, happiness… Every emotion culminating in a blur of everything and nothing, inside her calm and still mind.
Then she saw her would-be savior. He was ghostly pale, bald, a black trench coat, black pants, black shirt, leather gloves and boots. He moved silently. Though the man and woman creaked on every crack, he seemed to miss everyone. His feet light and nimble. His clothing, though loose-fitting, didn’t make a sound. He wandered the entire room before he returned to the kitchen, dragging the spirits of her murderers with his bare hands.
He threw them up into the air, each pinned on either side of her, looking just as their bodies did below. They shivered and stared in horror at their conqueror. And when Caroline gazed upon his face, she, too, felt fear again.
His eyes and mouth were sewn shut, his ears and nose cut off and plugged, though he still looked up at them… Or appeared to perceive them. Then his lips trembled and moved as much as they could as if he were trying to speak and after a minute or two, they stopped.
Then there was a rumbling sound as if the building were shaking. The room itself didn’t seem to move, and yet Caroline could feel the atmosphere shiver and shake all around her.
With quick hands, the man reached into his coat and brought out 3 empty coke bottles and uncapped them. One by one, Caroline and the other two spirits descended, squeezed and contorted into the three bottles as the man capped them and placed them inside his coat once more.
Like a ghost, he walked to the open window he entered and silently exited down the fire escape.