I swam in darkness, but strangely enough, I was aware of what was going on around me. I was cold, or at least my body was cold. Try as I may, I could not wake myself out of the darkness. When I had first come to “mental awareness”, I had completely panicked because I could not move, but now it was just getting annoying.
I could feel my body shivering, it was much colder than it should have been, and the air was fresh. Very unlike city air, even after the rain. It almost felt as if I was…outside? I clearly remembered the lamp and the rainstorm, but it didn’t even smell like rain. It almost smelled like the mountains. I only knew what those smelled like from a personal vacation I took a year ago to the Alps. I had tried my hand at skiing, which had not ended well... With effort, I reeled my mind back in from its random trail of thinking. To the matter at hand!
How was I going to wake my body up? I’d never been electrocuted before; I didn’t know if paralysis was a normal side effect. It was as if I was swimming in my shell of a body, but I couldn’t make any of my mental limbs stick to my flesh. My body moaned and excitement rushed through me. That was the first sign that I was still alive for what seemed like an eternity, aside from the shivering.
Now I knew where my mouth was!
I properly aligned the rest of my body where it was supposed to go, my feet, where my feet were supposed to be. My hands where I thought my hands should be. My torso, my neck, my legs. I felt it slowly working. I could feel my freezing toes followed by my freezing foot.
It was then I heard a soft thunder traveling quickly on the earth. Was that…? No, it couldn’t be…galloping? I tried to cock my head to hear, but only my inner body moved. Damn! I pushed my frustration aside.
My shivers increased, because of cold or dread, I didn’t know. All that I knew was that if I didn’t snap out of it soon, I’d be in serious trouble.
The sound I heard was galloping and the horses grew closer. I tried hard to concentrate on aligning myself, but it was near impossible. I could move my toes and most of my leg, but I needed more!
The thunder grew louder. Finally, as true fear set in, my body picked up its pace. I had control to my waist now and I could barely move my fingertips. I begged and prayed for the process to hurry. I needed to open my eyes and see what was going on and where I was.
My mind was nearly screaming with urgency as I gained control of my torso and hands to my wrists, arms and shoulders. Almost there! I thought. The horses grew ever closer. Sweat beaded on my skin and instantly chilled because of the frosty air. My shivering became tremors. They rocketed through my whole body. Seconds ticked by painfully slowly as my body joined with inner soul at my mouth, to my eyes, and finally until I was complete. I felt like I had just been downloaded into myself.
My eyes flew open, only to squeeze shut again. My heart pounded double time. Why am I outside? I began to shiver violently with alarm. Please be a dream. Please be a dream. I chanted in my head. However, if it was a dream it was the most terrifying dream I’d ever had. I took a deep breath and slowly opened my eyes again. My eyes widened in horror as I looked around and found myself no longer in my small apartment, but in some sort of wooded area.
As I slowly sat up my limbs protested with every move. It felt as if I’d been running in a marathon and all I wanted to do was sleep.
I forced myself to a seated position and my head swam. It was all I could do to stay seated. I looked down at myself and noticed that I was in the clothes I’d been wearing when I was electrocuted. After a moment, the lightheadedness passed enough for me to look around and then I realized for the first time that I could no longer hear the horses.
I stilled and listened. There was nothing but silence for a long time, then murmuring. The sudden sound sent a shot of fear through me. Someone’s out there. As I tried to listen harder, I separated the murmurs into two voices. My mind went wild. Kidnappers! How else could I explain my sudden change of location? Questions like how they got in my apartment were shoved viciously aside to be dealt with later.
Their voices sounded far off. Maybe they think I’m still asleep. Instantly a plan began to form.
I struggled to my knees and crawled to a nearby tree, using it as a crutch while I stood on shaky legs. My fingers clung to the trunk with a kung fu grip, not wanting to fall back on the ground, which I now realized was covered in many feet of snow. That explained why I was freezing cold, but I still had no idea where I was.
As I tried to maintain my balance, the voices became clearer. If they find out I’m awake, I’m screwed! I could hear the soft clop of their horse’s hooves on the frozen ground as the horses tried to shift to a more comfortable standing position. I froze and peered carefully through the snow-weighted branches of the tree, spotting two figures. I had to blink my eyes a couple of times to get them to stay in focus. My head was still swimming.
Two men; they seemed deep in conversation and had failed to notice me, and for that, I was grateful. One man dismounted his horse to check the saddle, speaking animatedly. As I studied them, I realized they were dressed strangely and that they were both extremely muscular and in a word, dangerous. Leather and weapons were strapped to every inch of their bodies. Though it was freezing outside, they only donned cloaks, black as ebony against the snow. The two had the build to be bouncers at a club, or quarterbacks; however, something about the way they held themselves with such an air of confidence…was even more intimidating than their size.
I could just imagine the reputation they had without even having to lift a finger. Then I imagined the reputation they had for when they did lift a finger. I shivered and my whole body trembled. I’d never been so cold, so exhausted, or so scared in my life, and I hated each feeling with a passion.
I gathered my strength and took a step. Whoever they were I obviously needed to get away from them. I gently let go of the tree, taking another step and my knees gave out. On instinct, I grabbed the large branch overhead to balance myself. Big mistake! Snow shook from the very top of the tree and cascaded down in a waterfall of ice and powder. It smacked the ground and seemed to echo through the chilly air. I cried out in surprise and the men’s attention was suddenly on me. Damn! This was exactly what I had been trying to avoid.
They stood frozen for a moment as they stared at me, and then were in motion. The man who had been fixing his saddle was in the lead, a dark scowl on his face. I couldn’t run anywhere, though I’d regained my footing I didn’t trust myself to let go of the tree.
As they began to run towards me, I changed my mind and decided to chance it. As soon as I let go of the tree I ate snow. Driving my hands into the freezing powder, I pushed myself up, spitting out a mouthful. I looked up and to my dismay; the scowling man was standing over me. I held in a whimper. I will not show any more weakness than I already have. I swore to myself.
“Who are you? Where is Mary?” The man growled.
I opened my mouth to tell him I had no idea who this Mary person was, but snapped it shut. I blinked in utter confusion. Did he just…Did I just…?
“Where is she?”
My mouth opened again, this time in disbelief. I wasn’t crazy. This man spoke a different language, one that I had never heard before in my life, and I understood every word as though it was natural. How can that be? I looked the man over; his raven hair fell to his shoulders, making his jaw and nose dangerously strong. His blue eyes were piercing. Without a doubt, this man was beautiful. The more I stared at him the deeper his scowl became. “What have you done to her?” he yelled as he bent down to pick me up roughly by the arms.
Both of the men had seen my embarrassing fall. Therefore, they knew that I had little strength to fight. He stood me up as if I weighed nothing and screamed at me, “If you hurt her I’ll kill you!”
The second man placed a hand on his companions shoulder. “Derek, let the girl speak.”
I turned my gaze to the second man. He was almost the complete opposite of his friend. His light brown hair curled slightly, giving him the look of childlike innocence. His creamy skin and deep brown eyes were so smooth and flawless he almost looked too perfect. When our eyes met, mine flew away in an instant as if burned by his gaze. Derek didn’t loosen his grip, but stopped yelling. “Answer,” he growled.
“I…I don’t know who you’re talking about.” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I stiffened. This was impossible. I don’t know their language…How am I speaking it? The words had flown from my mouth with ease that suggested fluency.
However, language wasn’t my most pressing issue at the moment. Derek had felt me stiffen in his grasp and concluded that I was lying. Without another word, he began dragging me toward his horse.
Though I had no strength to stand, I wouldn’t go down without a fight. I swung my weak knee up and connected with his stomach. He merely grunted, but didn’t lose grip. Before I could try again, the other man asked his friend to stop. Derek hesitated, but did as he asked. “What is it Gray?”
Gray stepped forward. “I’m going to show you the proper way to carry a woman of this sort.” Without another word, he took me from his friend and threw me over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. The air rushed out of my lungs as my ribs met his shoulder. He carried me to his horse with no fight from me; I was too busy trying to suck in oxygen. Despite his obvious angry mood, Derek laughed.
Gray let me down, only to throw me up onto his horse seconds later. Again, I was at a loss for air. My lungs were screaming! My mouth gaped open as I tried to breathe, but couldn’t.
He mounted after me and made sure that I was secure so I wouldn’t fall off, completely ignoring my lack of oxygen and awkward positioning. “Keep searching the forest. I will take her to town and return with others,” Gray said.
With one last angry glance at me, Derek mounted his horse and rode off, shouting Mary’s name.
Gray clicked his tongue and the horse lurched forward. I gasped, finally sucking in much needed air, and kicked myself mentally. No showing weakness? I lectured myself and almost began to laugh hysterically because I couldn’t even hold myself up at this point. How much weaker can you get?
As Gray urged the horse to gallop faster, I realized just how stupid I must look with my rear in the air. I tried not to blush and concentrate on the problem at hand. I must escape.
I looked around, trying to find a landmark or something that I could use to figure out where he was taking me. All I saw were trees covered in snow and the dirt path we were following, which also was almost invisible under the snow.
There was no way I was in New York anymore, not even upstate. And to make matters worse, there wasn’t another soul in sight. The thought made me sick to my stomach. Where the hell am I? I didn’t like this one bit. I even squeezed my eyes closed numerous times, convinced that I was truly dreaming, but I failed to wake up.
Hot tears welled in my eyes. For a second, I contemplated letting them fall to warm my cheeks, but decided against it. As I watched the trees fly by, my nausea returned, and with a vengeance. I tried to grab for my mouth to stop the bile that was rushing up my throat, but Gray must have thought I was trying to escape, because he grabbed my arm and yanked it behind my back in a painful hold. I cried out and that was all it took. I spewed forth! There went my tea and crappy microwave dinner. I tried not to get any on the horse.
Gray shouted in disgust and I could feel his eyes glaring down at me. He finally halted the horse to the side of the trail. Gray helped, or more like yanked me off the horse. I fought off another wave of nausea until I was on my knees on the side of the road. This is disgusting! I hated throwing up, let alone in front of people, be it friend or foe.
When I was finally empty, I heaved some more. If I wasn’t exhausted before, I definitely was now. I could barely hold myself up. Not only sensing, but seeing my weakness, Gray scooped me up, more gently this time (or maybe it was just my wishful imagination). Either way, I was no threat to anyone in this state. My current state of disablement did nothing to stop the rapid firing of my mind.
What’s going to happen to me? Are they going to rape me? If they wanted to there was nothing I could do about it. Hopelessness weighed down on me like heavy blanket. All I wanted was the promised bliss of sleep. I began to war with my heavy eyelids as Gray mounted his horse again, taking me with him and positioning me in a slightly more comfortable position.
Gray didn’t seem in too much of a hurry, then again, he wasn’t taking his time. I shifted just enough to look at him while keeping my balance. He seemed deep in thought. His brow furrowed as he stared straight ahead. I wondered what was going through his mind. As soon as that thought passed through my head I shook it out, literally. He noticed my sudden movement and snapped out of his trance. His brown eyes narrowed into a suspicious glare as he found me looking at him, all traces of the tenderness I thought I saw in him vanishing like each cloud of breath that I could see in the frigid air.
I looked away quickly.
“Woman, if you know the whereabouts of Mary, tell me,” his voice was gruff, and very sexy.
My cheeks burned. Perv! I yelled at myself. You’re in the middle of the most trouble you’ve ever been in and all you can think about is how sexy both these men are? I needed to get my head checked. There was no way this was healthy. Finally, I decided to blame all my thoughts on shock. That’s it; I’m in shock. Who wouldn’t be? I mean it’s not every day you wake up to find yourself kidnapped!
Gray cleared his throat and I realized that he was still waiting for an answer from me. “I already told you, I don’t know a Mary.”
It was hard to speak while the horse was trotting as it was, and me in the position that I was. There I went again, speaking this strange language as easily as I did English. This was all just too much.
He grunted and looked back to the road. If his questioning me repeatedly didn’t prove it, then that just did; he didn’t believe me.
I caught a glimpse of something through the trees and frowned in confusion. My head must have been swimming more than I thought. Then I saw another... Houses? Yes. Those odd structures were houses.
My jaw dropped as I stared at the small humble stone houses with thatched roofs. They looked barely big enough to fit a family of four in. What the…? Did he bring me to some weird medieval theme park? I almost laughed, and then a thought hit me. What if these people are some sort of cult members who choose to live like this? It made sense.
A few “villagers” were out doing their everyday work. A man was herding a few pigs into a crudely made pen. When he heard the horse’s hooves, he looked up with a smile, but as soon as his eyes fell upon me, his smile disappeared. It was the same with all the others outside.
Gray maneuvered the horse through the small town made up of similar houses and passed many confused faces. I decided not to pay attention to anyone and craned my head to see where he was taking me. Somewhere in my mind, I had accepted that none of this was real, but I was still in very real danger.
Gray guided the horse onto a worn dirt road. After about ten minutes, it stretched up a slight hill to a large house. It looked like a mansion or palace compared to the small stone homes. He slowed and jumped off the horse, again helping/yanking me off.
The front door of the house burst open and a thick woman with slightly graying hair hurried out. She gathered Gray into her arms with a smile and kissed his cheek. Then her eyes turned to mine, her brows frowned in confusion. “Who is this? Where are Derek and Mary?” She looked over my shoulder as if Derek should be on his way up the drive.
Gray shook his head slowly and I watched understanding dawn in the older woman’s eyes. “Oh dear.” Her eyes turned to me again as she studied me for another moment. “Come in out of this cold before you both catch your death,” she said, turning back to the house.
Gray caught her arm lightly. “I must return to the forest. I gave Derek my word that I would return with more help to search.”
The woman nodded and sucked in a deep breath, making her already large chest swell even more. She was dressed very plainly. The brown of her dress faded from much washing and the skirts she was wearing under them were stained with dirt where they touched the ground. She had a smudge of flour on her cheek and a few wisps of her graying hair escaping her lose bun at the back of her neck, held in place with a piece of string. She turned her light blue eyes onto me again, as if she could see right through me.
“I will see her safely to her holding room then I must leave.”
Again, the woman nodded, turning back to the house. Gray grabbed my arm in a vice grip and dragged me through the door into the house.
The foyer was large and beautiful. The tapestries were very richly designed and thick to hold out the light. A small, but beautiful staircase curled up the right side of the foyer, its banister made of thick, polished wood. The rugs covering the stone floors were a labyrinth of designs. Candles flickered on a few wall holders and the smell of bread baking filled the air. It came as a surprise to me to see such wealth here when I had just witnessed the poverty of the “villagers”.
Gray half dragged and half carried me through the foyer and into a side hall. I was past the point of being able to fight because it was now a battle just to walk.
The hall was very dreary, lit only by a few torches. The woman plucked one off the wall holder, continuing down the hall. We turned a few times, going deeper into the mansion. She pulled out a large set of keys from somewhere in her apron, stopping at a door at the end of the hall.
Panic was taking over me again as I saw the darkness that lay beyond the door that she’d just opened. The woman walked in with the torch and placed it securely in a wall holder inside the room. Gray started forward, with all I had left in me, I resisted. His grip tightened to the point that I thought he was going to snap my arm in half. I gasped in pain as he walked me into the room and to the corner where I could see a bundle of hay and a blanket.
“What the hell am I supposed to do with that?” I snapped before I could catch myself.
The woman straightened as if I’d offended her. She turned her light eyes to Gray who motioned his head towards the door. That was her cue to go. The woman ducked her head slightly and left, throwing me a worried glance over her shoulder. As soon as the door shut behind her, my heart hammered double time.
Wait! Don’t go! Don’t leave me with this man! I began to shake again. It was cold in this room, not as cold as outside, but nearly there. Gray released my arm. Where his fingers had grabbed now throbbed painfully. I rubbed my arm and shakily backed a few feet away from him, swaying dangerously.
“I will ask you again. Where is Mary?”
Despite my lack of balance, I lifted my chin in utter defiance. “I already told you, I don’t know Mary!” I threw in his face.
He took a menacing step forward and I nearly cringed, I was, after all, at the mercy of this man. He leaned closer so that his face was inches from mine. I held my breath and bit the inside of my cheek to keep from freaking out. “I do not believe you.” With that, he turned and marched to the door. He opened it and turned back to look at me once more. “One way or another, you will tell me what you know.”
He slammed the door and I heard the large bolt click into place as he locked me in. The darkness seemed to close in. I stumbled forward, grabbing the small torch on the wall. I pulled it down and brought it close to my face. As long as the light was on my face, I felt as if I was going to be ok.
My shivers became tremors and my tremors caused me to finally collapse to the floor, sobbing. I crawled to the meager pile of hay that was meant to be my bed and pulled the grimy blanket around my shoulders. I cried and cried as I held the tiny torch trying to fight off the cold and panic that was threatening to consume me. What am I going to do?