The Beauty of Grey

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Chapter 3

I was being bounced around like luggage in the back seat of a vehicle that did not feel or smell like my own.

I was dazed and befuddled as I began to come to, my head spinning like a globe prepared to fly off of its axis. My eyes weighed a million pounds as I tried to open them, blurring everything in my line of sight. I took a deep breath as my eyes fell shut again.

The road was gravel, given away by the bumpy ride and the sound of loose gravel hitting the bottom of the vehicle. We were outside of town, and I wasn’t behind the wheel. It took a few seconds for me to remember how the hell I had gotten here, but I recovered quickly when I remembered being knocked unconscious in my own home by someone who had come there with intentions to rob me like I was valuable jewelry.

There was a dull throb in my neck, pounding as though it was the new gathering ground for a headache. It grew more powerful the longer I paid attention to it, pulsating and surging.

We hit a bump, and my body thrashed around with the limpness of a corpse. My throat, although dry, managed a wheeze as my hands balled into fists. I took another deep breath, trying my hardest not to disengage myself from the rest of the outside world...again.

"You’re awake.” A deep voice from the drivers seat noted, sounding unimpressed—my kidnapper. The man from the gas station.

My eyes jerked open, but weren’t able to focus on anything. I was laying on my back, so the only thing I’d really be able to zero in on was the ceiling of the car, anyway. My eyes were crossed, and I took long blinks in order to try and get my clear vision back. I groaned, my tongue like taffy.

“I—” I slurred, unable to form words.

“I was worried I had overdosed you,” he proceeded to tell me, voice filled with stubborn concern. “You slept longer than anticipated.”

My eyes finally were able to focus, but they were still heavy. Perspiration gathered on my forehead like hot oil against my burning skin. “Owwww...” I garbled.

“The side effects should be wearing off shortly,” he informed me. “Try to get yourself to sit up.”

"Owww.” I complained, already cognizant that I would be unable to.

“It’s hard to remember your immune system is unlike mine,” he added. “That you’re unlike me.”

My head lolled from side to side as he hit another bump before veering a sudden left. My arms shot out as I moved to brace myself, one hand pressing against the back of the mans seat and the other slapping the back window. I hadn’t been out all night, I realized. It was pitch black outside; sometime still in the dead of night.

“Wh-what—” I slurred again, sounding intoxicated. “Was it?” I questioned, feeling thoroughly fatigued by just moving my arms alone.

“What was what?” He asked defensively, like I had witnessed something I shouldn’t have.

“That neeeeeeeedle.”

“An anesthetic,” he told me nonchalantly. “Nothing you’ve heard of, so don’t ask what it is.”

“Wh-why?” I whimpered, my arms falling to my sides as I tried to stabilize them, trying to gather the strength to sit up.

“You wouldn’t come willingly. You put up too much of a struggle and you made too much noise—you were waking up your neighbours, and I couldn’t have that.”

And I was silent for a few minutes as I struggled to push myself up into a sitting position. I felt like I hadn’t moved in years and I was rusted stiff. My joints needed a good torquing in order to be usable again. I felt like I was no good to myself; my head so insensible I wasn’t even scared or worried about my kidnappers plans with me.

Finally able to sit up, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to support myself for long. Taking in a puff of air, I pulled my body up until my back was pressed against the door, my legs draped across the back seat. I still had my clothing on; and my converse were replaced on my feet. I hadn’t been taken advantage of, and he had put my shoes back on.

“H-how—” I muttered, closing my eyes as my head tapped against the window. “—Long until this wears off?”

“I can’t say. Could be minutes. Could be hours. How do you feel?”

“Like death.” I sneered.

“Are you thirsty?”

I cracked an eye open, glancing at him from the corner of it. Truth was, I was parched and was probably at risk for critical dehydration, but I was worried that drinking anything he gave me would have more anaesthetics in it and knock me out again. Weakly, I shook my head. A silence ensued after, and I was nearly positive that he hadn’t watched my physical response. He had, though.

“Rest, Edie. I will not hurt you.” He reassured me, but I wouldn’t allow myself to sleep again. I opened both of my eyes, feeling every bump and dip that the vehicle came into contact with. I looked out the back window, realizing we were in a truck.

He turned on the radio, and a song I was unfamiliar with began to play. It was the same kind of music I liked listening to, but my mouth still twisted into a grimace as though it didn’t live up to my taste. He kept it low enough where I was still able to listen to my heavy breaths over it.

But still, nothing had really set in yet. I blamed it on shock—everything I felt desensitized to.

They say that when you become a part of a crime, or the hostage of a criminal, the reality of it doesn’t hit you right away simply because you hold onto the mindset that it would never happen to you. Watching investigation discovery and seeing survivors taking about their story, nine out of ten of them shared the belief that it wasn’t really happening.

And now I felt the same way—like this wasn’t really happening. It felt like an out of body experience, as though I was watching the scene play out for someone who merely looked like me but wasn’t me at all. I felt so immune to a harrowing, seemingly fatal situation.

I stared at my feet for maybe ten minutes with eyes that didn’t remember how to blink on their own, until I was certain the anaesthetic had predominately worn off. I swished my feet so they stood on the floor of the truck, and so that my body was facing the back of the mans seat. My body was warm and continued to create a sensation I couldn’t explain, my neck still throbbing.

The man reached for a plastic water bottle from the passenger seat and unscrewed the cap, steering with his knee. He pressed the rim to his lips and took two large gulps before outstretching it to me with his hand. I looked at it suspiciously, no longer fearing it was drugged, but that maybe he had some sort of psycho-criminal-villain disease that I could contract.

He shook his arm at me aggressively when I wouldn’t take it from him. “I know you’re dehydrated. I’m clean.” he said, like his verbal promise was what would set his word in stone for all to admire and believe.

I met his eyes in the rear view mirror, squinting them for the shortest second. I held eye contact, and he looked at me in such a way that I was certain he knew what I was planning before I did. His eyes seemed to flicker with vulnerability, as though to try and give me a message through the mirror that would prevent me from doing what I intended on doing.

But not even the voice of Morgan Freeman descending from the heavens to tell me to stop would get me to listen.

One hand grabbed the door handle as I threw it open, before I threw myself out of the vehicle. I curled into a ball as I fell on my shoulder, landing hard on the gravel road as I rolled backwards, dust creating a blurry scene around me.

Rocks tore up my clothing and scraped any skin I had exposed, stinging like lemon juice being poured on paper cuts. My whole skeleton seemed to rattle from the impact, turning to dust beneath my flesh. I was surprised at the lack of extreme pain I seemed to experience, but I knew I’d feel it later...if I was alive later.

I stopped on my stomach and hissed through clenched teeth as I looked back at the truck. The tires screeched as the man hit the brakes, ready to come chasing after me on foot instead of leaving me abandoned in the middle of nowhere. My eyes widened as I forced myself to my knees before pushing myself to my feet, surprising myself at my sudden strength. I ran instantly, sprinting like I had when I had reached the top of my stairs. Adrenaline was my new best friend.

The difference was I was able to lock myself in a room then, although it didn’t do me much good. But now, I couldn’t stop and try to regroup anywhere because I was surrounded by a vast, inundated wilderness that stretched for miles and miles without any town, or any other city or civilization nearby. I was royally fucked. If the man didn’t track me down, some hungry animal would. Either way, I was prey.

But I would’ve rather fallen prey to a wild creature than a filthy kidnapper. My heart raced equally at the thought of both, though; both possibilities no less tempting than the other.

His door slammed shut behind him as he began to pursue me on foot. I looked at him over my shoulder for a quick moment, feeling dread at his advantage over me. He was too tall and too muscular and too fast and too strong. I was small and more aerodynamic than he was, sure, but he had longer legs that moved faster than mine with little to no effort at all.

I began to panic as I turned back around. Running straight allowed me to break ground faster, and I wanted to throw him off by zig-zagging but I knew you only ran like that if you were trying to dodge a bullet. Even if I were to begin zig-zagging, my chaser could still run straight and catch up to me even faster than he could before. I wish I had the speed of a cheetah or the ability to make myself disappear like a true magician.

But, unfortunately, I was only human, and was only able to do so much and run so fast. I could hear the mans feet kicking up gravel from behind me, each footfall sounding nearer and nearer than the last. I knew that I had to do something to divert him quickly, or he was going to put an end to this chase before it could even begin.

I looked at him over my left shoulder; the scraped one that I had landed on, feeling my anxiety spike at our proximity. He was no more than ten, maybe fifteen feet behind me. If he were to lunge at me like a snake in the grass, he’d definitely be able to hook onto my ankle to take me down. I was scared he would. I had to act—and I had to act fast.

So I hooked a sudden right, running into the steep ditch. The grass was wet and slippery from humidity and nighttime dew and I waxed out; somersaulting down the rest of the ditch until I reached the bottom, narrowly avoiding a pine tree. I got up to my feet, the pain dulled by my will to live as I began to run like I hadn’t had any disturbances.

But my chaser was just as nifty as I was, and as I broke the tree line and entered the forest I could hear him running down the ditch. He was dedicated when it came to having me where he wanted me, and I realized his persistence was not was endless.

So far.

I began to weave through the trees, knowing that this was possibly a good tactic. As he tried to avoid the trees, I’d run through them and confuse him until he lost sight of me. He could only divide so much of his attention onto me as we ran through a pine-infested forest. I’d elude him at some point. I doubted he’d search for me all night—I prayed that he wouldn’t. The probability that he wouldn’t was the only thing I really had to go off of.

The deeper I ran into the forest, the trickier it became for me to weave through the pines. The ground was beginning to get more uneven, and I found myself climbing over more obstacles than I was producing. My idea wasn’t outrageous, but it was proving to be unreliable.

When I looked over my shoulder, however, my chaser was farther behind me than he was when he had originally started chasing me. He was bulkier and higher up than I was, so he had to dodge branches and switches that I didn’t have to.

I turned back around, continuing my weaving. My lungs burned and my feet ached, the adrenaline starting to wear off as I convinced myself that I had reigned victorious. I couldn’t envision him catching up to me, not when he was lagging so far behind. He might get tired before I did, and he’d turn back without me.

So I looked over my shoulder again, and this time I couldn’t see him. I wasn’t going to bother looking for him, because I knew he wasn’t going to sneak up from beside or in front of me. I turned back around once more, running and running and running for what seemed like miles. I pushed myself to the brink of being rendered lame like a spent horse until I convinced myself to take a break.

When I slowed into a walk, I was drenched with my salty sweat. My curls stuck to my face as my shirt clung to my abdomen. I was taking loud rasps as my mouth desperately took in air just to get my breathing back on track. My relief was short lived, however, as I began to realize I was walking further and further into the lions den.

I had outrun one problem only to get myself into another. I had escaped my chaser only to be at the mercy of woods that were most likely less merciful than him. I may have been being stalked by dozens of wolves, by a lone cougar, or maybe a poisonous spider. I may have just walked into my own death, because the forest did not seem to fork into a town or city.

I stopped walking, expecting to hear crickets or frogs from down below or an owl up above. Instead, I heard nothing—nothing but an unsettling, troublesome quietude that gave me the illusion that time had stopped just for me. No mice scurried, no squirrels scampered up a tree, and no wind rustled the leaves.

But I began to feel cold, a sudden chill gripping my body like a second skin. There was no fog and no mist, so everything was bared and exposed; no secrets hidden. Nonetheless, I wasn’t under the influence that I had a one up on anything. Wolves blended into their surroundings, cougars were smart and often lunged from trees. They adapted to their surroundings, while I was in unwelcome territory.

I started hyperventilating, becoming paranoid and dubious. The moon and stars only casted so much light throughout the woods, and I wasn’t gifted with nighttime vision. Suddenly everything looked like two glowing eyes and snarling, gnashing teeth waiting to rip my flesh off my bones like I was a drumstick. I was positive I was going to die.

I began to walk backwards, head thrashing in random directions as I breathed rapidly, heart leaping from my chest and into my throat, trailing up into my head until it began to hurt. My knees and hands began to shake as my eyes gathered with tears. Sweat seemed to spill from my hairline in buckets.

My back slammed into a tree, and I took off running like I had run into a grizzly bear or Sasquatch. I was a more difficult target if I was moving than if I was standing still, right? The fact that I was running again would’ve seemed huge if I wasn’t as terrified as I was...and if I wasn’t looking around the area crazily each time my foot landed on the earth.

And if I hadn’t run straight into a chest. I let out a horrible scream as a hand clamped over my mouth, an arm tightening around my waist to hold me in place. The man from the gas station began to shush me as I continued to scream into his hand. I couldn’t tell if I was more terrified or grateful that he had found me. In that moment, he scared me less than the great unknown.

But that didn’t stop me from turning against him. He might have been the lesser of two evils, but he was no less of a demon to me.

I bit his hand hard enough where I tasted blood, and it hurt him enough to uncover my mouth. I raised one of my heels and brought it down full force onto his foot, but it did less damage than my teeth and didn’t seem to phase him. My next best bet was to propel us off of something.

Raising my foot to a tree, I used all of my might to push us off of it. He might’ve been so distracted by his hand that he was caught off guard from me pushing us. He stumbled backwards maybe a step, until he fell. He let me go, knowing that not even his body could shield me from the inconvenient forest hill. He knew I wouldn’t be able to gather my bearings, either.

We rolled down the hill, prickly weeds and nasty thistles, pointed rocks and mounds of dirt making our trip no less easier. Both of us grunted as we frivolously attempted to stop ourselves, nothing but rag dolls to Mother Nature. We both knew our attempts were frugal, but it didn’t stop us from trying.

And I watched as my chaser disappeared from view, falling over what I was horrified was a cliff that hung over a drop I could not possibly come out of in one piece. I was so scared that I could not even scream as my body locked up, falling over the edge my attacker had just fallen over. I closed my eyes, awaiting my impending death without so much as acceptance.

I wasn’t airborne for five seconds until I landed in a body of cold water. Instantly my eyes shot open as I realized I was no longer falling to my death, but rather fell into what I assumed to be a creek. It took me a second to unlock my body to prevent myself from sinking like an anchor.

I swam to the surface, taking a large breath like I had nearly drowned. The creek was still, discarding the small ripples and waves that came from my reemergence to the surface. My breath fogged as I treaded water, looking around me as if to see where the man could possibly come up. But I didn’t see nor hear air bubbles pop on the top of the water.

I hoped that he had fallen headfirst into a shallow area and cracked his head open...but in the same breath I didn’t because he was my only chance of navigation out of here. Unless by some miracle I stumbled upon a cabin, whether it was being used or not. I couldn’t afford to be picky.

Deciding not to stick around and wait to find out where or what happened to him, I began to swim to the rocky shore on the opposite side I had fallen from. The water felt like dozens of sewing needles puncturing my skin, and my wounded shoulder seemed to feel so cold that it was hot. I didn’t make it impressively far, however.

I gasped and took in a mouthful of water when a hand latched onto my ankle, dragging me back underwater in the direction I was swimming away from. As though I could still swim away, I tried to breast stroke out of his grip. It was silly, of course it was, but it was all I could do.

He let go of my ankle and pressed his body against my back, once again wrapping an arm around my waist as we surfaced together. I coughed up the water I inhaled, trying to clear my hair from my face as I was pulled away from where I was intending to go. I couldn’t even fight against my kidnapper anymore, only because I knew there was no use.

When he pulled me to the unfavourable shore that I had wanted to avoid, I sputtered up the last of the water that I inhaled. My clothes were heavy and I, myself, was waterlogged as my feet touched solid rock. I was useless and my steps faltered as my defeat prevented me from keeping myself upright. I was as worn out as I was worn thin.

When the water was no more than ankle deep, the man lowered us both onto the rocks gently. Once we were on the ground, however, he let me go; only because he knew I wouldn’t make it far. I couldn’t outrun him, nor out-swim him, and I couldn’t bash him over the head with something because my actions were too predictable. He knew I was fucked just as much as I knew I was fucked.

But he decided he was going to be humane rather than letting me wallow in my own self pity and helplessness. He slinked one arm around my neck and rested his hand on the underside of my jaw, and with his other hand pressed his thumb and index finger into the side of my neck where he had placed the needle, inducing a sudden lethargy. I still fought back against his attempt to knock me out again,—albeit pathetically—coiling my hands around his tensed forearm that struck my pressure point.

But it was to no avail and luck wasn’t on my side. He lowered my head down onto the rocks as warmth radiated off of him, counteracting the chill I wouldn’t be able to shake. My kidnapper may have muttered an apology, but I was too drowsy to interpret what he was saying.

Sleep encased me in its billowing arms for the second time that night without my consent.

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