In the depths of the ditch, he plots his escape. He can’t remember how long he’s been in the ditch, nor how he got here. He just knows he has to escape so he can go back. To what, precisely, he can’t remember.
Harry Morton was sitting on the train, surrounded by the morning peak-hour squeeze, pushed uncomfortably between the window and a fat woman, whose girth was so big her arms spilled over to his seat; she smelt like old potatoes, left to rot in an airless plastic bag. Then, amongst the array of strangers, standing pressed up against each other, there she was, holding the strap, her long auburn hair swept up into a clip, tendrils hanging down her neck. He swallowed deeply. He wished he were the one standing close against her, her arse pressed against his thigh; he could breathe her in, breathe on her neck. He felt his cock twinge. She was dressed for the office: navy pants, crisp white shirt, and navy jacket. Her pants were tight, nestled over a perfect peach-shaped arse. He crossed his legs. He was ripped out of his reverie as the fat woman farted, shifted in her seat, and knocked him with her gigantic sausage arm.
The next day, Friday, he got onto the train. Each stop, more commuters strained into the carriage. Finally, at Hawksburn, she glided on, just as the doors closed. He looked at her, openly. Today, she was wearing a short tunic dress with black tights and knee-high boots. He couldn’t be certain, but he thought an audible moan escaped his lips. Her eyes met his. She smiled. Harry nodded, smiled curtly.
That same afternoon, Harry spotted her at the opposite end of the carriage. He raised his eyebrows. She’d changed into shorts, runners and a tight tank top, backpack over her shoulder. He had an unencumbered view of her, the train almost empty. He pulled out his phone, pretended to flick through messages. No one, especially her, would know. He zoomed in as she bent over to place her backpack on the ground and began to rifle through its contents. Harry gulped as he realised he had captured the perfect moment: her flimsy running shorts exposed the very top of her leg. No knickers – or at least none he could see. Harry’s cock moved; he continued to film her until she picked up her bag, got off at Toorak and began to jog.
On Saturday, Harry spent the day in his dimly lit bedroom with his phone; he watched her bend over, he flicked back and watched it again, many times. He masturbated. He staggered out of his room wearing only underpants, grunted at his flatmate, made himself a sandwich and went back to his room. He let the film go on, the entire six minutes, entranced as she, still bending over, found her iPod and earpiece in her backpack, stood straight, threw her backpack into place and disembarked the train. By Monday, he was desperate to see her, to stand near her.
Here, in the dark, dank ditch, he glimpses fragments of his life. He remembers being with a woman, with rich auburn hair. He is desperate to escape; it smells of shit and piss, and damp earth. His head hurts. One eye closed over. He touches where it hurts, feels a gaping wound and sticky, almost-dried blood. He strains to look at his feet; they feel damp and red-raw. He thinks the skin is peeling, and he feels dirt under his toenails, broken, jagged. Where are his shoes? His clothes? Why is he naked? Panicking, he realises the last of the day’s light is slithering in through the slats in the lid atop. He feels the cool, moist air on his neck. Another fragment comes to him. The auburn hair dancing wildly as the woman, enraged, throws anything she can reach: shoes, plates, and a vase. How cliché, he thinks now. He sniggers to himself, forgetting for a brief moment, that he is stuck.
Monday’s train was uncharacteristically less full, as if collectively the commuters are taking a sick day. At Toorak Station the passengers leaped on, visibly relieved it is not as crowded. Harry watched, his senses alert for her; she did not alight. He craned his neck as Hawksburn Station approached. He looked out the window. The train came to a stop. He saw her. He sighed, sharply. The passenger next to him looked quickly his way. Harry took out his phone – good, it was still set to video – as she stepped aboard. He wiped his brow; beads of sweat gathered from the pent up excitement. The passenger next to him was looking at him from the corner of his eye. Harry put his phone back in his jacket suit pocket. He’d better not to risk it.
That afternoon, fate played its hand. Harry was thrilled as she took the seat next to him. She smiled and greeted him with a cheery hello. He responded, intoxicated as he noticed her nipples, pert and dark, through her top. Interesting, he thought, no bra today; no knickers last week. He was close enough to make out her scent: Daphne. He imagined nuzzling into her neck, slipping his hand inside her blouse, feeling the weight of her tits, twisting those nipples. She was asking for it, he could tell.
‘I’ve seen you on this train before. I’m Sarita,’ she said, smiling in a beatific way that only the deeply beautiful can.
‘Yes. Harry,’ he nodded; the need to own this woman surged inside him. It was wrong. He welcomed it nonetheless. She kept talking to him. He asked for her number. He couldn’t believe how easily she gave it to him, how she grinned with excitement at the possibilities that lay before her.
Harry was a bastard; he knew that. He enjoyed the power he felt from his passion for upskirting. The women never knew he’d captured them. He often looked over his videos before he began the pursuit of bedding new conquests. Once he got a woman into bed, he grew bored, didn’t return calls and started his process again. He never deleted the shots though – they were his trophies, beside they proved useful for rare dry spells. Here on the train, that Monday afternoon, his latest interest played neatly into his hand.
Sarita Sinclair held more than mere beauty. She was ethereal, angelic, stunning. She supposed that others thought her selfish and aloof, but she didn’t much care; it was not her nature to see her own imperfections and contradictions. As she chatted with Harry on the train, and saw his attempt to veil his surprise over how easy she seemed, she set her sights on him. He would do nicely. He was the right build.
He makes it through another night in the ditch. He hears the grill scrape open, light shines in, the brightness stark against the dark ditch, illuminating it and him. He is grateful as stale bread and a bottle of water drops from above. He tries to catch the bread before it lands in his shit, or the mud. He fails. He picks up the bread, wipes it and scoffs it down. He drinks the water, before he attempts an escape. There are roots bursting out of the mud on either side of him. He can grasp onto them, claw his feet up while reaching for the next root. He hears muffled noises around him, wonders if he’s underneath a house.
As promised, Harry phoned Sarita later that night. Sarita had been waiting for his call, the evening already planned: a movie, dinner, and then back to her house. He was easy to read, she held no doubt he’d be up for it.
Sarita and Harry sat through the movie, a mindless rom-com that neither was interested in. They were more interested in each other; at dinner, the atmosphere was thick like a clammy fog.
‘So,’ said Sarita, slyly, ‘How long have you been spying on me?’
Harry almost choked on his medium-rare sirloin. How could she possibly know what he’d done? His mind scrambled for a response, while biding his time, he wiped his mouth with his napkin. He took a sip of wine.
‘Well, I noticed you on the morning train a month or so ago, I guess,’ he replied. ‘How long have you been spying on me?’
Sarita grinned. ‘Long enough to know you were my next victim.’
He wakes in a sweat. He feels the chill in the air, realises where he is. He remembers the auburn-haired woman. He remembers all indicators were pointing towards a very satisfying one-nighter. He knew she was up for it. He needs to piss, so he lets it come. He feels the warm liquid on his leg. He sobs. He’s certain it was her. But how the fuck did she throw him in here, and how is he going to get out?
Harry and Sarita continued to bait each other over dinner. Harry was mildly worried that she knew about his filming of her on the train. No, she couldn’t possibly know. He’d been careful. They shared a tiramisu for dessert, the delicate sensuality a stark contrast to their raw need for each other. Harry toyed with asking her back to his flat. He didn’t have to.
‘You wanna come back to my house?’ Sarita asked outside the restaurant, swaying in her girlish yet alluring manner.
‘Yeah, I do.’ Harry leaned forward to kiss her, but she’d turned on her heels, leading the way. Harry smirked. This one was going to go off.
In the taxi, Harry slid his hand up her skirt. No undies. Harry’s cock, which had been half-alert all night, went hard in a second. He kissed her, while his fingers went deep. He glanced to the front seat, noticed the taxi driver was watching them through the rear-vision mirror. The taxi pulled to a stop abruptly, Sarita looked out the window, grabbed her purse and paid the driver. She opened the door, looked back at Harry, and said, ‘You comin’ too?’ They didn’t even make it to her front door, but fucked against a tree in the front yard.
Inside the house, Sarita offered Harry another drink. He said yes, but it was not more alcohol he was after. Still, more time with her had to be good. He felt something was slightly off-kilter. He didn’t imagine the woman he filmed on the train to be like this. She was too easy. He liked to be in control; he liked the women he chose to be coy. He’d stay for one more drink, one more fuck – or two, she was a fantastic root – then he’d go. They sat on a leather couch and chatted over a drink, about work, their lives. Eventually the conversation stalled and Harry glanced across at Sarita, who was watching him, with a bewitching smile. She led him to her bedroom.
The first thing Harry noticed in her room was the smell of Daphne: same as on the train. Sarita stood next to him as he took in the surroundings. French doors with drawn-up roman blinds led outside; garden lighting hinted at a small courtyard. A little table with two drawers nestled against the king-size bed; on top sat numerous lotions and her perfume bottle, three books neatly stacked, and a lamp, already switched on, covered by flimsy purple fabric. He tried to make out the book titles, hoped to glean some understanding of her. To his left he saw a second door, slightly ajar; Harry guessed it led to a walk-in robe or en suite, or both. Sarita pushed him onto the bed. The sheets were cool and smelt of her. Again, Harry had a sense that something about this woman didn’t add up. He watched as she slipped out of her dress, heard it swoosh to the floor, leaving her naked, and he decided it didn’t matter.
Hours later, Sarita looked across at him sleeping and she chuckled to herself. The night was going well. A smile, flash of her tits, a promise of a good night and it was all too easy. Harry was not unlike the others. She’d had them all fooled. e was sure this time, with Harry, she would find salvation from her pain.
Startled but groggy, Harry realised when he woke that he wasn’t able to move his limbs. He opened his eyes when he heard the noises. Sarita was throwing her things around the room. He saw her pick up a vase, enraged and tossed it across the room. He heard it smash against the wall and the splash of water. He was scared, yet curious. He thought he glimpsed her picking up his clothes, but his eyes were too heavy. He let them close.
Sarita was angry. She was confused. She hated feeling this way; took a deep breath and silenced her thoughts. She had to work quickly before the drug wore off. A half-hour had passed since she drugged Harry. Bending over to slide a towel under Harry, Sarita saw he was coming to. She grabbed the nearest thing within her reach, a lampshade, and thumped him over the head. It worked, but he now had a huge gash over one eye and he was bleeding.
Sarita barely managed get him inside the ditch; he was heavier than he looked. He was hers now, until she decided otherwise. She thought she’d feel better, like she did with the others, who brought to her that liberating feeling of punishing another. It was like a drug to her.
Sitting in the mud, his head still thumping, he shivers; the cool air clings to him like a wet blanket. He’s thirsty, cold and scared. His mind is scrambling to think more, he’s trying to force the memories. Who is this auburn-haired woman? How long has he been here?
Days pass. Sarita sits at her kitchen table with toast and a cup of tea, and allows herself a rare moment of introspection. Her thoughts take her back to her childhood. She thinks of her loving-but-absent parents, and her uncle who was far too involved. She feels the familiar rage and pain when her mind pauses on those acts her uncle had done, repeatedly, to her. She was six years old when he first crept into her bedroom and slipped under the covers with her. He was damp and his breath sour. She was terrified and cried when she felt the hot, searing pain between her legs. Her uncle was enthralled with Sarita and his special visits continued. In the bathroom, while her parents hosted a dinner party. In her parents’ bed. In the backseat of his car. He threatened to bury her underground if she told anyone about their shared secret. Sarita pushes the ghastly memories back down, and reminds herself not to allow time to dwell on her past. It is not helpful.
Morning’s first light creeps in through the slats; he starts again to climb back out of the ditch. Claws his feet and toes into the wet soil, reaches out with his hands for the tree roots hanging just above his head and pushes his weight upwards. He makes it to the top, exhausted, but finds strength within himself to slide the grill open. With all his might, he lifts himself out and finds himself in a basement. The light shining through high windows blinds him. He shuffles to what looks like a door. He tries it – unlocked. He opens it, stands naked and dirty in a kitchen and sees her eating toast. He remembers everything. His confusion ends on sight of her, his questions answered. She turns, shocked to see him there, speechless.
‘What the fuck is wrong with you, Sarita?’ Harry cries.
Sarita, panicking, still struggles to find words. Not one of them ever had escaped before. How had Harry done that? She decides to play the tearful female; calculates that Harry will crumble under her tears. She holds her head in her hands and starts to cry.
‘Harry…’ she begins, but he cuts her off.
‘Oh stop that bullshit, you bitch. What the fuck is this all about? Why’d you chuck me down there? Where’s my clothes, for God’s sake?’
Sarita lifts her head and disdainfully looks his way. ‘I burned them. If you’re going to leave here, you’re going to have to go like that.’ She looks at his naked, dirty body and smiles at him.
‘You’re one sick fuck, Sarita.’ He walks towards a phone on the bench. He dials triple-zero.
Sarita nods. What can she say, in her defence? It is over. But it was not the salvation she was looking for.