I don't own Worm
Trigger warning attempted rape
Chapter 05: Second visit to unknown places
"Seriously Chelsea, I'm just gonna stay until midnight. I have an important exam on Monday, for which I still have to read and analyze 8 chapters." I said annoyed. She saluted in response right in front of me.
"Affirmative, Captain Killjoy."
I just rolled my eyes at her antics, before I was dragged along. The closer we got to the building of the fraternity hosting the party, the denser the partying crowd of people got. It was pandemonium near the stage in front of the building. Meanwhile, at the outskirts of the huge green garden surrounding the area, barely anybody was around.
A cluster of far over a hundred people were dancing, drinking, and cheering the live band performing on stage.
Every step towards them was a step in which I regretted not having packed some earplugs. The word loud was utterly insufficient to describe the noise. But worst of all was the music they played. Who in their right mind did love this pop crap that was played all day long on the radios?
Was it too much to ask for something that even resembled actual music like Bach or Mozart? I was already planning on how to get back to our dorm. The most problematic part would be ditching Chelsea without angering her too much in the process. I wasn't interested in a repeat of the shaving foam disaster from last time.
Those were the great disadvantages of sharing your room with somebody. Considering that Chelsa was my roommate I had to wonder were there even any advantages? I needed to think that over
long and hard the next time I had some time on hand.
My musings were interrupted when Chelsea shouted in my ear, in an attempt to drown out the music and make herself heard,
"Let's get something to drink."
Since I wasn't keen on screaming myself hoarse, I just nodded and tagged along. Chelsea went over to a beer stall, which was surrounded by a few smaller groups for the most part consisting of up to five people, mostly talking while drinking. Which could be done here better; a few dozen feet away from the nearest speakers. I was about to reach in my pocket to fish out the twenty dollars I pocketed for such an occasion before she more or less managed to kidnap me.
She must have noticed my intent out of the corner of her eyes. Because she grabbed my hand and just shook her head. She leaned close to my ear and once more raised her voice.
"I really, have to get you out more often. If you don't even know how a girl gets something to drink at a party."
She went over directly to a group of 5 muscular guys. I followed in her wake. The moment she was right next to one of them, she touched his biceps with her hands and slightly caressed them. At first, he was irritated by the sudden touch from behind. But when he turned and saw Chelsea a girl roughly a head shorter than him with her long straight brown hair flowing along her body, her cute but distinctive face with her pronounced cheekbones most associate with a chiseled statue of true beauty. A disarming smile playing on her lips did the rest.
The irritation made way towards welcome surprise. I could essentially follow the guy's line of sight checking out Chelsea's body. He didn't even hide the fact that he was mentally undressing her. A few of the less subtle ones let their eyes rest quite a long time on her cleavage, which was impressive given how she used her upper arms to push up her bust. Before they got around to check out the rest of her body, the mini skirt that would be considered underwear at best in most civilized nations and her top with a bare midriff, which didn't leave much to the imagination.
She stepped on her toes to get her mouth closer to his ears and asked, "what must a girl do for something to drink?"
She lowered herself on her soles and held eye contact with the guy while tucking back a loose strand of hair back in the most lascivious way possible, all the while biting her under lip. I could essentially watch how the blood was rerouted from providing his brain with oxygen to other body parts, reducing his mental faculty considerably.
A slow glimpse revealed that the four other guys were affected in the exact same way.
He was about to say something but wasn't able to articulate something comprehensible. He needed a second try after visibly gulping before we were able to understand him.
"Just, Just wait here a moment."
He pressed his half-drunk cardboard cup filled with beer in the hands of the guy standing next to him and was about to get beer from the beer stand when Chelsea grabbed his wrist and stopped him.
"My friend is thirsty, too. I would be soooo grateful if you would fetch her a drink, too."
While she said that, she softly drew him close and pressed her body close to him as she winked her eyelashes.
The last remnants of the reason he might have been able to preserve were lost at this moment. He turned and walked in the fastest way possible that didn't descend into running over to the stand and ordered two beers. I knew that there were women, who could twist men around their fingers; seeing it done up close was disconcerting. You might come to suspect she had some kind of super-power.
Chelsea turned her head my way. Winked at me with one eye and soundlessly mouthed the words "That is how it's done", which I had no trouble to lipread.
If I was uncomfortable before, this clinched it for me. It was one thing to get treated to a drink by a guy, but it was something entirely different to play with his expectations like she did. Now I knew what she meant when she countered my argument. When I told her I couldn't afford to go partying with the statement that partying for girls is for free. She was lucky I was oblivious to her practice. Otherwise, I wouldn't even have considered coming here, let alone accompanied her. Chelsea returned her head and her dedication to the remaining guys and started talking to them.
Distracted by my musing and not interested in the way she intended to string them along. I didn't bother to follow their conversation, which would have been made difficult by the noise one way or the other.
A few moments later, the guy returned with two beers he offered us with a big smile exhibiting his perfect white teeth.
"Here you go Lady's." He said, and like an overeager puppy expecting his praise for a job well done. I thanked him for it, with a nod of my head and forming the words with my lips, not bothering with speaking it out loud, fully aware that he wouldn't have heard me anyway. Whereas Chelsea thanked him by leaning into him and giving him a kiss on the cheek. His stupid grin got wider as a response to her affection.
I somehow feel disgusted at her display of playing up the part of having morals like an alley cat, like my grandma used to say. I felt shame at her conduct, by basically spitting in the face of the women fighting their whole lives for equal rights of women, for us no longer being viewed as a second rate citizen but equals, for no longer being treated as meat, and being sexualized and here she was a step away from whoring herself out for a drink.
She reveled in the attention the five paid to her, enjoying the power she thought she held over them.
I took a big gulp of my beer.
I wondered how many women there were, which were sabotaging the efforts of others? How many were talking about equality, being treated the same, and the very moment an opportunity presented itself, to take advantage of, they did? Turning around and use some old preconception or behavior rule to their gain.
If there was something I hated above all else, it was hypocrites. And every woman, expecting or even allowing guys to hold open the doors for them, allowing men to offer them a chair, was one in my opinion. And that didn't even touch the topic of those ineffable female quotas, affirmative action constituted. Without them, some women would be unable to get a college place or even a job.
But those things were taken for granted without opposition. But god beware if they come in contact with anything, not to their liking or disadvantage; suddenly they become furies screaming discrimination from the rooftops.
How I hated this cherry-picking mentality. The expectations of some to be entitled to the best of both worlds. While my mood darkened, the one guy who looked the least like a football player out of the five of them walked the few feet over to me.
He must have concluded that he was chanceless in being successful in courting Chelsea, with all his friends surrounding her and clinging to her every word. Which either meant he thought he had a better chance at her wallflower friend, namely me. Which made me his second choice, or he found something about her he disliked. Somehow I doubted my second theory was the correct one.
Since he placed himself right next to me and faced Chelsea and his friends like I did, but couldn't bring himself to avert his gaze from her for a prolonged time. "Hi, my name is Richard,"
He yelled next to me and offered me a hand. Despite having lost the desire for making acquaintances, I shook it; no need to be unfriendly.
"Hi, I'm Annette," I yelled back.
I returned to my thoughts, ignoring him. Meanwhile, he talked like there was no tomorrow. I pretended to be listening and nodded at certain intervals, while I worked on emptying my cup.
When I finally finished my beer, I told Richard.
"Sorry, to say this, but I have to go. I have to get up early tomorrow. It was nice meeting you."
I didn't wait for his response. Instead, I made my way over to Chelsea, leaning on her shoulder from behind, I told her.
"I'm out of here, see you at home"
She blinked, realizing what I said before she started pouting.
"Come on, Annie you can't just go. The night hasn't even started yet."
Perhaps for you, I thought to myself.
"I told you not to call me that."
"Sorry, that was a spur of the moment thing," she apologized, not meaning a single word of it.
"As you are aware, I have things to do. Have fun."
She showed me a meaningful grin, which I interpreted as her saying; I'm going to. She then returned her attention to the men. I just sighed and was about to leave when I noticed my bladder wasn't too fond of me drinking that beer.
I looked around and found a sign pointing towards the bathroom, knowing I wouldn't be able to hold it in until I was back home. I followed the directions of the signs; leading inside a huge building, clearly a dormitory.
Apparently, I wasn't the only one entering the building with the intent to use the bathroom, because there was a huge line in front of the one for women.
Great, just great; I was about to leave and find alternatives to solve my bladder problem when I overheard two girls in the line behind me saying.
"That's gonna take forever."
"No it doesn't, come with me. My boyfriend lives here, those floors are identical to each other and every floor has its own toilets, we are just gonna use the one upstairs."
The first one hesitated to follow the other girl.
"Is that allowed? I mean if they wanted us to use them wouldn't there also be a sign pointing towards them."
Noticing that she wasn't followed she look back at her friend.
"I'm sure they would prefer us sneaking upstairs than having to clean up after I have pissed on their floor."
That seemed to sway her friend because she went after her. I considered my options for a moment since I didn't want to stay here all night and the line in front of me didn't move an inch since I arrived. I decided to follow their example. But decided to not go to the second floor like they did, but to the third, if what was said by them was true, there also should be a bathroom, and this way I avoided getting nasty stares from those two, by imitating them.
I went up the stairs to the third floor and found the toilets at the exact same place as they were on the first, with the difference, that there was no line of women in front of it.
I made my way inside and used one of the empty stalls. I washed my hands and left the bathroom. I was walking towards the stairs when I saw Richard standing in the hallway, waiting. It wasn't difficult to make out from his countenance that he was displeased.
Did he follow me? I wondered. Well, it didn't matter anyway. I just wanted to get out of here and forget I was ever here, to begin with.
So I tried my best to ignore him, but as I was about to pass him. He put out his right arm and stepped in my way blocking my path.
"What are you doing here?" He practically hissed at me.
"I was just using the toilet." I defended myself.
He grimaced. "The toilet, sure. You wouldn't happen to be on the way to your boyfriend's room."
He narrowed his eyes at me as he lectured, "If you are telling lies you should make sure to use believable ones."
"What are you even talking about?" I sighed, "forget it, I don't even wanna know. I just want to get home, which you are preventing me from doing."
"Why was your boyfriend not there?"
I stared at him unbelieving, what is wrong with this guy? Did he live in a make-believe world? I could practically sense the approaching headache any further argument with him would cause me.
I took a step backward and tried to walk past him on the other side of the hallway, but he stepped in my way using his outstretched hand to block my path again.
"What are you doing, let me through." I hissed at him.
"You are one of those bitches, aren't you. Those who trick guys like me into thinking you like us, and when you get what you wanted you drop us like trash you think we are."
"I did no such thing."
This time instead of stepping around him, I ducked under his outstretched arm to get past him. He didn't seem to like that at all. Before I even made one stepped past him a strong hand closed painfully around my wrist.
"What are you doing? Let go of me!" I demanded.
I struggled to get free of his grip, but even trying prying him away with my other hand was futile. His grip didn't even budge a millimeter. Worse his hold on me got firmer.
"You are hurting me!" I barked.
Slowly realization came to me in what a situation I was in. Given his superior strength, I didn't hesitate for a moment and kicked him between his legs. I felt my foot making contact, but he didn't even flinch while my foot hurt like I hit a brick wall.
He grinned, and a cold shiver ran down my spine.
"You are going nowhere until you have paid me back in full for the time you wasted."
I opened my mouth to scream when his other shoot out and was put around my mouth, preventing me from opening it; only muffled sounds escaped my mouth. He used this hand to press me against the wall, and no matter how I struggled and contorted myself, his hand didn't slack for a second.
So I went for his eyes, I had no nails to speak of - I never could understand the need to let them grow unpractical as they were - but in order to gauge someone's eyes out they didn't need to be. My nails scrapped over his face, his eyes. He was surprised by my sudden attack, even ducked away from it.
Nonetheless, he managed to keep his hold on me, and when he turned his head to me again his face was unhurt. Where there should be bleeding scratches across his face was unblemished skin. For a moment I wondered if I might have missed it, the pain in my fingers told a different story.
"You are a feisty one, aren't you." The smile he wore took on a predatory trait. "You should try to conserve a little strength you might need it."
He used his body and his hand around my mouth to fixate me against the wall. He then released his hold on my arm and reached for something in his jacket. When he pulled his hand back out from his pocket a piece of cloth was within it. My eyes widened, I renewed my attempts to get free, tried to turn away my head, but his hold was unrelenting like a vice keeping me in place. I couldn't stop him from prying open my mouth and stuffing the cloth into it. He was just too strong;
"Easy, we wouldn't want you to suffocate on this now would we?"
When he was done, he grabbed me with both hands on my upper arms and just lifted me from the floor as if I was nothing more than a little child. I might have believed him able to do that if he would be two-meter tall and half as wide, but he wasn't. He was a few inches shorter than me and didn't look as if he would work out.
It should be absolutely impossible for him to lift me, let alone this effortlessly. Shit, he must be a cape. That's why my scratches and hits, even though no small number were on target between his legs showed no effect. He dragged me along the hallway until we reached a door. He set me down and used one of his hands on my upper arms to seize my neck, with the other he fumbled inside his pockets and brought out a wad of keys.
Until this point, I still somehow clung to the hope that I might get away from him that nothing would happen to me, the really bad things only ever happen to the others. A misperception, which if my assumption of what he was planning to do to me was accurate, would be corrected shortly. At this point, there was no doubt in my mind that he intended to me.
I was cursing my bad luck wouldn't he be a cape, I would have been able to get away. But how could a woman fight not only off a man but a man with powers? I noticed my eyes tearing up.
After he fumbled around for a while, he finally found the right key. The door opened, and I just knew that if I get dragged past the threshold it would be over. Nobody would stumble over us. Something unlikely to happen in the hallway would become an impossibility in his room.
Wasn't it a common practice to silence the victim of rape permanently? My quite substantial fears started to skyrocket at this thought. My thoughts drifted to Chelsea. I told her that I intended to go home, which meant nobody would be searching for me here. Did I kill myself, by saying this? Did I give my would-be murderer a free pass in killing me by my unintended misdirecting, where the police would look for me? Since I was sure, Chelsea didn't notice that I made a detour to the toilets.
He threw his key towards a desk standing in front of a window and returned his attention towards me. He grabbed me once again and threw the roughly 5 feet towards the bed in the corner of the room.
I landed hard on the bed, the realization slowly setting in that it was over. Richard was in a position to do to me whatever he wanted, and my quite vivid imagination provided me with a lot of cruel things it was sure I would be subjected to. I was not sure he could do worse. I hated it to be this powerless, to had no way to defend myself to be nothing but his to do with as he pleased with just because he was a man and had a power.
Immediately I turned his way, during my efforts to get away from his slowly approached from kicked the soft sheets from the bed. He was relishing in this situation, enjoying seeing me in this state, knowing there was nothing I could do to stop him. Thinking himself to be superior. Hell, he didn't even deem it necessary to tie me up.
But there was one thing I could do. I reached for the cloth in my mouth and yanked it out. I prepared myself to evade the pounce I expected of him, trying to prevent me from regaining my voice.
But it never happened. Instead, Richard's smile just became larger as if I just made his day. He closed the door with one of his feet and took up a remote from a small cupboard.
I took a deep breath and was about to scream for help as loud as I was able to when he pressed a button on the remote. Suddenly, to the noise reaching from outside, another one was added originating from the huge loudspeaker - I only just realized where there - completely drowning out my scream.
He savored my incredulous reaction to what just happened. I just retreated in on the bed towards the corner furthest from him, my heart beating even faster than it did a moment ago. I got the impression that it was on the brink of giving out.
I pulled up my legs and hugged my knees as hard to my torso as I could. Despite being aware that it would at best only delay the inevitable, I did it nonetheless.
He placed the remote back on the cupboard and stalked towards me. When he reached the bed, he resumed his approach on all fours, slowly crawling my way. I could see how salivating this prospect was for him because he had to constantly swallow in anticipation. The closer he got, the more fear seeped into my body; my heart was beating so fast I thought it would give out any moment. As he was just a few inches away, he reached out with one of his hands, and the very moment he touched me, my fear reached its peak
Huh, what was that? Did I just see stars? My eyes refocused to the sight of Richard lying sprawled face down on the bed, only a few inches away and in the process of righting himself up. I could see drool run down the corner of his mouth.
As fascinating as it was to see him momentarily incapacitated, it wasn't the discovery that attracted my attention after this dizzying spell we both seem to have endured, but the fact that he started glowing in a kaleidoscopic light.
Did I hit my head somehow? In the state of panic, I found myself in. It wouldn't surprise me that in my attempt to get as far away from him as possible. I might have hit the back of my head against the wall.
Reaching for the back of my head, I found no injury. Meanwhile, my eyes traced the lines of the colorful aura Richard was clad in, trying to discern what I was seeing.
For a moment, he gave off the impression to be confused until he saw me. He immediately regained his grin and, after he wiped away the drool around the corner of his mouth with the sleeves of his sweatshirt reached for me again. This time he did so using both of his hands.
When he placed them on me, and his disgusting hands trailed my legs, I felt something akin to an electrostatic charge emanating from his touch.
Suddenly he grabbed my wrist and without any effort on his part, forced me to relinquish the hold on my legs and kept them parted.
In an act of desperation, I repeatedly kicked him in the face. He didn't flinch once, and his sole reaction consisted of laughing at my futile attempts to defend myself.
Without warning, he yanked me away from the wall and pressed me down into the mattress. He moved both of my arms over my head overlapped them at their wrist so he could render them useless by just using one of his hands pressing down on them. He swung one of his legs over my torso and knelt above my midsection.
Just as I was about to accept my fate, a single tear escaped my eye and flowed down my cheek, a sign of me conceding defeat in the face of overwhelming power, something stirred inside of me.
A part of me unwilling to go along with it. I closed my eyes. It would be enough to feel it. There was no need for me to burn this sight into my memory too. I closed my eyes.
When his free hand cupped my face, and his thumb wiped away that tear, bile rose in my throat as I heard him chuckling.
Through the prolonged contact he had with my body, I noticed, that there was more to this electrostatic sensation. I concentrated on this sensation and traced it to its source, a shimmering ball in the head of my tormentor. I reached for it and then ripped it out of him.
In the next moment, I was flooded with information. I knew exactly how Richard's power worked, how it enhanced his body. But that wasn't important; important was that he no longer was able to force my limbs where he wanted them to. On the contrary, he wasn't able to budge them even a millimeter. I noticed the glow he had changed; it became pale, barely unrecognizable.
It took him a few seconds to fully grasp that the table had turned. I could watch how his face ran through different expressions; I recognized surprise, horror, and fear.
Now it was time for me to smirk. With both my hands using all my strength I shoved him away from me. He flew through the room like a ragdoll, impacting with the wall on the other side of the room, hard. He slumped down against the wall, trailing behind his head while sliding down the wall was blood.
I walked over to him, not trusting what I saw. Expecting him to get up any moment, continuing his assault. But when I finally reached Richard, and put my hand on his neck. It verified what my eyes already tried to tell me happened as his glow disappeared; shortly after he stopped moving. He was dead. I pushed down the reemerging panic and forced myself to think. It immediately became clear I had to get out of here.
So I didn't waste any time. I ran over to the desk I remembered Richard throwing his keys on to, took them with a handkerchief I had in one of my pockets, and unlocked the door.
Standing on the threshold, I remembered the cloth he gagged me with and picked it up. I put the keys back where I found them and left without turning back.
It was a sunny day a week after this incident, that I ran into a young woman. Perhaps one or two years my senior, full-throated distributing flyers. She wore her long hair into a braid that reached down to her hips and was wearing a white blouse and black cargo-pants. Nothing unusual on the campus of a college, but the same couldn't be said about the glow she emitted.
It was the first time since the incident, which I tried my best to forget, that I witnessed another person glowing like he did.
I had ample time to think about what happened back then, and the conclusion I came to, the only thing that made sense, was that I somehow must have gotten powers while being with him in his room. A quite complicated recherche into how capes get their powers, which wasn't easy because there seems to be some kind of information ban in place, revealed that the consent among capes was that you get your powers on the worst day of your life.
Something I could attest to with all my heart. Considering how I was able to kill him, using a power identical to his, I was quite sure that I was some kind of power thief or copier. My money was on the first one; the way events unfolded could only be explained if he lost his powers at the same time I gained them. For a while, I entertained the idea, that I got a stronger version of the power I copied or that I somehow could neutralize the power I copied. On further thought, that seemed to be unlikely if crossreferenced with known powers of capes.
Ultimately, I had no way to verify either which way without finding another cape willing to play guinea pig. Which made this chance encounter interesting in two different ways.
One obviously was the fact that she was a cape, and I just might be able to test my theories, if I get to know her better. The other one was the fact that the flyers she held piqued my interest.
Stop sexual assault on campus
6 reported incidents this year alone.
with 96% of the victims of sexual assault never reporting the crime this means that roughly 150 women were raped so far this year. Their tormentors are still at large.
Meaning that by the time the year is over approximately 300 women at this college will have been raped. 150 women who have yet to become victims of such an assault, and you, your friends could be one of them.
Help us to make women on campus feel safe again.
On the backside, there were Initials, seemingly of the women who reported being the victims of the rape. Additionally, there was some information on when and where it happened.
I couldn't help but notice that two of those women were assaulted in the same building as me. Which lessened the guilt I felt at ending a human's life quite considerably, even if some woman might be inclined to deny guys like him, the affiliation to the human race.
Something in my expression must have given away the general idea my thoughts drifted to. Because the woman said in a genuine worrying voice.
"Hey, everything okay?"
"Yes." was my clipped response.
"You are aware, that despite it being pretty much social convention nowadays to answer this question with a yes, it is totally okay to say no." She said with an encouraging smile.
"You are right, I'm not okay," I admitted.
"Wanna talk about it?"
Her offer seemed genuine, and I really needed to talk to someone. Chelsea was no longer an option. It was strange what such an incident could cause. Ever since I got home from the party, I questioned a number of my life choices; one of them was living in the same room together with her, where before I was able to tolerate or even ignore her odd behavior, I now absolutely loathed it.
It was just a matter of time until I would lose my self-control, and we would have a falling out, which I suspected would be unresolvable and force one of us to move out.
I was not really sure what brought that about. I certainly didn't like how Chelsea behaved around men, nor her lascivious style of dressing, or her personality. She was unable to be serious for even a moment, and her world only revolved around guys.
Was I angry at her for her being a slut, because she was different than me, or was there more to it? For as long as I could remember, Someone being different never made me despise a person. Was it the fact that it took me so long, to truly see what she was? Was I projecting the anger I felt for myself for missing this on her, or was it that I unconsciously blamed her for what Richard tried to do to me? Or all of the above combined, I had no definite answer to it.
If she hadn't scrounged those beers from his friend by fluttering her eyes at them, he probably never would have come over and talked to me, would have never felt exploited, which wouldn't have resulted in him stalking me. Therefore, he would have never seen me enter the building. And as a result, he wouldn't have come to the conclusion that I had a boyfriend and was playing with him.
So it was her fault, after all. But wasn't that too easy, being on the verge of victim-blaming. Am I really going so far as to give Chelsea the blame, as just one girl trying to have fun exerting her rights to dress and act like she wanted unless she committed a crime? Wasn't it alone Richards fault?
Neither he nor his friends were forced to be nice to us or buy us anything. It was their decision to do so, Chelsea didn't promise a consideration, and neither did I. He was the one who somehow came to the conclusion that we had to give something in return.
No, that didn't seem right. If he thought that, why was he the one assaulting me, shouldn't it have been his friend following this warped logic. Was this all just an excuse his mind made up, to somehow justify his actions to himself?
Because I was sure if I wouldn't have been the more convenient target the same would have happened to Chelsea, after all, she was the one asking for the beer. But unlike her, I wasn't the center of attention of all his friends. Besides, she wouldn't have been able to get away without bodily harm done to her.
My mind drifted back to the flyer in my hand if it was correct what was written on it, and I assumed that in this building only one rapist was living, then he had done this before. And would have continued after making me one of his victims.
But if that was true, and Richard was, in fact, a serial rapist. Why wasn't he already in prison? A woman who came forward about it and had the worst experience of her life printed on a flyer would have most certainly talked with the police about it.
"Yeah, that sounds nice." I said, "and it would give you ample time to answer a few questions I have regarding your flyer."
She beamed at me with her smile.
"Sure, My name is Simone."
"Let's go over there and get some coffee."
She led me into a small cafe a few dozen meters away. We found a charming little table placed directly under an apple tree. It cast a long shadow and protected us from the hot summer sun.
The air was filled with the smell of apples and a hint of cinnamon.
We barely sat down as a waiter was already at our table. I was pleasantly surprised by this service. I didn't expect it to go this fast, especially not with how busy the cafe was. It wasn't overcrowded, but most of the cafe inside and out was filled up with customers.
What made the fact that a table, like the one we were currently occupying, happened to be free rather strange.
A quick glance at my surroundings and I noticed for only women present in this cafe, be it customers or personal.
"What can I get you and your friend, Simone."
A young woman wearing a black waiter uniform asked smiling. Simone returned the smile as she said.
"The usual, Daisy. Thank you"
"I would like a coffee with milk, please."
"Coming right up."
I waited a few seconds to make sure `Daisy´ was out of earshot.
"You come here often? Because that is quite the preferential treatment if I ever saw one," I asked.
"You could say that," she said with a good-natured grin.
I had to look at her questioning before she added.
"I'm the owner of this establishment. Despite making the best cake and coffee in the whole town, we use it as a sort of base for our movement. Moreover, we use the upper floors as safe houses for women."
"Among other things, we offer the victims of domestic abuse a safe place to stay," she explained.
"I see," I mumbled. I placed the flyer, which was still in my hand, on the table with the backside facing upwards.
"What I don't understand is this."
I pointed at the two incidents which happened at the place Richard attacked me. "There are two incidents listed at the same place a month apart. Are there that many rapists out and about for the place of the crime to be recurrent?"
"That is not the case," she said.
"A friend of mine was assaulted there last weekend." I snapped back harsher than intended.
"You misunderstand, it is not just a repeat of the same crime at the same place but a crime committed by the same person."
I was at a loss for words at hearing her say this.
"Your friend didn't happen to run into a guy named Richard there?"
My silence spoke volumes in on itself. And it didn't elude me how Simone emphasized the word friend, while closely scrutinizing me. "He was the one, who to my knowledge, raped seven girls in those dorm rooms two of which came forward and went to the police. But it came down to he said she said, and there was no further evidence that would substantiate an indictment. All the girls had no obvious wounds that such an assault usually leaves behind, and he didn't have any either, despite all of the victims claiming to have fought back using every means possible, biting scratching you name it. But he never was found to have had a single wound."
"At this point, it even came so far that claiming to have been raped by him alone, would result in a slander charge against the accuser. The police think that those allegations are part of a smear campaign against his family. The millions of dollars his rich father donates to various police funds don't exactly make this any easier. Making the victim into the perpetrator and vice versa."
"You are telling me he got away with that, even though there were several woman unrelated claiming the same thing," I said incredulously.
"Yes," she affirmed. "Not only that, most of the women are currently charged with slander. Without the necessary resources to fight this in court, they will be forced to sign a declaration to cease and desist. He even went so far as to put restraining orders on them, therefore, preventing them from warning away other women. That Annette is our justice system at work. Quite a few who joined us were disillusioned when they were confronted with this bitter reality. The law not only refuses to punish the guilty, it protects them and harasses the victims. We wanted to change things for the better but were unable to. Until you came along."
"What do you mean?" I had to wonder.
At this moment, the waitress came back and placed our orders in front of us. Simone turned her head to her, and instead of thanking her as I would have expected she said.
"Annette meet Daisy, the woman who was the second victim of Richard that came forward."
I turned my head and looked at her. The look on her face by being put that way in the spotlight was unreadable. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Simone pointing a finger at one of the crimes written on the flyer lying on the table.
"Daisy meet Annette the last woman Richard meet before his untimely demise."
Without a moment's hesitation, she jumped at me and gave me a bear hug so impetuous that I had trouble staying on my chair.
While in her embrace, she constantly whispered "thank you" over and over in my ear like a litany. She held onto me like this for what felt like an eternity. I was already beginning to wonder if this will ever end when she released me.
She was crying. Her whole face was wet with tears of relief. She wiped away her tears.
With a fragile voice, she said.
"If there is anything I can do for you, don't hesitate to ask: I will do anything."
I was overwhelmed by what just happened. The only thing that I was able to get out was simple.
"Thanks, I will keep that in mind."
I turned back to Simone, who had a predatory grin on her face.
"Seems like someone has an admirer."
I felt my cheeks heating up.
"You know, there are more Richards out there, and if we have learned anything from this than that the law will not help us if we want to bring them to justice. We have to do it ourselves," she stated overflowing with conviction. "And I would like for you to be by my side when we give them their due punishment."
I was considering denying her implications and decline her invitation. But I had the feeling that no matter what I said, I wouldn't be able to get her to reconsider her thoughts on me.
She seems to be sure that I killed Richard, and given what she told me, she must strongly suspect Richard to have been a cape, by the statements of his victims alone, which meant she had to think me to be one, too.
On second thought I had no reason to refuse.
"I'm in need of a place to stay you don't happen to know someone who might be able to help me."
Grinning she said,
"my other name is Lustrum, it is a pleasure to welcome you to our midst."
I smiled back.
I ran up the stairs taking two at once. I still held onto the newspaper containing the very article that elicited my bad mood. I was not sure what emotion I should settle on. I was angry, worried, and disappointed all at the same time for seemingly different reasons. But still attributable to the same cause.
I reached the door of our - No, not any longer - it was her apartment. I still caught myself calling it ours on occasion, even though I moved out quite some time ago. I knocked heavily on the door.
I heard noises from the other side, she was probably scrambling to get to the door, and when I didn't stop knocking, I heard her muffled voice say.
"I'm coming. I'm coming. No need to destroy my door."
Simone opened the door. Before she was able to utter a single word, I pushed the door open and shoved her out of the way to get past her. I walked in the middle of the room towards the couch when I heard her complain.
"What the fuck is wrong with you?"
I instantly stopped and turned around. She didn't just ask me this. I casually took note of her state of dress. She was wearing loose grey sweatpants and a white sleeveless top and was barefoot with her hair in such disarray that it had more in common with a bird's nest than anything else. I realized I must have woken her. Not that it mattered or I cared.
"What is wrong with me? Are you seriously asking me that? That is my line - What the fuck is wrong with you!" I shouted and held the newspaper up, pointing at the headline on the first page.
She walked over to me and grabbed it, and skimmed over what was written.
"So?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
I had to suppress the urge to hit her.
"So ?! Are you fucking kidding? You castrated an innocent man."
She sternly replied.
"There are no innocent men."
"Oh, is that so? If being a man is a sufficient reason for you to go after them, couldn't they justify their actions in a similar vein like your father did, when he..."
She gave me a hate-filled stare, and I realized that I went too far.
"Sorry, I shouldn't have gone there."
I took a deep breath. I don't know how I could even think of bringing up her father. This would only make it worse to get her to see the error in her ways. "What happened to you? Since when did you stop discriminate your targets?"
Concerned, I added,
"Does this have anything to do with me breaking up with you and getting together with Danny?"
I noticed the slow changes in her demeanor after I met him, at first I blamed it on her just being jealous. But it got a lot worse when we broke up, and I moved out. She got more reckless, ruthless, and violent. I was sure, it was just a phase she went through and sooner or later would return to her former friendly and caring self.
But I think I deluded myself into believing that, especially after she started to expand the range of acceptable targets. Going after men who committed more and more petty little crimes. And now this, her newest stunt. I only just realized she was on a very slippery slope and
I was not sure if she and most of the others could still be saved from crashing full speed into what was at the end of it.
"No, it is for the cause," she defended.
I couldn't fight off the impression that she wasn't sincere in her response.
"The cause? And this justifies attacking everybody not having the luck being born a woman?" I dug deeper. "Since when did you become a Nazi."
"I am not a Nazi!" she barked back.
"Perhaps then you should stop and abstain from using their vocabulary. Otherwise, there is the danger of confusion." I angrily retorted.
Before I even realized what I just said, she froze up,
Shit, that came out wrong.
"Wait! Simone, you have to listen to me, this whole mess no longer has anything to do with punishing the rapist and murderers. You no longer follow your own rules, you are just lashing out at anyone with a penis. "
I pleaded with her, "you have to stop this before it is too late. There are already talks of putting you in the Birdcage. Please I don't want anything happening to you."
I could see her hesitating. A little push was all I needed to get through to her. That was when I asked her smiling,
"Who is gonna teach your goddaughter to stay away from boys, when you are no longer around."
It took her a moment to connect the dots.
"You are pregnant ?" I nodded at her question
"Danny is the father?" I nodded again.
"And you want me to be her Godmother?" she asked, "you would still trust me with that responsibility, despite our disagreements."
"Of course, Simone. No matter what, you are my best friend, we no longer might be lovers, but we are still close. I see you as my sister in all but blood." My hands moved unwittingly to my stomach. "Who else would I be able to trust with the care of my baby girl."
She pondered my words for a moment. Non of her facial features hardened, not betraying her thoughts. But they still took on a determined expression, and without any warning, she stepped closer to me and gave me a hug, which I returned despite my surprise at her actions. She stroked my hair and squeezed me softly before she ended the embrace. She then took a step back, her hands moved towards my cheeks and then pulled my face softly towards her, and kissed me.
I lost track of time, and I forgot myself. Her kisses always had that effect on me. Luckily, she stopped before my knees buckled. Still, in a daze, she lead me towards the door and opened it.
"I love you, and I would have loved your girl. You know that right?"
I was still confused but was able to nod at her question. "Then you should know that I don't have a choice. I can't turn back because I'm not only fighting for us, for you, me, and the other girls of our movement but the future. What was it you always said? We should aim to leave the earth a better place than we found it."
She gave me a light push, that caused me to stumble past the threshold. "If you have ever loved me, don't try to stop me. Live your life and take care of your daughter."
With those words, she closed the door, with a finality that had me reeling. Only now, Simone's words really registered in my mind. She intended to be a martyr for our case, to allow the next generation to grow up and live in a world without discrimination. With absolute horror, I realized it was my fault. My attempt to change her mind solidified her decision.
I went to the door knocking, scratching, pleading, and crying, all in an attempt to get her to open the door and offer me a second chance to change her mind. But nothing I did had any effect. I didn't know how long I sat in front of her door, but when I finally left, after realizing short of imprisoning her, my attempts would be utterly futile to change her mind the sun had already set a long time ago.
As I stood on the sidewalk in front of the apartment complex, I looked back up to her windows. There I saw her standing, looking back down at me her arms crossed under her breasts, her face hard. A sign of her unwavering determination. I wiped away a lone tear making its way down my face. Mumbling "good luck" under my breath before I turned away and started walking home.
Fighting the bad premonition, this elicited from me. Because it didn't escape my notice that the way she stood there was reminiscent of a captain steering her ship right into a typhoon. I couldn't shake the feeling that this might be the last time I saw her. My eyes began to tear again.
Authors Note: Please don't use the subjective views of any of the characters in this chapter as a starting point for a discussion about feminism. (Which by the way aren't my, the authors, views on this topic – just for your information) Wouldn't want to draw the attention of the moderators.
DNA profiling was developed in 1984 and was first used in forensic science to convict someone in 1988 in a murder case. Given that Annette was born in 1969, she should have attended college/university somewhere in between the years 1986-1991 (is what I would guess.)
(I'm not a U.S. Citizen so I had to use google and other sources to get those numbers.)
Since DNA profiling, in the beginning, was mostly used for "major" crimes (because it was an expensive procedure). I highly doubt that even in major residential areas the collection of DNA traces, after a sexual assault of any kind was common practice before the late nineties. Furthermore, the divergence point from our earth is May twentieth, 1982 the day Scion arrived.
Which might have further pushed the development of DNA profiling back, we are told that because of Endbringers Tinker, etc the technological development of Earth Bet was slower... combined with the emergence of a new sort of crime (the superpowered one) it is quite plausible that it took quite a lot longer before this became standard procedure in rape kits in Bet than it did in our world.
For a moment I was considering having Annette name her daughter after Lustrum (as far as I am aware (haven't read Ward yet) her real name is unknown) and therefore was playing with the idea to either name her Anne or Taylor... what are your thoughts on it?