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“Hey! Hey you girl, get up now.”

I felt someone poking me with a pointed something, jabbing it into my side. Ugh, my head was foggy and I couldn’t focus my eyes. Where am I? I thought. While trying to see through my glazed eyes I slowly I raised my hand to block out the blinding sunlight that covered my face and also warmed my body.

“There you go, sweetie.”

A female’s voice said to me.

“Easy now, don’t move too fast.”

“Where am I?” I asked her, sitting up and rubbing my eyes, to bring them into focus. I looked down at myself and saw that I was wearing the same dirty cotton night gown and my legs were covered in scrapes and bruises. Vivid flash backs of being confined in a small metal crate overwhelmed me, while each and every disgusting detail of the misery I had escaped from, surfaced all at once. Then from panic, I scrambled to my knees and tried my best to back away from the voice, when a sharp pain in my hand sent me spinning back around and on to my bottom.

“Stay away from me,” I told the blonde-haired girl.

She appeared to be in her mid-twenties, small in body size with pale skin. She was dressed in gray jogging pants and an oversized sweatshirt. Both were dirty and faded and seemed more like men’s clothes. I hesitated as she reached out her long narrow hand to mine, not knowing who this strange girl was or if I could trust her? I knew that I needed her help, and I had no idea how far away I was from my captors or if they were looking for me. A light refreshing breeze began to blow, and it lifted her hair from her forehead, revealing a whip mark. My eyes began to scan over her body, spotting out her ill-fitting clothing, raggedy tennis shoes, and dirty finger nails. My gut twisted inside of me as a lump formed in my throat.

“Here take my hand, I’ll help you up”. The girl said to me.

I frantically shook my head no.

“Don’t be afraid, okay”. She pleaded.

Then she leaned down reaching out to me and as she got closer, I noticed that her blue eyes, were blood shot with dark circles underneath. The breeze continued blowing and the smell of soil and clay arose from her hair, which was the same earthy smell of the underground place that I had just run away from. Quickly I scrambled to my feet and backed away holding my arms out as a warning to her, to not come any closer.

“Don’t”. I said. “You’re one of them, aren’t you? Stay BACK!” I yelled.

“Shhhh… Oh, please be quiet. I have to take you back. I just have to. I’m sorry this is happening to you I really am.” She began to tremble and cry while covering her mouth as snot and tears streamed down her face. I lowered my arms, suddenly feeling sorry for her tragic plea. The girl collapsed to her knees holding her distressed face in her dirty hands. I stood for what seemed like an eternity, staring down at her as she wept. What is happening? What has happened? I thought. A single tear rolled down my chin, and I bit down on my lip and twisted my fingers together to keep my hands from shaking. While emptiness and defeat ripped through me weakening my body even more, and with slumped shoulders and feeble legs I fell to the ground.

“I just want to go home”. I whispered.

“They have my twin sister.” The girl said. “She’s back there with them. We were grabbed at the same time by two hooded men and stuffed into a trunk while we were walking to our car from a day out shopping.” The girl told me. “They are going to kill her if I don’t take you back. They WILL kill her. Don’t’ you understand? Please. You have to come with me.”

I looked up into her sad eyes, listening to her desperate plea, and knew that she was telling the truth. I had lost count of how many girls were there with me in that underground tomb. Ironically, we all looked similar. Blond hair, about the same age, the same build. These men that held us captive were monsters, evil and malicious scum bags.

“I AM NOT GOING BACK”! I said to her through my teeth. “And, you shouldn’t either. Listen before I passed out, or whatever, I heard frogs… frogs and… and.” I gasped. Jumping to my feet, remembering smoke coming from a chimney.

“Smoke!” I said. “I saw smoke, coming from.” My heart pounded as I spun in circles looking and squinting my eyes searching for a trail of the gray smog. Raising my shaky bruised hand, over my brow shielding my eyes from the morning sun. “It came from over there.” I pointed, reaching my restless arm out in the direction from where I thought I remembered seeing the smoke and peered even harder trying to see the trail. While wanting and wishing that I would make it home alive, images of Stefen and his big brown eyes, handsome smile and caring ways, filled my head. I missed him more than ever. My heart felt like it was exploding inside of me, then tears began to flood my eyes drenching my face, and pooling salt and sadness on to my dry lips.

“Hallucination, you imagined it.” The girl said to me as she put one hand on my shoulder. “You didn’t see anything. You are delirious. It happens.”

I began backing away from her. “What do you mean?” “’ It happens.’” “Who are you? Why did you come after me?” I watched as she sat down in the grass and crossed her legs Indian style, her tiny frame practically drowned inside of the baggy sweat suit that was clearly made for a man’s body. I stared at her features, looking through the grime on her face and dirt in her hair. She really was stunning. Perfectly aligned nose, full pouty lips, and blue eyes. Why did this happen to her? I thought. And to the others? How and why did we all end up inside of those cages? I clutched the sides of my head, pulling at my hair, straining my eyes shut. I wanted to lock out the nightmarish sights of chains, metal tables and rusted cans used as toilets, the smell of urine and shit was agonizing, and not easily forgotten. The screams that would ricochet from every corner of that dungeon still ripped through every nerve in my body. Muffled sobs and whimpers that came from the helpless others held captive, and all of us enduring the same torturous beatings and starvation would never stop haunting me.

“My name is Brea”. She said, rubbing her shoulders. “Brea Jenkins”. My twin sister and I were out shopping at the South-Central Mall one Saturday. We were having a girl’s day, ya know? Shoe shopping. She cracked a smile and seemed to beam like she was reliving the event in her head. “Desi, loved to shop for shoes, even though her closet was bursting at the seams. She has more shoes than Macy’s department store.” She chuckled as she looked up at me, with a distant expression. I stood steadfast and unable to move, all I could do was stare at Brea and listen to her talk. She spoke carefree and comfortable having this conversation with me. A total stranger. Twirling her dirty blonde hair around her first finger. She went on not caring or having any realization that she had just run all night searching for me, with every intention of taking me back to that place.

I get it. They threatened to kill her sister, and she will do any and everything to save her. But not at my expense. I will not be taken prisoner again.

“Here, sit down with me,” Brea said, patting at a grassy spot beside her. I crossed my arms in a cautious stance and huffed at the pathetic attempt she was making to become friends or whatever it was. Has she really separated herself from reality? I thought.

“I don’t want to sit! I want to get the hell out of here and I want to go home!” I yelled at her in disgust. I could not believe how nonchalant she was acting. Wasn’t she just in the same torture chamber that I was, and kept underground in a dog cage? Tormented, starved, and raped? Some girls were even beaten in front of everyone as a clear warning of what would happen if we tried to escape or fight back. We were stolen from our lives and our families, and Brea seemed to be living in a fairy tale land.

“You are unreal.” I said to her. “I’m going to look for help, and getting away from here. Are you coming with me or not?” The sun had now warmed up my body and given me a new hope, the pain in my head and hand had vanished and I was optimistic that I would continue my escape and I would find help.

The girl continued to stare off into space, never moving or even blinking her eyes. Her breathing had turned shallow, and she began to mimic that of a dirt covered statue. The sight of her annoyed me and all I wanted was to grab her by the shoulders and shake her. Shake her until she snapped out of her trance, but instead, my heart went out to her. I then put my feelings aside, and turned away from my own pain and agony, to sympathize with this pathetically, lost girl. I Knelt down beside her, and could hear her empty stomach roar. I was sure it had been days since she’d eaten anything and longer since she’d had a decent meal. I took her cold hand into mine. Her long skinny fingers had scars and scabbed over cuts. Red welts and bruises encircled both of her wrists, and, I guessed it was from her being tied up. The two of us sat in the tall grass holding hands and looking out over the field in front, while a pale blue sky hung over our heads. If it weren’t for the fact that we were both covered in dirt, bruises and dressed like orphaned children, it may have appeared that she and I were good friends hanging out and having fun the way my best friend April and I had done many times. Only this was certainly not the case. Not at all. We were two strangers who had crossed dangerous paths. We’d met under very extreme and unlikely circumstances. Two young women who were taken away from their families, robbed of happiness and freedom, treated like animals and forced to experience unspeakable acts of cruelty. For a short period, time seemed to stand still and a calmness swept over me and my body soon relaxed. Closing my eyes was easier, and I could hear the birds chirping and the wind sweeping its gentleness through the high grass. For the first time in a long while I was able to exhale, and let my mind wonder back in time when I lived a normal life. Traveling from home to School where I attended classes, in hopes of a career as a software engineer. Visions of Stefen and the time we spent together felt serene and reassuring that I would have that special bond with him again. My mind drifted through memories of my love, and my Best friend April that I had known and loved since we were small children. The two of us grew up living next door to one another and attended the same Schools, we joined the same clubs, and sometimes told people that were sisters. The day that I last spent with her was very vivid to me, I had replayed our last encounters over and over, in search of anything that might reassure me that she was safe. I knew that she couldn’t have been taken as I was, I remembered watching her drive off ahead of me after our run together that day. My body relaxed, and my thoughts turned away from despair. I was so engulfed in my remembrances to notice that when my grip loosened around Brea’s cold hand, she had fallen over into the grass, and on to her side.

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