Copyright 1999 to <pablo@thetreehouse.net> Please respect this copyright. Don't distribute or archive this story in any way except for personal use without explicit permission. No, it's not in the public domain. Ask first, okay? Thanks.

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[Image of Mr Impossible] The Man in the Woods
by Pablo

I hung back, letting the others shuffle back to the dorm in a dazed, almost awestruck silence. Matron was prowling, ready to pronounce bedtime in the infirmary, but there was something I needed to ask.

I sat quickly beside the bed, whispered:

'Can I see? Will you show me?'

Ginny's first reaction, even in her prone position, was to glance to the door. Her instincts seemed to agree with mine that this was something secret and forbidden. But she nodded, and placed her face in the cool of the sick-bed pillow.

A single crisp linen sheet lay across her back, bottom and legs. Enough for propriety, but no significant weight. I pulled it back. Below her waist, only surgical dressings. Below the dressings - Ginny gasped - the cold and calculated infliction of pain.

Ginny's brow felt feverish as I kissed her goodbye and left her to a long week of recovery, like Beth before her. I found my bed amid pulsing vertigo, but couldn't sleep.

I thought about hurting him, making him scream.

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Like the first time, there was no attempt to contact the police. Ginny's parents were persuaded that publicity would be bad for the whole school, and would serve no purpose. The fencing which separated the school grounds from the woods was strengthened. Straying anywhere near the woods was made punishable by immediate expulsion.

And it worked, godfuckingdamnit. Within days, the Man in the Woods became nothing more than a kind of night-time ghost-story, told by girls to excite and scare each other. Something to think about while they touched themselves. While Ginny lay healing.

I needed help, and I couldn't wait for Ginny to recover. I couldn't do this alone. Careful contact with the prefects got me nowhere: they were either too scared, or too fucking sensible. Until.

Until Rhiannon lifted her eyes from the pulp novel she was devouring, took a moment to decide if I was serious, and then smiled like unexpected sunrise.

'What shall we do with him?' she asked, twinkling. 'Cut his balls off?'

'Maybe,' I replied, not smiling at all.

She paused. 'We could both get into serious trouble.' Each word weighted.

I nodded. 'No man does this to us and gets away with it.'

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Dark. The blow knocked me winded to the floor. The torch skittered away. Through the fog in my head I heard Rhiannon's screams and struggling fade into the distance. Then nothing. Just the low murmur of night under the trees.

I reached for the torch. Found nothing. Calm, calm, keep breathing. Crouching, and then carefully up to my feet.

Wham! At once, a hand across my mouth, another holding my arms, binding them quickly behind my back. A voice, soft, in my ear:

'Oh yes, little one. It's you I want. Not the other one.'

'Let me go, you sick fuck.'

'Sick?' An amused tone. 'What do you imagine, little one? I'm thirty, perhaps forty? Sexually frustrated, obviously. Preying on innocent little girls, overpowering them with my masculine strength?'

And then the world twisted out of shape. The voice changed.

'You know, I didn't say a single word to either Elizabeth or Virginia, they certainly didn't see my face, yet they both assumed.'

I twisted around, but couldn't see. But I knew now. Ohgod.

'I'm disappointed in you. You're just like the others. So you must be punished.'

As Rhiannon tied me across a fallen log, methodically stripped me from the waist down, then began to cut and strip switches, I could think only of the cool, brilliant-white linen in the school infirmary. White. White. Red against white.

I've never felt so alive.

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