The Collector, John Fowles
J. B. Lippincott & Co., July 11, 1960
Crate training was suggested by many. At first, he felt sorry for the whimpering pup, but it didn’t take long to observe the benefits. It became second nature. And truth be told, he felt a certain satisfaction of sorts, realizing this wasn’t so hard. He put the puppy inside the cage and latched the door.
On an LCD screen, Breaking News is a hyperlinked passageway. This time, it was the story about a man who imprisoned his daughter in a dungeon for 24 years, repeatedly raping her, fathering seven children with her in that span.
One problem of course was doors and noise. There was a good old oak frame in the door through to her room but no door, so I had to make one to fit, and that was my hardest job. The first one I made didn’t work, but the second one was better. Even a man couldn’t have bust it down, let alone a little thing like her. It was two-inch seasoned wood with sheet metal on the inside so she couldn’t get at the wood. It weighed a ton and it was no joke getting it hung, but I did it. I fixed ten-inch bolts outside. Then I did something very clever. I made what looked like a bookcase, only for tools and things, out of some old wood and fitted it with wooden latches in the doorway, so that if you gave a casual look it seemed that it was just an old recess fitted up with shelves. You lifted it out and there was the door through. It also stopped any noise getting out.
Needless to say, the days ahead were spent in deliberate preparation. A small kitchen. A Bed. A toilet … soundproofing. I left nothing to chance.
I could go on all night about the precautions. I used to go and sit in her room and work out what she could do to escape. I thought she might know about electricity, you never know with girls these days, so I always wore rubber heels, I never touched a switch without a good look first. I got a special incinerator to burn all her rubbish. I knew nothing of hers must ever leave the house. No laundry. There could always be something.
When? When? Will he return at all? And if he dies … heart attack, accident, anything. What of us then? I didn’t dare talk about any of that with the children. My children, stashed away like boxes of ratty old clothes.
I was grateful to be alive. I am a terrible coward, I don’t want to die, I love life so passionately, I never knew how much I wanted to live before. If I get out of this, I shall never be the same.
How frightened of dying I was in those first days. I don’t want to die because I keep on thinking of the future. I’m desperately curious to know what life will bring to me. What will happen to me, how I’ll develop, what I’ll be in five years’ time, in ten, in thirty. The man I will marry and the places I will live in and get to know.
You read a story or see it on the news and it is shocking and true, but ultimately something that could never happen here in Wood Creek, a place where none of us will ever have the tragic misfortune of looking dead red into the eyes of a demon, forced to witness the evil that men do.
Click. Another bulletin. One of the neighbors is interviewed. Although just a witness, she is also a victim, one who has fallen inside the gap between shock and all that comes after. Cameras roll. There are others. They are the stone-eyed locals giving that familiar refrain. Things like this just don’t happen here.
I can’t stand the absolute darkness. He’s bought me nightlights. I go to sleep with one glowing beside me now. Before that I left the light on.
I only know fear.