Short Story – Before the Darkness
This story requires a longer than usual preamble.
First, I’m going to offer a trigger warning because this story deals with rape (not graphic), imprisonment, and torture.
In my stories, I’ve shied away from the idea of women as victims because there is just so much fiction out there about the victimization of women. Part of this is because of the fact women are so frequently victims of violent crime in our society. But part of it is simply, I think, a failure of imagination.
There are so many more facets to women than how often they are victimized in our society. It seems unfair to focus on that one thing.
This story grew from asking myself what had happened to the monster before Frankensteien revived it. From there moved to a place that was very dark and explored the idea of a woman as a victim. I don’t know if I did it well but I do know that it felt right for the story.
But it is a story about women as victims. If that isn’t something you want to read, I totally understand.
Thanks, as always, to those of you who read my stories.
Shelly screamed as electricity flowed through her flesh, causing her body to violently jerk and spasm. Her arms and legs strained against their restraints and she saw nothing but a white light that made her brain burn. She would have closed her eyes to block out the light but they were already closed. Closed and sewn shut.
Before the pain, there had been nothing. She tried to find some memory of her life but all she could find was pain.
She screamed until her lungs were empty and then she would gulp in just enough air to scream again. Taking in air felt like swallowing fire. Her organs burned from the inside as if they were being cooked with every breath.
Then, as quickly as the pain had started, it stopped. She was panting and exhausted but it didn’t hurt any more. She could feel herself being moved. She couldn’t get away, the restraints were too strong and she was too weak.
A memory formed of restraints like these. Weakness like this. She was beginning to remember fear.
A hand touched her forehead. She tried to tell whoever it was to leave her alone. She wanted to be let go. She tried to say something but she couldn’t remember how to talk. Her voice formed sounds but it couldn’t form words. She was emitting nothing more than an unfamiliar groaning howl.
“Shhh,” a male voice said as the hand – his hand – caressed her hair, “I know you are confused. You are very safe, my beautiful creation. All will make sense in due time. For now, though, you need some rest.”
She felt a prick in her arm. She screamed again because she could do nothing else. She tried to sit up or open her eyes but the darkness began to close in on her once again and she fell into a deep, restless sleep.
In her dreams, she could see the time before the darkness. Even drugged, she felt the chains on her arms and legs and she remembered other chains. She remembered fear. A dark shape moved in the room near her and she tried to push it away but the chains wouldn’t let her reach it. The shape came closer and she shrieked.
She was shrieking when she woke. The sutures had been removed from her eyes and she could see herself strapped to a bed. A sheet covered her body but she could feel it touching bare skin.
Naked and chained to a bed. Out of control. Vulnerable. Before the darkness it had been like this. So much fear. No hope.
Her cries echoed off the stone walls of her room. The air was cold but the cold didn’t bother her. She tried to tell him to let her out but the words were still so hard. She had to think about moving her mouth because it didn’t want to follow her commands.
The latch on the door lifted and a man entered. The same man who had spoken to her the previous night? She knew she had never seen him before.
He was about fifty with wild eyes and white hair. His skin was covered in soot and grease and possibly blood. He wore a lab coat and glasses and he smiled when he looked at her.
“So good to see you awake, Shelly.”
His voice as calm and pleasant. It would have been soothing but for another man who had been kind to her once. Before the darkness.
He shook his head.
“I’m sorry, I can’t do that yet. You see, I have to make certain there are no side effects to the process. I wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself.”
She strained against the chains and she found they were not so strong as she’d remembered. Perhaps if she pulled a little harder, they would break.
“Now, Shelly, you need to calm down or I’ll have to sedate you again. I don’t want to do that.”
Don’t struggle. She remembered being told not to struggle. Before the darkness. She had done what she was told and it made no difference. He wouldn’t stop. She would struggle.
“I’m sorry, Shelly, I need to do this. When you are calmer, I can explain.”
The man pulled out a syringe and the fear overcame all else. There had been a syringe before the darkness. Then there was only the room. She had to break free.
The chains broke so easily. Had they always been this weak? She lunged forward. She remembered wanting to do exactly this but the chains had been so much stronger before the darkness.
He tried to say her name as she lifted him towards the ceiling with her hands wrapped around his neck. He fought her as hard as he could. His nails dug into her arms and blood trickled down towards her armpits.
His struggles grew weaker and still she held on. Before the darkness, she had dreamed of this moment so many times.
As her hands choked the life out of him, she could remember a set of hands on her own throat. She tried to shake free of them but they wouldn’t let her go. She couldn’t move her arms to make it stop. She struggled so hard but she could feel the darkness embracing her. After so long, it was a relief.
And then the memory was gone and her hands were wrapped around a dead man
Looking into his lifeless face, she remembered a face before the darkness. This wasn’t that face. This was not the man whose hands had been around her throat. The fear was gone and rage was there to take it’s place.
This was not the man, but she would find him. She would find him and he would know what it was to be afraid.
She threw the corpse behind her and gave it no more thought. She knew where she needed to go.
Walking was difficult. Her legs were stiff and her knees didn’t want to bend. Her fingers didn’t work the way they were supposed to, either.
Before the darkness, she had been naked. Always naked. She didn’t want to be naked ever again. She turned and found a broken body behind her, crumpled against the wall. How long had that body been there?
The corpse was wearing a lab coat. There was some blood on the it but she gave no thought to her appearance. She just wanted to be covered. She wanted control over her body again.
She was frustrated by how long it took to pull the coat off the body but in time, she found she was able to move a few of her fingers a little more easily. Enough to operate buttons.
It was raining when she stumbled out of the tower. She remembered what it was like to feel cold but it had been so long since she’d felt the rain. She used to love running in the rain.
She tried to run but her body was still challenged by the simplest of commands. She found herself forced to concentrate on the formerly unconscious act of putting one foot in front of another. She would reach the town eventually. But how long would it take?
Before the darkness, she would hear the rain and thunder from her room. She could not see the lightning. She could feel the cold on her naked skin. Sometimes he would give her a blanket. Sometimes.
It was night and it must have been late. No candles burned in the cottages of the townspeople. She saw one cottage she recognized as home and thought maybe she should just go there. She could feel the warm embrace of her parents who must have believed they would never see her again. They had, after all, buried their daughter.
They wouldn’t understand. To them, she was dead.
On the edge of the town, there was a mansion. That was her destination. He would be home. And he would be busy.
The front door was aged oak. Heavy and thick, she had heard it slam behind her only once. The gnarled iron handle broke apart in her hand when she grasped it. The last time she had been in this house she had been so weak. So weak. So hungry.
Her hunger was different now.
She gave the door a gentle push and it fell off of it’s hinges. From the basement, she could hear screams.
She’d screamed for the first few months. When she still believed screaming would make a difference.
The sound of the door breaking had woken him and he stumbled out of the bedroom carrying a knife. He probably expected a burglar.
For the first time since she had known him, she could see he was afraid. She enjoyed how it felt to know he was afraid of her.
“What happened to you?”
He knew what happened to her. He’d done most of it himself. What happened to her after the darkness she didn’t know. She remembered killing someone and for a moment, she felt remorse. It was an accident.
The screams from the basement were louder to her now. She found herself screaming in response.
She looked at him and worked very hard to form the right words. Talking was still so very difficult.
“L-l-let H-h-h-h-errrr G-G-OOOOOOO!”
Her voice sounded wrong. Her parents had always loved to hear her sing. So had he. He would make her sing to him before he would…
Now, her vocal chords felt tight. Speaking was painful. Her voice was frightening, even to her.
He seemed unable to move. Perhaps he hadn’t understood her. She could barely understand herself.
“L-L-ETTT HE-E-RRRR G-GOOOOOO!”
He tried to cover his ears but she grabbed his wrist and twisted his arm until it broke. He tried to defined herself by stabbing her. She felt the knife go into her abdomen. It tickled a little. She pushed him away while the knife still protruded from her body. Some blood began to flow but it only made her feel stronger.
He let out a cry of anguish as she grabbed his broken arm and shoved him towards the door that led to the basement. Even now, she did not want to go through that door. She remembered passing through and being forced down the slick granite steps. Steps she would see only once.
Even now, she feared if she went down those steps, she would never climb them again. She couldn’t force herself to touch that door.
But the screams of the girl in the basement compelled her.
“Shelly, please! She means nothing! You were always my favorite. Before…”
Before the darkness.
“OPEN! OPEN! OPEN!”
She pushed his face into the door and blood began to pour from the nose she had almost certainly broken. He managed to turn the handle with his good hand and the door swung open. The screams had stopped. She must have heard them.
The two of them went down the stairs together. A candle burned in the hallway and the air stunk of human waste and spoiled food.
A timid voice came from behind the door.
Shelly spoke quietly now. As quietly as she could.
“Let herrr g-g-goo.”
He took the iron key from a post on the wall and unlocked the door. She didn’t want to go through the door. She didn’t want to be in that room.
“Shelly. I want you to know it was an accident. I was just trying to help you…”
She looked into his eyes and he stopped talking. Her finger went to her lip and she gestured for him to go inside. She would follow.
What she saw inside was so familiar. The girl was no more than eighteen, naked, bruised, emaciated. She was bound at the wrists and ankles and lying on a bed soaked in her own urine. On the table, there were a few scraps of spoiled meat and moldy vegetables.
When he walked through the door, the girl was frightened but she had already learned to stay quiet. He’d already used the tools on the wall more than once.
But when she saw Shelly, she began screaming again.
“Oh god! You’ve brought a monster,” she cried, “I’ll be quiet! I promise!”
Monster? She wasn’t a monster.
The girl kept screaming. She shut her eyes and turned away.
“Stay away from me! I’ll do whatever you want! Just keep her away from me!”
Shelly knelt down next to the girl and tried to touch her gently but the girl pulled away.
“N-n-not monster. Sh-she-elly.”
The girl was crying but she finally opened her eyes and looked at Shelly. She wanted to scream again but found the strength to stop herself. Shelly could see she was confused and tried to reassure her.
“I can go?”
Shelly nodded and smiled. The smile was awkward because she still didn’t know how to control her face. But it was also awkward because it had been so long since she had smiled.
“LOOK OUT,” the girl shouted.
He had grabbed the iron poker from the wall. It was the one he had placed in the fire and used to brand her so everyone would know to whom she belonged.
He brought it down on Shelly’s head over and over again.
“Ungrateful WHORE! UNGRATEFUL WHORE!”
He shouted with each blow, his rage no longer controlled. She remembered he’d said the same words when his hands were wrapped around her throat. Just before the darkness.
Shelly heard the sound of metal against her skull but she couldn’t feel the impact. She turned towards him as he kept trying to make her stop moving. She caught the poker in her hand and wrenched it from him. Then she jammed in into his thigh. He fell to the floor with the poker driven all the way through his leg.
His body contorted in agony and he spat fourth a string of curse words. Eventually, they devolved into undecipherable nonsense.
Shelly no longer cared what he had to say. She turned back towards the girl and began to break the chains. She would never fear this room again.
The girl tried to look into Shelly’s eyes, but Shelly looked away.
“What happened to you?”
“D-d-d-arkness. Pa-i-i-n. M-m-mons-s-ster.”
And she felt herself start to cry.
The girl touched Shelly’s face and kissed her forehead. “No,” she said, “there is only one monster here.”
They looked at the broken man on the floor. He was crying and moaning and cursing. Shelly wondered why he had ever frightened her.
“What are you going to do with him?” the girl asked.
“P-p-ain,” Shelly said.