NIGHTMARE

Chapter 1
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She was in the dark.

It was cold. It's always so cold in these damn caves.

She had quieted and managed to stop the tears over a half hour ago. An hour before this she worked her way free from the restraints which bound her wrist. With a frightened whimper, her arms crossed over one another and wrapped themselves around her heaving chest as she sat on the dirt and pebble strewn cave floor. Looking down at her feet she whispered, "I'm afraid." Marguerite then murmured and not for the first time, "I want to go home."

But home to what? She had seen what her companions did to the tree house, practically pulverizing everything they managed to scrap together since she and the others were marooned here in this God forsaken world. She should have seen that mindless destruction coming when the men's attitudes began to change. She and Veronica could have ran for the hills the moment that very strange dinner conversation started. But they stayed out of loyalty, love and - to be honest - because they wanted to see what was going to happen next.
 
Perhaps the infection was working on them in an odd way as well?

Challenger, over supper two evenings ago, after she and Roxton had returned from the lake, announced that he no longer cared to go back to their own world. He wish to remain here, on the plateau, as its supreme lord and master forever.

Veronica had looked at her then, the ladies clearing the dishes, their eyes meeting over the table, concerned. He was joking, right?

Then Malone and Roxton nodded, odd grins on their handsome but intent faces. "You know you'll always have my gun." Roxton said. Then Malone mentioned something about the first place to start any form of dominion was in one's own backyard.
 
All three of the men then turned and looked directly at Veronica and Marguerite, chuckling.

If this was a joke it wasn't very funny.

Marguerite shifted in the dark of the cave, petrified, thinking she had heard hissing. Perhaps from a giant human-eating snake? No, must have been her imagination. Or maybe it was the wind whistling between the cracks of the large boulder they used to seal her inside. If her companions were going to imprison her they at least could have given her some kind of weapon, just in case a monster were to show up ...
 
What was she thinking?
 
Roxton had a purpose in trapping her in here without food or water. Out of the way, she was no threat but free to roam she might destroy whatever demented plan they had concocted in those diseased minds of theirs. If she could just persuade him, all of them, making her friends believe she could be trusted ... If she could just lie convincingly enough to get away ...

Near panic once again, Marguerite put a hand over her mouth and took a deep breath. No, she couldn't lose it. Veronica might still be alive. The wild child just might need her help ... if she ever got out of here.

It started two days ago. Marguerite was down by the main river, the one closest to the tree house, with Roxton. They were washing clothes. Or rather, she was. Roxton just sort of stood around with his rifle, looking about, telling her he was keeping watch. You never knew when a hungry T-Rex was going to show up for an early lunch. Besides, he told her, he loved watching her do domestic chores. It suited her so well. It was at that point Marguerite aimed a drenched, balled up wash cloth at the hunter and made a direct hit to the back of his head, knocking his hat off.
 
It was all fun and games for awhile, the couple laughing, attempting that one upmanship they often engaged in when the others weren't (and sometimes even when they were) watching.
But then, out of the blue, Roxton stood straight and suddenly appeared ill or even afraid. When she asked him if anything was wrong he said he was fine but they had better go home. He was uncomfortable about something he could not disclose.

Marguerite closed her eyes, damning her lack of intuition. He must have been infected with the madness and was fighting feelings of dread, paranoia and even hatred. She could feel sorry for Roxton now. Almost. What horrible thoughts ran initially in that handsome head of his before he was completely overcome?
 
It didn't take long for Malone then Challenger to also show signs of infection. She and Veronica appeared to be the only two unaffected by whatever it was that Roxton came into contact with down by the river. That led the women to believe it was an abnormality in the water, which affected only males. Where did it come from and how could they find an antidote?

The ladies were going to leave the following day. They were going to the lake to see if anything unusual appeared. Or perhaps the Zanga knew something? 
 
But they never got that far. By morning the men were fully contaminated, becoming angry and violent at the smallest of offenses. They demanded she and Veronica do as they were told, be subservient, or suffer the consequences! They had trashed the tree house, breaking things, tearing up books and laughing as they did it.

Feeling the gravel beneath her hands, letting it filter through her fingers, Marguerite reflected on the change that appalled her most. She had seen John Roxton angry before and she had heard his voice raise when he felt one of their family in the wrong or simply not listening to good sense. 'Usually it's me.', Marguerite admitted with a bitter laugh. Yet, she had never seen him, the man she cared for more than any other, stricken with evil. It was a mental diseased which told him he should strike out and destroy, or barbarically use, those weaker than he. Perhaps it was a deeply hidden part of his hunter mentality? She didn't know and didn't really care to know but it made her heartsick.
 
Roxton looked at her with both loathing and lust and yesterday, before Marguerite could hold her tongue, he had curled his fingers into a fist and hit her.

She now lifted a hand and touched her bruised jaw. It had been horrible. She remembered falling onto the floor of their treehouse, stunned and tasting blood. She had heard Veronica cry out and Malone shouting that Roxton should have did that long ago. When she looked upward Ned had the untamed beauty in a bear-hug from behind, dragging her backwards while Challenger tied her feet and hands.
 
They had caught Veronica off guard or she never would have been subdued.

Tears came again as Marguerite recalled Roxton, roughly lifting her off the floor by her long hair, telling her she was nothing more than a harlot. "Secrets! You have so many secrets, my pretty Marguerite! Shall we reveal one of them?" he had said in a deep voice full of venomous revulsion ... and hunger. Then, he was pulling at her clothes and cursing. When Marguerite heard the fabric of her lavender blouse begin to rip she could take the abuse no longer.
 
Why was the man she loved, yes *loved*, doing this to her? She stomped on one of his feet as hard as she could then let her fingernails do the rest. Frightened beyond measure, knowing there was no return if she failed, Marguerite scratched at Roxton's face ... then she ran from the tree house for her life.

"Marguerite, come back!" she heard Lord Roxton shout. "You don't know what you're doing!" Oddly, there was concern in that last sentence that led Marguerite to believe, for the briefest moment, that the old Roxton had come back to her. Yet, when she looked up at the tree house from below, pausing in her flight, he was leaning over the rail, taking aim with his rifle! John Roxton was going to shoot her!

"No, no, no!" Marguerite cried into her hands once again. She was not only horrified by what had become of her friends but also ashamed that she had left poor Veronica alone with those animals. Her pure, untamed spirit had to be shattered by now. The girl was probably dead. "I'm sorry." she whispered through her tears, "So sorry Veronica." Then Marguerite looked upward. She wasn't a praying woman but if God would only see fit to help her help those she loved, she would go to church every Sunday for the rest of her life ... once they returned to civilization.

"Marguerite?"

Startled, she turned in the direction of the voice. It was coming from outside the cave, near the exit where the bolder had been lodged. It was Veronica! She wasn't dead, thank God. Marguerite jumped to her feet, a surge of relief engulfing her. Veronica had escaped!

"Oh, you don't know how glad I am to hear your voice." Marguerite pressed herself against the stone, "Veronica, you've got to get me out of here."

"Soon, my friend, soon." Veronica spoke in an eerie calm.

"Veronica," Marguerite stepped back, afraid all over again. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing at all. Once you've accepted the inevitable the transition isn't so bad, Marguerite. And the lovely thing about the whole adventure is that once you've arrived you become a near equal. But, for now, let the men be your masters ... Let me be your master, dear friend. I will domesticate you and only show force against you when it becomes necessary ... and once you give birth to a child of our master race, all will be forgiven."

Marguerite, her bottom lip trembling with fear, backed up again. "Oh no. Not you too Veronica." she nearly begged her blond friend. She was alone. Totally alone. And she would die here because she could never give in. Marguerite would never allow herself to be taken over and she certainly wasn't going to become pregnant with one of those beasts evil spawn!

"You will join us soon, Marguerite." came another voice she knew so well. "Just give it time. I may even forgive you one of these days." Roxton said, his tone calm but so horribly superior. "Or I may kill you. But you do have a fifty-fifty chance, my beauty, and that is far better than what you have if you don't agree to be modified."

"Go to hell!"

"Just another hour or two in the dark and you will come to us freely. You will understand what it is to serve your masters unconditionally. Or you will go insane."

Unable to hold back, so frightened she could not reply, Marguerite screamed and pounded her fists against the stone wall beside her. She had been a strong woman once but she was being beaten down. "I want to go home!"