Ignis Aeternus by Namreal Drawde

I am dragged along by a strange new force. Desire and reason are pulling in different directions. I see the right way and approve it, but follow the wrong.”

Ovid, ‘Medea and Jason’ Book VII, Metamorphoses

Something was wrong. 

He jerked back in his seat. The screaming stopped abruptly, like when someone collapses at a dinner party, and was followed by an awkward pause. He looked at the woman beside him in the backseat and then at his hands hovering above her head, which, a moment ago, had been crushing her throat and hammering her face.

The woman regained consciousness and stared wide-eyed, coughing, as she tried to sit up. Blinking, she watched her attacker, and rubbed her throat and bloody nose.

He yelped and his lips quivered. His eyes screwed shut and he let out a guttural wail, throwing his head back then bending over to cry on his knees.

The man’s trousers were around his ankles and his penis was erect—she could see the veins beneath its pale skin. She tried to open the door, she had to get out, but it was locked.

The man continued to cry, his chest heaving and shaking as he tried to suck in more air. He groaned and started to whimper. “Please, stop. Please don’t hurt me.” The woman ignored him and examined herself. Her clothes were torn and her bare legs were spattered with blood. The man looked at her again, his eyes red and blinking, breathing hard. He whispered, “What’s happening?”

“Get out,” she replied, then screaming, “GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!” She began hitting and shoving him against the door. He lurched back, trying to protect himself. The woman reached across him, pulling the door handle, and shoving him out. He fell to the muddy ground as she moved away from the car, panicking and looking into the woods. She paced back and forth, then turned back to the man who was sobbing. He looked up and pleaded. She stared at him, her mouth agape, her face a picture of horror. “Please help me, please,” he choked.


Three days after the incident, notes for an initial police report were written by Detective Inspector Hyland which detailed the events that had occurred on the night in question:

Lucas Barrow, 43, a senior manager at Winsgate-Gray, a luxury car dealership, visited a police station in the town of Mauditt near Chelmsford in the early hours of Sunday morning. Mr Barrow appeared inebriated and hysterical and after several hours Mr Barrow was able to describe to officers an assault and abduction at a pub carpark in the town. Mr Barrow appeared incoherent and had struggled to remember what happened, or even his own name.

The constables visited Mr Barrow’s flat in Chelmsford where they met with the alleged victim of the assault, a Ms Rachel Sims. Ms Sims, 29, a paralegal working for a corporate finance firm, met the officers at the premises and agreed to let them inside to inspect the property. Ms Sims appeared taciturn and evasive, claiming she had no knowledge of the alleged assault, and denied that she had ever met Mr Barrow. When questioned as to why she was at the property, Ms Sims declined to answer and appeared uncertain as to how she arrived there or where she was the previous evening.


Lucas lay face down on the mattress in Rachel’s bedroom. The cuts and bruises on his face hurt and he was exhausted after a sleepless night and repeated questioning from the police and Rachel’s friends and family. If this was a dream, he wished he would wake up, but each time he fell asleep someone he didn’t know would call, or there’d be a knock at the door.

They kept calling him “Rachel” and wanted to know what had happened to him, which he couldn’t answer because he actually didn’t know who Rachel Sims was. She was just a woman he’d spent a few days following after seeing her at the pub a couple of weeks ago. That was the way he always worked. He’d see a woman somewhere, follow her, make a mental note of where she liked to go, and then after a few weeks, snatch her and take her somewhere quiet. Afterwards, he’d drive her someplace and let her go. But last night, something went wrong. He’d woken up in the car wearing her clothes and there was a guy with his dick out who looked exactly like him. This was fucked. He’d tried to convince the police that he didn’t know anything, but they didn’t believe him, as he couldn’t explain the cuts on his face, or where he was last night.

The police took him first to an elderly couple’s home where the girl’s fucking family were. They asked him more questions while everyone was crying and trying to hug him. Who the fuck were they? He wanted to be alone, so they took him away, and now he was inside her fucking house. Perhaps he had a concussion, or she had some disease? Every time he looked in a mirror, he kept seeing her fucking face staring back at him.

Lucas needed to pee, but it hurt to move. He rolled off the bed and headed to the bathroom. He stripped, taking off his skirt and removing his torn knickers. He looked for his penis, which was missing. He was afraid to touch his new vagina. It was unnatural to him. He didn’t want to sit on the toilet, so he stepped into the shower instead.

His body was not his; he had breasts and hips, which didn’t feel right. His skin was too soft. His whole frame felt light and frail. The skin had a brownish tan, and the painted toenails looked attractive, as did the toned calves and thighs. He pushed a finger into his vagina, but it hurt, probably from where he’d grabbed it last night. He sniffed his finger and then licked it, but it tasted like piss. He turned the shower on, and a warm spray soaked him as he urinated, washing it away with the bloodstains. After a few minutes, he stepped out and stared at himself in the mirror. Rachel stared back at him.

He took his breasts in his hands and squeezed the nipples until they hardened, but then stopped after a minute, thinking about his penis and his inability to masturbate the way he normally would. He looked at Rachel’s face, his new face. He was pretty, despite the dark bruises and finger marks on his neck. His upper lip was swollen with a gash along the soft flesh. His right eye had a red ring around it where his knuckles had crushed against Rachel’s cheekbone and eyebrow.

Lucas felt a twinge of something he hadn’t felt before, as it seemed a shame that her looks had been spoiled. He’d hurt her because she would never give him what he wanted freely. He didn’t know if he wanted love or sex, but it was the only way he could prove to himself that he could take one without the other. He felt strangely pitiful for the first time in his life, and these feelings were unfamiliar because they didn’t belong to him.

A knock at the door broke the silence. He tried to ignore it, but after a minute, he realised the person wasn’t going away. It could be the police again, and it was important to play along, just in case they suspected anything. He put on some jeans and a jumper he found in a laundry basket. He walked downstairs and opened the front door. A young blonde woman stood staring at him, looking cross and impatient.

“Ohmygod, Ray, where have you been? Are you okay?” she stammered, shocked by what she saw. Lucas didn’t say anything, caught off guard by the woman’s good looks. She looked perfectly blonde and tanned. Then she stepped forward and hugged him. Before he could speak, she pushed him backwards towards the kitchen.

“Your face, Ray. I can’t look at it. You’ve got to tell me what happened. Do you want a coffee or tea, or something stronger? Are you hungry? I can make you some lunch. Is there anything I can get you? Anything you need? I can’t believe what that bastard did. Your parents called me this morning and said you’d been attacked but you weren’t answering the phone. I screamed when they told me. How are you feeling now?”

“Uhh—better.” And then after pausing, “Who are you?”

Who am I? Jesus, what did he do to you? Sit down, let me get you a drink.” Lucas sat down at the kitchen table as she opened the fridge and removed an open bottle of white wine. She picked two glasses off a shelf and waved them at Lucas.

“Pino?” she asked, pursing her lips.

“No, thanks,” he mumbled, staring at the holiday snaps stuck to the wall beside him. Pictures of Rachel in cutoff jeans, clinging to other slim tanned young women in cutoffs, smiling, some with their tongues hanging out, howling; in a jungle; on a waterfall; Ayers Rock; bikinis on a beach; waving glow sticks at a Full Moon Party; looking bored drinking prosecco, wearing backless dresses. More photos with stubbly young men wearing sunglasses, their mouths open, giving the pitchfork sign, or pursing their lips like the blonde did when she offered him the wine. He felt sick.

“Any rum? Or vodka? Cider?” he grunted.

“Umm…I don’t know, I don’t live here,” she said, frowning. “You drink rum and vodka?”

“Just make me a coffee,” he said.

“Coffee? Okay, yeah. No problem. Coffee.” She put the wine back in the fridge and switched the kettle on, then started opening cupboards looking for mugs, which took her longer than expected and seemed to embarrass her.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

The blonde stared at him, her mouth open, wondering if this was a joke. “I’m Saffie,” she replied, impatiently. “Saffie Moyle. Your best friend. You’ve known me since college. We go on holiday together. We went to Dubai. We went to Lisa’s wedding. I introduced you to Rufus. You went out with Leon. Don’t you remember? What happened, Ray?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Lucas slid off the stool and walked to the living room where he sat on the sofa and stared at Rachel’s reflection in the TV’s blank screen. Saffie followed and sat down next to him. She reached across and held his hand.

“Are you alright? Did he hurt you?” she asked softly.

“Don’t fucking touch me,” he replied, pulling his hand away and scowling. “I don’t know you.”

“Ray, I’m sorry. You must’ve been terrified. I wish I could help you. I’m so worried about you.” Saffie’s voice cracked and her eyes brimmed with tears.

Lucas noticed that she’d taken her shoes off and was sitting cross-legged, her feet poking out from either side of her knees. He reached across and placed a hand on Saffie’s foot, gently squeezing it. Saffie stared back at him, confused. “R-Ray … what are you doing?” she asked.

“Shh…it’s okay,” he said in a low voice.

“Ray, I don’t know—” She pulled her foot away and backed up on the sofa. “You’re being strange, Ray.”


“Ray—” Saffie said in a whiny voice.

“Shut the fuck up,” he said, slowly.

“Ray—” she said again, but louder.

Lucas lunged toward Saffie, punching her in the mouth and causing her to fall sideways onto the floor. She gasped and held her mouth while he stayed on the sofa. Rachel stared back at him, reflected in the TV screen. Saffie rubbed her face.

“Why?” she asked, almost to herself.

“Fucking get out, bitch,” he said. Biting her lower lip to hold back the tears, Saffie stood up, and then left, shutting the front door quietly behind her. Lucas wished he had his penis so he could fuck her the way he wanted to. He felt that odd sadness again. He was alone, and in the wrong place.


Rachel lay on the plastic mattress, her face to the wall, eyes closed, focusing on her breathing. This was a meditation technique she’d learned to help her deal with stress. In the past she’d struggled with confined spaces, such as lifts and small rooms, but had to overcome this when she’d moved to London for her first job. The crammed Tube carriages, lifts packed with employees, and bodies stuck to each other, like salmon leaping upstream. No oxygen, no available exits, just bodies crushing you against the wall. Her face hot, her heart pumping, a sudden impulse to reach up towards a window that wasn’t there. HELP ME. I CAN’T BREATHE. I DON’T WANT TO DIE. PLEASE HELP ME! she’d think, frozen in a panic, but then the doors would open, and everyone would calmly walk out like nothing was wrong.

Now she was wearing a prison uniform: standard issue blue jeans, jumper, and shirt, and sleeping in a cell for a single person, the walls of which were painted a sickly yellow with brown stains. There was nothing in the room except for the metal toilet and basin, a roll of toilet paper, and a small window the size of a shoe box where the light spilled in, high up on the back wall. There were two small vents on the ceiling and floor, presumably to allow air in, or perhaps to wash away blood and faeces in the event of a difficult occupant.

Strangely, she felt safe and secure inside this locked box. The guards outside were protecting her safety, just as they were protecting the general public. The sleep and solitude allowed her to calm down and put things in order. Maybe she’d lost her mind, or perhaps this was a dream, but if so, when would she wake up? Was she in a coma? This isolation and silence were also the true torment of prison, she thought. She missed her friends and family and wondered if she would ever see them again.

There was a clicking sound as the metal shutter on the door slid open. A pair of eyes appeared, and a voice called in a hard tone. “Barrow. Inspector Hyland here to see you,” the guard barked. As the keys knocked against the door, she wondered what the point of the little window was, and why they didn’t just open the door since she obviously wasn’t going to be too busy to see anyone.

The door opened and Inspector Hyland stepped inside while the guard—Mr Happyface, as she called him—waited in the doorway since there wasn’t enough room for all of them. She sat obediently on the bed, staring sheepishly up at the two men, feeling small and helpless.

“How are you, Mr Barrow?” the policeman asked, politely.

“Ah, I’m fine, thank you, sir,” Rachel said, glancing at Happyface, who stood with his eyes trained on her.

“Good to hear.” He spoke quickly, looking around at the walls as if couldn’t stand the sight of her. “Well…”—he cleared his throat—”the witness has asked to have a meeting with you in exchange for her statement. We have strongly advised against it, but we are, under supervision, willing to accommodate this. You’re free to decline if you don’t wish to see Ms Sims, but if you did agree, it would be your right to have legal representation there with you. Is this making any sense?”

“Ms Sims?” she asked. “I—that would—I don’t know, why would? Who is she?”

Hyland rolled his eyes and made a clucking sound. “If you need more time to think about it, I can give you until this afternoon.”

“I want to see her,” Rachel said firmly. “I don’t need legal representation. I want to see her.”

“Fine, then,” Hyland said, deflated. “We’ll speak to Ms Sims and see what we can organise.” The policeman turned and left Happyface to lock the door behind him.

She looked at herself in the broken mirror above the sink. Lucas stared back at her and looked unhappy, like a headmaster catching her cheating on an exam. He was handsome and silver haired. As a younger man, she could imagine her mother poking her and calling him “dishy” to make her cringe. He had bright blue eyes staring out from his striking, chiselled features, which reminded her of a young Robert Redford or Michael Caine. He was well-groomed, his hair a bit long and swept back, his nails were short and immaculate. Who was this beautiful man, and how was he capable of such violence?

She looked at her huge hands and arms. She expected them to feel heavy, but her muscles, like the rest of her body, made her feel light and energetic. She felt like a gorilla, her arms were hammers capable of breaking bones and pulverising meat. She felt vulnerable whenever she left her cell, a world of violence, surrounded by men, but she was the alpha male among them, and they were fearful of her.

Adjusting to Lucas’s body had its own challenges. One morning she’d awoken to find her penis erect, pointing like a tentpole under the bedsheet. She’d touched it and wondered how to deactivate it. She didn’t remember having any erotic dreams in the night. She squeezed it just to see what would happen, but it disturbed her. Lucas was a rapist and a deviant; somehow this penis symbolised his perversity. She wished she didn’t have to look at it. Worse still, she found her ability to walk normally had been impaired. There was always a lump stuck between her legs, a flap of meat that felt unnatural. She was always looking down to make sure it hadn’t slipped out and was worried it might get caught in a door hinge.


The next day, she waited in a room without windows, handcuffed on a chair with an empty desk in front of her. Happyface stood off to one side, waiting and checking his watch. There was a knock at the door and Hyland opened it like a gentleman as a young woman with bruises and cuts on her face stepped inside. She heard Happyface inhale as he stepped forward to offer the lady a chair.

She was shocked when the woman entered the room, staring at herself, the dark bruises and swollen eye sockets, recognising herself. She felt violated, and wanted to shout “You’re not me, you stole my body! That’s not me, she’s not me!” When this Rachel entered the room, her walk had a stride, her shoulders slightly hunched, her eyes down, seeming to examine the space of the room and the objects inside it. She, the real Rachel, knew this was Lucas, checking his surroundings, looking for possible exits, walking like someone ready to move fast and with force.

Lucas took a seat opposite the prisoner without being told he was allowed to, nor did he notice the men’s hospitality towards him. Hyland took a seat next to him, cleared his throat, but appeared uncertain as to how to begin, pausing, presumably wondering whether he should make formal introductions. “I’ll start by saying that this meeting is being recorded as part of our investigation. Thank you both for attending,” he said, with a slight smile of reassurance to the young lady, before turning to the prisoner. “You’ve both consulted your legal advisers and are happy to continue without them here. I thought, perhaps, if we all agreed, I could start by asking a few questions about the incident on Friday 5th August, and we could clarify a timeline. How does that sound? Ms Sims, how are you feeling?”

Rachel opened her mouth to speak but realised he was addressing the young woman, not herself. Hyland looked at her this time. “So, we’re all happy to conduct this interview, do you agree to this, Mr Barrow?”

“I think we know what happened on the night of the incident. You already have the evidence and my statement that I abducted and assaulted Ms Sims. What I’d like to know is exactly why Ms Sims wants to hold this meeting.” she asked.

“Okay,” Hyland said, flustered. “Yes, that’s what we’re going to find out, but first I’d like to clarify and establish the facts, and then if Ms Sims feels comfortable and ready to comment, we can—”

“He’s lying,” Lucas said in Rachel’s voice. “He didn’t attack me or try to rape me. I met him at the pub, and he offered me a lift home. I was a bit drunk, I kissed him and said I wanted to have sex. He refused, so I started hitting him. He hit me back. I hit my head when I fell. It was dark and wet. I was upset, I tripped over, he tried to help me, and I hit him again, so he stopped. I scratched my face on some glass and stones. I drove off in his car back to the flat to wait for him. That’s what happened. I guess I had a concussion from the fall, or I was just really drunk, and I blacked out, and that’s why I couldn’t remember anything.’

Hyland stared at Lucas incredulously, as did the others. “He’s fucking lying!” Rachel shouted, indignant, in Lucas’s tough, baritone. “I attacked her. I fucking waited outside the pub, then I came up behind her and hit her in the head. While she was unconscious, I picked her up and drove her to the woods. She, or he, is lying!” Happyface stepped towards her, feeling the conversation was getting out of hand. Hyland raised his hand to tell the strongman to remain calm, and then he spoke loudly but without shouting.

“Mr Barrow, calm down, please, or we’ll have to end this meeting and escort you back to your cell,” he said. He turned to Ms Sims and tried to speak calmly. “Ms Sims, it’s just it doesn’t quite fit the evidence we have, not just from Mr Barrow, but from witnesses who were there on the night in question.”

The woman sighed, shuffled in her seat, and leaned forward impatiently. “I don’t really care. I was intoxicated. I met him in the carpark. We had a fight, I acted stupidly and then I left. I guess he was angry with me about the way I’d behaved, so he made up this story, probably to get back at me for acting like a bitch.”

“This is unbelievable. Inspector Hyland, you don’t honestly believe this? This woman, who I’ve never met before, suddenly decided to go home with me. I’d never met her before. I don’t know why she’s lying. I’m guessing because he wants to drop the charges against himself.”

“I think Mr Barrow is more shaken by what happened than he thinks,” Lucas said, wincing. “I’m still recovering after what happened. I’m sure Mr Barrow just wants to go home.” He looked at himself, the prisoner across the table. “I think if we just started over and picked up where we left off…”

Rachel stared at herself saying these words. She was appalled by his arrogance. Not only was he denying what happened, he seemed completely unfazed by it. “You’re joking. You’re a rapist. You should be locked up,” she said.

Hyland stood up and gestured to Happyface that the meeting was finished. “I don’t think there’s anything more to say. Ms Sims, let me take you back to reception.” Lucas glared at Rachel. “I’ll see you at the trial,” he said, as Hyland took him by the elbow and led him outside. Happyface unlocked her restraints, and she left the room without saying anything more.


The trial drew the media and made newspaper front page headlines: SEX PREDATOR CONFESSES, VICTIM DENIES IT. Details from Lucas’s past were exposed: a female colleague who’d resigned from her job at the dealership after allegations of harassment, but dropped due to lack of evidence. More witnesses would follow.

Pleading guilty to all charges, Rachel spoke openly and derogatively about Lucas’s past, of which she actually knew very little. For the jury, she painted herself in the worst possible light whereas the legal team hired by Lucas’s employer tried to salvage her defence. They used Lucas’s military service as leverage, presenting him as a loyal and heroic ex-army officer who’d suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. They’d pointed to incidents where Lucas fought without regard for his own safety to protect his men, and for which he’d been awarded for his bravery. The prosecution struggled to make a consistent case for themselves as Lucas tried to undermine the allegations by denying key pieces of evidence and contradicting the witness statements, much to the dismay of both the jury and opposing legal teams.

When the verdict was read out, the jury found the accused guilty of assault and battery, but acquitted him of the rape and kidnapping charges. The judge passed a sentence of one year in prison to be served under observation by the mental health unit inside HMP Chelmsford. This had been a disappointment for Rachel’s parents, something of a victory for Lucas, and a relief for Rachel who was apprehensive about actually going to prison, despite her efforts to incriminate Lucas.


Prison life wasn’t nearly as bad as she’d expected. Most of the inmates were sad, gaunt men serving light sentences and who wanted to be left alone in the hope of reducing these with good behaviour. There were small gangs, pockets of young men who’d grouped together for safety, and who’d sometimes intimidate the other inmates with loud talk, but generally it was sanguine and monotonous. Her size and notoriety as a soldier and violent offender, plus the label of being “mentally unstable,” appeared to deter unwanted attention, and in some way, she’d never felt so in control. But then she’d also never felt so alone.

In her free time, she engaged with the prison’s volunteer schemes and education courses which helped inmates improve their literacy and maths skills as illiteracy was common among the inmates, which shocked her. With her financial and legal training, she offered guidance for court hearings, and practical advice on employment and training opportunities. The men she helped were surprised by her generosity, and before long, she’d made friends with people she never would’ve spoken to before, and they gave her their respect and trust.

A few months later, Rachel was released from prison. She felt both aged and strengthened by the months of isolation. She’d gone to Lucas’s flat in Chelmsford, a property and life that wasn’t hers, and found his domain to be filled with objects that projected success and status. This was Lucas’s shrine to himself. She didn’t know where else to go since she couldn’t return to her home, or her parents. She’d thought about finding Lucas and wondered if it was possible to reverse this “change,” although how to do it, and even if she should, played on her mind.


Lucas had sold her house and took a severance package from her employer following a year of sick leave. With this money, he used his old contacts at Wingsgate–Gray to start investing in luxury cars again. At first nobody took him seriously, they’d talked down to him, didn’t call him back, and were often rude if he was outspoken but it hadn’t taken long to make a small profit, although it turned out to be a short-lived honeymoon since old friends and contacts didn’t give him the breaks he’d had before.  It was humiliating, and it was because he was a woman.

He didn’t know how to behave around other people and had struggled for months with his femininity; how to dress, how to speak, how to walk, how to apply make-up. He hated it. He didn’t shave his legs and only wore jeans and baggy jumpers, but had eventually hired two older women, a personal assistant and a beautician, to help fix his clothes and wardrobe, explaining to them that he’d been in a coma and needed advice on how to present himself as a professional. They’d admired him for starting his own business and wanted to be his friend, but were stony-faced when he asked them to stop the banter and dirty jokes. He had to grit his teeth after they laughed when he said he didn’t want to look pretty just normal.

In retaliation, Lucas did what he’d always done, which was to victimise anyone weaker than himself. The easiest targets were the young staff who worked for him. They were skinny, giggling, fresh young girls looking for their first job after graduation. As their boss and someone they admired, he felt he could say anything and they’d just smile at him passively, internalising this humiliation, especially whenever he talked about sex.

A saleswoman called Claire caught his attention, a dippy blonde who laughed too loudly and talked endlessly about her nights out. At an after party, he’d made sure his staff got drunk, ordering more prosecco and shots of sambuca, goading them. Claire, along with everyone else, was slurring and could barely stand. He’d ordered them a taxi but said he’d drive Claire home without asking her. No one cared, they didn’t suspect anything—why would they?

In the driver’s seat, he told her how glad he was that she came tonight. Claire, eyes drooping, head against the door, looking as if about to vomit, had mumbled her thanks. He leaned across and squeezed her knee and Claire opened her eyes, smiling absently. He asked her if she wanted to spend the night at his place and she slurred “sure, whatever,” before closing her eyes.

He drove his Porsche at speed along the dual carriageway. He reached across to caress her knee again and she moaned. He moved his hands up the inside of her thigh and she flinched, shoving his hand away. “Don’t keep touching me,” she slurred. He reached for her breasts, but Claire pushed his hand away. “Get off me!” she shouted. As he tried to grab her neck, she swung her arms wildly, slapping his face, and then pulling the door handle. With one hand on the steering wheel, he tried to stop her, but she fought back, kicking and scratching. He didn’t see the concrete barrier separating the road from the turn-off as the car careened into it. The windscreen exploded, glass and debris flying as the front end of the car collapsed. Claire and Lucas remained in their seats, unconscious and bleeding, until the ambulance arrived.

After a two-month hospital stay to allow Lucas to recover, separate criminal charges of driving under the influence, abduction, and assault were brought against him. Colleagues and ex-employees gave statements in court that Rachel Sims, founder and owner of Parnassus, had routinely harassed and intimidated staff at the dealership. Lucas pled innocent, but the jury found her guilty on all counts, and the judge passed minimum sentence of four years.

Prison was less kind to Lucas than it had been to Rachel. Lucas had not expected the female inmates to be as violent and erratic as they were. There were gangs and bulldykes, as he’d expected, but unlike in men’s prison, the hierarchy wasn’t motivated by sex and money. They didn’t want to rape you or take what you had, they wanted to own you. Addicts, prostitutes, and babykillers. Loud, angry women who’d take pleasure in burning you with a cigarette, just for the reaction.

Lucas thought he had an advantage with his money and military experience, and he’d tried to bribe the bulldykes in exchange for their protection, but this just made him a target. After several months he was knocked unconscious in the shower room and sent to the infirmary where he remained in a coma. Rachel’s parents, estranged from their daughter, came to see him to say goodbye, and then Lucas died a short time after.


Rachel had read about Lucas’s trial and had written to him in prison, suggesting they meet and discuss a reconciliation, but his written response was simply: Rachel, if you want your body back, we have to fuck. That’s the only way to end this curse.

She let some time pass before responding to him. I don’t see why that would work. I think you’ve hurt a lot of people, and hope that prison might change you. I hope we can find another way.

His response troubled her, for she knew that any contrition was meaningless. I’m sorry for what I’ve done, he wrote. I know I am an evil man and I deserve to die. I’d do anything you want if you can get me out of here. Please help me, I can’t take much more.’ Then sometime later she heard he’d died.

After her release from prison, she felt inspired by her experience giving her support to inmates. She used her professional contacts in the legal industry and set about contacting organisations which supported ex-soldiers, whilst attending women’s rights workshops and talks. She volunteered, provided legal and financial advice to campaigners, promoted diversity, prison reform, domestic abuse and women’s rights, organised fundraisers, and this was all the more intriguing since she’d served time in prison.

She wrote articles and held TEDtalks, and soon she was invited as a guest on Good Morning Britain and Question Time, and so, perhaps inevitably, Lucas Barrow became a celebrity; the sex predator turned speaker and human rights campaigner. Then an editor for a book publisher asked if she’d be interested in collaborating on a biography. Rachel was hesitant at first, since she barely knew the real Lucas, but she had agreed on the condition that a cut of the profits be donated to women’s rights charities.

The book was published a few weeks after Lucas’s death. It was titled Lucas Barrow: The Man Inside the Monster, which the editor had said was not a great title but they could find another. Rachel said it was fine. The introduction contained two quotes that were equally ironic, one by Simone De Beauvoir: “The body is not a thing, it is a situation: it is our grasp on the world and our sketch of our project.” The second was from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: “In nature there’s no blemish but the mind. None can be called deformed but the unkind.”

Rachel sent a request to the publisher asking for her parents’ permission if the book could be dedicated to them and their late daughter, and with a quote which partly paraphrased Lucas’s last words. “I can never be forgiven for what I’ve done, but if you show me how to change, I can learn to do anything.” Her parents had agreed and said nothing more.

One day Rachel would tell people the truth and she didn’t care if anyone believed her.

Picture of Namreal Drawde

Namreal Drawde

Namreal Drawarde is an aspiring writer and filmmaker living in a small village in Southwest England called the Witterings, West Sussex, with their partner, and graduating from the University of Southampton with a degree in Film and Literature.

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