My running shoes hit the trail and the sound brings an adrenaline rush that soars through my body encouraging my feet to carry me even faster. The morning had been filled with endless amounts of stretching that seemed irrelevant, but I knew, in the end, would be important for the final test. There were only a few other people behind me and as far as I knew and I was already in first. The finish line being just up ahead made me giddy. I was prepared to see the look on the trainer’s face when the new girl beat everyone. The record was about to be broken and that thought alone accelerated my pace.
I am just about to turn around a small bend in the path when I notice the blur racing out of the treeline and charging right towards me. Once I realize what is about to happen, it’s too late and I am being tackled to the ground by the very large man. We roll away from the path down the slight slope and I struggle to regain the breath that was knocked from my lungs. The bearded man grunts as I try swinging my legs out from underneath him in an attempt to break free, but it’s useless. His massive hand grips my wrists and pins them down above my head forcing a cry from my lips hoping to reach any nearby ears. I watch with wide eyes as he reaches behind him and pulls out a zip tie and binds my hands together tightly.
“Shut up stupid girl. No one can hear you, and even if they did, no one would bother coming to your rescue anyways,” he snaps at me with a wicked grin appearing across his face.
My body aches from being thrown to the ground and I wince slightly as he yanks me up onto my feet by my hair and drags me closer to the edge of the forest. I look back over my shoulder at the trail and my stomach drops to see that no one is there to come for me.The man’s fingers grasp my wrist tightly and I can already feel the bruises forming from his harsh hold. He quickly tugs me behind me and I trip over my feet propelling me into him. I earn a low grumble that rips from his chest and I lower my gaze. His head swings to the side giving me a piercing look and jerks my body in front of him and I can only crumble to the ground with a yelp. I land with my cheek in the dirt and struggle to get back up onto my feet with my arms in such an awkward position.
His words come out harshly in a sneer. “Get up you little priss before I make you.” I press my lips together to fight the words threatening to spill out that I know will only make him angrier. I turn onto my side and sit up, but he doesn’t give me a chance to get on my feet. Within seconds his hands are reaching down, his fingers wrapping around my limbs as he lifts me and tosses my body over his shoulder as if I’m weightless. My chest rams into his firm back and I suck in a deep breath at the throbbing in my ribs.
I can feel his fury radiating off of him, so I close my eyes, looking forward to blocking out what is happening to me. A constant stream of thoughts rings around my head and I urge them to disappear for just a few moments so I can regain my bearings. I need to figure out how I am going to get out of this horrible situation before it gets worse.
He carries me like this and we reach the line of dense trees, swallowed by the green camouflage of the leaves drooping from the branches. Soon I lose all sense of direction and curse myself. There is no way I’ll make it out of these woods without knowing where I am.
After walking for about half an hour we stop and my eyes gaze up just as he bends over quickly and I slip to the ground and land in a heap at his feet. I lay there motionless as he walks away without a second glance in my direction. In an instant, I know from the landing that my ankle is injured. I can only bite my tongue as a sharp sting shoots up from my foot and continues further. Waiting to see if the guy comes back increases my anxiety, but he never reappears, and I allow myself to relax, even if it is just for a short second.
Eventually, I straighten out my legs and lay my back against the ground to stare up at the hidden sky through the trees. There is no movement, no animals, not even a breeze. The silence hovers over the forest leaving an eerie feeling in the pit of my stomach and I shut my eyes to hide my mind from it out. My thoughts drift off and take me to my room where I lay against the bed, my head on the plush pillows, my body wrapped up in the warm comforters. For a second I can pretend that I am actually there, in my own house, but the smell of the rotting leaves and mud under me takes away the effects.
The sudden snap of a tree branch to my left has my eyes open wide and I’m alert and sitting up in a single breath. I compel my eyes to fixate on the stillness to find the source of the sound, but the man emerges from behind a tree and startles me. He looks at me with squinted eyes and a look on his face that sends a shiver down my spine.
“Let’s go,” he mumbles as he turns back around expecting me to stand up and follow behind him.“We have somewhere we need to be.”
I stare at the back of his head, waiting for him to realize that I haven’t gotten up from my spot on the floor of the forest. He stops moving abruptly and whips back around with a look of complete rage etched into his features, a look that makes my blood go cold. He rushes back over and towers above me with a clenched jaw.
“I said move it. I don’t like to repeat myself you brat,” he shouts as his fists ball next to his sides and he crouches down in front of my face, his breath fanning across my cheek.
My nose picks up on the remains of cigarette smoke that makes my stomach queasy. His eyes burn with red hot irritation and I hold my breath waiting for him to make contact with my skin to entice my movements, but nothing happens, instead, he stands swiftly and walks away. My eyes try following him closely to figure out what he’s thinking by his movements or what he is planning next. I watch as he disappears and my lungs release a heavy breath that I had been holding while in his presence.
I look down behind me at my hands and notice that the plastic is cutting into my skin and leaving a red wound with blisters forming around it. I try to shift my hands to relieve some of the pressure, but it only makes it worse. I get upset with myself for not watching all of those dumb videos explaining how to break free of them, but my anger quickly shrinks into panic as heavy boots stomp towards me. His face has morphed into one that hints of his violence and I prepare myself for what is coming.
His beady eyes are dilated and his knuckles are white from squeezing his fists so tightly. “You wanted to be difficult, so this is what you get in return sweetheart,” he growls out as his arm extends out and the palm of his hand runs across my cheek. A burning fire spreads over my face, bringing tears into my eyes. The bag in his finger’s clutch is forced over my head, blocking out the world around me. He tightens it so the string closes around my neck and makes it difficult to breathe. I shout in protest as his nails claw into my arm and he pulls me until I am on my feet. My ankle threatens my leg to give out under me and I limp along with him as he digs his fingers deeper into my flesh to make me follow after him.
I try to calm my nerves and take deeper breaths, but I can only inhale in small gulps that leave my lungs unsatisfied and expanding for more air. My fear increases with the strain of the tight sack over my head and the string tightens even more. I desperately try to move it up my neck to relieve my airway, but somehow my attempt makes it worse. The man continues to tow me behind him and my knees buckle making me collapse towards the ground, but his strong grip stops me. I fight his hold around my arm, but his hands clasp around my elbows and he hauls my body face down through the leaves.
Branches and twigs stab my limbs in every direction surely leaving scratches that welt instantly. The throbbing in my foot intensifies with each bump and I plead with him to stop in short gasps. He ignores me and keeps dragging me over the dead plants and sticks layered on the ground.
Soon my arms are dropped and my head hits the ground, knocking my thoughts around as a dull headache rises at the base of my neck. I don’t move or think, I just lay there as if I am already dead, my body limp and still. I slow my breathing completely and find that I can taste the metallic flavor of blood in my mouth, but I don’t seem bothered. I just wait for the man to do whatever it is that he wants with me. I can tell even through the thick bag over my head that the bright daylight has faded into a soft glow that barely breaks through the trees. A slight fall chill is floating up from the ground as night time approaches which means the man doesn’t have a lot of time left.
I can feel him near, and my heart clenches in anticipation. “Think you can do something on your own or do I have to help you again?”
I nod my head hastily and roll over and I sit up onto my knees but lose my balance as I sway a little. The man’s exasperated sigh reaches my ears as he places his hand against my shoulder to steady me. I bite my cheek hard and stand slowly, inhaling sharply at the hot pain searing it’s way up my leg. He grasps my forearm and guides me to the side so he can push me into what I can only assume is a vehicle of some kind. The door slams shut behind me and I flinch at the sound. My only defense is to crawl away on my hand and knees until I run headfirst into the other side of the car. I feel the hum of the engine flowing up through the metal as we surge forwards and the motion sends me falling. I crash into another wall and groan quietly in discomfort at the new tenderness now on my shoulder.
Once we get on a steady pace, I sit back up and decide to explore the car blindly. I carefully scoot around the floor and try not to alert the kidnapper of my actions. After only a few minutes of inching around, I realize that it’s empty and the door can only be opened from the outside. My heart falls at the realization that I am stuck in here. I lay back and try again to pull off the pouch and sigh frustrated that I have no plan. My ears focus and I can hear random music and the lyrics drown out everything around me.
After a while, it takes me a second to notice that the car has stopped moving and the music is long gone. The thud of a slamming door shut surprises me and I sit up and scurry to the nearest corner in one swift movement. I hang my head to hide my attentiveness just as the back doors are pulled open and chilled air lingers over my skin raising goosebumps along my arms.
I hear some shuffling and then his voice pricks my ears.“C’mon. Get over here so I don’t have to drag you out by your legs.”
I stay paralyzed where I am and squish my eyes closed fearing that he really will climb in and drag me out by my feet. I know it will be awful, but I keep repeating that no one will allow him to take me, no one will just stand there and watch. Someone will see and help, and saying that line over and over again is the only thing holding me in my place. I try holding my arms still as my hands shake in my lap at my nervousness and I recoil when I hear a loud hand slam inside the van as the man lurches toward me in the corner. The sound tears a soft whimper from my throat and I cringe, preparing for another blow, but nothing comes.
“Could you please come closer to the doors so I can help you out,” a different voice asks me in a gentle tone.
Everything stops in that second and my eyelids fly open in confusion and the bag over my head is all I see. It’s not the same voice of my kidnapper and that sends my heart slamming against my rib cage. I might have been able to fight off the first one, but two is impossible, let alone if they are both the same build. I feel a tear slip from my eye as the reality hits my body and the adrenaline from everything wears off and I am left as the broken shell of the girl I was. I need to run.
I nod my head in the direction of the voice and slowly lean forwards on my hands and knees and move towards the doors inch by inch. I stop crawling and wait for further instructions, but the new guy just puts his hands on my shoulders and I instantly shrug them off.
“No,” I declare boldly and I feel his touch slink away. My injuries are becoming louder in the back of my head, but I fight every second of burning agony as I push my legs out and swing them until the heel of my shoe hits the edge of something. I push myself forwards and land on the ground which only makes my ankle worse, but I hide my pain so the men don’t notice. I can feel the body warmth of one guy to my left, and the other one off to the side so I make the best choice and stick with it. I bolt to the right and urge my legs to work faster as I take off.
A shout of frustration comes from behind me, but I push forwards and just like earlier I am tackled to the ground, but this time much harder and I shriek out in pain as my face hits hard concrete and immediate tears stain my cheeks. I try twisting out from the hold, but the hands around my wrists are like a vice and only squeeze tighter. The man on top of me uses a different tactic than the first one and I know it’s the guy with a gentle voice. He rolls me over and places his knee on right over the center of my sternum and I scream louder as a tight pinching feeling creeps up my chest.
“You just had to run, didn’t you? Arthur said you were a difficult one, but I didn’t think you had it in you rookie,” he chastises with a smirk in his voice. “It’s always the small ones that fight the most.”
I feel the cold metal against my arm as he slices through the zip tie around my hands with a knife and I relax a little. They’re letting me go, after all that fight? I go slack and slump against the ground to show that I won’t resist it hoping that he is setting me free, but my hope is extinguished when a pair of handcuffs click round my wrists and his arms slip underneath mine and help me up on my feet. I stand there on one leg waiting for my body to be tossed around, but the string around my neck loosens in his fingers and the sack is pulled off my hair and for the first time I get a good look around my surroundings and my jaw hangs open in shock.
“Well, hello there newbie. Hope your stay doesn’t go as bad as your welcoming,” he mumbles and walks away leaving me standing there speechless in the middle of a ring of people.