10-26-09 – Possession Pt. I

We live in a prison.

We live in a world that provides us with millions of questions and not a single understandable answer. I have endeavored to survive this cataclysm with dignity and strength. I see now that was an impossible dream. Call it foolishness or naiveté, call it whatever you want, but I desired it more than anything… More than answers, more than just life… I hoped we might make it through with our heads above water.

I have been away from all of you and I apologize for my silence but I promise that my silence was not voluntary. I will try now to describe the events of the last week with clarity and detail but some information is lost forever, lost to memory.

As you can imagine, the arrival of Collin’s wife threw a bit of a wrench into my plans for a simplified, normal existence. Whatever sickness had been ravaging our survivors only worsened with the arrival of her and her companions. They are a ragtag bunch with no real connection to each other, just a shared goal of surviving long enough to reach the campus and the arena. They too heard the radio broadcast and supposed the worst when the transmissions stopped coming. Without Lydia (Collin’s wife) and her dogged persistence, they might never have arrived at all. She is a tall, strange Amazon of a woman with arrow-straight silvery hair and a free, artistic face. I tried not to form a negative opinion of her, I tried to remain objective, but objectivity in such cases is impossible.

She either intuited something had happened between Collin and I, or she simply does not like me based on some other observations. Our first interaction was awkward and strained and, happily, took place far away from Collin. Lydia singled me out among the individuals in charge. She found me arguing with a handful of Black Earth Wives as they tried, again, to protest Collin’s leadership.

“Hello,” she said, dragging her hand across her face to clear the hair from her eyes. She is, I think, close to Collin’s age. She has a dramatic way of speaking, giving each of her words equal and melodic weight.

“Hey,” I replied, distracted in the extreme.

“You must be Allison.”

“Yeah that’s me, sorry, a bit busy here.”

This didn’t seem to matter to her, as she continued standing a few feet away, regarding me with cold, veiled eyes. She had her head cocked to the side as she inspected me from top to toe. Ned came over to help and, without a word, stepped in to try and bargain with the Wives. They were demanding more food, more clothing, more, more, more. He had a way of persuading them to stay quiet for a day or so, but they seemed to outright mistrust me.

“Is that Ned?” Lydia asked as I backed away. One of the Wives held up a makeshift cross and Ned gently lowered her wrist to get the Popsicle sticks out of his face.

“Yeah. He’s a huge help around here.”

“Hm. He looked taller from a distance.”

“Yes, well, he’s not exactly the Colossus of Rhodes, but I’m sure from your lofty height everyone else looks positively Lilliputian.” Not the best answer, but at the time my temper was – rightfully I think – pretty short. I didn’t expect Lydia to respond, but life is full of unpleasant surprises.

“Never cared for Swift really.”

“Well if he rises from the grave I’ll be sure to let him know.”

The conversation ended there. I can’t bring myself to look at her face and I can’t bring myself to face Collin. It doesn’t seem fair to demand he choose or even defend the situation; no one is really to blame. As usual, Ted is no where to be found. He has a way of disappearing at the worst moments, the moments when I need him the most. Ned is a sympathetic ear. He is determined to stay on my side and for that bias I am deeply, sincerely grateful. His sympathy, however, is part of what got us into a bit of trouble, and by bit of trouble I of course mean a shit hole so deep it may as well have led to the center of the earth. Verne would be proud.

The Black Earth Wives have come to a decision: They want to leave. Word from Collin reaches us that they should be allowed to go. After all, this isn’t a Fascist state, they can leave if they want to. It’s their funeral. Ned insists that I stay with him while the initial shock of Lydia’s arrival is still fresh and terrible. He can see what the others can’t: My stability has been somewhat wrapped up in my bond with Collin and now I will need to find another outlet. We spend two hours in the gym and it’s brutal but it’s a distraction that I desperately need. Then Ned and I take Dapper to the cordoned off part of the parking lot where the vehicles are kept. The Black Earth Wives are being given one of the long vans that seats six to eight people. It’s a generous gift, one I don’t think they deserve.

“What is wrong with me? I’ve turned into a total hag,” I say, checking the trunk for any unwanted stragglers. We’ve been assigned to clean out the van and make sure it’s in good working order. There are worse tasks.

“Just stay away from her. It’s all you can do.”

“You’re right. I can’t be trusted.”

Ned laughs, sweeping an eye-watering pile of dust out of the van. “If it’s any consolation, I don’t like her much.”

“She thinks you’re short.”

“And I think she’s a rotten bitch.”

“BFF Ned, BFF.”

Dapper jumps onto one of the seats, claiming it for his own. I can’t imagine there will be anywhere peaceful to write so I sit on the seat beside him and take my laptop out of its backpack. Ned slows the cleaning down to a crawl so if anyone comes to check on us it looks like we’re still busy. We are both notoriously good at avoiding med tent duty. Ted’s God complex is soothed by the backbreaking work but Ned and I prefer target practice or the gym. It’s cold out there and my fingers start to go a little numb as I type, Dapper trying to dart his tongue along my wrist as I write.

This is where it starts to get fuzzy. I remember Ned standing outside the van, his head bent as he checked beneath the front passenger seat and I remember hearing footsteps outside on the pavement. There were a few whispers and then a flash of pale brown as something hard and heavy hit the back of my head.

I wake up and the back of my head feels soft and wet. I’m in the dark, an echoing, clammy dark. Everything is a little damp and freezing. It feels like the basement of the arena but it smells different, more metallic and dusty. I touch the back of my head and my fingers come back sticky and damp; a lick of my fingertips tells me the crown of my head is bleeding but it’s tacky and starting to heal. Groaning, I sit up and squint into the thick darkness.

“Hello?” I croak. “Anyone? Fuck.”

There’s no answer, just my voice coming back to me from a few different directions. There’s a faint perfume lingering above my head, a few feet off the ground. It smells a bit like lavender soap, with the tangy dryness of potpourri. Shivering, I crawl around on the floor trying to find the parameters of the room. It’s small, probably ten feet by ten feet, with two walls made of coarse chains that smell strongly of rust. The other walls are bumpy, cold cement. There’s no light to adjust to, but I can make out a kind of window way up above me. It’s covered with cardboard, shutting out the daylight or starlight. I have no idea what time it is, no recollection of the time between sitting in the van and waking up on the floor. There’s a bucket in one corner and I can only presume that’s supposed to be my toilet.

What worries me the most is that I’m alone, that neither Ned or Dapper seem to be near.

I waited for what had to be hours, curled up against the wall with only questions to keep me company. I feel almost nothing because I know that whatever happens now is probably out of my hands. There is no surge of power, no moment of great anger because I can’t imagine having much more taken away from me. There is only one option: To wait.

At last, with my stomach growling and rumbling every twenty seconds or so, I hear footsteps. A flashlight appears, the thin, yellow beam bouncing along the concrete. I see now that I’m probably in a basement, that this was at one time a kind of storage facility. The flashlight illuminates a pile of deflated soccer balls and basketballs in a far corner and the remains of a miniature hockey net. The light flashes in my eyes and it makes my already tender head explode with pain. I shield my eyes and then squint through the piercing brightness to see who has come for me. She’s very tall, wide, with broad, manly shoulders and a limp mop of curly hair that clings to her head like a greasy helmet. Her mouth is small and puckered and there’s a drawn tightness around her eyes. She’s at least as tall as Ned, maybe six feet.

“Where am I?” I ask, finding that my voice has only gotten more hoarse.

“You eat now,” she grunts, kneeling with great effort to slide a shallow plate beneath the crack in the chain door. There’s a big, nasty padlock around the door handle. “In a few hours I come back.”

“Wait, please,” I say, scrambling forward on all fours, “Can you just tell me who you are? Who are you?

“Not important,” she says, her English heavily accented with German or maybe a Swedish accent. “I come back soon for you.”

Well, she’s a filthy liar because she doesn’t come back for hours. In the mean time I eat what she’s brought, which is a meager, watery portion of oatmeal. It tastes stale, like it’s been rotting in the back of a pantry for decades. Still, I eat it, hoping that it isn’t laced with something. I try to think of a way to keep time, but without any sun on the floor it’s impossible to really get a feel for time passing. I know it probably feels longer than it is because there’s nothing to see, nothing to distract me from the long, dark hours.

When I hear another sound it’s in the room next to mine. The flashlight comes again and the same woman, but instead of opening my door or coming to see me she opens the room next to mine and pushes someone inside. There’s a scrabbling of shoes on the cement and a crash as the door is shut and a padlock looped around the handle.

“Don’t struggle. You were given a chance.”

This time it isn’t the jailer speaking but someone else, a low feminine voice I vaguely recognize. The flashlight is firmly on the floor, and I can’t see her face.

“Go fuck yourself.”

My heart squirms into my throat. Thank god: It’s Ned.

He spits on the ground and I hear a gasp from the woman and a strained chuckle from the big German woman with keys. “May the Lord have mercy on you, Edward. Though I don’t think he will.”

They leave, the flashlight bouncing away until they turn a corner and disappear.

“Ned? Is that you?”

“Jesus, Allison, you’re alive!” he says. I can hear him shuffle over to our shared wall. I crawl over in that direction, running my hands across the chains until I feel his fingertips.

“Where are we?” I ask, so thankful for his company that I can feel tears welling in my eyes.

“I think it’s a preschool or something, the walls upstairs are all pink and yellow and green.”

“And Dapper?”

“I didn’t see him,” Ned says, his frown coming through in his voice. “I can’t believe you’re alive. God, Allison, it’s horrible. These are horrible people. I don’t know what will happen to us.”

“Slow down – who is terrible?”

“The Wives, the Black Earth Wives, that’s where we are, it’s who… God damnit. They took the van, they must have, and they took us too.”

“But that doesn’t make any sense. Why would they take us? Why risk it?” I ask. I can feel his hands trembling, shaking the chain wall and making it tinkle gently like a wind chime.

“It’s me. They want – wanted – me.”

You?”

“Thanks.”

“No, I mean, what for?”

“They’ve lost it, Allison, all of them. They’re crazy…”

“But if they want you, why are you down here with me?”

“I wouldn’t… I wouldn’t do what they asked. It’s like a cult or something, something bad. I don’t know what the fuck is going on,” he says, his voice breaking in the middle of the sentence. Something is wrong, really wrong, and the wall shakes harder. “They tried to… They tried to make me have sex with them.”

“Fuck my life. Jesus.”

“Exactly, Allison. They think it’s the end of days, Armageddon, they want to repopulate the earth. They kept calling me Adam… And Corie… She was standing right here, just, right there and she didn’t do anything, didn’t try to stop them. It’s so fucked… And now… Now I think they’ll probably just kill us.”

“Kill us? What the hell did I do?”

“We’re sinners… And I… I couldn’t… They have the boys. They have Evan and Mikey.”

“Jesus, Ned,” I say, feeling my skin try to disappear. The stale oatmeal is threatening to come back up and fast. “You should’ve… You should just do what they say. Don’t worry about me, just get your kids to safety.”

“Don’t be an idiot,” he said, “I wouldn’t let my boys see me like that. They won’t be hurt, at least… Well, I don’t know, but they’re just children.”

“So what now?” I ask, squeezing his fingers.

“They’ll look for their Adam or whatever, I guess and we… Well, we aren’t needed. They kept talking about sacrifice, sacrificing the unworthy. They’re rebuilding the world, I suppose, rebuilding it the way they want.”

Anything is better. Swimming in a tank of hungry sharks would be better. Even being trapped in the arena with Collin and his wife would be better than this. Evan and Mikey are up there with a bunch of crazies, probably scared and wondering where their dad is. And who knows what they’re being told or shown…

“We’ll get out of here,” I say, squeezing his hand again, “We have to. It’s not over, not until we’re dead. We’ve come too far to die here. I’m not letting a bunch of nutso housewives take me down, not after coming so far.”

There’s no hope but I search for it anyway, trying to dig deep, almost forgetting that I’m not dealing with mindless undead anymore. I want to forget. I want to forget everything, to find a numb space where there’s no thinking, no feeling… But something won’t let me, something tells me I have to push again, something tells me I’m not allowed to be defeated. I want my dog back, and I want my freedom.

[To be continued…]

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