The Director – Lily White

The word STUPID should be tattooed across my forehead. SUCKER, maybe. Or EASY. I’d considered the word IGNORANT, but, to fit, the letters would be too small and unreadable from a mile away. They needed to be visible so that those who watched from the shadows, the unsavory characters who haunt the alleyways and crevices of the city, can easily spot their targets. Out on the town, I’d been on a third date with a man who was interesting, but not compelling. Rich, classless, a fraternity brother who hadn’t left his college days behind, he’d been arrogant and slow-witted. Even still, I agreed to that third date, and within a few hours, after we’d enjoyed dinner and he’d become handsy with the misguided belief that I owed him anything, I’d climbed out of his car at a red light on the corner of Fourth and Knox. It wasn’t the best part of town, but I was angry. I was young enough to believe I had nothing to worry about. Finding a cab wouldn’t be hard, and showing that jackass in his cherry red Mercedes that I wasn’t a dumb girl who would spread her legs for a steak dinner was more important to me than safety. He’d sped off, the wheels of his vehicle spinning over the concrete leaving rubber marks at the light where I’d denied him. His name isn’t important, nor are the details of his appearance. Because he wasn’t the predator I needed to avoid on a clear, fall night with the promise of cold, crisp weather wafting beneath my nose. I made it three blocks before they found me.

Following me for two more, they must have laughed to realize I was walking deeper into a deserted area, far from the high rise condos and squished brownstones, far from where anybody could hear me. It would feel better to say I put up a fight, that I caused some level of damage when I was jerked out of my heels and pulled into a dark pathway. But I didn’t. I froze. Like an animal stunned, like a child experiencing fear for the first time. I froze. And I was the simplest of victims because of it. Bound, blindfolded and bounced around in the back of a van of which I neither saw the make, color or model, my shoulder hit the knee of the man holding me in place, the one who breathed heavily, anticipation a current across his skin. With deep voices, two men argued, one who was driving, the other at my side. They spoke in a language I couldn’t understand, their tones angry and urgent.

Clipped words volleyed between the two, I was lost to the foreign meaning, rendered as dumb and as blind as any person would be in my situation. But one thing was clear, I was being taken somewhere nefarious, the reason for which, I wasn’t sure. I hadn’t noticed if there were windows in the van that allowed light to beam in. It was impossible to see beyond the strip of black cloth tied over my eyes, but I still tracked the turns being made, the smooth streets below the tires becoming rough dirt bouncing me harder. If I had to guess, I would say I was being driven out to the docks, carried far from the city with sleek glass and steel buildings that glittered in the sun. Just as soon as the van dipped, its tire hitting a pothole in the uneven dirt road, a hand slid up the back of my thigh, dragging my skirt with it. His palms were callused and rough, his voice jarring as he continued to argue with his friend. A finger creeping between my legs, he continued to shout as he ripped apart the delicate silk of my panties. It didn’t matter that I was bound, blindfolded or gagged, I tried to fight. But poor odds being what they were, I lost.

Pulled up so that my wrists were bound together beneath my chest, my forehead was pressed tight against the gritty carpet, my hips hauled up higher than my shoulders. I screamed into the gag, attempted to kick out with my bound feet, but it did nothing to stop what was happening. The men yelled louder, the driver issuing what sounded like a warning. The man behind me must not have listened. I screamed again when he shoved his erection inside me. Dry and unprepared, the sensitive skin burned as if tearing apart. My knees scraped over the carpet, my forehead as well. Each thrust hurt me in several places, most notably my heart. Bile shot up my throat, but I forced it back down. If I vomited, it would only be trapped by the gag.

I would have suffocated on my own sickness if I hadn’t swallowed it down – It wasn’t the best method of death. Taking as deep a breath as I could through nostrils stuffy from crying, I clenched my eyes against the assault, waited patiently for him to finish off and for it to end. The slap of flesh against flesh was a sickening beat. The men had stopped arguing. The van continued moving, bumping along the dirt path while my soul was shredded to mere ribbons. In the distance, I heard a ship’s horn, the loading docks finally drawing close. The man finished, a sticky substance running down the back of my legs. My stomach rolled and heaved, but I forced my breathing to be steady. It wasn’t easy. I barely managed.

The doors opened and I was dragged across the carpet, baggage treated poorly, a means to an end. Pain exploded across my body when I was tossed inside another place I couldn’t see. The sound of large metal doors slamming shut was followed by the scrape of a lock being shoved into place. Another blare of the ship’s horn clued me in. Assuming I was stuck within a large container, I lay there silently while whispers erupted around me. Is she okay? Should we help her? Oh, God, where are they taking us? It’s so dark. I can’t see. All female. All frightened within an inch of their lives. All crying as they kept their distance from me.

I didn’t blame them. They were as helpless as me. I’ll save the details of the journey across an ocean. I couldn’t tell you how long it took or what direction we traveled even if I wanted to. All I knew was that when we reached our destination I was dragged out again, shoved in another vehicle and driven over another bumpy road. Several of the women in the container were driven with me, their whimpers filling the space of the van. Arriving at some destination that was far off from home, I was dragged out again, the bindings at my feet were removed, but not those cutting off the circulation to my hands. Shoved forward, I walked blindly over gravel, the small stones digging sharply into my bare feet. A door opened, its hinges screaming, and for the first time, I felt cool air against my cheeks. Air conditioning, I assumed.

The blindfold was ripped off once the doors slammed shut, the gag removed, the bindings at my hands cut, and I blinked my eyes open to find myself tucked in a single file line behind three other women. Beyond the tops of their heads spread a large empty room. The walls were a dishwater white, scuffs and marks littering the surface, what looked like blood pooling in one corner. Darting my eyes away from that horrifying bit of truth, I searched the bare cement floors beneath my feet for any other indication of where I’d been taken. More scuffs. More gouges. Nothing significant could be seen. Four men stood behind us, gruff, large and dressed in black fatigues with automatic rifles tucked securely in their hands. There will be no escape, they didn’t need to say, the expressions on their faces said it all. I wasn’t sure if my heart was still beating, or if the racing speed had destroyed it completely.

My throat felt swollen and raw, part lack of water during the journey, part crippling fear. My legs barely held me on my feet, the shaking so violent that I knew it was only a matter of time before I fell. Turning my gaze back to the women in front of me, I could see nothing but their backs. Each was dressed differently, two with bruises, one with undamaged skin. I wondered if she’d given up quickly and decided not to fight. Their hair was as dirty and tangled as mine, two blond, one a dark, velvet black. Quietly, they faced forward, their arms tucked over their chests, their feeble whimpers just barely heard. Beyond them were three doors spaced evenly in the wall. Each the same. Each painted a weathered, disgusting brown.

Each closed as we awaited our fate. It was a battle just to take a breath, the air quality low with a pungent scent of mold and decay, bodily excrement and the metallic note of blood. A shiver coursed through me, revulsion a tremor over my bones. “Step forward,” a man called out from a shadowed corner I couldn’t see. Gruff and booming, his voice offered no choice to resist. “Form a line from left to right. Remove your clothes and stand with feet slightly apart, arms at your sides.” A steady drum, my pulse pounded in my throat. The woman second from the front collapsed to the ground crying, her face a wash of red, light hair plastered to the skin by her tears. A booted march rounded me, the barrel of a gun pointed down at the woman’s head.

The center door of the three opened, a finely dressed man walked through. From a distance it was difficult to determine the color of his eyes, but it was clear they were the only light part of him. With jet black hair, tan skin and a blank expression that was somehow scarier than the guns at my back, he darted a glance over the three standing women before his narrowed eyes turned down to view the one on the floor. “I’m running out of patience,” he said in a deep baritone that shook the air in the room. “You may want to get up before I determine you’re expendable.” She cried harder, the tip of the gun’s barrel pressed to her head. I wasn’t sure if the lady behind her was a friend, or possibly family, but she pled with the woman to stand. “Quiet,” the man demanded, his tone sharp and lacking patience. Swallowing down the terror coursing through me, I fought to will myself still, fought not to watch what could possibly happen. Tracking his gaze wasn’t hard, he glared down at the woman.

As soon as his eyes lifted to the brute holding the gun, a blast filled the air, blood splattering against the legs of the woman’s screaming friend. “Have I made it clear what will happen if you do not do as you’re told?” He raised his voice to be heard over the woman still screaming, his eyes slowly tracking left toward the gunman. The barrel was pressed to the screaming woman’s head. Her cries cut off so suddenly, it must have been painful, her body quivering visibly as a choked sound crawled up her throat. I had to remain still. Couldn’t pass out, couldn’t make a sound, couldn’t draw his attention my direction. Bored, the man stood in place, his hands clasped behind his back, his feet planted slightly apart. He was astute with broad shoulders and perfect posture, handsome, if not for the aloof attitude given to the women whose lives were on the line. “Form a line,” he instructed, “as you’ve already been told.” His eyes shot to the woman standing in front of me.

“Be careful not to trip over your friend’s body.” The corner of his lip twitched with cruel satisfaction. More whimpers and soft cries as the two women in front of me moved forward. Like them, I had to fight to control my muscles, to will myself closer to the man. “Clothes off. I shouldn’t have to be repeating this.” Warning delivered and understood, we moved to strip the clothes from our bodies. I nearly lost balance three times, the horror of the situation stealing my ability to manage the simple task of undressing with grace or fluidity. How many times had I done this before? Requiring no thought, it was an act of habit, of routine. And yet, now, surrounded by strangers, and a dead body on the ground at my back, I could barely manage to unhook buttons.

Footsteps approached me, slow, measured. Staring down at the buttons, my fingers kept fumbling, I’d only had time to catch a glimpse of his shoes before he gripped my chin and wrenched my neck pulling my gaze to his. Lips tugging into a snide grin, he studied my face for only a few seconds. “Is there a problem with your clothing? The other women have already managed to remove theirs.” His head canted to the side just slightly. Tears were a steady stream down my cheeks. I hated shedding them, but the fear was too heavy, too oppressive, to contain. “N-no,” I sputtered, unable to speak with a steady voice. “I-I’m just struggling-” Unable to finish the response, I fought harder to open them. Still, my fingers fumbled, my hands so shaky that my fine motor skills were lost.

He curled his hand over the open neckline of my shirt. “Allow me to help.” A hard tug down jerked my shoulders forward, the sides of the shirt ripping apart as buttons shot out to land on the floor. Plastic against cement, they settled quickly, rendering the room silent. My eyes dragged up to dare look at his. There was no warmth behind the grey, no emotion, thought, concern or enjoyment. Just impatience and the glaring threat of violence. “Finish the rest. I expect you’ll be fully undressed by the time I walk back to where I was standing previously.” He moved away, and I hurried to pull the skirt down over my hips, dragging the tattered remains of my panties along with it.

They puddled over my feet on the floor and I kicked them away just as I finished pulling off the shirt and my bra. So filled by terror, there wasn’t room for shame or modesty while baring every part of myself to strangers. By the time he spun back to look at us, I was nude to his eyes. He didn’t bother glancing in my direction, his demeanor so arrogant and sure that he had no doubt I’d fought to fulfill his expectations. Allowing only a few moments of silence, he spoke and capsized the room beneath the deep tenor of his sturdy voice. “The three of you who are remaining may or may not be given a choice today. After careful inspection, I’ll request you all to step right or left to stand in front of the door on that side. It’s my suggestion you do so without complaint, tears or any other such behavior.” He paused, allowing his words to sink in before adding, “I believe I’ve adequately demonstrated what occurs to those who fail to follows directions as given.” It made me wonder why I was still standing rather than lying on the floor bleeding out from the head.

I hadn’t undressed as quickly as the others, but, yet, he’d let the failure slide. Stepping up to the first woman to the farthest left, he reached forward, snatching her chin between his forefinger and thumb. As calculated as a man making a fine jewelry purchase, or a scientist inspecting whatever experiment he had running, he turned the woman’s face from right to left. “Open your mouth,” he demanded. She did so, and after he finished inspecting her teeth, he released her face to say, “Turn around.” His eyes roamed from her shoulders to her feet, his expression unimpressed. “Bend over.” She hesitated, but as soon as the shuffle of boots headed her way, the rattle of a gun being carried, she complied. The man peered down, scrutinizing the most intimate parts of her. “Stand and face me,” he said, moving back one measured step.

Eye pinned to her, he asked, “Do you have any diseases I should know about? Health issues or concerns?” “I,” she choked over the word, the crack in her voice betraying vocal chords gripped by trepidation. “I have asthma,” she managed to explain, regardless of how soft her voice had been to say it. One corner of his mouth tilted down, mild disappointment a note in his tone, “That won’t do,” he murmured. “Not for the long run anyway. Step to the left, stand in front of the door.” Repeating the same inspection with the next woman, he directed her to the door on the right. Finally, it was my turn. My breath caught in my lungs as he stepped toward me, a chill coursing just beneath my skin until I was trembling so hard my teeth clacked together. Pain shot along my jaw and I closed my eyes out of instinct more than logical reason. “Open your eyes.

You can’t hide from me.” Small muscle convulsions erupted over my bones, the terror now so thorough that if this man didn’t kill me, the fear would. I could feel my heart stuttering to maintain a rhythm within its rapid pulse. My lungs burned for air but wouldn’t inhale. My knees knocked together, the skin most likely bruised from having been slammed together. I opened my eyes to be pierced by scrutinous silver-grey. His voice was a touch softer, as if his words were only intended for him and me. “You should know that I will see everything there is to see about you. Your body. Your mind.

Your soul. Not one thing is hidden from my view, not one facet able to be covered or disguised. I know people better than they know themselves and I’ve run across hundreds of girls like you.” Pausing, he allowed his gaze to roll down my body and back up. “Close your eyes again and I’ll consider that an act of rebellion. You won’t enjoy crossing that line.” My lips parted, my chest heaving with breath while I struggled to pull in oxygen. The room spun around me, tilted and swayed before coming back to a standstill. He watched me without a hint of regret for what he was doing, without even a trace of humanity or compassion. “Thank me for the warning,” he said.

Eyes wide, I stared at him in disbelief, seconds ticking silently by before I processed what he’d asked of me. “T-thank you,” I stuttered, my teeth clamping back together just as soon as the words left my mouth. With the slightest tug of his lips, he answered, “You’re welcome. Now, open your mouth.” Doing as I was told, I ignored the sharp pain of extending my jaw. It wanted to stay in place, the muscles locked from having ground my teeth together. My eyes closed again, but I forced them open, not wanting to take the chance of appearing rebellious. He tapped my chin when he was done. Our eyes met again. “Turn around.

” I did. “Bend over.” I did. “What do we have here? Carlos,” he called out, anger a rolling thunder through his tone. The sound of approaching footsteps answered him. “Who brought in this girl?” The gritty voice from earlier spoke next. “Fadan and some kid named Scruff. Fadan said the kid is new.” “Do you see this?” The focused gaze of two sets of eyes were burning into my skin, into the private parts of my body I’d fought my entire life to keep covered. Even on the two occasions I had sex, I did so in the dark.

It felt awkward when I was naked – exposed. How I was able to stand this treatment now, I wasn’t sure. Perhaps it was because the fear was so pervasive that there was no room for anything else. “She’s been used,” the astute man said, his voice like smooth silk in comparison to the other. “I’m very clear on what I want. This won’t do.” The semen left by the asshole in the van. When I allowed myself to think clearly, I realized that was what he’d found. A minute or so ago, I would have denied that the panic inside could be worse. But hearing what he said, how easily I could be dismissed for the way another man had already raped me, it drove another spike of panic through my body, my blood pressure becoming so high that I could feel it pressing at my veins and arteries begging to be released.

“We can kill her now or direct her to the left door-” “No. Not yet. But ensure Fadan knows that Scruff is no longer welcome as member on the procurement teams. I want him dead before morning.” “Yes, sir.” Rough like the callused hands of a blue collar man, his voice was unaffected by the demand for blood. His footsteps trailed off until I could no longer hear them. “Stand up, straight,” the silken voice instructed. His eyes met mine. “Do you have any diseases I should know about? Illnesses or health conditions?” I shook my head no.

He nodded. “Move to stand behind the right door.” Unsure where either door led, I felt oddly grateful for the right. The man walked through the center door without another word, his broad shoulders and dark grey suit disappearing from view as the wood swung closed. “Time to move. Everybody through their doors.” He said it like we hadn’t become the doors the moment we’d been directed to them. As if our identities weren’t just relegated to the right or the left. The rattle of guns sounded behind me, the cold metal pressing against my naked back. “Get going,” he warned.

My attention snapped back to the threat, to the urgency and desolation of my situation, and I saw that the woman in front of me had already walked through. To my left, the single woman designated for the other door hesitated as well, her expression bleak, her hair matted at the back of her head, her shoulders withered with surrender as a gunman walked up behind her and shoved her through. As I stepped through my own door – my new identity – I wondered if I would see that woman again. I didn’t have to wonder long.

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