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Deborah woke, head pounding.
She was disoriented, and found herself in darkness so absolute that at first she thought she’d gone blind.
A more thorough investigation of her surroundings revealed a very dim outline of light around what she took to be a door.
It was as bright as the sun in contrast to the utter darkness of her surroundings.
Something made a sound behind her.
In the silent black, it seemed much louder than it actually was.
A droplet of water landing on her head made her jolt.
As much as she tried to get a grip of her surroundings, the darkness made this nigh on impossible.
She tried to get to her feet, but her legs and back had seized up from sleeping on the concrete floor.
Even getting to a kneeling position set off a chain reaction of muscle spasms from arsehole to eyelids.
She winced, shaking her head as if to rid herself of the pain.
The events preceding her waking up in here were still lost to her.
At first she’d taken herself to be in bed, but the cold, wet surface below her shot that theory out of the water.
She desperately tried to think.
Adrenaline and the after-effects of the party conspired to make her throat feel like she’d been gargling with sand.
She rubbed her tongue on the roof of her mouth, a trick she did when hungover in an attempt to stimulate her saliva glands.
It worked a little; the fluid as welcome as a cold beer on a hot day.
She tried to breathe, but the pain in her belly stopped her from filling her lungs to their full capacity.
Shit, the baby! She thought in despair, cupping a hand to her belly.
Panic raced through her when she realised she couldn’t feel the baby moving.
While she pondered what had happened, panicking that she’d got arrested for drunken antics – it wouldn’t be the first time, for damn sure – the corona of dim light around the door intensified.
Seconds later the door creaked open, the squall from the rusted hinges cutting through her thoughts like a bandsaw blade.
She looked towards the doorway, now illuminated enough to reveal a bug-eyed man wearing only a smile and a blood-smeared dog collar.
Flashbacks of the last time she’d seen him hit her like blows from a nail-studded baseball bat.
It was enough to sap the little strength she’d regained.
Paralysed by fear, she slumped back to the floor.
Her eyes rolled back in her head and for a few seconds she felt nothing.
Then a sharp pain across her left cheek roused her from her slumber.
‘Wake up, you whoring sinner,’ her captor hissed.
She tried not to look at him, wanted to forget him and everything he had done to her and her friends already.
The grin and the malignant glint in his dark eyes suggested that there was much more still to come.
Oh my God he’s going to rape me, she thought when her bulging eyes registered that he was naked and sporting an erection.
She also noticed neat rows and columns of livid scar tissue on his left thigh.
‘Take your eyes from that, you little whore,’ he spat.
‘What are you going to do with me then?’ she snapped, suddenly enraged.
His grin widened, wrinkling the pale skin beside his eyes.
His left hand fiddled with a loose strand of thread at the bottom of his dog collar.
‘Our Lord went out into the desert for forty days and forty nights. In that time he had no comforts, no food, nothing. I am going to keep you here for the same length of time. And I will lead you back to God.’
‘You’re out of your fucking mind,’ she hissed.
Her curse wiped the smile from his face.
His hand hit her hard, bursting her lips in a spray of warm blood.
‘Mind your language, you daughter of the devil. You are in the presence of God here. I won’t warn you again.’
She held her hand to her lips, feeling the blood that ran from the cut in them.
‘I am trying to save you from eternal damnation. I am going to let you see the face of God. He has chosen me to lead you back to His side.’
The last bit of fight in her was knocked out by his bare foot slamming into her midriff.
She wheezed and panted, feeling her stomach contract hard.
‘Please,’ she begged, curling up to protect her belly. ‘I’m pregnant. You’ll hurt my baby.’
‘The first step in your redemption will be the removal of the child.’
‘NOOO! Please. I’ll do anything. Please… please.’
‘He says it has to be removed.’
‘Wait… WAIT! Isn’t abortion against your rules?’
‘The child has been conceived in the presence of the devil. So it must die.’
‘Please, I’m begging you. If you are a good man – which you must be if you’re a priest – don’t do this.’
He grinned again and stood over her.
The smile faded for a split second and a sad expression replaced it momentarily. ‘It has to be like this. I’m sorry, but it is the only way.’
With that, his foot slammed down into her gut again and again.
Deborah woke in agony, blood still spilling from between her legs.
The feel of it cooling and thickening on her inner thighs made her bend double and hurl blood-flecked bile onto the cold floor.
‘I’m so sorry,’ she sobbed, cupping her hands to the life in her belly that she had failed to protect. ‘I’m sorry I’m so shit a mother that I couldn’t even bring you into this world.’
In utter despair, she curled into a ball and cried her heart out.
When she finally stopped crying, she noticed Cross was watching her through the bars of the cage with the curious expression of a child gawping at an animal in a zoo.
‘Why do you cry, child?’ he asked, his soft tone the epitome of sympathy.
She found his tone and the way he was addressing her very strange considering his standard ‘devil’s daughter’ and ‘whoring sinner’ diatribe.
It was like he was a different person.
‘Why do you think?’ she sobbed, not daring to look up at him in case he did anything else to her.
‘I genuinely don’t know. This should be a happy occasion. I’ve flushed the diseased life from your womb. I’ve set you on the path to a better life. The path to God. You should be smiling. You should be whooping with joy. You should be thanking me with every breath you have.’
She shook her head, a fresh hail of tears racking her body.
‘Just kill me,’ she sobbed. ‘There’s nothing else you can take from me. There’s no more hurt that you can inflict.’
‘Oh, we both know that that is not true,’ he said, his face and tone changing back to that of the psychopath she’d found in her front room. ‘That is most definitely not true.’
For the first time since he’d come in, she noticed the knife in his hand.
‘Please, stick that through my throat. Or cut out my fucking heart, cos there’s nothing for me to live for now that you’ve taken my baby from me.’
He tutted, shaking his head. ‘The profanity that seeps from your mouth is a sign of a blackened soul. But I’ve already told you my views on this. Pain is a great cleanser. Every day in here I’m going to take a pound of flesh. If you survive for the forty days and nights then it is by God’s will. If not, then at least you will be heading to the afterlife with a cleansed soul.’
She didn’t even move to stop him.
She hoped he would kill her, though she knew this was a vain hope.
Maybe if his knife slips and hits an artery…
Suddenly she felt a pinprick in her neck and warmth flooded over her.
She was still here, still alert, still viewing his leering face through a haze of tears, but she couldn’t move a muscle.
‘Even as despondent as you are, you will still put up a fight when the blade hits,’ he said, clearly an authority on the subject. ‘They always do.’
He shoved the knife to the outside of her left thigh, digging in hard.
Warm blood ran down her leg and into the puddle formed by her miscarriage.
She screamed with the sudden intensity of the pain.
He was fast with the blade, cutting a square piece of flesh loose with frenzied movements.
The pain when he tore it loose was like nothing she’d ever felt, even when she’d miscarried.
‘I told you you’d want to move,’ he grinned.
After he’d pulled the lump of flesh loose, he threw it into the corner with a wet splat.
‘One pound of flesh,’ he beamed, gazing upon her with a look that was partly pride and partly awe. ‘You handled it like a true child of God. It’s a long tough road out of hell, but you have taken your first faltering steps. I have every faith that you can do this.’
While she listened to his words, she noticed that he held a fire poker in his hand.
Through the haze of pain and terror she heard a roaring sound.
He moved back into her eyeline and put down a blowtorch.
The poker was glowing red hot.
When she realised what he was doing with it, she began to scream.
But nowhere as much as when it touched her and began to seal her flesh shut.
‘We don’t want you bleeding to death,’ he said, his tone back to that of a loving parent. ‘You get some sleep. We’ve got to do this all again tomorrow.’
Her first night in the cell was filled with terror and pain and despair, all swapping in headline roles.
It was agony trying to sleep on the floor, with her wounds, but when the drugs wore off, she managed to find herself a slightly more comfortable position.
She rolled onto the side which hadn’t been carved open by a raving madman and cried herself to sleep.
Next chapter is here