I don’t remember much of the journey that followed, mostly because there was nothing to remember. I was thrown into what was probably the back of a van, hitting my head pretty hard on the floor. I don’t think I was concussed, but my head throbbed with pain nevertheless. Based on the sounds I heard and the feeling of my wrists and ankles, they had my hands and feet bound with duct tape. I heard the door slam behind me, and I felt the van rev to life beneath me. I may be wrong, but it seemed like we only drove a block or two before they stopped and opened the door again. They slammed me down into a chair right after they ripped me from the van, and just like that, the bag was off.
My eyes burned from the brightness that stabbed them. There was an electric buzzing in the air that caused my headache to flare up in red hot intensity. My mouth tasted like copper, my throat was dry, and my body was tingling and shivering from a cold that I could never have imagined with such brightness. I squinted my eyes to keep the light from being overbearing, and in front of me, I could make out the vague, blurry silhouette of a man. It took me a while to realize that the figure in front of me was trying to talk to me.
His voice sounded like it was underwater, vague and faint, barely audible over the incessant electric buzz. Still, I tried to focus, and, eventually, I was able to make out the words.
“…signed the non-disclosure…talked…Mr. Murdoch.”
“What?” I croaked in confusion. There was a sudden sting and ache on my cheek as the figure hit me. My head started to flare up even more, and I could feel blood dripping down my face. My jaw ached, and I felt a tooth come loose from its roots. Before I realized it, I already swallowed the tooth.
“Don’t play dumb with us! You know you talked, and you know that you weren’t supposed to!” His voice was making my head throb even harder, and I silently regretted trying to understand him before. “Now, here’s what you’re going to do now! You’re going to continue to counsel Rebecca without payment, you’re going to refuse all contact with anyone who asks about her, and you are going to answer to every order we deliver you!”
That was all they said to me after that. I think I muttered or sputtered some half-coherent questions about what was happening but to no avail. They didn’t answer as they put the bag back over my head. They didn’t answer as they picked me up and dragged me from that place. They didn’t answer as I struggled and begged to be let out. They didn’t answer as they strapped me into another cold metal chair. They didn’t answer as gigantic needles were jammed into my head and my body. They didn’t answer as pulses of electrical agony began to emanate from the stinging nerves on my body. They didn’t answer as I screamed long after my lungs were sore. They didn’t answer as the world faded to silence and black.
What followed was a blur of dreams and memories that I can hardly recall now. I remember sparks. I remember a bathtub. I remember a knife. I remember a dark suit on a clothes hanger. I remember long, auburn hair. However, the clearest memory I have was a street. It looked like a typical, suburban street at night, nothing unassuming about it. Yet, I was running, I was running away from someone, or something. As I was running, I heard a man’s voice. A deep, gruff, husky voice, distorted by electronic interference. It wasn’t long until I realized it was Alex Murdoch’s voice. He was chanting the same phrase, over and over. “The Striving forsake thee. The Striving forsake thee. The Striving forsake thee.” I could hear his voice behind me. I could hear it growing closer, closer, louder, louder. I ran and ran, but the street didn’t end, and soon the voice enveloped me. A giant, black-gloved hand shot out of nowhere to grab me.
Then I woke up in my apartment. I was shaking, sweating, and aching from the experience. I felt my cheek and my jaw. There was no wound, and I still had all of my teeth. I felt the back and sides of my head, but they all felt fine. I laughed, a small, nervous laugh, but a laugh nonetheless. I was fine! I was okay! I didn’t need to worry. It was just a nightmare. I had to calm myself down and put on a serious face when I got a phone call. It was Rebecca. A bit confused, but still overwhelmingly relieved, I answered the call.
“Hello?” the voice on the other end said. The inquisitive tone was way exaggerated.
“Hello, Ms. Murdoch.”
“Hello. You said to call you if I needed to talk, and I need to talk.” As flat as that voice sounded, something about it sounded, quivering, for lack of a better word.
“Yes, of course. What do you want to talk about?”
“You know my father?” Again, with that way high inquisitive ending.
“Of course I do, he’s why you’re seeing me, isn’t he? What about him?”