“Did you know that over 60% of bank robbers get caught?” Diana had a hazy memory of a statistic on a tabloid page. She had no idea if it still held true, but she hoped that the number would have an effect on the man. It didn’t.
The man scoffed and kept his eyes on the road. Diana let her gaze fall to her hands. She was handcuffed but could move her arms freely. Although the situation seemed hopeless, she had choices, and a person who has choices is always in a better position than the poor bastard with no choices.
Diana thought about swinging the cuffs over the man’s neck and strangling him. The car might crash but she could buy herself time. She then thought about the evening before - a vague memory appeared, of her having trouble opening a tomato sauce jar. The idea of strangulation was soon left behind in the darkness behind them.
Diana watched the car fly by the forest surrounding them, making the trees look like an elongated fence. She thought about jumping out. A movie heroine might survive that, but Diana considered herself to be far from that. Diana raised her gaze and took a look at the man. His eyes were still on the patch of road that was lit up by the headlights of the car.
Diana grabbed the door handle and started wiggling it. Fuck heroines, she told herself and decided to try the jump. To her horror, the door was locked. The man let out a horrendous laugh, “you really think that I’m that stupid?”
“As a matter of a fact I do, for you kidnapped me. Who does that these days? You could’ve just walked away with the money, but no - you decided to get risky. So yeah, you’re that stupid.”
The man’s hand flew from the steering wheel to Diana’s face. She flinched in pain and let out a whimper as the man’s hand met her skin. She raised her hands to cover her face and the man went back to driving.
“I strongly suggest that you shut the fuck up.” There was no room for negotiation. Diana went back to silently planning her escape. She couldn’t strangle him nor could she jump out of the car, but could she open the lock and run? She would have to wait for a red light, but quite not surprisingly in the middle of a nature preserve there seemed to be none.
“I’m sorry that I hit you.” The apology was but a whisper, but Diana felt relieved to discover an approachable side to the man. He almost sounded guilty. Diana was unsure of his temper, so she opted for silence. However, she had enough courage to take another look at the man.
Her first instinct had been to keep her eyes away from him, in hopes of being let go as she didn’t even know what he looked like. When he grabbed her behind the counter and forced her into the car - her hopes were soon shown their right place for they were nothing else but meaningless hope.
After forcing her into the car the man pulled her face to his and forced his rules down her throat. No speaking, no screaming, and no tricks and you might stay alive. Remember my face because if you cause any trouble, it’ll show you trouble. After Diana’s terrified nod, and a deer in the headlights look, the man consoled her by saying, just be good okay?
He couldn’t be any older than her, at the age of thirty, tops. Diana couldn’t help but try and guess what was the reason that she was the decent citizen being taken as a hostage and he was the one robbing a bank with a gun burning in his pocket. The protagonist and the antagonist. Perhaps, if she was in luck, Diana would be nothing but a side character whereas the law acted as an antagonist to the man.
“I can feel you judging me you know? All you pretty white snobs have this look on your face when you judge people.”
“Did I say you could talk?” The look on the man’s face was enough to silence Diana. She sunk deeper into her seat and prayed for a traffic light.
“We carve our names in trees because we know they will last longer than us. In this age of information, an infamous act is much like a line in a tree - it’s a mark in time.” Diana wanted to sink in her thoughts. She had no interest in being a part of a dialogue she had no lines in. She listened though, if not precisely then in passing, in hopes of finding anything that could help her.
The man went silent again. Diana stared outside her window, wondering if her life had been worth living. In a way, in an absurd way, the effect of the terror afflicted on her had made her realize that she wasn’t happy.
Long days at the bank ruled her weeks. She had no time to date, no time to travel and no time to make anything with the money she was making. She wasn’t unhappy enough to let go of the material power she now owned, but unhappy enough to question her choices.
“I see people like that every day. They grow up with money and never get tired of chasing it. They think they’re living the good life but refuse to see that there’s more to the world than themselves. I never got that you know? I grew up with nothing and nobody ever helped me.”
Although keeping the silence would’ve been more beneficial, Diana couldn’t keep the words in. She never had anyone in her life either. She fought to get in her position. She fought in order to stop blaming herself for others failures and to accept that she deserved good things. I went to therapy so that someone would tell me to stop torturing myself.
“I grew up dirt poor. I grew up in foster homes. Nobody ever gave me anything, but I don’t blame the world for my own choices.” The man turned his head to Diana. His facial expressions exuded rage and Diana prepared herself for another hit by raising her hands in front of her face. The man immediately calmed down and sighed.
“I know you’re not like that, I know you. I mean I know, that I can’t be mad at anybody else but myself. I guess I can’t blame you for setting me straight. It doesn’t change anything though. I’m sorry that I dragged you into this, but it’s the way things are.” “Will you kill me?” Diana forced the words out before her mind could tell her it was a bad idea to ask. Did she really want to hear the truth? The man didn’t answer. Diana couldn’t let it go that easily though.
“If you’re gonna kill me you at least owe it to me, to be honest. Is this the way I deserve to spend my last minutes? Handcuffed in a car just so you could escape with a couple of hundred thousand? Is that my worth?” “What do you think is your worth then?”
Diana bit her lip. The man turned to watch her with curiosity in his eyes. In seconds, a hostage made of meat and an expensive suit had become a person. Someone who he could relate to. Someone like him - someone in a bad situation.
“Well, what is a human life worth anyway? To me - everything. To you - nothing. If I could choose my worth, it would at least be a fucking rare diamond with bad luck and mysterious deaths surrounding it.”
“Those diamonds that kill their owners?” The man laughed.
“At least I’d leave something behind,” Diana let out a nervous scoff. She knew that she’d have to keep going in order to up her chances of staying alive. She would have to make herself real to him - someone who had hopes, dreams, fear, family, friends and a life.
“I was thinking about quitting you know?” She confessed. Diana felt relieved to say it out loud. Anytime she brought up her job, all she would hear was how lucky she was and how everybody envied her position.
“Really? Why?” The man’s voice had lost almost all of its rage.
“I hated it. Every day is the same. You get out there and you have to serve these assholes like their fucking pubic hairs are made of diamonds. Old farts eyeing me up and ladies treating me like I’m a serving dog. I just, I hate it!”
The man laughed, but this time, it was genuine. “Maybe it was a good thing that I took you away.”
Diana laid her eyes down again. The situation felt too surreal to comprehend, but suddenly it dawned on her that it all could be over so soon. She had too many things to do and too many things to experience. Not to achieve, fuck achieving, but experience.
“Hey, hey,” the man tried to calm her down as he saw her watery eyes, “what would you do then? If you’d quit.”
Diana shook her head and looked out through the window. She wouldn’t cry in front of a damn crook. She never cried - she was always very sensible.
“Look, I’m sorry can you please calm down. I don’t like to see you crying, okay?” After a while of silence, and a while of Diana fighting her tears, he tried another approach, “it’s going to be okay, I promise.”
Diana shook her head. She knew what empty promises like that meant - a decent person wouldn’t have to promise you anything. They would simply do the decent thing. If a stranger ever promises you anything, it’s most likely just to keep you calm. It helped though, for Diana’s fear turned into rage.
She was furious that someone would think it was their right to take a life. Like they were above other people, decent people, who worked hard to build a life for themselves. That life was for nobody to take.
“I promise it’s going to be okay. Yeah, I really do. When we get to-” the man had no time to finish his sentence, for two hands grabbed the wheel and steered it from the street. Diana let out an angry yell and forced the car off the road.
It all happened fast. The pavement turned into a shrubbery, and the headlights illuminated branches and trees. The man tried to steer the car safely into anything else but to a tree but failed. The car crashed against a thick pine. The hood of the car folded into crinkles like a skirt being lifted up.
Diana slammed her head against the control board and whimpered. She had no time to think though. She opened the locks and started to fight her way out of the car. For a moment, she thought that luck was on her sight. The man made no noises.
She was almost out the door when his strong hand grabbed her ankle. Diana looked back to two piercing blue eyes watching her under a coat of blood, “why did you do that?” his voice hissed.
Diana tensed her quad and glute and kicked. In her mind, she thanked her personal trainer for teaching her how to activate her glutes for a kick. The bottom of her feet landed to the man’s chest. Diana lost her balance and smacked down to a pile of branches. She pushed herself up and screamed in anger. The cuffs made her feel anxious about the lost movement.
She pushed herself up and started running. Her field of vision was suddenly filled with darkness. The occasional branches surprised her by hitting her in the face as she fled her kidnapper.
In the distant, 50 yards away at most, she saw lights. Street lights. The thought cast hope upon Diana, it must be the way to the highway. The glimpse of hope boosted up her running, for now, there was something to run to instead of just something to run away from.
Diana felt like the lights were just in her reach, which made her even more anxious. The cold air felt coarse in her throat. A faint memory of her high school P.E teacher begging the students to breathe through their noses came into Diana’s head.
She let out a nervous laugh while stumbling through the thick shrubbery. Here I am, fighting for my life and all I can think about is Mr. Dunwells worn out tracksuit with three yellowish stripes in them.
“Stop! Diana I’m not going to hurt you, just stop!” the man yelled after her. Diana wondered where he could’ve heard her name at. Maybe at the bank, before the attack. Maybe when her co-workers begged the guy to let her go. Maybe even before. The thought made her shiver.
Shit. His voice was closer now. Diana did not dare to look behind her, for she feared that she’d see the man’s furious eyes just inches away from hers. She could sense him closer, just behind her. How can he be so fast?
The street was ahead of her - just right there. Diana came to a halt trying to decide which direction to take. She tried to catch her breath for a second and bolted to her left. I’m going to make it out of here. I’m going to quit my job and I’m going to start doing something else. I’m going to take a vacation in fucking Sweden Andy, what do you say about that? Not cultural France or expensive Switzerland - fucking Sweden!
Diana did not get too far, as she was pulled back by a strong grip on the back of her blazer. “Diana stop!” The man pleaded.
Diana couldn’t run, but she knew she could put up a fight and make as much noise as she could. Diana pushed her elbow to the man’s stomach. She then tried to bolt again, but he still had his grip on her.
Diana felt him pull her back. His hand found its way to her mouth. Diana tried to squirm and struggle with no avail - the man seemed to have her pressed emotionless. “It’s okay, look I’m not going to hurt you. It’s okay.”
“You fucking kidnapped me! I won’t let a low life halfway crook kill me for dough!” Diana kicked the man’s foot, turned and swung her fist to his chin. The man flinched. Diana doubled down and held her hand, whimpering in pain.
Her fight only grew stronger, as she saw something shining in the pitch black forest. It was like a beacon of hope - floating and fluttering lights. It must be a bonfire or something. Diana didn’t bother to look at the guy but bolted again - this time straight into the forest.
She figured it would be foolish to keep running on a road of which destination she had no idea of. If there would be anyone out there, the chances of her survival would double. Criminals didn’t like an audience. Maybe the guy didn’t even follow her. I mean, why would he. His best interest is to escape.
Diana took a look behind her. She was filled with courage and victory as she saw no one there. She didn’t slow down though. The lights grew bigger, and so did the sounds. Diana slowed down as she got closer. She was suddenly filled with dread.
Something, perhaps her instinct, was telling her to turn around and get out of there as fast as she could. She tried to rationalize - the man could still be out there on the street. She couldn’t just walk straight into his arms.
Diana stopped and turned her jog into a sneak. She inched closer to the lights. The mumble she heard from afar had now turned into clear chanting. Diana crept behind a big oak and peeked out.
She was faced with an absurd scene that reminded her of 70s satanic panic warnings. Inside the forest, there was a small clearing. In that small clearing, there were tons of people dressed in gowns and masks - chanting something together under candlelight.
Diana pulled back behind the tree. Shit. She wasn’t sure of what to do. Perhaps they were just kids pulling a prank or discovering themselves. Perhaps. The problem was, she wasn’t sure what on earth was going on.
Diana peeked out again. She let her eyes wander to the masks over the people's heads. It was absurd. It was like these people decided to roleplay Orwell - the clearing was filled with animal-headed people. Pigs, horses, lambs - it was like a gruesome family farm.
Diana’s observing mind suggested her an eerie proposition - maybe these were real animal heads. She swore she could see dried blood on the necks of the animals, or in the necks of the people, it was hard to tell where one ended and other begun.
A hand covered Diana’s mouth. The guy was back. Diana cursed herself for being so stupid. I should’ve run, she scolded herself for making such erratic decisions.
“I almost left but I got a bad feeling about you like you were in danger. I saw those guys too, there’s something really wrong with them,” the guy's whisper was half spit and half silence. Diana raised her brows. I was in danger? You put me in this danger, you planned to kill me too! She wanted to shout and slap the man.
“Don’t look at me like that, I know it’s crazy. I know I make bad decisions but I feel responsible, I brought you here.” He stared into Diana’s eyes. Diana did not know how to feel about the sudden change of his actions. The sudden compassion and kindness of the man didn’t fit the vision she had of him.
“I’m going to take my hand away now, but don’t scream, I know you can feel it too. There’s something really wrong here.” The guy slipped his hand away. Diana took a sharp breath in. The man kept his eyes on her.
“Are you okay?” he asked gently as if he wasn’t sure if he had the right to ask such questions. His hands touched Diana’s hands gently as he opened the cuffs.
“I guess,” Diana scoffed. The man lingered his fingers at hers for a moment. Diana looked at him annoyed, and then caved in and asked him back, “what about you?”
The question made a shy smile sneak on the man's face, “I thought you wouldn’t care.”
“Just because you act like a crackpot, doesn’t mean I have to forget my manners and pipe in.”
His smile faded away. In another setting, Diana would’ve felt bad for him, but she was filled with rage and had a hard time keeping her hands away from the guy. He was right though, Diana felt it too, there was something deeply wrong in here.
The guy pointed out to the lights on the street and Diana nodded, feeling defeated. Immediately after taking her first step into the darkness, she started to plot another escape. As soon as they would be out from the treeline, she’d grab a branch and swing it at his head. That would have to do some damage.
They walked in silence until the floating lights of the absurd crowd were nothing but dots in the darkness. He opened his mouth first, “I’m Kyle by the way.”
Diana turned to look at the guy in disbelief. They were now illuminated by the street lights, getting closer to the road. Diana wanted to tell him she wanted to know nothing about him, but she realized it would be her advantage to keep him talking, so she played along.
“I heard you already know my name, how is that?”
The man fell into an uncomfortable silence and scratched his head. He then bit his lip and let out a nervous laugh, “I targeted the place for a while.” “I never saw you,” Diana pointed out.
“That’s the idea of it.”
Diana nodded. She didn’t believe him. Somehow she just knew he was lying. Maybe because Diana always kept an eye on her customers - everyone who came into their office. She watched them and evaluated the possible threats and opportunities.
Second, she realized almost nobody called her Diana in the office. It was mostly Miss Layney for customers or Di for the people who knew her better. Nobody called her Diana. Diana got lost into her thoughts for a moment. The robbery suddenly came into her mind like a slow-motion scene in a movie.
The guy walked in and looked straight at her. The whole robbery felt half-assed and weird in every aspect. It was well known that they had a lot of deposit goods downstairs, but he only took whatever the scared clerks behind the counter gave him. He forgot a bag, which Diana noticed, but he didn’t forget her
Diana felt more uncomfortable, and the need to get away grew stronger. They were now at the edge of the forest. Diana eyed up the ditch, but couldn’t find a sturdy branch to fuck his head with. She looked around frantically, fearing that her plan would fall through like a dead tree.
“Look let’s just get out of here okay? I’ll help you and you’ll help me. Maybe we can get to know each other?” Kyle suggested. Diana’s eyes found a thick branch. Without much thought, she dived into the ground and grabbed it.
This is it, it’s over now! A victorious voice screamed inside her head. Diana never swung a punch though. She raised her eyes and stopped. Kyle stopped too. They both looked around with panic inside them.
Both sides of the streets were now filled with animal-headed people. Their gowns blended into the darkness at the edge of the forest, and their lanterns illuminated the blood on them. Diana was sure now of the fact that they weren’t just wearing masks, but rather real animal heads. The stench caught Diana and Kyle soon after the sight.
“Di… run,” Kyle whispered. Diana made a mental note of him knowing her nickname, but her survival instincts told her to focus on the moment in hand. Kyle swung a knife from his pocket and bolted toward the crowd.
He let out an inhuman scream and charged towards the animal-headed people. Diana bolted after him. If I stay behind, I might make it. Just stay behind him.
A few hours earlier, Diana wouldn’t have believed that she would willfully run after the man who kidnapped her. There was just something truly and deeply wrong with these people and every atom in her body told Diana to get the hell away from there.
Kyle broke through the crowd. He swung his knife in the air, hitting nothing as the people just made room for him. Diana pushed her feet harder and went after Kyle. This time, the crowd stepped back in.
“Kyle! Kyle!” Diana screamed helplessly in panic. She could hear Kyle stop and turn around.
“Diana!” He screamed back in terror.
Diana raised her eyes to the pig-headed man and shivered. She didn’t know what to do. Running seemed hopeless, so she stayed put. The smell was almost unbearable now - bursting through Diana’s nostrils and inviting a gag reflex out.
The thing opened its mouth and Diana realized, the pig’s mouth opened too. She tried to see inside, but there was nothing but darkness. There were no words first, just heavy breathing. Diana shivered again and started to shake. The world around her disappeared. There was no road, no Kyle, no animal headed crowds - nothing but the two of them. The thing inched towards her and smiled, “he’s the one.”
Diana’s eyes widened in fear. Her body and mind were screaming for her to get out, but she was stuck. As if the grotesque thing was sucking her mind into it.
“What?” she breathed out. Her words didn’t echo. It was as if there was no sound besides the words of his and hers.
“It’s him we want, we don’t want you.”
Diana didn’t understand. She shook her head and started to cry. The terror and dread overwhelmed her. The closer the being got, the more afraid and terrified Diana felt. It was something quite naturally terrifying, like the fear of the dark, something ancient. Diana felt like these things had been here a long time, and she feared, she might become one of them.
“Can I go?” The question escaped her lips before she could think of anything else to say.
“He has always been watching you. He will always be watching you. We want him.”
The pig smiled once more, and then came the darkness.
Diana woke up to light raindrops falling on her face. As soon as she opened her eyes, a sharp pain impaled her back. Diana whimpered in agony but forced herself up. She took a frantic look around in search of the things from the night before.
There was no one there. The sky was grey from the rainy clouds and the heavy woods were silent. Diana limbed to the ditch in order to get a stick, or a rock, as her weapon. Somehow she knew, she wouldn’t need it, but she grabbed a stick anyways. She knew they were gone.
Diana took a slow look around to both directions. She had no idea where to go. Where is Kyle? Then a horrifying thought sneaked into Diana’s mind. What if last night was just a dream? What if they almost died in the crash. What if the pigman wanted Kyle because he was dying? What if the pigman, was death itself?
Diana started her way back to the car. The more she thought about it, the more she was able to convince herself that it was a dream or a hallucination of sorts. The broken sticks and rundown bushes showed her the way. The forest was almost very pleasing - the air was fresh, it was peaceful and somehow she felt more herself than she had ever before.
The car was still there, with no Kyle in sight. Maybe his name isn’t even Kyle. Maybe I imagined the whole thing. Diana looked down on her wrists to the place where the handcuffs had rested. Deep red chafes ran around both of her wrists. It had to be real. Besides, she had no idea who’s the car was resting against the tree.
Diana started her way back to the road. She stopped one more time and took a look at the direction where she saw or thought that she saw, lights on the night before. A shiver ran through her body as if to warn her to walk away.
Or what? Even the thought brought back the dread. She realized there were still no noises. No birds, no animals - nothing. Diana thought about Kyle and somehow felt like if she’d just walk back to the clearing he might still be there. She felt him, somewhere in the distant. She heard a crack. Diana stopped and held her breath. Then she heard something from far away, a long sound, an owl perhaps. She listened and forced her feet moving. It was as if she could hear Kyle screaming her name.
Hallucinations. You hit your head Di.
Diana firmly turned her head and started limping towards the road. She would get out of here, and she would get a new job. Have a vacation in Sweden just to annoy Andy. She’d live a life she wanted to live - not the life that others thought was designed to her.
After what felt like a half an hour, the sounds came back. She could suddenly hear birds sing and animals rustle in branches and bushes. After half an hour more, she could hear the traffic. She was free from Kyle, from the fear of disappointing the people around her and from her job. She was free from the pigman.
No matter how she tried to calm herself down, a pinch of the threat seemed to follow her. Diana could not shake the feeling of being watched. Somewhere in the distance, she could swear that she heard a familiar whisper.
He will always be watching you.
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