She awoke with a vague memory of having felt very cold, a pervasive cold that had penetrated right through to her bones. But now, as she felt the rough-hewn stone floor against her bare skin, she noticed that while the floor felt the same, it seemed warmer from her feet all along the length of her body. She also felt metal laying somewhat heavily on her wrists and ankles. She opened her eyes slowly. Yes, she was certain this was the same room but somehow it looked different. Was it brighter? Not really brighter, no. Everything was the same, it just looked different somehow.
Then there were the smells in the room which she abruptly realized she was very keenly aware of. A metallic scent drew her attention most alarmingly and she followed the smell with her eyes until they came to rest on several pools of blood on the floor, thick and dark puddles that glistened in the dim light around her. The scent of blood overpowered the acrid smell of urine and the sharp, musky aroma of her body, everything blending to form a cacophony of odors that cascaded across her awareness in rapid succession. They seemed to literally hang in the air, her own pungent smell revealing to her that she must have been in this room for quite some time. But these smells were the same as she remembered them and yet they were not the same. Were they stronger? No, not stronger. But she knew them better? She didn’t quite understand.
She also had a vague memory of having been terrified in this room. She had the distinct impression that horrible things had happened to her here; that she was sometimes removed from this room and taken elsewhere, dragged elsewhere to a place where things even more terrifying and awful were done to her only to be tossed back onto the floor of this small and cold room as if she were nothing. But what those horrible things were she couldn’t remember.
And while the air felt the same as before, it wasn’t what she would call cold anymore. And though she remembered being terrified, her fear was now completely gone and she had no idea why. What was different? Well, she felt different, for one thing. Everything else seemed to be the same, but she seemed to be sensing everything differently, as if the vague and rapidly fading memories of the things she had sensed were seen through someone else’s eyes. Even her mind and how she regarded things seemed to be different, if that were possible. She did not feel at all ashamed to be lying there naked, for instance; and that she was certain was different. In fact, as she looked down at her body it seemed strange and familiar all at once, and it seemed foolish to have ever felt modest about it. This was the body she knew. Her skin was taut, pliant, and supple. And while so many colors she saw around her seemed more vivid than she expected them to be, the color of her skin seemed to be significantly muted.
Looking down at her body drew her attention to the chains. Her wrists had each been secured with manacles, and her ankles were enclosed in shackles. Thick chains then connected the set of manacles to the set of shackles with the chains meeting at a single ring of steel. The steel ring was then secured by a massive lock to an even larger ring of iron bolted to the center of the floor. The manacles, the shackles, the chains, rings, and the lock were all much thicker than she would have expected them to be. After all, she wasn’t petite, but she wasn’t a muscular woman, either. But they also didn’t seem to be as heavy as she would have expected them to be. Now, why was that, she wondered? Were these manacles and shackles different than the ones used before? Were they smaller? No, they were actually larger, she was sure of that; but still they felt lighter somehow. Every touch, every sensation passing through her body, seemed both familiar and new. She was sensing things more… more what?
She was startled by the abrupt sound of metal moving, like a huge metal door latch being thrown. She looked up, suddenly aware of having been terrified of that sound the last time she had heard it. But now… what was she feeling now? Anything?
The door swung open and within the door frame stood a woman, a woman of middle age who, were it not for the bruises on her face and body in various stages of healing, would have been nonetheless quite beautiful, and she gasped, despite herself. But it was not the woman’s underlying beauty, nor even the discoloration of her bruises which caused her to gasp, but rather the memories which arrived with her. Unfortunately, these were not memories of specific events. She still remembered nothing of how she had come to be in this place. Nothing of how long she might have been here. Nothing of the things which had been done to her here. Nothing even of what might lie beyond this small room. This woman brought with her the memory of fear. The memory of pain. Vague, but potent memories of paralyzing, demoralizing fear flooded her mind in a crashing torrent and she felt suddenly as if she were drowning in a sea of searing, agonizing, and lingering pain.
Without a word, the woman moved to the center of the room and began manipulating the chains with smooth, graceful movements and with a practiced ease. The woman must have disturbed the air as she walked in because she was suddenly aware of that smell of blood again, only now it seemed to be swirling all around them both. With only a bit of blind fumbling, the woman pulled a key which hung around her neck as far as the thick leather cord allowed and turned it in the lock. Once the lock popped open the woman freed it from both rings and tossed it off-handedly to the floor where it landed with a metallic, slightly rattling thud which echoed strangely off the walls of the small room. The woman then grabbed the steel ring to which the two pairs of chains were connected and started to walk out the door. The chains ran out of slack almost immediately and after a sudden whirl of her body she found herself being slowly dragged along the stone floor and across the threshold of the door and out into whatever lay beyond.
This had happened before and it had happened often, this same sequence of events. She felt certain of that. Laboring heavily, the woman struggled to drag her for a few feet before stopping. Then with an almost inaudible grunt she would yank on the chains and drag her for another few feet. It seemed to take ages to gain any distance at all. She remembered having struggled while being dragged before, though to no avail. She had only made things worse by struggling, hadn’t she? And so she allowed herself now to be dragged along the stone floor. After all, what would be the purpose of flailing about in some useless attempt to free herself? The chains would hold as they always had, and she wasn’t sure how she knew this with such certainty, but she knew. Better to allow events to unfold and observe.
What lay beyond the small room was a much larger room. It stank. Sweat, blood, and urine combined with rotted food and vomit in a tapestry of smells that she was surprised didn’t make her sick. Aside from a couple of plain wooden tables and several chairs there were several doors in this room much like the one which led to her room. More prominently positioned within the room there was an archway and it was toward this open archway which she was now being dragged, foot by painstaking foot. She was surprised to suddenly realize that she was bored. For the first time since the woman arrived she felt the urge to speak. The words came to her mind and just before she spoke them it occurred to her to wonder, ‘What will my voice sound like?’
“I could just walk, you know.” Her voice was stronger than she thought it would be.
There was no response from the woman other than to continue the yank, grunt-yank, grunt-yank, pattern that she was apparently quite accustomed to. The woman never even broke rhythm. It was as if she hadn’t spoken a single word. As the woman changed direction to drag her down a side corridor she let out a tired sigh as she resigned herself to what could be a long and quite possibly a rather abrasive journey.