Haberdashery


From Postworld

          He shoved her into a gap in the cab of the lead truck.  The roll of silver tape around the long gear shaft was used to wrap her wrists in place behind her back.  He also tied her ankles together with it and pressed a strip over her mouth. 
          For good measure, said the sweaty man.  He drove the truck, and everyone did what he said. 
          Listen, we're going to take good care of you, darling.           We ain't supposed to do this, but you don't seem sick yet.  You would be, if you were going to. 
            When he pulled the tape from the roll it let go with hesitant jerks, as if it didn't want any part of this mess. 
            They don't care to get this bunch alive. I don't care neither, but there's more than one way to skin a cat if you know what I mean. 
            She didn't know what he meant. 
            You're a sweet thing.  I knew it when you flagged us down.  I'd a brought you up into the truck right away, but I needed to be sure. 
            The tape pulled on her skin at her wrists, and she tried to twist it to relieve the pressure. 
            Don't you go doing that.  It ain't going to go good for you if you let them know you're up here. 
            The cab stank as much as the back of the truck.  A bucket in the corner yellowed on the edges.  These men in their incaptivity lived in the same conditions as the already dead and captive at the back. 
            The engine jerked the truck forward, and she sank to the gap behind the seat a bit sideways.  The shake of the truck oddly comforting, even tied up as she was. 
            When the men had pulled her from the back of the truck, she left her bag sitting on the floor.  Maybe it could all mean something if he found it, if he remembered her, if someone at least just knew her name.  
          The convoy pulled off the highway and slowed to a crawl.  The truck stopped and before the sweaty man got out he reminded her. 
            Not a word, darling. 
            Voices rose and fell in the way of arguments.  That last night her parents argued that way.  It wasn't the anger of one overwhelming the conversation, but more the frustration of the situation that kept them arguing. 
            These voices rose and fell in the same way.  No one angry.  Everyone exhausted.  
            Truck doors opened and closed, and then the sweaty man climbed into his cab and shut the door. 
            Some of them want to go back up your way. Pick up more stragglers. 
            The sun now bright in the sky began to heat the front of the cab.  
            They drove with the windows down. 
            Just after dark the convoy pulled from the interstate onto a dirt road and stopped. She would find out later it was a farm, probably where they stopped on the way down, but in the dark it was all the same. 
            Be back for you in a bit.  You go on and keep quiet.  Be a good girl, and I'll take care of you. 
            His voice hovered above her, from the front, and then the door to the cab closed.  Miles ago the feeling in her feet and hands vanished.  The spikes of pain, the needles driving through her fingers, faded even while she pumped her fists trying to keep the blood flow. 
            She waited, wedged in the seat. A piece of luggage.