As more time passes, she is more resolute in her decision to see this as a challenge, like a boot camp for her mind, even though during this same extension of time the sessions make this increasingly hard to do. But it is her mind that is the contested territory here, she realises this both intellectually and emotionally. In her more lucid moments in this cell she sees it with a perfect clarity. She had read about things like this, on conspiracy websites she thought were for the happily deluded. She might even have laughed about the theories, but she is not laughing now.
Trauma based mind control, that’s what they called it. And he was a practitioner of this, and if that was right, and the rest of the theory was right he would also have been a victim of it too. A handler, as he might be called now, would have been a subject before. Years of abuse, through generations, because he was skilled, and so it wasn’t just someone who’d read about it to and decided to do it on someone. He knew what he was doing, and this must be from personal experience.
Not that this elicited one scintilla of sympathy for him. She felt nothing for him but hatred when she was lucid, and when not she was too frightened to contemplate what he might be able to make her feel. Still, he was a lone operator. Her mind told her, there was no sense of a bigger machine behind this. There was no sense she was one of many in a program. He seemed like a lone operator in all things in life, and so here he would also be one, captured by his own fixed desires and delusions. And this must be a good thing, because if she managed to divine a way out of here it was far less likely there would be others to hunt her down. If he was doing this solo, then escape meant escape from him, and not from something greater.
Well, she hoped she was right about that. It seemed to fit with only him being with her, and the singularity of his focus and the fact that she thought the aim was to make her love him, a kind of Stockholm Syndrome induced by chemicals, electricity and pain.
But what if that was wrong? What if upstairs there were others, involved, perhaps guiding him through his endeavours? What if her sense of him being a loner was just a trick because he kept his friends, his special terrible friends, well hidden? Thinking of this shut down her mental acuity in her fragile mind, as though anxiety rose as a primitive shield to further analysis so that she could just feel the rest. As though that would be better somehow.
Of course, it was not. Emotions were large, shadowy threats around her, flickering in the lamplight, singing terrible songs to her down the electric wires he would attach to her temples, over and over. Like Pavlov’s dog she felt the pain these days even before he turned on the machine, taken to that place by the mere suggestion of his presence and his awful rituals. And emotion took her there almost as quickly as the stimulus of seeing him approach. Emotion and pain seemed linked, far more than thought. Emotion was therefore the enemy. So she tried to stay with thought, and avoided any lines of analytical enquiry that would trigger emotion. It would take discipline, the discipline of an athlete in training. And in many ways she realises that was exactly what she is. Now.
So she continues to try to remember more of what occurs in the sessions. Most of it remains vague, but some images and feelings – often terrifying – increasingly stay with her. They even seem to come alive, as hallucinations before her from time to time in this shadowy place. Sometimes, when this happens with the ‘doctor’ she thinks she has had visit from him, but the image is insubstantial as mist in the air, and when it is gone it is clear he is not there, and has not been.
She remembers winning her first cooking competition in her small, provincial hometown. She burnt her hand on the stove top just at a pivotal moment, and the pain had been searing. She still had the burn scar to remind her of the moment, all these years later. And in that second she could have faltered, the whole dish could have been destroyed, and she would have lost. And that could not be, so she pushed through the pain, using it, and brought the artistry to a whole new level. Later, at the hospital, they were amazed she could even function. Third degree burns apparently. But they didn’t know her. Not her. And neither did he. She had known how to use pain then, instinctively, and now she needed to use it consciously, to combat its impacts on her subconscious that he was trying to elicit.
She was a winner then, and she must be a winner now.
Sometimes she worries that what she remembers as random hallucinations are really just sessions she has forgotten even occurred. How can she know how often he comes in reality, or with what purpose? But again, these are useless, dangerous thoughts, she tells herself. She has too much time to think here, when she is alone, and she needs to use that time more wisely and not be overwhelmed or just give up. Like the sense of weariness an athlete might feel just before they get their second wind, she must stride through these fears and not give in. She cannot, cannot give in.
Yet the doctor holds the secret. The things he says tell her more and more of what her captor wants. He wants her. He wants he body and her soul, and something more. He speaks of wanting her flavour, her taste and she can understand that. In some essential way that makes sense to her. All her virtues and all her deficits are told to her by him in terms of food. A mind as scrambled eggs, a heart as a fillet steak, her lips as cherries, but overall the recipe is a mess and needs refining, needs fixing. Some of the ingredients don’t fit, are wrong, and need to be replaced. So that the dish is properly designed, so the flavour is right. And that is his work, their work, together. She can see his line of thought, his aim. She understands it as a cook. And in understanding it, there may be a key. Perhaps if she can appear to be what he wants, he will unwittingly provide her with the way out.
But what he wants, if she understands it completely, is so terrible, so complete, that thinking to this point makes the emotion the fear, rush in, and her lucidity is gone. Because what if it’s not enough to be the perfect recipe? What if the ultimate aim is to consume? What would a madman do with that, with her, if he thinks he’s got the ingredients right?
And then she’s castigating herself, telling herself somehow she deserves this. That she has brought such darkness upon herself from her own darkness within. She remembers Christine, her childhood friend. Christine and Francine, the ‘Cineteens’ as they were called, mimicking the similar but subtly different ending of their names. They were the once inseparable duo that were ultimately far too easily separated in the end. And in this lies her guilt, her belief, the darkness from which she has run, run, run all her young life.
But she can’t think of that now. It was another life, another age, another story. It has nothing to do with this, with now. It has no place…. it has no place…. and she cannot think of Christine now…………
(c) Helen M Valentina 2015, All Rights Reserved