She was on the back of a motorbike. The helmet felt heavy and tight on her head. Pearls of sweat trickled into her eyes and blurred her vision. He wasn’t going very fast, the roads were narrow and full of potholes. Who was he, and where were they going? He was very slim, bony. She could feel his ribs against her chest. Her arms were reaching around his waist, attaching her to him in a tight embrace from behind and keeping her from falling off. Her wrists were getting sore from the steel hoops which forced them close together, her palms touching as though she was praying.
“Don’t go with strangers, Cathy,” a voice in her head was pleading. A voice from a time long ago. Someone who had cared about her and had loved her. She didn’t remember going with this stranger. Felt as though she had gone to sleep in her bed and woken up there, right there on the back of a big motorbike, handcuffed to him. Where was he taking her? He was slowing down even more. A red tractor had turned onto the road in front of them. If only she could free her hands from the tight grip of the steel, she’d be able to roll off the back and let herself fall. The man and child on the tractor would see her and help her and the biker would drive away. The farmer indicated to the left and drove into a field, raising a hand in greeting as they drove past continuing their ascent upward.
She felt her cheeks getting moist and when she licked her lips and they tasted salty, she realized that she must be crying. Her visor had steamed up from the inside from all the sweating and the shedding of tears inside the helmet. The ground under the tires felt different now, softer, she swung her head from side to side and saw a watery blurry green each time. He must have driven them into a field. Now the blurry green changed to a blurry brown and he stopped and turned off the engine.
He unlocked her cuffs so that they could both get off the bike without falling over. She acted quickly, used the newfound liberty of her aching hands and arms to rip the helmet off her head and whack it into his groin. He buckled over and dropped onto his knees. They were in a field, outside an old battered shed. She ran away from it, away from him, down the hill, as fast as she could, stumbling and falling, lifting herself up again, running toward the farmhouse she could see in the distance. Someone lived there, there must be someone there, please let there be someone there. She thought she could hear a dog barking from the direction of the farm.
She kept on running, toward the sound of the barking, the farm building’s blurry shape getting larger. She was nearly there. She slowed a little. Her legs felt as though they had boots filled with lead weighing them down. Now she allowed herself to glance back over her shoulder. He hadn’t run after her, thank God, he hadn’t run after her. A black and white sheepdog came bouncing toward her. The dog circled around her, nipping her calves ever so often as though she was a cow who had to be prompted to make her way back to the farm.
They reached the farmyard and a sharp whistle sounded from inside an open shed. The dog sat, panting and looking up at her. She stood, trembling, waiting, watching the dark opening. Out of it stepped a man in oil stained denim overalls. The fabric stretched around a bulge of a belly and hung loose around his legs. He had a steel chain with a dog whistle attached around his neck. He lifted the whistle to his mouth, inserting its half moon shape into his mouth between his tongue and the roof of the mouth. He made a sound like a wailing siren at which the dog lay down beside her and grabbed her trouser leg holding onto it with its teeth, jaws clenched.
“Good girl, Lucy, and good girl yourself,” the man said looking her up and down, “Not quite what I expected and how I expected it delivered to me, but you’ll do.”
He looked familiar. He looked like the farmer who had waved from the red tractor earlier. There had been a young boy with him, where was the boy now? In the farmhouse, he must be in the farmhouse. That’s if it was the same man.
He turned his head toward the sound of an approaching motorbike. This can’t be real, please, let this not be real.
“Ah, he’ll want to get paid the delivery fee regardless, of course. I’ll deal with him, you girls stay put. I’ll be right back.” His laughter was throaty. She saw the black handle of a knife sticking out of his back pocket as he turned and walked toward the approaching biker.
The two men walked into the shed together. The biker hardly more than a boy, 18 or 19 maybe. Curly red hair and freckles, taller than the farmer and very slim. Blue eyes avoiding eye contact with her when he walked past her and the dog. She was sure she had never seen him before, didn’t know him. Was he someone Henry knew, a friend of his? But Henry’s kiss had been so gentle, so shy, unthinkable that he could have anything to do with this nightmare.
“I told you not to go with strangers, Cathy,” her mother’s voice was saying in her head.
Then the sound of raised voices from inside the shed. The farmer coming back out on his own, more stains on his overall, fresh wet dark stains, a smear of blood across his high forehead.
He walked up to the bike and pushed it inside the shed, out of sight. “You can help me clean up and get rid of this mess later, young lady. City boys, they think they’re massive but they’re useless. Let’s get you into the house now. I have a pork roast on. It’s nearly dinner time.”
(C) Ash N. Finn 2016