When she came to, the first thing that she realized was the movement. It was a sick movement; she was going forward quite speedily, and what she saw ahead of her made her quite dizzy. Then she moved her neck but something held her. It was a gag, some strip that rendered her completely mute. Her hands were tied behind her back and her legs were strapped to whatever she was sitting on. The only thing that was free were her eyes, and now she opened them wide.
She was in a car, and the car was speeding along some desolate road that she had never seen before.
She attempted to turn her head just a little, and she saw his profile. Her abductor, the tall guy. He had a remarkable profile. His overlong hair was combed slickly to the back and his face was quite long too and punctuated by an elegant nose. If she weren’t in that position, she would have actually found him to be very handsome. But right now he only looked ugly to her and she looked away.
“Sit still,” he said, “and this will be over soon.”
Unknown fears crept into her mind. All that education, all that church-going, all that precaution—had it all come to this? Was she just going to be a statistic in a daily newspaper? Lost and forgotten until it was too late?
She wriggled and tried to set herself free but her slender arms did not come to her aid much.
“You need not struggle,” he said. His voice was not forceful; it seemed to belong to an old pedagogue preaching to his audience. But though his voice was calm, his actions had been quite different. Actions anyway speak louder than words, don’t they? “Keep calm. We’ll be soon there.”
Who would help her now? She thought of the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent entity that had been with her throughout. Certainly He would not forsake her. She had never missed a Sunday at church, she had never skipped a prayer during rosary, she had followed all the commandments.
But—the thing she was going to go.
Yes, it was probably that.
She was being punished for being on the verge of sin.
The car stopped. The place was as desolate as it could be, not even the customary stray dogs barked there. She had lost all sense of time and place. There was nothing to tell her anything—no road marker, not even the moon to give her a judgment of time. All she knew was that it was quite dark, and that she stood outside a little woodhouse that seemed to have been unoccupied since ages.
“I am going to remove the gag now,” he said with his cold expressionless voice. “It is anyway useless out here. There is no one for miles.”
He proceeded to remove the strip of cloth that was tied around her mouth. She found her breath and gasped. She tried to speak out, but her words died within her throat. And then, when she finally found her voice, she tried to lash out at him with her hands that were still tied behind her back.
“What is this? Who are you?” she yelled.
But he remained placid as ever. He went ahead and removed the cuffs around her hands, and then asked her to move into the house.
For a moment, he left her unattended as he went to close his car. She could have run away, but in which direction? The whole place was a barren space of nothingness. Moreover, she had no strength left in her limbs that she could trust them anymore.
“We will now go inside,” he said calmly.
Though it sounded like a suggestion, it was much more than merely that. He led her, almost forced her, into the cottage. As he opened the door, she saw how rickety it was. Insects dotted the place. But he seemed oblivious to them. He took her in and showed her a chair. She sat on it and it wobbled.
He flicked on a switch. It brought to life a light bulb that cast its feeble light all over the room, making it look scarier than it did before in the darkness.
“You sit here,” he commanded.
“My father has no money,” she said. “We just have a small frozen foods shop.”
“I know,” he said.
“Then why am I here? Do you… do you want to…?”
“You will come to no harm if you do the right thing.”
He came close to her, and now she could see his face clearly. It reminded her of someone she had seen, some distant memory, but she could not place it immediately.
“Who are you?”
“You need to only keep quiet and wait. Do not worry about who I am. Do you need something to eat?”
She realized she was hungry, but she would rather die than eat anything this stranger gave her. The mystery behind the stranger’s identity tormented her all the more.
He got up and went to a pitcher kept on a table. He lifted it by its handle and poured its contents into a glass.
“Drink this,” he said. “You need the energy.”
She looked at the liquid suspiciously. “What is this?”
“It’s just wine,” he said.
She took the glass in her hand and took a very small sip. It was what he had said, and she drank it down.
“Now I am going to leave you here,” he said, “and I am going to lock the cottage. Not that you will be able to run anywhere if you did. Let me tell you there are wolves outside. The moment you step out, you will be torn to shreds.”
As if in response to his statement, a wolf howled in the distance. She could not stand even dogs; the very thought of being faced with a wolf scared her to bits.
He took the rope he had tied her with earlier and again strapped her to the chair.
“Just in case,” he said and smiled at her.
“What do you want to do with me?” she said, her eyes bulging in fear.
“I will be back in the morning,” he said. “You are safe here.”