Everything about her current situation felt surreal to Abigail.
There she was, standing in front of a camera, being photographed for the fifth time today, the first being only an hour and a half earlier. Her makeup and the oversized clothing, combined with a simple ponytail in her hair, made her feel and look twelve.
She caught sight of her warped reflection in the camera lens. She had to hide her emotions as the camera shutter clicked constantly. This is who I am now. Goodbye Abigail. Hello Alicja.
Courtesy of Joshua, her adoring kidnapper, she had been thrust into the limelight of a sordid setup of children modelling for prescribing paedophiles. Girls at school had talked about being a model, and she had not expected that within days she would be living that lifestyle, albeit in circumstances she would give the world to change.
She looked past the camera. Joshua was sitting on a sofa, drink in hand, watching. He could’ve let me go, but he traded me like prized livestock. In her mind, she shook her head. In reality, she kept still for the camera, unwilling to poke the bear known as Sergei. No, prized livestock would have been valued higher.
The idea behind the clothes and the makeup, they said, was to build a profile of ‘Alicja’ that they could publish on the website gradually, fooling the customers into think she had developed over time. The sets so far had been tame, ordinary, but she suspected that things would not remain that way if she stayed there for long.
As the fifth official set concluded, the lights grew brighter behind the cameras. Abigail walked towards Sergei who was holding out a new outfit.
“Set number six next. Here is your outfit.” Sergei smiled as he spoke and held out his arms.
Abigail reached for the outfit and paused. “It looks a lot more… revealing than the last ones.”
Sergei nodded. “You were expecting to wear jeans and shirts forever?”
Abigail opened her mouth to speak, but no words were forthcoming.
“Alicja, you have some catching up to do.” He put a hand on her shoulder and looked into her eyes. “You know the girl you met before this? Anastasija?”
Abigail nodded and scowled. “Yes, we’ve met as you know.”
“She has almost eighty sets of photos on our website. Did you know that?”
Abigail shook her head. “I didn’t but I don’t feel comfortable-”
“Alicja, you’re not here to feel comfortable,” he said, his voice soft but laced with consternation. “You’re here to earn your keeping and to do what I say. You will otherwise be sent somewhere else where you will be forced to do much more worse things.”
Abigail didn’t know what to say. She just looked at him with her mouth partly open.
Sergei thrust the revealing outfit towards her, almost throwing it. “I’ll get you a drink.”
He scampered off for a second and returned with a glass containing only a small amount of water, which he handed to her.
Abigail, feeling parched, downed the mouthful of liquid and discovered that it was not water. She screwed up her face as a taste like burning petrol scorched her mouth and throat. “What is this?” she asked.
Sergei shrugged. “It’s a little something that the girls take to relax.”
Abigail poked her tongue out for a moment in an attempt to relieve the sensation in her mouth. “I don’t find this kind of drink relaxing at all.”
Sergei positioned himself by her side, put an arm across her shoulders and walked her towards the en-suite bathroom. “My girl, it will have an effect in just a minute. I’m hoping you’ll see that it is better to listen than to do anything else.”
Abigail entered the bathroom and changed into the new outfit, feeling utterly exposed. She moved to open the door. As she did so, the room started spinning. Her legs felt like they weren’t her own. After several seconds of clinging onto the door and groping along the wall, the dizziness dissipated somewhat and she was able to stand unassisted. Another girl, aged somewhere around thirteen and wearing a school uniform, was watching her, grinning.
Despite her balance and her fine motor skills returning to relative normality, Abigail’s head was a mess. She tried to remember her parents, her home, and the past three days. Instead, she could think of nothing more than the need to stand there, hoping someone would help her.
Sergei walked up, looking friendlier than he had a moment ago. “Alicja, this is Nastia,” he said, pointing an open palm at the girl that had been watching her with amusement. “She will be joining you for this set.”
Abigail didn’t have a chance to even greet the girl before she was whisked off and plonked in a seat in front of David. The next couple of minutes were a blur of poses, bright flashes and empty compliments drifting around her. She was moving, doing things, but she felt as if someone was controlling her like a puppet or by aid of a remote control.
She vaguely noticed that she was mimicking the ‘sexy’ poses from every fashion magazine that had been placed before her eyes. There was a deep feeling of shame that seemed to be best ignored.
With the flattery of one man, she imagined the perverse pleasure derived from her photos by men around the world with nothing but their computers for company. Such thoughts were enough to bring on a shudder and to make her feel nauseous.
Abigail tried to ignore her feelings. At that moment it felt as if focussing on the negative would literally tear her apart. She had to just carry on.
The thoughts returned. You’re not a Russian model. You’re a fourteen year old who’s never even kissed a boy. What are you doing here?
Later she would ponder how an ordinary girl, unapproached, unadored by any boys at school, was attractive enough to pose for the gratification of paying paedophiles. At that moment, rising to her feet in the hot, bright lights of a photography studio, she just concentrated on not throwing up.
Her clouded mind affected her more with every passing moment. She began to feel distant, as if she was watching her own actions from the wrong end of a telescope.
Nastia, the other girl, was now standing in front of her. In a flurry of flashes and movement, she next became aware of standing opposite the girl, both of them only wearing underwear.
There was something unique and disturbing about her feelings, trapped within her own body, inwardly screaming but with such outward apathy that she could not fight against anything. It was the case as Nastia placed a hand behind her head and pulled it towards her own until their mouths met in some pathetic attempt at a kiss.
Abigail found the energy to pull away a short distance. She blinked several times and wiped her hands over her face. What’s happening to me? How can one small drink affect me so much?
The camera flashes stopped. The girl disappeared and Abigail was for a moment left standing there, vulnerable, ashamed, wanting more than anything to be anywhere else.