This story is by Nicki Mechtly and won an Honorable Mention in our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Nicki Mechtly is a wife, an English teacher, a writer of YA fiction, and a lover of people — every tongue, tribe, and nation. She loves to write about things that matter, believing that words have power, and the pen of an artful writer can bring about change when change is needed.
My name is Emma Isabela Lopez, but they call me 52, the fifty-second women abducted the week my life ended. I can hear them coming down the hall. They are coming for me. They are always coming for me. Today, I sit with twenty-three girls (not yet women) who will soon be raped. I have been raped five times this morning. It is only 7:30 a.m. Don’t think I have become accustomed to this. I have not. I might sound as though it is commonplace, but I remember. I remember when I was a person. When I had a name.
“Cingo,” comes a whisper from the corner of the dark, dank space. Cingo is what Honey calls me, a name of her choosing to call me something other than “52.” I cannot bear to speak my name aloud in this place, not even in a whisper — not until I am free.
“Yes, Honey,” I answer. “Don’t be afraid,” I say because I already know what she is going to say.
“But I am,” she whispers back. Honey is only ten years old. She has been here 146 days, and I pity her life, her future. She is now a part of my plan.
“Remember,” I scoot next to her and look her in the eyes, “they can touch your body, but they cannot touch your heart; they cannot touch your soul.”
She nods, a large tear trickles down her dirty face, creating a clean trail in its wake, revealing her flawless honey skin, the origin of her nickname, beneath the layer of filth. I don’t think she believes me, but what else can I say? They won’t hurt you? Because they will. I know they will. They will force themselves on her in every way imaginable; she will cry out in pain, and they will laugh just as they did at me. But I will have the last laugh. Only three men to go.
Today marks 1,666 days since my abduction. In terms that matter, it means 50,000 men I have been forced to be with over the course of four and a half years of this living hell. Today I take my revenge and earn my freedom. They call me stupid; they say I am a dog, and I have not a mind of my own, but I have been calculating; I have been planning, and I am ready. Woe to the 50,000th man. You think you are in control, but you are not.
They come for Honey and me at the same time. Moose, our pimp, grabs my arm with a snarl and yanks me off the floor. This is my chance. I gaze demurely into his eyes with calculated flirtation, controlling the nausea that forces bile into my throat as his mouth twists into a knowing smile. “Ready for a real man today, I see?” he asks with a pleased lilt to his voice, giving my backside a swat; he grins. “You are booked for the next hour, but I will see what I can do, kitty.” Swallowing twice, I force my gag into a smile. I hate this man with every fiber of my being. He lured me from my home, promised a better life, forced me into his bed and then into the bed of thousands. He was my first, and I want him to be my 50,000th and last. I want to see him suffer as I have suffered.
I enter the bare hotel room with an old dirty bed, green shag carpet and stained yellow walls. Three more and you are free, I remind myself as an old pot-bellied man with breath that smells of smoke, coffee and manure grins and pulls me to himself, kissing my neck, cheeks and mouth. I can feel his excitement as he forces me onto the bed. I close my eyes and hide in the furthest reaches of my mind as I have done thousands of times before. God help me. Two more.
Within the next thirty minutes, I have reached 49,999 men. Only one remaining. I sit among the women once more. Waiting. But this time is different. For the first time that I can remember, I’m not sick. I don’t feel that awning emptiness or the question “why me?” Not this time. I feel the cold steel against my foot. I gaze at the women in the room, making eye contact with one and then another until I have received a nod from every, last, one.
Honey is pushed into the room. Her left eye is swollen and blackened. A cut under it on her cheekbone spills blood down her cheek. Hair mused and eyes wild, she stifles a sob as she sinks to the floor beside me. “It’s time, Honey; can you be brave one more time?” I ask. Her bottom lip quivers, but she nods her head. I look into her eyes, so pretty, so sad. “Honey, I need you to be braver than you have ever been before.” I press the cold steel into her hands, and she nods again, clenching it tightly in her fist, a look of resolve stiffening her soft features. “Good.” I nod. I gaze over at Brave and Resolve, all nicknames we only share when alone together. Their faces are fierce, ready. We have each endured many beatings to stash portions of the ill-gotten gains so that we could purchase weapons for ourselves and each other until every last woman now owns one, for such a time as this. We are ready; we are armed, and we are wounded, willing in turn to wound in hopes to save.
Moose enters the room taking three of the girls. Watching them go, my eyes follow their exit until Moose turns and winks at me, thinking I am watching him. Beast. What makes him think I would want a man, any man, least of all him? His pompous narcissism infuriates me. I smile in return. Perfect.
Moose returns as Tenan, his right-hand man, grabs another girl, hunger in his eyes; his intent is clear. He will have his fun if Moose is having his. I glance his way, suppressing my pleasure. My plan is unfolding, and it is beautiful. Moose opens the door to another dingy room; this one has orange shag carpet. He motions me through as if he were a gentleman. “After you,” he says with delight. I know his games. They no longer work on me. He begins to undress me. “Prettier every time I see you,” he purrs. I smile back at him, feigning flattery. My stomach churns. He slides his hands down my body and to my legs, inching towards my feet. I want my shoes on, so I turn and begin undressing him. I am in control. “Eager, are we?” he smirks. I avoid meeting his eyes; I know the hatred there will give me away. I allow him to push me to the bed, and I wait for the right moment. Taking hold of the knife from my shoe, I flip it open, just as I have practiced, and I emasculate him.
Moose howls in pain; there is blood everywhere. I can’t believe I did it. My hands are shaking. Moose is writhing on the floor. “I am going to kill you, 52!” he screams, his eyes bloodshot and wide with fury and pain. But I am already out the door. I hear screams throughout the building, echoes of agony as men are being emasculated en masse. Running into the room where the rest of the women are now standing, waiting, I join them. We leave through the front of the building, many of us covered in blood, knives still in our hands. I haven’t seen the light of day for over three weeks. The sun on my skin makes me feel victorious. As we march, a scream tears from my lips—my name. “I am Emma Isabela Lopez,” I echo over and over again. I hear other women begin to exclaim their names. As policeman surround us with guns, we refuse to surrender, knives in hand. I know many of their faces; they can’t fool me. These are not the good guys. They are monsters hiding behind badges. I see cameramen coming, people craning their necks to see. We will not surrender. Honey looks up at me. “I am not scared anymore.”
“Neither am I,” I say as I watch a man point his gun at me. And I am not. I will stand my ground, for I stand for hope. “I have been nameless in life, but I will not be nameless in death.” I smile when I hear the gunshot. A gunshot I hope will be heard by people around the globe. For the first time in five years, I am alive as my blood soaks the ground.