My name is Chloe. Just Chloe. I used to have a last name, but since the Collapse, it doesn’t mean shit. The whole world fell apart and it took my world with it. When the global economy collapsed due to massive debt, the riots began, and anarchy rushed in like water through a broken dam. I lost friends, family, everything when the world fell apart into riots and crime. And it all happened virtually overnight, especially in the big cities like Los Angeles.
I can say from experience that trying to survive in an active war zone is damn-near impossible. In this conflict, there are no good guys, just the lesser of two evils. Gangs fight each other for control of land and resources, taking what they can with fist and gun. It’s times like these when being a woman; especially a healthy, fairly good looking one like me, becomes a curse. The world is ruled by the strong once more, and the strong take what they want.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the skills required to survive in the nightmare that L.A. became. Hell, I didn’t even listen when the government said you should have at least two weeks of food and water stocked. Inside of a week or so, practically starving and searching for food, I’d been taken by a small gang of men and turned into their plaything. Rape became my daily torment, and I lost track of time as each hellish day blended into the next.
I’m sure there were many who would have thought that being an adult entertainment actress would mean that we could not be affected by rape. Let me tell you something… that isn’t even remotely fucking true! In the industry, there are rules, and we never do something we don’t want to. No woman in her right mind wants to be raped, regardless of who she was or what she did in the world before. Such an act destroys a part of her, makes her feel less than human. Thank God for my birth control implant, so at least thus far I’d not had to bring a child into such a fucked-up world.
My new ‘home’ is now a room in what was once a Comfort Inn motel, I think. The few times I’ve seen the outside of the building, it reminds me of that kind of hotel—a brick, two-story structure with metal railings and chipped, fading paint. The pool in the courtyard acts as the only source of water, collecting rainfall.
Most weeks, there is not enough water to bathe properly, let alone drink. I’m always thirsty and most days hungry as well. I’m pretty sure that I’ve lost at least ten pounds since the Collapse, maybe more. This has not dulled my looks in my captor’s eyes. They like me thin and weak.
These days I’m chained to a bed in one of the better rooms that the wreck possesses. The leader of the gang called The Crazy Eight is a bastard that I call Knick. This man is the worst of the lot in many ways, ruthless and vile. Lucky me, I’m his favorite.
I’ve almost gotten away from these assholes twice, and that’s why I’m chained up. Now, I’m even left naked, just to help quash any thoughts of escape. I’ve had to adopt acting like I’m cowed while I look for any opportunity. Although as Knick walks in with a smug grin, I realize that today does not appear to be the day, damn it.
The sound of multiple gunshots reaches my ears, although they’re far away. No big surprise. L.A. is a war zone. Gazing up through the holes in the boarded window, I see night is coming. That’s when the wildlife really slithers out from under their rocks. The soft glow of candlelight gives me something to see by, but I can’t be grateful for the light since it’s Knick who brought the candles in.
I can feel his eyes on me, and I involuntarily shudder, clutching the tattered blanket that was my reward for pleasing him. Worse, his lieutenant, Knack, is with him. Knick may be an asshole, but Knack is the whole ass. He treats women as brutally as he can get away with, though he got a beating from Knick once for giving me a black eye. He’s more careful about leaving marks now. I like to think he has unresolved mommy issues. Regardless, he loves tormenting women and if he has a “knack” for anything, that’s got to be it. I feel sorry for the three other girls.
There used to be five girls, but two of them ultimately got pregnant, and that’s a death sentence. The last thing the gang wants is more mouths to feed. So, those girls were taken out into the street, their usefulness at an end, and shot in the head. Many days, I think they are the lucky ones.
Knick stops an arm’s length away, taunting me with a plate of food as he leers down with that smug grin of his. He’s decked out like he always is in grimy blue jeans and a dark vest holding a number of knives and pistols. All topped off with a black leather jacket that looks like it had seen some abuse before the Collapse.
Knick holds up the food. “You going to cooperate today?” Asshole!
As per usual, he is going to make me sing for my supper. Already he’s unzipping his fly. God, it’s amazing what you’ll do to survive. You find ways to rationalize the worst that gets thrown at you to live one more day, even if it means giving in to your rapist. I try my best these days to look like they’ve broken me, but I’m still trying to find a way out—some way to get free of this nightmare.
Fucking bastard! “Yes sir.”
Knick shoots me a triumphant grin. “That’s my girl.”
Knick hands the plate to his lieutenant and motions for me to come forward. His lieutenant is ogling me greedily, licking his lips like he sees a plate of ribs with all the fixings. His lecherous gaze makes me want to puke.
“Any time, baby,” Knick states while presenting himself.
These guys don’t even bathe regularly. Every time, every fucking time, I want to gag. But if I want to survive, I have to go through the motions. Probably the only bonus to having been a porn actress is that I have the skills to put these guys away fast. While Knick may have caught on, none of the others have.
As I crawl over, Knack continues to watch me with an expression that sends a chill up my spine. I’d rather be forced to have sex with Knick twenty times than be with Knack once. Still, I don’t pay much attention to the shadow moving behind the walking douche-bag of a lieutenant. There are eight men in the gang, so chances are there’s a couple more waiting their turn. I certainly did not expect what happens next.
As I look up at Knick, I catch the glint of a blade. With sudden swiftness, the blade cuts Knack’s throat as Knick grins down at me lecherously. The lieutenant’s blood sprays against the wall as the shadow pulls the dying man into the darkness of the doorway. I don’t know what’s going on, but I feel this is my chance to escape.
With all my pitiful strength, I punch Knick right in the junk. His face contorts into a combination of pain and anger. Life goes into slow motion as the fucker start rearing back to backhand me. I ready myself mentally, closing my eyes as if not seeing it will save me some of the pain.
A wet gurgle forces my eyes open and I see a short sword sticking out of my tormentor’s neck. All I can do is watch in shock as Knick falls to the ground, revealing a man behind him. My savior is dressed in bits and pieces of tactical gear and leather, loaded with weapons and accessories. The upper part of his face is covered by a white mask, almost like something out of Phantom of the Opera. Or the Lone Ranger, maybe? A brown beard and mustache dusted with light gray graces the lower half of his face. His nose is strong and straight. His skin is lighter than mine, but we are lit by candles, so it’s hard to tell his eye color. He’s tall, not overly-muscled, but clearly strong enough to kill my worst abusers. Where has he been all my life?
Sitting there, I silently watch as he spits on Knick. Then he cleans the blade and sheathes it. When his eyes swivel to me—they’re blue—my shock turns to horror as he pulls out a sawed off shotgun. I want to say something, plead for my life, but my voice has deserted me as I watch in wide-eyed terror while he pulls back both hammers.
All the time I’m thinking he’s going to kill me too. I’m shocked when instead he blows apart the chain keeping me tied to the bed. The roar of the weapon startles me and then a flood of relief washes over. As if my day hadn’t been full of enough of unexpected events, without any explanation he turns and walks away.
This is a world gone mad. Why did this man kill Knick and Knack? Why bother releasing me? Why not take me as a slave for himself? All my questions go unanswered as this stranger walks out of the room. But I know one thing for damn sure, I am safer with him. Scrambling to my feet, I shake free what’s left of the chain and rush out the door.
I race out of the room and into the hallway, which I find is full of dead bodies. Almost all of the Crazy Eight are there, throats cut or bullet holes in their foreheads. I’ve never been bloodthirsty before, not in my old life. But now? I feel an insane, gleeful joy take over for a moment as I see the bloodied remains of my tormentors lying dead. This is immediately followed by panic and once more I’m struck speechless as the man continues walking away.
Gathering my wits, I shout after him. “Please wait?”
Spinning, he points his rifle right at me. Fortunately, he relaxes before looking at me impassively, head slightly cocked. Clearly he’s waiting for me to say something so I force myself to continue.
“Take me with you.”
I catch a slight snort of a laugh right before he shakes his head. Then like that he turns and walks away once more. There’s no way in Hell I’m going out into the concrete jungle by myself, even with whatever weapons I pull off the dead gang-bangers. So with grim determination, I surge forward, ignoring the stench and sticky blood under my bare feet and grab his shoulder.
With a guttural growl, he pulls away from my grasp as he spins, baring his teeth. It’s like he’s some kind of feral animal. In fact, given his behavior and his vicious ability to kill, I start thinking of him as The Beast. Still terrified, I raise my hands and speak to him in the most soothing tone I can manage.
“Look, I don’t know who you are or why you did this, but I still need help! You know how to kill. I- I need that kind of training so I don’t end up like this again. Please?”
The Beast regards me with some unnamed emotion. After a snort of disgust, he moves past me and back into the room that had been my prison, motioning for me to follow. I do so gratefully.
Inside my erstwhile prison once more, he starts by removing Knick’s leather jacket. I’m taken aback when he puts it on me and then zips it up, covering some of my nakedness. Then he points to the dead men and makes a motion like putting on pants. The Beast holds up three fingers, taps them against his watch.
“I have three minutes to get dressed?”
The Beast gives me a curt nod and walks to the door. Stopping at the door, he keeps his back to me like he’s standing guard. I’m left there with so many questions, but I’ve been given a time limit, and I’m sure I’ll be sorry if I miss it.
My mind wanders as I scavenge clothes from my dead captors. Suddenly I am thrust into freedom with the kind of man that should not exist in this totally fucked up world. While he is gruff, he’s been kind to me in a way that makes me want to weep. Treated me with respect, almost like a lady.
Of the two dead assholes, Knick had the best clothes. A part of me was loath to wear any of it, but I need something. While some of it is bloody, I hope I can wash it later or find something else. What is really great is that Knack’s shoe size is real close to mine, so I have a comfortable, though grimy, set of socks and boots. Finally I take Knick’s knives so that I have something to defend myself with.
Once dressed, I swiftly kick both bodies. I can’t resist. Wish I could have done more, but at least the bastards are dead. Can’t think of a better fate for any rapist than to be dead. Unless there’s a Hell. I hope there is, for scum like this. The Beast snaps his fingers to get my attention.
Reaching to the small of his back, he pulls out a revolver, checks the cylinder and hands it to me. I tentatively take the weapon. I’ve never used a gun. Never felt I needed to. Even felt like they were something I shouldn’t have, considering I lived in one of the most gun-controlled states in the U.S. Hell, I’d never even held one. I realized a little too late that as a woman, having one was a necessity to keep from being preyed on by those stronger than herself. In hindsight, I probably should have always felt that way. Maybe if I’d had a gun and the training, I wouldn’t have been taken to begin with.
My hand grasps the cold grip of the pistol. I’m so fixated on it that the barrel drifts towards The Beast. With a snort of disgust, he pushes the gun away from his direction as he transmits a scowl at me. I have to fight to keep from quailing under his feral gaze. I’ve been submissive to those jerks too long to lose the habit immediately.
“Never point a gun at someone unless you are going to kill that person.” His voice is a growl, reaffirming my beastly name for him.
So it can speak.
With quiet grace, The Beast shifts his stance to stand beside me. Drawing a pistol from a thigh holster, he aims the weapon forward, finger off the trigger and points at that finger with his other hand.
“This is your number one safety. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. Understood?”
I nod, a little numb over the fact that he can talk. “Y-, Yes sir.”
The Beast appears unconvinced. Finally he shakes his head and holsters his pistol, then motions for me to follow. Pulling up his rifle, he heads out first, leaving the motel and picking up a pack as we exit.
Funny, “fresh air” and “Los Angeles” were not two things one said together in the old world. Yet as I walk away from my nightmare prison, it is the sweetest smelling air I’ve ever drawn into my lungs. I want to savor the moment, but the combination of distant gunshots and my savior still walking away forces me to follow him instead.
It’s a good thing I found comfortable boots before we got too far, for The Beast moves like he is incapable of being tired and we spend the rest of the night walking. We cross the 215, heading down University Avenue, all while moving slowly, and more than once he motions for me to keep to the darkest shadows available. Yet never once does he speak.
As the night progresses, my palm aches and is sweaty from gripping the pistol so tightly. I’m still weak, fearful and shaky, though I try to be brave as we wind our way through the city. My fate with the Crazy Eight was horrible, but certain. Now I am lost deep in the unknown with a man I know nothing about.
Before the Collapse, what I’m doing would have been considered insanity. Now it really isn’t much of a choice. But the fact is, he saved me. I was willing to trust, to a certain extent anyway, if only because he’d allow me to see Knick and Knack lying dead before me.
We skirt the bulk of University Riverside, slipping through rundown or wrecked apartment buildings, student housing and residential areas. While the sporadic sounds of fighting continue throughout the night, we never encounter anyone. For that I am very thankful.
The moon is only half full, giving us a little light to see by, so I can’t make out most street signs. You might think differently if you still live in a lit city, but L.A. is now dark. Scary dark. The latest street we come to is Galaxie Road. Giving a hand motion I can barely see, he moves forward and expects me to follow.
So I keep up, eyes darting from house to house, watching my footing as the road changes from paving to dirt. My feet are aching as we continue. Remember, I’ve been chained to a bed for a long time. The Beast starts up a hill and I sigh, plodding on at my best speed. Staying low, his rifle at the ready, he stops just short of the crest before a single house and looks around. The paranoia he exudes infects me, and I strain nervously to see anything that might be lurking in the darkness around us.
In what I’ve learned is his typical MO, he walks on toward the house without a word and clearly expects me to follow. While dark and hard to make out, the house appears up-scale and sits on top of the hill. Reaching the porch, I see another door resting against the wall, slightly blocking the way. I relax slightly when he pulls out a set of keys and unlocks the real door. Motioning once more, he ducks under the fake one and I follow him inside.
The Beast closes the door behind me, so softly I barely hear it until the lock clicks. I’m blinded when he flips a switch and a number of lights turn on. What? Electricity? How? I blink my eyes furiously as they adjust, and find myself in a living room.
Heavy black curtains completely cover the windows, probably to keep anyone from seeing the lights. The living room is well appointed with good furniture and, get this, it even smells nice. Sure is a change of pace from the musty, run down motel where I’d been a prisoner. It also serves to make me aware of the stinking clothes I am wearing, the odor of my unwashed body and I feel ashamed.
My savior doesn’t seem to notice though, and says nothing. He just walks through the living room and into the kitchen. While I am curious about what he is doing, I am far too exhausted to worry and collapse onto a pale couch with a grateful sigh and work at the laces on my boots, pulling my aching feet free.
As I massage my feet, I hear glasses clinking in the kitchen. A part of me wants to ask what he’s doing, but again, I am so tired. Given his choice to be silent, I hold my tongue as I relax into the soft, clean cushions of the couch instead.
He surprises me by handing me a glass of cold water. COLD water, and a plate of food. Okay, it’s not room service, but after what I have been through, it’s like Heaven came down from the clouds. Then it occurs to me that the last time someone handed me a plate, I was expected to perform a “service” in return. Worried, I look up at him, and he’s shocked at my terror. Then I see realization pass over his face, and he backs up a little, palms up. Without speaking he shows me that I am safe here. I gratefully take the glass and plate as tears prick at my eyes and give him a tremulous smile.
The Beast simply nods and walks over to a chair the same color as the couch, plops into it and begins eating. Throughout it all, it seems like he hasn’t changed at all. The rifle is still strapped to his chest, and all his gear is in place. Instead of dwelling on it, though, I focus on my food. Even though I’m exhausted and feel like sleep will overtake me, I am starving.
I wake to darkness. I’m unsure where I am and feel uneasy. Quickly sitting up, I realize I am on the couch and it all comes back. The lights are off and I’m covered in darkness so thick, I feel like I’m choking on it. My breathing spikes as I frantically look around. The chair The Beast was in is empty and I am not ready for the panic I feel when I realize he’s gone. Has he left me here? Am I alone now? Please, god, no.
My shaky voice is a little too loud, and I don’t like the fear I hear in it, but a sense of dread builds. I get no reply in return, stuck in a dark room and utterly alone. As I scan the coffee table, there’s just enough light for me to realize that my pistol isn’t there—and I’m naked. As I’m trying to figure out where my clothes are, I spot a hint of light in the corner of my eye and look towards it.
An interior door that faces the living room opens and Knick and Knack walk through it. Fear floods through me. I tremble and shake my head, not sure what is real. Did I dream my rescue? While Knack holds the candle, leering at me as lecherously as he always does, Knick holds a plate of food. Wearing that smug grin, he walks forward and unzips his fly.
“You didn’t think you could escape us that easily, did you darlin’?”
I whimper as I try to scramble away and fall clumsily over the couch. Desperately trying to get to my feet and run, I realize that I’m cornered. Before I can think of anything else, the two are on top of me, holding me down and laughing as their hands paw at my body.
My scream wakes me and I sit with a start, trying to regain my bearings in a living room that is softly lit. Before I realize it, or can think to be afraid of him, The Beast is holding me as I try to shake the nightmare. The relief of actually having escaped from my tormentors, being in a safe place, and wrapped in a completely non-threatening hug—I lose it. I weep like I have never wept before. The months of abuse, fear and the depredations of those evil men, it all flows out of me in tears and wracking sobs.
I can’t even tell how much time passes before I’m finally cried out and even more exhausted than I was before. Without a word, The Beast lays me down on the couch and puts a sheet over me. Then he goes back to his chair and sits, watching the front door.
Lying there wearily, I try to slow my breathing, still deathly afraid to close my swollen and aching eyes. Slowly my gaze slides towards my silent savior and I begin to watch him. Minutes pass as he sits there, completely fixated on the front door like he expects someone to come through it at any moment. But that sight is strangely comforting.
I wake with a start, not realizing that I’d fallen asleep. Sunlight pours through the white curtained window and I let my eyes adjust as I survey the room. With a yawn, I stretch and sit up. A throbbing headache pounds behind my eyes. I push the pain away while I get my bearings. The Beast is nowhere to be seen and, wonder of wonders, breakfast is sitting on the coffee table. The pistol he gave me is next to the plate.
I’m astonished at what sits before me. Pancakes! Honest-to-God pancakes, with blueberries in them! Two tall glasses sit opposite the pistol, one with water and the other with orange juice. Both have a few beads of sweat on the glasses. A smaller plate holds some butter, a shot glass of syrup and a couple strips of bacon. I want to weep. Quickly I grab the first glass and take a sip of the juice.
Cold and delicious! Before I know it, I’ve downed the entire glass and start in on the pancakes. To say I was hungry would be an understatement. For months I have been slowly starving. The food tastes like ambrosia and a few tears actually escape before I realize I’m crying. I have to laugh at myself. Crying over food. But it’s been so long since I had a decent meal and for a moment, I am back in the old world.
It does not take me long to polish off the plate and I sit back with a grateful exhale. I’ve gone from Hell to Heaven in the blink of an eye. Of course, as reality sets in, I wonder how long it can last.
The sound of an engine trying to turn over catches my attention. Slowly I get up off the couch, grab my pistol and walk towards the door the sound is coming from. While I try to use the same caution The Beast used in getting to the house, I’m pretty sure I suck at it.
As soon as I open the door, The Beast spins and points a handgun at me. I think I raise my hands faster than he spun around. With a snort of disgust, he relaxes and puts the weapon into the holster before going back to work on the engine of a rather large truck. I think it’s a Ford, one of the big ones, but I can’t say for sure since the decals are missing. The paint is a dark, metallic gray and the bed is enclosed with a camper shell. I walk into the garage in the hopes that I can determine what he’s doing.
Getting closer, I realize what part of the problem most likely is. The front quarter panel has three bullet holes in it. A couple more are in the windshield. At some point his vehicle took some damage and now he’s trying to fix it.
He looks at me briefly, and if he weren’t wearing a mask, I might think he had an eyebrow lifted at me. After a few seconds, points to the bullet holes. Then he turns his attention back to the vehicle and growls as he works on it. Clearly that’s all the explanation I’m going to get. Instead of trying to get him to talk, I head back into the house while shaking my head at my companion’s total lack of manners.
It’s a nice little home with a commanding view all around. There’s a pool in the back, although it’s not much unlike what the Crazy Eight had. It barely holds any water, catching whatever rain it can. In other circumstances, it would have been a nice little place to live, away from the crazy traffic and city noise.
Idly I wonder, as I walk through the house, if this is his home. It’s strange, but I find it deprived of any pictures that would possibly tell me. In the master bedroom there are a few picture frames on a dresser, but the pictures have been removed. Now they just sit there, blank and devoid of whatever memory they once held.
The closets are full of clothes. One has a man’s clothes, mostly shirts and slacks, but also a few jeans. The other closet is full of women’s fashion, someone perhaps a little taller than me. Some of it seems like it could fit, so I start examining what’s there. I press my nose to the fabrics and catch a faint whiff of some perfume, something expensive. Opium? Chanel? I think I would have liked her, the woman whose clothes I am perusing through. She had a shoe fetish to match what mine used to be. Though now, with the world the way it is, those tottering heels are as useless as a pair of lady’s gloves from the turn of the century. Though, the gloves might actually be more useful at this point.
With the Collapse, I lost everything. That includes my cell phone and my watch. I have no way to say for sure how much time passes as I rummage through the closet. The shoes definitely won’t fit, even if they were practical, so I’ll have to stick with Knack’s boots for now. There are a couple blouses and jeans that would fit well enough. That means I can at least lose Knick’s clothes, which will make me feel a lot happier. Grabbing a few things that seem to be my size, I make my way into the bathroom.
That’s when I realize there is no running water. Duh, Chloe! Why would there be? My decadent breakfast put me in that state of mind, I guess. There is a bucket of clear water sitting next to the sink with a stack of washcloths. Another bucket sits in the tub, next to the toilet. What strikes me as odd is the mirror. It’s a jagged spider web. At least there aren’t glass shards littering the floor. Compared to how clean and well-kept the rest of the house is, this makes little sense, but few things make sense anymore, so I decide to try on some clothes.
The jeans fit well enough if I roll the cuffs up, so I happily divest myself of the dirty, baggy pair that used to belong to—and still stinks of—one of my rapists. The water is a little cold. It’s not a hot shower, but it’s good to feel at least a little cleaner. Starting with one washcloth, I scrub the grime from my face. It feels so good to get what seems like years of dirt off my skin. I work my way over my body, realizing as I go that I really have lost weight. While I do get clean, I still feel soiled. I frown and keep scrubbing, uncovering bruises that still ache, and I remember where each one came from. I realize I’m crying again, and sink to the floor to let it out.
It’s not as hard or as bad as the one after my nightmare last night, and I do allow myself to wallow a little. But it doesn’t last long. I realize that I am safe. The Crazy Eight are dead. I am clean and full of good food and I will be okay. When the brief jag is over, I get a fresh washcloth and wash my face again. I want to wash my hair, short as it is, but I don’t know the water situation, so it will have to wait.
It’s also wonderful to use a toilet again instead of a reeking pot, even if I have to fill it manually. Clean panties, jeans and a slightly baggy blouse complete my transformation. With that done, I walk back out into the bedroom.
I find The Beast walking in as I make my way out of the bathroom. He stops cold and stares at me. Thanks to his mask, it’s hard for me to tell for certain what he’s thinking. His stare makes me uncomfortable, and I shift nervously. Maybe I shouldn’t have made free with the clothes in the closet. He doesn’t saying anything, though, and finally he turns and walks out, motioning for me to follow.
Wondering what he has in store for me this time, I dump Knick’s old clothes on the floor and leave the bedroom. Somehow I just know he is going to ruin my buzz as I follow him back out into the garage.
We are hard at work on Book 3, Life and Death. Look to this space for previews of our Novella, Kane, coming soon.