The Beauty of Grey

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Chapter 5

My head laid on a pillow when I started to regain consciousness, my body stretched out on the bed.

I gasped myself fully awake and bolted into an upright position, my motor movements unaffected by any pain I had felt the last time I was lucid. It was both refreshing and perplexing to wake up pain free, given that I hadn’t taken on any injuries that could heal in the span of a few hours; even if my body tried recuperating while I slept.

The man had held true to his word. Whatever he had slipped me in that glass of water made me feel ten feet tall and bulletproof.

I couldn’t help but run my hands over my body, though, bewildered at how brand new I felt. I ran my hands down my bandaged biceps, down my forearms, down my ribs and down my legs. If I hadn’t so vividly remembered what events had taken place before this point, I might’ve convinced myself that everything was all in my head.

Yet everything reeled like a movie in perfect sequence, each scene playing rapidly one after the other. There was no way I could discard what had taken place. I relived each phase like history was repeating itself again. Everything was real—too real.

Curiosity compelled me to see just how magnificent the cream had worked on my road rash; if it compared to whatever was in the water. I bit my lip in anticipation as I grabbed the edge of the gauze on my left shoulder, lifting it up to take a peek at how it was recovering. I was expecting that maybe the redness would’ve gone down a slight bit.

What I didn’t expect was that my road rash had healed completely. I gaped at my shoulder, my jaw dropping so fast I was worried it unhinged.

I began to rip the gauze from my arm, unravelling it in a crazed rush as though not taking it off fast enough would backtrack the healing. Alas, however, my arm was still free from any gaping wounds from pointed rocks, or scars from my bare skin skidding against the road. It was like the incident hadn’t happened at all. I was incredulous as I tore the gauze from my other arm, revealing the same thing.

“What the fuck...” I breathed, still trying to believe that my eyes were playing tricks on me. But this was no trick or cruel illusion. My arm was as smooth and unmarked as it had been a day ago. I felt my heartbeat pick up as I tried to think up explanations for how this was possible. But everything came up blank—there was no elucidation for this.

Unless I had slept for a few weeks or months, it was unfeasible.

It made me realize how urgently I needed to escape. Maybe the man was a mad scientist, putting me through a series of physical tests so I could get abrasions that required attention and he could test whatever potions he had stirred up in his evil lab in his basement on me. I wondered if he just wanted to use me as a guinea pig.

I didn’t want to stick around to find out. I scoped the room in a last second effort to ensure that I was alone. Thankfully, I was. The man wasn’t keeping me company, and he wasn’t lurking in the shadows. The sun was rising in the sky, painting the entire room with a fiery glow. It looked like a red room, with the vermillion dawn and the dark walls.

But I was suspicious and cautious, not confident enough to believe that I was in the clear yet. I made sure to continue to observe my surroundings as if to expect a surprise attack. I was one hundred percent positive I was alone, but I was still instinctively paranoid that the man was lurking somewhere I was not scrutinizing nearly enough; ready to empty another syringe into me.

I hung one leg over the edge of the bed and gingerly tapped the toe of my shoe to the floor, worried that I was about to step on a booby trap. But nothing happened. There was no booby trap that would set off an alarm, alerting my kidnapper of my state of awareness.

Sliding my other leg over, I lowered myself graciously onto the floor, bracing my arms in front of me as if I knew how to properly defend myself with them. I lowered myself onto my knees as though I was preparing to crawl across thin ice that couldn’t hold my weight if I were to stand upright.

But I did it to lessen the risk of the floor creaking, because my weight was dispersed more evenly. It would’ve looked ridiculous if the man were to walk in, but it wasn’t the most unreasonable of ideas.

I considered, for maybe a second or two, crawling to the door and seeing if it was unlocked, but decided against it. If I were to open the door, I may or may not be greeted with him waiting patiently for me outside. If he wasn’t directly outside, however, he could be listening in from another room, just awaiting me trying to make a break for it in the most overused route possible.

The better, less foreseeable route was the window, I opted. I began to crawl to the window, noticing the bench that could’ve been the perfect place to curl up and read a long romance book. I started thinking that maybe the cards of fate and chance were beginning to play into my hand, allowing me the leeway to escape.

Once I was at the window I hoisted myself onto the bench, sat on my knees and got a good look outside. Outside of the window was a steep roof with wooden shingles, and what seemed like too long of a drop to the ground. If I were to slip on the roof and fall, I may not walk away so lucky. I would definitely break a few things. But it was a risk I was willing to take.

I looked over my shoulder, making sure that I wouldn’t be caught conspiring to run away before I could even begin to follow my plan of action. But I never heard the click of the lock, or the twisting of the knob on the door. I held my breath for a few seconds, seeing if I could pick up on the sound of footsteps reverberating in the halls. All I could pick up on, however, was the static ringing in my ears.

I took a deep breath, placing my hands on the bottom of the window that was cracked open maybe an inch. I began to pull up, straining myself when it wouldn’t budge right away. I wondered how long it had been kept cracked open, or if it had ever been fully closed at all. I let out a groan as I struggled with all of my might to at least crack it open a centimetre more. But it was stubborn, refusing to unstick.

The window, I gathered as I sat back away from it, was just...stuck. Stuck as a bug beneath a rock. This wasn’t a good thing. It wasn’t like I could bat my eyelashes and sweetly ask the man to open the window all the way for me when he came back. It was warm in the room, sure, but it wasn’t warm enough to open the window for maximum airflow. He’d read right through me. It didn’t help that I was a terrible liar and an honest blurter.

So I had to conjure up as much strength as I could muster. Taking a deep breath, I placed my fingers on the bottom of the window again, and with all of my might continued to try and pull it up. My teeth grinded together as my eyes clenched shut with focus and determination. The tips of my fingers began to sting, sending tingles up the length of my arm.

I stopped and took another break, trying to regroup myself. I kept my eyes closed as I slackened my body, my fingers resting on my thighs. I felt the rush of hope begin to withdrawal from my system as consternation began to replace it. What if I couldn’t open the window in time? What if I soiled my opportunity at freedom?

My body sagged with momentary surrender, feeling like it was was best to quit while I was still ahead. The window seemed to be held down by the hands of defeat, and no matter how much I was set on coming out victorious it would do its best to make certain I was subdued.

My heart began to race as I looked over my shoulder again, expecting to hear footsteps at any point. I was under the impression that he would still be in the house, making sure I wouldn’t flee. I was scared he was watching me through hidden cameras nestled in cramped places like a spider waiting for its next meal.

But if he hadn’t barged in so far, then I doubted he had cameras recording my every move. And the longer I sat there, the more I ran the risk of him coming to check in on me. If I were to open this window as soon as possible, I could possibly elude him like I hadn’t been able to before.

I closed my eyes, straightened my spine, and placed my fingers on the bottom of the window. I didn’t attempt to open it right away because I didn’t think that just jumping right back into it would offer me a better probability of opening it than I had before. I needed to muster up some more strength, on the basis of thinking of the inevitable.

I thought of all the horrible, beastly things he could do to me if I didn’t break free from his prison. He could chain me to the bed for hours on end, leaving me to lay in my own excrements. He could force himself upon me whenever he desired and humiliate me until he decided he was done with me. He could beat me up every night until I was black and blue and bleeding from places I had never bled from before. He could brainwash me and turn me into a killer or a drone who only lives to serve his every beck and call. He could turn me into a slave—a sex slave. He could deny me of basic human rights. He could take everything away from me; sweep my ability to think for myself right out from under my feet. He could reduce me to a vegetive state until I became solely dependent on him to take care of me.

It was enough to refill my will to run instead of laying down and accepting whatever he wanted to do to me. Taking a deep breath, I began to pull up the window with all my might. I felt blood rush to my face as I strained and struggled and did not give up, even when the window would not budge right away.

I would not take a break until the window was open. If I died trying to pry it open, then so be it. But I was not throwing in the towel, not when I could reign supreme.

The window let out a screech of protest as it squealed open all at once, moving up so fast I was nearly projected outside. My hands gripped the windowsill as I teetered forward, feeling my face pale at the racket that had just ensued. If my windows at home were this loud every time I opened them, I’d wake up the whole neighbourhood whenever I needed fresh air.

I slowly brought my body back into the bedroom and listened and waited. If the man had been anywhere in the house, he would have heard the window. I held my breath for no less than thirty seconds as I waited for the grim sound of heavy footfalls. I was nearly certain he’d come and investigate.

But he didn’t come even after I released the breath I had been holding. He didn’t come after I waited for forty five seconds; a minute. I realized that he really wasn’t home and if I wanted to scream and throw things around, I could get away with it.

I didn’t do that, of course. Instead I composed myself and regulated my breathing until I was calm enough to begin to sneak out of the window. Slowly I eased a leg out and secured my positioning with my heel, not moving the other leg out until I was certain that my position was stabilized. Once my legs were out, I pulled them up into a crawling position

Keeping a tight grip on the sill, i edged my body from the window as I leisurely inched my knees backwards, making sure to not rush myself out to increase the risk of falling and causing serious, actual life threatening damage to my body. This dive to the ground would be more detrimental than jumping out of a truck.

The back of my neck pricked with anxiety as the reality of how high up I was began to set in as I edged more and more of my body out of the window. I felt my head spin as a wave of vertigo crashed over me, taking my breath away for a second. I had never been fond of heights, never even for the thrill of riding a rollercoaster.

I started mumbling prayers as the rest of my body exited the room. There wasn’t wind as far as I could tell—not as much as a soft breeze—but I was worried I’d be struck by a sudden gust that would send me flying around like a plastic bag. Despite my stance, I had never felt more unstable.

I swallowed and closed my eyes, realizing that I couldn’t let my fear of falling prevent me from successfully escaping. I slowly peeled my fingers off of the sill, one hand at a time, as I continued to inch my body backwards. I was moving slow enough that once I reached the end of the roof, I’d be able to tell before it was too late. I had never been so nerve-wracked doing anything else in my life. This felt like an extreme sport. I probably burned a couple thousand calories from my stress alone.

It felt like the roof went on for hundreds of miles until my foot finally left the edge and was greeted by the air. I cracked my eyes open but refused to look down to the ground until my body was lowered and I had to free-fall. I’d have no choice but to just...drop, anyway.

I lifted my legs over the edge of the roof, my arms supporting my weight as I eased the rest of my body down; quickly readjusting my grip last second and grabbing a hold of the gutters. I let out a sigh of triumph, grateful I hadn’t fallen to my death. So far I had done everything right.

Looking down to the ground, the drop wasn’t massive enough where I’d break something if I landed the right way. It wasn’t as if I was jumping off of the roof...I was dropping from it. I wouldn’t fall as hard or as fast as I would if I boosted myself off. I’d probably feel the searing pain of the initial impact from the landing surge up my ankles, but it was a temporary pain that would disappear in seconds. Adrenaline would be quick to make the pain feel null.

“Three,” I muttered, counting down.

“Two,”

"One.”

I let go of the gutters and landed on my feet. I felt the pain surge through my ankles, but I knew I hadn’t broken anything when agony didn’t follow and I didn’t collapse onto my side. I had done it. I had accomplished what I liked to call a prison break; I had felt locked up in there. And it felt surreal,

Knowing that I had won. I had broke free. I felt like The Real McCoy.

But I wasn’t so sure I’d be able to maintain that win if I were to continue to stand there and bask in my giddiness and glory. Before I began to run, however, I looked around the premises and observed what I was up against. It was a bit...astonishing what surrounded me. Unexpected at the least.

It was like a village—a village in the middle of nowhere. There were dozens of quaint cottages like the one I had just escaped, but only not as big. The wood for each cabin was dark and stained. Each cabin had a vehicle—something modestly new—so I knew that these places weren’t abandoned. I had thought that the man had taken me to somewhere secluded or unheard of. But instead he had neighbours, more eyes and ears...yet I didn’t think they’d be on my side if I were to go pleading to them for help.

My mind instantly went to suggest that maybe this was an organized cult and that I wasn’t the only woman to have been kidnapped and brought out here. Terror turned my blood to ice as goosebumps littered my skin. Did my kidnapper intend to wait until the full moon to sacrifice me to the devil in a pentagram made from bent, frail trees? Was he going to slice my neck and hold a goblet under it to collect my blood and drink it like it was red wine?

Profoundly disconcerted, I began to sprint straight ahead to avoid having to run across the views of the windows of the cabins that could house others who were in on these illegal affairs or dedicated to their rituals. If I ran straight ahead and anyone were to pursue me I could outrun them or at least find a place to hide after breaking the tree line. To cut across and run in front of dozens of other cabins increased my chances of being caught.

And I ran for my life, realizing I could potentially be the first victim to ever escape this place. If I ran deep enough into the forest I could cut sideways at some point and begin looking for a gravel road then; once it’s out of the villages boundaries or out of their border range. I’d still do what I intended to do, just a bit later than anticipated.

I kept looking over my shoulder every ten seconds, deeply alleviated when each time I looked over my shoulder I was not being followed. I felt like I was home free, too far along in this venture to be caught. My confidence didn’t allow tardiness, however, and I kept running at full speed.

I skipped looking over my shoulder for one interval, but yet it was like I had missed everything significant by doing so. When I was no more than fifty meters away from the tree line, I began to hear howls in the distance behind me, originating from the village I was running away from. The howls were angry; full of piss and vinegar.

The howls were also collective. It was a pack—a pack of wolves.

When I looked over my shoulder, I instantly regretted it. There were dozens of assorted wolves behind me, spread along the length of the field as they began to chase me, in hot pursuit of me. They were doing it that way so that once they caught up to me they’d close in and surround me, like bees besieging an intruder and cuddling it to death.

The difference, however, was that the wolves would not cuddle me to death. They would each take turns ripping me open and tearing my flesh, crushing my bones and making a meal of my body. They were predators, and I was their prey. The village was not only frequented by cult members, it was also home to hungry wolves.

I tried to pick up my pace as I broke the tree line. Had I been able to climb trees, I would’ve climbed up one so fast and I would’ve never climbed down from it. Unfortunately, though, I had never been taught how to climb a tree...and I was not willing to die trying, not this way.

They were gaining on me fast. I knew that wolves ran faster than man, but yet some buried, guileless part of me hoped that I could outrun them. Whatever I knew—in the back of my mind—would happen hadn’t set in yet; I wasn’t able to accept it.

I was going to get mutilated by these wolves.

When I checked over my shoulder again, I saw at least a dozen of them from directly behind me; their other friends preparing to encircle me from my blind spots. I had become a sacrifice in this formidable forest. I was going to die. There was no chance I could possibly survive the deadly encounter. I had been doomed the moment I had let go of the gutter.

I could make out every strand of fur that covered the wolves. I couldn’t help but notice, however, their odd colouring. These wolves had coats of blond, black, mahogany, red and brunette amongst every other shade in between. The wolves native to these parts didn’t have a broad fur colour spectrum. What types of hybrid wolves were these?

I didn’t have much time to ponder on the question, though. When I turned back around, I had fucked myself over. I should’ve faced forward seconds earlier, because if I had I wouldn’t have tripped over the fallen tree trunk. I let out a cry as my foot hooked on it, sending my body crashing onto the ground; my arms barely able to break my fall

I rolled onto my back, eyes wide with mortification as I heard the stealthily approaching growls of livid wolves ready to feed off of my flesh. I wasn’t stupid enough to get up and try to make another break for it, because a set of jaws could crush my skull faster than I could make a peep.

My whole body began to convulse as I laid on the forest floor, nothing but a rewarding meal for the predators that had chased me. I was like a fawn; able to maintain a good chase for a few moments until clumsiness reared its ugly head, being my greatest downfall in the end. Horror confined me; cornered me and mocked me, making my last few living seconds hellish. I wasn’t ready to experience this type of pain.

And I couldn’t even scream as a lunging wolf came into view, its shadow encasing my trembling figure as it opened its jaws wide, flashing its canines the size of daggers at me as it prepared to swallow me whole.

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