Models wanted

Everything hurt as life returned to her veins. In mustering the strength to open her eyes, she allowed herself a moment to drift back to the green pastures of home; sunning herself amongst the wild flowers whilst birdsong was carried to her on a gentle summer breeze.

Too sore to dream, her pulsating temple quickly tuned back to the incessant thump, thump, thump of the bass line downstairs. It was as if home never existed.

She traced her focus over each limb, carefully assessing what she could, couldn’t and shouldn’t move. A daily routine.

Nothing broken this time. Maybe a rib or two. Another cracked tooth: a tell tale metallic taste overpowering all of her other senses.

The usual throbbing down below.

Wincing, she turned on to her side and opened her eyes.

“Elana? Are you there” she rasped, her dry words scratching the darkness.

There was no response.

This was not unusual. Demand usually peaked on Saturday nights and the pair would be worked in tandem, only getting released to rest when the last man went home to his wife and family. Elana was either working or sleeping, just like Paulina.

Paulina couldn’t remember when she had passed out. Was it day or night? She had begged him to give her medicine, to numb her pain. There were maybe five or six, then…?

What she didn’t know couldn’t hurt Paulina anymore, but Elana….

…she was new, only sixteen.

Elana’s story was so familiar to Paulina. She couldn’t quite believe that anyone still fell for the old “Models wanted” sign. She still remembered her own excitement as European Borders melted eastward, opening up opportunities for fame and fortune, the streets of Western Europe famously paved with gold.

Those days saw so many of her wide-eyed contemporaries packing their nap sacks, never to see their families again.

She had no idea how many other girls were stuck in the trade. Being moved from city to city, cell to cell. One thing never changed wherever she went. The disgusting perverts. Men with urges you just wouldn’t believe if you met them under conventional circumstances. The lean, listless Eastern European girls for hire, there to fill the voids respectable Western ones wouldn’t.

Footsteps echoed on the staircase. Paulina lay down and slowed her breathing, pretending that she was still out cold. The door creaked open and a looming shadow appeared.

There was a shove from the shadow. Another human being joined Paulina in her murky cave.

It wasn’t Elana. She would have announced herself by struggling. A pointless waste of energy as far as Paulina was concerned.

She kept still, knowing that a replacement girl was not good news in terms of Elana’s current whereabouts or well being.

The door slammed shut, she was long immune to the sound of the chain being padlocked.

Once the giant’s footsteps were out of earshot, Paulina spoke in slow, clear English.

“Hello… Who is here?”

There was a rustle in the corner.

Paulina took a sharp intake of breath.

A tiny voice spoke,

“My name is Thom and I am eight…



This is my first participation in the Speakeasy Challenge for Yeah Write, a brilliant forum providing weekly prompts to inspire short works of fiction (750 words or fewer).

This week’s prompt is to use the words “Everything hurt” in the opening line of my piece together with taking any inspiration I wish from the attached video prompt: Brother, by Sari Rodrig . Although my piece is not nearly as heartwarming as this short film (or at all!), I felt that Paulina was a character forced into having a machine-like existence. I look forward to discussing this piece with you and welcome comments on my writing style and/or subject matter, whether good, bad or ugly.



34 thoughts on “Models wanted”

  1. Not what I was expecting but impressively well done. It’s too good which made it too real and too sad. Excellent job of conveying the hopelessness of Paulina’s situation.


    1. Thanks for reading Maverick. Writing this took me to a fairly bleak place and you are so right about the hopelessness of this terrible existence, sadly still a reality for many women and children around the world.


  2. Wow. What a powerful story. That opening was compelling and the ending powerful and bleak. I think you really convey the horror and tragedy of human trafficking.


    1. The written prompt kind of forced some bleak storytelling. Although I hope someone wrote a “Everything hurt, until it didn’t, and then I was HAPPY!” kind of story (I did not).


      1. Everything hurt (from laughing) was a close second but as usual I couldn’t suppress a call to the dark side… 😉 Hope you are having a good day – thumbs up on your grid submission this week!


  3. Very dark and disturbing. You paint such a bleak picture through Paulina’s observations of her world. I like that you show us instead of telling us.

    So nice to see you at the speakeasy!


    1. Thanks Suzanne – pleased you picked up on the “show not tell” as that’s a key challenge that I have been working on behind the scenes! Delighted to be here. Time was against me before the summer but I’m hoping to participate at speakeasy on a semi-regular basis at the very least 🙂


    1. Thank you for your reaction to this piece. I was just saying to Joanne ^ I feel bad saying thanks in a way as it’s a hopeless, horrible, bleak story – sadly reality for some poor souls out there. A cheery one next week I hope!! Best wishes 😉


  4. Oof. It’s hard to belief that we live in a world where these things still happen regularly. I’m left feeling achy, and outraged. You’ve effectively given your narrator a hopelessness and a coping mechanism of – not indifference – but a steeliness toward her, Elana, and Thom’s situation.

    One note: Using a lot of ellipses can make a realistic scene lean toward the melodramatic. For me, the ending of your piece felt like the veil was lifted between author and reader. Obviously as writers, we’re trying to manipulate emotions, but the way Thom’s age is revealed and the use of ellipses made the narration seem to wallow to much in the tragedy of the situation. Do you see what I mean? Maybe change the verb ‘spoke’ to another that suggests his pain and exhaustion and take out the ellipses?


  5. PS. the bass line thump, the dry words scratching, the listless girls were powerful in adding a texture to this. And your use of sentence fragments added to how you conveyed her state of mind.


    1. Hello Nate! Thank you for the brilliant concrit – I can see EXACTLY what you mean now you point it out. Im going to have a little play and see if I can iron the ending out a bit for the reader to pick up the emotion themselves. This type of comment/support/critique is what makes YW so amazing & makes me all the more gutted that I didn’t have time to hang out in the Bronze Lounge more over the summer! See you next week 😉


  6. As with your story last week, I was impressed by how you’re able to build an emotional picture of a character through the intensity of their observations. You seem to have a real painter’s eye for detail.


  7. I was there with Paulina – from the first line. So well portrayed it was sickening. Thought it was the beginning of a novel – wondered while reading if I could bear to follow such a story – and how it would end. See now that it was an exercise – not sure if I’m sorry or relieved!


  8. This reminds me of an excellent Sky Arts drama we’ve nearly finished watching, called Matroishka. Ten Eastern European girls end up in Belgium, trapped by a ruthless human trafficking gang, and they all deal with it in different ways. Well worth a watch, if you’ve got Sky Catch Up.


  9. That is a wonderful and equally horrifying tale but you told it so well. When I worked at our local airport I did a course on human smuggling so that I could try to identify victims. Slavery did not disappear after the Civil War.


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