Captive in the Dark by C. J. Roberts

for him instead of against him, then he was free. And more than anything, Kéleb was hungry for freedom.

Narweh knew this. Had always somehow known. It was the reason the other girls and boys were called by alluring names to entice the patrons while he was called Dog. It was meant to demean him, to drag him to a place where he was no longer human. To make him feel less than human. It didn’t work. When Narweh looked into his eyes, Kéleb refused to lower them. And one day Narweh had had enough.

Kéleb knew he was about to be punished. He knelt on the ground and was unafraid. Narweh loved to beat him and he no longer struggled against it. He had too much pride for that.

He gritted his teeth when asked to undress. “It’s to be rape then?” he said in perfect Arabic, “Do your friends know how much you love fucking dogs.” Kéleb’s face throbbed with the slap he received, but he bore it in silence, fists clenched at his sides. He was free, he reminded himself.

Raising his calm and steady eyes to meet Narweh’s frenzied ones, he removed his thobe. Narweh’s eyes remained venomous, but now lust swirled behind the rage. Kéleb nearly smiled. Yes, he was a beautiful animal. Another slap and Kéleb forced himself to look away, but not toward the ground, never that.

There was noise behind him, he wanted to look but would not give the son of a bitch the satisfaction of piquing his curiosity. It didn’t matter, the mystery was soon revealed. A mirror. Narweh placed a mirror directly in front of him. In it he saw his bearing waver. This was too much, he couldn’t possibly watch this. And yet, he refused to stare at the floor.

“What’s the matter?” Narweh taunted, “Don’t you like looking at how beautiful you are? Vanity; it’s the plague of your entire race. It’s the reason you think you deserve everything when you deserve nothing, less than nothing. Death is all you deserve.”

Kéleb strained against every impulse rushing through his body. He willed himself to remain still, he could handle this. He could handle anything.

Narweh knelt behind him and Kéleb ceased to breathe. Anything but this. Please. Anything. He closed his eyes. “Shut them and I will make it so you never can again.” For the first time in a long time, Kéleb almost whimpered.

Lifting his thobe and spitting into his hand Narweh prepared to enter him and there was not a thing to be done. It was this or death. Kéleb dug deep into the part of him determined to be free. He took a deep breath and held it as he was entered savagely, refusing to make the slightest sound. But the mirror…the mirror forced him to see what he tried to pretend wasn’t real. He wasn’t free. Behind the boy in the glass, Narweh smiled at him. Kéleb looked at the ground.

It wasn’t over quickly. Narweh did not simply wish to use him as he had in the past, throwing him to the ground and rutting against him like a savage beast, punching and slapping him. He took his time. He wanted Kéleb to feel every moment of the urge to fight back and the moment after it when he realized he couldn’t. A sob finally broke through and he was forced to look up at the boy in the mirror. He was…broken.

Kéleb hated the boy, hated his weakness. In a rage he struck out at the mirror shattering it and tossing it to the ground. He lunged for the shards of broken glass, extricating himself as he turned on his tormentor. Narweh laughed, loudly. Kéleb flew toward him, fingers bleeding as they gripped the broken mirror.

For all his size, Kéleb was still a boy, still lanky and awkward. His strength meant nothing against Narweh. As he lunged toward him, Narweh planted his foot firmly into his stomach and tossed him over his head and onto the ground. His vision blurred and his breath left him.

Narweh stood quickly, taking swift advantage. His foot collided repeatedly with Kéleb’s ribs, genitals and chest. Kéleb rolled onto his side groping for air and Narweh’s foot. Neither aim was achieved and he blacked out as the darkness encroached around him.

The next time he opened his eyes it was to expel a silent scream as his skin was split open. Before he knew what was happening, he was struck again and again. He tried to move his limbs, to run, to fight, but he was tied down. Wet fire danced along his back and he instantly knew he would die that night. The whip landed again, another tearing of flesh. This time Kéleb managed to scream.

***

A rush unlike any Caleb had ever felt raced through his veins as the sound of angry gun fire and splintering wood erupted. Rat-tat-tat-tat. Creak. BOOM. The door was kicked in. Racing footsteps – theirs. Startled yelps and angry shouts – from inside.

Jair was the first one in, his warrior cry stunning their prey even further. By the time Tiny thought to act, he was cracked across the face with the butt of Jair’s weapon. Blood sprayed across the wall behind Tiny as he fell to the ground. First blood, but not the last.

The woman screamed and darted toward the hallway, screaming for someone named Kid. Caleb rushed in after her. Behind him two of Jair’s cousins were beating the other biker in the living room with Tiny.

The woman was screaming at someone. There were two doors ahead of Caleb. One to the right with a light on, the other directly ahead, door shut. Caleb fired two shots at the door in front of him. The door swung open and Caleb hit the ground. Shuck-Shuck-Boom! The shotgun blast rang out in the narrow space of the hallway. “Come get some motherfucker!” the man at the end of the hall yelled. Shuck-Shuck.

Caleb lifted his head and aimed for the biker’s pelvic area. He wanted to avoid center mass, but he couldn’t risk aiming for the knee and missing. He fired. The biker wailed in agony as the bullet hit. He dropped the cocked shotgun and clutched at his lower abdomen, blood already covered his quaking fingers and shock distorted the man’s features. Behind Caleb, Khalid laughed uproariously as he leapt over Caleb’s splayed legs to cover the second door. Caleb let out a breath. He needed to steel himself for what he might find.

He lifted himself into a crouch and hugged the wall nearest the door. “This can be very simple,” he called out. “Your friends can’t help you.” He paused, letting that sink in. “We just want the girl.”

“Fuck you!” It was the woman who spoke. She was hysterical. Unpredictable. “I’ll kill this fucking bitch, I swear to god I will.” Caleb’s heart tripped all over itself. She’s alive.

“Make her say something!” Caleb shouted back. Heavy breathing, resistance. Panicked squeals.

“I-I,” a male voice now, faltering, “I think she’s in shock or something. Look man, we didn’t have anything to do with it. I swear.” The man’s voice cracked with panic as he spoke. “Just… go and we’ll leave her here for you.”

Caleb looked at Khalid. He was poised to strike, anticipating the kill. Any second now, this could get complicated and it wouldn’t matter to Khalid if the girl was dead or alive. It only mattered to Caleb. In fact, for Jair, dead would be better. Rafiq would blame Caleb and Jair and his cousins would savor the ensuing confrontation.

Caleb thought quickly what his options were. What were the chances the two were armed? The door at the end of the hall was a bedroom and the house wasn’t very big at all. Who carried a weapon into the bathroom? Caleb took decisive action.

Everything moved in slow motion. Khalid’s footsteps as he went for the shotgun lying next to the bleeding biker. The curdled scream of the blonde as Caleb’s weapon rounded the corner of the door. The young man’s panicked yell as he clutched a bloody mass to his chest and scrambled toward the farthest corner of the small bathroom. The blonde threw herself at Caleb, clutching at his hair and clothes as she shouted like a banshee in his ear. One hard shove and she sprawled over the toilet, gasping for breath as the impact forced the air from her lungs.

Caleb knew he should shoot her, just put her down, but he was too numb to do anything. The sight in front of him took him to places he had long since tried to forget. Tehran. Blood. Whip. Rape. Blood. Whip. Rape. Staccato visions raced through his memory. His clenched fists gripping the sheets. His wails. The blood. So much blood. He could almost hear the whip cracking against his flesh, a crisp, wet sound as it landed on fresh blood. His screams pierced the air and for a moment he believed he would finally die. Finally. Then the whip fell again. And again.

“What. Happened.” His body shook with a fury he had not felt since the night he finally murdered Narweh. Caleb met the eyes of the trembling boy holding Kitten to his chest, who was trying to speak but couldn’t. “Who are you?”

“Kid,” the boy managed to get out.

Kid made sounds, but none of them coherent. Caleb lifted his gun and waited. “What…happened?” he asked again, through gritted teeth.

“Please,” Kid begged and his blue eyes gave away too much emotion, “it wasn’t me, I tried to stop them…they…” The kid swallowed and held Kitten closer. Caleb’s finger almost squeezed the trigger. He didn’t want to look at her. If he looked at her….

“They what!”

Kid flinched. The gun was still aimed squarely at the boy’s head. “They tried to rape her okay! They tried. But, b-b-b-but they didn’t. She fought and…and….” Tears fell from Kid’s eyes. Fear. Fear he was about die. Kid looked away and held his arms toward Caleb. “Please.” Kid whispered.

Caleb eyed the boy. Kid. The name fit. His face was baby smooth, his lips a little too full, like his own. Something perverse took root inside him. He would let this one live, the girl too. Though they would soon wish he hadn’t. Caleb finally looked at Kitten. Her face was a bruised and bloody mess. Her eyes were closed but her lips were moving, trembling violently as was the rest of her body. Her head hung awkwardly to the left, her arms straight out over Kid’s arms. Lower, her splayed legs showed bruises and boot marks where she had obviously been stomped on. Caleb swallowed. “Khalid,” Caleb’s voice was steady, “get a blanket and put it over the girl. She’s in shock. Then bring these two out to me.”

As Caleb turned, Dani was standing with Khalid in the hallway. The two men entered as he left and already Caleb could hear the blonde struggling against them. Caleb allowed the old memories to wash over him as he approached the living room, spliced together with images of Kitten beaten and shaking on the bathroom floor. They were all the fuel he needed for what he was about to do.

As he entered the living room he saw Jair standing over Tiny who lay face down on the floor with his arms tied behind his back. Caleb pushed Jair back and grabbed hold of the biker’s greasy hair and pulled. For a moment it seemed as though Jair might push Caleb back, but once their eyes met it was obvious Caleb was not to be fucked with and that Tiny was about to learn the same. “Jair. Knife.”

Tiny struggled and cursed so that Caleb had to straddle his back to keep the man steady. The moment the knife landed in Caleb’s palm a rush of endorphins and rage poured down his spine. “I warned you, you motherfucker!” He was blind. Bloodlust consumed his vision. He raised the knife at a forty-five degree angle and plunged in straight into the base of Tiny’s neck where it met his right shoulder. Tiny let out an inhuman scream and more endorphins released inside Caleb. He pulled the knife out and blood sprayed across his arm, chest, and neck. His head swam and his nostrils flared. He brought the knife down again, this time toward the back of the neck to separate the spinal cord.

Tiny’s accomplice screamed and screamed and screamed, making Caleb drunk with power and pure male satisfaction. Jair and his men yelled and cheered, wanting their turn. In the background the woman was making shrill incoherent sounds as she begged for Caleb to stop. Caleb lifted the knife and once again plunged it deep. Tiny no longer made sounds. He just bled and ripped apart under Caleb’s knife.

As Tiny’s body sagged in Caleb’s grasp, his head holding up his body by only a few inches of muscle, bone and sinew, Caleb’s thoughts slowly began to clear. As he took in the sight of the blood covered room and screams of those who were about to suffer, Caleb’s thoughts returned to Kitten. She was hurt. She needed him. Caleb let go of Tiny and watched as he fell to the ground a lifeless lump of meat.

He stood, drenched in Tiny’s blood holding the gore covered knife. His eyes found those of the whimpering boy they called Kid and he slowly approached. Kid began screaming even before Caleb ever reached him. He pressed the tip of the knife under his baby smooth chin, “Kid. I’m going to take you and that little bitch over there with me and when Kitten wakes up she’s going to tell me what happened. And if either of you had anything to do with it I’m going to do you worse. Understand?” Kid shut his eyes and tears streamed down his face. Caleb almost let the knife run through the boy. Something about his features, his youth, and his weepiness made Caleb want to slap him to the ground, so he did.

“Jair,” Caleb’s voice was cold, “take this little pussy and the girl alive. Kill the rest and burn the house down.” Caleb dropped the knife and didn’t look back as he made his way toward the bathroom.

The man from earlier was still bleeding and writhing on the floor of the hallway, but as he saw Caleb approach he worked to remain still, become invisible. Caleb’s fury rose up again. This was one of the men who had hurt her. He wanted to go back for the knife and play a little game of poke the rapist, but he didn’t have time. Kitten needed a hospital.

He approached her quivering body slowly, suddenly wishing he wasn’t covered in blood. She whimpered and cried as he gathered her into his arms. His heart lurched and he fought hard not to squeeze her to his chest.

He lifted her and walked as efficiently as possible out of the house and out into the light. He looked down at her, watching as the sun lit her bloodied face. Her trembling stilled somewhat and her brows knitted slightly. For a moment he saw her as he had that day, a shy young girl looking up at him with awe. Her savior. I’ve failed you.

Caleb kissed her forehead and whispered into her ear, "Don’t worry Kitten, I promise I’m going to make it better.”





THIRTEEN : I was sinking, falling. I struggled to open my eyes but my world was a blur, a mirage. Not real.

Could it be real?

All around me there was blaring light and muffled voices, but I couldn’t lift my head to see where they came from. A man wearing a white coat came into view and spoke.Mulder? I was in an episode of The X-files. No, that didn’t make sense. Scientist? Doctor? Madman with a scalpel? I couldn’t make out what he said, but his face seemed full of reassurances, false promises, empty words in a tone meant to pacify me. Then there was a tunnel of soft blue light surrounding me. I wanted to say something, or get up, but the pain was too intense. My eyes closed in their heaviness, and I sunk back into myself.

There were other moments of time when I drifted in and out of consciousness, but I couldn’t remember them clearly. Time was irrelevant. It was not now, or then, or later.

There was only pain. More pain. Less pain. It was the only constant.

I’m sinking.

Down.

Down.

Down.

No bottom, only down – forever.

I’m crying? I can’t be sure.

It must be because I’m burning.

I’m sinking and I’m burning.

Mother was right. I’m going to hell.

Can a person make such a huge mistake they can never be forgiven?

I guess so.

I don’t want to burn. I don’t want to fall into forever, dragged down.

Forever – it’s unimaginable.

There has to be an end to the suffering. I don’t deserve this.

“It wasn’t all my fault!”

I trusted him too. He said it would be okay. A kiss. A touch. A few more kisses. A few more touches. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t all my fault!

Forgive me.

Forgive me.

You bitch…forgive me.

I’m sinking. Still burning.

Forever.

I opened my eyes. For certain this time. Dark. Just a low lamp in the corner. Startled, I tried to move all at once and my entire body contracted in pain with the effort. For a moment I thought I might still be dreaming. My body burned. I placed a hand on my ribs and felt the bandages surrounding my midsection. It hurt to breathe. I kept hearing a low buzz in my ears and I realized that it was coming from inside me. I saw pinpricks of dots every time I moved my head and the light hurt. My fingers and gaze followed the pattern of damage. My left arm was in a sling across my neck, and my nose was covered in a type of tape. My eyes were puffy and blinking felt like a chore, an exercise in futility but a necessary one. Gently, I touched my face again, carefully removing the cakiness around my eyes.

There was a shadow, man-shaped, sitting quietly and unmoving in the corner. I squinted and leaned forward. Fuck the pain. Caleb, sitting eerily unmoving and in the dark with me.

“Try not to move,” he said just above a whisper. He leaned into the light. The initial impulse was to move but the pain stopped me, and Caleb, his appearance disarming. He looked rough, like he’d been to hell and back. Me too. Pieces floated to me, some sharp, others vague. Every second of that moment played again, in fast forward, then slow motion, then fast again.

So he’d gotten me back.

That realization echoed through me. Did I feel relieved? Terrified? I couldn’t muster any emotion one way or another. I was just…numb. Empty and buzzing.

He rose from the chair and came toward me. “Don’t be afraid. You’ll be all right now.” I wasn’t afraid. I wasn’t all right and never would be. “Your face is bruised, but nothing’s broken. Your shoulder was dislocated and you have a few cracked ribs, not broken. You’ll heal, but I’m afraid all I have to offer you is rest and medicine for the pain.” His words made no difference to me. I was still alive. And still with Caleb. When he got up, I didn’t flinch but just watched as he came toward me. What was left to be afraid of? What did I have left to lose?

“Where am I?” I hardly recognized my own voice. It was hoarse and gravelly, as dry and brittle as my throat felt.

“Somewhere different,” he said. Vague. Typical.

He sat next to me on the bed. Nice bed, nice room, I thought, focusing on the easy stuff my witless brain could handle. I really don’t give a fuck. He reached for my hand. My fingers recoiled, just a slight clench and tension. He nodded and withdrew.

Did he have blood in his hair? Blood. Everywhere. I shut my eyes and blocked it out. I wanted to stay numb. Get this over with. I was ready for whatever malicious words he had prepared for me. Ready for him to tell me how stupid I had been to think I’d get away from him. Jokes on you asshole, I already know. Ready for him to threaten me with rape or death. Get it over with. Please.

“I’m sorry Kitten,” he whispered. He was sorry? Coming from Caleb, guilt was highly unlikely and the last thing I had anticipated. My face did some weird snort-scoff-laugh-cry thing, which hurt my tender face. I almost laughed. Would have, if it didn’t hurt to breathe. “For what they did to you.”

Right, he was sorry, but not for taking me from home. “Good.” Home. My family. All this because I had wanted to get back to my worthless mother. Even if she doesn’t want me there. Never did. No matter how many times I said I was sorry. My eyes were stinging. I couldn’t believe I still had tears for her. I hated her. I hated her, because I loved her so fucking much and she obviously didn’t feel the same way.

Caleb cleared his throat and swallowed. “I made them pay.”

Them. A group of them that was, possibly, worse than Caleb. I felt shaky all over again, but hearing those words from Caleb’s lips was somewhat satisfying. “Yeah, well,” I said, hollowly, “you’re into that.” A hint of a smile touched his lips and for some reason it cut through me in an essential way. My life was a joke, to him, to my mother, to those asshole bikers! A cruel, heartbreaking joke and I was more than ready for the punch line. Ready for my life, the joke, to be over. Right now, I just needed someone. I needed to not feel so discarded and alone. I choked back words I knew I’d regret later, and only said, “Caleb…”

“What?”

I stared at him, not sure, wondering what the next step was and as terrified as ever. He continued to look at me, inquisitive, his face a twisted mask of indecision. If that mask was real, I almost pitied him. It was better than feeling sorry for myself but I wanted to be stronger, even as I just wanted to crawl into a hole. Get it over with. “I don’t know what you have planned for me. I know…I know it…” I paused, taking a moment to collect myself as much as my thoughts but the words in me had to be spoken. If not now, then never. I let the sparks of pain encourage me. “…I know it can’t be good. Whatever it is you’re planning. But if you could do me one favor?”

“Oh?”

I blinked once, “If it’s anywhere near as bad as what those assholes did to me.... I’m tired of living through this shit just to step into deeper fucking shit. So if all you have planned for me is more torture, I think I’d rather die. Just do me one favor and don’t…I don’t want to die slow.”

He reared back as if I had slapped him. Or not. I had slapped him twice before and he had never looked the way he did now. He suddenly wasn’t so inquisitive or indecisive – he looked pissed! But also...offended. “Is that what you think?” he said, his voice strained and tight. “You think I would…” He stood up and paced. I could do nothing but stare.

“What do you want me to think Caleb?” I said harshly. My face was hot and my nose hurt and felt stuffy. Breathing hurt. “You kidnap me, you beat me, you do...unspeakable things to me.” The burning in my chest felt like it was spreading, and it was all the anger and my despair that had been coiling within me, now oozing to the surface. “What am I to expect from you?” I did a lackluster imitation of his abnormal accent “‘Don’t let me find you.’ Isn’t that what you said?”

Finally he stopped in the center of the room, his eyes flashing then cooling. “You are a stupid, stupid girl Kitten.” I did laugh this time. Loudly, hysterically, laughing through the pain even as it ripped through every fiber of my being. He had never said anything more true. I was a stupid, stupid girl! Stupid to think my mother would ever forgive me. Stupid to think I could be something other than what I was. What had that filthy fucking biker called me? Whore! The label followed me everywhere. And what had I done to earn it? Not enough! Still virgin territory. A whore fighting her nature. For what? Yes, I was a stupid, stupid girl. I laughed and laughed and laughed until finally…I cracked. My laughter devolved into wails of pure loss, grief, and black despair.

Eventually, I found him at my side, his arms engulfing me. I let him. I was always seeking shelter in the people who hurt me the most. My mother. My father. Caleb. Like a battered dog begging for love from a malicious master. It was all I knew. And still his arms felt safe, warm, meant for me to seek sanctuary within. The cycle of damage would never end because I couldn’t tell the difference until it was too late.

“I made them pay.” He whispered again, his tone cold and final, but his words meant nothing to me, though I suspected they meant a great deal to him. Only his arms mattered, only the tangible feel of hard, sturdy flesh surrounding mine. His embrace said all the things his lips could not or would not, they said, you’re safe and I will protect you, maybe even some semblance of caring about me, however fucked up, but everything was fucked up. Through it all, his lips only repeated, “I made them pay,” and I felt something different that still felt oddly
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