Rapeseed


“Are you bleeding?”

She knew the voice was Josie's, even though it sounded very distorted. The room also seemed to shift in and out of blurry as she finally awoke to her friend's frightened tone.

“Grace, you okay? Are you bleeding?”

“I don't know, can't really feel much. I don't think it's too bad.”

Josie looked about the room constantly, from Grace to Carmen to the stairwell that ascended into darkness. She stretched as far as her chains would allow, which was nearly nothing.

Grace wiped away the blood that dripped from her head to her eyes. Moving her arms the slightest inch sent a sting through her from the pinching and sharp edges of her shackles. After removing the build-up, her vision remained foggy. That damned drug was still in her veins. She looked over at Josie and saw that her friend's wounds were similar to her own; only minor cuts and bruises, but many of them.

Carmen was in far worse shape. She was still unconscious as she dangled from her chains, blood soaking her blouse. Grace felt a chill as she examined the dooming situation. With that seed oil in her brain, it was difficult to remember the manner in which they came to be chained to their own separate walls in that basement. Thinking was so painful.

“Do you remember anything?” Josie asked in near-whisper.

Grace nodded no, still looking about the room.

“Me neither, God I'm so scared. What the hell happened to us.”
“I'm trying to think.” As Grace was straining to recollect the evening, she noticed the elegant structure of the basement. There were ornate wood carvings along the walls, a tiled ceiling, and a varnished hardwood floor. Unusual for this kind of room. One doesn't normally care about the beauty of a room meant to store mops and cleaning products. Unless, of course, it was meant to store other things as well. “Rich room,” she said to herself.

“He is rich!” Josie said as it came to her.

“He?”

“The guy in the limo, I'm remembering now. Oh God, I hope Carmen is still alive.”

Grace blew her red hair out of her face to take another look at her dozing friend. “Yeah, she's alive. I can see her breathing. But look at her shirt. It's entirely red, there's a puddle forming around her feet...”

“Oh Jesus!” Josie silently screamed, shutting her eyes tight as if that would either heal her mutilated girlfriend or make her go away. She kept glancing at the stairwell out of the corner of her eye. It was the only way in or out of the basement, and she and Grace both knew that whoever they were trying to remember would be walking down those steps at any moment.

There were images speeding through Grace's head, overlapping in confusion. The rave party in the warehouse. Their boyfriends getting into a fight with the disc jockey about something petty and forgotten. Then the police raiding the warehouse and arresting everyone in sight. Josie and Carmen calling out to her in the midst of the chaos, that there was a hole in the corrugated metal of a wall that led out to an alley.

Perhaps it was the drug, perhaps it was pure shock, but Grace was surprised at how calm she was conducting herself in their plight. She saw Josie falling apart and wanted only to console her, to keep her mind from running away. “You said something about a limo.”

“Yeah, the limo, you don't remember?” Grace could not picture what Josie was reminding her. “When the rave was busted, we broke out through that hole in the wall. Then we were in the alley.”

“I remember up to then.” Grace could still feel the cold panic that swept over her when they burst out of the loud crowded warehouse and into the dark, quiet alley.

“We heard a car coming and thought it was the cops, so we ran down the alley, and there was a dead end. But it wasn't the cops, it was...”

“The limousine, yeah, that's right... hey, I think I can slip out of these chains!” Grace slipped her left hand out its shackle, freeing one of her arms. Quickly, she tried her other hand to no avail. Seeing a collection of brooms and garden tools in a dark corner by the stairwell, she stretched her body out as far as she could for a tool. It was hopeless.

“Wait, I'm closer,” Josie said. “I think I can kick something with my feet...”

The girls fell silent as the unseen door at the top of the stairs creaked open, spilling light along the steps in a jagged line. Before Grace could form a thought about what to do, she saw Josie playing possum, fast asleep. Without thinking, Grace followed her example, shoving her free hand back into its shackle.

A weathered old man wearing a night robe entered the basement, smiling at his three sleeping prizes. In his hand was a small white box. “What a mess you are, young lady,” he said to Carmen, still unconscious. He approached her and began to remove her blouse.

Grace could only hear the hideous things he must have been doing to her friend. She could hear her clothes being removed, sometimes being ripped off. Even though Grace was terrified to open her eyes for fear of being next, she creaked open one of them, only to be amazed at what she saw.

The old man was tending to Carmen's wounds with a first aid kit, carefully dressing what looked like irreparable damage. “I will not forgive myself for letting this happen,” he said to her as if she was awake. “The body and mind are two halves, they both must be in polished health.”

The old man's words struck something in Grace's memory, suddenly purging the cloaking drug from her entirely. Whereas she could barely picture the limousine before, she could remember it all in detail now.

*****

“I'm sorry about the rough treatment,” the old man said earlier in the limo as they sped through the city. He was enshrouded in darkness, as if he were a living shadow.

The girls were all weak, unable to move as they lay in a pile in front of him on the grand vehicle's floor. The struggle, as well as the drug that was injected into them promptly thereafter, made the old man seem different then. His voice was more distorted and deep, like a warped record being played too slow.

Passed out and bloody from her attacker's wrath, Carmen would not have the opportunity to remember this. She simply created more of a fight than her two companions.

“Your friend forced me to take more violent actions in getting her to enter the car. She's quite fierce when she allows herself to be.” From their viewpoint, the girls were listening to a shadow speak, its expressions shown only through glowing white eyes, staring directly at them. “But please, don't be alarmed. I'll tend to her wounds.”

“Where... we going,” the words stumbled from Grace's lips. “What have you done...”

“Let us out of here... you freak,” Josie said in a blank tone, dazed and fixed on her captor.

“We're almost there, be patient,” he said. “The trip will seem all the more brief for you. The rapeseed will be taking you into dream very shortly.”

“What is this,” Grace murmured, frantically feeling the spot on her arm where a syringe fed her the drug. She only had to hear the utterance of the word “rape” to find herself encompassed by total fear.

“It's an Asian drug,” her captor said, “made from the oil extract of the rapeseed. I assure you, it has nothing to do with the act of rape, though I suppose it could be used to assist such a vile act. It's quite a morbid name for such an efficient, harmless sedative. It'll relieve you for an hour or so. In no way do I want any harm to come to you young ladies yet.”

The girls could only think of what “yet” meant, and their host could see their question clearly. He seemed to have some bizarre sympathy for his victims, despite being the giver of their pain.

“No matter how many times I've taken prey, I always feel for them. It's very hypocritical, considering how often I feed. Unfortunately, I can't blindly buy my meat from the market like most hypocrites who feel emotion for food animals. I have to hunt them personally. It makes me think of how many people would continue to eat meat if they were forced to hunt and kill their dinners, as in the old ways. I wager there would be many more vegans in the world.” He smiled upon that.

Grace knew exactly what this man was saying, and began to cry as an insane fear overcame her. Josie merely slipped into a dream.

“Don't give me tears,” he said with pity. “I don't want this any more than you do. Believe me, I don't take prey nearly as much as I should. I only hunt once a month because it pains me so.”

“Then... let us go,” she said on the edge of succumbing to the seed oil.

“I almost wish you would kill me,” he continued. “It would save yourself and end my tormenting existence. Killing me is quite possible, despite what storybooks tell you. However, I have grown an expertise at catching humans, especially young females. A blessing. A curse. It's all the same, really.”

He’s a vampire, Grace thought in despair. He’s a psycho that’s obsessed with vampires. He’s read too much Anne Rice, got too caught up in that exotic, bloody world.

The old man seemed to hear her mind through her grimace. “No. What I am has no label, but if you need one, I am called Dridyn. Like the mythical vampire, I need blood to nourish me. But unlike my fictional counterpart, I feast on the entire being of my prey, including its emotion.”

Emotion, Grace repeated in her head. She would not keep her eyes open much longer.

“I literally devour the whole of my prey. It adds to my existence to absorb another's existence, enriching me, adding to me in ways I cannot sufficiently explain. It's a vicious, never-ending cycle. The world continues to over-populate with weak, unsuspecting prey for me, while I grow with every person I take. The universe does not revolve equally around all its underlings, I'm sad to say, even though I am at the advantage.

“But as tempted as I often become, I never let a prey go once I take it. It would be cruel on my part not to take the responsibility of a kill. A hunter should eat the deer he fells so that its life was not taken without purpose. As tempted as I may become, Dridyn never lets prey go. Instead, the prey become part of me, and in a sense, live on.

“Part of the role of the rapeseed is to help ease any guilt I may feel. As frightened as you may be, the seed oil is actually ‘numbing’ your fear a great deal. It makes me feel better about taking you. Makes me feel like a considerate killer. Plus, fear tends to poison the meat more than the oil ever could.”

His words provided no solace for the girls. Though they could feel the oil doing its job as Dridyn said, they were still filled with terror.

In their pile, Grace could feel streams of blood trickling onto her from Carmen's frail body above, barely alive. She worried about her friend, knowing well that they were all in for the same fate. Her captor once again read her face.

“As I said, I will tend to her before I begin the evening. I need my prey to be a whole. The body and mind are two halves, they both must be in polished health.”

The last thing Grace saw before she drifted into blackness were her captor's sad eyes, looking down at her in a foreshadowing mourning.

*****

Watching him bandage Carmen in the basement made everything clear, though he seemed so different in the light of the underground room. As he described, he did need them “whole” before doing whatever it was he intended to do. This would buy them some small amount of worthless time, she thought, fearing he could truly read her mind.

“All finished with you,” he said to Carmen's sleeping face. He shut his first aid box and headed up the stairs. “When I return, I'll prepare you all for the beginning of the evening.” A moment later, the upstairs door was closed again, and the stairwell was back in its darkness.

“I remember now!” Josie quickly said, trying desperately to free herself without making noise.

“I remember everything, too, Josie. Forget the chains, kick me that broom, and hurry.”

Josie stretched her ballet legs painfully, barely reaching a broom in the corner, knocking it to the ground from where it was leaning against the papered wall. With a firm grip of her shoe, she slid it across the hardwood floor to her friend, who snatched it with her once-again free hand.

Using her hand and one of her feet, Grace strained to snap the end of the old broom handle off. The brittle handle broke in a splintered shatter of wood, creating a short, sharp weapon. A wooden stake fit for any vampire creature. Remembering what he had said in the limo, she hoped his confidence was accurate, and that some myths had truth to them.

Hiding the broken end of the handle behind her, she tossed the rest of the broom back to the far corner. Her heart was near explosion as she thought of what she had to do when the old man eventually came for her. How she hoped she was first on his list. Her stake would be worthless to her friends if he decided to take one of them first. She could only reach so far.

In a stream of light from the stairwell, the old man returned to the basement. This time, he was greeted by a very wide awake Grace. She almost seemed eager.

“I see that you've decided to open your eyes this time,” he said to her with a smile. Grace was taken unaware by the fact that he knew she was awake before. “Don't be shocked, young lady. The seed oil only lasts for about an hour, I knew you were conscious. I just had no need to address you then.”

Just a little closer, Grace thought, the stake tucked into her pants behind her. Though her arms were both in shackles again, she was prepared to free her left hand with light speed.

Instead of approaching her, however, he walked to Carmen, examining her bandages. “Good, good, you're doing fine. You'll need to more time to rest, so you'll be last.” He rubbed her hair in his palm. “Mexican with a hint of Portuguese, I'd guess.” He walked across the room to Josie, who had also given up playing possum. “Irish, I'd say. Quite a flavor to you, so I've been led to believe.” Finally, after looking Josie up and down for a minute, he walked to the awaiting Grace.

“What are you going to do now?” she asked him, hoping he would just inch closer to her.

“You are truly pitiable, I sincerely mean that. I'm tempted to let you go off to your fathers, they're probably sweating nightmares now.”

“Why don't you?” Grace persisted. “Why don't you just let us go?”

“Like I said, I'm tempted.” The old man paused in thought for a moment before removing a small black box from his robe pocket, coming closer to Grace.

Using what she learned in gymnastics as a child, Grace swung her legs up and wrapped them around her captor. She clutched him helpless just long enough to remove her left hand from its shackle and unsheathe her makeshift weapon, thrusting it into the elderly man's chest in a bloody pulp. Amazingly, she thought of how easy it was to kill. She experienced no remorse, and his skin was almost like wet paper as she stabbed him.

He stumbled to the floor in agony, dropping the black box. As the box broke open, three metal keys popped out and sprawled onto the cold floor. The old man could only watch them fall as he felt his life running from him.

Grace immediately knew what those keys were for, and grew withdrawn in a kind of stupefying awe. She stuttered as she spoke. “You were going to... oh no, no...”

“For the first time, I believe I was going to give in to temptation.” The old man was amazed by how fast he was fading. “After years of preparing innocent ladies for the evening, my guilt finally caught up with me.”

Josie tried to reach the old man and the keys across the floor, but didn't come anywhere near them. Grace knew she would have no better luck. “But you said Dridyn never lets prey go!” Grace yelled in disbelief, trying to justify her killing him. “Dridyn never lets prey go, no matter how tempted!”

The old man looked up at the young girl with his sad eyes before falling to his wound. Sorrowed by the girls' fate, he strained to speak. “No... I am... I am not...” Eyes still open, the old man suddenly lay still and silent on the cold floor.

In an instant, it was all clear. Grace couldn't believe what she was realizing. She desperately tugged at her chain for slack, trying to retrieve the stake from the old man's chest. It was a pointless effort. Josie still didn't understand what was happening, but she would know soon enough.

The stairwell grew dark again, and in its doorway stood a shadowy figure with glowing white eyes. It paused as it saw its long-time servant lying dead on the floor, and made a deep strange sound that could be described as mourning. This grief would only serve to erase any lingering remorse and fuel its ferocity.

The living shadow of a creature descended the stairs and tended to his guests, beginning the long evening.

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