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The Missionary

by

Jack Wilder

Copyright © 2013 by Jack Wilder

All rights reserved.

Cover art copyright © 2013 by Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations.

All rights reserved.

1

~Now~

The stench woke her. A thick miasma of rot and garbage and death, laced with something acrid and almost sweet. The next thing she noticed was the heat. And then the pain. Everything hurt.

Something with too many legs skittered over her foot.

She couldn’t open her eyes; either that, or she was in a darkened room. Memory was a foggy thing at best. Thought was difficult, her brain sluggish.

What’s my name?

Where am I? 

She couldn’t summon the answers to those questions. The pain made it too hard to think. The pain, and the smell. And the heat. She tried to open her eyes again, and this time, she felt like she was successful. She was blinking, her lashes shuttering against her cheek. She turned her head, or tried to. Something went skritch under her scalp, and she felt the tug of her hair catching, so she knew she’d achieved some kind of motion.

Her fingers wiggled behind her back, pinned underneath her body. She tried to bring them around in front of her, but she couldn’t. She strained, pulled: pain sliced into her wrists. She was bound. Tied by sharp, thin wires of some kind. She scissored her legs, discovering that only her hands were bound. Blink again, strain against the darkness. Nothing. Was she blind?

She focused on her physical senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound. She could see nothing, not even shadows within shadows. Smell…the stink around her was so clotted she could taste it. Touch? The surface beneath her was uneven and gritty. Dirt perhaps. There were sounds, now that she focused. The distant caw of a seagull, the faint, amorphous din of a city: horns honking, the rumbling of a diesel engine, voices speaking rapidly somewhere above her. She couldn’t understand what was being said, but one voice sounded angry.

Then there was a sixth sense. Or perhaps it was emotion, or memory.

Fear.

Not just the simple too-fast thumping of her heart and clenching of her stomach. No, this was deeper, powerful beyond comprehension. This was pure, unadulterated terror. She couldn’t summon the reason for the terror, but it was there, tainting everything. It was why she didn’t call out, ask for help. She was tied up in the darkness, in pain, and some instinct told her to stay quiet. Avoid attention.

Don’t be noticed.

Don’t let him know you’re awake.

Him?

She wasn’t sure who him was, but the terror increased to a hammering, nauseating level at even the nebulous idea of him knowing she was awake, seeing her, coming back. He’d caused the pain, she knew that much.

Then, a flash of memory.

A hard palm across her mouth, another around her throat, cutting off her ability to breathe, much less make a sound. Being dragged backward, away from her friends. Away from the street. Away from the light, into an alley. She thrashed and fought and tried to scream, to kick, to elbow and bite. Something hard bashed into her skull, skittering stars across her vision. Words rasped harshly in her ear. Not English, but the meaning was clear: SHUT UP. She thrashed harder, and then something sharp jabbed into her bicep. A needle.

NO.

She fought it, the coldness snaking like ice through her blood. But fighting was futile. She seemed at once heavy yet light, her body drowsing and drowning until she felt weighted down by irons at her arms, while her mind floated up and away, swirling and skirling and twisting. 

She noticed, dully, absently, as the cracks of blue sky visible through the corrugated roof were replaced by a low ceiling. A door closed, its sliding slam signifying something—a van? She was floating, weightless, unable to move. Unable to want to move. 

A face hovered over her, round features, narrow eyes. Hard, cruel. He grinned, showing cracked and rotten teeth. He spoke, and the sound was distorted. “Not so tup now, American?” 

Not so tup? What did that mean? 

Tough. Not so tough.

He pushed her face to one side, almost an affectionate nudge to see if she would respond. She couldn’t. She wanted to. She didn’t like him. She didn’t like his touch. She summoned willpower, and when he touched her again, she snapped her teeth at him, trying to bite. It was all she could do, but she missed. He laughed, said something in his language—her hazy, muddy, sludgy brain supplied an answer: Filipino—and then slapped her across the face so hard it rocked her entire body to one side. She couldn’t cry or whimper, but a tear trickled down her cheek. 

Then he hit her again, this time with a closed fist, and all went dark.

Her mind felt as thick as treacle, but she knew something had happened to her. She’d been kidnapped.

A surge of panic cut through her like a knife, giving her terrified clarity:

Wren. Her name was Wren.

She needed to speak, to say it, to remember. “My name…is…Wren.” Her voice was sandpapery and rough from disuse and thirst. “My name is Wren Morgan.”

A voice shouted from above, spitting out rapid-fire Filipino. Hinges creaked, and a square of light emerged over her head, illuminating a hard-packed dirt floor, concrete walls. Feet clomped on wooden stairs, dirty feet in green plastic flip-flops. The face from her memory appeared in front of her, smiling.

“Need more?” He held up a syringe filled with clear liquid. “Yes, I tink you need more.”

“No…” She tried to scramble away from him, but only managed to kick at the floor with her feet. “Please, no more.”

He laughed and crouched beside her. She drew deep and forced her body to roll over, nearly dislocating her shoulder in the process. He grabbed her by the hair and jerked her back. He was thin and wiry, but brutally strong. She struggled, knowing what was coming. Fear cleared her mind, and she suddenly remembered everything.

The mission trip. Manila. Getting lost. Doug and Aaron and Emily. Hands on her, cutting off her scream before it could erupt.

She fought and fought. But someone else came, held her right forearm in a vise grip, slid the needle into her vein. The plunger went down slowly, inevitably, flushing the euphoric high through her, making her heavy and weightless and warm, making her forget all over again.

The drug didn’t mask the pain when he kicked her in the ribs.

Green plastic-sandaled feet tromped up the stairs, and the square of light vanished, leaving Wren lost and alone in the darkness, beyond terrified but unable to remember what she was afraid of.

2

~One month earlier~

Stone Pressfield didn’t consider himself a musician. Not even close. He knew enough guitar to play simple chord progressions without screwing up, and he had a pretty decent singing voice—deep and smooth—but that was the best that could be said.

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