|This image is not my own, but fell in love when I saw it.|
You can find this picture here.
A RUSSIAN DOLL IN REVERSE
by Karen Plaisance
He feeds from me. He suckles from a vein in my neck, gulping away like a thirsty redneck sucking down a bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon. We’re sitting in the cold and the dirt and I’m desperately trying to hold onto some semblance of sanity, trying to get my nerve up. I can’t close my eyes. I’m afraid I’ll disappear if I do that. But I can’t look either. I can’t look at the whole picture. There’s something unpleasant in the room with me that has nothing to do with my captor. That has everything to do with my captor. My feverish mind rebels when I try, so I take the scene in one grizzly part at a time as he feeds, starting from small to large. Like one of those dolls, those Russian Matryoshka dolls that you open to find one doll after another inside, each smaller than the next. Only I’m starting from the inside out.
First, there’s the eye. It was sapphire blue when the woman lived and sparkled like a gem even in the dimly lit bar where I served her usual vodka straight. It was her best feature. Her prized attribute. Her treasured gems are cloudy now. Occluded, as the poets in my old textbooks used to say, the ones I used to read before I gave up on the whole college thing. They’re still in my apartment somewhere, gathering dust. I remember thumbing through them the day I decided to quit, wondering if those old poets felt as overwhelmed as I did.
The eyes don’t blink. The nose, the chapped lips, the concave cheeks. Features of a face that once was beautiful, now a tragic waste. None of these twitch, though they should what with the abundance of flies crawling all over them. She isn’t doing much moving anywhere. Except where things are wriggling, but let’s not think too hard about that.
I don’t look at the neck. I just…can’t.
The dress. I look at the dress. A lovely yellow mini dress, sexy and sophisticated like the type you find in one of those Trashy Diva shops. It clung to her body to reveal her shape and movements in a way that caught a man’s glance and kept it there. The woman wasn’t ashamed of her body like most of us were taught to be, and the dress was a lovely reminder of that. Or it used to be. Too much red on the bodice now, like someone spilled their cosmo all over her. Blood stains can be so garish. The thing is covered in dirt, front and back, to the point that there’s barely an unsoiled spot to tell what color it was when it was clean. The woman would hate that.
She couldn’t stand for her things to get dirty or messed up. She grew up poor in one of those countries where you had to work a month of backbreaking labor just to earn what we Americans playing Minesweeper in some cubicle all day make. She said the men smelled of vodka when they beat up their women and took their hard earned pay. When she came to the States, it was more of the same, except the men smelled of beer or whiskey, and there was a lot more money for them to take. The woman laughed at me when I told her I dropped out of university my first year.
“You Americans don’t know what you have,” she said shaking her head and eyeing me like I was one of her lazy, good-for-nothing Johns. “You know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Look that one up in your textbooks.”
Then she said something in her native tongue I didn’t comprehend, but from the condescending look on her face, I could tell it wasn’t complimentary.
Bartending in a tourist town makes you fluent in the language of bitch.
“Maybe so,” said with a hint of a smile, “but at least I’m smart enough not to antagonize the person who spits in my drinks. Oh, wait! Did I say spit? I meant pour.”
I can speak bitch too.
In spite of her contempt, she had no regrets about her lack of education. At least, that’s what she told me when I served her that one shot of Stoli beer chaser every night, her nightly limit when she trolled the bar for a willing John. She said she was just happy to learn a trade that paid something. Not a respectable occupation, but she was good enough to make a decent living, especially once she had gotten out from under her pimp’s thumb. Ran away to New Orleans and set up shop with another “working girl” named Hailey. Safety in numbers, she said. Did real well for herself too. Even so, she was obsessive about keeping her shit in good condition. The woman remembered all too well what it was like to have to patch up the same dress for years before it crumbled to rags.
Seeing her here, lying in the dirt, she wouldn’t like this at all. She’d be turning over in her grave if she could see herself. But she’s not in her grave. He hadn’t even bothered to take the body away after he finished her off, and I certainly wasn’t going to argue with him about it. Not after what he did to her.
Fighting him off had been useless when there were two of us. We tried that the first night, ganging up on him the second he walked through the door. Her plan. Not mine. My plan was to wait things out, find out what we were dealing thing, and maybe cower in a corner while praying for some hero to save us. Not the woman, though. She was a born fighter. Not that it mattered in the end. We barely had the chance to pounce when he pushed me to the ground and swatted her against one of the concrete walls as if we were nothing. Guess that’s why he hadn’t bothered to tie us up.
I let my eyes wander some more as he feeds. I’m getting light headed from the loss of blood. Stupid to waste time. Getting up my nerve. Getting up my nerve like the old college days the night before a big exam. I try to clear my mind of all distractions, but I keep spiraling into the same thought process. The eye. The face. The body. The room. My inevitable end if this all goes wrong.
Small picture. Big picture.
The room has a dirt floor. The dirt around her body is covered in rat droppings, leaves and twigs, and human feces. There wasn’t a toilet or a bucket when he threw us in here, so we were stuck shitting in the corner. It was already hard enough for the woman to move after that first night. He must have broke a few of her ribs. Maybe her spine. Then she got sick. Real sick. Coughing and wheezing and moaning in Russian or whatever it was she spoke. I hadn’t bothered to ask when she was well enough to answer. I didn’t have to touch her forehead to feel the heat of fever radiating from her skin.
When he took us, she didn’t have her coat, had left it on the stool at the bar. That’s how he got me. Because I went outside to the parking lot to return it. Must have dropped it when he snatched me. No good deed goes unpunished. Guess it’s still there with Hailey, her partner. But probably not. Someone would have found it and Hailey by now.
Eventually, The woman ended up shitting and pissing all over herself. I did my best to clean her up, but there weren’t a lot of options. The last time he was here to feed from the both of us and to bring us a little food, he took one look at her and the shit and the piss, saw that she was really bad off, and ripped her throat out with his teeth, nearly decapitated her. Then he started feeding from me alone.
That was a few days ago, and now I’m coughing and wheezing too. Well, I am when he’s not here. It’s getting harder to fake though, and he must feel the heat of my fever. He must know he’s getting close to draining me dry too.
The room, which is spinning around me, is about ten by fifteen feet. Slightly bigger than most prison cells, if some of the woman’s descriptions can be believed. The walls are made of gray concrete blocks, most of them stained with...I don’t want to know. No windows. The only way in or out is through a metal door. The thing is locked tight, chained from the outside, so there’s no use picking the lock even if I had the skills or the proper tools to do it. There’s nothing in here. Nothing but dirt and shit and a dead body that used to be a pretty Russian girl.
And twigs. Because this place is somewhere out in the middle of the woods. Every time he opens the door, the wind blows all this natural flotsam and jetsam into our cell. Most of the twigs are these thin useless things that would snap just by looking at them too hard. I didn’t pay much attention to them before, too caught up in my own spiralling thoughts. But the last time he came to feed from me, I noticed an honest to God branch. Not a big one. Nothing I could use as a club or anything, but it was adequately thick enough to sharpen against the gritty concrete. Like making a shiv. The woman would appreciate the ingenuity behind that.
When I found it, I thought of all those movies I’d seen. I thought of all those books I’d read. He’s unnaturally strong. He only visits at night. If he is what I think he is…would it work? Would it work if he’s not? Probably. Most people die if you stab them in the heart. If it doesn’t, I’m as good as dead, but does that matter at this point? I stare at the Russian Matryoshka on the ground in front of me, head dangling from her body by a twisted rope of muscle and tendons. Broken. I wonder if I look inside, would there be a smaller version of her somewhere. Is her soul there? Is she in a better place? There’s no power on Earth that can put that doll back together again, and if I don’t do something soon, that doll is going to be me.
I’m not going out like that. Not without a fight.
I finally look at him, this monster with a beautiful man’s face. Finished with his meal, my captor licks my neck clean. He smiles down on me with those sharp fangs of his in a twisted smirk. My fist tightens against the branch, hidden just out of his line of sight. He tells me I was delicious. He’s in the process of turning away, about to stand up to leave. He isn’t looking at me. He isn’t worried. Why would he be?
I’ve found my nerve. I pull back my hand and aim for his heart…