Okay. This was actually a dream I had the other day. It is all pretty much word for word as I dreamt it so I give all credit to my subconscious imagination. Ha.
The One about the Weird Amazonian-like Folk in my Head
It's not that I don't remember anything before the dark skinned and half clothed people took over my head. I just don't think about it any more like none of it was real before Hutch and his friends appeared in my mind.
One day I was going about my utterly normal boring life, and the next I didn't exist any more. It was exactly like that, as though I'd never been born. My family didn't even recognise me, my friends didn't know me and, as I'd found out later, my passport was invalid because Jenny Hawkings didn't exist.
The worst part is that it wasn't terrible, I wasn't shocked and devastated at losing my previous life and I didn't care that I was suddenly obeying every whim of the strange, Amazonian-like men in my head.
I stole a car and mugged someone by a cash point. I did it all with ease, following every precise instruction relayed to me by Hutch. He seemed to know his way around crime because I got away with everything. I drove the car up to London and abandoned it in a dark corner, tallied up well over a grand in cash and got my hands on a gun.
I didn't know why Hutch and his friends wanted it, but I did every little thing they told me and didn't even stop to consider it.
Follow that man with the hat, he'd say.
Don't take out the gun until I say.
Look over your shoulder now.
And on it would go. How this man who wore animal skins and bone jewellery knew so much about crime and the back streets of outer London I didn't know. I didn't care. All I knew was that I was slowing becoming ill. I was getting weaker and the pain in my stomach grew from a dull ache to sharp flares.
Hutch's plan seemed to involve a local gang member from what I could tell. I'd already spread a couple of rumours around and hired a couple of heavyset guys to detain a teenage girl and kill off a lanky man. And I'd paid someone else to keep an eye on them. Who these people were I had no idea and if I'd thought about it I would have been absolutely horrified at dealing out someone's death. I know I'd never have done it, any of it, if I'd been in my right mind. But it felt like I was detached from the world, it was like walking through a dream.
Whenever Hutch gave me orders the three of them were always there together. I'd never seen them alone. They wore war paint on their faces and upper bodies Hutch was always standing in the centre looking calm but vigilant as he spoke to me. The 'Other One', I didn't know his name, stood behind him with his arms crossed over his chest and a lone feather from his hair brushed his shoulder. He never spoke but never took his eyes off me. Stefi was the younger one. His ragged black hair reached his shoulders and he was perpetually seated on the ground, loose limbed and alert.
Looking back, I think I had almost known their intentions back then. It was as though it was on the tip of my tongue but I couldn't quite complete the thought. However, it came as no surprise when the great plan finally unfolded and my part was played.
The pain continued to worsen and I'd all but stumbled to the disused warehouse knowing I couldn't possibly pull off any type of threatening figure in this condition.
I kept the gun firmly in my grip, not trusting my reflexes to reach it in time when needed. There'd been no one in sight as I hobbled through the doorway, gun poised ahead of me. I'd known there was no way I could pull off this task and recognised that my usefulness was coming to an end. I'd already witnessed the mercy and kindness of Hutch so far as that there was none. He was efficient and was not limited by sympathy.
Was I going to die here? Probably. And yet, as always, I didn't care.
Someone tackled me from behind and I didn't even manage to get a single shot out before the gun was tossed from my hand. I cried out as I went down and waves of pain shot through me. I tried to clutch at my stomach as if that could ease the spasms but my arm was yanked away and someone started viciously kicking my already pain riddled body.
It was probably the second worst thing I'd lived through and none of Hutch's instructions had prepared me for this. I passed out with the thought that I was going to die.
The worst moment of my life had been discovering that my family didn't know me any more. Becoming completely unknown to anyone and no longer being loved or even acknowledged by those I cared about had happened suddenly. I had been spending a good evening out with friends, chatting animatedly one moment and cut off by their blank looks then next.
"Sorry, can I help you?" Sandra had asked giving me a funny look.
When I'd laughed and called them out on the joke they'd looked increasingly uncomfortable. They'd given each other looks like you might give a crazy person behind their back and repeatedly claimed that they did not know me. It had become the most hurtful joke anyone had played on me because it had seemed so real. They'd acted genuinely confused and when they'd hurriedly made an exit I was left feeling baffled and upset.
I'd walked home wanting to rant to my mother about stupid jokes played too far only for her to close the door in my face thinking I was a nuisance caller. I shouted in to them claiming that it wasn't funny and could they please stop it. I'd misplaced my keys so couldn't let myself in and only stopped shouting when my father threatened to call the police. He'd looked to angry and sincere and I'd run back down the street with tears pricking at my eyes.
It had been that evening when I'd wandered the town alone and being told I'd dialled the wrong number by every contact on my phone that they had first appeared.
The three tribal guys who wouldn't leave my mind. Hutch had spoken to me, gently at first, giving me suggestions, telling me where to go. And I'd listened. I'd done exactly as he'd said and carried on listening until I couldn't stop. And when he'd told me to steal a car I didn't even blink.
The first thing I noticed when I came to was the pain. There was something sticky down the right side of my face and my stomach felt worse than ever. The second thing I noticed was that I was tied to a chair.
I slowly blinked up at the face looking down on me and flinched when someone kicked my ankle.
"Boss." A gruff voice sounded and I saw a tall man walk into the room.
He sat down opposite me and nodded to the man beside me who hit me in the face.
I groaned and waited for him to speak. Hutch hadn't said anything yet so I sat in silence.
"Well, have you got a lot of explaining to do." His steely eyes met mine and I couldn't pull my gaze away. "I want to know exactly what you think you're up to and you'd better start talking now because don't think I won't get those answers out of you if you don't."
He sounded cold and hard and I would have been terrified out of my mind if I'd had the mental awareness to do so. As it was, I pulled my eyes away from him and looked around the room. Hutch always appeared in the background of my vision and I didn't know what to do until he told me.
The thug next to me hit me again. And again. I could dimly feel blood trickling from my nose when I saw them. Hutch and the Other One stood each side of the man seated opposite me and I was given a small nod.
I swallowed back the blood in my mouth. "It's not me you want answers from. They're the one's you should ask."
I nodded feebly towards the half clothed men in my vision and the man glanced behind him briefly. He flicked open a knife casually and tossed it in the air.
"Last chance. What are you up to?"
Do you know where your daughter is? Hutch's voice sounded clear in my mind.
"Do you know where your daughter is?" I repeated just as the knife was caught again by the man's large hand.
His face turned even harder but he didn't move. "So you are behind that. Tell me, where is my daughter?"
I'll tell you.
"I'll tell you." I closed my eyes wearily.
"Yes, yes you will." He rose and brought the knife towards my throat. "But I want to know who you are working for."
Don't hurt her.
"Don't hurt her." I repeated and gasped as another wave of pain flooded my abdomen.
"Hurt my daughter? Do you want to be a little more helpful?" He grabbed my collar and squeezed my windpipe.
No. Don't hurt the girl if you want to know who I am.
"No... Don't hurt the girl... if you want to know... who I am." I wheezed painfully, blinking back tears.
He let go and I gasped in relief. He motioned to one of his men who spoke lowly in his ear.
"So, if I am to believe you, then who are you?"
Hutch spoke his requests and I relayed them once more. "I want the book you... keep in the bottom drawer of your... desk and, let's... see, one hundred thousand."
"Interesting. I give you money and you tell me where my daughter is. But why do you want an old history book?"
"I like the author?" I spoke Hutch's words.
I paused and peered at Hutch's face. "There's something... on your head."
"Shut up." I repeated.
Amusement flickered in the man's eyebrow. "Why do I get the feeling that this is more about a trivial book than my daughter?"
I breathed in deeply as I waited for Hutch to answer, feeling immensely glad they'd stopped hitting me but aware that I was starting to fade from consciousness.
"Kidnapping your daughter was just to get your attention." I spoke again.
"And why did you kill that ghastly boyfriend of hers?"
The tall man tossed the knife again looking thoughtful. "I'm getting bored. Tell me why you want Acorüniskan's book so that I can kill you."
"I don't." A new voice rang through the room and the man turned to see Hutch himself standing there.
The other two were with him, all of them armed to the teeth. I looked back at the thug to check that they were real for once and not inside my head. It seemed that they were genuine. This was backed up by the feeling of release I suddenly felt at their presence. It was though a cloud had lifted from my mind and I could think clearly again.
It appeared that the tribal people had got what they wanted and that they would no longer need me. With the clarity of thought, however, came another wave of pain and I could feel myself falling into blackness.
Just before that happened, though, I saw the three men effortlessly take down the gang members and then Hutch's looming figure as he approached me, weapon raised.
I knew he was about to kill me but I had known it would end like this already, so I focused instead on his face and noticed the gaping wound on his temple.
"Hey," I croaked, "you've got a lot of blood on your face."
I barely registered his surprise and the weapon being dropped in favour of touching his face and I passed out for the second time.
"Quickly! Her pulse is getting weaker."
"I said take us to a hospital now!"
I became vaguely aware of a head resting on my chest and someone's knees digging into my back. Lights flashed by and I realised I was in a car. I felt the pain surge again and closed my eyes on the world, blacking out once again.
When I next awoke it was to bright lights and more pain in my stomach, only this time slightly different. I heard someone calling to me and tugging at my hand.
It must have been some time later that I properly roused from the heavy sleep. I saw square lights in the ceiling and pale green curtains hanging down. I turned to see the window on my right and was surprised to see a figure hunched in a chair, watching me.
He was wearing a dark red hoodie and his dark skin and messy black hair looked awfully familiar. I stared for several moments before realising that this was Stefi, the younger man previously from in my head. He looked so different without the bare skin and paint on his body. And he really was young, I noticed, barely in his twenties.
He didn't speak so I sank back on the pillow and rested my head.
"Is there... water?"
My voice was hoarse and I sipped at the cup he offered me with relief.
"Thanks..." I muttered, slipping back into sleep.
It turned out, I discovered later, that I'd been rushed to a hospital where they'd done life saving surgery on me and where Stefi had stayed night and day to watch over me. Why the sudden change in attitude towards me, I didn't know. I now had two small scars across my abdomen which looked angry and red. I was glad though, since the stitches seemed to cause more pain now than the stabbing pain inside. A life without constant throbbing pain seemed incredible. A life, full stop, however, that was pretty great too.
I still didn't know why they now wanted me alive, but it seemed that Stefi refused to take his eyes off me. When he had to leave to get food or visit the gents he would return in the minimal amount of time. And he wasn't very talkative when it came to answering my questions.
"You know, I really thought you guys were going to kill me back then. Was it something I said?"
He gave me a level look that gave nothing away.
"So, are you sort of guarding me to protect me from someone or are you actually trying to stop me from running away?"
I sighed. As I recovered, I grew more and more bored. There was little to do from my bed and I still became worn out from making the trip to the loo and back.
"Do you know when I can get out of here?" I tried.
Stefi shifted and stretched from his perch on the seat.
"In a couple of days." He narrowed his eyes. "I told them you were my step-sister. Don't mess it up by saying anything now. We need to keep a low profile."
I shrugged. "Okay."
Although he could be annoying and non-chatty, I was starting to like Stefi. His presence had become reassuring and he'd occasionally let a small smile slip from his lips when I talked to him without grilling him for answers. He brought me new clothes to wear so I wouldn't have to wear the hospital gown when we left. Most of my old clothes had been cut when they'd got me ready for surgery. He even obliged me by bringing a few treats from the shop.
I pestered him a few times about letting me go outside or explore the hospital a little but he always refused saying that we needed to keep a low profile.
I also had a lot of time to think while I stayed in the hospital. Now that my mind was free again I took pleasure in using it and taking control over my actions. I was no longer obeying every little word that I heard and I no longer saw Hutch and the Other One popping up wherever I looked. I thought of all the things they'd made me do and tried to find a meaning. I couldn't actually remember all that had transpired before I'd fainted at the warehouse and Stefi wouldn't help me to piece it together.
"Okay, it looks like you're healing nicely." The cheerful nurse stood over me happily. "Remember not to do anything too strenuous for a while and you're coming back next week to get your stitches out."
"I'll remember." I smiled back at her as she gave me a piece of paper to take with me.
I was wearing my new clothes and ready to leave as she instructed Stefi to take good care of me.
He kept a firm grip on my arm as I carefully made my way out the front doors. There was a car waiting for us and I was surprised to see the Other One in the driver's seat.
Once I was buckled in in the back seat he pulled away and promptly stalled the car and the first junction. I smirked. At least there was one thing I was better at.
"Let me guess, driving's a new thing since you arrived here?"
I saw him narrow his eyes in the rear view mirror.
"You didn't say anything did you?" He asked Stefi.