II – Jon
Sydney, Thursday 04:05
Kneeling down, hands twisted behind my back, I plunge my head into the bucket and swallow a small mouthful of water; this time I don’t choke. So I take another.
The strip of material that they’ve used to blindfold me is wet and feels tighter now; my eyes are sore. And all they see is darkness. It’s driving me mad.
As for the pain… Well, I’ve learned to live with pain.
My shoulders are stiff and aching, my wrists are bleeding from the cable tie that goes around them, and my stomach… I don’t want to think about it. It sure is tighter than ever before.
“You can scream as much as you like. Nobody will hear your last words,” said the guy who pulled the tape off my mouth giving me the first and painful shave of my life.
A short life, that is. Penn was going to have this huge party for my fifteenth birthday. I was supposed to celebrate in style next Thursday.
“I’ll make sure the whole gang comes around. And the Bondi girls will be all over you,” he’d said mockingly.
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “Laugh all you want.” It was the same old joke between us, about the fact that although I’m lean and strong, I’m kind of short and look like a thirteen-year-old. No Bondi girl material yet.
Now it’s more a question of celebrating my funeral. If someone finds my dead body at all.
When they caught me I was shuffling Tarot cards, waiting for the next customer. I was up at the Rocks, in Sydney where I’d spent most of my life. The Rocks is a market area, mostly filled with tourists and pockets full of cash, best place to be around when you’re a street kid like me and you’ve got a reputation for Tarot reading. Tourists seem to trust my cute aboriginal look; they don’t know I’ve got no aboriginal blood at all, but that’s another story.
Anyway, playing with the card patterns kept me busy and I thought I could get rid of the nausea. I was feeling sick for no reason, that’s probably why I didn’t pay attention at three guys eyeing me from a distance. They waited for me to take a leak in the usual grim corner, where nobody ever passes by. Then they taped my mouth, put a canvas bag over my head, tied my hands behind my back and threw me in the boot of a car. My backpack and the few things I owned were left behind over a floor covered with Tarot cards. I lost everything, except a Swiss Army knife that still lies in my jeans pocket. Totally useless.
“Time to get out, darky.” Two pair of hands pulled me out of the boot once we got here, in the middle of nowhere. But when I tried to stand up, I fell on my knees. They took the canvas bag off for a few seconds, just enough time for the sun to blind me. I couldn’t see anything but three shadows and a small hut; a concrete thing, tiny, surrounded by trees and too much light.
Before I could figure out who stood around me, the guy who did all the talking tied a piece of rough material over my eyes ever so tightly, it took my breath away.
“Here we go. See if you can play your tricks now,” he said. “Shall we lock you in there for a while, what do you think? No food, just plain water; good for detoxification they say.”
I couldn’t say a word. It wasn’t just fear. I was feeling so damn sick. Not the kind of sickness you get when your bones turn into jelly, this was different. It was him, the thug who-did-the-talking. I could feel it coming from him, his energy, or whatever it was that I sensed and turned my stomach upside down.
Then the three of them kicked me with their booted feet all the way until I drop into this bunker, with nothing but wriggly worms that I felt coming up my ankles, and dirt. Lots of it. And then they locked the door ignoring my screams. That was when the sickness was replaced by horror that twisted my insides. And breakfast puke covered my face.
This is my second night here. My stomach is so empty that the water sloshes inside it noisily. All I can do is drink and pee. My shoulders are in agony. Two days with your hands tightened behind your back does it. And the cable ties around my wrists are eating my flesh away.
“Hey, let’s go play some hoops with the gang tonight.” Those were Penn’s last words only a few hours before the thugs took me away; he pulled out with his bike and was gone. Now his words ring in my head like a thread of hope, a rope I could catch, hang on to it and be free.
I miss him. I miss the gang. My foster family… They are not so bad, really. I miss them all. I see them in my mind’s eye, floating on black clouds.
I’ve got to react.
I stand up to get the blood flowing in my legs again. If I take one step, I bump into one of the four concrete walls of the bunker. That’s how small it is. I feel the weight of the Swiss Army knife in my pocket, totally out of reach, and the pendant that hangs around my neck. Another bloody mystery.
After he’d knotted the blindfold, the thug who-did-the-talking tied a thin chain around my neck.
“Here we go,” he said. “For your highness, prince of darkness, overlord of half the world, and...” He laughed, pushed me on the floor with his foot on my back, and whispered into my ears, “soon we’ll burn your wing and make you whole again.”
I don’t know what to make of his words, which now sound even weirder.
When the pendant at the end of the chain touched my chest, a shiver ran through my body. Something like electricity, like the feeling I got once after bumpy-jumping, intoxicating and at the same time really scary. As it made contact with my skin, I had a quick flash of what it was: a silver wing, the size of my thumb. Nothing much of a thing.
Whatever they’ve given me that for?
Out of the blue, I start to wobble now. Maybe I’ve been standing still for too long.