Soap and Water - 019
Download an audio version at (www.joshuamalbin.com/soap-and-water).
Something hummed under Veronica, a big-bellied engine, and as she jostled, something wet slid over her. She tried to get up and couldn’t; tried to open her eyes and in the unchanged blackness couldn’t tell if she’d succeeded. She didn’t remember falling asleep. All she did remember was getting the hell away from that Sheriff and then trying to hitchhike out of that bumfuck town once it became obvious the reporter and her useless Nationalist sidekick weren’t coming.
The surface under her was hard against the bony points of her rear, and the curve of her lower back ached. Her mouth hurt, the inside of it raw, and when she parted her lips the air scraped her tonsils. She tried to work up some spit to soothe the chafing roof, but she had none. A noise started in her throat then moved to her nose when the pain closed her mouth—and she heard it, definite proof she wasn’t dreaming, as sure as pinching herself.
So: she was blindfolded and tied, and there was a slimy thing on her that felt like an oiled rubber sheet. Beneath the hum someone said a few words in a droning voice. A foot whispered on the ground nearby. Something cold was on her mouth, ice chips. They wet her for a moment, but disappeared fast as a drop on sand. Her thirst was deep; she needed big gulps of water.
“Could I have water?” she said. Her voice was shockingly loud from the hot, numb place inside her head.
She got more ice instead, and more when she put out her tongue again. The fourth time, fingers brushed her lips and made her feel humiliated and helpless, but still she opened her mouth a fifth time, and a sixth and more, drinking by the teaspoonful.
After some time the ice stopped. She may have fallen asleep again. She thought so mainly because it seemed she woke needing badly to pee.
“I have to go,” she said. This time her voice came out quiet, lost in the engine. She tried to repeat herself louder. “Bathroom.”
Soft voices near her again. No one had yet spoken to her directly. Her restraints were loosened and removed, telling her for the first time where they’d been: shin, thigh, forearm, upper arm. A hand slid under her right shoulder and prompted her to sit up, and she realized as she did that the oily thing enveloped her, sliding against her back and the backs of her thighs as she moved. A pair of hands on her ankles turned her and put her feet on the floor, by which she learned she’d been on a ledge about a yard high. A hand on her elbow helped her stand.
The dark in her eyes seemed to tunnel and she found herself leaning in someone’s arms. A small person, probably a woman, who when the dizziness passed set her on her feet and steered her by the shoulders until her toe, shuffling ahead, bumped into something.
She was turned around. A string was released at her waist and air touched her naked legs. Slowly, more tentative than she remembered ever feeling before, she stretched her bottom down until it touched a toilet seat. She waited for a word or the sound of a closing door to tell her she was alone. It didn’t come. She didn’t know if only the one woman was watching her or a whole group of men, if this slightly quaking toilet was enclosed or out in the open. She realized that although her hands were free she hadn’t tried to release her blindfold, let alone fight, and that it was because she was afraid.
Eventually she let go her bladder.