Mima shifted uncomfortably on the couch, letting out a low whimper as the half-healed brand on her left thigh brushed against the leather.
What time was it? She wondered idly, not really concerned. Time no longer had meaning in her present situation. Daylight, dark, dusk, dawn were not important. Her life had become much simpler than that, broken down into just two starkly clear divisions.
Master not here.
At the moment, he was not here. She sensed his nearness when he was, every cell of her being attuned to pleasing him, the man who had broken her, made her his slave in the truest sense of the word. Mima feared him. Beyond question, yes, she feared the one who’d put her in her place, firmly, brutally, with the whip and his belt and so many other things, her hands desperately gripping the chain above her head to keep the cuffs from damaging her wrists beyond repair. For those sessions, she was gagged, blindfolded, her helpless tears and muffled screams grist to the merciless mill that was her Master’s will.
The hot knife, she reflected, hadn’t really been that bad. Not the worst of it. He’d used her, of course, disdainfully, calling her every name in the book, branding her like a cow.
Her thigh brand, two initials inside a square box. The box TM brand, she supposed. His initials? Or an acronym for something else? The Master? She didn’t know, nor did she dare ask. Slaves who asked questions soon learned better.
Except for the steel collar around her neck and the steel chain leading to the center post he’d installed in the living room, she was, of course, without clothing or adornment. She could reach the porta potty and the couch…and nothing else.
It did not surprise her that she was deliriously happy. Of course, her Master still thought she was Treemin Jackson’s mother. “All you people look alike,” was the way he’d put it, and when he’d taken her from her old Dodge pickup, he’d left her purse behind on the seat, never thinking to check her driver’s license. Had he done so, he’d have realized his mistake.
Well, good. You can’t have him, Louella! The thought burst forth with fiery intensity; she, Mima, was her Master’s slave. Had she anything to do with it, she would be his only slave.
She looked down, at the second hot knife branding, the one that arched across her abdomen, where he’d shaved her pubic hair. M I M A, it said, though of course she had to read it upside down. That one, perhaps because of the thinner skin, had gotten rather badly inflamed. She’d not been sure until then, not been certain that he might not get rid of her any old day…until he’d brought the antibiotics. What kind, she did not know, nor did she dare ask. She simply opened her mouth obediently, accepted the pills he placed on her tongue, accepted the water he poured to chase them down her throat.
The inflammation was nearly gone now.
Damn. Blessing was getting insistent. She hated when her Other did that. But…
–Blessing Devonia heaved a deep sigh. It made a number of her bruises spark in protest, but that was okay. It was hard, refusing to let her Mima persona become her only reality.
Mima, short for Aunt Jemima, of course.
She could feel the tug, the pull, the desire for the ugly, frog-bodied white man who’d taken her. She would, she knew, always feel that desire. If he killed her, or if law enforcement killed him, she would still feel it.
“Be careful what you wish for, daughter”, her Mom had told her a thousand times, “you might just get it.”
She’d certainly gotten it, all right. For that matter, she wanted in the most desperate way to keep it, but…
…but Froggy was truly insane. She could see it in his eyes, at those moments when she was allowed–sometimes required–to look into them. The eyes are the window of Soul, another Mom saying, and terrifyingly true in this case.
Her Mima voice protested mightily at calling her Master Froggy, which she always did, but Blessing fought off the yearning to agree with her alter ego. She had to, if she wanted to survive. Except for being a whole lot more homely than she’d have chosen, had it been her choice, her abductor was everything she wanted in an owner. Even the racial slurs stoked her furnace.
But he would kill her. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe next year, but he would. He would snap, just like that.
God forbid he ever found out she was not Louella Jackson at all; that alone, she was pretty sure, would be enough to do it. He lived for, gloried in his belief that he was actively using and abusing the mother of Louella’s son, whom he’d already killed.
He bragged about that, sometimes.
Plus, the man’s days had to be numbered. They just had to. She could feel it, deep inside, where the psychic abilities handed down through her mother’s side of the family grew and flourished. There was the mark of death on Froggy (Shut up, Mima. I’ll call him Froggy in my thoughts if I want to.). She could sense it.
The abduction, she reflected, had been easy work for him. He’d simply waved her down on the dirt road leading out to Billy’s place, asked her with a kind of sheepish smile on his face if the BB quarter circle ranch was out this way somewhere. He was a welder, looking for work, even odd jobs, something he could build or patch back together if was broke, and folks in town had mentioned Billy Davis, said he might have something.
It had disarmed her. She’d felt the danger, sure she had, but she’d ignored it. When his left hand shot in through the driver side window, grabbing her by the throat while he popped the door handle with his right and dragged her right off the seat, her first thought was that FrogMasterThree from collar me dot com had found her after all.
FMT had been stalking her on the site for some time, promising to do all sorts of things to her, and his profile photos looked a good bit like this attacker.
Wrong guess, she’d soon figured out. Froggy had whipped her nearly to death that first time, branded her in two places, applied humiliation and hard usage in plentiful doses–but his style wasn’t a patch on FMT. That one made her Master look like a really nice guy.
Not that Froggy wouldn’t have killed her that same night. He would have, she was pretty sure, except her sexual response to his torture made him decide to keep her around for a while.
She wanted, even in her Blessing persona, to tell him she loved him. She didn’t dare, of course. He was everything she’d always wanted, what she’d been looking for, harsh, strict, stern, dominant to the max, and a true sadist. Why couldn’t she find a man like that who wasn’t also off the rails?
Why couldn’t Billy Davis be like that?
He couldn’t, of course. The rancher could whip out his folding knife and castrate a bull calf or a stud colt without blinking, but tie up a girl? Spank her a bit to get her warmed up? She’d tried hinting at that once, seen the horror in his eyes, and backed off in a hurry. She didn’t want to lose Billy. She just wished….
Come to think of it, she might have already lost Billy. Lots of guys couldn’t deal with a girl who’d been under another man’s thumb like this. Damaged goods. She didn’t think that was Billy’s style but….
If wishes were fishes. “You got a million of ’em, Mom. And you’re no doubt hounding the FBI every day, wanting to know what they’re doing to find your daughter.” She dared speak the thought aloud. Froggy was paranoid about recording devices; he wouldn’t have anything spying on her voice.
Uh-oh. She could feel him; he was heading home. Not close yet, but his thoughts were turned her way. That psychic tendril was arousing Mima something fierce; her slave needs were clamoring to be allowed dominance in the personality. Blessing would have to finish her evaluation quickly, the inventory she took every time she felt safe enough to rise to prominence for a while.
They were somewhere in the mountains. Where, who knew? She’d been not only blindfolded but stuffed into a bag as well, an old canvas mail bag; she’d seen the stenciling on the side, seconds before her world went dark. The smell of the pines came in through the little high windows, though, and she could hear the jays sometimes, so…definitely the mountains.
This place was…actually, pretty nice. Steady temperature, maybe 75 degrees. Despite her enforced nudity, she was seldom shivery cold and only felt hot when fevered from one or another batch of Master-induced pain. What was it, with its single, narrow front door and only the two windows, letting fresh air and light in through the screens just under the high ceilings? She’d thought about it a lot, having precisely nothing else to do during Froggy’s absences but think. One of those doomsday bunkers, she decided.
If it was a bunker, wherever it might be located, it would not be obvious, not easy for outsiders to find.
Froggy owned the place, she was pretty sure. He moved around in it like he owned it, anyway.
There was a kitchen arrangement along one wall, the wall she’d come to think of as the north wall. In her mind, this was the living room, but there was no divider between the couch and the kitchen wall. It was just one big…bunker room.
Her chain would not, of course, allow her to reach the knives in the kitchen drawer. In any event, she doubted she could kill the man even if she was armed with a bazooka and had him dead to rights. He could freeze her in place with a glance, a gesture, a word. Besides, Mima loved her Master, truly loved him–and would be more likely to kill his enemies than the other way around.
She’d begun feeling he had the right of it. Those horrible people at Rodeo Iron were evil to the core.
Fortunately, she understood–mentally, at least–that this was simply the Stockholm Syndrome in action. Captives throughout history have tended, over time, to identify with their captors. It was happening to her, big time. She couldn’t really fight it, though; the best she could do for now was recognize the process and hope that when she was rescued, or escaped–when, not if–she could get deprogrammed eventually.
Which was no sure thing, but it was the best she had to work with at the moment, that hope.
And then she heard his key in the door and retreated, swiftly. Slave Mima took over in a rush, launching herself from the couch, kneeling, forehead to the floor, hands also on the floor, palms down, stretched forward in supplication toward the Master who paused in the doorway a moment, letting the brisk autumn breeze sweep across the unclad form of the girl who knew her place.
“Honey,” Shawn Hicks announced cheerfully, “I’m ho-ome!”