“Everyone obsesses,” Joshua said aloud, with no one else to hear his mumbled, repetitive musings. “Everyone obsesses over something. Everyone has a… obsession.”
He was starting to babble almost uncontrollably. He had grown accustomed to the paranoid portion of his personality becoming more prominent in recent years, exacerbated by the exposition of his nervous nature. When tension built, increased exertion was required to mellow to a more manageable state.
Severe panic attacks were infrequent, day-to-day. Experience had brought about the realisation that the stresses of life could be managed. For Joshua, it was better to babble than to bail out, psychologically or physically.
His watch, staring up at him from his wrist, seemed to be vying for his attention. The timepiece, often his friend in scheduling and regimenting his day, seemed for an instant to be wearing a negative expression on its face. It was as if the device didn’t believe that his plans could be fulfilled within the bounds it had set. He shook his head at his watch as if disagreeing with the speed at which the hands moved from point to point.
He removed his watch, placing it on the glass shelf below his eye line. “It’s not even half six. In any case, I’ve taken on far more than this before,” he said, “in a shorter space of time too. I can do it all again.”
He scrubbed from his hands to his elbows at the sink in his en-suite bathroom, perhaps overdoing the soap and hot water. He had winced and almost withdrew his hands at first before slowly subjecting them to the near-scalding temperature. “You can’t be too clean,” he said to himself. “The hot water helps. Hot water purifies. It purges. It sterilises. It makes everything clean.”
He paused, cleared his throat, and continued to converse with himself, preparations proceeding. The medical influence of his father was once again coming into effect.
“I can do this,” he said to himself. He could feel his throat tighten slightly, the pitch of his voice raising. “I have the experience and the knowledge to handle this. I’m good with my hands.” He sniggered slightly.
Other people simply did not appreciate his attempts at humour. His own history had taught him as much. It’s not ideal to laugh at your own jokes, but if there’s no one else, what else is to be done?
“Is this an obsession, or is it an addiction? Is one better than the other? If so, which way around would that be? Which is more tolerable to others?” The speed and intensity of his scrubbing increased whilst talking, his voice sounding more high-pitched and nervous.
The longer he talked with himself, the quicker he spoke. “People have addictions. Most people, possibly all people have an addiction to something. Their own little vice, their wicked pleasure. Some of them deny themselves, but what’s the point in that?”
A sharp pain shot through his hands and arms briefly as he withdrew them from the water and turned off the tap. He reached for a fresh white towel from a neatly folded pile and started to dry his hands one finger at a time.
He started to count on his fingers after he had dried as far as his wrists. “There are people addicted to alcohol, tobacco, pornography, sex, video games, work, chocolate, sweets, coffee, energy drinks…” He placed the towel down before extending all fingers and thumbs, “…and pretty much anything else.”
He hurried through the doorway, yanking the chord to turn plunge the room into darkness. “Do all of those people deny their route to pleasure? I don’t think so. Some people do. Why limit yourself? How weird. How… pointless.”
If his own personal history had taught him anything, it had taught him this: Denying one’s self is not an effective use of time and energy. What could be gained from misery through abstention, especially with alternatives within his reach?
Life was supposed to include pleasure and pain. His inherent interests had guided him, not some nationalised feeling of guilt for the satisfying of one’s self. The rest of the world could have their opinions, their collective loathing, but in Joshua’s world, he was in the right.
He experienced pleasure and pain, and not always in equal measure. The good needed to alleviate the bad. Life had not been kind to Joshua, and so to balance things, he needed to be kind to himself.
“Who are they to judge where people find their own pleasure?” closing his mental discourse with a question, spoken aloud.
He rolled down his white sleeves just past his elbow and stretched and snapped on a pair of purple latex gloves. He clenched his hands into fists a couple of times, causing the gloves to emit a satisfying creak and crunch. He picked up a couple of medical instruments that he had meticulously sterilised and laid out moments earlier.
Abigail was still tied to a chair, but this was a different chair to the one that had featured in his short, possibly misguided video. This one was reclined, allowing access for Joshua to get the proof he needed.
Following abduction, he had properly sedated her before removing her underwear and putting her in a simple white cotton night dress, just as he had done with all previous participants in this process. The nightdress accents her beauty far more than the school uniform, clashing colours concocted by some clout. He had not approved of the dark brown top and skirt, or the way they seemed to be at odds with the light blue blouse.
He needed to know the truth about these girls. This one seemed to be beautiful, but he could only be sure after testing her virtue.
There was a glow in the eyes of the most beautiful girls that signalled more than an inherited jumble of genes. The prettiest, the ones with some form of unrepeatable perfection, were pure, they were still somehow free from the contaminants of this world.
Several seconds later he had determined that the Castle girl was at least telling the truth about her virginity. The typical signs were there.
He had studied in various medical books and journals about the effects of sexual activity, especially on minors. These signs were not conclusive when considered individually, but collectively they were evidence of a girl who had not yet ceased to live in the world of a child. It was possible, however, that other activities could have taken place. Innocence could be destroyed long after virginity remained.
“Abigail, you seem to have been honest with me,” he said, in a deep firm tone. He was always amazed by his own transformation in these moments. Seconds after the nervous babbling, it was as if liquid confidence was flowing through his veins.
He continued to address the female, lying perfectly still, usually incapable of comprehending his words. “Congratulations on keeping your virtue intact.”
Joshua was in command of his own destiny, relishing every moment.
“I don’t need to punish you for letting your innocence slip,” he said, “but I do need to punish you for being foolish enough to leave school with a stranger.”
For the first time, and with her barely audible voice slurring, Abigail said, “I didn’t leave with you. I spoke to you. A kidnapper and a perv...”
Her voice trailed off so that Joshua could only just make out the final few words.
How is she talking? Mystified, he knew he needed to respond. Are the drugs defective? Has she somehow got a high tolerance to them?
“Little girl, however correct you may believe yourself to be,” he paused briefly, his breathing becoming erratic, before continuing in a tempestuous tone, “NEVER answer back when an adult is talking to you!”
He felt a chill run up his spine as he spoke with a voice that seemed to have erupted from a well of inner rage deep inside. He took several deep breaths, the large volume of air filling his lungs to capacity either side of the heavy pounding of his heart. Two or three cycles of deep breathing later, he shrugged, feeling his shoulders start to relax. “I need to punish you for talking to a stranger, and now I also need to punish you for talking back.”
He removed a damp rag from his pocket and immediately the combined fumes of antiseptic and alcohol struck his nostrils. After straightening the cloth he placed it over the girl’s face. She thrashed slightly, struggling for breath, and then she fell still and quiet once again.
He enjoyed seeing the brief moments of struggle, the children eventually breathing in and settling into a sleep-like state. The short journey from frantic thrashing to perfect stillness was beautiful to watch in his opinion. Like riding through storm-tossed waters and finding yourself sailing suddenly on a sea of glass, Abigail had journeyed from chaos to calm in an instant.
As stillness swept over the girl, leaving her limp and seemingly lifeless. With these girls, passed out and unable to respond, he could have his heart’s desire. He could do anything his mind and hands could construct. It was empowering. It was exciting. No one to stop him. No one to interfere. He was in charge.
Joshua looked almost longingly at the girl for a moment before shaking his head, angry at himself for his own suggestion. She has her virtue. I have my rules.
She was pure and beautiful. The two went together like Bonnie and Clyde, like roses and summertime.
She was his helpless new toy, but his fun would be limited unless he disregarded his own well-established code of conduct. He shook his head again. I can’t do such a thing. She needs to retain every bit of that beauty.
He continued to stand, watching her breathe in her reclined position. He needed to check the other girls, but he stood inexplicably rooted to the spot, looking on at the girl breathing in, breathing out. He couldn’t justify the waste of time, and the torrid tick of his watch would soon require his regret for procrastination, but he continued to stand there, watching.