It must have snowed the night before. My feet were numb with cold making the pain unbearable. I squirmed in my chains and my breath flowed steadily. It was getting harder to survive. The smell of blood, urine, sweat, and other unpleasant odors no longer bothered me. My nose was clogged. I could hear someone coughing and thought if the killer didn’t finish her off, the cold and pneumonia would. The neon lights flickered in the small dark dungeon. Between me and the only exit out of this hell hole, the iron door, was the altar; a chrome table that shown dull and blood stained under the light. On a small table next to it, utensils jagged and sharp glittered like jewelry. I sighed. Selma coughed again. She would be next to go. Rina would be after her because her spirit had broken. She was no fun anymore to the killer.
We heard them way before we saw them: a girl sobbed hysterically and the heavy clang of the door as it opened. He came through, a tall broad shouldered man who seemed to have a constant stoop. I didn’t need to see his face anymore, I could recognize him by the slouch of his uneven shoulders and hunched curve of his back. He wore heavy winter clothing and through the door, I could see a thick blanket of snow covering the forest that surrounded this dungeon. The girl was bleeding from the nose and had a black eye. She put up no fight and I knew she would break easily. He strapped her unto the table. It was about to begin. I closed my eyes and turned to the wall, trying to move my torn and bleeding body into a fetal position. The chains on my ankles clinked restlessly and fear tightened my screaming muscles. She started screaming a few seconds later. Begging within less than a minute. I consoled myself with the thought that he would not kill her now. Just subdue her so that she would put up no fight the next time around. Perhaps half an hour later it was done. She was too weak to scream anymore though she was crying softly. He laid her on the dirt floor, cuffing her feet and arms. He brought Selma to the table who began to sob convulsively. He was smiling a sweet smile as he reached for the bat. Her screams seemed to go on forever. The new girl huddled on the floor and vomitted before she passed out. Selma was dead within minutes.
We waited until the new girl woke up, chained to the wall where Selma had once stood. She began crying when she saw where she was. Emma began first.
“The ones who were here before -- Alice Lueke, Teresa McCain, Joanne Desna, Tracy Demopolis, Martha Raithe, Jenna Desylva, Selma Johnson, and me, Emma Dermont.”
Rina went second. “The ones who were here before -- Alice Lueke, Teresa McCain, Joanne Desna, Tracy Demopolis, Martha Raithe, Jenna Desylva, Selma Johnson, Emma Dermont, and me, Rina Yamamura.”
Annie went next, adding her name to the end of the list. Then Marnie, then me.
“…and me, Sylvia Jackson. This is the name game,” I continued. “You must try and remember these names. So that all the girls who have been killed here can be remembered.”
She reacted in the usual way. Shouting and screaming at us, cursing us out, lobbing question after question at us. Then crying for what seemed like hours. When she had calmed, Emma began again. Each of us starting again until it was her turn. Listlessly, she recited the names and added her own to the end -- Bree Sandrick. I corrected her whenever she got one name wrong. We made her say it over and over again until she said it flawlessly.
We heard a large thud against the iron door several days later. Then some mad scuffling, a scream, and the killer shouted in pain. The iron door flung open and two people fell through. A short Asian looking woman, slightly overweight, lay stunned on the floor. The killer struggled to his feet and she stirred; suddenly, aiming a kick into his groin. With a groan he fell to his knees but his fists flew and one lands on her cheek, blood fall on the dirt floor. She grunted in pain as the force of the punch sent her head bouncing to the floor but with a desperate sob she rolled away and kicked his kneeling figure in the chin. He spun away, falling against the little table that held his torture tools. Both lay still, gasping for breath.
Bree started shouting encouragement. “Get up! Get up, he's down!” Her cries stirred up the others who also started cheering her on.
The woman could barely stand. She bled from a cut on her cheek, her split lip and a cut from above right eye. She was shocked to see us chained to the walls and started crying. She was facing me so I could see her more clearly. There were bruises on her face and her shirt was torn at the neck, her winter coat's left sleeve, torn from the shoulder down, hung limply from her elbow. She looked terrible but our eyes met and in that one second, I knew I would live past this ordeal.
Killer pulled himself together and charged her. They went down in a heap and the woman cried out. Bree started crying as despair won over hope. But the woman bit his ear off and screaming he rolled away from her, clutching the side of his head, his body spasmed with pain. He rolled too close to Marnie and she kicked him in the gut. He wheeled away with another cry of pain.
The woman found the bat he used to finish off his victims. She saw the blood and the bits of flesh stuck to it and groaned with horror. He charged her from behind and she turned too late. They fell against the wall, right next to me. Using the chains on my hand, I grabbed him by the neck and held on with as much strength as I could muster. She bit his clutching hands and he quickly let her go. Gripping the bat, she swung it with such force that everyone heard the crunch of his knee bone shattering. His scream of pain was drowned out by the cheering. She aimed one swing directly at the back of his neck. I was looking into his face as he went unconscious.
I released him and he slipped to the floor. The woman ran out the open door and Rina started screaming “Bitch, come back! Come back, bitch!” She stops in mid sprint, slipping on the snow. She lies stunned for a moment and then crawls back to the door. She dug through the killer’s clothes for his keys.
“He has a second set of keys for his car,” I told her.
She handed me the set she found and I unchained myself. Quickly, I placed the chains around the killer’s ankles and wrists and locked him down. As the woman keeps rifling through his clothing for his car keys, I released the other women. She must not have been able to find his car keys because when I was done, I saw her looking through his torture tools. She chose a crowbar and charged out into the snow. The other women gathered around the killer, staring down at him.
I decided to follow my savior.
She ran through the snow, slipping and falling, crying sometimes and sometimes just breathing hard. I remembered the path she followed. But when I first walked it, it was the end of Fall and brown leaves covered the surrounding forest floor. Snow blanketed the forest around me, now, and the bare branches held clumps of snow. The air felt crisp and clean. The path led to a tight clearing and in that clearing was his car. She was trying to pry open the trunk. She seemed so desperate that I helped her out. The trunk lock gave under our combined weight and the trunk opened.
There were two young children huddled together in there. The boy, around seven, seemed calm at first. He had his arms around a little girl who seemed no more than three. They both started crying “Mama” when they saw my savior. I felt sick to my stomach. That bastard deserved death.
She took the children and dragged them down into the dungeon. I followed, shocked by her actions. “Hey, don’t take them back there!“ I shout after her.
The women have started bickering about who gets to kill him when she drags the two children down. She brings them before the prone and unconscious killer. Everyone falls silent. I enter the dungeon again, amazed at how easily I can re-enter this place of hell.
The kids were terrified and clung to their mother. She grabbed the bat and whacked the man in the head to make sure he didn’t suddenly wake up. He didn’t stir.
When the children started crying, Annie said to her -- “Are you nuts?”
But she ignored us all.
“Look at him,” she said. The children did. For a long, long time there was nothing but the soft sound of sniffling from the children.
“He’s just a man,” the boy said finally.
“Were you expecting something more horrible?” she asked. The boy nodded. The little girl edged towards her brother and caught his hand, peeking through teary eyes at the killer.
“Can he hurt us again Mama?” she asked.
“No,” their mother answered. “We’ve beaten him. He no longer exists.”
The children nodded.
The energy leeched out of my savior’s body and she murmured that her cell could be found in her purse in the trunk of his car.
She turned to me -- her voice was weary and she struggled with tears.
“He said he wanted to know how long children could scream before they faint.”
I nodded understandingly and helped her stand. “He’s a sick man. Shall I kill him for you?”
She stared at me in shock. “N-no thanks.”
I shrugged. The other ladies were already outside. I turned one last time and kicked the prone figure on the ground. “I really should just kill him,” I said conversationally.
But the boy tugged me away. “He’s down. My Dad says we don’t kick people when they’re down.”
His words released something in me. I began to cry and clutching the boy’s hand we climbed our way out of the dungeon and into the pure white snow.