She was sure that once, long ago, she had been able to move. Or mostly sure, anyway. She could remember walking and running, laughing and loving. Or had that been only a fantasy? She could imagine herself replying to someone who spoke to her, flirting with a man she liked, rejecting one she didn't... but had she really once been able to do all those things?
Certainly she could not now. She remained, as she had been for an unmeasurable time, leaning against a wall in a hallway. Her hands rested on her hips, her right leg bent with her toes just barely touching the plush carpet beneath her feet. She wore lace underwear she didn't remember what color it was, but she could feel its fabric against her skin, especially when people (real people, people who could move) touched her. Her shirt was open wide, just hanging from her shoulders but not covering her body at all. Her hair was straight and blonde she could tell, because some of it was hanging down in front of her face. It had bothered her at first, when that woman had brushed it down there, but there was nothing she could do about it, and she had eventually gotten used to its presence. Now it only bothered her when there was a draft that made it move.
She had not always been here of that she was certain. Once she had stood on a pedestal in a grand ballroom made all of marble. There, many people had admired her, especially when she had first arrived... yes! She had arrived there, once. She wasn't at all sure she knew how, though...
Carolyn smiled dreamily as she wandered into Eric's bedroom. He hadn't invited her there... yet... but somehow she didn't think he'd mind finding her there when he got out of the bathroom. She was tempted to check out the drawers by his bed see if he had rubbers, or girlie magazines but restrained herself. She had some rubbers in her purse in case she needed them. It had taken her far too long to get to this point with Eric, but she was determined that this would be the night.
He might still need a bit more convincing, though. She unbuttoned the top two buttons of her pretty blue cardigan... enough to make it clear she wasn't wearing anything under it except a sexy lace bra. She thought about opening it further... but no, she'd let Eric do that.
The toilet flushed; the water ran. The bathroom door opened. "Carolyn?" came Eric's voice.
"In here, love," she called out. She leaned sexily back against the exercise bike, her hands on her hips...
Suddenly she felt funny all over. Numb, faint, dizzy. She couldn't see clearly. She tried to raise her hand to her head, but it wouldn't move. She felt as if she were about to collapse. Everything grew fuzzy...
And then she was somewhere else, someplace big and dark and empty. That was all she could tell at first. She tried to shake her head to clear it, but her muscles would not respond. She opened her mouth to call out, to scream except her mouth wouldn't open. She was completely paralyzed, completely helpless... she couldn't even breathe! And yet, her head was clearing, and her lungs felt fine. She tried to look around, but she couldn't even move her eyes. She could only see what was directly in front of her.
Gradually, her world grew lighter. She was in a huge marble room, with big picture windows looking out over a green forest. Near the windows were three pedestals, about ten feet apart in a line, and standing or sitting on each pedestal was what she thought at first was a statue... but then, as the sunlight streamed more brightly through the window, the figures took on color, like mannequins... and she realized that they were people, just like her, people somehow held motionless.
She had been confused and angry, at first. Nobody told her anything. Nobody explained why she was here. Nobody apologized for kidnapping her nobody even gloated over her. If somebody was going to kidnap her, she thought, the least they could do is gloat!
As that first day passed, Carolyn occasionally saw people moving about. They were dressed oddly, like... like servants, but not as servants dressed in her world, or any place she'd ever heard of. Sort of like servants from a fairy tale, but maybe a strange futuristic fairy tale. She didn't know.
Most of them ignored her. A few looked up curiously at her, and she tried to get their attention. Maybe if they knew her plight, someone would help her, or at least tell her what was going on, why she was here. She struggled to move, to call out, to... to do anything, anything at all. But no matter how hard she tried, her body simply refused to move. She even tried thinking at them she didn't really believe in telepathy, of course, but sometimes it seemed to work anyway, and there wasn't anything else she could do. But nobody responded to her silent pleas.
Some of the servants were children. One, a little girl, paid more attention to her than the others, staring at her and walking slowly towards her. Carolyn couldn't see her after she got close, for her eyes were looking straight out ahead of her, and the child was too short. But she heard the girl call out to one of the other servant women.
"What's wrong, Laney?"
"This is a new lady!"
"Well, yes, Laney, it is new. But it's not a lady. It's just a display girl."
"It looks just like a lady," the girl said doubtfully. "Except she doesn't move."
"Of course it doesn't move," said the older woman. "It's a display girl. Real people move, and they wear clothes like ours, and they talk."
"Oh. But couldn't she talk if she wanted to?"
"Of course not, Laney. Don't be silly. Display girls and boys don't talk. They just look pretty. You know that."
"I guess," said Laney. "How come this is a new one?"
"Well, sometimes Lord Vestrius decides to change the display. Otherwise it would get boring. Now come on, Laney. I need your help in the dining room."
That evening and many evenings thereafter there was a party in the hall. Men and womem in gaudy fantastical costumes paraded in. They talked, they danced, they drank, they made merry.
But as for Carolyn... she was merely a decoration, or at best a conversation piece. People would come over to admire her, and end up discussing her merits and flaws with each other. She had heard her blue eyes praised, her casual hairstyle questioned, and her shapely legs admired. Some people thought she was too skinny; others thought she wasn't slender enough. One young woman spoke at great length to someone who might have been her boyfriend about the curve of her left pinkie, using a techical vocabulary of which Carolyn scarcely understood a word. Her lips were generally considered excellent, but no two people had the same opinion of her breasts. Their discussions grew even more heated on the third day of her captivity, when a young man undid the remaining buttons of her cardigan and spread it wide to expose her bare midriff and her lace bra. Of course, her own opinion was never sought, not even on her state of dress. Most people seemed to assume she couldn't hear them, even when they talked about her right in front of her face.
The first person to touch her was a white-haired man with wrinkled hands. She was surprised when to suddenly feel the shape of his hand on her hip as he spoke to another man about some Lord Someone-or-other. As his conversation continued, his fingers dropped down her thigh, and as it reached the end of her short skirt, he began to caress the smooth skin of her leg. Then he started moving up again, sliding his hand underneath her skirt as he felt up her thigh! She was mortified. She wanted to slap his hand away, or slap his face, or even just squirm away from his touch but she was completely helpless. In horror, she realized her face still wore the sultry, come-hither expression she'd composed for her erstwhile lover.
And people did indeed come hither. The old man wasn't the most offensive, either. She grew accustomed to feeling rough hands on the soft skin of her thighs and her exposed midriff, for no one ever covered her again. She came to expect her breasts to be handled. She was often kissed usually by men, but sometimes by women. Throughout that first party, her shame grew and grew, so intense that she felt her face would be turning bright purple if it could.
Here in this strange place, she was not a woman, she'd realized. She was simply an object to be admired. She'd thought that was wrong. How bitterly she had railed about that, inside the unbreakable walls of her own mind! But all of her hatred, all her anger, all her unvoicable demands, had no effect whatsoever on her surroundings. Day and night, during crowded parties and lonely nights, she had stood upon her pedestal, completely helpless.
As the weeks passed, she gradually stopped feeling humiliated at the attentions of the partygoers. It wasn't that she liked it. It was just that she simply could not feel ashamed all day every day for the endless days and weeks her helplessness continued. She simply ran out of shame.
And once she had grown more resigned to her state, she realized that most of those who saw her looked on her with true appreciation they really did think she was beautiful, and they weren't afraid to say so. Many of the men were quite attractive themselves. It was flattering, really, to realize that a young and handsome man with a uniform and brightly-colored half-cloak had been so affected by her appearance as to walk right up to her and touch her. Certainly it would be nicer if she could move herself, introduce herself, return his affections... and she sometimes found herself getting quite uncomfortably aroused by the intimate touches of a particularly handsome young gentleman on her bare flesh. Some people were occasionally even so forward as to reach under her panties and touch her most private parts sometimes clumsily or even painfully, but sometimes nicely enough to spark her into such excitement as to make her feel giddy for hours all the more so since there was absolutely nothing she could do about it. But as long as she was here and could do nothing anyway, she may as well enjoy what she could.
Over time, some of her questions had been answered not deliberately, for no one knew she was asking them, but by chance, by overhearing those speaking around her. She learned that Lord Vestrius, the master of the ballroom and the palace which contained it, was a powerful nobleman respected by all and feared by many. People said that she belonged to him too by which she assumed that it was he who was responsible for her capture and immobilization. He had never bothered to introduce himself to her, but after several days she had seen a lady call out his name and run over to an ornately-dressed, darkly handsome man who happened to be discussing her eyebrows with a younger man who felt they ought to be thinner and more arched. There were other names she often heard too: Lord Henning, Lady Eliza and Lady Westril, others. Some of them she had identified.
Some time after she'd arrived she had lost track of days somewhere around forty-three she felt something cold on her buttocks, and heard a hubbub around her. Eventually she realized that somebody had inadvertently spilled his drink on her. She heard him apologize profusely to somebody not her and after the party was over two of the servants removed her skirt and wiped off whatever had spilled on her. Carolyn expected them to return and dress her again after they'd cleaned her skirt or found her a new one but no, Lord Vestrius came by later with one of the servants and agreed that it would be fine to leave her in her underwear. He looked closely at her face, though, then scolded the servant for not having her dusted and washed more frequently. The oversight was corrected within the hour, and when the guests arrived for the next party they had even more of Carolyn to discuss.
Eventually she was moved. Nobody told her why. Perhaps Lord Vestrius had acquired a new display, and simply wanted her moved to make room. A pair of servants had simply lifted her like a plank of wood, carried her upstairs, and leaned her against the wall here where she stood today.
Fewer people admired her here. In fact, most of the time all she could see was the blank white wall in front of her she seemed to be in a hallway. People occasionally walked by her, usually in couples, and she gleaned from the bits and pieces she overheard that she was on the way to some of the guest bedrooms. Most of them only glanced at her in passing, if they noticed her at all. She came to cherish those glances, for they reminded her that she existed at all. She now longed for the all-too-rare touch, anything to let her feel she was still real, that she was worth something.
One night or perhaps it was day; here in the hallway there was usually no way for her to tell Lord Vestrius came to her. It was not the first time she'd seen him here he passed by her occasionally, and sometimes he favored her with a glance or a quick touch as he passed, but this time he walked directly to her, slowly but deliberately. He stood before her, a few paces away, looking her up and down admiringly.
"You are a fine girl indeed," he said softly in his deep bass voice. He stepped closer to her, placing his hands on her waist and gazing on her face. After a moment, he reached up to brush the dangling hair out of her face and back into its place. She would have smiled thankfully had she been able.
"I wonder what you're thinking now," he mused aloud, and Carolyn's heart seemed to leap with joy. He knew she was alive! He knew she had a mind, that she could think! No one here had yet admitted that in fact, she'd heard people say outright that she could not think, that she was "just a display girl."
"What would you do if I let you move now?" Lord Vestrius asked not really of her, it seemed, talking more to himself than to her. Carolyn was surprised to realize she didn't know what she would do. It had been so long since she had been able to move... what did one do when one had the choice?
Lord Vestrius hmmphed decisively. He tapped her nose twice with a finger, turned, and walked away. No, wait! Carolyn wanted to call out. Come back!
But he was gone only a short while. He returned carrying a small device, like a small flashlight, but with more controls. He adjusted some of them carefully, then held up the device, pointing it at her chest. When he turned it on, it emitted a cone of bluish light. He held it trained on her for a second, then tipped his wrist up, shining the light into her eyes. She instinctively tried to blink agaist the brightness and was astonished to feel her eyelids move! Not a full blink, just the slightest quiver, but more than she had been able to do for almost as long as she could remember! Then her chest started to grow tight, and it took her a moment to figure out why she had to breathe! And she could! She could move again!
Lord Vestrius turned the beam off, but its effects remained. She opened her mouth and took a deep breath, filling her lungs with air as she had not done in how long had it been? Months? Years? She tried to stretch her arms, though, and discovered she still could not do that. Her arms and legs were still just as rigidly immobile as they had been. Nor could she turn or tilt her head. But she could move her eyes in their sockets, open and close her mouth, smile and and talk?
"Can I" Her voice was hoarse and scratchy, and she had to cough gently to clear her throat. But then when she tried again, she sounded almost normal. "I can move!" she cried. "I didn't think I would ever move again!"
"Well, you might not again," Lord Vestrius informed her. "It depends how I like what you do while you're free now."
She had to preserve this freedom as long as she could! "I'll do whatever you want me to... Lord Vestrius? Is that what I should call you?"
"It doesn't matter. What's your name, girl?"
It actually took her a moment to recall. She hadn't heard or needed her name in so long... but it came back to her. "Carolyn," she said. "Carolyn Pierce."
"Carolyn," Lord Vestrius repeated. "Yes, that suits you," he decided.
"Please... I hope you don't mind my asking, but how long have I been here?"
"How long? I don't know off hand. When did I bring you here?"
"It was..." She had to think back. Dates had been so unnecessary since she'd been here... "2002," she remembered. "July, 2001. The fifteenth, I think?"
"2002, that's 3837 here, I think. So about four and a half years."
"Four and a half..." It was inconceivable, unbelievable. "How long are you going to keep me here?" she demanded.
Lord Vestrius frowned. "Till I have too many, I guess. The stasis effect is permanent. I have a two hundred year old display girl who looks younger than you do."
Carolyn's eyes widened in shock. Two hundred years! She could be here forever! "I'll go insane!"
"I doubt it," Lord Vestrius said, "but it doesn't really matter." He had moved closer to her, and was now lightly touching her waist as he looked into her eyes. She didn't know whether or not she wanted to meet his gaze. "You have lovely lips," he remarked. "Do they kiss as nice as they look?"
"What?" Without giving her a chance to react, he pressed his lips to hers and kissed her roughly. She instinctively tried to flinch from him, but her neck was still paralyzed. Still, he clearly got the idea, as he drew back and pulled out the not-a-flashlight again.
"No, wait!" Carolyn cried. "I'm sorry, I just didn't realize what you were doing. I'll kiss you if that's what you want."
Her captor smiled, and leaned in to her again. This time she was expecting his touch, and she didn't flinch. In fact, his touch was not unpleasant it had only been so unexpected the first time, though his beard tickled her face a little. She returned his kiss, and when she felt his soft tongue steal out from his mouth, she opened her lips and let it in. His right hand circled her waist, reaching beneath her shirt and lifting her away from the wall as he pulled her frozen body against his own. She could feel his muscled chest pressing against the fabric of her bra, setting off tiny sparks of pleasure in her nipples, and his left hand gently and sensually stroked her side.
With a final light kiss on her lips, he lifted his head, and let her lean back against the wall. She smiled dreamily.
"Do you... do you want me to make love to you?" she asked slowly. She wasn't usually that easy, but she had been touched, fondled, and kissed repeatedly for four and a half years, and never been able to so much as move... if offering sex would get him to let her move, she was much more than willing.
Lord Vestrius grunted, and looked her up and down as if thinking it over. "No," he eventually decided. "I've had a 21st century girl before. She wasn't very interesting in bed."
Carolyn's eyes widened in shock. She'd been prepared for him to say yes, or no, or even to tell her she wasn't attractive enough, but to be so casually dismissed "I might not be the same, you know!" she said angrily.
"Oh, relax." Before she could think of anything else to say, she felt her breathing stop again. She opened her mouth to plead with him to stop, to let her stay mobile, but she couldn't make any sound come out and a second later, she saw him bring up the flashlight-like device and aim at at her face, and her expression froze once more. She could not even close her mouth again.
He could, though. He turned a dial on the device and shone it once more on her face, and she felt her features compose themselves once more just as they had been ten minutes ago. And without another word, with no more care than he might have given to an interesting painting he had been admiring, he turned and walked off. Inside the confines of her head, she screamed at him, begging, pleading, demanding that he return and let her move again... but once again, she could not move a muscle. She was completely, totally, utterly helpless.
Time continued to pass, as it always had. People continued to walked by occasionally, and still, most of them only glanced at her in passing, if they noticed her at all. Even Lord Vestrius, when he walked by, paid her no mind beyond the occasional casual caress of her face or body. Servants occasionally dusted her. Not one of them gave any sign of knowing that within her rigid body, a living woman saw them, felt their touches, and wished hopelessly for escape from the prison of her own body.
Her wish was never granted.