Have you ever felt like you’re drowning? Like no matter how hard you try, no matter how many people you ask for help, no matter how loud you scream, you just sink lower and lower? Like no one will ever help you. They see you but turn away. And you eventually lose all hope? And like every time you finally, finally, start getting somewhere, closer to shore, you sink lower than before- as if there's a weight tied around your ankle, pulling you under farther the harder you try? I feel like that every day. Like I’m in an ocean. I sometimes poke my head up, but there’s no one around. I look around, but it’s all just salty water. I choke on the sea salt and spit it out until I can breathe. I take a deep breath and scream some more. My voice is hoarse from screaming and nobody’s listening. And I’m stuck, drowning.
I used to be okay- great even. I had lots of friends, I was the lead soccer player and the main character in the Drama club. I loved writing and would write short stories all the time. That all seems so far away now. My biggest problem then was if I was going to mess up in a little club. My biggest problem now is if I’ll survive or not.
On Saturday, May 2, 2037, I had a very busy day. I had a soccer game in the morning and shortly after a Drama performance. We had a few acts in which I played the main character and tech crew in a few others. That night, my mom had to work a late shift, and my dad was going on a business trip in Florida for a week so I’d have to prepare dinner myself that night. I was riding my skateboard home like I do every day, but this time was different from every other day. I felt someone was watching me. I made my footsteps quieter and took shorter breaths, hoping to be more stealthy. But with the skateboard, there wasn’t much I could do. I tied my long, amber-colored waves back in a messy ponytail. I wasn’t going to spend much time on it. That’s what everyone called my hair; amber waves. My nickname at school is the “flickering flame” because of my long wavy hair and fiery personality. My hair is like a mix of strawberry blonde and the color of fire and my personality is like fire; calm one minute and flaming hot-head the next.
I speed up, not heading for my house because I know no one is there but instead heading straight for my friend, Oliver, or “Ollie,” as I call him’s, house. He skateboards too and can do an ollie. I thought that if I go to his house and get kidnapped, he could call the cops. It’s better than going home. No one would even hear my scream. But I listened to the steps. They got louder, and I saw their shadow getting closer from the corner of my eye. Pressing my foot harder on the ground this time and with more force, I began to speed up faster. I turned the corner and heard them turn too, not even making an effort to look casual now about following me. I saw Ollie standing out to get his mail when he finally noticed me. He looked surprised to see me, but when he saw the person behind me, he realized what I was doing. Ollie ran inside and opened the garage. He pulled out his phone and clicked the phone icon, being prepared.
I skated towards the garage when suddenly a hand wrapped around my mouth and pulled me off, the arm pressing my head tightly against their chest, my feet dangling helplessly above the ground. A windowless, white van pulled up next to me with the door sliding open. I felt adrenaline rush through me and I bit the person’s hand as hard as I could, the metallic taste making me dizzy.
They let go, causing me to fall to the ground. I got up and sprinted towards the open garage, swaying only slightly, black spots coating my vision. An arm grabbed me around the waist, pulling me off the ground. I struggled, my feet barely off the ground, trying to kick free. I kicked and screamed, struggling to get out of their grasp as I felt a cloth wrapped around my mouth, an intoxicating smell filling my nose and blocking out all of my other senses. I held my breath, not wanting to pass out, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to long. My vision swarmed in and out of focus, the sounds of my screaming sounding muffled. I tried to spit it away so I could yell, but the hand was holding it tight against my face. I blindly punched them since they were holding me in front of them so that I couldn’t see them. I hit them somewhere in the face, I think, and they dropped me, a loud pained noise escaping them. I landed hard on the ground and on my side, sliding on the pavement, causing my entire right side to get scraped as if they had thrown me.
Groaning, I forced myself to my feet, coughing and wheezing, my senses starting to fade. Everything around me looked blurry and my body was weak. I was trying to run for Ollie who was currently fighting another person but was grabbed by the waist again. They held me up off the ground and tight, though not as tight since they were still holding their face for where I had punched with their other hand. I kicked them, twisting and struggling, trying to escape from their tight grasp. I wasn’t going down without a fight.
I blindly punched and kicked, wiggling around and trying to break free of their arms. Ollie dialed what I assumed to be 9-1-1 and started to talk. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, it was all fuzzy. My sight went blurry and everything around me was clouded. Another figure appeared, talking to the one holding me. He threw me in the van and closed the door, my limp body falling onto the floor of the van. All of the pain hit me at once, my body feeling weak and drained as my adrenaline rush ended. Then everything went dark, and their fuzzy words started to fade into the distance, my only escape closing in front of me.
I must have gotten knocked out because I just woke up and my head throbbed. It’s awfully dark though and it feels like I slept for days. How long has it been? How far are we? Was my mom was home yet? My dad won’t be coming home for another week. Maybe the cops were on their way right now. Maybe Ollie called the police and my mom and there are people everywhere, searching for me. Or maybe it’s not even morning yet. I bet my mom hasn’t noticed. After long days like this, she would come home around two in the morning and go to bed. What if she’s not even home yet? We could be out of the country by now for all I know. Why is it so dark? Shouldn’t my eyes have adjusted to the darkness, even a little bit by now?
My mind raced with different thoughts altogether as I started to panic. I felt something brush up against my cheek and realized why it was still dark; there was something on my head. My wrists are tied with duct tape behind me, my feet with rope out in front of me. They must have run out of rope, I guessed. I used to practice breaking tape around my wrists all the time with Ollie so I might be able to escape from this. And I’m glad I practiced, too.
I put my hands under me like I was sitting on them, rolling onto my back and proceeding to go a bit farther, my hands under my legs now. I slowly brought my knees up and slid my hands underneath and around my feet, hoping they didn’t see me. It was hard to tell since I couldn’t see anything but I prayed to any god that might be out there that they didn’t. I just had to move quietly and slowly, I repeated to myself in my mind.
I pulled my hands in the bag to where I could see them now. I put my elbows together and lifted my hands above my head a bit, then pulled down fast and hard, separating my elbows with force. My arms went down and apart, ripping the tape. Doing this felt good and it reminded me of Ollie. I shook my head quickly. No. I can’t think about that now. I have to escape. I don’t think they noticed, but to be sure, I put my hands together like they were before and laid on them so that they were behind my back, acting like I was still asleep.
“What was that?” A man’s voice asked.
“Probably something in the back, no big deal,” The other one replied. After a few minutes of waiting, I lifted my hands and pulled the edge of the bag up a little. The fresh air smelled nice compared to the bag, but it was still awful; the smell of cigarettes and some blood filling my nose. The bag, which I realized was an old pillowcase, had smelled like sweat and suffocation.
I didn’t take the pillowcase off all the way because they might see, just enough to breathe and look around. I leaned forward and began to untie my feet. I grabbed the rope when I finished and tied a thick knot in it. I lay back down as if I never woke up afterward, hoping I wasn’t making too much noise. Once it had been a while and I was sure they weren’t looking, I lifted the bag above my eyes. It was still on, just now I could see. I was laying down on the floorboard of a dusty van, it seemed.
I was starting to sit up when I noticed someone else laying unconscious next to me.