Note: The scene begins from Witt’s perspective, then shifts to Heather’s. Throughout the novel, I shift perspectives, but rarely-mid scene. Perspectives are always indicated by the character’s first initial as a space-break. Example below.
P.S. I have no idea what’s going on with the formatting. I have yet to figure out how to indent within the text box.
“Is anyone awake?”
Heather’s voice was soft, but still jarring in the silence. Witt quickly removed his hand from under his robe, as if her mere proximity could give her some kind of omniscience.
“I’m up,” he replied.
“How long have you been awake?” she asked.
“I dunno,” Witt scoffed. “Lemme check my phone… Oh, wait…”
“Very funny.” There was a pause. Despite his attitude, Witt was relieved when she continued to speak. “I mean, have you been awake for a while – completely awake? Listening?”
“Yes,” he said. This was true, but he would never admit to the real reasons why. He had been straining to hear the goings-on beyond the door in hopes of discovered perhaps a little more about Rhodes.
“Do you feel safe talking?”
“Well – no. But… I don’t think Avery’s here. I mean, I don’t even think he’s in the house. Unless he’s asleep. I haven’t heard a thing in forever. Is it night or day?”
Heather paused. “It’s day,” she finally replied. “At least, the sun was still up when he brought me back, and I don’t feel like I’ve been asleep that long.”
“No, I think it’s only been an hour or so.”
Heather fell silent. An hour or so was not long enough to determine that Rhodes was not in the room.
“Why?” Witt asked when she had been silent for too long.
Heather decided to throw caution to the wind: “We need to start figuring out a way to escape.”
“Whoa!” Witt forgot to check his volume.
“The fuck?” Monica asked groggily.
Heather hissed through her teeth. Witt could not help but feel that this was directed at his incredulous response.
“Don’t worry about it,” he told Monica. “Just go back to sleep.”
“What’s going on?”
“The Trakkie’s talking crazy.”
“I have a name, Chuck.”
“Will you two please shut the fuck up?” Z’s voice cut in, tinged with fear. He was still recovering from his nearly-dislocated shoulder.
Witt’s face burned. No one by his family ever called him “Chuck” anymore. “Heather…” he drew it out like a dirty word, “is attempting to hatch an escape plan.”
There was a long paused, followed by: “She’s right. We need to start figuring out a way to get out of here.”
“Fucking nuts,” Witt muttered. He was not only scared; he was torn: Rhodes had managed to uncage a part of him that he never imagined he could enjoy. Despite the pain, he wanted more of it.
Z continued. “Witt, it’s going to have to be you. Yours and Monica’s doors are the only ones that aren’t reinforced. You can break through and let us out.”
“Man, fuck that noise!” Witt replied. “For all you know, he’s listening to us right now, waiting. The moment I hit the door, he’s either going to Tase… Taser me – or hit me with that fucking wand.”
“That’s a risk we’re going to have to take,” Heather said bitterly.
“No, fuck that.”
“When did you become such a fucking sycophant?” Z demanded.
“A what?” Witt’s face burned. He hated it when Z used words like that.
Although everyone had been speaking in hushed toned, Monica did not. “Leave him alone!”
“Both of you,” Z muttered. “You’re both on his side.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Monica yelled. She had been listening for the past few minutes to Witt being attacked, and now lost her temper altogether. “He beat me. He raped me on the side of the fucking road. Don’t you dare –!”
“Monica, he’s raped all of us,” Heather reminded her calmly. “Them as well.” She raised her voice slightly. “All of us, Zachariah. We’re all in the same boat. We’re all coping with it differently. But we all need to get out.”
“You’re going to get all of us killed,” Witt muttered.
“We’re all going to die here anyway if we don’t. Personally, I’d rather die trying to get out than in the process of being raped. Personal preference.”
“He might not kill us,” Monica suggested, “if we cooperate. I mean, he doesn’t beat me. I do what he says, tell him what he wants to know, and he… he actually acts pretty nice…” Her voice trailed off as she realized the absurdity of what she was saying.
“What do you mean, ‘Tell him what he wants to know’?” Heather asked.
There was a pregnant pause.
Heather suddenly got the feeling that she had been left out again.
“He asks a lot of questions,” Monica finally explained. “He likes to talk a lot. He doesn’t talk to you?”
“No…” she replied hesitantly. “I’m usually unconscious, or fighting, or – you know – getting raped.”
“He’s never asked you anything incredibly personal?” Z asked, sounding surprised.
Heather fell silent. It hadn’t felt deeply personal when he asked it, but that was perhaps because she didn’t often have conversations that were not deeply personal.
“Did you know?” he had asked her. He was done with her, but continued to hover over her.
“Did I know what?” She was hiding her face in the pillow, not ready to face the world again.
“Did you know that I was going to be your catastrophe?” he explained. “You looked at me like you had a sense of what I would do.”
Heather snorted. She was lucky he couldn’t see her face, because she rolled her eyes. “Asking that is –” she stopped herself from going into more sensitive territory, hugging the pillow tighter.
“Is what?” He leaned forward slightly, putting more weight on her.
She spoke in the hope that he would back off. “I only looked at you like you were not my science teacher.”
“That’s not what you were going to say.” He shifted so that more of his body was pressing against hers.
Perhaps if she said it fast enough, it would be like pulling off a Band-Aid. “Asking me that is like asking if I knew that my parents were going to die when they bought their car,” she answered.
“Did you?” he asked, pouring salt into the wound.
“There is no foreboding,” she said firmly, turning her head to glare at him. “If I’ve learned anything from tragedy, it is that there is no way to see it coming. Not with them, and not with you. It’s not a tornado; it’s lightning. And don’t think for one minute,” she paused to shove him off of her and lean up, “that you are my catastrophe.”
Rhodes stared up at her with an expression akin to awe. Then he grabbed her neck and yanked her back down. Pressing her face into the mattress, he leaned on her with his forearm across the back of her neck. If he leaned his full weight on her now, her spine would snap like a twig. Instead, he leaned close to her ear.
“I am your catastrophe, Heather Stokes. You will not survive this. I will be the death of you.”
When he released her, she did not move.
Looking back on it now, Heather realized that it had been pretty personal. Monica’s voice cut through her epiphany:
“He’s never asked you about us?”
“Yeah,” Witt and Z chimed. While Z sounded excited, Witt sounded worried.
Now Heather was lost. “What about you?”
“Anything,” Z replied.
“Everything,” Monica said.
“No…” Heather answered hesitantly. “So, he… he asks for gossip?”
“Well, yeah,” Monica said.
“Do you tell him?” Heather suddenly became very anxious.
“If you don’t answer him, he’ll become physical again,” Z said.
“But, but, don’t worry,” Monica said hurriedly. “He can’t really tell when you’re lying, or if you’re telling the whole truth. Sometimes he’ll try to call you out on it, but, you know… there’s nothing he can really do about it.”
Heather breathed a sigh of relief. But it didn’t last long. A low chuckle began, welling up into laughter. With a panicked whimper, Monica began to cry.
Witt had been wrong.