Featured on Lit and Bruised
A dense fog rolled in that morning. The kind that would cloud an observers judgement.
A young boy and his father strolled down Royal Street in the French quarter, which was otherwise void of life.
"This is what they call a white out, boy." said the man.
The boy could barely see the outline of his father in the milky air. It felt thick around them, impairing their senses.
A sudden shrill rang out in the distance. It sounded like a dying animal calling out for help, or letting its voice escape to heaven.
"What was that?" the boy asked, frightened.
"Just keep walking." his father replied. "And hurry up."
One of the largest creole mansions in the French quarter crept up over his right shoulder. It was barely visible, but he could feel it.
Its ornate, wrought iron balconies and elegant baroque facade spoke of wealth, far above the boy and his father. It stood three stories high with a rectangular floor plan.
The man caught a shadow of it in his peripheral, noticing the ghostly ferns cast a grey shadow in the thick fog.
Inside, a frail, haggard female slave took up the plates from the madam's breakfast. Her hands trembled as she took up fine china, covered in bits of beignets and assorted fruits.
The white fog outside let just enough light through the floor to ceiling windows to create an ominous, eerie feeling in the room. Fire burning in the fireplace cracked and snapped - a puppeteer for dancing shadows on the walls and across the madams antebellum dress.
"I bet you want these scraps, don't you?" Said the owner to her slave.
"We would't want you to choke to death, child."
The two made brief eye contact and the negro quickly looked away. Fear crawled onto the slave's spine, just beneath the skin. She closed her eyes and a tear escaped onto her cheek.
She was terrified that she would be sent back to the basement. She was the only one that ever left there, that she knew of. Perhaps it was her cooking or the Doctors sexual appetite.
The time she spent there took over her thoughts.
On the day she had been taken to the basement, she had dropped an ornate porcelain dish from Limoges. It had been a gift to the madam. She was told she would have to be punished.
The Doctor had taken her by the arm and led her to a door amongst many doors along a long hallway. "Come with me Margaret." He had said.
He unlocked the door and opened it to exactly nine cold, concrete steps that descended down into darkness. Margaret could not count them, but she could feel them there. Beneath her bare feet, she could feel the results of hard labor. She was all too familiar with it.
At the bottom of the steps, stood a metal door. It was bolted tightly into its concrete frame. A metal lock held the door's mouth closed - kept it speaking of what was going on inside. There, at the bottom of the stairs, the Doctor stopped to unlock the door.
Margaret was suddenly struck with a deep feeling of fear. Her body began to tremble and she became light in the head. Sweat, continued seeping from the pores of her dark skin despite a chill in the air.
As the doctor opened the door, inch by inch, she felt death creep toward her.
The grisly scene in front of her sank its teeth and claws into her eyes.
The first thing her eyes locked on was a large wooden table. Scattered about, on top of the table, were chains and human remains.
Margaret's eyes then focused on the wall behind the table. There she saw badly mutilated bodies chained to the concrete.
One slave was missing his lower jaw. A large, gaping wound stretched from his upper row of teeth to the sagging flesh of his neck. Almost looked like he was wearing a handkerchief made of human skin. His head drooped down as if his jaw had been there to hold it upright.
The room held a still, putrid smell in its belly. Flies flew about the room, feeding on the liquids that leaked from decomposing body parts.
Several pillar candles burned throughout the room. Shadows danced across the wall, as their tongues flickered in and out of the slave's wounds and orifices.
The concrete walls were stained with the rooms horrific history. Blood splashed against it, darkening and then fading over time.
In the far right corner, a metal chair covered in metal shackles, sat waiting to fulfill its function.
A slave on the opposite side of the room, was chained vertically against the wall with his arms outstretched, unconscious or dead. His legs and cock had been amputated and now leaked of blood and rot from an advanced infection. Patches of skin on his chest and face had been removed more recently and sewn to his legs as if they were being used as bandages.
Then, Margaret's eyes fixed on a small table on the left side of the room. A tray rested on top of the table and on the tray, rested a set of metal tools. They were neatly arranged in rows and appeared to be clean and sterile - a stark contrast to the rest of the scene.
Margaret's primitive mind reacted to the threat in front of her. Unfortunately, her first instinct was to freeze which wasn't going to help her.
Fight or flight wouldn't have either.
Margaret stood in the doorway frozen, as if the cold air had taken every muscle in her body prisoner.
"Don't worry." The Doctor said in a thick, French accent. "I know this looks bad, but it is for the greater good."
"Now sit down Margaret, and let's talk about what you've done and what you are doing here."
He closed and locked the door from the inside, put the keys in his pocket and ushered her over to the metal chair, as tears streamed down her face. She sat in the chair. The Doctor did not apply any restraints.
Another slave, chained to a nearby wall, seemed to be fully intact but had been badly beaten. She appeared to be an older woman, though it was hard to tell what had been more cruel to her: time or circumstances. She lie on the floor lifeless, chained to the wall like an animal. She was naked except for a large iron spiked collar and the many open wounds she wore.
The Doctor looked at Margaret. "Madam Delphine has informed me that you broke one of her most prized plates. That is unfortunate. For that, she feels that you must be punished. I don't believe in punishing our slaves, so she and I have struck a deal."
A small ray of hope flickered in her mind, like the flame from the candle beside her. She focused on the light it cast upon The Doctor's face, rather than the darkness. Perhaps he would be her savior. Perhaps this was just a lesson to show her what could happen to her if she faltered again. She'd have another chance.
"I don't believe in punishment for our slaves, so we compromise. Instead of punishing you, I will use you to conduct my work. It's a simple way to avoid harsh punishments and help the world achieve breakthroughs in dentistry and other medical sciences. You know that I am a well known and respected Dentist, Margaret. Much of my success is because I don't believe in punishment and because I do believe in the importance of careful research. Do you understand?"
Margaret's heart sank. It was as if something had been given to her and then immediately snatched away. It was as if that something were her life.
"Please, Doctor." she pleaded in a faint, defeated whisper.
"It's ok Margaret. Let me remind you that this is for the greater good."
Margaret's primitive mind advanced beyond her common instinct. She quickly bounded to the door. With all her strength, she pulled on the door latch. It was sealed tightly shut. She screamed and thrashed about violently. She continued until it became all too obvious that there was no use. She would need to find another way.
She turned around and looked back into the chamber. The Doctor stood by the small table and calmly arranged the shiny, sharp metal tools.
He turned and looked at her, his beady eyes peering at her through his small circular glasses. He now wore a leather apron that was covered in dark stains. He clasped his hands, one on top of the other. "Please comply with the experiment, Margaret." He said in a stern but relaxed tone.
The old female slave on the floor moaned loudly and babbled something indecipherable.
Another slave, who appeared to be bolted to the wall next to her was covered in vomit. Patches of his skin had been flayed, but were still attached on one end. Exposed, rectangular bands of flesh, with a flap of skin hanging from each one. Small weights had been sewn to each flap as if to discourage the man from moving. Gravity was still taking its toll on the man. It was clear that parts of his flesh, those closest to the hanging skin, had been exposed more recently. The flies took a particular interest in this mans wounds.
The Doctor approached Margaret and led her to the large table. She fought him as best she could, exhausting her last survival instinct. He chained her tightly to the table and began to turn a crank which tipped her slightly upright.
"Now let's begin."
He took a small, cylinder-shaped, sharply pointed object from the tray and took up a hammer in the other hand. He positioned the tip of the pick against the jagged edge of one of Margaret's molars and began to pound on the other end with the hammer.
Pain signals rushed to her brain. A system that was built to help her survive now working against her. Nature can be the cruelest of all.
She could immediately taste blood and bone in her mouth. She could feel bits of tooth enamel as she moved her tongue across the inside of her mouth.
This kind of pain overrides everything. Even the fear. For a few moments, her entire world became nerve endings.
The Doctor dumped a small bucket of water onto her face and into her mouth. She gasped for air. He then took a small, sharpe hook and began surgically removing portions of flesh.
Tooth by tooth, molar by molar, incisor by incisor, canine by canine, he carved out his path.
In times like this, the mind can become its own prison or it can become a path to freedom. Margaret was a slave. She knew how to use her mind to free herself.
She visited an open field and ran her hands through the tall grass. She remembered a time when she was a young child and she had lived on a plantation. The golden sunsets and the smells of fresh air and cut grass. She went back there. She tried to go all the way back to infancy, before she had teeth and tits to take away. She traveled as far as her mind would take her.
And then darkness came.
The Doctor looked at her and buttoned his pants. "Wake up now Margaret. There is a lot of blood in your mouth, Margaret." He said.
"We would't want you to choke to death, child."
"Did you hear me girl? We would't want you to choke to death." Madam Delphine continued, as she stared at Margaret.
"You'd have too much trouble with this wonderfully baked beignet without those pretty teeth. They were the only white part about you and now they are gone. Feed what's left to the dogs."
Margaret was at the end of the chain that kept her in the kitchen and dining area. She extended her body to reach the last few dishes. "Yesh ma'am." she replied.
She glanced out the window and noticed a few shadowy figures moving through the thick fog. She wondered if they had heard the screams of Samuel, a dear old friend of hers who had recently been taken to the basement.
That evening Margaret took a bottle of whiskey from the kitchen pantry. She opened the bottle and pulled a sip of the spirit into her mouth. She let it stand in her mouth for a few seconds. It's numbing effect felt good on her mutilated gums. She poured the rest of the bottle on the logs in the stove and lit it on fire. There was only one way to end all of this.
To burn the mother fucker to the ground.