Gaining Consciousness

February 12, 2008
By Tegan Lea, Mooretown, ZZ

She may have being gaining consciousness, but only to a small—almost unrecognizable—extent. She was completely unaware of the rain that trickled through the tiny crevices in the wall. She didn’t notice the ground taking on a sponge-like form and absorbing every little raindrop until it reached its maximum capacity and began to create small pools of murky water in every sunken piece of land. She was completely oblivious.

Summer couldn’t feel the pain in her fingertips, which had long since crusted over and began to swell. Where turquoise-polished nails had once been, there was now throbbing flesh that grew even more tender with the humidity in the air.

Bruises and cuts wallpapered her feeble frame, but she didn’t notice. This wasn’t one of those “mind over matter” situations. The hurt was undoubtedly there, and very much real. It only lacked the proper acknowledgment which the young girl was incapable of.

The only thing that kept Summer to, was the shallow clomping noises that seemed to follow no specific pattern at all. Perhaps if they had been steady, she could lull herself back into the unsettling nightmares that seemed to be the only accessible refuge considering her circumstances. But they weren’t, and they caused just enough confusion and misunderstanding to make Summer capable of attempts at thoughts that were lost in incoherency.

The claps of thunder that had once been a low roar in the distance were increasing in volume. One sounded from the left, then the right, then one that seemed not two feet away. Something purred from beside Summer. It resembled the sound of an engine starting, but she was waking up enough to know that that wasn’t quite it. It wasn’t an engine. She reconsidered the possibilities.

The sudden sobriety upon hearing the odd noise caused Summer to feel the pain that occupied every inch of her skin. It was like a slap in the face. No noise, smell, or sight was important anymore. There was only the aching in her entire body. And her fingers—it felt as if something had tried to bite the flesh right off of the tips. Maybe it had? With eyes closed tight, the possibilities could be endless.

She opened them. It seemed like minutes before her pupils started to properly adjust to the blue-gray light that seeped through various unknown openings. Moonlight? It could be, but there had to be storm clouds blanketing the sky. There was thunder… and lightning? Yes, she thought she remembered seeing flickers of dazzling white lights from behind her eyelids. Then there was the rain.

Summer became aware of the fact that she was soaking in a lukewarm puddle. She puckered her lips and used them as a straw to suck in the foul tasting liquid. It didn’t matter. Her throat eased from it’s previous sandpaper intensity. She drank some more, until she thought she might gag from the taste. Her thirst had been quenched, but now there was a risk of vomiting. The ground was nowhere near clean.

Pins and needles pricked down Summer’s entire left side. She began to wonder how long she’d been laying in a fetal position. She never recalled seeing any sunlight when she had woken up countless times from some of the most troubling dreams and images her young mind had ever been able to conjure up. There was always the possibility that she hadn’t woken up at all until now, and had just dreamt that she had gained and lost consciousness.

Summer extended her fingers and tried to graze them over the surface of the floor. She recoiled quickly from having initiated grotesque mental pictures of a canine monstrosity gnawing at her like a rawhide bone. Her stomach began to turn in debate of her thoughts of the creatures jaw clicking back and forth, and of her interpretation of what frothy spittle might look like with blood washing over it in waves corresponding with her pulse.

She felt the ground again, this time using the back of her wrist to caress at the darkness below her. The surface crumbled and moved beneath her touch. It wasn’t a floor. It was dirt. Some of it anyways. There had only been a thin layer, which covered molasses mud.

Something stabbed Summer’s hand as she touched the ground. She twitched her arm backward, reflexively thinking that it was some sort of bug. She put her wrist back again, and felt another poke at her flesh. It was straw. She managed to lift herself up to her knees and found that she had been laying in a pile of it. She hadn’t felt pins and needles. It was hay.

Pieces began to fit together after that. It was a barn. The clumping, the purring, was from horses. It might also explain the smell that hadn’t even bothered her until she began to evaluate her environment.

She was in a stall. It had been so obvious. What needed to be questioned was how she had managed to wake up in one, and why so roughly battered and bruised. Was she going to die? She didn’t want to. Not yet. The pain was nowhere near enough to make anyone even consider an untimely end. It was more of a nuisance than anything.

That should’ve made Summer feel grateful that her physical state could stand to be much more horrid. However, it did the exact opposite. She still had reason to worry for her life. She was nowhere near a comforting acceptance of what might be her fate.

There was a noise outside. Something had slammed shut. A door to a car or house perhaps. Summer listened carefully, but of course could hear nothing over the sounds of horse hooves and rain beating against a roof that had yet to be insulated. She was incapable of anticipating what lay ahead for she had nothing to even imagine as a possibility. It wouldn’t stop her from trying.

She slowly jerked herself across the ground, until she hit a corner. She threw her elbows behind her and, using all the strength she could manage, hoisted herself up to a crouching position. From there, she stood up on wobbly knees and looked for an exit.

There was the stall door. That was a start. She ran for the handle, but plummeted back into the mud when she felt something grip onto her right ankle. She broke her fall with her hands, and failed to suppress a howl in pity of her aching fingers. She felt warmth pooling on a number of her nails, and knew that she had reopened the wounds.

The only fingernails that remained on Summer’s hands were both of her thumbs. The others had been ripped off somehow. She tried to recall how. She was almost certain that she’d been clawing at something, or someone. Then again, that could have been another nightmare. She also might have lost them scratching at the ground. People have been known to lash out when in the REM state of dreaming.

There was something wrapped around her ankle. She squinted her eyes at her right leg, and recognized it as a rope. Using her thumbs, she tried to loosen the knots. She was getting nowhere, but that was no reason to subside. She struggled with them for only a few seconds when she heard a low groan coming from somewhere in the barn.

Summer knew it was her imagination, but it had seemed like the creaking of the door had been louder than anything else. It seemed to conquer the clip clops of the troubled horses. It made even the loudest smacks of thunder seem pathetic and harmless. The earth had silenced itself to allow the door its one perpetual cry for attention.

The silhouette of a head and shoulders fell directly in front of Summer’s stall. It stayed there for awhile. Was it waiting for her to say something?

After what seemed like a tantalizing eternity, the shadow began to approach Summer. It slowly grew smaller as her fear grew into something of gigantic proportions.

There were no footsteps. No sounds of breathing, or the material of pants rubbing together and making friction. The owner of the shadow seemed to effortlessly float at a tedious pace. It felt like a cruel joke to Summer. As if the man or woman knew she was watching them, and decided to play around with her anxiety.

It was in front of the stall now. The door only seemed to come up to the stomach of what definitely seemed to be a male. He didn’t even flinch. His posture suggested complete relaxation. That could only mean that such a bizarre situation for Summer had been nothing but a walk in the park for the stranger.

“How ya feelin’?” the voice prodded in a soothing tone. It was a rather ironic way to sound in such a time. Summer’s humor had run short, so the little tinge of sarcasm only frustrated her.

She wasn’t going to reply. What would she say? She’d never been so scared in her life. She was sick, hurt, and hungry. Maybe she could state the fact that she wasn’t sure if her pants were wet from the rain, or piss.

“I agree. Talk’s cheap.” He had opened the door and was now hunched down in front of Summer’s curled up body. He had something in his hand. A box of some sort. She studied it as much as she could in the dark, but it was unmarked.

He’d seen her looking at the lunch pail, and spoke up again. “I brought you band aids. Ya know, for your fingers.” He casually pointed at what Summer thought to be in need of far more care than bandages could ever remedy.

He fished through the box and pulled out a stack of paper slips. He then seized Summer’s wrist. She moved away in disgust. He didn’t give any notice. He gripped her wrists hard enough to cause he circulation to be cut off and began to wrap her fingertips. It stung, but she couldn’t pull her hand away.

“So what school do you go to?” Summer nearly gagged. If there had ever been a worst time for small talk, it would be that exact moment.

She didn’t say anything. Instead, she tilted her head and spit in his face. It felt good, even though her saliva had been thick from thirst. Some of it stuck to her lips and dripped down onto her chin. She didn’t care.

“I’m just trying to be nice,” he justified. He smirked at her. He had been holding a band aid over the middle finger of her left hand. She watched it drop into a puddle, then sat in horror as the stranger plucked the blister and began to rub it feverously. The scab peeled away and blood began to poor out.

Summer screamed and bucked around as much as she could, but that only made it worse. He was laughing. He thought her pain was amusing. He massaged at the wound harder until the girl’s voice was hoarse and she had relaxed again. The pain was unbearable. Just the thought of what he was doing made her cringe in repulsion.

He released his hold on her fingers and she pulled them to her chest as if they were a precious jewel. One pain was now replaced by another. Her blood felt hot. She could swear it was boiling. She flapped her hand in the air, as if to prevent scalding. She let her body seize and relax repeatedly, despite what it might look like.

She just wanted the hurt to stop. Her mentality began decreasing in age. She wanted to cry out for her parents. She wanted to stamp her feet on the ground and scream for the atrocity of things not going her way.

Summer sobbed until her throat felt like it was being crushed by a vice. Mucus oozed out from her nostrils and clung to her upper lip. Tears trickled down the length of her neck, and moistened the collar of her t-shirt. Her eyes began to swell and lose focus.
Finally, Summer silenced herself. She looked up, half expecting to see the wooden structure of a man sink in relief. He didn't, of course. He remained perfectly still. He reminded her of her own interpretation of what a Buddhist monk might look like, perched atop a hill, completely oblivious to everything around him but the sensation of air entering and exiting through his nostrils.
"I bet you're hungry," he declared in a voice with an extremely animated quality. In reality, he hadn't been saying much, considering all of the time that was passing by, but in such a case that demanded complete silence, it was as if his mouth was a motor that showed no sign of weaning off.

Not a single breath escaped from Summer's lips until she heard the barn door give yet another howl of agony, and she knew the stranger had left. Gone to get food. There was no way on earth she would ever put his food in her mouth. She'd rather eat the hay that was her bed. For a minute, she actually considered doing it, but changed her mind after stopping to consider how foolish she was being. She would eat. If he was going to poison her, maybe it would be for the best. After all, if she didn’t oblige herself to one method of murder, then he would certainly come up with another, and it might be more painful. She was just going to have to take her chances. She would eat.
A growl rose from deep in her stomach, agreeing with her newest decision. How long had it been since she ate? She couldn't recall. Time seemed so irrelevant now. All she needed to do was make sure her bodily functions were in order. It didn't matter when the last time she ate was, only that she was hungry, and even poison seemed delicious at that moment. Suddenly, she completely forgot the nausea that had come from drinking the murky puddle water. She just wanted to cram her face full of anything edible—to commit guilt-free gluttony.
“He’ll come back, and what will I do then?” The sound of her own voice was frightening at first. She had spoken in a soft murmur, yet it seemed deafening. It was as if her voice box had set off a chain-reaction bomb, and with every little vibration of sound that crawled up her windpipe, an explosion was set off. Then, the next bomb would sound, and the next, until an earsplitting collaboration of syllables erupted from the tip of her tongue.
As unsettling as the noise of her own words had been, she’d posed a good question. What could she do? She was tied down, literally. And even if she consumed enough energy to break free from her restraints, there would still be the task of running away from a seemingly fit man. She was too weak for that. Her physical capabilities were limited. She would have to use her brains—something she had never been known to have.
Summer’s eyes scanned over the barn. She looked at the ceiling and found nothing. Then she examined the walls. Nothing. She examined the floor. She made note that in any movie she’d ever watched, this would be the point where something just in her arms reach would jump out at her and she would make an irrelevant comment like Bingo! or Perfect!
Her heart sunk from the misleadings of a thriving media with false representations of what dramatic events are really like. The reality of it was, there was no key to saving her own life. No knight in shining armor was going to burst through the boisterous door and announce that everything would be just fine. Summer started to realize that maybe the situation she was in wasn’t an example of suspense, but rather, a tragedy.
Summer began imagining what might happen when she died. Would it be big enough to make front-page news? It was hard to say, considering how many people died a day.
She let out a frustrated chuckle at the thought that she may not even be more than a statistic. Here she was, seventeen, with a whole life filled with opportunities ahead of her, a family that loved her, and decent marks in school, yet it was all about to end. In the end, her misfortune would be blotted out by every other disaster going on locally, and even globally. It was as if her life wasn’t important enough for anyone to pay and heed to. Out of the hundreds of thousands of people dieing daily, her death would be insignificant.
When it came down to it, Summer was dead either way. She could eat, and die. Run, and die. Fight, and die. Or stay, and die. Soothing her aching stomach seemed like a small priority when she knew that she wasn’t going to need food in the afterlife. Running was kind of hard, considering she was tethered to the stall in which she was held captive. Staying where she was seemed ridiculous. No, she wouldn’t go without a fight. She would kick, bite, and punch. If this was going to be the end of her, she wasn’t going to leave without giving the stranger a few good scars to remember her by. That is, assuming he’s not a trophy taker, in which case, he’d probably have one of her organs preserved in a jar of green gelatin as memorabilia.
There was another loud bang from outside of the barn. Dinner time. Summer had no time to waste on fear or doubt. She got to her feet and stood, ready to pounce. The only thing holding her up was adrenaline that she had to pray would last long enough to keep her standing when the man came in with her meal.
Her muscles stiffened, and she began to wonder if she was going to be able to move fast enough to even lay one punch on the stranger’s wicked grin. She questioned if she would be able to move at all. It didn’t matter. Nothing did anymore. Her friends back home were nobodies to her right then. Her family no longer existed. Her boyfriend was nothing but a memory. It was as if she never had a life until that exact moment—where it would ironically end just as she had been born.
Her spine began to convulse in unison with the moaning of the barn door slowly creeping open. Her fists clenched, making her fingertips bleed ever more. Blood leaked out of her palms like a waterfall, tickling her wrists as the stream slithered to her elbow, where it gathered then fell to the mud in little drops. She didn’t even notice, and if she did, she used to pain as a means of keeping the adrenaline pumping through her.
As the stranger neared, Summer could hear the familiar clatter of metal and glass. He had utensils. The idiot actually brought them in with him. There seemed to be hope for the teenager as she imagined the stranger bringing her weapons on a silver platter. He probably picked them out of a drawer in his kitchen reflexively, not even considering that they could be used against him. It seemed too good to be true.
He didn’t exactly bring in a silver platter. Just a porcelain plate, but it had a fork, and that’s all that mattered. There was a spoon too, but Summer wasn’t feeling sadistic enough to use that to pierce his skin. If push came to shove maybe she would, but if she could avoid using it, then by all means, she would.
“Are you that hungry?” the man probed when he noticed Summer on her feet looking way too eager. He stepped closer, clearly not paying enough attention to the blood all over her arms, or the insane look that came into her eyes. Whoever said ignorance is bliss would eat their hat in this situation.
“Yes.” She didn’t even really notice that that was the first time she had said anything to him. Instead she threw her unrestrained foot in the air, just like she’d seen in the karate movies. The plate didn’t crack though. It just flew in the air, then smashed on the floor. Even though the plate was in tiny pieces, Summer was sure that she had done more damage to her foot than to the dish, but there was no time to think about the pain, or else there would be more to come.
She dropped to her knees, avoiding a fistful from the stranger. She saw a shimmer of white light on the floor and grabbed at it with her fingers, actually enjoying the pain it brought when she remembered the poor mounds of flesh that hadn’t been completely bandaged.
The man must not have noticed her snatch at freedom, for he picked her up by the neck, leaving her arms hanging loosely at her sides. Summer realized that she could die right then and there, but it didn’t bother her. She clenched the fork and prayed that the blood wouldn’t serve as a lubricant, making the utensil slip out of her hand when she tried to apply pressure to the man. It didn’t. She threw her right hand as hard as she could at the stranger’s abdomen. When she heard a loud yelp, she knew she’d punctured his flesh. She then released with her right hand, and used her left at the end of the fork to push it in further. This was followed by an even more contorted cry than the last.
He released his grip on her. Summer fell to the floor and shimmied away from the stranger to watch what she had accomplished. Only something wasn’t quite right with what she was seeing. He had something in his hand. What was it? She went to look. It was long. A bar maybe? Summer hadn’t been given much time to consider where or how the stranger got a hold of a weapon. Before she could even scream, the pole came smashing down on her head. Everything went black.
She laid there, passed out for hours on end. Her mind underwent what one might call a “mental seizure”. Images came in and out of her head too quickly for her to even comprehend. It continued for a long time, though it would be impossible to determine how much time had passed since the storm clouds began to thicken, and blot out the sky. Finally, her dreams subsided, and she began to awaken.
She may have being gaining consciousness, but only to a small—almost unrecognizable—extent. She was completely unaware of the rain that trickled through the tiny crevices in the wall. She didn’t notice the ground taking on a sponge-like form and absorbing every little raindrop until it reached its maximum capacity and began to create small pools of murky water in every sunken piece of land. She was completely oblivious.

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