Bring Out the GIMP (Girls in Merciless Peril)
Stories


CAPTURE

By Kirsten Smart


Apart from the occasional sex-game, I have never been tied up before.

This is terrifying. My arms are pulled behind my back. Real ropes, as thick as my thumb and probably capable of holding half a ton of strain, are wound four times about my wrists, then passed three times between them – forming rudimentary handcuffs from which I have absolutely no hope of escaping. The knot is tied tightly between the tops of my wrists, well beyond the reach of my fingers. But that's not all. After tying my wrists, they pass a second rope about my arms, just above the elbows – winding it four times, pulling it so tightly that my elbows almost touch. It sends pain through my shoulders, forcing my ribcage out, my breasts up. The knot is drawn tight. Even if I did manage to free my hands, my arms would still be pinned behind my back, rendering me helpless. Finally, a heavy cloth is placed across my eyes, tied at the back of my head, a blindfold that encloses me in complete blackness.

I sit on the wet ground, feel fingers at the laces of my combat boots, and, moments later, my feet are bared. I have never felt so terrified, so helpless, in my life.

“Let's go.”

It is a long walk, an hour at least, by my reckoning, and not easy going. My bare feet find countless twigs, thorns, roots; after the first ten minutes, I am hobbling. Worse, branches sometimes flick back, catching my shoulders or face, whipping my breasts. Unable to see where I am going, I rely on the warnings of soldiers who obviously care little for my comfort. The heat is awful, my own bare arms wet, my fatigues soaked and clinging to my skin.

Eventually, my bare soles touch the sharp stones of a gravel road. I limp, arms bound behind me, for perhaps twenty paces, before I am unceremoniously lifted into the back of an army truck. We drive for another hour, by which time I know I am well behind enemy lines.

Finally, the truck stops. I hear voices, other vehicles, and I realise I am at some kind of base. Soldiers lift me down from the truck, setting me on searing concrete. For a time, dazed, feeling intensely vulnerable, I stand. The sun scorches my dark hair.

I hear the command, though its significance doesn't hit until a few seconds later. “Undress her.” Hands, suddenly, at the belt of my combat pants.

“Hey!” Sightless in my blindfold, I try to step away, but there's a soldier behind me, catching my bound arms. My belt-buckle is undone, and despite my protests, my pants are dragged down my legs. My knickers follow.

My face burns with humiliation. My legs, I know, are good – athletic, quite muscular. But my guess is that they're ogling my thick dark pubic bush.

Because my arms are bound, they use a knife to cut away my tank top. There is a whistle of appreciation at the sight of my bare chest, my worked abdominals. Though my breasts are probably far too small for most, the way in which my arms and elbows are bound behind my back accentuates them, my nipples are like pencil erasers in the humid air.

“Kneel.”

There seems no point resisting, so I do as I am told, though the rough concrete hurts my knees, so hot my shins and feet feel as though they're burning. For perhaps twenty minutes, I am left, utterly naked but for a blindfold and the ropes on my arms. The sun is fierce on my bare skin, searing my breasts and belly, my thighs, my face, my shoulders.

Eventually, I become aware of people standing over me.

“And what's your name, pretty girl?” A woman's voice, amused.

“My name is Private Kirsten Smart.” I address the blackness of my blindfold, lifting my wet face towards the scorching sun. “Please, may I have some water? And I want my clothes back.”

“It's not cold. You don't need clothes,” the woman says. “You are a prisoner, now, of the Free Nationalist Army. I won't muck about: we need to know the positions of your various battalions, artillery, and aircraft.”

“You have the wrong person, I tell her. “I don't know that stuff.”

One moment I'm kneeling, the next I'm lying on my bound arms, my head pounding, ears screeching, the whole world spinning. I had no way of anticipating the punch, and I groan in pain and misery.

“Jesus, fuck! That hurt my hand! Bitch!” the woman shouts, and kicks me in the guts, driving the wind from my lungs. “Pick her up!”

Soldiers grab my tightly-bound arms and wrench me back to my knees. I sway, my head still ringing. The woman bends over, her mouth level with my ear. She smells of perfume and shampoo. “You don't fuck with Rachel Paglia. Ever. I'm going to give you some time to think, because you're probably tired, confused. But soon, I'm going to want answers. And you'll give them to me, whether you like it or not.” To the soldiers: “Take her inside.”

I am wrenched up. From the sensations and sounds, I am marched through a metal doorway into a bare concrete corridor, heading into the depths of a building that smells of disinfectant and ozone. It is chill in contrast to the air outside, and the hairs on my arms bristle as goosebumps turn my skin coarse.

At the end of the first corridor, another heavy door is opened by a guard, and we descend stairs, the metal icy to the soles of my feet. With my arms roped behind me, my ribcage is bare to the freezing air, and my nipples tighten and swell like bullets. I am being taken underground – I count at least three levels before we access a new corridor.

This passageway is deathly silent. My bare feet slosh in shallow puddles, the air icy this far underground. Finally we stop, I hear a door open, and I am thrust into a room. From the short echo, it's barely three metres square, concrete, empty. I stand, naked, bound, blind. I hear my captors leaving. I call after them: “can you untie my arms? Please?”

“Cool down in here for a while, bitch,” one of the guards snarls as the door swings.

“No! Please!” I rush for the door. “Even if you leave my hands tied! Please, my arms hurt so much!” My cries of desperation are lost as the door bangs shut.

I burst into tears, and sink to my knees. My arms, twisted back and roped, are tense and aching, unable to relax. I try ineffectually to move them, but such is their position that my muscles have no strength, no chance of leverage. I can flex my fingers, twist my hands and feel the hard coils of the rope, but that's all. I guess my elbows must be perhaps three centimetres apart at most, the ropes rough against my bare shoulder blades, biting into my elbow bones.

Kneeling, still blindfolded, I weep, teeth chattering. The cold keeps my skin rough with goosebumps. My nipples are puckered and aching. Even the fine hairs on the bare nape of my neck are on end. They obviously keep it cold down here on purpose, to remind prisoners of their nakedness.

After a time, I creep, on my knees, across the concrete floor, aware that it would be too cold to lie, too awkward to sit against a wall. I try, briefly, to rub my blindfold off with a shoulder, feeling the velvet of my own skin against my cheek, but with arms so pinned behind my back, denied leverage, I am unable to dislodge the fabric. Defeated, I sit, the concrete icy to my buttocks, the soles of my feet, the air chill around my arched ribcage and lifted breasts. The only warmth is in the gentle trail of tears that oozes from beneath the cruel blindfold.

SUSPENSION

When the cell door opens, I am curled on the cold concrete floor, naked, my arms and elbows still painfully roped behind my back. I flex my toes, slowly lift my head as people enter.

“Take off her blindfold.”

The cloth is loosened from around my head. I look up at two soldiers, and a woman. Probably around forty, slender, muscular, in a crisp khaki sleeveless blouse, a short khaki skirt. Her dark hair is drawn back and fastened in a sensible ponytail, defining a lean face.

Quite calmly, Rachel kneels alongside me, fastening a fist in my hair, and wrenches me half-upright. I gasp with the pain, my arms still roped and twisted behind me. Her brown eyes shoot fire into me. “Well, bitch? Are you ready to talk?”

“I don't have the information you want,” I say weakly.

Rachel lets me drop, stands, glances at her guards. “Hoist her.”

One guard kneels alongside me. Carefully, he picks open the ropes that so painfully pin my elbows against each other behind my back, then frees my wrists. The other guard has a four-metre rope, the end of which he tosses through a steel ring bolted to the ceiling. My hands are brought in front of me, and tied again, the coarse-weave rope biting my wrist-bones.

Then the ceiling rope's end is passed between my pinned wrists, secured with two knots. On Rachel's instruction, the guards take hold of the rope's free end. “Go.”

They haul. Quite suddenly, my bound wrists are yanked above my head, dragging me half off the floor. I yelp in pain and dismay, finding my feet. Another tug, and I'm standing, my roped hands level with my nose.

“What are you doing?” I ask fearfully. Another tug: my arms are jerked above my head, rendering me vulnerable. I'm suddenly aware of my breasts and belly and groin all exposed, my arms lifted and out of the way. They pull the rope until my arms are drawn taut above my head, and I am held on tip-toes. The weight on my wrists is uncomfortable. “Please,” I whimper.

They pull again. By my roped wrists, I'm lifted clean off the floor. I give a cry, kicking my feet desperately for anchorage, suddenly hanging by my arms. “Hey! Let me down!”

“Suffer,” Rachel spits. I hear the guards, behind me, securing the rope's free end. My face flushes bright red. In panic, I kick and thrash, swinging on the end of the rope, my own upstretched arms clamping either side of my head. My wrists burn in their bonds, my body's weight suspended by them, my toes easily ten centimetres off the concrete below.

I have never been so humiliated. The woman before me steps back to regard me: my breasts and pubic thatch are bared to her view. She is free, I am degraded and helpless, swinging from this ring. “Let me down – please! Let me down!”

“I suggest you think about talking,” she advises. Finally, with an amused glance over my drawn body, she led her guards out of the cell. The door bangs shut, the key turning.

“Bastards!” Naked, I continue to kick my bare toes for the floor, twisting and turning, grunting in my desperation to find some anchorage for my feet. But my bare soles encounter only cool air: my toes search in vain. Hanging by my wrists, I can do nothing to help myself. I hope that Rachel and the guards might be back at any moment to set me down, but still I struggle, trying to free my hands, trying to twist my body about, but without leverage, it's futile. Sweat begins to gloss my naked breasts and belly, wetting each armpit. As the pain of the ropes on my wrists grows, so does the slow ache in the pits of my shoulders, the gradual torment of my body's weight on my arms.

I thrash and twist from the rope for a full ten minutes.

“Let me down!” I finally shriek at the locked door in pain and despair. “… Please!!”

Nothing.

I let my head fall forward, feeling the cool air dry the sweat on the nape of my neck. I feel myself slowly swinging back and forth, my arms stretched hard above my head, the rope tight on my wrists. My spine and ribcage feel taut and elongated, my belly drawn, my legs extended to their full length, toes pointed, but feet still well above the floor.

I hang, by my wrists, from the ring. The rope creaks grassily as it shifts with my slowly swaying weight. My arms really begin to ache: I can feel my elbow and shoulder joints stretching fractionally.

Gritting my teeth, I tip my head back, regarding my bonds. My own arms stretch up above my head, pale, landscaped by muscle, fuzzed by tiny blonde hairs; then the ropes, wound about my wrists, grinding into the bones. Beyond, my hands, curled into useless fists, already turning purple, and the rope, taut, creaking, stretching another ten centimetres to the ring above. I give a grunt of despair: craning back sends fresh pains through my shoulders, all down my sides, so I let my head fall forward again.

For a long time, I hang motionless, hearing only the slowing creak of the rope. Tears crawl from my eyes as my hands grow numb. I can feel the strength draining from my arms as the muscles stretch, joints loosen. The pain is slowly, but surely worsening – even as my fingers grow cold, my burning wrists start to tingle with strangled circulation. I know, now, that this new restraint is easily as effective as the old: left dangling, I'm here until my captors choose to let me down.

I hang, feeling the sweat slowly cool on my bare skin, hoping desperately with every painful second that Rachel might return, lower me from this humiliating and unbearable elevation. It seems unfair that such restraint can be so effective, that a single rope can so easily hold me aloft and helpless.

Time creeps.

Perhaps half an hour has passed when I flex my toes, swirling my dangling feet briefly, in the vague hope that the rope has stretched, that somehow I have missed some point of contact with the floor. No such luck: I'm hanging still.

I am aware of my collarbone pressed to my jaw, my shoulders hugging my ears, my own arms pressed to either side of my head, stressed and taut, bearing the full weight of my dangling body, the strain telling in my shoulder and elbow joints. Casting my eyes down, I see the twin points of my nipples jutting like thimbles into the chill air, my breasts stretched out of existence. My ribcage is in sharp relief, and, below, my own bare toes, swinging slightly, well above the floor.

An hour.

The ache in my strained arms is worsening. I can't believe that they have let me hang like this for so long. My roped wrists hurt madly, I can't even feel my hands. I'm cold, slung naked in the air like a carcass. The muscles of my arms and all down my sides are threatening to cramp against the unceasing weight. I groan aloud, pedal my feet briefly: the movement sets me swinging, the rope creaking and moaning above my head. I let myself dangle limply again, resigned to the constant weight on my arms.

Two hours.

Hanging by my wrists, stretched taut, even breathing is an effort. Sweat occasionally runs in a cold trickle from one underarm or the other, meandering slowly over my ribcage. I have always assumed that people strung up like this would somehow black out, that the time would pass in an instant – fade-out, change of scenes. I haven't figured on the slow torture it turns out to be: the telling strain on my arms now a constant burning deep in my shoulders, my wrists aching madly, my hands cold and useless above their tight bindings. My body feels unbearably heavy, suspended like a lead pendulum, legs dangling, toes in mid-air. I am fully aware of every passing moment, the silence of my cell, the unending pain.

This is true torture, calculated, relying on time alone to work its effect. I begin to lose track of how long I have been suspended here, my mind flitting from the pain in my strained arms and joints to the cold air encircling my naked body, the dull ache of a full bladder, the humiliation of being so helpless and vulnerable.

I know that Rachel and her goons could have beaten me with bats, whipped me with wire, or put a blowtorch to my skin: I would have no choice but to hang and take it. But Rachel obviously wants me free of scars, which automatically eliminates most of the available methods of persuasion. I consider myself lucky.

It is a mistake.

After maybe four, maybe five hours, the true viciousness of the torture has taken effect. My arms, forced to take so much weight for so long, hurt badly. My shoulders feel as if they have been dislocated. They have no strength whatsoever, and I hang limply, head down in the chill air. My bladder loosens even without me realising, hot urine snaking down the insides of my legs, spattering to the floor below my dangling toes. I squeeze my eyes shut, gritting my teeth, groaning in despair and misery.

Time crawls, I hang motionless.

The pain grows worse, until it is all I can think about. Sweat glosses my whole body. I'm exhausted, my muscles stressed, joints strained. I remain conscious, but begin to float in and out of true lucidity – sometimes losing all awareness of my roped hands, convinced that I am suspended in a vacuum, with no points of reference, no contacts with the real world: isolated within my helplessness.

After six or seven hours, I jerk to full awareness, still covered in sweat, realising that tears are slowly dripping from my face to my expanded chest, salty rivulets tickling their way towards my navel, their path guided by the nap of downy hairs. My wrists burn as though encircled in red-hot steel, my arms feel ready to tear right out of their sockets, a savage, indescribable tingling sensation raging through my elbows and forearms. I gasp, give a cry of pain, my voice oddly strangled. I swish my feet briefly, but that only sets me slowly twisting, sending fresh lances of agony down my arms and into my shoulders, drawing another groan.

New sweat forms over my body, my bare skin greasy with a sheen of wet. My lips are dry, my teeth clenched, all my strength gone. I call, briefly, for mercy from my absent tormentors: but nobody comes.

Slowly, my head sinks forward onto my aching chest. I hang.

Every hour is endless. The pain sometimes grows so severe that I groan aloud, shifting my head, begging in a weak voice for someone to let me down. After I have been left to hang by my wrists for twelve hours, my arms feel like they have been broken, the bones shattered with hammers, the joints split apart with iron nails. My own body is an instrument of torture, its weight sending constant agony up through my shoulders and all the way to my roped wrists. Sweat continues to creep over me, stale now: with my nose so close to my armpits, I can smell myself.

The merciful unconsciousness for which I had once hoped will not come: the pain in my stretched arms makes sure of that. Instead, it is an endless ordeal of which I, strung by my hands from the ring with no means of loosening the rope or finding anchorage for my swinging feet, am a helpless victim.

When the cell door is opened and unlocked, it seems as if in a dream. I react, but by the time my eyes are open and my head lifted, Rachel is already standing before me. Her dark eyes flick up and down my drawn body.

“Well. Still hanging around, I see,” she remarks.

“Please …” My voice is a whisper, and I have to force it through a fog of pain and weariness, my body paralysed after so long in suspension. “Please, let me down …”

Rachel puts a cool hand to my hip, gives me a shove. The action sends me slowly swinging, twisting, the rope creaking and groaning, and it sends pain through my drawn and stretched arms. I clench my teeth, but a long moan escapes, and I tip my head back, willing the torment to stop.

“Are you ready to talk, yet?”

“Yes,” I answer at once. “Yes, I'll talk, just tell me what to say!”

Rachel circles me slowly. “Tell me the positions of your troops.”

“I don't know,” I groan.

“Talk!” Rachel erupts, and, from behind, grabs my hips, wrenching me down, twisting me hard in the air. The action makes my shoulders crack! loudly, all but ripping them out of joint, and I howl at the pain. Tears flow down my cheeks as I twist and swing helplessly from the rope, and Rachel stalks to the door.

“Drop the temperature another five degrees,” she tells a guard, then glares at me. “We'll see how you do after another day of this.”

“No! Please!” I call after her. But the door slams shut.

I continue to swing, slowing, but the pain in my stretched arms is now unbearable, burning, my body creaking back and forth in the icy air. I gasp and cry, but I have no strength nor leverage to fight the pendulum movement.

It takes ten long, unendurable minutes for my body to stop swinging. When I finally hang still, the sweat is running from my naked body, my torso shining, perspiration cooling on my bare back, prickling between my buttocks. My head droops onto my chest, my arms rage with pain, drawn and strained from the unceasing weight and stresses inflicted upon them.

Time creeps, every passing minute an endless ordeal of torment to which I am helpless. After an hour, the air becomes colder, until my nipples are stones on my chest, hurting. I shiver, but that only brings new waves of pain through my arms, the white vapour on my breath telling me that it is barely warmer than a refrigerator in this cell now.

Fourteen hours I have been hanging from this rope, without water or food, only torment: and there is no sign of mercy. My head droops to my chest, my body limp and drained, dangling.

SHOCKS

It is another full day before the door to my cell is unlocked.

Thirty-six nightmarish hours in a state of pain-crazed delirium, my state ranging from disorientation to sheer panic. I am barely aware of Rachel and her two guards entering the bare room, until my numb feet hit the floor, and I collapse in a greasy heap. My arms have lost all movement, and I lie weakly as the rope around my wrists is loosened. My hands are purple, icy, my wrists grazed, black with bruising. My joints seem to have frozen solid: even if I wanted to, I am unable to move.

“Well? Have we thought any more about telling all?”

“Can't,” I manage to croak. My voice rasps, my lips so dry they crack when I speak.

“You dumb, stubborn bitch,” Rachel growls. “Do you really want me to string you up for another day, just to prove my point?”

“You don't need to prove anything,” I groan, my bowels weakening at the thought that I might be put through the ordeal of hanging by my wrists again. Tears squeeze from my eyes. “Please, I don't know anything. I'm no help to you.”

“You can say that again.” Rachel puts her hands on hips, scowling down at me. Finally, on impulse, she drives a kick square into my belly. Her boot slams into untensed muscles with a THUD, and I fold with a shriek, the breath thrown from my lungs, pain exploding through my abdomen. Urine dribbles from between my legs as I writhe, gasping. Rachel gathers her hair, impatiently ties it into a knot. “Give the bitch something to drink, then tie her up again. I don't want her getting loose. We'll get some answers tomorrow.”

I am easy to work, paralysed with pain, and weak from twelve hours hanging from the ring, and offer no resistance as I am rolled onto my belly on the cold floor. My arms are pulled behind my back, wrists bound tightly together, then elbows – drawn in, cruelly roped. The blindfold is again put over my eyes, tightly tied behind my head. Finally, I hear the sound of a water flask being opened.

“Here.”

I am hauled onto my knees. Without the use of my arms, I suckle on the flask like a calf sucking milk, gulping desperately in case the water is taken away, trickles running down my chin and throat. When I have emptied the vessel, it's taken from my mouth, although I'm still thirsty. I lower my head, kneeling, naked and painfully bound.

“Damn,” I hear. “She's gorgeous.”

“You think?”

“Look at her. Body like a gymnast. Gorgeous legs. And those abs are something.”

“Tiny tits.”

“But nipples the size of thimbles. She's a honey.”

“Are you kidding?” A hand grasps my hair, lifts my face. “Cute mouth, but what's with the hairy bush? She should shave it.”

“It's natural. She's gorgeous.”

The humiliation is unbearable. As I kneel, these two men are openly debating the issue of body hair on women, and I am their conversation piece. If I wasn't so weakened by my ordeal hanging from the ring, I would protest, beg with them to leave me alone, but all I can do is kneel there, bound, open to their scrutiny.

Finally, tiring of their conversation, the guards leave.

It seems a mere instant later that I'm being woken by Rachel's guards. I am at once hit by a thousand pains in my twisted arms, and I groan. Regardless, hands grasp the ropes at my elbows and haul me into a sitting position.

“Get up,” one of them snaps. “It's time.”

“Time for what?” My voice is barely there. I have no idea whether it's day or night. I don't know how long I have been here. All I want is to be left alone, untied, free from my misery.

Somehow, I find myself stumbling along a passageway: my bare feet slapping on concrete, accompanied by the sound of boots. Naked, hands bound behind me. My nipples betray me, swelling in the chill like rosebuds, embarrassing and vulnerable on my chest.

My sense of vulnerability increases tenfold a moment later as they remove my blindfold.

“Oh, dear god, no! Oh, no!”

Bright spotlights bathe a table of sorts – a plastic gridwork surface, some kind of drainage surface beneath. The table is perhaps two metres square, angled slightly: at each corner of its raised head are retractable straps like seat-belts, ending in thick wrist-buckles. At the base, anchored to adjustable carriages in an arc that spans the width of the table, ankle-straps. Alongside is a gurney outfitted with innumerable devices that I can't even bear to look at: wires, clips, some kind of battery.

“I've been looking forward to this.”

Rachel's smooth voice comes from a fold-out chair to my left. She wears a simple red sundress, as if for a summer picnic; its strapped bodice and short flip-skirt baring her tanned and muscled limbs.

She smiles. But there is danger in her eyes. “Put her on.”

I want to throw up, but I am propelled towards the awful table. “Please,” I quaver, my voice as loose and unsteady as my legs. “Can't we come to some arrangement, please, I'm begging you, please -”

“You have had time to cooperate,” Rachel tells me, “and you have refused. Now, time is a factor, and we must force your cooperation.”

“I don't know anything!” I shriek, in desperation and panic. Still bound, I am lifted onto the table. Its plastic surface is rough to my bare bottom, and I fight desperately as my arms are freed. “Please, believe me!”

“You know plenty. You're just not saying.” Rachel watches as I am forced onto my back. My arms are stretched out to the corners of the table, wrists strapped securely. My legs are spread, ankles fastened a metre apart. I jerk wildly on the restraints.

“Please!!” The guards step away. I lie, incredibly exposed. Naked, stretched on the table for all to see, my bare body laid out, my tiny breasts drawn into my heaving ribcage. My nipples, two pink thimbles, stand easily a centimetre.

Rachel slowly rises, strolls to where I lie, and looks critically over my stretched body.

“Please, please, please,” I babble, sobbing uncontrollably.

“Nice muscle tone.” She runs a hand over the hard packing of my abdominals. “But Jesus, don't you ever shave?”

“I'm sorry,” I wail in terror. “I'll shave myself, I'll do anything, please, just don't hurt me!”

The door of the torture room has been closed and locked. I'm unsure how many people have remained to watch the session. Rachel puts a hand to my chest, closes her thumb and forefinger deliberately over the swollen stub of my right nipple. “Lovely nipples. Shame, really.”

I take the bait. “Why?”

“Because I'm going to hurt them very much indeed.”

While I explode into a fresh barrage of terrified pleading and sobbing, Rachel walks to the gurney. She very deliberately picks out two coiled leads, like jumper cables, each terminating in a fat alligator clip. The spring creaks as she opens the first.

“Ohhhhh!” I arch my back in pain as the clip sinks into my left nipple. It's savagely tight, its teeth all but crushing my tender flesh. The second clip bites viciously on to my right nipple. I clench my jaw, writhing. I know nothing will dislodge those clips, no matter how hard I try.

“I don't know if it interests you,” Rachel is saying calmly as she steps to the gurney again, “but each jaw of those clips is independently circuited. Which means most of the shock will simply snap through the nipple, rather than into your chest.” She smiles. “Good news for your heart, darling, but bad, bad news for your tits.”

I squeeze my eyes shut, willing this to just be a nightmare. But the bite of the clips on my nipples, the teasing of the wires on my bare chest, the straps about my wrists and ankles, the heat of the spotlights, all tell me it is real. I hear a switch being thrown, the rising whine of a charging regulator.

“Shall we begin?” Rachel asks.

“I told you, I don't know anything,” I gasp desperately.

“Wrong answer.”

It feels as if my nipples have burst. My back arches, the breath is knocked from my lungs, and for a few seconds it feels as if some terrible force is trying to pull my breasts from my ribcage. Then the current ceases, and I fall back, my squeal evolving into a long cry of pain.

“Ohhh god!”

“I shouldn't expect any help from her in a hurry,” Rachel snorts. She throws the switch again: this time I hear sparks crack on my nipples, and as my spine arches, I let out a scream of agony. Urine squirts from between my legs, my fingers splay. The pain is like nails driven into my nipples, every muscle rigid, my mouth wide.

The current ceases, and I drop, chest heaving. My heart is a jack-hammer, sweat springs from every pore in a liquid varnish over my skin. My pee trickles slowly from the drainage grid beneath me.

“Please,” I pant, my voice thick with dread, “please stop!”

“Stop?” Rachel smiles. “I've only just started! That first shock was fifty volts: the second was sixty-five. I thought we'd go up in increments of fifteen until you talk. Or your tits burst. I mean, you'll go through a hell of a lot of pain before that happens, but I've seen it. The fat goes everywhere. Or maybe I'll put the clips on your armpits. You'd be amazed how sensitive your armpits can be to electric shock torture.”

I can only cry, so Rachel turns up the current, and hits the key.

Sparks fly, my breasts swell with pain as my whole body arches off the table. I am screaming, helpless to stop the torture. I have never even imagined this much pain, and my body has no way of coping other than complete panic. When the flow stops, I struggle dazedly to free myself.

“Ninety-five volts.” Rachel hits the switch.

Cr-crack! A blue arc flashes in my eyes, and my body thumps off the table in a spray of flung sweat, accompanied by a scream that tears my lungs. The clips seem to lift my nipples into the air, sending agony into my sensitive breasts.

The shock ceases. I fall back. Steam is curling from my crushed nipples. I can imagine my breasts bursting like microwaved eggs, and I let out a wail of pain and misery as Rachel sets the dial higher. “One hundred and ten volts. Talk to me.”

“I don't know anything,” I sob.

My jaw cracks. My shoulder blades and buttocks lift clear off the table, my spine creaking, nipples straining for the ceiling as current surges into them, sparks crackling and sputtering, and I give a long scream. The pain is beyond description.

I flop back.

Rachel keys the switch again, and I buck off the table, screaming, electricity snapping at my clamped nipples. She releases me, then shocks me again, holding the current so that my spine creaks, my steaming, wired breasts straining upwards. My shrieks of pain are endless, my body arched off the torture table.

I fall. Rachel's expression is predatory as she gives me a few moments to recover, increases the current to a hundred and twenty-five, and lets me have it. It is so easy for her: a nudge of a switch, and I am jolting upwards off the table, muscles straining, sparks snapping and arcing around my swollen nipples, sweat flying off my body like mist. I hold nothing back, shrieking and yelling.

When Rachel stops the torture, I land heavily, panting hard.

“Please,” I wail. “Please stop hurting me! I haven't done anything to you! Please, just stop it, and I will do anything you say …”

“I want information,” Rachel says.

“I don't know anything,” I moan. “Oh, please, let me up!” I jerk my widely-spread legs, tugging my ankles against their restraints, heels digging into the table. I tip my head back, looking along the wide 'v' of my own sweaty arms, turning my wrists, fingers open, tugging and jerking the straps. I tense every muscle, put my strength into trying to pull myself free.

Rachel giggles. “Go, girl! God, that's sexy!”

My face is wet with tears, my body with sweat as I writhe desperately. My nipples burn, clamped within the savagely-tight spring jaws of the clips, wires draped across my gleaming chest. My muscles are pumped from struggling, all in fierce definition as I continue to fight the bonds. But I am helpless. I can't escape. I am stretched out across this table, naked, with no way to save myself.

“Now,” Rachel says coolly, “are we ready to continue?”

The thump of electricity is accompanied by the snap of sparks as my body bows up off the table. My ribcage threatens to burst, my nipples seem to swell within the clips' bite. The pain is worse than anything yet, and I scream and scream.

She zaps me again, and again, and again. Each shock hits with a sound like a sledge-hammer slamming my chest, jerking my body into a splayed, spreadeagled arch, until I can no longer scream, until it feels as though my nipples have been torn from my chest.

She tortures me for an hour. Each time she questions me, sometimes waiting for a response, sometimes just thumbing the switch regardless, delivering pain into my bare breasts without mercy, perhaps four hundred separate shocks. I lie, spread out, steam curling up from my glossy skin. Then another shock, arching me up off the table. Pain roars into my head, and the world suddenly begins to pitch and spin, bucking on an ocean of agony, my eyes rolling back into my head.

I wake. I'm paralysed.

I try to move, can't – then recollection comes. I'm still tied up, limbs stretched to the four corners of the torture table. I begin to cry.

“Ah, she's back.” Rachel stands over me. “How are you, doll? Ready for another round?”

“Please.” The clips have been removed from my nipples, but waves of throbbing, burning pain lingers in my tormented breasts. “I don't know anything, really, I don't!”

“The possibility, lover, is that you've been trained to resist torture.” Rachel steps to the head of the table, turns a crank three times. The retractable wrist-straps are drawn in several centimetres, stretching my body harder across the table. My spine pops loudly. I imagine that this is what it would be like on the rack: it is uncomfortable, humiliating. Rachel returns to put a hand to my brow, pushing back my soaked hair. “It's my job to break you, Kirsten. That takes time. And pain.” Her free hand lifts, and I gasp: An alligator clip creaks open.

“No, no, please – please!” I struggle desperately, but can do nothing as she squishes the sprung jaws into the saturated hollow of my left armpit, the teeth clamping skin and hairs. The second clip she pinches into my right armpit. I have never felt anything as bizarre or humiliating as having crocodile clips in my underarms, and try to turn my face from the degradation.

“You know the advantage of the armpits?” Rachel asks me. Miserably, I shake my head. “I can give you much, much more, without the risk of killing you. And all that sweat lowers skin resistance to the shocks. So let's start at seventy-five volts.”

“Please,” I whisper. “I don't know anything.”

Rachel jabs the switch. Instantly, the clips in my underarms discharge current, and my back arches, my teeth clenching in pain. It's different from the nipple torture: deeper, more intimate, far more invasive. It's the most horrible sensation I have ever felt, and I wail in anguish. Rachel keeps the current steady, and the pain seems to buzz into my armpits, sending awful waves of pain along my arms and down my sides. I cry out again.

Rachel doubles the voltage.

I scream in agony as sparks spit. It feels as if nails have been driven into my armpits. “That's one-fifty, baby!” She releases the switch, hits me again. The paralysing bolts of agony snap into my armpits with daylight-bright sparks, wisps of smoke curling up from the metal clips, the smell of searing hairs as I buck and scream on the torture table. My pits seem to have split open, the clips delivering the most acute agony directly into the nerve bundles that pass so near the surface of each armpit.

Rachel knows her torture methods, and she lets me thud back onto the table for a few brief seconds, before turning up the current and hitting me again. There is a bright blue flash simultaneously in both armpits, and I think my arms have been ripped from my body. I arch off the table, roaring and shrieking madly in agony, drumming my heels and shaking my head as the current continues, like white-hot pokers pressing into my underarms. The sweat is running from my armpits, the salty perspiration a perfect conductor, and the pain continues. I hear my own skin hissing and popping like frying eggs.

Finally, release. Steam curls from my armpits: though the torture is savage, my underarm hair saves them from burns, despite the excruciating torment. I throw my head weakly from side to side, moaning.

“Talk,” is all Rachel says. “Talk, or it gets worse.”

“I don't know anything,” I whimper in terror. “Oh, please, please, please -”

“One seventy-five!” Crackle. My shoulders jerk off the table, my armpits flatten and lift towards the ceiling as if plucked upwards by the clips, while sparks flash, and agony flares deep in my joints, drawing scream after desperate scream from my torn lungs.

I flop down, my body twitching and jolting with the after-effects of electric shocks. I can smell ozone. If only I could lower my arms, tear my wrists from the straps that hold them stretched above my head, baring my armpits. But Rachel hits the key again. Current jars into my underarms, my arms jerking automatically with the voltage as I shriek and scream in pain.

Rachel releases me.

“Talk, or it's two hundred volts!”

“Oh, God, God …”

She shocks my armpits again. This time, it feels as if my shoulders have shattered, and I scream madly, eyes wide, agonised beyond all comprehension. The world begins to spin, the nauseating odours of burning hairs and heated sweat close in on me, and my eyes roll back.

I wake.

I lie, still secured on the torture table.

Surely nothing can get worse than what I have just endured. The world seems to shift and fade around me. I am unbearably hot. My armpits both feel as if they have been flayed and doused in acid, burning, the mere touch of air too painful for words.

But Rachel is not finished. She goes, first, to the head of the table, turns the crank another three times. The straps are drawn in, and my spreadeagled body is stretched grossly, pain in my shoulders and hips. I give a shout. Then, Rachel moves to the foot of the table, turns the lower crank. On their moorings, my ankles are slowly, steadily cranked in opposite directions, splitting my spread legs further still.

“Ohhh! Oww! No, stop, stop!” I shout at the ceiling, helpless as my taut legs are slowly, cruelly spread. A metre five. A metre ten. A metre twenty, and the pain is dreadful. “No more, please, you're breaking my legs!” I beg, frantic with pain.

“Too bad.” Rachel turns the crank: my ankles are one metre thirty apart, and my hips pop loudly with the stress of it. Pain explodes down my inner thighs, the tendons like steel. Rachel turns the crank further: my legs are almost metre and a half apart, the widest they have ever been, truly at their limit. My pussy is hideously exposed, my genitalia opened and presented.

Rachel cranks the handle. I scream in pain as I am forced by the restraints to do the splits, my legs at 170 degrees, my feet almost level with my hips. Tears are pouring down my face: I have never been so degraded, so exposed. My vulva and vagina gape.

“That looks like it hurts,” Rachel remarked. Casually, she removes the clip from my right armpit, and, a moment later, I feel her drape the wire across my thigh. “Goodness, you're a hairy little thing, aren't you?” Then, a sharp, pinching pain as the clip bites hard onto my sensitive pussy lips.

“Ohhhhhhh!” I struggle, not just with the pain of the clip, but the sheer terror of what this means. I am to be tortured in the most obscene, cruel way imaginable. I can't help myself: I urinate, pissing all over the wire, worsening my situation. Rachel removes the second clip from my left armpit, and attaches it to the forward edge of my anus.

“Did you know your arsehole is hairy, too?”

“Please …” My eyes are spilling tears, fear gripping my body, though I cannot move. My hips are burning terribly, my legs in agony, spread so widely. “Please, don't do this, don't hurt me like this …” I'm sweating already. Rachel picks up the control to the machine.

“Talk to me. How many units do you have? Where are they stationed? Remember, I can hurt you very, very much with just a touch of my finger …”

“Please! I don't know anything!” I'm desperate, hysterical, panicking.

“One hundred and fifty volts.” Rachel hits the key. The charge slams into my most sensitive parts. Somehow, my hips rise off the table, a parody of orgasm, my obscenely-spread legs seeming to invite the electricity's savage intrusion. I scream in pain,.

Release. I fall heavily, sweat running off me, my heart thrashing, my ribcage heaving two breaths a second. My cunt and arsehole feel as if they are on fire. I'm crying, bawling like a baby, my head shaking between my upstretched and wet arms. Rachel lifts an eyebrow.

“You want more, do you?”

“Please, I don't know anything,” I sob in a small voice.

“I'm going to hit the button again.”

“… No …”

I'm spread on the table, utterly helpless. Rachel hits the key. Electricity jumps between my legs with a sound like snapping wood, my body arches off the table. Little sparks snap in the wet tangle of hairs while I yell in agony.

When Rachel releases me, I splash to the sweat-drenched table. My anus clenches and spasms in response to the shocks, another dribble of urine escapes me. I sob. Torture has drained my limbs of strength, nor can I even tug on the straps, spread as widely as I am. My legs hurt so much, I think my hips are dislocated.

“Talk to me, Kirsten,” Rachel sings, turning the voltage up. “One seventy-five!”

“Please,” I choke. “Please, I don't know anything … I don't … oh god, please stop hurting me, stop torturing me, please, I don't know what you want …” Saliva dribbles from my mouth, tears from my eyes. My whole body is wet with sweat. The awful spring-clips burn in my anus and vagina, little metal teeth crushing and bruising my flesh. I weep as Rachel poises a finger over the button.

Crack!! Current heaves me off the table. My muscles go rigid, pain ravaging my private parts, sizzling and spitting like a red-hot poker as I roar in pain.

I fall back. My ribcage heaves with every desperate breath. The clip at my anus crackles with heat, sweat sizzling, my sensitive flesh is blistering. It hurts unbearably. The battery recharges with a rising whine. I moan, fire in my anus, my vagina feeling as if it's been torn with red-hot hooks. My head screams, every nerve raw with latent electricity.

“Where are your units stationed?” Rachel demands.

“I don't know!”

Two hundred volts explode into my pelvis. My buttocks jolt up off the table, my whole body arching, hips jerking at the ceiling in a mist of spitting moisture and sparks. I scream, shrilly, the clips sizzling, the agony overwhelming. I shit myself. My scream catches, my voice suddenly silent, the only sounds my creaking limbs and the hum and sizzle of the electrodes clamped to my body. My pelvic floor muscles spasm in a gruesome imitation of orgasm.

Rachel releases the switch. I fall hard, the breath knocked out of me, my mind a nightmare of pain. I can taste blood.

Everything fades to grey, then black.

I partly wake, though whether it is soon after or hours later, I can't tell. I am still stark naked, spreadeagled and bound to the torture table, my body wet still with sweat, but chill. The electrodes have been removed from me. Somebody is inserting a drip-needle into my arm, fixing it in place with tape. I let my head roll, and unconsciousness drags me under.

RACK

“Apparently, you made it through today.”

I groan, try to move, but can't.

As the world spins into existence around me, I shift my head. I am lying, still, on my back – but on a different table. Icy steel. I'm still naked. My arms are stretched hard over my head, my wrists tied tightly together, secured to something beyond my hands. My legs are wide apart, and, as I roll my head, I see that my ankles are bound, with an overkill of rope, to two heavy steel rings welded to the long table's foot.

I'm suddenly wide awake, and look around this new concrete room, almost identical to my first cell. With gradually mounting dread, I tip my head backwards to look along the line of my own, bare, upstretched arms. My bound wrists are linked, by a half-metre of rope, to a winch at the table's head, connected by gears to a simple crank. For now, I do not even try to struggle.

Rachel stands over the table, skirt high on her downy thighs, bare arms and shining shoulders beneath the fluorescent lights. She smiles down at me. “Welcome, Kirsten, to the rack.”

“Ohhh, God,” I groan, wishing I had not heard her.

“This is no ordinary rack. This uses state-of-the-art controlled-torque gearing. This rack could rip a small car to pieces.”

“Please, I don't know anything,” I whimper in terror.

As if she has not heard me: “It's wonderfully simple. I just turn the handle, and you get stretched. It hurts like hell, believe me. It's incredibly painful. I can keep stretching you until every single joint has been dislocated. And even then, I can keep going. If I stretch you enough, your spine will tear apart, and eventually, you'll die.”

“Oh, God, no, no, please …” I burst into tears. I hate being so exposed, so vulnerable. Rachel takes hold of the crank, turns it. With a soft click, the winch beyond my hands rolls over a notch, then another, then another. The rope pulls on my wrists: I am dragged fractionally across the table, until my ankles jam against their restraints. Oddly, I am most of all aware of the sound: the very distinctive squeaking and creaking of the rope. I realise I am being tortured, but it seems unreal, like some fairytale kind of torture, and I wonder if I am supposed to be in pain already.

Rachel turns the crank again, a half-turn for every notch, and even though my feet are firmly moored, my wrists are pulled a little closer to the winch: a physical stretching of my body that I can feel all along my limbs, all through my torso. I feel numb.

“You resisted the electric shock torture so well,” Rachel explains smoothly. “We were in danger of killing you, you see. This can go a lot longer. Forgive the pun.” She tightens the winch again, and my body is stretched. I try to fight it, but every muscle is already taut. This is beyond mere physical strength: it's machine against tendons and ligaments. I realise with growing nausea that I am going to suffer whatever torment Rachel chooses to inflict upon me, no matter what.

Rachel cranks me two more notches, and as I stretch, I hear my own joints popping loudly. Unexpectedly, the first stabs of pain surge from my shoulders, along my arms. I gasp. My ribcage is lifted by the tension, the ropes biting my wrists and ankles.

“Sleep tight,” she chuckles.

“What? Wait! No!” I try to lift my head, realising that Rachel is leaving. “Please!” The cell door booms shut, the lock is turned.

The moment she is gone, I burst into tears. I cry for perhaps twenty minutes, gulping between breaths, lying stretched and exposed. The torque on my body is constant, traction between moored ankles and roped wrists, my bare arms pressing on either side of my head. I am cruelly aware of my nudity in the chill air, the hairs along my arms and thighs standing on end, my naked flanks peppered with gooseflesh, my nipples standing, shivers ravaging my body as I lie on the cold metal.

When my crying ends, it is replaced by sheer panic. There is no way I can be here when Rachel returns! To suffer the torments she has described is unthinkable, so I begin my first earnest attempt to escape. I turn my ankles, tugging on the ropes that bind them to the metal rings, but to my frustration I am too tightly drawn to get any leverage. Next, tipping my head back, I try to twist my hands. My fingers stretch and flutter for the knots about my wrists, and when that fails, I simply try to wrench my hands from their bonds.

I fight the ropes for an hour, but, finally, I surrender to my bondage, and lie, stretched out, bursting into tears once more.

Another hour passes. When, on occasion, I lift my head, it is to see the plain of my ribcage, two dark nipples pointing into the air: my belly beyond, shining in the powerful overhead lights. The stark ridges of my hip bones flank the thick black mat of my pubic bush: my own legs, muscles drawn into definition, stretching to opposite corners of the rack's base, my feet helplessly sticking up beyond the tight bindings that moor them.

I let my head drop back. My own arms form a tight frame on either side of my face, drawn harshly upwards by the tension on my body.

I close my eyes. Stretched on this rack with the winch locked in place, I'm truly helpless. If nobody ever comes back, I would die of thirst lying here naked, unable to do a thing to save myself.

Four hours.

After a time, my fear begins to wane, replaced by a numb sense of resignation. I am a prisoner, I can do nothing to free myself, nor do I feel any obligation to try, any more. My position on the rack is almost comfortable. I can feel the muscles of my back and legs loosening, the gentle stretching action quite pleasant. Only the chill, and the knowledge that Rachel will soon return, kept me from truly relaxing.

Six or seven hours after Rachel tightened the rack, however, things begin to change.

Turning my head to regard the pale horizon of my own tautly-upstretched arm, I see the bristling of tiny hairs, the coarse texture of goosebumps, as the cold penetrates deep into my muscles. I'm beginning to shiver, the cold air biting into my lifted ribcage, invading the intimacy between my legs, my open armpits. As my muscles contract with cold, the stretching action of the rack seems to grow. It begins to hurt.

“Somebody? Please?” I call towards the door, but nobody comes.

I lie, shivering. A dull ache has settled through my limbs, but I'm incapable of movement, and have no way of easing the discomfort.

I try again, after perhaps eight hours, to free myself: managing to angle my head back between my upstretched arms, flexing my fingers for the knots at my wrists. But they are utterly beyond reach, and even if they weren't, I would never be able to unpick them. I give a single whimper of frustration.

Twelve endless hours after she left, Rachel returns. By now, the cold has invaded every centimetre of my drawn and naked body, leaving me in slow, painful spasms of shivering. Rachel seems delighted to see me in such discomfort, and slowly circles the rack.

“How was your night? Have you thought about our little talk last night?”

I try to lift my head to see her, but it brings sharp pain to my shoulders, and I have to look at the ceiling. “There is nothing I can say,” I shiver. There is frost on my breath.

“That's hardly the attitude, now, is it? Perhaps I can jog your memory, a little?”

Rachel turns the crank handle. The roller shifts, I am stretched, and pain, savage and raw, explodes along my arms and legs. I never imagined it would hurt like this! My head rocks back, my mouth opens wide. “Oh, god!!”

“I told you it would hurt,” Rachel tells me smugly. “Now. Tell me all you know.”

Even breathing is difficult. I'm desperate for some easement, relief from the burning strain in my arms and shoulders. “I don't know anything!”

“Yes, you do.” Rachel turns the handle. My feet remain anchored, my fists creep to the winch, and the most incredible pain explodes through my arms, all down my sides. This time I scream, it hurts so much.

“Oh, oh god! My arms! My arms! My arms!” I shriek, barely aware of what I'm crying, but desperate for the pain to stop. I had no idea that I could sweat so much: it beads on every centimetre of my naked body, streaking my ribcage, droplets over my belly and limbs. I gasp and cry with the terrible pain in my wrenched limbs.

“Tell me,” Rachel orders, and again turns the crank: I am stretched a little further. The pain doubles, fire engulfing my arms and legs, and my cries dissolve into a wordless scream as my body creaks.

“Now, I suggest you consider the benefits of telling me what I need to know. Because it gets worse than this; much, much worse, and the next time I see you, I'm going to stretch you so hard your arms rip out of their sockets. So think.”

I barely notice that she has gone. There is nothing but the pain, awful, unending, unrelenting pain. Stretched cruelly, my body is on fire. Every nerve is ravaged, my joints under terrible strain, limbs drawn to breaking point. I have no choice but to gasp and groan, though every breath, every shallow movement of my inflated ribcage causes heightened pain all down my spine, through my shoulders, my strained abdomen. Tears wet my face. Sweat runs. The ropes anchoring my ankles grind hard against bone: those on my wrists creak, holding the terrible tension. This is so much worse than the electric shocks: at least then there had been moments of relief, nor had the pain been so all-engulfing, so overwhelming

Three hours I am left to suffer.

I cannot regulate my breathing, I cannot stay silent: I moan and whimper, my muscles shaking, my body horribly strained. I can feel damage being done, but I can not find any relief, not even the slightest easing of the tension.

By the time Rachel returns, I am exhausted, my limbs weak, but the pain is no less than when the roller first started to stretch me. Every joint hurts with sharp, biting fire, every muscle feels as if it has been sliced. My fingers, curled and useless beyond the tight ropes, can grasp nothing that might ease my suffering. My toes flex helplessly in the chill air.

When I see her, free and beautiful, my misery wells up in a sobbed plea: “I beg you, I beg you, please, stop the pain, please …”

Rachel draws close, bends over to whisper into my ear. “You want it to stop it?”

“Stop it now,” I babble, high-pitched and desperate. “Stop, stop, stop it now!”

“You want the pain to stop?” She puts her hand to a release lever at the rack's head.

“Oh, God, yes! Please!” My swollen fingers curl uselessly around the rope that runs from my wrists to the winch. “Loosen it!”

“Tell me where your troops are stationed.”

“Yes! Anything! Just release me!”

Rachel slowly shakes her head. “Wrong answer, gorgeous girl.”

“No!” I shriek. “Oh, god, no! I'll do anything! Please! Anything at all! Oh, please! You can do anything to me, but don't stretch me!”

“Then tell me what I want to know.”

“I can't think! I can't remember! Please -”

Rachel gives the crank a turn. The rope hauls on my wrists, and pain rips the breath from my lungs. Every joint seems to shatter, every muscle lanced with pure, white-hot agony. My scream is loud, a cry of pure, animal agony that overloads every rational thought. The savagery fills my eyes with sparks. I'm aware of liquid fire down my sides and back, roaring through my hips and all down my legs. I can hear it, over the groaning of the rope: my own body, creaking like stressed leather. My ribcage can scarcely shift, and I'm panting for breath. Sweat covers me like water, streaks my ribs and belly, soaks my hair, shines on my arms and legs. My muscles are defined by the sheer strain, tendons as hard as steel cables.

“Where are your troops stationed?”

“I don't know,” I gasp. “Oh, God! I don't know, I can't take any more, I can't!”

“I think you can take a little more,” Rachel says. “Let's try.” She turns the crank again. The winch shifts, my own limbs crack! as the tension grows. The pain is terrible. My voice rises in pitch as if I were a guitar-string being tuned. My eyes are wide: I hear the squeaking of abdominal muscles lengthening, ligaments stretching. I can barely breathe. A dribble of urine escapes between my thighs. Then, somehow, I find the air to scream again. My eyes shut, I howl at the ceiling, wordless yells of agony, decaying into wails and breathless gulps for air.

“Tell me what I want to know,” Rachel demands.

“I can't,” I sob.

“I'm going to stretch you again …”

“No! No, no, no, please, oh, please have mercy, don't hurt me more …” Through unfocusing, tear-filled eyes, I see Rachel wind the handle again. There is a sickening tearing sound from both my shoulders. The pain seems to slam into my head with a flash like sheet lightning, and I start shrieking in new agony as my arms crack! from their sockets. Everything I have experienced thus far pales to nothing against this new torment. I lose all awareness of who I am, where I am, my entire being focused only as a white hot fireball. I lie, stretched between mooring ropes and winch, shrieking and howling, white hot fire raging the length of my disjointed arms, searing my upper back and chest, focused with fury beyond all comprehension in my broken shoulders.

Rachel gives a laugh of triumph. “Now we're getting somewhere!”

Creaks and groans fill the tiny cell. Nothing could possibly be worse than the pain that rages in my dislocated arms, sending waves of sweat over my body, drawing long, agonised groans from my throat. I just want to die, but Rachel asks again: “Where are your troops?”

I don't know, I mouth weakly.

Then, Rachel cranks the handle again. New agony fills my ruined shoulders: but is suddenly joined by an absolutely unbearable pain in my hips. I feel my eyes widening, my mouth opening in an airless roar as white-hot fire more intense than a nuclear blast explodes from my groin. With a double crack, crack! like distant gunfire, my hips pop in quick succession from their sockets.

I find myself screaming.

My voice is shrill, harsh, shrieks and yells that tear my throat, my mouth wide. My hands and feet, beyond the ropes, are purple with strangled circulation. My body, naked, drawn in an upturned 'Y,' is held motionless on the rack: the unbelievable pain of bones sitting out of joint, all the strain borne by the ligaments. Every muscle is strained by the tension. Tendons are near breaking point. Every nerve warns of the damage in a flood of pain that overwhelms me. My scream becomes a squeal, my breath stolen as my ribcage lifts to the point of inflexibility.

“Think carefully, Kirsten Smart,” Rachel says softly. My wide eyes slowly roll back, until I regard her beyond my own wrecked arms. “Your body is nearing its limit. I am literally breaking you. One or two more notches, and your elbows will break, then your knees. A couple more notches, and your spine will be just about ready to snap – if your diaphragm hasn't torn by then, in which case you will suffocate.

“I suggest you think hard about telling me what you know, before I return.”

And with that, she leaves me.

I know that I can't survive for long, like this. Glistening, my belly rocks violently as I fight for breath, my body not releasing its hold on life, though I wish it with every burning fibre of my being. I pray that my hands or feet might tear off, so that the terrible strain eases.

Gradually, I feel a numb, tingling sensation in my extremities. Though it does nothing to ease the fire in my dislocated joints, I recognise the lack of oxygen, and squeeze my eyes shut, praying for the process to hasten. Despite myself, I kept fighting to breathe. But blackness gradually closes in from the edge of my vision, and I feel myself fade from consciousness.

Seventeen hours.

A lifetime since I was secured on the rack, six of those hours in extreme agony. My shoulders and hips are dislocated, the muscles in my forearms, upper arms, back, pelvis, thighs and lower legs are torn, tendons strained, ligaments ripped, causing excruciating pain in every part of my body. The ropes at my wrists and ankles have drawn me some twenty centimetres longer than I should be,.

I'm fading in and out of consciousness, brutally torn awake by the pain in my broken body to wail and groan, until the severity overloads my brain, and I black out. Even my eyes refuse to function, my fluttering eyelids strobing a blurred view of the ceiling, sweat like condensation over my cruelly stretched body.

I become aware of Rachel standing over me, though whether she has just arrived, or has been standing there for some while, I do not know. I try to clear my vision, try to focus on her swimming form. She stands with hands on hips.

“Well?” Her voice sounds a thousand kilometres away. “Are you ready to talk?”

I move my lips, but no sound will come. I don't have the information she wants. I would have told her long before now. Even so, Rachel puts a hand to the lever. “I'm going to torture you some more,” she says. I begin to wail in terror.

When the roller moves, it reawakens agony beyond belief. Fresh fire explodes into my arms and legs with a fury that tears a wild scream from my lungs, my head tipping back, my tongue flat. My whole body creaks, swollen muscles violated by still more tension. New sweat chases the old from my bare skin, droplets appearing, glossing my naked body like oil.

Rachel waits, watches while I scream, helpless to the excruciating savagery of being rent apart by slow force. For perhaps fifteen minutes she lets me lie, until my screams die to weak whimpers, the adrenalin breaking down, leaving me a dazed wreck.

“No more,” I moan. “No more, please, no more …”

“You don't get it, do you?” Rachel says. “You are expendable. If you die under torture, so be it, but I'm not going to stop until I get the information I want from you.”

“Please, have mercy on me,” I weep.

Rachel shrugs, and cranks the handle. A shock of violent agony explodes through me, and I scream anew, my feet anchored, my wrists hauled another centimetre towards the winch with the most terrible sound, like ripping out deep-rooted grass. Liquid fire flashes the length of my arms, down my back, engulfing my forearms and hands. I scream endlessly, drawing ragged breaths to scream again. Over five terrible minutes, my elbows break apart, the agony overwhelming: bones separate, cartilage tears, and my arms gradually lengthen another centimetre. Rachel adjusts the winch as I lengthen, maintaining the tension, and I feel the unbelievable pain of ligaments breaking anchorage in my hips and shoulders, fibre by fibre. My ribcage has been forced upwards so cruelly that my jutting nipples point towards the wall behind me: only my stomach has freedom of movement, heaving with every frantic breath.

I feel myself spinning, merciful blackness creeping in from the edges of my vision.

So Rachel slaps me, hard, across the face, shocking me back to awareness. My eyes refuse to lock on her, won't focus, I am panting and wailing.

“Start talking,” she orders.

I don't know, I mouth, unable to speak, and watch in helpless anguish as Rachel puts her hand to the crank, gives it another turn. The rack stretches me, and full awareness returns, my high-pitched yell evolving into a long, drawn-out scream. My arms, pressed to my head, creak and crack loudly, and popping sounds from my spine seem to fracture my very being, piercing me with agony beyond anything I have yet endured.

I want to die. I can't stop screaming. It feels as if I have been set alight, there is not a centimetre of me not filled with agony. Worse still is that I can't move, I am held stretched so tightly, my arms and legs wrenched out of their sockets, muscles and ligaments slowly ripping, and Rachel, the one person with the power to stop my pain, is watching with delight, planning to hurt me more.

I beg, “oh, please, please, enough, please …”

“Where are your troops stationed?”

“I have no idea,” I squeak, the tears mixing with sweat. I am aware of my face framed by my taut arms, my ribcage stark, my belly hollowed, my limbs drawn.

“Then suffer.”

Rachel cranks the handle. Another centimetre of rope is wound in, and my knees begin to break with the screeching of detaching cartilage. The pain is indescribable, far beyond my capacity to endure, and yet I have no choice. I piss in agony, I scream and scream in pain, spinning with the absolute horror of feeling my own body being broken by brute force.

Rachel leaves me screaming. After ten minutes, my voice, already hoarse, suddenly fails. I am still trying to scream, drawing ragged breathes, my mouth wide, tears pouring from my eyes, but only croaks escape my throat, now. I can think of nothing, the existence of anything but pain is beyond my comprehension. I feel neither misery or fear, I am capable only of physical suffering, of feeling pain, of crying my anguish.

After half an hour, Rachel comes back. She stands, for a while, and looks at me: my body shining, muscles pulled stark and sinewy, my ribcage harsh, belly hollowed, the tangled hair in my armpits and the forest of my pubes standing like bushes on a stark and shining landscape of pale skin. My hands and feet are purple, beyond the ropes.

Finally, Rachel bends to whisper to me: “Tell me, baby. Tell me where they are.”

I give no response. I an unable to even acknowledge that she has spoken. I can show no reaction, even as her hand closes again on the crank. When she turns it, explosions of pain flash in my elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, but are suddenly feeble against the savage roar of pain that engulfs my spine. I cannot scream, but I give a long, thin wail of agony as the connective ligaments of my vertebrae begin to separate. My spine cracks and snaps loudly, each sound a new shockwave of agony that registers as blinding flashes in my head, setting my limbs tingling furiously.

Rachel winds the crank-handle, the machine stretches me, my spine rending further, and fury engulfs my back. Now, she is no longer torturing me for information. She is torturing me for fun. She wants nothing more than the power to inflict pain on me, and I cannot defy her that, nor can I hide my suffering from her. I groan in agony. I can barely breathe, hearing muscles tear all along my spinal column, the squeaks of gases escaping between my vertebrae, the cracking of ligaments loosening their hold on bone. The sweat is incredible, droplets like dewdrops clustering over my body, as my nipples rise with each desperate breath. My abdominal muscles are tearing with earthy groans. The pain is immense.

I cough, blood flecks my lips. The ropes are creaking and squealing.

“That looks like it hurts,” Rachel noted. “Feel like talking?”

I can give no response.

Through the all-engulfing, roaring, devastating pain, I feel disbelief as Rachel turns the crank once more. I hear the winch turn, I feel my body stretch, and somehow the pain worsens again. I try to scream, but I don't even have breath. Although the torment in my body is beyond all description, the pain of ripped muscles, torn ligaments, dislocated joints worse than being burned alive, my ruined chest no longer has elasticity enough to breathe. I can hear the creaking of tissue as my body's framework continues to tear apart, a constant battering of agonies, but I can't scream, can't plead for death. I have no air.

Rachel is watching me.

“You're dying, Kirsten,” she tells me. “How does it feel?”

I can't move at all. I can't form words, my eyes losing focus but staring at the ceiling. I'm aware of steam curling from my wet and ruined body, my skin tighter than a drum. I have been stretched some thirty centimetres, the length again of my own forearm.

This time, as blackness floods me, nothing can stop it. I have not breathed for over a minute, and as I fade from consciousness, the pain grows to a roaring magnitude that drowns my soul, engulfs me in white-hot agony, the world spinning beyond my reach.

OWNERSHIP

I wake, briefly.

A cell. Two corner-mounted spotlights. I lie on bare concrete, still naked. My wrists are pulled behind my back, locked in handcuffs. I am gagged. There is a single saline bag hanging from the ceiling-ring, its intravenous line plugged into my arm. I try to move, and pain flares through every joint, instantly paralysing me, drawing an empty groan from my throat as sweat breaks out over my body.

The pain still rages in my broken body, and consciousness leaves me.

Later, I wake again, to see Rachel crouching over me. She is pinching the line of my IV bag, halting the flow of sedative. She smiles to see the look of horror and fear as I recognise her face. “Hello, Kirsten,” she says. “I just wanted to share my new acquisition with you.”

I am unable to speak, but I look about in terror for some new torture device. Rachel shakes her head. “Silly girl. I mean you. We found where your troops are, you're no longer needed. I've been told to execute you. The thing is, I don't think I want to get rid of you so soon, not when you're such a pretty victim. So your body belongs to me, sweetie.”

I shake my head, overwhelmed with misery and fear, but I am still handcuffed, and Rachel simply releases the IV line. Sedative flows once again into my body, and unconsciousness descends before I have time to even think.

When I next come around, I am lying on the floor of my original cell. I move my head, try to move my weak arms, feeling my wrists locked in handcuffs. I am aware that all I have in the world is my own body: I am naked, vulnerable. I am so dazed that I barely hear what is being said. But I recognise the flask put to my lips, and I drink, and drink, until my belly feels swollen with water.

Then, one of Rachel's soldiers unlocks my handcuffs, and re-cuffs my wrists before my body. Then, a the end of a long rope is tied around the handcuffs' chain. I watch, disbelieving but unresisting as they haul on the rope. My hands are jerked up over my head, my body dragged about on the floor, and a moment later I am hoisted into the air like a carcass of meat. I cry out, my entire body hanging by two rings of steel locked about my wrists, but my captors don't care. The rope is fastened with my bare toes half a metre above the floor, and they leave me there, hanging.

It is easy, for Rachel and her men. They put me in handcuffs, they hoist me, leave me. That is all they do, and they get on with their lives, have lunch, whatever. For me, every moment is a nightmare of pain, in my stretched arms, my cuffed wrists. The cold air invades every intimate crevice of my naked body. The goosebumps creep over every centimetre of my bare, pale skin, and the fine hairs stand on end. My toes swing high above the floor, my body's entire weight on my poor, stretched arms.

After six or seven hours, I am woken from semi-consciousness by the arrival of half a dozen soldiers, who stand looking at me. I can do nothing: I hang there, helpless.

One of the soldiers comes close to me, circles me slowly. His face is level with my ribcage. He stares at my stretched, taut, naked body, from my dangling feet to my drawn arms. He walks behind me. “She's sexy enough.”

“Well, I'm gonna fuck her,” one decides.

Then, chaos. Shouts, from elsewhere in the complex.

“Evacuate!” A solider calls, running past. “We're leaving now.”

“You heard the man,” one of my visitors says.

At once, my eyes are open. “Wait!” I call, weakly, and one solider turns. “What about me? Don't leave me like this! Please!”

“Forget her.”

The soldiers go. I call out. “Please! Don't leave me like this!” But I can do nothing, I am hanging by my handcuffed wrists from the ceiling, beyond reach of anything, helpless, naked. I call out again, but within fifteen minutes, the base is deserted.

I hear the rumble of airconditioning. The door, in front of me, stands open. I can see about a metre of corridor, no more. I am alive, I am no longer being tortured, but this is just as bad: I am hanging by my wrists, alone, down here.

For a time, I hang motionless, dazed by what has happened, unsure of the reality. But as the truth slowly sinks in, and the horror of my situation hits me, I find a new lease of life. I begin to kick my feet frantically, yelling and shouting.

“Hey! Help! Please, somebody! Help me!” It hurts my wrists, it is agony on my stretched arms, but I thrash nevertheless, swinging my bare legs through the air, twisting my body, as if I might be able to break the cuffs or free the rope by that motion alone. For perhaps five minutes I fight my restraint, but finally weakness overcomes me. I go limp, and burst into tears instead.

This lasts longer. For maybe an hour I hang in the handcuffs, my head drooping, my feet swaying slowly. My tears drip onto my chest, some splatting on the concrete floor below my toes. I can see my body's shadow on the floor, separated from me by my elevation, shimmering in the fluorescent light. I can feel the grating of the handcuffs on my wrists, unforgiving steel holding me aloft. Even so, I am used to the pain of such restraint.

Finally, even the tears stop, and I just hang, silent, alone. I am cold, naked, suspended in this cell by my wrists. The door is open: I suspect that, if only I could free myself, I could walk out of here a free woman. Why did Rachel do this to me? Why the restraint? If she had not, in her sadistic way, decided to hang me by my wrists for sheer cruelty's sake alone, I would be gone by now!

Anger, resentment, what-ifs. I am helpless to them, thoughts and hopes and frustrations swirling about my dangling body, taunting me, driving me half insane. I do not even bother to tip my head back and look at the rope suspending me, I know I am helpless here.

The one thing that has not abandoned me is my sense of time: I am acutely aware of every moment, of every hour. For perhaps five or six hours, I hang silently, not uttering a sound, not moving, just stretched, naked, cold, drawing shallow breaths into my lifted ribcage. My hands are shapeless claws above the handcuffs, numb, useless.

After about seven hours, new thoughts begin to circle me, thoughts that raise the hairs on the bare nape of my neck. The realisation that I am going to die; that, hanging here, I will simply fade from existence, lose consciousness and never wake up. What will happen then, I wonder? My naked body will remain suspended by the wrists, growing cold, skin grey, then slowly beginning to decay. How long will it take before the flesh tears from my hands, and my corpse flops to the concrete floor, half a metre below?

I become acutely aware, now, of my thirst and hunger. Mostly, it is thirst: a desperate dryness, an urgent need for water. It is thirst that will kill me, I know, and it is an awful way to die, but what can I do about it? I have been carelessly left here, hanging by my wrists, prevented only by a pair of handcuffs and a single rope from ever seeing daylight again. It is that simplicity that drives me mad, the ease with which I could get free, if only!

It has been eight hours. Slowly, a new realisation seeps through the fog of thirst. If I am dying, what have I to lose? Survival instinct is a powerful force. Surely the thought of death will be enough to get me free? For the first time, I tip my head back.

My arms stretch above me. My slim wrists, encircled by the gleaming steel handcuffs, my purple dead hands beyond them, the rope knotted simply about the handcuffs' chain. For a long time, I look, though it makes breathing hard. The ceiling is only half a metre above my cuffed hands, a simple metal ring through which the rope runs, secured by rivets. I know I cannot dislodge the ring, nor break or undo the handcuffs. But a desperate woman might find a way, with her teeth, to unpick the knot of rope, or even chew it through!

I let my head tip forward again, my heart pounding. I have hope! I may not actually die here, I may be able to save myself! I consider, for a moment, trying for it, making my shot, but I realise that I need to conserve my strength. So, instead, I let myself hang, let my eyes half-close, feeling the cool air embracing my naked body, feeling the hard-edged cuffs encircling my wrists. Consciousness drifts, I hang by my wrists.

Another eight hours.

I realise it is almost twenty-four hours, in total, since they hoisted me up. A full day that I have been hanging by my wrists in this cell, dangling from the handcuffs. Once, a single hour hanging by my wrists had been an ordeal beyond endurance. Now, it is nothing to me, just time, endless time.

But as my grogginess subsides and I become more or less awake, I remember my plan to free myself, and hope prickles with fear over my body. What if I fail? But what if I succeed? I give an experimental swish of my feet, and it sets my body swinging a little, the rope creaking. I tip my head back, look up my arms to my cuffed wrists, the rope from which I hang.

I can do it. Gritting my teeth, I begin to haul myself up. I tense the muscles in my arms, my shoulders, put all my strength into raising myself up towards those cuffs. I can almost feel the rope between my teeth, biting it, tearing the knot. I manage to raise myself five centimetres: six, my arms bending slightly, muscles shaking.

Then, nothing. My strength is gone. My muscles go slack, I jar back to a full-hang, pain flashing from my handcuffed wrists and sending sparks down my arms. I gasp, swinging in a slow ellipse, stunned by my lack of strength.

Again. I try, harder this time, but I cannot rise even a centimetre. My arms have no power at all, I cannot draw myself up, all I am doing is hanging here, tensing my muscles, wasting valuable energy.

Perhaps there is another way? I have seen gymnasts swing their feet up to the bar: I lift my feet, tucking my knees up towards my breasts, lifting my hips. But my legs have no strength, either, and I kick uselessly in mid-air for a moment before my feet drop back down, half a metre off the floor, my body swinging from the handcuffs again.

“No-o-o!” I call, my voice a hoarse echo. “No, no, no no!!” The tears spill freely, again, because crying is all I can do. I cannot free myself, I was not even close to freeing myself: I am completely helpless, hanging here by my wrists, pathetic, useless, naked, alone. My life depends on one simple act, and I cannot even do that.

I cry. My sobs echo off concrete walls. Limp, I hang by my wrists, crying for perhaps two hours, for I have nothing better to do. But even crying loses its meaning, and at length, I stop, and do nothing. What can I do? I am nobody's prisoner, suspended in this cell, unattended, alone, restrained and helpless although nobody wants me so.

Another day passes.

For the longest time, I have dangled from the handcuffs without moving, barely breathing, aware only of the weight of my suspended body, and my feet dangling without base in the air. I no longer seem to have any emotion: I know that I am going to die, but I do not seem to care. I can do nothing to delay it, nothing to hasten it. I have no choices at all. My only reality is that my wrists are trapped in steel handcuffs, and, by them, I hang half a metre above the floor. I have not worn clothes for weeks. I have not bathed for weeks.

I have been hanging, naked, from the handcuffs for two days, and the lights go out.

No sound, no sign that it was coming: just sudden, complete darkness. And why should it matter? Nothing has changed. I am still hanging by my wrists in this open-door cell, helpless, naked, cold, alone. My feet are still high above the floor. The only difference is that I can no longer see the confines of my cell.

Time creeps. I am waiting to die, hanging in the handcuffs, alone, in darkness. My eyes sometimes see phantom flashes of light: I wonder if that is the approach of death. I try to remember what it was like before this. When my hands weren't merely the means by which I hung. When I could touch my own skin, scratch an itch, set my hair. When I could leave a room, if I chose, rather than being held in it, hanging above the floor, helpless.

How long was I Rachel's prisoner? I guess about six weeks, most of that time spent unconscious, drugged, fed through gastric tubes, my body always cuffed or bound, always naked, always vulnerable. Rachel had only woken me to torture me. My body, my life, had belonged to her. Now, for what it was worth, she had gone, but she had forgotten to have me unbound, and but for a simple key or the knot-picking ability of a three-year-old, I would be free.

Another day passes.

Three days, and I have been hanging from the ceiling by my handcuffed wrists. I am in agony, but I am numb. My arms rage with pain, fires shooting along my nerves every moment of every hour, but I am so used to it, I endure without crying out. I have even stopped wishing for freedom, or a release from pain: I know that I am to die here, so I wait silently, patiently, hang motionless.

Is it me, or is it warmer in here? The constant chill has gone, I feel almost comfortable. Perhaps the airconditioning died with the lights? At some point on the third day, I hear the buzzing of a fly, and I realise that my captors must have left the main door open when they fled. The irony does not escape me, that there is no barrier between me and complete freedom outside, bar these two rings of steel about my wrists that keep me hanging here.

The fly lands in my armpit. I kick my feet, set my body swinging: it takes off, circles, lands there again, attracted by the salt of old sweat. I feel it crawling. I am disgusted, but I can do nothing. I cannot lower my arms, I cannot brush it off, there is nothing I can do about it.

It is an eternity since I last heard a human voice, last saw light, last did anything but hang by my wrists, waiting to die.

Four days.

Thirst has come, and gone, in waves. Cramps spear my body, but I am helpless to them, as if, knowing that the cramps would come, Rachel deliberately hung me by my wrists. There is an invisible tormentor giving me electric-shock torture. Sometimes, the cramps are so bad, I cry out, my voice thin and weak, echoing distantly. I do not move, though, and hang limply by my hands. Dehydration is making my head ache, my world spin, and I am spending longer and longer periods of time in unconsciousness. Sometimes I realise my eyes are open: I blink, wonder how long I have been staring blindly.

How long does it take, to die of thirst? Surely I should be dead? I wonder if perhaps I have died, but somehow remain tethered to my own useless, dangling, lifeless body? It is purely academic whether my heart beats or not: to all purposes, I am dead.

My mind is in another place, not so far from here. On patrol, creeping through jungle. Marine helmet clamped onto my head. My khaki tank-top wet in half-moons under each arm, a ragged patch down the front. Creeping ahead of me, Amy, blonde, muscular, beautiful, a combat rifle held close to her muscled belly, sweat making her bare arms look oiled.

Bullets. They buzz and whiz like angry wasps, and, as if in slow motion, one thwacks into Amy's shoulder with a burst of blood, knocking her into a stumble. She screams. In fear, I throw myself to the damp ground. Amy is turning, her eyes full of pain and confusion. A second bullet kicks through her belly, jolting her body, and she jerks, flinging her rifle. The third bullet hits her thigh, and she drops to a kneel, reeling, coughing blood, too dazed to react any more. The next shot bursts open her tank-top, blows away part of one breast, and she clutches the bloodied wreckage with red-wet hands, looking down at herself in grief and shock. The next bullet claims her chest, smacking into her breastbone and plunging inside her with such force that she is flung to land on her back. I am looking into her blue eyes as they glaze over.

I wake, on what I guess is the fifth morning since being hung here. I am suddenly, acutely aware of everything: of the painful grip of the steel handcuffs about my wrists, of my tautly-stretched arms, my drawn-out body, my feet suspended in air. I try to groan, but there is no voice, I try to move, but I have no strength. Slowly, as the long hours pass, my sense of awareness fades, my mind merges with the blackness.




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