10-26-09 – Possession Pt. III

Baby steps are no longer adequate.

Ned and I have a new friend. Her name is Renny and she is living in my cell now. We are cellmates. She’s a spitfire – loud, opinionated and destined to share in our gruesome fate (I’m not totally convinced they want to kill us but Ned insists). Renny had the piss-poor luck of wandering into the Black Earth Wives’ compound (I call it a compound because I like to think of them as super villains in some kind of horrible, low-budget horror film. I keep telling Ned we need to cut off the head of the snake but, biblical allusions aside, he is not amused). When Renny refused to partake in their “prayer service” she was tossed down here with the rest of the garbage. She is an invaluable resource.

“Fucking bitches.”

Those are her first words to me and they hint at a deep and meaningful friendship to come. She has a smooth, dark complexion, high forehead and sharp cheekbones. Her nails are chipped but were once painted fluorescent orange and yellow. Her reddish-black hair is a mess of tight corkscrews that stick out in every single direction, held back by a wide headband. I pat the space next to me and she comes to have a seat.

“What did you see up there?” I ask.

“Other than some crazy bitches? They asked me to pray with them, fine, whatever, I’ll pray if you’re gonna give me a sandwich. They took me to the boiler room and they had cranked up the heat to like a million degrees and made me kneel with them to ‘purify’ me. Alright, weird, but whatever. Then it got weird, seriously fucking weird, ya know? They told me I had to fuck some guy and carry his child and continue the legacy of Adam and a bunch of loony shit like that. No thanks, I don’t care if that sandwich is two feet tall, I’m not doin’ that.”

“He not your type?”

“Nu-uh.”

“Pious?”

“Male.”

Renny shares Ned’s opinion that getting my laptop back is nothing to celebrate. They lack imagination. We pass the time trading stories. Renny was captain of the basketball team and beginning her senior year this year. She was at home when the undead came and she and most of her family made it out alive. Over the coming days they would get separated and she would wander from house to house, scavenging and using whatever she found to defend herself. She confirms Ned’s story; we’re being held in the basement of a preschool. “Daisies and all that shit on the walls. Something just plain wrong about it.”

Two days pass. Renny is good company, but Ned is growing more and more distant. I know he’s worried about his kids, about what might be happening to them. No one has come to talk to me about my possible conversion and I think maybe they know I’m a lost cause. But after two days something happens, something that demands action. They come for Renny.

I haven’t known her long but I know she’s a friend worth hanging on to. She has a fighter’s soul, a glint in her eye that can’t be worn down no matter what the circumstance, but they take her. They take her kicking and screaming; it takes three women to yank her out of the cell: one to keep a gun pointed at me and two to handle Renny and her sharp jabs. “You fucking cunts, I will fucking ruin you, just try me, just try and fight me fair!”

She has an imaginative, salty mouth. I can’t let them take someone like her.

“This is it,” I tell Ned as Renny’s voice fades, the last of the echoes reaching us in a quiet, vibrating murmur. “Our time is up.”

“Allison,” he says, but he stops there.

“You know, Ned,” I say, “Of all the ways to kill yourself I really think self-immolation is the way to go.”

Allison.”

“No, seriously. I mean, to me it really says: Hey man, I’m dying… With feeling.”

“I know you don’t want them to take you but even if you did want to kill yourself there’s no way to do it in here,” he says, sighing in the darkness.

“You’re just not thinking outside the box.”

“I guess you could always hang yourself with the computer cord. It’s useless anyway.”

Ned. Ned you god damn bloody genius.

“That’s it.”

“What? What’s it? No, don’t even think about it.”

“I don’t mean me, idiot,” I say, “but I promised you we’d get out of here and help your kids and that’s what we’re going to do.”

“What do you mean? With your computer cord? You’ve lost it for good this time.”

“What were you training me for? What were all those hours in the gym about if not this? I’m getting us out of here one way or a-fucking-nother.”

Ned is huffing and puffing, trying to talk me down. I’m grateful for his concern but Renny is in danger now too and I have a feeling that every moment we waste lessens her chance for survival. And besides, I’m sick of this place, bored to tears, about ready to rip my hair out just for the fun of it. There are only so many games of “I Spy” I can play, especially in the dark.

Ned quiets down after a while, probably convinced that I’ve let the idea go. But I haven’t, not one bit. That surge of anger, of hate, has come at last and I know in my gut exactly what needs to happen. It could go down a few ways but no matter what it will put an end to all this terrible waiting. Helga comes an hour later to bring us food and I’m ready for her, sitting close to the door with my laptop opened. I train my eyes intently on the screen, typing away, muttering and giggling to myself. She sees this and stops just before shoving the plate underneath the door.

“What is that? What are you doing?” she asks, drenching me in the flashlight’s beam. I don’t respond, giggling even more as I pretend to type. She rattles the door, shouting at me.

“You! I told you! No funny business!” she screams, pounding on the door. Next door I can hear Ned shuffling over to the wall. “What are you doing?”

“Funny business.”

A growl starts deep in her throat and builds until she’s floundering for her eyes, muttering to herself and at me, cursing me, threatening me. She finally finds the right key and unlocks the padlock, flinging the door open. I scoot back a few feet, shielding the screen from her. I need her to come in close, real close, or it won’t work. She follows, taking the bait, and tries to see the screen. I keep giggling like a maniac and it only makes her madder. For a religious whacko she certainly does have a startling command of inappropriate and colorful language.

She’s right on me now so first things first. I check for a gun but don’t see one, not in her pocket or tucked into her waistband. She’s an intimidating fortress of a woman so they must not have armed her. This is going to be worse, much worse than I thought. When she’s bent over I spring into action, snatching the power cord from behind my back and throwing it around her neck. She straightens up in surprise, staggering backward a few steps. But I’m ready for her, I have been for the last hour, and I jump to my feet, faster, more agile. I grab the other end of the cord and pull, hard, tightening the plastic around her neck. She reels backward, shouting in surprise and anger. I hear Ned’s hands hit the wall, his fingers tightening around the chains.

The laptop is open, the screen pointed at us, the pale, stark light falling on our struggle. Helga has almost a foot on me and when she bends over it lifts me right off my feet. My grip is good and strong and I tighten it again, the cord meeting the hard knot of her throat. This looks so much easier in the movies. She decides she won’t throw me off her back that way so she slams herself backward against the concrete wall.

This is an unfortunate and unexpected turn of events.

My spine shudders as she tries to crush me against the wall, sandwiching me between her sweaty back and the concrete. But I won’t let go and I realize now that who lives and who dies depends on which of us can stick to our guns.

“Allison! Allison, no!”

I can hear Ned screaming wildly, shaking the chains of the wall. He’s voice is starting to fade though as I feel my lungs giving way from Helga grinding me against the wall. My vision is getting bad, blurry and it’s getting harder and harder to breathe. But I imagine Ned’s shouts turning into one of our gym sessions, his screams urging me on.

Don’t give up, ten more, five more, push it!

My hands are slipping on the hard plastic cord but it’s not from my sweat. There’s something slippery on the cord, seeping in around my fingers. I can’t let go, can’t let my grip go for even a second. I pull harder, the last air in my lungs coming out in one long scream as I feel my fingernails digging deep into my palms. Helga is making this terrible noise, gargling and grunting and flailing back against me. She’s covered in sweat and I can feel the front of my shirt getting soaking wet. It hurts and hurts, my chest aching like I’ve just gone round after round in a boxing ring. My heart and lungs are going to explode any minute, if I can’t get one more gasp of air, just one, I’ll be dead. Ned’s voice is rising higher and higher and the chains are rattling and rattling…

If only the cord weren’t so damn slippery, if only I could breathe, if only my eyes would hold on for one more second…

Then it all goes slack and dark and I’m pitching forward. I don’t know if I’m dead or alive, if Helga has won or finally given up. I hit the floor hard, my elbow screaming with a hundred pinpricks as it hits the concrete. Maybe my arm is broken, maybe I’ve finally run out of air…

When I wake up my arm is aching and my head feels like it’s been split open again. I can hear someone crying softly, sobbing.

“Ugh.”

“Fuck!” Ned practically screams, “Fuck! God damnit, you’re alive! Damn it, Allison, don’t fucking… God… I thought you were dead.”

“How long was I out?”

“Two minutes maybe.”

I slowly sit up, maneuvering the laptop until I can see what’s all over my hands. It’s blood, tons of it. Helga is on the floor a few inches away, face down with the computer cord still looped around her neck. I roll her over with my foot and see that the plastic had started to chew into her skin. I wipe my hands off on her sweaty shirt and take a moment to steady myself. My chest still aches but air is getting to my lungs and my pulse is starting to regulate itself.

“I can’t believe it.”

“No shit,” I say, getting shakily to my feet. We need to get going fast before someone comes to check on Helga. I pack up the laptop and wipe the cord off on her jeans. I take the keys and let myself out and then unlock Ned’s padlock. My hands won’t stop shaking.

Ned picks me up and we hug for a long minute, relieved, terrified.

“Let’s go get your kids,” I whisper and together we skulk away into the shadows, Helga’s flashlight in one hand and the ring of heavy keys in the other.

[To be continued…]

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