As petty as it sounds, Daniel always ran away from his problems. Only this time he believed he was certainly certified to do so. He could barely feel the weight of his body, as if he was flying just above ground. He felt light. Unstoppable. Perhaps it was just his brain trying to encourage him that he’d outrun his captors but Daniel never felt this weightless. He could feel the tiniest shred of doubt start to form its way into his mind but the memory of the agony and torment that inhabited him in the past few weeks came to surface and as if he was trying to run away from the memory itself, his pace quickened. The chilly night breeze of Levingham City rushed across his cheeks, goosebumps tiring of racing over his skin.
The moon shone above dimly, tree after tree appearing and disappearing from sight. It was like watching the Nature channel in fast forward. Blood rushed in his ears, at this point he wasn’t sure he was breathing. Fear had a strange way of making people do things they wouldn’t normally consider, he thought to himself, like running through the woods with a bunch of khaki-clad men after you.
Why not just shoot me, he asked himself for the millionth time? Surely, their aim couldn’t have been that terrible.
Daniel knew his thoughts had momentarily distracted him when the harsh sounds of angry men invaded his ears from the south. They were catching up to him.
His heart beat loudly then, threatening to jump out of his chest and into the hands of the enemy. He was a fair distance away from his destination but if he kept going in the same direction he was now, they were bound to figure out where he was headed. And that would be his doom.
So the dark haired boy ducked the stray branches and took to a different path to find his way home.
Daniel’s annoyance with the herbal scent of the trees rose with every hurried step. What was it about this scent that irritated his sanity? Why wasn’t the earth’s scent stronger? The ground was slightly wet, he could feel it stick to his shoes. But the only thing he could smell was the trees and the leaves that insisted on hitting him lightly from time to time.
His irritation rose and rose until the realization hit him, a tightening in his chest. These trees had a scent similar to lime. For two days he had been surrounded by the overwhelming scent of lime, troubling his senses and violating his right to breath. It was everywhere, the smell. And because he had no good memory associated with it except for the escape, Daniel hated lime. It reminded him of the helplessness of being tied to a chair and beaten to pulp over and over again. His hand reached up to his face protectively as he ran, wincing from the soreness that was just beginning to subside. It reminded him of his captors, cruel and demanding. Especially the blonde fellow who was adamant on wearing a face mask. He let his blonde locks free but the face was always hidden. Daniel spent his time memorizing the curving and curling of Blondie’s hair, while the latter spent his time screaming ninety nine questions and introducing his fist to Daniel’s face.
He was nearly running out of breath by the time he made it to the clearing behind his house. The long journey was finally behind him, and judging by the quietness, so were the men. He applauded himself for having made the right decision by changing routes. It was quiet now. He was truly alone.
Glancing back, Daniel was hit by awe at how skillfully he’d run through the woods without succumbing to the fear he felt. But without further dilly dally, he sneaked his way into the backyard of the house, filling in the passcodes once he made to the back entrance. None of the passcodes to the house alarms had been changed, a fact that gave Daniel peace of mind. He wasn’t sure when the thought had formed but some part of him expected that he’d been forgotten.
For those two awful days he’d expected his Dad to barge his way into the dingy basement at the old lime factory, leading what must be a father’s heroic mission to save his son. But as the pain multiplied, Daniel was filled further and further with hopelessness. In the end, he was right to give up on that dream because no one came. Loneliness played with him, scratching at his heart, mind and soul. He felt so alone it caused him actual physical pain at times.
Worry played with him too. There was the question of what if something had happened to his father? The suits’ threats were filled with his father’s name once they realized Daniel wasn’t one to easily crack.
“We can find your father quite easily, you know. He’d never make it to nightfall. I wonder how long it would take to break a man’s bones before he finally eats the dirt.”
He shook his head adamantly, not ready to let that chain of memory depress him.
Looking around at the fully furnished interior, that familiar feeling of emptiness greeted him. The lights were off entirely, and it was rather too cold even though the windows were never left open. Daniel and his father were the only residents, with his mother having passed away when he was very young and his father choosing not to marry again. He barely saw his father because of his meetings and his job, and somehow the nineteen-year-old boy was used to getting by around here on his own. Except for the occassional hello’s to the cleaners and help during the day, he had no one to talk to. And for most days, he was okay with that. But not today.
Today, this cold and this darkness and this emptiness were a cruel mockery in some way reflecting how he was feeling on the inside.
Being back in his room brought an overwhelming wave of Nostalgia. Everything was as he had left it, even the curtains left slighlty open. He peeked out the window looking out into the night. The streets were quiet, and empty. But that was mostly the case in rich neighbourhoods in Levingham city.
Exhaustion fought for control over his muscles and he sat down briefly on his bed before deciding he needed to stop wallowing in his sadness and self pity. That horrible smell still followed him. Daniel gave a humorless chuckle when it dawned on him that he was the source of it. The lime filled air had stuck to his dirty skin and clothes stressing to become part of him.
He jumped into the shower then, scrubbing away at any traces of it.
By the time he came out of the warm waters, he felt rejuvenated and a surprising sense of gratefulness for having made it here so far. Maybe it was because he was suffering from lack of proper sleep but when his comfy pillows started to look very tempting, he found his way downstairs thinking it was better to wait for his father in the living room than up in his room. But even in the overstuffed arm chair, he couldn’t overcome the drowsiness and sleep came with all of its oblivion.
Daniel woke up with a harsh gasp, aware of his surroundings. He glanced at his watch understanding he had fallen asleep for roughly two hours. It was ten past midnight now and it didn’t seem like anyone had arrived yet. The front doors were still locked from the outside.
Dreaming of Maria was starting to take its toll on him. Everytime he closed his eyes she was there. Pain ate away at his heart, her anguished screams filling his ears and there he was reliving everything that happened that night all over again just like he had been ever since it happened. The words “I didn’t do it Daniel!” were etched permanently into his brain.
A thousand terrible emotions engulfed him and the worst part was, they were starting to feel familiar. He vigorously shook his head to clear away the memory and almost hit his knee on the coffee table. Daniel had not even realized he was pacing, but thoughts of Maria had that kind of effect on him. She was innocent, and now she was rotting away in jail for a crime she didn’t commit. On death row.
He had locked away all these emotions living on the high the adrenaline brought him. The fear and the puzzlement of figuring out his captors kept him occupied from the desperation that threatened to wipe out his sanity.
A sound was heard then; the clacking of shoes on the wooden front steps. He stood still in the darkness of the living room refusing to let out a single shaky breath.
A tall silhoutte of a man entered, jingling his car keys all too familiarly.
He walked over to the light switches, and then came illumination. Daniel stood so still for a moment he doubted his own presence. Was he actually there or was he fictionated?
The older man sucked in a sharp breath, his legs almost giving out on him.
“If I were a man who believes in ghosts...” He trailed off, his face drained of colour; white as sheets. “Daniel,” said his father, somehow managing to put all his emotion into one word.
“Dad?” It was barely audible, a dying whisper. Emotions formed lumps in his throat and he didn’t know whether to swallow or spit them out.
His father took a step forward as if to embrace him but seemed to change his mind, choosing to collapse back on the sofa. His hands came up to cover his face and if Daniel didn’t know any better he would’ve thought he was crying. But Daniel did know better. His father never cried. When the older Johnson put his hands back down to look at him, the boy knew he was right.
The age lines on his face seemed to have gotten heavier and more notable. “I thought you were dead.”
Daniel sucked in a sharp breath, tears stabbing at his eyes. “Dead?”
“Daniel,” He said again, standing up, uncertain of what to do next.
“Dad, its me. I’m okay,” Daniel assured him, taking a step closer. The boy’s words felt like a desperate lie because he knew he was a million miles far from okay.
“My son!” His father exclaimed, rushing forward suddenly to embrace him.
At first Daniel was shocked. Not because he wasn’t used to embraces or that his body was still sore. But because instead of feeling relief wash over him, he felt something else. To be exact, he smelled something else. Lime.
He held his breath and refused to succumb to the burning of his lungs for a minute. When his father let go of him, Daniel leaned back, utter confusion dominating his mind. There was no way the scent was coming from him because he had made sure to wash it away adamantly.
But if it wasn’t from him, how in the world could it be from his father?
Daniel was held captive in the old lime factory, but what explanation was there for his father to have the same scent?
Unless his father was there too.
It couldn’t be.
Refusing to believe his gut feeling and ignoring his instinct, he rushed forward and hugged his father again, ready to believe that it was all in his imagination. But there it was, that foul distinctive odor.
The scent of lime; the scent of betrayal.