She was only fifteen when she was put into the camp.
Emily McKinny was sitting on her front porch with her mom when she got grabbed that night. The cool, chilly breeze had rustled the treetops. Her sister was sound asleep, tucked in her bed upstairs. Emily’s legs dangled from the creaky rocking chair her family had gotten from her grandpa last year. She didn’t pay much attention to the light on the grass and how pleasantly the shadows danced along her street. The sound of the cars were normal. She was used to the noise; she lived on a busy street. She couldn’t be bothered to take in the color of the chalk underneath the street lamp. If she had known she wouldn’t see color in a while, she might have noticed those things. She didn’t even notice her mom urging her to go inside. She did notice the screaming of girls down the street get closer, though.
A van sped onto her lawn, leaving muddy tire tracks. Reckless drivers weren’t uncommon, so she didn’t worry too much. Her mom closed the front door, locking herself inside. Emily was left outside in the painful seconds of silence as she realized what was going on. A group of tall men dressed in all black snatched the teen off her porch, hauling her by her arms. She couldn’t help but think of them as demons, with the way their eyes reflected the red bumper lights of the van. Her yellow converse dragged against the now muddy lawn. Emily screamed and thrashed and kicked and cried, but the men did not release their grip. The back of the van opened, and there were multiple girls locked in cages like they were animals. The van smelled moldy and it was humid. Screams and cries immediately gave Emily a headache.
Emily’s shoelace was caught on the bumper of the van where there was an indent. She could only assume it was from them backing into mailboxes as they zoomed out of front yards. The “demons” didn’t care for her leg, and threw her into a cage. Jolts of pain shot up her leg and tears sprang from her eyes. She screamed out in pain, her leg being pulled at as if it was Play-Doh. She could hear one of the men mumble under his breath before taking off her shoe and throwing it on the curb. Emily screamed and cried in her cage, which was stacked on top of 3 others. The back of the van slid shut, and she emerged into total darkness.
As Emily took deep breaths between her sobs, she could hear multiple girls’ voices. Suddenly, the cages were jerked by what she could only assume was the sharp turn combined with the speed of the van. Oh, poor Emily was so small for her age, and her cage fell from the stack of girls. Her cage was broken and the door was loose. She was free! Her ankle was in immense pain, but she crawled out of the broken metal. She knew she had to save the other girls before she saved herself. She got up, and gasps echoed throughout the darkness.
“Unlock my cage!” screamed a girl.
“Save yourself!” screamed another.
“Run! Hide!” Soon, the entire van was filled with commotion and girls’ pleads instead of screams. Emily started to walk, keeping weight off her injured ankle. She went one by one unlocking cages. It took her around 2 hours, since some cage locks were more complicated than others. Everyone was released, and the van was crowded with girls. Emily leaned against the van wall, and she could make out the silhouette of girls trying to open the van door. After what felt like an hour, they finally got the door open. The van was speeding down an interstate. The girls quickly realized it might not be safe, so they needed someone to be a test dummy. A girl came forward, throwing herself out of the van.
The girl was quickly swept underneath another car. The girls looked expectantly at Emily, needing a new plan. Quietly, painfully, she limped towards the stack of cages and pushed them out, one by one. The other girls caught on and began to help as well. The cars had moved from behind the van, avoiding the flying metal cages. The road was fairly clear. A voice echoed from the back, pointing it out. “The road is clear! Jump!” Two girls hopped out this time, flying along the pavement of the road. The girls were out of sight before they skidded to a stop. “There’s no way out,” a voice shrieked. “We’re doomed!” squeaked another. Emily limped away from the crazy screaming girls and sat down, her legs dangling off the edge of the van.
Fat tears rolled from her cheeks. The sun was shining now, and Emily was astonished. Not even 8 hours ago were her feet hanging from the rustic rocking chair. Her mind was filled with thoughts of her mother and younger sister. She tuned out the screams and arguments from other girls, and sat, silently crying.
It was the afternoon when a girl tapped Emily’s shoulder. She had been zoned out, staring at the passing road for around 9 hours now. Her eyes hurt and her lips and mouth were dry. She wished she had the smallest amount of water.
“Where’s your other shoe?” The girl’s voice was slurred, and Emily didn’t understand at first. The girl stood, pointing patiently at Emily’s sock. She looked at the girl, who was around 4 or 5 at most, and had large brown eyes and a round button nose. She had long blonde hair that looked like it had been neatly brushed the night before. She was wearing a light blue nightgown with cows on it. Emily hesitated a moment.
“I forgot it at home.” She didn’t want to worry the girl, mainly because she couldn’t stand to hear crying that close to her, and the girl seemed to understand.
“Your ankle looks purple,” said the girl, shifting her weight between her feet. She cleared her voice and spoke slowly. “My older sissy studied nursing. I stayed awake with her when she watched her nursing training videos. Your ankle,” she said, pointing at Emily’s swollen leg, “is….just….sprained?....due to…. ‘Harsh force’.” The girl smiled proudly, and Emily smiled back. She was happy she could talk to someone who wasn’t scared and reminded her of her sister. Her smile faded as she realized the girl wasn’t scared because she didn’t know what was happening and that she would probably never see her sister again.
“My name is Emily. What’s yours?” The girl sat down beside her, dangling her bare feet.
“My mom calls me butterfly, but she says it’s not my name. I’ve written my name before though! Do you have a marker?” Her voice was childish, and she had a small lisp. Emily reached into her pocket and pulled out a pen from her coat pocket. She clamped her hand around it, remembering when her grandfather gave it to her to help her cope with her anxiety. Emily hesitantly handed it to the little girl. She looked around wildly for something to write on.
“Here,” Emily said, holding out her arm. The girl smiled.
“My mom never let me draw on myself,” the girl said while she was writing. “She said I could get ink poisoning. She told me if I wrote something, it would stay forever.” She held the pen out to Emily, and glanced at her arm, looking back up at her expectantly.
“Bella.” Her arm read.
“In that case,” Emily said, smiling. “I hope it stays forever.” Emily threw her arms around Bella. And they sat like that for what only seemed like 10 minutes, finally releasing when cold air started to sting their faces. Emily looked up. The sky was dark and stars were scattered. She turned to see the other girls shaking and cuddling for warmth. “Hold on,” said Emily, and she stood, closing the half-opened door of the van. The van was dark again, and not much warmer, but better since the cold air couldn’t reach them. She grabbed Bella’s hand and started to walk, moving away from the door of the van. The two stepped over many girls, and finally sat in the corner of the van. Bella leaned against Emily, and Emily draped her coat over Bella, and the two slept, cold, and afraid of what was to come.