PseudoPod 639: ARTEMIS RISING 5: Of All the Things the Girls Had Ever Said

Show Notes

“This is one of the rare stories I wrote longhand in a fever pitch during a late night ferry crossing between the mainland and Vancouver Island. I don’t tend to write when inspired — I’m more of a work horse. But this came to me in a flash, fully dressed and ready to go. It’s one of my favourites.”


Of All the Things the Girls Had Ever Said

by Melody Wolfe


When Fay said, “This isn’t the first time this has happened to me, you know,” Richard was surprised.

Of all the things the girls had ever said, all the pleas, threats, insults and confessions, this hitchhiker’s calm admission was the strangest. Not just for its content, not just for the tone of its delivery, but also for the fact that she was saying it mere minutes after waking up in the basement.

All he could muster in way of reply was, “Oh?” He hated how weak it sounded, and pale and wan and fragile.

But Fay didn’t seem to notice. She nodded, as if that was the answer, all the details he needed. She absently reached a small hand up to rub the back of her neck, massaging the bruised place where he’d jabbed her with the needle. It was that smallness that had initially attracted him to her. She barely topped five feet, a tiny little thing, slender like a young boy. But Richard quickly shied away from that place, uncomfortable with its implications.

Off-balance and uneasy, he focused on the girl. “What happened last time?” he asked, adopting a tone as casual and calm as Fay’s.

She stopped rubbing her neck, tilting her head slightly as she regarded him. Then she shrugged and said, “I’d been out hiking. I was on my way back to my car. He came out of the bushes.” Her hand dropped from her neck to rest near its shackled mate in her lap.

Richard’s stomach felt hollow as he asked, “What did he do to you?” He caught himself wringing his hands, and stopped, squeezing them together.

Once again, Fay paused before answering, looking at him. “Are you asking if he raped me?” The bluntness of it shocked him.

“Yes.”

She shook her head. “No.” Relief flooded him, followed by curiosity. If she noticed, she didn’t give any sign. “No,” she said again, lost in her own memories, it seemed. “Sometimes I think he might have. Sometimes I think all he wanted to do was kill me.”

“Why didn’t he?” Richard asked, leaning forward a bit.

“He got interrupted.” She looked down at the concrete floor of the basement, smiling in a small way, and then the smile disappeared as she looked back up. “A park ranger came by on his rounds. Shot at him.”

“So he was caught?”

“No,” she replied. “He ran off. Left me there, bleeding.” And now it was her hands that were wringing, her artless, untrimmed brows frowning low.

“Bleeding,” Richard repeated, savoring the word. And why shouldn’t he? It was all about the blood. “A knife?”

She shook her head. “He was a biter.” She was looking at him now, unblinking, as if weighing Richard to see what he was.

“Well,” he said with a chuckle, “you don’t have to worry about that with me, Fay.” It was the first time he’d said her name since she’d introduced herself in the car, hours before.

“Really?” she replied, a bit too contemptuously for Richard’s comfort. “And what do I have to worry about?”

He’d had enough of her attitude. “Not yet,” he answered lightly, with a cheery smile that got the expected wary expression from her. Pleased to have things back on track, he left her for the night.

Sitting at the kitchen table, he looked over the contents of her backpack, spread out before him. She was certainly a challenge, he mused. She wasn’t carrying the birth control he’d hoped for, which meant she was either chaste or careless. Given her admission and her demeanor, he guessed that the attack had turned her frigid.

He paused to savor that. There was something he could take from her.

But there was still the issue of the cycle. It was frustrating. Not knowing.

He’d checked her, of course, after he’d realized she didn’t have a birth control wheel, with dates he could use to calculate her timing. He’d spread her legs while she slept, and thrust his face between them, carefully avoiding actual contact. There’d been none of that musky, coppery scent, and he was pleased. He always wanted to be there when it started, not after, and so far he’d been quite lucky, that way.

He’d found a pack of pads, freshly bought. That led him to guess it would be soon, as they were unopened and a small pack. From the density of them, and that they were designed for nighttime wear, he guessed she flowed heavily.

Richard licked his lips.

But when? It was impossible to say, and he certainly wasn’t going to ask her. No, that would give her far too much power, the power to make him hope, to deceive him, to lead him on.

He’d have to coax it from her. That was alright. It wasn’t the first time. He might even enjoy the challenge, the thrill of taking the knowledge from her. And with her not even knowing what she was giving him, that she was unwittingly slashing a knife through the thread of her life.

His earlier unease dispelled, he slept deeply and well.

The next morning, showered, shaved, brushed, exfoliated, cologned and dressed in a freshly starched shirt and slacks, he went to her.

Fay looked much as the others had, by this point. Tired, no doubt aching from sleeping on cold concrete, thirsty and hungry. That wouldn’t last, he thought. He only starved them when they were truly disobedient.

“Good morning,” he said, adopting a warm, conciliatory tone. “I’d ask if you slept well, but I know the floor isn’t very comfortable.”

She looked at him silently, her expression the same sullen look he’d seen on the faces of the others. And thank goodness for that. She was falling into the pattern, and it was good. Better than good, really. He’d regained control.

“If you’re a good girl today, I could bring you a foam mattress to sleep on. Make it warmer down here.” He nodded in the direction of the massive old wood stove. “That doesn’t work, of course,” he said. There was no pipe leading to a chimney. She looked over at his nod, her eyes falling on the other end of the shackle, where the chain was clamped around the leg of the stove. The black paint had been worn away by the play of metal on metal, as other girls had tried to pull themselves free. “But I’ve got a space heater I could set up in the corner.” He broadened his smile.

“Alright,” she said quietly. “Sure.” His smile warmed at the defeated sound. She looked like they all did, now, her calm superiority of the previous night washed away. Her hair had gotten flat and oily, the length of it seeming mousey instead the rich brown he’d spied when he came upon her at the side of the highway.

“Is there anything else you need?” Richard asked. “You must be hungry. Thirsty. I’ll empty your bucket,” he said, and then waved a hand under his nose. “Seems like you’ve used it!” he remarked, with a short chuckle.

Her jaw tensed and her head lowered with the mix of anger and helplessness he’d wanted and expected.

“Anything else you need?” he said once more. “I noticed you had some pads in your pack,” he added, as if it were of no import, as if his stomach wasn’t bunching up with the need to know. “Will you be needing those anytime soon?”

Fay nodded. “In a few days, yes,” she said quietly.

“A few? Is that two days, three…?” he asked. “I’m sorry,” he added, spreading his hands wide, as if he were as helpless as her in this situation. As if he weren’t in control. “I can’t have you doing something with them.” He dropped the bomb. “Some of the others…well. They tried some pretty innovative ways to get out of here.”

He was hoping for a terrified, surprised glance, and was disappointed when she gave him a level look. “It doesn’t matter,” she said, finally. “You’re just going to kill me. Aren’t you?”

Richard shook his head. “Oh, no,” he lied, his tone carefully shocked. “I’m not going to kill you.” He laughed, as if amused at the idea. “I always let my girls go.”

And there it was, just what he wanted, a look of hope that flared up, only to be erased by the sure knowledge that perhaps living through this might be worse than dying.

He locked up the basement door, and went to work.

Richard got back just after the sun had fled from the autumn night. He was, admittedly, curious to see what she’d done while he was gone. Most of them just sat there dully, unable to believe he’d actually left. A few had done distasteful things. One had tried to break her thumb to slip out of the manacle, something she’d doubtlessly seen on television. She’d passed out from the pain, and later, he’d set her thumb. Her screams had made him hard.

Another one, one he hated to think of even now, had spread feces all over the basement. It had taken him hours to get out the filth and stench. And oh, how he’d punished her. He nearly went off the rails on that one, nearly killed her then and there.

But he hadn’t. He’d waited, as he always waited, just for the right time in her cycle. He hadn’t let her win, but when the time came for him to end it, he stretched it out, just enough to reassure himself that the dirty little whore had paid for her defiance.

He unlocked the basement door, slowly, as he always did. None had ever escaped the manacle, but there was a first time for everything, and taking care was always wise. She wasn’t hiding on the stairs, or gone from the room. No, she was right where he’d left her.

The plate of food was finished, as was the water he’d left her in a metal camping mug. She sat with her knees pulled up, resting her head on them. She’d been a good girl, Richard mused, so he’d bring down the space heater tonight, in all likelihood.

Her head half-turned as he came down the stairs. “Hello again!” he said, smiling. “I see you finished the food I left you.” He reached the last of the steps, and then walked a broad circle around her, outside of her reach. “I hope it was good?” he asked, but even as he did, he realized that something had changed.

Usually, the food and water perked them up a little, but it seemed to have even more of an effect on Fay. Gone was the pale, tired thing he’d left here this morning. She looked up at him and smiled as if she were happy to see him. “It was, thank you,” she said.

Her way of speaking was almost as disconcerting as its content. When he’d seen her on the road, in her ripped blue jeans and her tan leather jacket and her worn boots, he’d taken her for a drifter, probably on the way to or running from some doltish boyfriend.

And when he’d rifled through her wallet and found her driver’s license with her full name, “Fay Lynn Hanlon,” he’d taken her for trailer trash.

But her speech was nearly as educated and erudite as his own, the lightest trace of a Georgia accent flavoring it. By now, almost all of them had cursed, either at him or just in despair, but she hadn’t.

“Well,” he said, ruffled, “good. I’m glad.”

She smiled at him, a broad smile that displayed her even white teeth. “I’m glad that you’re glad, then,” she said right back.

“Did you use the bucket?” he asked, hoping his brusque tone would dispel her false bravado.

“No,” she replied, still smiling, “not yet.” She rested her head back on her knees, watching him, her smile toning down a bit, but still present.

“The heater is broken,” he blurted out. “I guess you’ll have to be cold tonight. Sorry.” He didn’t even try to sound apologetic.

She shrugged gently. “If it’s broken, it’s broken. Hardly your fault.”

“Yes, well,” he replied. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “When will you need your pads?” he suddenly asked, going on the offensive.

Instead of giving him a straight answer, she said, “What day is today?”

“What?”

“What day is it? How long was I out for?” She spoke as if she were a patient who’d woken from a coma, a Ripette Van Winkle of sorts, as if he weren’t to blame for it.

“You were only out for a few hours,” he said. “It’s Tuesday.”

“I’ll need them Thursday, then. Thank you for remembering.”

Blood rushed into his face. “You’re welcome,” he replied automatically. Damn his good manners, he thought. He hadn’t even thought about it before those words left his mouth, giving her control.

“I’ve got things to do,” Richard said suddenly, and went back upstairs. He got to the top, closed the door, and then stood breathing for a moment. She’d pushed him off balance again. Unacceptable.

He waited for five minutes, then walked over to the wall, opened the breaker box, and flipped the switch to the basement, plunging it into darkness.

He paused, then, listening for a sound, a startled cry, a muttered curse, anything. He strode back to the door, opened it and called down, “Fuse blew. I’ll have to pick some more up tomorrow.” And then he waited for it. Now it would happen. She’d curse him.

“No problem,” she called back, her tone rich with amusement. “I’m good.”

“Good!” he said, and shut the door, just a trifle too hard. He hissed breath between his teeth when he heard the slight slam. She’d gotten to him.

Tomorrow, he decided, he’d ratchet things up a bit. Take back the reins.

Richard didn’t bring her breakfast the next morning. She could starve a bit, he decided. It would remind her who was in charge. He worked through his day at the office, ensuring everything was in order. Carefully filing his papers. Counting his pens and putting them back in the holder in a fan shape, and then laying his calculator across the top to hold them in that shape until the next day. He shut down his monitor, slid his keyboard tray back under the desk’s top, and put his mouse exactly in the middle of the pad.

Then he went home.

He found Fay sleeping on the floor when he opened the door. In the failing daylight from the basement windows, she seemed smaller than she had the night before, curled up like a child. But she lifted her head before his foot had landed on the first step and said, “You’re back.”

“I’m back,” he confirmed. He walked down the stairs and went to the sink by the laundry machine. He pulled a plastic basin off the shelf, and began to fill it up with cold water. “You need to get cleaned up. You haven’t had a shower in days, and you smell.”

She sat up and regarded him carefully. “I see,” she said.

He resisted the urge to look at her. “Good,” he answered. The basin filled, he walked over to her, pausing to look down at her. “Don’t do anything stupid,” he said, and then walked into her range, ready for anything. She sat still, though, and he set the basin down. Then he walked back and got her an old cloth that was faded and stained from use and re-use. He tossed it into the basin from a few feet away, droplets splashing onto her.

They looked at each other for a few seconds, and then Richard said, “Well?”

She hitched a deep breath, and started to pull off her t-shirt.

Later, he sat naked in his favorite chair in his bedroom, looking out over the many acres of his property, the waxing moon’s light illuminating the fields of the farmer next door. With great, slow satisfaction, he stroked himself, playing and replaying Fay’s bath in his mind. He’d been a bit startled by the rough, torn scars on her shoulder. “He was a biter,” she’d said. Instead of the revulsion he expected, he actually decided he liked that she’d stumbled across a predator before. It made breaking her harder, and ultimately, more satisfying. He felt himself grow hot and stiff in his hand at the thought.

But he wouldn’t let himself peak. He had to save it. He had to build it.

Tomorrow, she would bleed for him.

As it had been with every one of his girls, he had to force himself to go to work the next morning. He left her food, emptied and cleaned her bucket. He gave her back her clothes that he’d laundered and dried after she’d bathed for him. He turned off the space heater he’d brought down afterwards. He’d stroked the side of her face, and smiled down at her while she looked up at him guardedly, once again seeming tiny and fragile. Under control.

He forced himself not to speed on the way to work. He managed to do his work at the usual pace. He took phone calls and forced normalcy into his tone. He avoided rolling over images of her, things that had happened and things that were to come.

She’d been so magnificent. Slowly washing herself, staring at him the whole time, seeming to grow in resolve as the night deepened. No fear in her eyes, he’d noticed, so unlike the others who’d wept or begged when washing time came. In some ways, he was sad that she would bleed so soon. He’d kept some of the others for weeks, drawing out his pleasure and commanding his impatience to be still.

None of them were exactly the same, of course, but after the first half-dozen or so, they’d begun to fall into recognizable patterns. But Fay was new. Special. Different. She swung between meek wariness and an almost imperious distance.

Breaking her would be a joy.

Richard allowed himself the one deviation he always did when bleeding day came. He begged out of work early, the only time he would do so throughout the year. When some of the other had come to bleed on weekends, he’d gone away from them for the nine hours he would have been out of the house during a weekday. It was important to maintain the discipline the cycle demanded. But he didn’t need to do anything so forced with Fay. She bled, conveniently, on a Thursday.

He decided that he might even take tomorrow off. But only if she hadn’t started bleeding while he was gone. He hoped not. It made it special when they waited for him.

He parked the car when he got back, and circled the house, looking for anything out of the ordinary. Everything was fine. The copse of trees where he buried them caught his eye.

Richard felt a thrill pass through him. How many more would he bring here, so far from where anyone would hear their cries? He had years left in him. He stopped to relish that, remembering how his girls had writhed beneath him, begging, weeping, cursing, sometimes staring silently as he sheathed himself in the red, gritty, pungent flow of them. How many had he buried out in the clearing between the trees when he was done?

Many. And many more to come.

With that pleasant thought warming him, Richard went in.

He changed clothes. The outfit he wore for the bleeding was much like his usual: businesslike, pressed and starched. But he bought these clothes for bleeding day, and burned them when it was done.

He paused before the basement door, breathing in and out slowly, willing himself to relax, relax, relax.

Then he went down.

Fay sat on the floor, knees drawn up once more, and he noticed her pant legs had ridden up. The perfection of his mood was broken when he spied the hair peeking out from above her ankles. Damn it. He had been so caught up with her scar the night before that he hadn’t noticed her unshaven legs. His lip curled in disgust.

There was no time to fix it, though. No matter, he decided. This time wouldn’t be perfect. None of them were. He’d had hopes for Fay, but it seemed perfection was yet to come his way.

No matter.

“Oh,” he said, forcing sad surprise into his voice, “I forgot to give you your pads this morning.” He walked around front of her. “Have you started bleeding yet?”

She shook her head. “No,” she said quietly. “Not yet. Tonight.”

Joy soared in him, but he forced it down. “Well, then. That’s good.”

Fay just looked at him. The bath had done her good, he decided. Her hair was thick and full, and she looked much healthier than she had the day before. Stronger. No doubt she’d slept better, with the chill banished by the space heater. She knelt on the floor, hands on her thighs, restlessly clenching and unclenching. Richard noticed, for the first time, how long her nails were. That scar had been distracting.

She was lovely. Just lovely. And soon, she would be perfect.

“Are you going to bring them?” she asked.

“Hmm?” he said. “Oh, yes. Sure I will.” He looked down at her, drinking her in.

“Listen,” Fay said, and Richard cackled inside, because now it would come. The begging. The pleading. “Listen,” she repeated, “why don’t you let me go?”

He folded his arms across his chest, and looked down at her, amused.

“You can let me go, you know. This doesn’t have to end this way.”

Then he crouched down, just outside of her reach and said, “You poor, silly cunt.” Ah, the thrill of letting the word out, at last, of watching her expression darken with fury. “Of course it does.”

Then she surprised him, for what he imagined would be the last time. “Alright, then,” she said, her voice low and roughened with dark emotion. “Alright.”

Disturbed and not wanting to let it ripple into his excitement, he left her to prepare.

He eschewed dinner. Doing it on a full stomach was a mistake, he’d learned early on. That done, he walked outside as he always did, ensuring the night was as quiet as it always was, way out here. In the distance, he heard crickets in the fields, wind playing over the tops of long grass. He gasped with pleasure when a bush at the edge of his yard unexpectedly lit up with fireflies, made no less brilliant by the cold light of the full moon above playing down over them.

Satisfied with the beauty and isolation of the night, he went back inside.

He stood by the basement door, breathing in, breathing out. Calming himself. Preparing. And that was when he heard the sound. A metallic sound. Sharp and sudden and then gone.

He frowned and looked around. As soon as it had come, it was gone. All he could hear was the gentle wind outside the windows, and the muted, rusty creak of the weather vane on the top of his house.

He frowned at the door that led into the basement. That when he heard something else. A whisper of movement. On the stairs.

No, he thought. No. Not possible.

Doubt rising in him like the bile that suddenly flooded his mouth, he reached into his pocket for the key, believing and yet not willing to believe what that sound might portend.

The door exploded open. Richard had enough time to register that it had cracked cleanly in half before the dark shape rammed him up against and into the hallway’s wall, crushing plaster and knocking the air out of him. Claws sank into the muscle of his arms, the hands they were attached to squeezing his biceps with brutal force.

The thing leaned its shaggy head into him, with a low snarl. He felt the bass reverberation of that growl run through him. It lowered its snout to look down at him through muddy brown eyes. Time seemed to stretch out, the two of them still figures in an impossible photograph.

Then Richard’s bladder let go, and he jerked away away from those eyes and the slavering tongue and the hot breath that washed over his face. His eyes caught sight of a patch on its shoulder free of the chestnut brown fur, where rough, torn scar tissue stretched taut, the exposed skin an angry red. He glanced back to it, as another snarl rose from the beast’s chest, its black lips drawing back to expose a mouth full of rending teeth, ears flattening against the side of its head as it drew back, tensing.

Fay’s cycle had begun.

He bled for her.

About the Author

Melody Wolfe

Melody Wolfe is a Canadian writer of speculative fiction. If she’s not at school, she can be found in the woods. She’s currently whittling away at her first novel, a fantasy called “Rivertown.”

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About the Narrator

Ben Phillips

Ben Phillips is a programmer and musician living in New Orleans. He was a chief editor of Pseudopod from 2006-2010.

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About the Artist

Yuumei

Yuumei is an illustrator, comic artist, and designer. Her works include “Knite” and “Fisheye Placebo” webcomic series, Axent Wear Cat Ear Headphones, and various art that focuses on environmentalism, fantasy, and human nature.

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