Stranded Ch. 01byRabbitrunner91©
It was late, and I was driving over the mountains in an unfamiliar part of the state. I was in a hurry to get home and had 3 more hours of driving before I reached my destination. It was pitch black, raining hard, and the gravel on the road was loose. Patches of fog would occasionally obscure visibility; it was hard to see the edge of the road. Around one of the curves, my wheels caught the rocks and the car pulled sharply towards the bank. I struggled to bring the car back to center and over corrected, it rolled down the embankment towards the river. I can clearly remember thinking 'Now's not the time for an accident'. Quickly I became disorientated and felt a heavy blow to my left shoulder, followed by an explosion in my head and I passed out.
I don't know how long, but when I woke, my left shoulder was pinned beneath the partially open door. Trying to work myself free, the pain was excruciating, I pass out again. The next time my eyes opened, my shoulder was crying out and I was being pulled feet first through the trees. My arms were bound to my waist. I started to speak at the same moment my shoulder hit a bump and I screamed. Next I saw the muzzle of a rifle.
"You keep quiet, son, or I'll quiet you up for good." He drawled.
The pain was excruciating and my mind was fogged. I couldn't see his face but the warning was clear. I stifled another cry as he pulled me along. Blood was in my mouth from biting my lip; I wanted to scream but dare not. My shoulder was injured and this person was giving no thought for my well being. Mentally, I attempt to clear my mind but pain clouded it over.
The dragging goes on forever, the surroundings change and I sense a clearing. A blindfold was tied around my eyes and I was dragged into a building. The floor was wood and the place stank of urine, … manure, … sweat. I was tossed in a corner and told … "Keep quiet or your breathing might just suddenly stop."
Whoever this was, he didn't care whether I lived or died. He'd just as soon kill me as let me live. He left me alone and I took stock. My shoulder was frozen with the excruciating pain. My shoes were gone; my shirt in tatters and everything from my pockets had been removed.
I lay still and heard breathing. Was he watching nearby, ready to shoot? Waiting … no other sound was heard. My bonds are tight and I'm too weak to loosen the knots; my body was reeling from pain and the shoulder is like fire. For hours … who is my captor? Why am I being held? The blindfold keeps me in the dark and I'm unable to determine the time of day.
"I need to use the bathroom."
Silence… I repeated it, louder.
Feet shuffled across the floor and I felt a gun muzzle against my face.
"Son, make another sound and you die. Any sound. I want silence." Viciously, he kicked my stomach. "Do it in your pants, no noise." He growled.
I tried holding it, but pressure built until the choice was no longer mine, it flowed freely and my clothes were soaked, including the ropes. Seizing the opportunity I quietly worked the knots and ever so gently, they loosened. Time passed, my fingers scraped and clawed. Tugging at the fibers, gradually the knots opened and one hand pulled free. Sensitive to the sounds around me, I paused, hearing a scuffling noise; my heart pounding. Minutes passed and not hearing any additional sounds, I loosened my other hand, then my feet. The noise returns and I play 'possum'. Again silence reigns. Gingerly I removed the blindfold, looking around. Its twilight or dusk, I couldn't tell which, the shadows are deep. The floor is strewn with trash and except for a large pile of rags in the corner, the room is empty. I stood listening and shaking, then bolted through the door and down the path.
I'd nearly made it to the trees when, "Son, now you DIE." A gunshot followed, the bullet striking in front of me, and sending up a shower of rocks. A bolt of fear coursed through me as my legs pumped harder. The second shot struck a tree, inches from my face and instinctively I flinched, then stumbled and rolled along the trail, ending face down in the leaves. Before I could rise, he'd placed the gun muzzle on my neck. "Boy," he said breathlessly, "you're more trouble than you're worth." He said this as a fresh round was levered into the chamber. My right hand reached out and caught a boot, yanking with all my might. He lost balance and attempting to break his fall; releasing the gun, it clattered on top of me, and then rolled back onto his legs. I could see his boots and the gun, and made a grab, my right hand closing around the pistol grip of the stock and trigger, at the same moment he yanked on the barrel.
A deafening roar pounded my ears as the gun discharged and his feet began kicking me violently. One boot struck my left shoulder with deadly aim and I screamed. Lights exploded in my head and I was overcome with a throbbing hurt; I had to get away from him, fast. Having lost sight of the gun, my 'pain numbed' mind searched for a place to hide; I wanted to find a hole in the dirt along the stream. His feet were still kicking but I'd moved out of their reach. My shoulder and arm were nearly useless, slowing me down. I'd not much hope of escaping and was completely surprised when he didn't follow into the undergrowth. In fact I heard nothing, except the water flowing in the stream and the birds fluttering as the sky brightened overhead. Peaking through the foliage I could see his feet and legs, still on the path. I watched, he didn't move and made no sound.
Waiting, his kicking had stopped. I wanted to get the gun; scared, I inched forward. Still he didn't move. The rifle could be seen on the trail, on the far side, pinned under his leg. Slowly I crawled, hoping to grab it before he knew I was there. It amazed me that he didn't hear me, despite my grunting and groaning as I crept towards the firearm. My hopes soared as my hand curled around the stock, pulling it towards me. Briefly I glanced towards him and became sick. Everything in my stomach was quickly deposited on the ground, my insides convulsed, the dry heaves took over and still I couldn't stop. The one shot, as we struggled had entered his lower jaw and exited the top of his head, completely blowing away his face. Anyone who's ever shot someone, knows the horrible feeling in the pit of their stomach. As vile as I knew him to be, the knowledge was revolting. For a long time after, I'd have nightmares. The picture in my mind of him lying there would send shudders through me.
The heaves stopped, I lay there exhausted, finally turning over and sitting up. My shoulder throbbed terribly and the woods were quiet. Looking around, the gun had a sling, I removed it and fashioned a support for my arm from the neck. My feet were bare, I removed his shoes, putting them on. I checked the gun, the magazine had two rounds in the clip and an empty cartridge in the chamber. Lastly I examined him, searching his pockets. I found nothing much, a pocket knife, few coins, an empty gun clip, three bullets, a handkerchief, and a small length of rope. There was no identification and I never learned his name.
Using the rifle, I stood and walked back down the path, I wanted my personal items. Inside, the light was poor and I was struck with the horrible odor, it was nearly overpowering. I poked through the debris, using the end of the gun. The room was a mess, trash everywhere. I located where I'd been tied and rummaged around, not finding any of my belongings. Continuing, I moved around the room and towards the pile of rags, I'd seen earlier. Poking it, I was startled as it moved and the wafting smell emanated from here. Prodding further I could make out a human form, tied and blindfolded.
Urine and other human waste were strewn around and fly's buzzing in the air. This person was a woman and her feet were tucked behind her; the bottoms looked as if they'd been cut with knives. I couldn't tell her age, but her legs, arms and shoulders were covered with bruises, not merely black, but mottled with greenish-yellow. I knelt and removed her blindfold. Hatred flamed from her eyes. Her lips were drawn, her teeth snarled like a caged animal which had been cornered.
"He's gone." I said pointing out the door. "He's dead."
She looked towards the door, then back at me. Her anger softened and her mouth closed, still she didn't fully comprehend the change. "Dead? Sure?"
"Yes he'll not bother us again."
I removed her ropes and freed her bonds. She couldn't stand, her feet wouldn't support her. Her stench was sickening as she too, hadn't been allowed to use a toilet. The first order of business was to get cleaned up, but how? She couldn't walk and my shoulder wouldn't permit my arm to lift her. I set the rifle aside, squatted, stifling the gag reflex and straightened her into a sitting position. My left arm hung uselessly at my side.
"Put your arms around my neck and hang on tight. I'm going to try to carry you. We need to get you cleaned up."
She locked her hands behind my neck, I placed my right arm under her knees and tried to lift. She didn't weigh much, but our physical conditions made it difficult to stand. Using the wall, I pushed with my legs and slowly stood. Then gingerly I walked out the door and down the path leading to the stream. She stank to 'high heaven' and I kept my mind away from this by focusing on maintaining my balance. We could see the man lying on the path. "Is that him?" she asked.
She spat, then spat again. "You dirty SOB, I hope you rot in hell." Her words were uttered with venom. "Serves you right, you SOB." She let loose with a string of profanity I'd never expected to hear from a woman. She'd a vile hatred for this man and as I hobbled along, she spat again, this time it found the mark. She started to cry and broke into sobs. "Oh God, what am I going to do? What am I going to do?"
I'd reached the stream and walked straight into the water until I was waist deep. The water was cold, yet I let the current swirl around us to wash away most of the accumulated filth. A boulder was nearby and I sat her it, with her feet dangling in the stream. Most of the waste was inside her slacks; rather than sliding off, they disintegrated; the cloth was so rotted. The bruises and cuts covered her and as I examined her feet, I could only imagine the torture he'd put her through. Apparently he'd taken special interest in the bottoms of her feet. The other injuries looked like defensive wounds as she attempted to ward of his blows. I washed her feet as best I could and hoped there was no infection.
With my one good arm, I held her as she washed between her legs. When she was finished she was shivering. "I am going to steal his clothes. Be back in a minute."
Leaving her, I waded through the stream and worked at getting his shirt and trousers. With only one arm it was difficult, but eventually I had the garments and lay them on the trail. Returning, I carried her to the bank and placed her beside the clothes. We were both shaking uncontrollably as I helped her into the oversized shirt and pants. They were large but did provide warmth and coverage.
Walking down the path, I found a shallow depression along the stream. I latched onto his hand and drug him, depositing him at the bottom. Lugging stones from the water's edge, I filled the hole as best I could, then covered it with brush and leaves. At least he wouldn't be exposed. I returned to her.
"Have you eaten?"
"He gave me a little bread every day. Mostly he just beat me"
"Let's get back to the cabin, see if we can find some food and try to get warm."
Standing up was the most difficult maneuver, but once that was accomplished; I was able to make it back with little difficulty. Inside, the light was now sufficient to look around. There were two rooms and we already knew what was in the front room, nothing of importance. I carried her into the back room and found a cot. As I stooped to set her down, I stumbled and she let go; falling she grabbed my left shoulder and I screamed in pain. She wasn't fit to travel and neither was I.
I looked around the room after the pain subsided and found a couple shelves with canned goods, a loaf of bread and carrots. I broke the loaf of bread in half and tossed her part. She was starved and quickly ate the whole thing. I hadn't anything to eat recently and also was glad to get food in my stomach. I took a can of beans, found a sharp knife and cut the top out. A tin cup on the shelf served as a second container and I divided the beans in half. Again, we both polished them off.
The stove was an old pot-belly and could be used for cooking and warmth. I hoped there was some wood outside.
The trousers she wore were much too large so I located a section of twine and used it for a belt. Continuing to search, we located one blanket, another knife, shells for the rifle, a shovel, an axe, and more twine. 'How'd he manage to live?' I thought. 'Not much food.'
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Kathy, my friends call me Kitty"
"I'm Peter. Want to be Kathy or Kitty?
"Kitty. What're we going to do? We need help?"
"I'm unable to do much with this shoulder and you can't walk. For a few of days, we should stay here."
Squatting, I examined her feet and asked, "Was he the only one to do this, or were there others?"
"Only ONE. God, I HATE him. I'm glad that pig is DEAD."
I stepped outside and spied the stack of fire wood, sized to fit the stove. No other buildings, except an Outhouse, of sorts. Coming back to the room and walking across the floor, it sounded hollow. Pushing aside boxes, I opened a trap door; a ladder descended into a small dirt store room. There was smoked meat, a several bags of flour, salt, sugar, powdered milk, jerky, matches, 3 fifths of whisky, and a shelf of canned goods. This was the missing food supply, I'd earlier wondered about. Along one wall were cooking utensils. Making numerous trips, I carried several items upstairs.
We had one cot, one blanket, two empty wooden boxes, two aluminum basins, and one bucket for hauling water. Not much; but for now, we could survive. I spent the rest of the day carrying water from the stream and organizing the room. Kitty could only watch, offering suggestions. Using the outhouse presented difficulties; we discussed options and agreed that modesty would have to take a 'back seat'. I, myself, could manage, but she was totally dependant for assistance. Over time, we perfected the method of her being carried, and any personal help required.
With evening coming, the temperature fell. We'd paid our evening visit to the 'little house' out back, now it was time to examine her feet. They were severely swollen with areas which looked infected. This wasn't good. "Kitty, we need to get your feet cleaned before the infection gets worse. We need something to disinfect them."
"What about the whisky?"
"Good idea." I took one bottle, poured about 2 inches into a basin and she, sitting on the cot, placed one foot gently into the whisky. She winced and stifled a yell.
"Keep it in there. It'll kill the infection."
She gritted her teeth and re-immersed her feet, holding them under for 5 minutes. Darkness descended and with no lights, we settled in for the night. She reclined on the cot and I handed her the blanket.
"Where're you sleeping?" she asked.
"I'll sit over there."
"Like hell you will. You're still freezing from our bath today. Get over here." She scooted over on the cot, holding back the blanket.
I didn't argue and climbed in beside her. It took a while to get comfortable, as my shoulder hurt. In the final position, we faced each other and our heads on the other's shoulder. She pulled the blanket over us; our shivering didn't cease.
Neither one of us slept much, if at all, my shoulder constantly throbbed. Her cuts and bruises would heal, but her feet …, they concerned me.
We were glad when daylight brightened the room. We visited the outdoor toilet and returned her to the cot afterwards to look at her feet. The swelling had increased and I saw more infection. I took the knife and opened some puss pockets, letting them drain. Another whisky bottle was used to soak them again; she screamed, but toughed it out.
"Your feet are bad. What did he do to you?"
"He was sadistic. I never saw his face, was always blindfolded. Once or twice each day he'd talk dirty like he'd rape me or have me do sexual favors with him. Nothing happened, it was only talk. Then he'd beat me but mostly my feet. I don't even know why."
"Do you know how long you were held before I came along?"
"I lost count of the time; three weeks maybe. I don't know for sure. Little food, no bathroom. He let me wallow in it."
"How'd you wind up here?"
"I had a flat tire on the road and with no spare, began walking. He met me and tricked me into coming with him. God, I hate him. You sure he won't be back?"
"You saw him yesterday. He is dead." Changing the subject, "Kitty, I think we should try to soak your feet in hot water. I'll get a fire started."
It took many trips, carrying the wood from outside to create a pile against the wall, inside. Most of it was damp, I needed kindling and used the axe to splinter the driest pieces. With one arm and no experience, this took a while. Kitty helped by pulling apart the wood fibers; gradually a pile was formed. I'd never started a fire before, and the first time failed. Some paper was placed under the kindling and I tried again. Slowly a flame started, with the smoke curling up the chimney, smaller pieces were fed and gradually we had a fire.
I dipped water from the bucket into the large pan, all the while feeding the flames. It took a while, but eventually reached a boil. I pulled the cot close to the stove, Kitty poured the water into the foot basin on the floor. Regulating the water's temperature, so she could put her feet in, took a few minutes, once this was done, we kept it as hot as she could stand it. She soaked them until the skin wrinkled.
Not wanting the fire to go out, I spent the remainder of the day carrying in more wood, 3 or 4 pieces at a time; adding to the pile along the wall and close to the stove. Despite this work, I was chilled to the bone. The cabin was drafty, with the cot close to the stove, the room remained cold. The weather had turned much colder with a steady drizzle.
That evening I attempted to make pancakes; it was a total failure. Kitty laughed; her results were much better. After we'd eaten, we soaked her feet a second time. As night settled around us, I stoked the fire and together we curled up for the night. We slept well.
The following week, the weather remained wet and cold. We soaked her feet three times through the day and I added the last of the whiskey for disinfectant. I hoped these sessions could heal her feet as the infection appeared to be less. Only time would tell.
Lots of time was spent soaking her feet, carrying wood, cooking food, using the outhouse; yet we had ample time to talk.
"I don't like the looks of your feet." I commented. "He certainly turned them into mincemeat." I placed her foot on my lap to examine it closer, finding splinters. "We need to remove these."
She pulled her foot off my lap and lay it across her knee. "I have two hands. Let me do this."
I scooted closer and kept the one foot elevated so she could see; she worked in silence but I saw the grimace on her face. Her work was steady, teasing the splinters out. When finished, we switched feet. The second one looked clean.
With her feet back in the water "Turn around." she said. "Let me check your shoulder." I spun around, her fingers gently probing. I grimaced, then screamed as she touched the shoulder socket. Nothing appeared broken, but something was wrong; she massaged the muscles. Small movement showed me the limitations with my arm.