Agne awoke in a white room. It was empty save for the bed that she was lying on, a large Arab inscription on the wall and a small table in the corner of the room on which was a bookstand with an open book. The light streamed in through skylights in the domed ceiling. In a normal situation it would have been quite beautiful, but even before she opened her eyes, Agne knew that this was no normal situation.
And after she opened them, she realised that it was far worse.
Lying there, drowsy and half asleep, she felt warm and somehow covered. But this was not the covering of a blanket but instead something that seemed to cling to her all over and press in from all sides. Half-aware, she tossed and turned and then swung her hand to knock away whatever it was that was on her and heating her up so much.
Except that her hand would not swing. Something was stopping it, like it was tied down. That was when she opened her eyes and realised that things were even worse than she’d suspected. As wakefulness streamed back into her life, Agne realised that something was covering those eyes. She could see, yes, but through a series of tiny holes places over them. Peripheral vision was gone and it was hard to focus. Again she tried to shift it off with her hand and again some unseen restraint stopped her. So, she attempted to sit up, but all she managed to do was wiggle a little in place. Similar restraints seemed to be fastened around her ankles and her neck. That was when she screamed.
And nothing came out. Well, almost nothing. A faint groan. Something was filling her mouth. She could feel it now, wrenching her jaw open, pinning her tongue down, going down her throat. What the fuck was happening? She prayed silently to God but no help came. She struggled but it made no difference, save heat her up further. After a minute or so, she ceased, sweating. Yet the sweat did not seem to be running off her. Instead it clung to her skin, as if trapped there. Trapped by whatever it was that was covering her.
Then she remembered. She remembered those two heavily-veiled women and their rubber masks. Hadn’t the girl said that they were not allowed to speak? There was a smell of rubber in her nose! Had they done the same to her? But why? How could they? She was a British citizen, not some slave wife of an Arabian sheikh. And yet…
… yet here she was, restrained and covered in something in an unknown room. She began to panic.
When her breathing had subsided somewhat, Agne tried to assess her body. She used a mindfulness technique that she’d learned during a yoga session, mentally concentrating on each part of her body in turn, from the mouth to the face, around the head, the neck, each arm and so on. At the end she made a mental checklist of her state:
- I am covered in something, most likely rubber. It is tight and it seems to encase my entire body except for some holes at the eyes, holes at my nose, holes at my nipples and a hole at my crotch. All of these can feel a slight cooling breeze. The rest of my body warm and tightly held.
- My mouth is gagged somehow and there seems to be a tube going down my throat. My jaw is painfully stretched open to the maximum.
- My ears are covered and there seems to be some sort of plugs in them. I can still hear, but much more muffled than before.
- I can feel the rubber tightly hugging my head. I cannot feel my hair so where has it gone?
- There is something tight and wide around my throat over the rubber. Maybe it is a collar?
- There are cuffs around my legs and ankles which are attached to something that restraints my movements.
- There is a dull ache in my nipples. Oh my God, something has been done to my nipples. Something is IN them! Have they been pierced?
- I can also feel the dull ache in my nose. My nose has been pierced, three times. There is a ring through my septum and then one more on each side.
- And from those rings something lies across my cheeks, leading to my ears which also have rings in them. Rings that go through the rubber I assume. I feel a swishing sensation along my cheeks each time I move my head
- There is something around my waist that appears to be like a belt. But it is rigid and coming from it there is a piece that passes down, between my buttocks and up over my private parts. It is also rigid and I think its metal because it is cold on the parts not covered my the rubber.
- This is all totally fucked up! I cannot help thinking of those veiled women with their rubber masks. Could it be that their masks were not masks at all, but instead part of full body rubber suits and that I am wearing one now?
- I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.
But though she recited the entire psalm, no help came.
Instead, what did come was a woman. She was veiled in black and did not speak. She came with a bag connected to some sort of tube. She went over to Agne and attached the tube to some sort of fitting over her mouth. Despite the that Agne bucked and railed in defiance, the woman did not acknowledge her. Then she pressed a button and whatever solution was in the bag slowly emptied down through the tube and into Agnes mouth. The terrified girl could feel it passing down her throat and into her stomach. Soon she felt full. After the bag had been emptied, the veiled woman left and she was alone again.
Some time later another woman entered. She was also veiled but, unlike the other visitor, she showed her eyes through a narrow slit in her veils and spoke. The moment that she drew close and opened her mouth, Agne recognised her: she was one of the two girls that she had spoken to at the lecture.
“Salaam aleikum Saaliha, I trust you slept well. We have a lot to talk about as your situation has changed somewhat since we last spoke, but before that, did you understand what I said to you just?”
Agne shook her head. “Very well. We are not cruel people here. Indeed, we firmly believe that the faith that we follow is the religion of love. Love is in everything that we do and it is why you are in the position that you now find yourself in, Saaliha. After all, if you had continued on your old path, then after death – which comes to us all – all you would have had to look forward to are the eternal fires of Jahannam. I hope we have saved you from them, Saaliha, but even so, I do appreciate you must be confused about things and so I shall start with the very basics: I greeted you with the words ‘Salaam aleikum’. All Muslims greet each other in that way for that is what the Prophet taught us to do. One says ‘Salaam aleikum’ and the other replies ‘Walaikum salaam’. Obviously, you are struggling to respond verbally at the moment, but you can still respond in your mind and, when freed from your bonds, perhaps write it down. After all, since you are now a Muslim too, then you must also use that greeting.”
A Muslim! What planet was she on? Agne had dedicated her life to Jesus Christ and nothing would steer her away from her Lord. She shook her head furiously.
“You don’t think you are Muslim, Saaliha? But you are! I have a document here, signed by an imam that proves it. Plus, your name is Saaliha now, a Muslim name, so how can you be anything else? Indeed, your name means ‘pure, pious, and devoted,’ and what could be more suited to a modest, religious muslimah than that?”
Agne continued to shake her head to indicate that she did not acquiesce to what this veiled freak was saying about her.
“Are you thinking about your old name, Saaliha? Forget it; it never existed. As far as everyone here is concerned, you were born Saaliha and you always will be Saaliha. Just as you were born Muslim and always will be a Muslim. That you were diverted from embracing your true self for a few years in the decadent west by the heretical Christian faith is immaterial. Now, since I have greeted you, I should let you know my name. I am Hanifa – my name indicates that I too am a pure Muslim believer, by the way – and I will be guiding you here in Al-Bayt Aleadhara, a name which translates as ‘The House of Virgins’. We were most surprised – and impressed – by the fact that you are still a virgin, Saaliha. After all, the temptations to sin in the decadent west must have been great. But you protected yourself well, which is worthy of great praise and respect. Needless to say, you will now be guaranteed to stay a virgin until your marriage; we will look after you well in that regard. As the name suggests, this house is a place where virgins preparing for marriage come to learn how to be good wives; this house protects them from the evils of the world. Of course, at twenty-seven you are considerably older than most of the girls that we look after here, but then that is perhaps excusable considering your time in the decadent west and the fact that you trained to become a doctor. That really is a noble profession; saving lives and helping the sick, I am sure Allah will forgive some of your other sins because of it. Indeed, it’s a shame that you will not be able to practice any longer, but some things are more important of course, like saving your soul and committing yourself to purdah, isn’t that right, Saaliha?”
Agne – or Saaliha – shook her head vigorously, moaning as loud as she could against the mass of rubber in her mouth. What planet was this girl on? And what the hell had happened to her?
As if reading her thoughts, Hanifa said, “Let me show you what has taken place while you were asleep.” Then she bent down at the foot of the bed and fiddle with the cuffs around Agne’s ankles. Agne wondered about kicking her in the face, but with the rest of her still restrained, she knew that it would be futile and so she waited. Hanifa then moved to her wrists and unfastened them, placing them in front of her charge, before then fiddling with her collar.
“You may sit up now,” she said at last. Agne did so and realised, to her dismay, that although her wrists had been unfastened from the sides of the bed, they were now connected to each other by something. Looking down, through the holes in the rubber covering her face, she saw a short golden chain some thirty centimetres or so in length. She also noticed that whatever was covering her body was white in colour. She brought her hands up before her face and saw that the white encased them. It was, as she had guessed, rubber. Shiny white rubber. What did it mean?
“Stand up,” said Hanifa, offering Agne a black gloved hand. She used it and was glad for she felt weak and disoriented from… from however long it had been since the drugged tea had sent her to sleep. As she moved jingling sounds accompanied her as well as the squeak of rubber.
“Be careful when you walk. Your ankles are now connected.” Agne looked down and, sure enough, around each ankle was a golden cuff and these were now connected by a chain some twenty centimetres or so in length. Holding onto the other woman for support, she walked, or shuffled, into the middle of the room.
“Turn around!” said Hanifa. Agne did so and found herself confronted by a full-length mirror.
But it was what was in that mirror that caused her to groan painfully into her gag.