‘Could Henry be saved? What did salvation even look like for a brain in a box?’ My mind hurt just thinking about it. These thoughts lived rent-free in my head, as I attempted to sleep on the cold tile floor, awaiting my captor’s return. Vice Paul had been gone for hours leaving me without water or food. If he wanted me dead, I’d be dead, right? Or…
“Oh fuck.” There was a camera. This was probably a dark web livestream where people would bid on the chance to make suggestions pertaining to my long, drawn out death.
Desperately thirsty, I turned on the sink. the water seemed clear, drinkable so I cupped my hands and took a sip. The liquid smelled like chemicals, with a bitter after taste. If I wasn’t sure before, I could now say with certainty I was in New Jersey. Still, I choked down the mouthful.
“What I wouldn’t give to not require food and water.” My stomach grumbled. This had the unfortunate effect of churning the water in my gut. I was immediately struck with a wave of nausea. “Keep it down. The water was not poisoned, you’re not going to die.”
I did the next best thing; I messed around with my phone to see what still worked. It came as no surprise that I had no wi-fi or data. But just to make sure I was unable to call for help I also had zero bars of signal. At least I had 100% battery left. ‘How the hell did I have a full battery?’
Knowing all that, I could play a really basic flash game about poking fruit, or I could make a video. I took a moment to check my hair and makeup before hitting record. “Hi, y’all. To anyone who manages to find this,” I laughed nervously. What the fuck was I even supposed to say? “I’m sorry, mom, you were right, I should have never given up on college. I should have been a better daughter, student, human being.” I hit pause, and leaned against the wall, resting the phone on my chest. “No one gives a shit, Charlotte. No one gives a flying fuck-all.”
I’d watched enough true crime videos to know how this worked. If I was a small child, I might get reported as a missing person, but as a full-grown adult: not so much. Maybe my manager would give a crap that I missed my shift. Or maybe not. I had three days off this week, which meant that I would not have ‘missed work’ for at least five days. And knowing my manager she probably just assumed I was fucking around, taking a week off to go out of state.
‘I am so screwed.’ I suddenly felt a jolt, as if someone used my phone as a taser.
I coughed, forcing air back into my lungs. My vision was blurry. As I rubbed my eyes, the room looked different, transparent, like a digital map from an old-school videogame.
“What the hell?” On one hand I was thrilled; I had a map! This was a fucking incredible super power, but on the other hand I could see just how absolutely massive this place was. The underground complex was made up of over a dozen rooms at different levels. I appeared to be on one of the higher floors, which made sense, given this was a bathroom. ‘I couldn’t imagine what a bathroom would smell like, five stories underground.’ Wait! Was I really seeing up to five stories underground?
Did the lower floors have water or even a source of air? Or was this one massive tomb? Focusing my eyes, I could see heat signatures in various places, there were at least ten other prisoners in the lower floors. I turned my focus upward to hopefully see what was directly above me.
Judging by the large number of heat signatures, and how they were moving around, it was some kind of business (assumably the tattoo studio.)
To the left corner, there was a heat signature that didn’t look quite human. I needed to get a closer look, so I started to walk in the direction, until-
I walked straight into a wall.
“Crap.” My eyes snapped back to reality, just as my phone vibrated. “Incoming call from unknown number. Great, just great.” The call had to be coming from within the facility. I pressed accept. “Hello?”
“Char-llotte,” The voice was scratchy, covered in static. “C-can you hear me?”
“Henry.” I breathed a sigh of relief, as a weight was lifted from my very soul. “Yes,” I said, choking back tears. “I can hear you.”
“V- took my legs. I need you to be my legs, but t-t-t-o do that you need to see.”
To see what? “What do I do?”
Before he could answer, the call dropped. A rush of footsteps came charging towards the left side of my bathroom cell. a previously camouflaged door swung open.
“Good morning Charli. How are we today?” Vice asked sweetly.
With my back to him, there was no way for me to know if he had a weapon. “I’m good, just admiring this wall. How long did it take you to build this?”
“Years, decades, the majority of my youth spent in pursuit of a scientific dream.” He took a step closer, putting an arm around my waist. “Of course, it’s easier when I had help.”
Had? “What happened to your help?
“Friends, family, like-minded people, they all tend to move on to greater things.” He moved his other arm, up my side, revealing a paper bag. “You need to eat something.”
I waited for him to take a step back, before turning around. Inside the bag was a snickers bar, a snack size package of Doritos and a box of apple juice. “Let me guess, this is what you feed your tattoo clients when they have low blood sugar?” It was either that or he had children. I was too hungry to wait for an answer. I tore into the snickers bar, not even caring that it was hard as a rock.
“Is the food to your liking?” Vice asked, as he released me from his pseudo-sexual hold.
“A little stale.”
The attractive older man just smiled, biting his lower lip and then his tongue. “If I recall correctly, you found my project in a landfill?”
“Yeah,” I said as I forced myself to choke down the bite.
“Are you curious as to how he ended up there?”
“You know how he got there?”
Vice chuckled as he made his way to a medicine cabinet. “Henry’s lovely daughter.” He opened a bottle of pills, taking two, along with a swig of a clear, foul smelling liquid. “In an act of defiance, attempted to rob me of my creation, so I took something belonging to her instead.”
If Alicia was alive, that had to be one of the heat signals. “Can I see?” I asked in a deadpan voice.
“What you did with her?” I had watched plenty of horror movies, so I had an idea of what a trust worthy female character sounded like.
“You want to know what I did with her?” Vice grinned, his left hand subtly moving over his crotch as if to shield his erection.
‘You raped her, you sick fuck.’ I licked my bottom lip, trying to flash a sexy smile. I needed him to believe I was just as demented.
“First, you’d have to prove yourself, so I can better determine if I want you as an ally or,” he paused his words, leaning in close.
Assuming he was going to kiss me, I closed my eyes. “Or what?”
Before I could clench my jaw, he cupped my face, forcing his tongue down my throat. I could feel a liquid filled capsule, but there was no way to stop its path. If I didn’t swallow, I would have choked. When I could finally breathe, I forced out a line of dialogue. “What did you have in mind?”
“I want to see through your eyes.”
There was a distinct fear in the pit of my stomach. This was offset only by my racing heart. ‘Stay in character, just stay in character.’
“What did Henry allow you to see?”
My entire body felt paralyzed, the only reason I was still standing was because Vice was holding me by my throat. “Henry’s just a brain in a box.”
“Do you really want to lie to me?” Vice pulled a pen from his breast pocket. he drew a gentle line from my forehead, forcing my eyelid closed. “You have such beautiful eyes.” he placed his lips to my ear, blowing a slow gentle breath. “Such a pity you won’t get to keep them.”
‘No, please, no.’ I wanted to beg, to scream, but I could barely draw a breath. Instead, I felt myself blink a single tear from my eye.
“Aww, don’t cry. I’m not going to hurt you, Charli,” he said with a chuckle. “You’re too pretty to die.”
I could feel his rough facial hair against my neck as he kissed my ear. “No, darlin’ you will be my greatest creation.”
He waited for the half-second window when I had to blink. Then with one swift motion he rammed a pen into my eyeball, with a sickening pop. My eyes were pinned open, forcing me to look at Vice as a mixture of blood and tears coated my face. It felt like an oddly placed tension headache. If it wasn’t for the taste of blood in my mouth, I could have pretended this was all just a horrible nightmare.
I went limp in his arms, allowing him to drag me along the tile floor, out a side door. When he reached the doorway, his feet met the dirt floor with a crunch. Clearly the unpaved road ahead was covered in rocks or even broken glass. I heard him sigh in frustration.
“Oh well,” Vice muttered as he hoisted my body over his shoulder. For a brief moment I was grateful for his mercy, then I realized he was more likely making sure I had no chance at escape.
After what felt like miles, the man threw me into a new room, leaving the pen in my eye. And then he left, shutting the thick metal door in his wake.
It took a moment for me to regain feeling in my limbs. I laid on my back, hoping to relax enough to think straight. For whatever reason, my eyes could not function independently. Attempting to open my uninjured eye caused the pen to tear deeper into my flesh. This was not a pen, it was a blade, and I needed to get it out.
“Hey,” said a soft female voice. “Don’t scream. I got you.”
I could hear the sound of someone scooting towards me.
I assumed she had been dragging herself on her knees or maybe her backside. However, once she got closer, I could tell she was the odd shape I’d seen earlier. The young woman was heavily pregnant and missing both her legs from the knees down. The sound I heard had been the woman dragging herself on her bandaged stumps.
“How did you know that?” Her hands froze in place, her voice breaking with emotion. “Answer me!” She wasn’t angry, she was sobbing.
“Of course,” she said through tears. The mention of his name brought about a rare smile. “I need you to be still. 3-2-1.” she yanked out the pen, hurling it across the floor.
I swallowed hard, choking down the taste of blood in my mouth. She handed me a neatly folded wad of paper towels. placing pressure on my eye. It still hurt like a motherfucker, but at least, with pressure balance restored, I was finally able to open my good eye. “Thank you.”
“Just hold it there. Once Vice comes back, he’ll bandage your wounds.” The woman scooted back towards a metal trash can.
I wanted to ask why she assumed Vice would be back, but instead I went with the more useful question, “Where are we?”
“I think we’re under a landfill,” she said, motioning towards a pipe. it brings in air from the outside, but also rainwater, trash and all kinds of useful shit.” She had a collection of bottles filled with (what appeared to be) clear water. “I even made a toilet for myself.”
I sat up, leaning against a wall, to get a view of what she was referring to. Much like the previous room, there were Christmas lights, illuminating the wall. The floor was covered in cement, but in one corner, the young woman had managed to dig a hole. “How did you get here?”
Alicia maneuvered herself to the far wall. She gently glided her blood covered hand to an area of the wall, close to the ground. There was a hidden pocket, placed just low enough for her to conceal with her back. “My father and I were living as squatters. It was actually a pretty nice house, but we still needed cash. We were making plans to rob a gas station. He was going in with a butcher knife, while I hotwired a getaway vehicle.”
“A butcher knife?”
“Easiest thing to shoplift from the local Walmart.” She said as she pulled out a cloth wrapped package. “Stupid, I know. Daddy took a bullet to the leg and we had to run.”
I knew we needed help. I walked along the highway, trying to see if I could get someone to stop. I was looking for salvation, but what I found was Vice Paul.
He offered to take us in. he had drugs, booze, medicine and hope. all he asked for in return was a trade of equal value.
“Meaning what?” I knew full well what she meant.
“He took my legs, and something else.” Alicia blinked tears from her eyes. “Let’s just say I played the part of a loyal fangirl. That’s all Vice wants; fans, adoration.” She seemed truly ashamed of the fact she was now carrying his child.
“You did it for your dad.” I maneuvered myself to sit beside her, offering a half-hug.
Alicia nodded, leaning her head on my shoulder. Her hair smelled like sweat, mildew and sadness. “My momma died when I was four. I can barely remember her face.”
“Your dad raised you. He seems like an amazing guy.” That was the truth. Henry seemed like the kind of dad anyone would love to have.
“Yeah, my daddy worked as a long-haul trucker. Every day was a vacation. But apparently teaching a kid how to read and write while seeing the beauty of the ice road country didn’t count as home schooling.”
“Oh.” That made my heart truly break.
“I was put into foster care system when I was ten. At first, he visited once a week, but as he fell deeper into depression I lost out to the bottle, and later the crack pipe. When I turned 18, I tracked him down. It wasn’t too hard since I was far from sober. Hell with Facebook or Instagram or whatever, the Canadian drug community is the greatest social network.”
“I can imagine.” I didn’t know anyone who did illegal drugs but I imagined the sense of community was strong.
“For the last six years it’s been just me and dad; first nation warriors against the world,” she chuckled, “Can I ask you something?”
“Why do you speak in ABC rhyme?”
“What?” For a moment I forgot about my YouTube channel and assumed she was referring to the current conversation.
“You know what I mean; A is for asshole who killed a kid, B is for gold digging bitch, C is for the cunt who drowned her babies in a psychotic rage: all that shit. I think it’s kind of cool.” She shrugged, cracking a sweet, genuine smile.
“I stole the idea from an Edward Gory poem.”
“Oh yeah, I think I heard of that one, it was called, ‘The Gashlycrumb… something.”
“The Gashlycrumb Tinies, I think it was about a sadistic orphanage.” I took a breath, rerouting my thoughts. “But are you saying you’ve been watching my YouTube channel?”
“Yeah, Vice let me keep my phone. The Wi-Fi here is pretty good.”
“Yeah,” she reached for her phone, showing it to me like it was the most common thing in the world. “He let you keep your phone too, right?”
“Yeah.” Sure, enough her phone had internet access. “How?”
She motioned to the Christmas lights. “Everything’s connected to a router on the main floor. At least that’s what I assume. Are you connected to the network?”
I handed her my phone, and she easily connected to a local network called, ‘Halo_temple.’
“If Wi-Fi works, why don’t you call for help?”
“What good would that do?” she asked sarcastically. “On the network, I can’t call out or post on anything, only watch and search. Maybe your phone is different.”
It was not. The network (assumably set up by our tech genius kidnapper) allowed us to see the outside world, like a cat pawing at a locked window.
“And even if I could find a workaround, what would I even say? Help, I’m trapped in a dark room somewhere in Jersey, can you track my wireless device? By the time anyone finds us, Vice Paul will be long gone.”
She wasn’t wrong. “And we’d likely be trapped down here.” Vice Paul always seem to think a few steps ahead, there was no doubt that he had a failsafe in place in the event of a police raid. He could flood the tunnels, collapsing entrances and exits, etc.
“For now, we just need to play his game.”
“VP is a I don’t know the right word; psychopath? Is that when you don’t have empathy? He’s not cruel, but he will hurt you like it’s just another day of the week.”
“What can we do?” Looking at her crudely amputated legs I was picturing a little boy pulling the wings off a butterfly. Yes, the butterfly could survive for a time but after a while surviving would be a fate worse than death.
“The trick is to get him to trust you.” Alicia scratched at her leg stumps.
“What did he do with your legs?”
As if on cue (who am I kidding, it was obvious Vice had been watching the entire time.) the wall slid open. Vice stood in the doorway, leaning in like a smug cowboy. “Miss Charli, if you’ve gotten your fill of information about my project we can return to the main floor.
Alicia nudged my back. “You need to go. The more he trusts you, the more powerful you become.” She lifted her bandages ever so slightly, revealing scabbed over wounds. “A butterfly without it’s wings can still crawl away.”
“Right.” I nodded, although I was pretty sure her idea was incorrect.
“Just don’t forget about me or my dad.”
I silently got to my feet, ignoring the throbbing pain in my eye socket. “I’m ready.”
Vice smiled his sweet father-like smile. The way the soft blue light caressed his face looked almost angelic. “See, I’m not a bad guy; you asked to see Alicia and I made it happen.”
I forced myself to reach for his hand. “Yes,” I said, nervously looking back at Alicia. “Thank you.”
Vice kissed my hand, pulling me close as the door closed behind us. “You like killers.”
“You like ‘em enough to base your entire little show around ‘em.” He guided me to an elevator made from what appeared to be chains. “Is that why you don’t like me much?” He pressed a button, causing the mechanics to activate. He put his arm around my waist looking up towards a light source directly above us.
“Because you’re not a killer?”
“I’m an angel.”
“You’ll forgive me if I don’t believe you.” I didn’t mean to say that out loud.
Vice chuckled, running his fingers through his hair. His laugh reminded me of my favorite math teacher; someone who could explain anything by coaxing out a conversation, like an overconfident gameshow host. “Have you heard of Israel Keyes?”
“Yes, he was a famous killer from Alaska.”
“Actually, he started his career in Utah.”
Yes, any shithead using Wikipedia would know that. “Actually, he set up kill kits; weapons in orange buckets placed across the country.”
Vice flashed a condescending smile. “And why was that?”
Vice turned away, but I could see his hand covering his mouth to conceal the laughter. “Boredom? Wow that’s a first.”
I laughed along with him, assuming that was the polite thing to do. For a brief second, I allowed my body to relax. That was a mistake.
In one swift motion, Vice turned around, shoving something in to my eye socket, on top of my make-shift bandage. I screamed as I fell backwards clutching my face. There was no blood, but it felt like someone had just punched me so hard that half of my skull was caved in like a pumpkin. In a state of terror, I started to cough, violently gasping for air.
Vice pinned me to the wall, holding me down with his deceptively strong arms. “Stop.” He looked into my eyes, holding his face inches from my own. “Are you ready to calm the fuck down?”
I blinked my eye once then twice. For a brief second my visual digital map returned, allowing me to see a map of the facility. This moment was overtaken by a rush of light. We had finally reached the surface floor. I took a breath of fresh, clean air. I wanted to cry. “I’m calm. I promise.”
“Welcome to my studio of wonders.” Vice handed me my phone, already set to the camera app.
I blinked my eyes, both of them now had the ability to see. I turned my camera, as if to take a selfie. My eye had been replaced with a bright blue light. I hit the click button, causing a flash.
Vice took my hand, leading me out of the elevator. “Do you like it?” he asked, as if he had just gifted me a necklace or bracelet from the local mall.
“What is this?”
“Just a little something, I whipped up from spare parts,” he replied, placing a finger under my chin. “Judging by your expression I’d say it’s working?”
“I guess.” Could he see through my eye? I didn’t know how actual replacement eyes worked. Actually, I did. Normal replacement eyes were pieces of sculpture made of glass, NOT actual computers with the ability to connect directly into the patient’s brain.
“Any questions?” he paused as I stared at him in silence. “No? I thought you were a better investigative reporter than this.”
I needed to think. What would be a valuable, useful question? “I-Is it wireless?”
“You mean can I hear your thoughts? Do I have a wi-fi connected device showing me a digital output of your brainwaves?”
‘What did you do with Alicia’s legs?’
“You want to know what I did with Alicia’s legs?” He walked to a cabinet, pulling out a guitar case. “This is what I have waiting for the mother of my child.” Vice opened the case revealing a pair of prostatic legs made of what appeared to be gold, silver and polished steel.
I calmly slid the case back towards him, as if to say I did not accept his answer. “I may be a girl, and I do love pretty things, but this is not what I asked for.”
Vice walked to a nearby computer with three monitors. Moving the mouse revealed a naked photo of Alicia spread out across all the screens. She was clearly high; appearing happy, sexy and with both of her legs still attached. Her eyes were covered with two file folders. He clicked the icon, opening a video.
The snuff film started with the image of Alicia tied up. Her arms and legs were bound to a spit, like an animal about to be roasted. Vice stroked her naked thigh, caressing her ass. “Squeal for me, little pig.”
Alicia had duct tape over her mouth, muffling her screams. From off screen I could hear a chainsaw. Thankfully the camera stayed on Alicia’s terrified face as Vice returned. She was screaming, crying as blood went everywhere. Her body was thrashing. And there was a crack. He had cut through her bone. Alicia’s eyes rolled backward, as she went into shock.
And then he raped her. Offscreen I could hear him moaning, grunting, and finally finishing. He kissed her cheek. “I can’t wait to cook this up, maybe I’ll do a pot-roast, or a stir-fry with root vegetables. Girls like you always taste so sweet.”
The video ended. I could see my reflection in the dark computer screen. He was standing behind me with his hand on my shoulder. “That was kind of hot.”
Vice snickered, clearly not believing my act.
“Can I see the other video?”
next: CharmanderChar1962 ch3