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For ten years Marie lived in her husband’s "dungeon". Only this wasn’t a dungeon that was underground with shackles and iron maidens and other torture devices. Instead, it was above ground in a white double-wide with plastic pink flamingos on the front lawn.
Her mother had always told Marie that she had settled for less. And God, was she right. If Marie did anything in the slightest that crossed her husband there would be hell to pay. Take for example, the macaroni n’ cheese incident.
One day, she had cooked a generic box instead of Kraft, and before Marie could apologize, her husband threw the pasta on the floor. After being struck in the face, the beast who wore a wedding ring demanded his wife get on the floor and clean it up like a dog.
“Eat it, or I will break your jaw,” he growled.
When Marie objected, he grabbed his partner by her strawberry blonde hair and threw her to the ground. “I told you to fucking eat it!” he yelled.
“Please, Melvin!” she cried out. “I’m sorry!”
Although a sick part of him liked it when she begged, Melvin kicked her in the stomach and commanded Marie do as she was told. Quaking with despair, the abused doll licked the cheesy noodles off the linoleum floor and held back her tears.
It infuriated Melvin when she cried, so the best thing to do was suppress everything.
After cleaning up the pasta with her mouth, Melvin dragged Marie to the bedroom and tossed his wife on the bed. As he undressed himself, the dungeon master snapped his belt and growled, “I’ve been sporting a hard dick all day at the construction site.” He let out a sour burp and added, “Daddy just needs a little lovin’.”
Marie knew that if she were to say no to this monstrosity’s desires he would punch her in breasts – again. So she took off her shirt to reveal broken skin and yellow bruises that surfaced right below the epidermis. She removed her pants, slid her beige panties down to her ankles and, in a voice that had better sound sweet, Marie said, “Baby needs cum.”
Oh, how she hated speaking like that, but Melvin wanted his doll to talk like a dirty slut. He wanted to contort its arm behind its back and use it like an object. That is, after all, what Marie was to him; a plaything, a disposal excuse, and a slave to his lust.
Melvin crawled on top of her and, like an angry bee, buried himself inside her flower and began to ravage the petals. And Marie, well, she thought of beautiful things as the smell of sex, sweat and meaty armpits infiltrated her nostrils.
She imagined another life and living in peace without the fear of being hurt. And somewhere between the pain of hard penetration and heartache, a voice inside her asked, Then why don’t you just go? Why do you stick around? this voice echoed. You’re thirty-three years old and the world is yours. The ocean, the mountains, the flatlands – the dungeon door is always open.
After minute-man Melvin came into what he referred to as ‘nasty curtains’, he collapsed on top of his wife and fell asleep. Under the monster’s weight, this same voice asked, What if he hits you again and that blow finally does you in? What if it’s tomorrow?
Marie felt like dying. Not herself entirely, but the part that had any connection to Melvin. She knew the answers to the questions spiraling within her mind and decided that she needed to leave. So the next morning when Melvin took a shower before work, his wife went through her husband’s wallet and obtained his credit card. This was a really bold and risky thing for her to do, for if Melvin were to check his wallet there would be a nuclear explosion.
However, to Marie’s relief, her husband didn’t bother checking and put his billfold in his back pants pocket. Before he left, Melvin gave her a kiss on the forehead and said, “When I get back it’ll be round two.”
No, it won’t, she wanted to say. But instead, Marie told the dungeon master exactly what he wanted to hear: “Yes, Daddy, anything for you.”
When Melvin was finally gone, she packed two suitcases with anything that could fit. Clothes, pants, socks, underwear, jewelry, but most importantly, Marie took all the photos of her and her family and packed them as well. Prior to leaving this pain infested shithole, she took red lipstick and wrote on the bathroom mirror: Don’t bother trying to find me.
With that said and done, Marie put the suitcases in the back of her mint green Saturn and sped away from the double-wide. Hell, she didn’t even look in the rear view mirror. What’s in the past is in the past, the voice told her. And it is no more.
As she embarked on her big escape, the runaway decided she would go to her brother and his boyfriend’s apartment in northern Pennsylvania. But before hitting highway 70, Marie needed to stop by the bank. Being a signatory to her husband’s account, she withdrew two-thousand dollars from her husband’s savings. Marie figured that would be more than enough to get to Pennsylvania. Any additional money left over she referred to as "douchebag tax."
When she left the bank, Marie hit highway 70 and turned the radio on. Either it was a coincidence or a sign from above, but the song playing was Soft Cell’sTainted Love. The escapee turned up the music and the voice in her head sang along to the lyrics.
Eventually morning turned to evening and Marie knew by this point Melvin had discovered his credit card was missing. In between two halves, one being a scared woman and the other brave, she told herself that this meant there was no turning back. Marie knew this was all or nothing.
But despite everything even the strongest women in the world become tired after driving for a long period of time. So she pulled into a place called Motel Astor and decided to stay the night.
The establishment wasn’t exactly the Holiday Inn, but it would have to suffice. Upon parking the Saturn, she thought to herself that the place had a very mysterious feel. It reminded her of the motels back in Florida she stayed at as a child when her parents went to Daytona Beach. However, this motel seemed to be stripped of any fond memories. If the illuminated sign out front hadn’t suggested it were still in business, Marie would have kept driving under the assumption that it was closed down.
She walked to the lobby, paid a deposit for the night, and obtained a key to room 107.
With two suitcases in her hand, Marie made her way to the room. But before entering, a hooker who stood outside 108 asked, “So what are you running away from, doll face?” The prostitute took a drag of her cigarette and exhaled menthol smoke.
“Pardon me?” Marie asked.
This hooker, who had black, greasy hair and wore a Rolling Stones t-shirt, brought a jeweled hand to her lips to take another puff of the cigarette. In a cloud of smoke, her words said, “I can tell when a woman’s had enough. Believe me, I’ve been there.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Marie replied, putting down the suitcases and pulling the room key from her pocket.
“Oh, please,” the prostitute shot back. “The bruises on your arms and that busted lip either means you just got in a fight with Freeda Foreman or you’ve had enough of your husband’s bullshit.”
Marie was silent.
She never thought in a million years that she looked like one of those women. The ones you see in the supermarket with a black eye and blame it on the door knob or the oven. Do I really look that pathetic? she thought to herself.
The grungy escort then asked, “You wanna know what else gave it away?” She took a longer drag and added, “You’re not wearing your wedding ring. I can see the pale indention around your finger from where it used to be.”
Marie looked down at her hand and realized this was true. Although she had taken it off miles down the road, Marie felt as if it were still there.
“I say you got a clit of steel,” the sex worker continued. “Most women stay around and accept the life of a punching bag that wears an apron. A lot of ‘em think they need a man, but the truth is, men need us. I mean, who would they be without someone to twist, beat, and fuck in that order?”
“A lowly sack of dog shit,” Marie answered, while opening the door and heading inside. But before sealing off the threshold, she looked at the hooker and shot coolly, “Lemme ask you something: Where do YOU of all women think they have the nerve to open my wounds?”
The hooker let out a chuckle and replied, “Oh, please, don’t think you’re all high mighty up in your tower, Rapunzel. Because at least if a man hit me I would’ve cut his dick off from the start.” She paused for a moment and asked, “Just how long DID you stick around? Two years? Five? Ten?”
That slapped Marie across the face and, with great annoyance, she slammed the door and slid the chain on the lock. Fuck her, she thought. However, the runaway knew there was some truth to what the prostitute said. Marie should’ve have left ages ago and with the crippling realization that all those years had been wasted, she fell on the bed and started to cry. But these were not tears provoked by a woman outside; this was all the rage and pain she kept inside the dungeon of her own soul.
All of those moments Marie was not allowed to cry or say how she felt poured from her eyes and onto the dirty sheets of the motel bed. It had been a weight she carried for so long and, with Melvin miles away, Marie finally had the chance to let it go.
There, there, called that same voice. At least you’re gone. It’s better now than never, remember that. It was then Marie’s tears then turned into salty joy and she replied, “You’re right, I did it. I finally did it.”
After pulling herself together, she headed to the bathroom and turned on the warm water. She figured that her first day of liberation called for a celebratory hot bath. As the water ran, Marie walked down to the Coke machine located two doors down and fed it a dollar. She selected the option for Mello Yello and retrieved the soda.
When she got back to her room, Marie removed her clothes and headed to the bathroom. However, to her surprise, she saw that the water in the tub wasn’t clear. Instead, black liquid that smelled of rot took up the bottom of the bath and pouring from the faucet was darkness. Disgusted; Marie reached over and turned off the water. She covered her nose and exclaimed, “What the fuck?!”
The black lagoon disgusted her. Not only did it smell of decay, but the aroma also matched the scent of a paper mill and burned tires combined. Immediately, Marie went to the motel room’s telephone and called the lobby. After two rings, the man who checked her in answered the phone and said, “Astor lobby, how may I assist you?”
“Hi, yes, this is the occupant in room 107 and I’m calling about an issue in regards to the bathtub,” Marie replied, trying not to gag from the smell locked in her nasal cavity.
“And what seems to be the problem?” the motel worker asked.
She explained how the water ran black and described the level of nastiness. Marie compared it to the appearance to that of rotten tar.
“Alright,” the man replied. “We will send someone down in a second to see what the problem is.”
After thanking him for being of assistance, Marie hung up the telephone and proceeded back to the bathroom. However, this time the water was clear as it should be. Not believing what she was seeing, Marie ran her hand through the warm water and realized that it was, in fact, there and clean.
“I don’t understand,” she whispered, trying to make heads and tails of what was going on. Suddenly, the phone rang, causing her to jump. Before it could reach its third ring, Marie raced over and picked it up.
“Hello?” she answered.
“Yes, this is lobby,” said the man from before. “I’m just calling to inform you that the repair man is on his thirty-minute lunch and will be there in a half an hour. Again, I’m sorry for the –”
“Well, it’ll no longer be necessary,” Marie interrupted. “The water is fine now. I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve been driving all day and must be seeing things.”
However, Marie knew what she had seen. Unless Melvin had hit her too many times in the head and she had gone insane, the water was black not long ago. But she didn’t want to come off as a burden to the lobbyist and simply apologized. When the conversation ended, Marie went back to the bathroom and drained the tub. There was no way she was submerging her body in the bathwater, regardless of how clear it had become.
So instead she put on her sleep clothes and decided to lie down. Marie turned on the television to see what the weather would be like the next day, but noticed that every channel was static. She checked the cable connection and realized that it should be playing channels.
Marie had thought to call the lobby, but didn’t want to continue badgering the front desk.
“Well, looks like there will be no television,” she said, reaching for the remote and turning off the TV.
The woman who fled the dungeon decided to close her eyes and try to get some sleep. As she drifted off into a deep slumber, Marie found herself subjected to a disturbing nightmare. In the dream, her arms and legs were tied to the motel bed and surrounding her were lit candles. She tried to pull herself out of the binds, but failed with each attempt.
At the foot of the bed stood a naked man who looked like her husband in build; however, his face was hidden by a wool sack. “Daddy wants to fuck,” the man growled. Marie began to shake from fear and he then asked, “Does baby wanna drink cum from Daddy’s bottle?”
It sounded like Melvin, only the voice seemed a little distorted with a demonic undertone. The man crawled on top of the bed and grabbed her breasts. He snarled and chuckled and said, “I’m about rip your dirty curtains open.”
Marie tried to yell, but the scream felt as if was trapped in her throat. She tried to pull away but, in addition to ropes that bound her, Marie’s muscles felt like tight rubber. Please, begged the voice inside her, Please, God, make this stop.
The man’s hands moved from her breasts and began to move down south to her genitals. His rough, hard fingers rubbed the lips of her vagina and he whispered, “Your cunt feels like a mother’s kiss.” And right at that depraved, nasty moment, the figure removed the sack from his head to reveal a face that looked like a picked scab. Oozing from the mouth was yellow pus and maggots and it said, “I’m gonna fuck the pain away.”
Marie then pulled herself from the nightmare with a scream. She took a moment to catch her breath and repeatedly told herself it was just a dream.
But what was strange is that when Marie looked at her wrists she noticed pink rope burns. She quickly pulled the sheets off her legs to examine her ankles and they, too, had the same markings. A dark feeling fell to the pit of her stomach and fear swirled within.
At that moment, the telephone rang. When Marie answered the call she could hear heavy breathing. But this wasn’t just any breathing, for she recognized the same pant that she had heard for the past ten years from screwing Melvin.
Immense anxiety froze over and after about five seconds, Marie asked, “Why are you calling me?”
Before the caller hung up the phone there was a deep chuckle and Melvin’s voice growled, “Check the Bible in the nightstand, baby.”
Marie looked over at the table beside the bed and pulled open the drawer. In it was a Bible like Melvin had said. When she opened it she let out a scream, for book-marked in the chapter of Leviticus was her and Melvin’s wedding photograph. On the picture, written in black Sharpie, read the words: I WILL FIND YOU.
This caused fearful tears to form in her eyes, because Marie didn’t bring this photo with her on the big escape. Had Melvin been in room 107? Was he staying somewhere in the Motel Astor? How did he find her? All these questions ricocheted in her mind.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. This practically caused Marie to piss herself and her heart almost stopped. Oh my God, she thought to herself. High tension pulled tight like a cello string that was about to snap. When the second knock came, Marie ran to the door and looked through the peephole. In fisheye view stood the man, but his face seemed murky.
From the other side of the wood, his voice hissed, “Why did you overcook the pasta?” he growled and then added, “Only a stupid cunt fucks up a good pasta.”
Although she couldn’t make out his face, Marie knew it was Melvin’s voice. She began to cry hysterically and screamed, “Go away! Or I will call the police!” Melvin then proceeded to bang on the door over and over. He screamed and yelled and called her every profanity known to man.
His wife jumped back from the door and at this point tears poured from her eyes like a great waterfall. The banging and beating became louder and more violent. Hell, one would think the chain were about to snap and the door would fall in. But out of nowhere it stopped and what followed was a deep silence.
Shaking from fear, Marie looked out the peephole this time and saw no one standing there. With her sanity on edge and afraid to leave the room, she picked up the phone and dialed 911. However, the call went straight to a static sound instead of a dispatcher. Marie hung the telephone up, picked it up, and proceeded to try and contact help once more. Again, there was only static.
After numerous failed attempts to get a hold of the cops, she figured she would try and contact the only other person that made her feel safe. Marie dialed her brother’s number and, to her surprise, it began to call out. At two rings, her brother picked up and said, “Hello?”
“Craig, oh my God, you have to help me,” she spewed out into the phone.
“Where have you been?” he asked. “Me and mom have been trying to contact you all day!”
Marie then confessed to her brother everything. How she finally took his advice and left Melvin, how she stole his credit card and took out money, apologized for not calling first because she didn’t want to worry him and his boyfriend, and how Melvin was at the Motel Astor trying to kill her.
All of this information overloaded into Craig’s ear and he said, “Marie, I’m proud that you got away from that prick of a husband, but it’s impossible for him to know where you are.”
After a short silence, Marie replied, “I don’t understand.”
Her brother then informed his sister that Melvin had been in a construction accident and was on life support in the hospital. “They don’t think he is going to make it,” Craig added. “Pablo, mom, and I were going to ride down there in the morning to be with you.”
As Marie held the phone to her ear, she flipped the Bible back open and noticed the wedding photograph was nowhere to be found. In an immense state of confusion, she didn’t know what to say. And if Melvin had been rushed to the hospital, then who was it that called her? Also, who was the man at the door? She then said in a low tone, “Craig, I’m going to get off the phone now.”
“What about Melvin?” her brother asked.
“They can pull the plug for all I care,” she coldly replied. “I’ll call you back in the morning when I figure out what to do.”
“Are you safe?” Craig asked.
Marie honestly didn’t know. Her mind felt like it was going in five hundred different directions at once. She couldn’t tell whether or not she had gone insane and had so many questions about everything going on around her. After telling her brother what he wanted to hear, Marie said her goodbyes and hung up the telephone.
In the middle of room 107, a puzzled migraine began in her head and Marie stared fearfully at the door. Who was that? the voice from within asked. After a moment of silence there came another knock.
She got up and slowly walked to the closed threshold. Through the peephole this time stood the prostitute from earlier. She undid the chain, opened the door, and the hooker asked, “Is everything okay? I heard screaming.”
In a dazed fog of uncertainty, Marie informed that someone was harassing her. The woman smiled and replied, “Well, at least you know it isn’t your husband.” As she turned around and started to walk away, the sex worker added, “Sum’bitch should have been more careful at his job.”
It suddenly felt like ice water was pumping through Marie’s veins. She stepped out from the doorway and asked, “How the hell did you know that?”
The prostitute’s black stilettos stopped in their tracks. She then turned back around to reveal a deep, bloody cut in her neck and replied, “I hear everything that goes on within these walls, doll face. Nothing goes unknown.” The woman then proceeded to walk down the motel’s sidewalk, knocking on every door as she passed along.
The sight of her slit throat left a collapsed feeling of terror inside Marie’s soul. She wanted to scream, but the unbelievable sight left her shocked. Needless to say, in the midst of completely losing it, Marie packed quickly, grabbed her belongings and stuffed them in the back of the Saturn. Hell, she didn’t even bother returning the room key that was in her pocket.
As Marie began to pull out of the parking lot, she noticed something quite peculiar about the lobby area. For on the front door was a sign that read: “Temporarily closed for renovations. We will re-open in September.” And from the way the office looked the Motel Astor had been closed for a while.
It was then Marie felt around the inside of her pocket for the key to room 107 and discovered nothing.