She has been awake for some time now. It seems that she has ‘done well’ with something. Her captor, who insists she calls her host, says she performed well. As a result he has loosened her ties somewhat, or perhaps more accurately given her ‘leash’ a longer rein, so she can sit, and even move around her bed, stretching her legs. So this is what it is to please him.
She is not sure what he means when he congratulates her, there are black spots in her memory, caused by shock or something worse. She can touch some of the time and see strange imagery, like fragments of dreams, and perhaps that is all it is, the memory of dreams. But he seems to think it is something more, so she scavenges those memories, hungry for clues.
He won’t tell her his name. He says , ‘you have your name, and I will give you mine when the time is right, for now I am but your loving host.’
Loving host. One who ties her to a bed and keeps her in a darkened room which seems a cross between a basement, a hotel room and something far , far worse.
She recognises him now, if vaguely. There is nothing that memorable about him, really, and that is probably half of his problem and the reason for his drive. He is an ordinary man, hiding his extraordinary madness. A youngish man but already with the threat of a receding hairline, who needs glasses to read, and has picked ones that don’t match his facial shape, as though he has no friend or family help him choose more wisely. So he is essentially alone in life.
He is thin, but strong it seems, and wears drab clothes – in this room something dark and uniform, but she recalls also colourless shirts and grey slacks, the garb of the drab. So in some essential way he lacks imagination.
She is cataloguing her memories, her impressions, because they may prove useful. She already understands she is in a game of mind control, a sport of wits and knowledge, and anything she can bring to the plate will help her, help her somehow.
And she does have more than just her impressions of him in this place because, of course, he was a patron at her patisserie. He complimented her cooking once, and she thought him sweet. How wrong you can be, how beguiled by a few kind words! No kindness here, none, no matter what he might argue. It is not kindness to loosen a leash, it is only kindness to release the captive entirely. And he obviously had no intention of doing that.
So a compliment is a manipulation. He is not sincere. She must remember that in here too, perhaps even more-so in here. So if she does well by his reckoning and words, it should not give her any happiness. She must not come to need his approval. She must understand his support or censure only as further information to understand him, understand the game. But perhaps she needs to appear to need that approval, to want to do well. She knows it will be best to be under-estimated here, just as it so often if in life. You can do so much more in the shadows if no-one thinks to look.
And there are many, many shadows in this room.
She tries to remember what she thought of him then, in the patisserie that morning, beyond some happiness at his compliment. She tries to remember details about him that might prove useful. But she can’t really recall anything except that familiarity of a regular customer. Nothing further floats to her mind’s eye to tell her anything about who he is, where he might come from, where he might live – apart from obviously in this town. Nothing that might help her understand where she is now.
Because of course he didn’t matter. He was just a customer. He didn’t matter then..not then.
But now, now she needs to know as much as she can. Her lucidity now turns her mind to strategy. She has never been a ‘lay down and take it’ kind of girl, making her current situation painfully ironic. She rubs her back, feeling the impact of lying down for far too long, and she stretches, trying to relieve tightened muscles.
She remembers parts of the black periods. She remembers looking up at one of the lamps and it flickering and seeming to lift off the wall. She remembers his voice, telling her things, guiding her somewhere. And she remembers the doctor, because it is him, in another guise, a fantastical creature who says odd things, but has his face. His face.
So I will get to know the doctor as well as I can in this shadow world, she thinks, because that is what he wants to be, so that will tell me who he is.
But for now all she has is time so she delves further, searching, searching.
All these odd things matter somehow. He is trying to do something – hypnotise her she guesses – and so manipulate her. So she must try, to the extent possible, to observe rather than participate. Can she do that? And in these moments alone can she divine some meaning to his intent and the strangeness of it all? Is there a way to turn his game upon himself?
She’s always been a strategist at heart. She was this way in a difficult home, and then at school, and even in her climb through her cooking profession. She understands people. She sees them rather like recipes, to be broken down to their constituent parts, understood and re-mixed to be something better, or discarded if that cannot be achieved.
So in a way, she thinks she understands him. He’s like me, she realises, but his methods are different and he isn’t a cook. He consumes rather than creates.
He’s made assumptions about himself and assumptions about her. He thinks he has the tools and methods to be the master, clearly, but he’s had to use force and drugs. And he hasn’t counted on who she is, what she is, what she might do. He has a vision of her and sees only that – this Violet creature – and in that she might be able to hide, to watch to consider and to build a plan. Because he can’t see her coming if he can’t really see her at all.
And somewhere in that, she thinks with a kind of wakening vicious righteousness, somewhere in that is the key. The key to his undoing and her freedom.
(c) Helen M Valentina 2015, All Rights Reserved