They came in the middle of the night. Dani woke up momentarily to find herself surrounded, only to immediately be knocked unconscious once more as a rag was put over her mouth and nose.
In the moments before she fell back asleep, she did hear a brief clip of conversation.
“Do you have the boy too?”
“No. We got the father, but only moments later a bear showed up outside the boy’s room.”
“We better hurry then, before this one’s shows too.”
Then the rag went over her mouth and everything went black.
Later she came to again in the back of a car. She was bound tightly at the wrists and about the ankles. A hood was drawn up over her head, but she could feel the motion of the car as it followed the twists, turns, and bumps of the road,.
She wanted to question what was going on, but she found a rag had been stuffed into her mouth which made it impossible to do anything other than make furious noises. However, her hearing was unimpeded.
“Everything is ready at the staging area.” Said a woman’s voice.
“How far out?” A man asked.
“Twenty minutes, give or take. Not much traffic this early in the morning.” The woman said again.
“Might hit some the closer we get to the city.” A different man added.
“We’ll actually be getting off in two exits and taking back roads the rest of the way.” The woman said.
“Shrewsbury, right?” Said a voice that sounded like the first man.
There was something like an affirmative sound and then conversation died down again, leaving only the sounds of the road. Occasionally she could hear another car as they passed it. There was the low hum of the car’s engine, and the sound of the wheels on the road.
It was almost soothing and Dani felt like she might have been able to slip off to sleep again, if it weren’t for the very uncomfortable situation surrounding all of it. Being tied up, tossed into the seat like a sack,
Her one hope was that they hadn’t grabbed Andy. Hopefully they hadn’t grabbed their dad either, but if the bits of conversation she thought she remembered from earlier were accurate, they had.
Some twenty minutes later, or so Dani guessed, for it was difficult to track time when bound and blinded, they pulled up outside a building. It was likely a house, but with the hood up, she really couldn’t tell. One of the men carried her up a walkway, then up a stoop, and into the building.
Hobbled as she was, she couldn’t really walk. However, that was likely part of the plan. She felt helpless, vulnerable, a feeling that Dani despised with every fiber of her being, but it had done its job in cowing her. They laid her down in a bed and then began to tie her up to it.
At the very least, they removed the hood, and Dani was able to look at the faces of her kidnappers. Or, at least something of their faces. Each of them wore animal masks. The woman was a tiger, one of the men was a raven, and the other wore a lizard mask.
“Comfortable?” Lizard-man asked.
Dani wasn’t, but she didn’t think he actually cared whether or not she was. He removed her gag, but she remained quiet.
“I can understand your apprehension. Taking you in such circumstances was… regrettable, but I assure you that no harm will come to you.” The tiger woman said, walking around the bed. “You have special powers… hidden talents… and we need to use those in order to regain access to the world that was lost.”
As far as Dani was concerned, the woman was a loon, but she also seemed to have control of the situation here.
“What world? You’re in the world, dummy.” Dani wasn’t sure what to say to the woman, but she was done being quiet. “You can’t make taking me a good thing!”
One of the men chuckled, until the tiger woman stared at her and he choked it off.
“You’re right. It wasn’t a good thing. But sometimes bad things- sacrifices, have to be made for the greater good.” The woman said, then shrugged. “How you feel about it matters very little. Raven, get me the potion.”
“Potion? What is this, Ha-” Dani began, but the Lizard man put the rag back against her mouth.
It took a minute for the Raven man to leave and then return, but when he did, he carried an ordinary glass filled with what looked to be viscous water. The fact that it swirled in the glass so thickly told Dani that it was not, in fact, water.
Lizard man pinched Dani’s nose and removed the rag. She shut her lips to prevent the glass that was tilting toward them but with her nostrils firmly clamped shut, she wasn’t able to hold her breath that long and opened up for a gasp of air. In that gasp, the glass was pressed against her lips again, and so forcefully that it pinched. Her nostrils were held shut tight and the liquid went down like cold ice water, though the texture and mouthfeel of it were all wrong.
Unlike actual ice water, the cold feeling went past her throat all the way to her stomach where the feeling began to spread, albeit slowly, to the rest of her body. It was an incredibly unpleasant sensation that set her to shivering. Once the entire draught was downed, more-or-less, there was plenty of it on her chin and shoulders since it was force-fed to her, the glass was pulled away and the three kidnappers stood there watching her silently.
“What was that? Buttfaces, what did you just give me!?” Dani demanded.
“You need to develop your spiritual talents. Unfortunately, we don’t have the time we should have. The potion just gives you a little… jump start for a little bit. Enough for us to get you through the first leg of this journey.” The tiger woman explained.
“Now all you need to do is fall asleep and we’ll help with the rest.”
“Why don’t you just knock me out again?” Dani challenged them, glaring at the woman wearing the tiger mask.
“This needs to be a natural sleep,” she explained, “you need to be able to dream natural dreams.”
Dani fought her sleepiness for as long as possible. Eventually the two men left, leaving only the tiger woman to watch over her. However, the woman said nothing else and did not otherwise engage with Dani. She simply stared, her green eyes gazing out from the mask. Dani noted they were the wrong eyes, as they did not appear like feline eyes.
But whether the wrongness of the woman’s eyes, or the greater wrongness of having been kidnapped, none of it really mattered. What mattered was that she try her best to stay awake, to thwart her captors. However, the fatigue was pressed on her heavier and heavier until it was practically smothering her.
Sleep came in spite of all of her resistance and Dani felt herself slipping into dream. At first her dream found her alone in the dark with the creature she had often seen in her dreams of late, the strange wolf-looking creature her brother had drawn for her. The creature was staring at her, then it lowered its head and nudged her with its snout.
<< We do not have long >> a soft, feminine voice, spoke in Dani’s head. << they are going to use you, and right now, we aren’t strong enough together for me to stop them. Just remember that you have me, and I promise, we’ll get you free. >>
Then the wolf creature faded away. The world around Dani seemed to lurch, even in the perpetual darkness. She felt herself spinning and falling, around and around until she hit something soft.
Dani opened her eyes and looked around to find herself in a bed, tied up. However, it wasn’t the same room she’d been in when she closed. For the one thing, the walls were pink. It was daytime outside and the bed she had been in had been replaced by a girly four-poster monstrosity of white lace and pink bows.
Worse still was what Dani found herself wearing: a lacy pink top with poofy short sleeves and a brown poodle skirt. Straight out of 50s fashion day at school. She wouldn’t have been caught dead in it, if she could help it. As it was, bound and gagged, she didn’t have much control over where she was, let alone what she was wearing.
It took an hour or so before someone showed up in her room. The woman wasn’t masked and she wore a blue shirtwaist dress with a white floral pattern. The woman’s hair was teased into a bouffant that fell down to the chin.
“Oh, how lovely. We’ve been waiting for you to take, dear.” The woman said in a chipper voice so sweet that it made Dani’s teeth hurt. “Gosh, I almost forgot.”
The woman stepped over to Dani and slowly removed the gag in her mouth. “I’m sure that’s so much better.”
“Where am I?” It was a question, but Dani’s tone made it clear it was a demand. “Where did you bring me!?”
“Oh, just a little old place known as Independence Falls. It’s rather out of the way, but that’s good for what we need from you.” She said with a beaming smile.
The woman bent over and fixed Dani’s hair with her perfectly manicured fingernails. “So pretty,” the woman continued, “when you first showed up you almost looked like a boy. I just knew we had to do something about that.”
The comment stung, and Dani felt herself drawn away from the moment briefly as she dwelled on what the woman had said. Dani was extremely self-conscious of being called a boy. Were it not for her hair, many people could have mistaken her for her brother Andy. Supposedly there would be changes as they entered puberty, and perhaps then people would stop making that mistake. Yet, here was a stranger who was confirming her worst fears, that she somehow looked like a boy.
Dani looked inward for a moment and took a calming breath. This woman was a caricature of some 50s mindset of women and how they should look. To such a woman, Dani showing up in a hoodie and jeans, or her flannel cotton pajama top and pants, would make her seem like a boy to the woman regardless of the fact that she was a girl.
“Did I offend you, sweetie? I’m so sorry, I promise you look like just the prettiest young girl.” The woman said, furrowing her brow as she waited for a response from Dani.
“Why did you bring me here?” Dani managed to get out, holding back a biting retort on where the woman could shove her kind of pretty.
“I already answered that, dearie. You’re here to do some training. We need to teach you how to harness your powers so that you can heal the bridge between this world, and the world our ancestors came from.”
“Going to be hard to do training while tied up,” Dani pointed out.
“That’s true. But you need to behave and earn the privilege. We’ll get you there, I promise.”
It turned out that there was also a man living there as well, the woman’s husband. Her name was Dotty and his was George. Aside from the kidnapping, they seemed like a nice couple. They were a bit corny, and outdated, but they were also unfailingly polite.
Dani also discovered that she wasn’t simply transported to a couple that embraced the 50s, but that she was actually in the year of 1952. The alternative was that a town full of people had all conspired to pretend that the year was 1952.
George and Dotty had, at one point, dressed her up a gingham jumper and dragged her out for a slow Sunday drive through Independence Falls so that she could see that running home wasn’t an option.
It was the eeriest drive she had ever been on. First there was the car they were in. Dani wasn’t really into cars, so she wasn’t sure what it was, but it was an electric blue in color with a wing design that would have fit in perfectly with the retro classic car designs she occasionally saw from her own time period.
Every woman and girl she saw was in some form of a dress or a skirt-top combo. A tingling went down Dani’s spine and goosebumps crawled along her skin. The windows were rolled down and Dani could swear that the air hear felt cleaner, but it was difficult to hone in on that fact because everything else felt so weird.
They had lunch with her at the local diner, Kenny’s Diner, and briefly Dani entertained the notion of telling others that she was kidnapped and that she needed to go home. But if she really was in the past, what would happen when they brought her home in the first place? Maybe there was no home to go to.
So Dani played her part and was the quiet little daughter of the couple that she otherwise appeared to be. She even ordered a kid-sized Sundae when the owner of the diner came around to check on them. Kenny was a charming-looking man in his 30s or 40s. He actually talked with Dani, interested in how she was feeling and what she was looking forward to. This was sort of surprising, no one else seemed to care much for what kids wanted during this time.
After all that, it was back home. However, this time, when they put her in her room, they merely bound her wrists. She was free to wander the room, no longer being tied to the bed, and free to speak. However, there really wasn’t anywhere to go and there was no one to talk to.
So Dani explored her room. She discovered that there were plenty of dresses and skirts, but no pants. No hoodies. None of the things that she was accustomed to wearing. Bound as she was, trying to change would have been difficult, but she would have been a bit more comfortable if she could have been herself. She sat down at the vanity and realized there was makeup there. She wasn’t able to put it on, but she also didn’t really want to.
It was the perfect room for a young girl… a young girl that wasn’t her. It definitely felt at home in the era she was in, however. Eventually Dani wandered back to her bed.
It was almost a week later when Andy came to her. She was awake, and yet also somehow interacting with him through a dream. A daydream, perhaps, though it seemed he’d come to her through his sleeping dreams.
When he unbound her, she did indeed raise hell. She waited for Dotty to go out shopping for groceries. George was at work. Dani crept her way into the kitchen and grabbed a trash bag. She then loaded all of her clothes, makeup, and anything else into the trash bags and brought them out to the curb. She considered running away again, not for the first time, but again came to the realization that she wasn’t really going to be able to go anywhere. More likely than not, she’d end up somewhere worse. Like a convent or something.
Dani watched with mischievous glee as the trash truck pulled up and took everything away. Dotty came back home shortly after. But it wasn’t until later that evening that she and George discovered that Dani had somehow gotten free and what she had done with her time.
George had spanked her until her bottom was red and raw. It was so utterly humiliating. Her real dad, and her real mom, while she was still alive, had never so much as laid a hand on her in anger. But in those moments, George seemed to unleash any pent up feelings he had about her. Dani felt small and vulnerable. When she went to bed again that night, she was bound to it once more, wearing an oversized, pink nightgown.
She cried herself to sleep, wondering where Andy was and hoping he was okay.