unStrapped, page 1part #3 of Strapped Series
Nina G. Jones
Copyright 2014 Nina G. Jones
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Table of Contents
Message from Author
The room erupted into a muffled chorus of desperation and terror. Just before the ceremony there seemed to have been a unanimous consensus. The children had to go first; they had to be given the rich milkshakes that had been tainted with cyanide. It was when the parents saw their children slipping away, most with violent convulsions, that the cries began. Some were quiet, but occasionally, a loud wail of horror cut through the chorus of weeping.
Alan said something into the microphone, something about keeping to the mission, that they would be in a better place. Lyla didn’t quite hear it, it was background noise to the deafening hum of fear and despair. What she could hear beyond his words was the quiver in his voice: a thin layer of panic over his booming oration. His daughter and her mother had vanished about two weeks ago, and that had broken something in him. He had become increasingly paranoid, certain that the government, led by the devil himself, would persecute them. He and his disciples would leave this ungodly world, with his beloved Lyla by his side.
Lyla trembled, she had to stay calm, she only had one chance, but the tremor came deep from within her cells. The violent shaking of her hands would destroy her plan, yet the movement was involuntary. Then she remembered something from years earlier, during a time in her life that felt like a dream or something she had seen in a movie. She was such a different person, just an innocent teenager about to play Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She always trembled before going on stage, and the director told her to close her eyes and take several deep calming breaths. She did just as instructed, and when she opened her eyes and looked down at her hands, she couldn’t believe they were completely still. And so, eight years later, she did the same thing she did as that 15 year-old-girl. She shut her eyes to filter out the madness of the dead children scattered on the floor just below her, and of the dying moans of the adults who had also taken the poison so that they could follow the little ones. There was nothing she could do for them now. She could only save herself and Taylor.
She heard Alan’s voice again, but this time it was not through the mic, it was close to her, and she realized he was addressing her directly.
“The boy.” She opened her eyes and turned to face him. “The boy.” Taylor was the only child who had not been given the milkshake. She looked over at Taylor, who was sitting on an altar next to her, wrapped in the blanket she had drawn around his thin shoulders. His bluish-green eyes, just like hers, turned dark with an emotion that might have been fear. Her baby had been through more than any child should be able to bear, and he had grown a hard shell around him. She knew he was terrified, but he stared at the scene unfolding in front of him with an empty expression. He would not let Alan see how scared he was, but he was old enough to understand he was about to die.
Luckily Alan was distracted by his increasingly desperate struggle to control his flock. Some women tried to head for the door, but others stopped them. They had made a commitment and they would all follow through.
“Taylor…” Lyla said softly. He didn’t look. “Taylor, sweetie. Look at me, please.” Tears blurred her vision. She held him closely in her arms. “Remember what we talked about? This is going to put you to sleep, that’s all.” She grabbed the cup that she had prepared for them and placed it to his lips. “It’s vanilla, your favorite.”
“Like I told you, she’s gone. She’s in a better place than here, with her mama. Now drink, there’s no time to worry about her.”
“I don’t want it, mom.”
“Please. Taylor, you have to do this. We talked about this. I would never hurt you.”
“But you said when I wake up you won’t be here anymore.”
“I know honey. And I am sorry, but it’s the only way. Now hurry before Papa comes.” She pressed the cup against his lips. “It only works if you drink it all, quickly.”
And he did, he gulped it up, because she mentioned “Papa” would be back and he preferred eternal sleep to Alan’s wrath. His eyes closed quickly and Lyla held him close, violently trembling with him in her arms. “My baby!” she called out. “My baby!”
At her cry, Alan’s dark presence hovered over her. As she covered Taylor’s head with the blanket, Alan reached to pull it open.
“Don’t you touch him ever again!” She beat at his chest hysterically. “He’s safe from you, he’s better off dead!”
Alan slapped her so hard, she could feel the burning sensation where each finger made contact with her cheek. It worked. She had distracted him from checking on Taylor.
“I don’t think we’ll be seeing that boy where we are going.” Not that she believed any of this bullshit anymore, but he promised her she would see her son in paradise and now he was banishing him to hell. What did Taylor ever do to earn so much hatred?
But there was something that Lyla knew, that even Taylor knew in a way, that Alan didn’t know. Alan was right, Taylor would not being going where they were going. What looked like faint convulsions at a distance in this chaos, wa
Alan grabbed Lyla’s hand and raised it over head. “My beloved and I will be joining you all soon,” he declared to the congregation. She watched as a small handful of resistors frantically clamored at the doors and windows, all of which were padlocked or nailed closed. More committed congregants pulled them back towards the center of the room and force fed them the tainted milkshake. She wanted to scream, but nothing she could do now would save those people. Little puffs of air escaped her mouth as the scream fought to emerge, but with everything she had left, she remained still. And though there were a few dissenters, most went willingly, confident this world was not for them and theirs.
Finally, hundreds of limp bodies surrounded the pulpi. Only two more men remained alive out of the flock, the highest-ranked members of Alan’s inner circle. The two men embraced Alan and, serenely, accepted their cups of poison. Alan watched proudly as they collapsed and writhed on the floor until they were still.
And then there was complete silence. The silence pressed against her skull, making it hard for her to focus on anything but its unrelenting pressure.
“Lyla, it’s now your turn.”
“I thought we were going to do this together.” Her heart raced so quickly she thought it might short circuit. She had hoped she could fake drinking the mixture.
“No, as the father of this flock, I must oversee safe passage for all before going myself.” She had no doubt he would do it himself, he had nothing left and this was his coward’s way out.
“I want to do it with you,” she murmured, pressing her hand against his cheek, hoping her false tenderness would persuade him.
“I said no.”
She knew she had to get close to him. She had one shot and if she didn’t do this right, she would be dead.
“I won’t do it alone!”
“Dammit,” he said, grabbing her neck and choking her so that she would be forced to open her mouth as he reached for their cup. She clawed at his hands, but he only gripped stronger and pulled her closer for a parting kiss. When he aimed the cup for her mouth, she pursed her lips and knew this was the moment. She only had less than a second to pull it off and the element of surprise was on her side. She reached for the syringe taped under her blouse and in one swift motion rammed the needle through his hair and into the soft tissue at the base of his neck. She was pushing the cyanide into his system before he even realized what was happening.
His eyes widened with disbelief and betrayal as he loosened his grip on her neck and dropped the poisoned glass. It shattered, and the deceptively sweet mixture exploded across the floor. She took a few slow steps back as she watched in disbelief. He fell to his knees, raising his arms to reach for the syringe, but the poison overtook him quickly and he collapsed into a fetal position, his body quivering and contorting.
I did it. I did it. We’re free.
But she would never be free. She had a secret, a secret no one could know. Ever.
She watched in disbelief, staring at Alan’s limp body just to make sure he was really dead. Then, suddenly, the roaring silence receded. She could hear her heart pounding and Taylor’s shallow breaths; her senses were so heightened that she could hear the breeze stirring in the palm trees outside. She had to act fast, she had to truly disappear. She pulled the syringe from Alan’s neck, filled it from a vial of cyanide left on the pulpit, and injected it into his arm. Wiping the syringe clean, she wrapped the fingers of Alan’s main deputy around it. Since there would be no trace of the milkshake in Alan’s system, she had to make it look like he had someone inject him. The other needle mark was buried deep under his brown locks, and she could only hope the more obvious one would distract investigators from it. She hoped the precautions she had taken were enough. It was important that no evidence pointed to her. Everyone who had seen her these past two weeks, with the exception of her son, was dead.
Lyla was taking a gamble with Taylor. He could place her at the scene, say she was witness to the massacre; but she knew her son. He didn’t speak to anyone besides herself and his best friend, little Shyla, her namesake, who he had repeatedly asked for whenever Alan was out of earshot. Lyla had to pretend she knew nothing of the girl’s whereabouts, so she gave very vague answers to Taylor. It was a calculated gamble, as the odds of her son confiding in strangers was minimal. In addition, the sedative should make his recollection of events blurry, if he could even remember them at all. She hoped that, in time, he might lead something like a normal life, and she understood the best chance of that was with his biological father. But Lyla had been so isolated for so long in the commune that she did not know that Randall Holden was no longer an ambitious man starting a new company, but had become a very wealthy industrialist.
She hoped the spilled mixture beside Alan might work to her benefit, they would think he dropped it and decided to end his life with a needle instead.
Lyla, didn’t have much time, so she ran over to Taylor and raised the blanket off of his face. His cheeks were rosy, his breathing shallow, but steady. She let out a sigh of relief knowing Taylor would be just fine.
Next, she ran into Alan’s office, and went to his safe. She watched him open it for months until she was certain she had the combination. She left another ten thousand in the safe so that it wasn’t completely empty. Though there was no record of this money anywhere, an empty safe might still raise suspicions. She stuffed the money and a few essential possessions into a large bag and ran back out into the congregation hall. She was too focused on her mission to really absorb the sheer amount of death around her. Lyla was beyond numb, she had disassociated, as if she was watching herself from the outside. She felt like a ghost witnessing the gruesome scene.
But she knew Taylor would not be so lucky. She couldn’t leave him food, she could not tip anyone off. There could be no proof that she lived, not a hint of it. She knew Marie would come back. It had been two weeks since Marie ran away with Shyla. Marie only left under the condition that Lyla follow her soon after. Someone would come back to check soon. Marie would never leave her behind, even if it meant she had to come back to C.O.S.
She walked over to Taylor, who was peacefully sleeping on the altar, her beautiful angelic boy. He was already so handsome, like the father he never knew: the man she had resented so much that she instead put Taylor in the hands of a far more sinister beast.
She caressed his face and softly kissed him. It was something she was so rarely able to do, as all of her actions around him were watched by Alan or his associates. She mostly snuck into Taylor’s room on those nights when Alan was with another woman. That was the only time she could do it without risking their safety. “Kisses before hugs,” she whispered, a way to justify to herself that she could not fully embrace her son for fear of waking him, as he was prone to fits if disturbed in his sleep. Instead, she would pepper a light kiss or two on his brow.
She ran her fingers through the dark, silky waves of his hair. “I’m sorry for everything,” she whispered through her tears.
She shouldered her bag, and rifled through Alan’s pockets for the key to unlock the massive chain which had kept people from fleeing the death chamber. She dragged to the chain and lock back to the hardware closet where they were always kept. This would make it easier for someone to enter, and hopefully there would be fewer questions about the consent of the dead. The fewer questions about what happened here, the fewer questions about what happened to her. So she hoped.
She stepped over the bodies one last time on her way to the front door, looked back at the boy sleeping peacefully on the altar, and then she disappeared.
“Right and wrong is not absolute. It's relative. People like me exist because we do what needs to be done. Let me take the guilt. You did nothing wrong. Let me take it all.”
The tip of Taylor’s middle fin
I know I’m not alright, and that is the only thing that is comforting to me: that I am present. I am choosing to stay silent, to sleep the days away. I’ll be back, I just need to be here for a while. In this quiet as Taylor would say.
Three weeks ago, the seeds of doubt had been planted.
I don’t doubt Taylor loves me. I have no doubt that he would have exchanged his life for mine, just as I was prepared to do so for him. My doubt stems from what Taylor would do for our love. He has found something so rare, so precious, that he would keep it at all costs. That’s what Taylor does, that is why he has been so successful in life. He knows how to get what he wants, and he will stop at nothing to get it. He’s brilliant, and he is clever, but I won’t say he’s merciless. Taylor thinks he is without mercy, but I have seem glimmers of it. Small kindnesses that someone without a soul would not do, but he hides the mercy because he sees it as weakness. Taylor is no saint—he will do depraved and immoral things, but that is not all of him. He is so much more than that.
I too am so many things. I am my heart, it is my weakness. I wish I could be like Taylor, who can kill and walk away. Who can shut down or shut away an inconvenient emotion. But that is not who I am.
I am my mind, and my mind is screaming, it is telling me something is not right. Something is off. Taylor was so thrilled to be rid of Eric, and I understand why. But, my thoughts keep shouting: this is not the end of the story. Could Taylor have truly set this up? Is he so manipulative, so afraid to lose me and so eager to rid himself of Eric’s shadow, that he outsmarted us all?
Is Taylor the man I know, or the person Eric described? Someone who plants drugs to get his brother sent away; uses innocent women until they are just empty shells and then discards them like trash? Would he let me think I was raped so that he could finish what he started years ago, and successfully eliminate Eric while getting me even closer to him?
by Nina G. Jones have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on50 votes