The Dark Road Home
The week had been long and drawn out. To Private Lila MacFannen, military time seemed to be longer than standard earth time. Hurry up and wait. Hurry up and wait. The stress of hurrying drove one to the point of an ulcer while the long wait could almost certainly kill with boredom. Not for the first time since being sworn into the U.S. Army did she question what she had gotten herself into. Her twenty-first birthday had come to pass while being in the military, and November had given way to December. Why she had chosen domination at the hands of a drill sergeant over the freedom of getting plastered with her friends on her birthday was something she was still wondering.
You knew goddamned well what you were getting yourself into, the voice of her inner- critic scolded. Had she? Had she known that she would completely lose her morale the moment some poor soldier was sexually harassed? Had she expected to hear an NCO actually say: "In the army we separate the men from the faggots," in blatant disregard of policy? Allow me to repeat myself, said the patient inner-critic, You knew goddamned good and well what you were getting yourself into. And she was right. Lila wondered what had possessed her to do such a stupid thing?
During her stay at MEPS, she had made a fairly decent score on the ASVAB test. Of course, because she was female, and somewhat color-blind (a disability that was rather uncommon for Lila's gender) she only qualified for four different jobs. She had chosen Personnel Service Administration as her MOS. What a joy. Now she would be nothing more than a glorified secretary in the army. An underpaid secretary, at that.
And the most important factor was her significant other, whom she loved dearly. She had chosen the military over that person. To hold her lover in her arms again would be worth a thousand court-martials, if necessary.
What was she going to do? People were managing to get discharged for all kinds of fraudulent medical conditions. She had even heard of people receiving "failure to adapt/lack of motivation" discharges. As far as she was concerned, the last category suited her perfectly. Only problem was, how could she ever face her friends and family after talking so much about joining - especially after all the support they had given her.
Even if that was the dilemma, she seriously doubted that she could tolerate existing in an establishment of petty non-commissioned officers for much longer. Yes, she had been stupid to join in the first place. Yes, she had also been stupid for believing all the nonsense about how great of a job the Army was supposed to be. Stay in, and get college tuition paid for. Get excellent medical benefits. Get training that will make her wanted in the job market.
Before her thoughts could go any deeper, Drill Sergeant Diale, a dark skinned woman from an unknown origin (there's no way in hell she could have a mother. No human could have given birth to this beast), burst into the latrine screaming. "I want every last one of you to get the hell out of here and get toe-to-line!"
"Shit!" Lila hissed as she rinsed soap from her eyes. The other girls were running out of the shower to get dressed. When she finally got the soap rinsed away, she ran out to dress as well. However, before she could even begin to get clothed, Drill Sgt. Diale stormed into the showers.
"Goddamnit, I told you to get the hell out on the line now!"
"Drill Sgt, I'm not dress--"
"I don't give a damn! You better get the hell out now! You've all seen each other's asses before, I sure as hell ain't interested in what you got."
Private MacFannen ran out of the latrine with a towel wrapped around her, forgetting about her bathrobe entirely. When she got to the "kill-zone" where everyone else was lined up, the drill sergeant began her nightly power-trip. "I want to know why there are fucking cracker crumbs in my goddamned bay!"
The silence in the bay was unbelievable. If one collective thought could have been mustered, it would have been OH SHIT!
"So who's the person in here trying to do her own thing and screwing everyone else?" She walked up and down the kill-zone looking over each person, using the I-can-stare-into-your-very-soul ability that all drill sergeants had. "So, none of you have the integrity to admit it?"
Lila, along with everyone else, saw where this was going in a hurry.
"Front-lean-and-rest-position, move!" All the female soldiers dropped down to that all- too-familiar position that more often than not led to many pushups. "DOWN." Lila, among the others, went down; her chest touching the floor. "UP."
The process repeated many times over to the point where Private MacFannen simply could no longer lift her body up from the floor. Some females exhaled moans of pain in an attempt to drive the message home to the drill sergeant that they could not keep going indefinitely -- but Drill Sergeant Diale was not finished with them. Not by a long shot.
"All of you disgust me," Diale said with a dour expression. "You whine almost as much as those male soldiers across the bay!"
"Whoever the hell did it better confess!" Screamed one of the privates, her arms trembling in an attempt to stay up from the floor. Oddly enough, Drill Sergeant Diale ignored the soldier's outburst and continued the exercise in punishment.
As Diale paced around the room, she would have her back turned to Lila and the other soldiers at least fifty-percent of the time. When she was not looking, the soldiers whom she was not facing would take a quick break from pushing. No one passed up an opportunity to rest, not even the male soldiers -- who tended to show off somewhat when their whole platoon was assembled. In fact, Lila remembered quite well how the male soldiers would look at her and the other females during the first week of Reception Battalion. The females would look back, it was just that they usually did it more discreetly. Now, the males seemed to pay very little attention to her or any other soldier who happened to be female. It was widely whispered that salt-peter was added to the food, curbing the recruits' sexual desires. Or, maybe it was just that every private in Basic Training was being yelled at every moment between dawn till dusk and one simply did not have the time to deal with a love life.
Private MacFannen was brought back to the moment when a short, stocky private named Mary Collins spoke in a strained voice: "Drill sergeant, I did it, drill sergeant!" Diale stomped over next to the part of the floor Mary was pushing, and leaned down.
"Soldier, are you out of your military fucking mind?!" Diale shouted. Mary was crying.
"I don't know, drill sergeant!" she sobbed. All eyes in the room were on the tragedy that was unfolding before them.
"You don't know? You don't know?"
"I mean... Yes, Drill Sergeant! YES!" Private Collins frantically insisted. Lila could see the tears beginning to stream from the soldier's flushed face.
"Well, you seem to be pretty damned confused, if you ask me."
"I-I'm not, d-drill sergeant, I'm not!"
"Oh, so you're not confused? You littered my goddamn bay on purpose, then!" Private Collins let out a wail of hopelessness that pierced Lila's very soul. The poor girl was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, while this "professional" soldier toyed with her like a cat does with a mouse. Welcome to the U.S. Army. Where one is degraded and humiliated so that she can be all that she can be, even if that is just a job as a secretary.
Well, that's not true, Lila considered. We might not always be chaplains' assistants, legal assistants, truck drivers, and in my case, secretaries. A serious war could break out. And maybe so many male soldiers would get slaughtered until the government has no choice but to allow women combat roles. By then, though, what would it matter? When a government gets that desparate, we would probably have already been beaten.
Private MacFannen, who had never once held a soft spot in her heart for Drill Sergeant Diale, found herself fantasizing of standing up and telling Diale what a petty, little, sadistic bitch she really was. Of course, if she had done that, she would have been brought up on charges and taken off to the stockade. Drill Sergeant Diale may have been some small-time dictator, but no one could successfully defeat her in a power-struggle. Like it or not, they were in her world.
Oh god I have to get out of here oh please there has to be a way out oh please please please I'm fucking losing it! Lila's mind raced a thousand miles per second in a panic that only kept building. The world started to grow very dim and she could not seem to inhale for the life of her.
No! A part of her mind screamed. Surprisingly, the voice did not belong to the cynical inner-critic. This voice in particular had been quiet ever since she had joined the Army. You will not choke! You will not! Lila focused on the strong, inner-voice and found that she could breathe properly, once again. You whine and whine about how you got yourself into this whole situation ever since that Sergeant made the comment about "faggots." Do you seriously consider this whole thing a mistake?
Lila, who had momentarily disconnected herself from the world around her, considered the question. Yes, it was a mistake. There. It was said. A very simple answer that was the understatement of the year.
Then if that is so, do you want to remain part of this any longer?
No, she did not. Yet again, another major understatement.
Then you need to do what it takes to get the hell out, or else, you will suffer the domin- ation of these people for a very long time to come. Make your choice.
And at that moment, Lila made her choice. She was going to be free from the military at all costs.
"Alright, everyone get up!" When they were told to get up, they did it with lightning speed, for if anyone took too much time, the Drill Sergeant would only make everyone drop once more. Lila, standing up so quickly, lost her towel in the process. Her pale, smooth body was exposed to everyone in the room to see. She fancied that she heard a few poorly suppressed giggles. Drill Sergeant Diale pretended not to notice.
"Now go get your damned boots shined," Diale began in a calm voice. "You've got fifteen minutes till lights out! Move it!"
The next day, almost three weeks since she had arrived at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, Lila debated on which of her platoon's three drill sergeants she should face. Drill Sergeant Harp, a large man who had a tendency to be almost as cruel as Diale, was out of the question. And, the idea of going to Diale herself was little more than bad comedy.
Aside from those two, there was however, one other drill sergeant: Trenton. When Private MacFannen first saw him, she thought of him to be quite frightening. He was a thirty-six year old man with light brown hair and a very short, stubby mustache -- it had been trimmed down so that it could not interfere with wearing a gas-mask, but if any soldier was asked what they thought, they would say he went quite far resembling Adolf Hitler. He spoke in calm words, which in some way could be more disconcerting than being screamed at. He trained them, he disciplined them, and he treated them like soldiers. His relationship with them ended there; he did not spend extra effort on breaking a person's soul, unlike the other two. He was - aside from the negatively connotated mustache - everything Lila had hoped the Army, as a whole, could have been.
She eagerly awaited a chance to speak to him without so many other soldiers around. It was inevitable that there would be at least one other soldier with her at all times. That was part of the Army's buddy system. Essentially, you had a witness to your actions at all times. A great idea for deterring sexual harassment (when it was not a sergeant doing it) or any other thing that might be in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
It was around 1400 when she finally got the chance to speak with Drill Sergeant Trenton. The soldiers had just finished a manual of arms practice with their M-16A2 rifles, and he was calling the soldiers over, two at a time, so that the platoon could sign a form, requesting leave for the holidays. When Private MacFannen's turn to sign the request finally came around, she mustered up the courage to speak. She began filling out the form, writing down her mother's address and phone number as her destination. She had to say it. She had to take that final jump.
She had to.
"Drill Sergeant Trenton," she finally managed to say in a low, but audible tone .
"Yes, Soldier?" He said as he looked over her request form for any errors.
"I am wishing to be discharged, drill sergeant."
Trenton looked up from the form and stared off into the distance at nothing in particular. "And why's that, MacFannen?"
"I experienced something rather degrading, yesterday." She had already started and there was no turning back, now. "During our class on the Army's sexual harassment policy, the sergeant who was lecturing -- I don't remember her name," but Drill Sergeant Trenton nodded for her to continue, "insulted a soldier who had been sexually molested by his father, and then went on to state that 'in the Army, we separate the men from the faggots.'"
Trenton sighed. "Look, whoever you choose as your friend, homosexual or whatever, is none of the Army's business."
"I understand, Drill Sergeant," Lila nearly interrupted, "but after what she said, I can honestly say that I am not morally capable of serving in the military."
"I see," Said Drill Sergeant Trenton as he looked down at the pen in his hand. "If you are serious about this, you need to write me a letter, explaining what your problem is, and give it to me as soon as possible. After that, the first sergeant will counsel you."
"Yes, drill sergeant." Lila said, trying to mask the relief in her voice.
A day later, after Lila wrote out a short letter that generally explained her feelings, she expected to be on the express lane to getting home. Of course, what she expected and what she ended up getting was not going to be quite the same.
Within two hours of writing the letter to Drill Sergeant Trenton, he handed the letter back to her and told her to explain in better detail. So, she spent her free time at the end of the evening revising her explanation. When she and the others awakened the next morning, she gave Trenton the new letter. Now, she thought, things will finally be set in motion for me to go home.
By mid-day, she and a buddy were summoned to speak with Drill Sergeant Trenton in his office. Private MacFannen had to explain the whole thing to Trenton yet again.
"Is this the only reason why you want out?"
"No, Drill Sergeant," Lila admitted, "I want out because the military is a huge commit- ment that requires placing the orders of my superiors over the wishes of my loved ones. I thought that I could handle that sacrifice, but I know now beyond a doubt that I cannot."
"I have a family as well," said the drill sergeant. "Are you saying that I care more about the Army than I do my wife and children?"
Yes, Lila came very close to saying, but she was not in the position, nor did she have the time to judge the man's actions. She also felt somewhat guilty for what she had said. "Drill Sergeant," trying to repair the situation the best she could, "I'm not trying to imply anything other than the fact that I cannot morally handle the military any longer."
Seeing that he could not change her mind, the drill sergeant filled out a report stating that Lila was failing to adapt to military life and thus recommended that she be discharged. There. It was said. Someone had finally vouched for her! "Sign here, and be ready to be counseled by First Sergeant Richardson sometime after chow.
"Yes, Drill Sergeant." Lila said with relief as she signed in agreement with her performance evaluation. Now, she thought, things will finally be set in motion.
As she and her buddy, Private Rachel Gordon, left the drill sergeant's office to join up with the rest of the platoon, Lila began feeling a sense of hope that she might possibly be gaining control of her life.
The next day started off routine enough: running until Lila and the rest of her company were on the verge of vomiting, passing out, or both. Then came breakfast, and as far as Lila was concerned, the food was not all that bad. It did seem to have an odd, faint taste to it, though. An earthy sort of taste. Perhaps the rumors of the sexually repressive salt-peter actually held some weight of reality to it, after all. Lila didn't care, for she had not really joined the Army for sex, to begin with.
After breakfast was a one kilometer march back into a forest to learn map reading where they were issued MRE's for lunch. This wasn't really that routine, however. The food packs contained in an MRE included some sort of unholy chicken-and-rice abomination, a pack of M&Ms, and.......(drum roll).....A pack of Folgiers Instant Coffee. Lila had never really picked up the addiction for cigarettes, so she was not the most sympathetic when it came to her comrades on the verge of homicide for just one smoke. However, she did have a weakness for caffeine in any of its numerous incarnations.
She listened carefully to see if the drill sergeants present were going give orders not to indulge. After waiting roughly fifteen seconds, she decided it was safe. She got out her field cup, filled it up with one of her canteens, and then added the contents of the Instant Coffee pack.
She did not really have much of a way to heat the coffee, and she honestly did not care. Beggars can't be choosers, n'est-ce pas?
Just as she was about to drink, Drill Sergeant Harp boomed "I hope none of you have made the fatal mistake of helping yourself to any of the candy, or the coffee! Lila froze dead as a stone. He was quite far away from her, and he was not watching. With no further hesitation, she gulped down the cold coffee. It was vile and a mud puddle on the side of a country road could probably give the Instant Coffee a run for its money, but the one thing that a mud puddle usually lacked was caffeine.
After the march back to the Company C barracks, Lila was ordered to report to the first sergeant's office. When she made it to the office, she felt she had just waltzed into the lion's den. There were drill sergeants from the whole company coming in and out. Each one giving her a look that seemed to beg she slip out of line just once. She stood waiting for First Sergeant Richardson to call her in to his area. When he did, there was no time for fear. She had to stand and be true, and if that did not work, she was quite willing to play dirty.
"Soldier, Drill Sergeant Trenton states that you want out. What's the problem?" Richardson spoke with a deep voice with a hint of a New York accent. Lila once again explained her honest feelings about her situation in the military without faltering.
"Well, that's too bad, Private." He said calmly while Lila's heart began to sink. "You swore an oath, and I don't know about you but that oath means something to the US Army." Damn, he was right. That was one detail she had not really thought of a counter for. At that point, Drill Sergeant Diale entered the room. Lila's boat to freedom was sinking fast.
"Yes, First Sergeant, you're right. I made an oath, but I also made a mistake. I am not morally motivated and I don't think there is any way now to make me motivated."
"Oh, yes there is," Diale spoke up. "I'll make you motivated, you can bet your ass on that."
"Soldier," Richardson spoke again. "You are risking an Article 15 here. You're a good soldier, I can see that here. You hold yourself together... Hell, I had this one chowderhead in here earlier who could barely babble out one word. Now, unless you want to start talking about why you really want out of the Army, you're going to have to stay, or face possible UCMJ charges."
Lila had one last card up her sleeve. She had been saving it up until now, and hoped it would not be used, but it was all or nothing. "First Sergeant, there is something...else."
"Well no shit, MacFannen."
"I did not want to bring up my feelings of homosexuality." There, it was said. It was the only bombshell exploding that this noncombatant first sergeant would ever see in his office career. When the "don't ask - don't tell" policy is violated, there is very little to do. Keeping her around in the military would be insane, especially with the potential risk factor of the media finding out. Or, being held responsible if she were to be beaten or killed by homophobic soldiers in her platoon.
"You really don't want to go down this road. If you are lying, you could end up in a court martial."
"I'm serious, First Sergeant."
"Do your parents know about this?"
"No, Drill- I mean. First Sergeant."
"Well, I think you had better call them during phone-time and say that you'll be coming home before Christmas." It was already December 1st.
"Yes, First Sergeant."
After that, Lila and her buddy were ordered to wait outside for Drill Sergeant Trenton. When he did arrive he spoke mostly to Lila's buddy, Private Gordon. "I don't want a word said about this to anyone else. You are from now on to be Private MacFannen's buddy and expected to accompany her into any further meetings of this nature. If you have a problem, I am ordering you not to have a problem with this. Am I understood, soldier?"
"Yes Drill Sergeant." Gordon said calmly. She was going to be a good soldier, Lila was sure of it.
The next couple of weeks went by at a pace slower than time could possibly flow. Lila felt out of place and out of control. She felt like a ghost, to be honest. That was probably the best way to describe it, the more she thought of it. She was just a lost soul in purgatory. She was no longer part of the psychological hell of Basic Training, nor was she free. She was simply in between worlds.
Freedom. That was another issue, altogether.
Her parents had found out the true reason why she was being discharged. She had written a letter home that was essentially a lie. She said her reasons for discharge had to do with a bogus medical condition. Her mother had marched right over to the recruiting office and demanded to speak to Lila's commanding officer. Threats were made, and the recruiter finally relented to her mother's pressure.
Private MacFannen had been summoned to the first sergeant's office, yet again. This time, he told Lila of her mother's phone call. Lila's secret was out to everyone at home now. She was urged by First Sergeant Richardson to call her parents as soon as possible and find out what was going on.
The moment she had been dreading. She had tried to avoid it with an elaborate smoke- screen, but it had all backfired on her. When phone time finally came around, that evening, Lila used her pre-paid phone card and dialed her mother's number. The phone rang only once, then she heard the voice of her mother: "Hello?"
"Mom, it's me. I was ordered to call you."
"What is going on?" Her mother asked in a stern voice that gave away the fact that she damned well knew what was going on.
"You already know, Mom. You already know."
"How could you do this to me?" Her mother's composure was gone just like that. "I was so proud of you! I bragged about my daughter, and you've humiliated me...in front of everyone."
"You've humiliated me more than anyone has in my entire life!"
"Is that what this is about? It's not that I lied to you, is it? It's all about what other people think, isn't it?"
"That's exactly what it sounds like, Mom."
"I went into debt because of you."
"You aren't going to throw all the blame on me for that one. You wanted a new car. You wanted to keep your truck, so I helped you, Mom. I traded in my car so you could get that new one, and so I could have your truck to drive."
"No, that has passed. That is all behind us now. The truck stays mine. When you come back to town, you might as well drive on past this home. You aren't welcome here. Your sister and I don't ever want to so much as hear your name spoken a-"
Lila, unable to continue listening, gently placed the phone back on its hook and slowly walked up to her platoon's bay. Lights-out came, leaving her awake in her bunk bed. When she could not take it anymore, she quietly got up and crept to the latrine. Once inside a bathroom stall, she sat down on the toilet seat and silently wept.
She was in charge of her own life, but she was angering her parents by doing so.
How dare she leave the military. How dare she tell them she was a lesbian. How dare she em-barrass her parents. Never mind that she was an adult. Never mind that she was her own person. Her whole life had been summed up as: Thou shalt not dishonor thy father or mother lest their love of thee be revoked.
She had been disowned. Her mother had even gone so far as to say that she never wanted to hear Lila's name spoken again. Her older sister, Anne, agreed whole-heartedly. That was not much of a shock. Anne took sibling rivalry to a height of terrorism. Whatever would make her look like part of the in-crowd. Disown her sister? So be it! If it had been the Dark Ages, Anne would have burned a peasant suspected of witchcraft. The fact that her mother and sister both claimed to be Christians was the icing on the cake.
Fuck them, she thought to herself as she continued painting the walls leading into her new B company barracks. Fuck all of those bible thumping Jesus Crispies.
She was being chaptered out, finally, but the paperwork and all of the bureaucracy in the military was a slow moving machine. Her superiors dealt with people being chaptered out of the Army in a simple manner - make use of them as free labor. So, here she was, painting with a couple of other soldiers. Bravo Company's barracks were horribly run-down, but they were being restored, slowly but surely. Lila was due to be shipped home to Tennessee in two days, so she would never see the completed project.
But, how slowly those days passed.
There was not much waiting for her back in Tennessee. Just her girlfriend, Beth. Somehow she would have to put the pieces of her life back together again, and such a task would not be easy; but it was all she had left. Beth had stayed with her through all of this. Through all of the stupidity of joining the military. Through everything.
During her last few hours stationed in Fort Jackson, Lila went to the PX for some shopping. It was a good way to kill time while waiting for that bus ride home. While browsing, she found a very nice backpack to carry some of her clothing in, which took excess pressure off of the duffel bag that was already close to bursting. And, on her way out, she found a very interesting knick-knack. Next to some cheap pottery and some jewelry boxes was a small metallic wind-up nightingale. At first she just looked at it and thought it was rather cute. When she wound it up, it began singing a soothing little tune that was almost like a lullaby. She had a rather substantial army paycheck, so she could easily afford the thirty dollar item. It was a small consolation for what she thought had been the darkest point in her life.
She had no idea how dark things would truly become.
Her Greyhound bus trip was composed of a somewhat long ride from Columbia, South Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia. Once there, she would then have to wait three and a half hours until the 1:30PM bus to Nashville would be ready for departure. Then, there would be an even longer ride. Then, hopefully....HOME!
She was coughing uncontrollably, and running a slight fever. She had caught a rather nasty bug while in Basic Training, and for nearly a month she had still not quite beaten it. To make matters worse, she was having her period. After an hour in the Atlanta Greyhound terminal, Lila finally decided it would do her good to get some fresh air. The seat she had been sitting in had become horribly uncomfortable, and the drunk passed out beside her reeked of urine and Night Train. People were giving her looks. Strange men were especially giving her looks. For some damned reason, she actually thought she would be more comfortable outside. So, she went.
She exited out a side entrance and there stood one of the soldiers who had been chaptered out along with her. He was a tall black fellow with handsome features. He looked at her and smiled as he recognized her.
"Hey, soldier. My bus just got here. I'm waiting for the next one in thirty minutes... Gonna head on up to Indiana, how 'bout you?"
Lila smiled at meeting a familiar face. It was much better than being completely alone. "I'm supposed to be leaving for Nashville in an hour and a half. I was starting to get a little tired of trying to get some sleep in there."
"I know whatcha mean, baby girl..." He reached into is coat pocket and pulled out a couple of cigars. "Want a Black and Mild?"
"Sure...thanks!" Lila had never smoked a cigar in her life, but at that moment, one seemed appropriate. A small celebration in the name of freedom. She tried taking a hit off of it like a joint, and nearly coughed up a lung. Her acquaintance only laughed. Hell, she laughed too, and kept smoking the damned thing.
"You'll get used to it."
"Heh," she muttered. "After the shit we've been through, I think I could handle anything now."
They made more small talk and laughed about things that happened to them while in the Army. Ironically, Lila found herself looking back and laughing at moments that had not seemed so humorous at the time they had transpired. Maybe the happiness came from knowing that part of her life was over.
Thank God...Hallelujah...World without end...Amen.
After about twenty-something minutes of small talk while Lila struggled with the Black and Mild, her new friend - Damon - had to catch his bus. She wished him well as he walked away. He turned and grinned at her for a second. He was going home. Home! Lila realized she still had a little over an hour left of monotony.
Not wanting the cigar to go to waste, she decided to finish it before going back inside, where it would be a wee-bit warmer. When she was finished with the cigar, she turned to head back inside. Upon reaching the glass door, she saw a group of guys about to exit from the other side. She decided to wait for them to use it before going on through. They were all staring at her. This began to make her nervous. What didn't make matters much better was the fact that a couple of them looked over their shoulders. To see if a cop or security guard is around? Lila briefly wondered.
Once they were all out side, that was when they grabbed her. No one was around to hear her scream.
"LET ME FUCKING GO YOU-" Her shouts were cut short when a sharp object slightly poked into her side. All four of them were gathered around her. One behind her, two at her sides, and one in front - and he had the knife.
"I'll cut your fuckin' guts out, little girl. Just keep that fuckin' dick hole you call a mouth shut." Yes, he was in the power to do that. No one was around to see it, and they could just run like hell. Is this what they were doing at a bus station - just waiting for some girl to get separated from the group....then..... She did not want to think about what might come next, but she had to. It was about to happen whether she thought about it or not. At least she could try to prepare herself.
"Let's get her in the van."
A van. Great. She knew they would rape her. That was a given...but would they kill her? She had seen their faces. Was she dead?
Lila began sobbing uncontrollably. She had been so close to freedom. So close to going home to her girlfriend's gentle embrace, but now she was being taken away from her bus. From her freedom. From her fucking life.
"We gonna give you the ride of yo life, bitch."
"Just...please...." Lila sobbed. "Just don't k-k-"
"Then you better be a good lay, then."
They approached the van with Lila arm-in-arm with her captors. It looked like every stereotype of a kidnapper's van. It was some ugly puke-green color with no windows and a sliding door on the side. Three of them piled into the back, while the forth one got in the driver's seat. Lila realized that this was it. She had to do something. She knew that the rape was pretty much unavoidable, but she would have to carefully look for a way to escape as soon as possible. If she could only get away with her life.
The van began to pull out of the vacant parking lot. She was forced down onto a spare tire, leaving her ass positioned in the air. The back pack she had been wearing the whole time was removed from her without a struggle. She was shaking so hard that she lost control of her bladder. A dark stain spread across her blue jeans, from her crotch down to her thighs. She yelped with fear when she felt someone's hands reach under her stomach to unfasten her pants. With one big pull, down her pants and soaked panties came, along with her maxi-pad.
Lila had never once slept with a guy in her entire life. She may have been fingered on occasion by a girl, but nothing prepared her for the pain that ripped through her as she felt the guy enter her. She almost screamed, but bit down on her lip as hard as possible. Blood trickled from the edge of her mouth as he began thrusting. Some abstract part of her mind calmly observed the experience. The unrelenting menstrual cramps she had had all day had been forgotten about during her kidnapping, but with the guy deep inside her, she could feel his penis rubbing against those very muscles that had been cramping so badly. That feels really odd, that calm part of her mind noted, while the other portion of her mind screamed Oh god oh god oh god make it stop please god make it stop!
After nearly five minutes of eternity, the rapist finally came. He pulled his organ out of her violated privates and began masturbating until his seed exploded forth onto her buttocks and small of her back.
Lila, ransacked by fever and in horrible pain, rolled over to her side and curled up into the fetal position. Blood stained her mouth, and was smeared between her thighs. Lila's world began to swirl into delirium, but she fought it back and willed her self to get up. Her kidnappers were talking amongst themselves. The one who had just finished with her commented on how tight she was and blah blah blah blah.
One of them unzipped his pants and released his erect member from its confines.
"You ready for round two, bitch?"
"Oh yeah...." Lila heard herself say with a gasping breath. She began crawling on all fours to meet him. He was hunkered down with the sliding door behind him. When she got to him, she took his penis into her mouth and began sucking. She had never in her life given a male oral sex, but from what she had heard, raking one's teeth across the dick was bad, so she took note as she used only her tongue and lips. He sighed with pleasure as she got herself into a rhythm.
All eyes were on her mouth's newfound talent, which meant that no one noticed her hand creep around to the door handle behind her recipient. Her searching hand got a grip on the handle and she used it immediately. The door came open slightly, so she forced it open a couple of feet more.
"THE FUCK YOU DOIN' YOU CRAZY BITCH!"
At that moment, Lila clamped down on his penis for all she was worth. He screamed in pure agony. In fact, she had never heard someone scream in such a way before. Before any of his buddies could react, she lunged forward, pushing her screaming captor and herself out of the moving vehicle. The straps of her backpack had somehow managed to become tangled up with them, and out it came as well.
She counted herself lucky, considering the fact that her captor took the worst part of the fall and cushioned her from the pavement. She heard unidentifiable bones of his snap upon impact. They began rolling together.
The van was slowing down and coming to a stop, some 20 yards away. When Lila and her broken captor stopped rolling, she tried to get up, but everything was spinning. She tried to take a step forward, but the pants around her ankles made her trip and fall - her head hitting the pavement upon impact. She felt fresh blood trickling from her head, this time around. She began crawling slowly. Lila tried to scream for help, but all that came out was a hoarse whisper. Not that it would have mattered anyway. She was on just another deserted street in the middle of the city. Lila heard running footsteps from behind her. They would be upon her any moment now, and rape would be very far from their minds. No, they had other things in store for her. How dare she try to take control of her life and try to escape. How dare she.
Lila, finally giving up the struggle to live, simply stopped crawling, lowered her head, and closed her eyes. She would just let darkness envelope her, and maybe she would not feel them mutilate and murder her.
As unconsciousness descended upon Lila MacFannen, she never heard the sound of new arrivals in the vicinity. She never remembered hearing the ensuing struggle between the rapists and the unknown. She never remembered hearing her former captors' cries of anguish as they were killed.
And, thankfully, she never remembered hearing one of them gurgling his own blood in one final attempt to scream.
Lila's dreams had been filled with a sense of being lifted. Being carried. Flying. Taken away from the bad places and the bad people. Being cleaned. Bathed. Carried. Flying. Floating. Soft. Warm.
"Lila." Such a soothing voice that danced on Lila's ears. She had never heard a voice like that in her life - and that's what brought her back to consciousness.
She opened her eyes, slowly. The overhead light shined in her face, making her squint. A silhouette stood above her, unmoving. It must be the nurse, thought Lila, briefly. It was a strange hospital, though. The bed was softer than an angel's kiss, for one thing. As opposed to being hard as
(a rapist's cock)
the beds that are normally used in hospitals. She rose up and hit her head on something metallic dangling from above. A wet wash cloth, which had been on her feverish brow, fell to her covered lap. She looked down at it as though she had never seen one before. The sheet that had covered her chest slipped, revealing her bare, pale breasts. She pulled the sheet up to cover herself, once again.
"You really should lie back, dear heart," the voice spoke in an old, soft, southern accent. It was like something out of Gone With the Wind.
"What sort of place is this?"
"Well.. It's my mistress' home. A boarding house, if you will."
"How long have I been here?"
"About a day, I would suspect. You have some terrible cuts, scrapes, and bruises, but your fever had us all worried the most."
"Well, your temperature has been going down. You are very lucky we found you when we did."
"What happened to the guys who r- were after me?"
"I know of no one else around when my mistress found you."
"I need to get up and make some phone calls." Lila rose again - hitting herself in the head once again with the metallic object that hung from the ceiling. She meant to get dressed and find a telephone. She would first attempt to call her girlfriend, if that did not work, she would then try to give her parents a ring. They would probably still be pissed at her, but she had to contact someone after being.... after what she had gone through. But, before she could get out of bed, the woman's hands fell on her shoulders and eased her back down onto her back again.
"You are still quite feverish, and if you will wait for just a little while longer, you will be able to do contact whoever you wish."
"Perhaps you're right," Lila conceded. "This mistress, is she around?"
"Oh, she won't be in until tonight. You will be able to meet her then and she will answer all of your questions and see to it that you get in contact with someone."
"Oh, okay. If you insist."
"Now, if you do not mind, I must go and attend to a few chores before sunset. I will prepare you a little something to eat. You are probably starving! Poor thing."
"Now that you mention it, I could probably do for something to fill my stomach," Lila said with a smile. She didn't think she could eat that much, but she knew that she had not eaten anything in over twenty-four hours. If she was going to beat whatever virus she had, she would need proper energy.
"Well, you just lie still and rest, and I'll take care of everything, honey." Lila smiled politely at the maid as she left the room. The door knob looked old and even had a hole for a skeleton key. When the door closed, she heard what had to be the lock catching. Lila wasn't too sure, for she was not used to such old doors...but still.
She took her mind off of that idea, and simply looked up at what was dangling above her. She had bumped into it twice already. It appeared to be some sort of gold medallion. It looked like it had a double-headed vulture or something wearing two crowns engraved on one side. On the other side, it looked like some female goddess-like figure holding a wreath or something in one hand and a sword in the other. Captivated by it, Lila rose up, slightly, and got a closer look. It had words engraved on it, but she could not understand them, for they were written in Cyrillic. It looked like something out of Eastern Europe. Old Eastern Europe - back when there were monarchs running the show. The type of monarchs that would have fought the Turks, each other, and impaled their friends and enemies for the hell of it.
"Hell of a place to hang it," Lila muttered to herself.
A couple of hours later, the maid returned with a tray and a covered plate. For a moment, Lila wondered if she had been taken to an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. The servant sat the tray neatly on Lila's lap and removed the silver lid, revealing a plate that smelled like heaven and looked even better.
"Lamb chops?!" Lila asked with surprise.
"Why yes, my lady. We are eager to please our precious guests. I hope you enjoy your meal, and if you would be so kind, I brought up some flu medicine for you to take. The taste may seem a little odd, but I assure you that nothing relieves such symptoms better than this.
"Why, thank you. You have been incredibly nice to me. I certainly cannot wait till I personally thank your mistress."
"Oh, I am certain that she cannot wait to meet you as well. And, when you do meet, I have no doubt that she will accept your appreciation in her own manner." That was an odd way of putting it, Lila thought - but then again, this woman spoke differently to begin with.
Lila picked up the glass of flu medicine and looked at it for a moment. Blue? She had not seen blue medicine before, but she tried it anyway. She brought it up to her lips and sipped, experimentally. She cast her eyes up to the servant, who only regarded her with a smile. "It tastes good, doesn't it?" Asked the servant. She was right - it was the best tasting medicine she had ever tried in her life. She downed the contents of the glass rapidly. It seemed to have instantaneous effects. Lila knew that could not be possible, so she wrote off her new invigoration as placebo.
Still, she felt better.
"So," Lila spoke up, "this mistress...does she have any family here? Speaking of here, where is this place?"
"Oh, the mistress has family. A few of her children still reside in this mansion, as a matter of fact. As for this mansion, this plantation is known as Shadow Oak. It has quite a history, stretching back as far as the early nineteenth century."
"Has it been in the mistress' family for that long? She must be loaded!"
"Oh, she is quite wealthy, but her bloodline did not come to own this house and its land until this century."
"Bloodline? You make it sound like nobility."
"It is, my dear lady. She comes from a long line of nobility."
"Eastern Europe, right? That explains this medallion above me."
"Why yes...Most astute of you. Our mistress in question is German/Romanian. Stephana of Fortul.
"Wow! That is incredible. I bet she has one hell of a family history."
"I assure you, it is rather colorful, indeed."
"Umm.." Lila began. "If you don't mind me asking, why is this medallion hanging here?"
"That medallion," the servant pointed to it with a bird-like finger, "is normally worn by Stephon, the eldest son of Lady Stephana. My supposition is that he left it here for you, for luck, perhaps." She frowned a little. For some reason the servant's expression escaped Lila's understanding.
"Her son was in here...while I was sleeping?" Lila MacFannen went pale for a moment. After what she had been through, they were allowing some stranger to watch her while she slept?
"I know what you're thinking, my lady," the servant tried a comforting smile, but she seemed troubled. Whether or not she was troubled about Stephon being in Lila's room remained to be seen. "But I assure you that Stephon is a nobleman at heart. He would never think of doing anything below his character." In spite of the previous events that had transpired, Lila found herself trusting the servant.
"I'm sorry, I meant no offense," apologized Lila. "So, umm.. All these names, and I've yet to get yours."
"Oh, my name is just Jessica... Jessica Dougherty."
"It's been a pleasure being your guest."
"Oh, think nothing of it." Jessica waved a hand in a dismissive manner. "You just finish your meal and we'll see about getting you in touch with your family once the mistress arrives."
"Okay, thank you, Jessica." The servant only smiled before she turned to leave. Lila watched intently as Jessica closed the door behind her. Just as it was closing, Lila observed that the servant reached into the pocket of her apron....for what?
Of course, Lila had an idea what she had been in the process of retrieving, and for what purpose. The door closed and once again, she heard the sound of what had to be the door locking. The servant had a skeleton key, and she was being locked in. For protection, perhaps? Maybe she really did not have faith in Stephon's noble character, after all.
But things still don't add up, thought Lila. She turned her view to the window. It was an old window that unlatched in the center and opened inward. Those sort of windows always made Lila feel nervous - vulnerable. The sun was just beginning to set, turning her room the color of crimson. Lila placed the tray of bare bones on the night stand and tried to get out of bad, brushing the dangling medallion aside, so not repeat getting slapped in the head with it for a third time.
When she stood up, the nerves in her lower abdomen stabbed out at her, making her wince with pain. The night before, when her group of tormentors had their way with her, she had at least adrenaline coursing through her veins to take the edge off the pain; which meant the pain was just excruciating, and not excruciating to the point of wishing for death. Now, she was sore beyond belief. Walking bow-legged helped a little as she went over to the window.
The view was remarkable. She could see a beautiful courtyard that looked more like something out of the nineteenth century, rather than the twilight of the twentieth. A long road led from the mansion and disappeared into surrounding forest of Georgia pines. Lila wondered how far out in the styx she had been taken.
After a few minutes of staring at nothing in particular, Lila walked over to the door and tried the knob. Not surprisingly, it was indeed locked. Lila then decided to see if there was a mirror within sight, so she could assess the damage sustained from the night before. Unfortunately, she could not find one. That should not have been as odd as it seemed to her, but it was. Looking at herself without the benefit of a mirror, she counted half a dozen bruises, a cut lip, a forehead wound that had been covered with a band-aid, and -- of course - a broken hymen. She had stopped menstruating at some point during her unconsciousness, so that was a plus.
As she continued to examine herself, she noticed that she appeared to be a little more thin than usual. Her arms and legs seemed to be skinnier than she had previously noticed. What happened to the muscles she had built up while in the army? She must have not been supplying herself with the proper nourishment during the past week or so, and who could blame her? She had been horribly depressed by what her mother had said to her. Yes, she decided that she must have lost a considerable amount of weight, indeed; her breasts even appeared to have undergone a slight reduction. Lila vowed to herself that she would take her girlfriend and herself out to eat the most expensive steaks they could find. To put it bluntly, her body's deterioration was beginning to disturb her.
And, when in the hell was this mistress supposed to arrive, anyway? She really needed to get in contact with someone up home. Lila should have been home, by now. Wouldn't her girlfriend be worried by now?
She frowned at her situation and went back to the bed, where she eased herself under the covers again. As she lay there, she added up the facts in her head. She had been raped, she had fallen from a moving vehicle, and she had hit her head very hard. Nothing had been said about her being examined by a physician or receiving any form of professional treatment, for that matter. A band-aid, a cold rag, some lamb chops, and an unidentifiable blue liquid was all she was aware of receiving. Oh yeah, one mustn't forget the apparent bath I was given while being unconscious. I wonder who gave me that. Jessica, perhaps? Did Stephon watch while she cleaned me, or did he bathe me himself, while letting his hands wander around and...
Lila closed her eyes and began to cry. She covered her face with her hands and sobbed as everything hit her at once. Would she ever be the same person again? She now perceived every male as a potential rapist. She used to not fear anything, now she wondered if she had the courage to even cross the street once she got back to Nashville - and that was another matter, entirely. Why couldn't the servant just let her make one lousy fucking phone call? Why was she really being locked into this room like a prisoner, or animal.
After the waves of helplessness and fear passed, Lila began to doze, but her dreams were full of large people that chased after her in dark alleys that never led to a well lit street. She heard laughter that turned into gurgled screams as she continued to run. Now, she was no longer running from two-hundred pound rapists, but from something else. It moved stealthily behind her, for she could no longer hear footsteps. She dared not turn to look behind her, for she knew she would see it just within reach of her. Faster she ran, but she knew it matched her speed without any serious effort. It was playing with her, like a cat with a mouse. She turned another corner in the dark alley, but now it was so close to her that she could feel it's cold breath on the nape of her neck. She began to feel exhausted, and became increasingly clumsy. Lila never knew the tire was laying there, until she tripped over it. Down she went, in that too familiar position that she had been in before. She struggled to get up from the tire, but it was hopeless. By now the thing which had toyed with her so efficiently would be upon her. She simply bit into her lip in anticipation of it's sharp teeth...
Lila arose with a slight scream. She was drenched in sweat. Her sheets were even soaked from her perspiration. For a second, she had no idea where she was. The room was pitch black, with only the light of the moon shining through those disturbing windows. She needed a light on, and fast. She got out of bed, fumbling around in the dark. Her sore vaginal muscles screamed with protest, but not as loudly as they had earlier. She knew the light worked by a pull string, so she waved her arms in the air, trying to find it. At last, she did. When she pulled the string, she was momentarily blinded by the sudden illumination.
She had to use the bathroom rather urgently, but where would she urinate?
Lila looked around the room and sighed. She was quite alone, and the house was dead silent. She walked over to the door and tried the knob, again, but it was still locked. Where is she? Wondered Lila. She went back to the bed and sat down. She wrapped her arms around her slender body and closed her eyes.
She opened her eyes and stood up again. She had to do something. The idea of attempting an escape crossed her mind. She turned around and surveyed the room. She could try climbing out the window, but she had to be two stories up and she was quite fearful of heights, to say the least. No, thank you. Lila would have to think of another way to escape.
As she stood and thought of some course of action, her eyes stopped on the medallion. Why in the hell did that Stephon person hang it there? Even if it was for luck, he could have just sat it on the night stand, or have the maid give it to her. Why place it there where she could hit her head on it every time she got out of bed.
Well, not every time. She had by some small amount of luck managed to avoid it when she got up in the dark, but how was that possible? She had not moved the pillow any, and she had gotten up the same as the other times. She tried to dismiss the thought, but something in the back of her mind continued to nag at her. She felt a little chilly, so she wrapped her arms around her bare chest. For some reason her chest did not feel right.
Lila, not being able to gain peace of mind, decided to conduct an experiment. She lay back down in the bed, positioning herself directly under the medallion. Once she had made sure beyond all shadow of a doubt that she was perfectly lined up with it, she rose up. The medallion never touched her. She just wasn't reaching it anymore.
Frowning, Lila got out of bed and looked at the mattress, carfully. No, it did not appear to have sunk in, or anything. Had someone just come in while she was asleep and tampered with the medallion?
Lila looked over to the night stand, where her silver tray sat.
An idea hit her! She ran over to the tray and removed the plate of lamb bones from it. There was her reflection, at last. "Wow", she remarked. She had lost quite a bit of weight. But, that wasn't right. Her ribs weren't exposed. She didn't look famished - she just looked...petite.
Petite?! Her mind protested. How in the hell could she be petite? She was 5 feet and four inches tall, she weighed one hundred and thirty-five pounds, before joining the army and she had lost about ten pounds by the time she had been pulled from Basic Training. She should have been roughly one hundred and twenty five pounds - that was not on the verge of starvation.
Trying to add the pieces together, she used the tray to look over every part of her nude, reduced frame. When she brought the reflection up to her chest, her heart froze. She had always been a C-cup. What she was staring at was definitely not the third letter of the alphabet. In fact, the two bumps on her chest could have been no more than an A at the most. There were no dents of any sort on the silver tray, so she could not attribute any inconsistencies to reflective distortion.
She quickly set the tray down on the bed and examined her breasts. She cupped them in her hands. No, they were not C-cup anymore. To lose that much breast volume could sure as hell not come from losing just ten pounds.
"What the in the.....hell?" Her voice practically squeaked. It's just from the virus you're getting over, she told herself frantically. It's just from being sick. That's why your voice sounds so funny.
Lila looked at the medallion that could no longer smack her in the head when she would rise from the bed. She looked at what was left of her chest. There were only two possible explanations. She was either going insane or - there was no rhyme or reason as to why - she was shrinking. Not just shrinking, but becoming little again.
How old did she appear? Twelve? Thirteen? If she was in fact barely a teenager again. who was to say that the process would stop? She had been locked in a room, and denied the chance to contact a loved one, and she was getting smaller. Lila could either wait things out and hope that she would be let go, or she could think of some sort of escape plan.
She began looking around the room. First, she looked under the bed and saw an old chamber pot. She normally would have avoided using one, under other circumstances, but she was about to burst. After a few seconds of finding a comfortable squatting position, she began to pee. It was an incredibly relieving sensation, and as she thought about it, she understood why she had to go. If she was in fact being reduced in size, her bladder's limits would be close to the breaking point. With a frustrated sigh, she realized he had nothing to wipe with, so she sort of shook her bottom up and down; it would just have to do.
She stood up and began going through the chest of drawers opposite of where the bed was positioned. She would need some piece of metal or something to pick the door's lock open. She had never picked a lock in her entire life, and she wondered if she could even do it with a skeleton key. It was an old design, so maybe she stood a chance.
Lila closed the last drawer with dismay. Nothing. Not so much as a hair pin or anything.
She wished she had her bags with her, for she knew she kept a few hairpins with her. The Arny regulations were that a woman's hair not touch the collar of her uniform, so hairpins had to be employed. However, her duffel bag - unlike herself - was loaded aboard a bus and sent north to Nashville, Tennessee.
She went to the closet door and threw it open. Some clothes...and her backpack! She unzipped the pack and found a clean change of clothes. She threw on a black Pink Floyd T-shirt that now reached down to her thighs. To add insult to injury, the protuberance of her breasts was a mere shadow of its former self - barely poking out from her shirt's front . With no underwear of any sort in her backpack - not that her former bra would be any use- she tried her pants on. They were incredibly loose, and they no longer hugged onto her diminishing hips. Not to worry, for she had a belt. She looped the belt through her jeans and tightened it all the way to the last notch. Still a little loose, but at least they would stay on. The pant legs were way too long for her shorter legs, so she rolled them up. She tried on her shoes, but once again she was confronted with the fact that they were too large for her. She tightened the laces on them as far as they would go. She wriggled her toes around within the loose confines of the shoes, but it would have to do.
She looked around the room again. Panic threatened to pull her down, but she willed herself to remain in focus. Her gaze was once again pulled to the medallion. Lila's eyes followed the length of the chain up to the ceiling to where it was held in by a pin of some sort. EUREEKA! Her mind screamed. She ran over to where it dangled and yanked the chain as hard as she could. It broke free from the ceiling, and down Lila went, right on her bottom. She looked at the end of the chain and there it was: a long staple of some sort. She removed it from the chain and stood up. Tucking the madallion into her backpack - for luck -- Lila turned to the locked door.
All she had to do was get the damned thing open.
After nearly thirty minutes of concentrated effort, Lila finally heard the satisfying click of the door unlocking. She eased the door open and peered into the dark hallway. Nothing or no one could be seen. Good. Wearing her backpack and her clothes that were gradually loosening, Lila MacFannen stepped into the darkness. She had no idea where the hall would lead, but she was determined to get the hell out of that place, and soon; evidence of ever going through pu- berty was all but gone. Her breasts were nothing more than two nipples with the slightest hint of protrusion. Feeling curious, Lila reached a hand into the front of her pants. She felt no pubic hair whatsoever. She had to get out before the regression continued too much further, or she would be crawling home.
She began the careful trek down the quiet hall. Every now and again the floorboards would creak beneath her. She would stop moving at these times and wait to see if she had alerted anyone of her escape, but nothing. She made it to the end of the hall, where it turned right. She turned and went in that direction, silently. After a while she noticed that there was more light where she was going. She was sure she would find a staircase leading down, very soon.
Everything was going along unhindered until Lila came upon one door on her right. She could hear a small voice coming from the other side. A small, beautiful voice engaged in a sweet little nursery rhyme. She heard giggling as well. The voices belonged to what sounded like children, only that wasn't entirely correct. There was something about the precise nature of the child's voice, and even the giggling. There was a resonating quality that penetrated into Lila's head.
(Open the door why don't you open the door and come in and play with us forever just open the door and be our friend and play with us open the door we are your friends we love you friends to the end friends to the end open the door friends open their hearts and their doors we are friends open up and let us inside that's what you want to come in with us and let us in with you yes please you know we would adore you forever open the door)
Lila watched her hand move by its own volition, to where it grasped the door knob. She did not want to do this, but somehow her body was caught up in the vibrations of something powerful. Like a moth to a flame. Like a sailor hearing the sweet song of the sirens. Being drawn to their songs, where their ship would smash into jagged rocks and send the men to drown in a blissful death with the beautiful sirens' song filling their ears, loins, and hearts.
The door opened rather easily, compared to the one she had been imprisoned behind. The first thing she saw was the light of the moon. The next things that caught her eye were what appeared to be life-sized dolls, with their hands linked together. They were beautiful. All of them were wearing dresses, even the ones that were clearly little boys. Lila had to still be at least a head taller than the dolls.
She took a couple of steps toward them, and the door quietly shut behind her. Lila spun around in confusion. Her mind was a muddled heap of broken images, and for the life of her she could not quite grasp the importance of leaving that room. Lila turned back to those beautiful dolls and saw that they were not dolls at all, but in fact were children! They had been playing a game with her. All four of them moved in her direction in unison. They seemed almost to glide, instead of walk.
"A playmate," the pale brunette of the group whispered.
"Yes... our playmate." Spoke a little boy with red hair.
"Yes! A girl!" the blonde girl grinned, revealing four great incisors that looked as sharp as needles.
"What's your name, beautiful girl?" Asked a boy with red hair.
"Yes, tell us your name so we may sing it!" Spoke another boy - this one with dark hair, and teeth every bit as terrible as the little blonde's.
Lila heard herself speak in a soft voice: "Lila."
"Lila?" One of them asked.
"Lila!" Another exclaimed.
"Lila...." Another one sighed with ecstacy.
All of a sudden, before Lila could realize what was going on, they had formed a loose circle around her. They began singing her name as they danced in graceful revolutions around her. "Lila, Lila, Lila, Lila, Lila, Lila, Lila, Lila, Lila, Lila, Lila, Lila, Lila, Lila, Lila............."
"Dance with us, Lila Lila Lila!"
"Oh yes, will you dance with us?"
"We'll give you kisses if you dance with us..." They all giggled at that. Lila blushed, timidly.
With a speed and grace that seemed inhuman, hands came and removed Lila's backpack. She did not complain. Such a bulky thing would only hinder her once she began to dance with her knew friends. Why was she wearing the thing anyway? She was not in school, and it did not have any toys in it.
Oh wait yes it did! The wind up nightingale!
Seeming to read her thoughts, one of them asked "Do you have a toy for us?"
"Uhhmm.. Yeah I do! It's a nightingale. I bought it somewhere once." Lila could not remember where she had gotten the thing. It was strange. Where was her mind? Who cares. The point was that she had it. "It's just like a real one, it even sings like one!"
"Yes, show us..."
"Show us and we'll give you kisses."
"Just like a real nightingale?"
"It even sings?"
She found the backpack in her hands. She unzipped it and reached into it, searching for the toy. When she finally found it, she pulled it out and unwrapped it so they could see it. She heard gasps and sighs of excitement.
"Wind it up!"
"Yes....wind up... we wanna hear it sing."
Lila calmly turned the key sticking from the nightingale's side until it could turn no further. She sat it down on the floor and backed away. Her little friends backed away as well and watched it with blatant anticipation. It began singing its little lullaby to them. Their facial features became as solid as stone. They stopped moving, as though they had been dolls all along. Lila looked at them uneasily as the nightingale continued its song.
When the mechanical nightingale finished its song, the little brunette burst into tears, without warning. The other "children" held her in an embrace and seemed troubled. "Why do you cry, Melanie?"
"It's...it's...sad. The nightingale is sad." Said Melanie with a sniffle.
"Sad? But it sings so happily...just like we do!"
"I know....I know....that's why it's sad. It sings because it wants to be a real nightin-gale." Silence fell on the room like a curtain. "I sing because I want to be a real little girl...Just like h-herrrrrr...." Melanie lost control and began crying again.
Lila snapped out of the illusion that the children had flooded through her mind and regarded the crying girl with sympathy. For some reason, she was not afraid of them, even though she knew quite well what they would have done to her had she not shown them the nightingale. Walking over to the little girl named Melanie, Lila kissed each of her cold, hard cheeks, where the tears were. Lila could have sworn she had been a head taller than them when she entered the room, but now she had probably shrunk three inches. Upon receiving the kisses, the little girl's eyes, which had been dull and empty, lit up with an inner beauty for only a second.
"Leave us... this isn't your place, little girl." Melanie finally said with a smile. She kept her lips together, not revealing her teeth. Lila looked around to the others. They only cast their eyes to the floor like sulking children who had realized they had done something very naughty.
Lila picked up the backpack and looked for the nightingale, when one of them - the blonde girl - asked: "May we keep the nightingale? It asks to be with those that are like it, I feel."
"Uh.. Please.. Be my guest!" Lila babbled. After all, it was a small price to pay for her life and eternal soul.
Lila left the room, and the door closed behind her. As she resumed her blind exploration down the hall, her pants kept threatening to fall down. After another few feet, she gave up the struggle to keep wearing them and took them off. Her shoes slipped off her feet as well. The Pink Floyd T-shirt easily covered anything that would have been otherwise exposed. With that taken care of, she continued down the long hall until she did in fact find a staircase. Down at the bottom of the steps was the (drum roll, please) front door.
Lila lost all reserve and ran down the steps as quickly and quietly as possible. Upon reaching the bottom of the steps, she looked behind her, just to make sure she wasn't being followed. The coast was clear! She turned back around for the door...for freedom...for escape from an ongoing nightmare...
...And there stood Jessica.
"Where do you think you're going, little one?"
"Away from this place." Lila said in the tiny voice of a nine year-old. Jessica only threw back her head and laughed with delicious humor.
"I'm afraid that's quite impossible, dearie. You see," the servant began to explain, "you would have died on that street had the mistress not found you. In fact, you are dead."
"What?" Lila began to tremble. Her legs threatened to give out from under her. "I'm alive, damn you!"
"Your life is quite finished. Soon, Lady Stephana will come for you once the age regression process is complete and she will feast on your sweet blood. Did you actually think you could waltz out of this? Even if you did, she would find you one day...Oh yes."
Lila's knees gave out from under her and she began crying. "Please!" She begged. "Just let me go! I have a life! I have a life, damn you! I just wanna go home oh god I just wanna go home....."
"Now now...." Jessica put a hand on Lila's little shoulder. "Crying does you no good. Just go back to bed and wait for her and it will all be over with."
"I don't think so, servant." Spoke a stern voice from the top of the stairs. Both Lila and Jessica looked up to see who had interrupted them. There, in denim jeans and a silk shirt, his silvery hair in a pony tail, stood a young man who had to be no other than Stephon Fortul.
"Do not interfere with the mistress' wishes, young master. Even you know better than to dare such." Jessica voice kept its firm tone, but Lila could detect fear. Oh yes, fear was lurking behind her eyes.
"My mother has no need for such vanity. Let this girl go, or else."
"Or else what? You dare defy your mother? You dare defy Lady Stephana of Fortul?!"
"I will stand against anyone who attempts to cheat time and our natural evolution to retain her aesthetic appearance just for human social events."
"Then you are a fool, and I will see to it that you learn your lesson." Jessica growled. She looked to Lila and smiled icily. "Don't go anywhere, I'll only have to track you down and administer a punishment for your insolence. As for Master Stephon, here..." She cast her eyes back to the young man who regarded her with an equally cold stare.
Up the stairs she went, slowly and deliberately. Stephon began walking down the stairs. Soon, they would meet in the middle and god only knew what would happen next. Lila broke herself away from watching their confrontation and scrambled to her feet. She ran for the door and threw it open. The cold, December wind hit her in the face like a lover's kiss. Not wasting any time, she ran for all she was worth.
After what had to be at least two miles, Lila found a main road. Her little feet were worn and bleeding, and she was at the point of pure exhaustion. She could not have been physically more than six years old.
After another walk of ample distance, she found a gas station. It was closed for the night, but there was a payphone in the parking lot. Feeling invigorated at the sight of the telephone, Lila bolted for it. Upon reaching it, and catching her breath, Lila reached into her backpack and pulled out her pre-paid phone card and called the one person in her life that mattered - Beth.
The phone rang for an eternity. Lila's heart began to sink. Then, the phone picked up on the other end of the line and she heard the tired, unmistakable voice of Beth. "Hello?"
"Beth! Beth it's me, Lila! I'm still in Georgia oh my god you've gotta help me Beth!"
"Sweetie?! What's wrong? You sound......strange."
"Oh god it's a long story! Can you fly down here to Atlanta and come get me?!"
"Fly down? What happened to your bus? Why do you sound like a little kid? Are you high on helium or something?"
"Just... Beth.. Can you just fly down here and get me....now! I know I sound like a kid...you've just gotta come get me and I'll try to explain every- hell.. I don't even know how to explain all of it.... but if you don't come get me I'm probably as good as dead. I think they're after me."
"They? Who's after you, sweetie?! Why aren't you home yet?"
"I don't have time to explain. I'm going to use the remaining time on this phone card and call a cab. I have a little bit of money in my bag, so it should be enough to get me to the airport in Atlanta. Just meet me there....Please."
"Okay, okay.... I'm up... let me get dressed and I'll try to catch the next available flight to Atlanta."
"Oh god thank you so much oh god I thought I would never hear your voice again..." Lila began sobbing as she began to lose it.
"Honey! Sweetie! It's okay... I'll be right there. I promise! Just get to the airport. It's a public place and you'll be safe till I get there."
"Okay," Lila said with a sniffle.
"Alright, I love you... no matter what."
"I love you too, angel." Lila said with a smile - tears streaming from her eyes the whole time. She heard Beth disconnect on the other end, so she placed her phone back on the receiver as well.
There was a phone book hanging next to the pay phone, so she used it. Turning to the yellow pages she found several taxi services. She began using her card once again to call a cab, when she heard something behind her.
"Such a naughty little girl...and you came so close." The voice was very gutteral, and quite Eastern European. It was like the voice of a James Bond bimbo from behind the Iron Curtain. Lila spun around, dropping the phone from her hand.
There stood Lady Stephana. Her eyes were dull and yellowish. She was grinning, which exposed those horrible teeth - the teeth that resembled a rat's. Her clothes, which were probably expensive at one point, were tatters, caked in dried mud. Her hair was in no better condition. Her skin was almost a greenish color, and there was no mistake as to what she was.
"I've invested a lot of time in you. The elixir you consumed took fifty-four years to prepare, and I will have the end result. Make no mistake, little one."
"Why are you doing this to me?!" Lila screamed.
"My dear, to keep my wealth and prominence in this society, I have to remain as human-looking as possible. As decades go by, I start to lose my old looks, so I have to rejuvenate myself to approximate sheep like you."
"Why don't you just drink the damned thing yourself instead of dragging me into it?" Lila demanded, desperately. "Why?!"
"Because, little girl, I can't drink it myself. I can't drink anything but the life blood of
the living, you stupid twat! That includes water, milk, wine, and even elixirs. However, I can always have it administered to someone like you, then drink your anointed blood."
"No...please...just let me go...."
"I own you, girly. You would be stashed in a dumpster somewhere being gnawed on by rats had I not shown up. Just close your eyes and I promise it will be expedient and quite painless. Just close your eyes, baby."
Lila, feeling like she had been trapped in the web of the spider known as fate, gave up and closed her eyes. It would all be over, she just needed to accept that fact and let it all end. How dare she try to escape fate. How dare she. She heard the footsteps of Stephana approach her. She kept her eyes closed and told herself I will fear no evil I will fear no evil I will fear no evil I will fear no evil.
"Mother," Stephon's voice rang out. Damn he was good at making an entrance. "It's over. Let her go and accept evolution."
"Stephon! Gods rot you, you miserable little son!" Stephana ruefully hissed. "You know not what you speak! Back off or I rip you to pieces.... or better yet, I feed you to those little demons back at Shadow Oaks. I haven't fed the little abominations in so long they would probably tear your flesh off the bone."
Stephon said nothing. He merely looked around behind him as four small figures stepped into the light of the gas station parking lot. "We aren't monsters, mommy," cried out the little girl named Melanie. Melanie looked at Lila for a brief second and said: we're children too."
"Don't make me laugh you miserable little monstrosities. Leave before I take your eyes and your tongues to teach a lesson."
"You will do no such thing, mommy." And with that, they all four rushed at Lady Stephana. She knocked the little red-headed boy back fifteen feet, but she could not ward off the other three. They tore into her and sank their horrible teeth into her putrid flesh. She screamed in utter agony as blackish, red blood seeped from the many puncture wounds she had received.
Before Lila realized what was going on, Stephon's arms seized her up. "This is not for your eyes, little one."
And off they flew.
Lila regained consciousness, and found herself sitting in one of those god-awfully un-comfortable airport waiting seats. She looked up and around and she found herself at the gate where the Nashville flight would arrive. She glanced up at a clock on the wall and saw that it was 7:30 AM. She got up from her seat and looked around. Everything was so incredibly huge. She looked down at herself and guessed her age to be about five. She still had her Pink Floyd T-shirt on, and it reached down to her ankles like a dress. She picked up her backpack, which was huge now, and readjusted the straps for her back.
Hearing commotion, she turned around, where incoming passengers were arriving. She watched - almost frantically - for Beth to come walking out. What if something had happened to her? What if she had not had the money? What if-
There was Beth, walking in a sort of dazed, half awake fashion. She must have slept on the flight down. Lila went running to her. Beth, not seeing the munchkin-sized Lila, was taken by surprise when the little girl wrapped her arms around her.
"Little girl, may I help you.....Lila? Lila?!" For a wonder, Beth actually recognized her.
"Oh god thank you.... Yes, it's me Beth."
"What in the....?"
"Beth... could we go to the bathroom. I'll tell you there."
Off they went, Lila leading the way with Beth trying to keep up with her. When they got inside the bathroom, Lila went into a stall, where Beth followed. Some woman stared at Beth as though she were the anti-christ for getting in the same stall. "Do you mind?! She's my sister! She needs my help!" The woman turned a bright red color and exited the bathroom very quickly. Beth closed the door behind her and looked Lila up and down.
"What in the hell happened to you, Lila? Why are you so little? Is it some sort of biological weapon those military pig bastards used on you while in the Army? I'll rip their fucking heads-"
"Angel," Lila said, sitting down on the toilet seat. "I think I better just start from the beginning. This isn't going to be easy. You see, I was waiting for my bus to Nashville when I decided it would be a good idea to.........."
Copyright, January 31st, 2000