Abigail opened her tired, stinging eyes to see nothing but darkness. She was lying on a comfortable bed, but she was far from being comfortable. Her wrists and ankles were tied to the wood frame. She initially and instinctively struggled against the rope restraints to no avail. She was completely at the mercy of her captor.
She tried to remember the events that had caused her to be tied to this bed in this strange place. A hazy memory came to mind. I spoke to a tall, thin man at the back of a red car. Was I giving directions? Was I offering to help him with something?
I vaguely remember sitting on a chair, feeling cold with a bright light in front of me. There was a deeply personal interview, and then… nothing.
In the next few moments she discovered that there was nothing in or in front of her mouth, nothing preventing her from speaking or shouting without restraint. She wanted to scream, to try to get the attention of anyone else outside of the walls which held her captive. Sadly, on attempting to do so, the exertion of her vocal chords produced a noise so faint that she would barely have drawn the attention of someone in the next room.
Throughout her ordeal, she was surprised to find that even the slightest movement was almost impossible, regardless of restraint. I couldn’t move, no matter how much I wanted to. As much as she needed to find a way out, something deep within her seemed to lock her in situ. It’s like all of this is happening to someone else when it’s happening.
She screwed up her face as she recalled the argument with her father had not ended well that morning. In her mind, her indiscretion was minor, blown out of all proportion.
Lying there, in the stillness, a realisation dawned on her. I can’t change this. Nothing I can do can get me out of this.
A single tear rolled down her cheek. She wanted, she needed the loving embrace of her mum or her dad, providing the feeling of warmth and security that only parents could offer with a mere touch. Instead she was detained in a cold, calculated manner by some monster, whose very touch would surely hurt rather than heal.
They’ll find me, she thought to herself, another tear rolling down her cheek and onto the bed. They’ll keep looking for me until I’m away from this.
Lessons by teachers and parents had hammered home the idea of “stranger danger” from an early age. I wish I’d have listened, she thought, however old-fashioned and ridiculous it seemed.
My Dad’s stories taught me about the kind of people out there. One of them is in here. The detail of the stories had increased as her knowledge and understanding grew. It was all just a theory, something that happened to other people.
To Abigail and her friends, this sort of thing didn’t happen. Other girls flirted with boys and men, showing off jewellery and mobile phones like prizes from a raffle. They were the ones that had flirted with danger, so why am I the one trapped in this house with a dangerous man?
Abigail’s greatest sin, committed the previous evening, had been to break her curfew by a couple of hours. She had returned with the smell of smoke and cheap alcohol on her clothes, courtesy of her more rebellious friend, Emma, who ignored every health warning going.
Her parents had made a leap of logic that was unfair and untrue, and she had tried to explain that to them, loudly and using coarse language. They had not appreciated the response.
Despite all that had transpired, she had not done anything to deserve this.
Disorganised remnants of recollections jumbled around her head. The voices from the recesses of her mind sounded echoed and muffled. There was a strong smell that reminded her of hospitals.
She may have talked, but she had no idea what she might have said. Memories that are fuzzy around the edges, in the past, are probably best left there. The mind had the ability to repress dreadful events, and usually with good cause.
I need to think differently. I need to react differently. I need to force myself to fight instead of freezing.
Every waking moment would furnish her with an intense desire to scream, to cry her eyes out, to fight and to struggle until she was free. Every second in this situation left her more terrified than before. She didn’t dare to think ahead. Sex education had covered some basics, but she didn’t want the kind of forceful, practical demonstration that would surely occur at the hands of the man who had snatched her from her normal life, thrusting her into this hell.
Spells of shaking seemed to come and go. I wish I could go back and avoid that man by the red car. She shook her head. She would continue to recall and relive that moment, doomed to make the same foolish choices, over and over.
She thought about the moments, not many years past, of lying, scared in the dark in her empty bedroom. It’s okay to be scared, her dad had said, but at the moment there’s nothing to be scared of. Your room is safe. It’s the same bedroom you play in during the day. Darkness doesn’t change anything.
Eventually the doubt, the fear of a something nasty lurking in the darkness was debunked. Every noise, every shadow had an innocent explanation. The darkness held no terrors, at least, not until that night.
She had no idea of the distance separating her from her bedroom, from her overly-protective mother and father. She wished for all the world that they would somehow walk through that door.
I can’t be that scared little girl now. She resolved to be stronger than the child, crying herself to sleep on those nights with bravado banished, when willpower waned.
In the darkness of the room, perfectly still, her tears were flowing more freely. Tomorrow I’ll have to be strong, but tonight I’m going to be that little girl and cry the fear out of me.
Turning her attention to her other senses, she hoped to familiarise herself with the room, possibly removing or reducing her fears. She could feel the rough texture of the rope, sore against her wrists and ankles. She could feel that the thin cotton nightdress she had been wearing earlier was still present, but it had been raised to her midriff.
I don’t usually move around in my sleep, and how could I when I’m tied to the bed? She froze again. Someone else had been there.
In the darkness and the almost complete silence she could hear every creak of rope against wood as she moved her arms slightly. She continued to listen. There was a tick of a distant clock, possibly out in a hallway. There were no sounds from neighbours, there was no drone of distant vehicles on any main roads.
Standing out in the silence, she became aware of another sound. The noise of someone breathing heavily was so obvious that she wondered why she had not noticed it earlier.
Why is someone here? What do they want? Were they supposed to think she was sleeping, or were they waiting until she awoke?
Maybe darkness would be the perfect shroud for some kind of horrendous act. She shuddered, shaking new tears off her damp cheeks and onto her pillow. She could only remember being in the presence of one man since her arrival. That must be the man near the bed. He had captured her, he had left her all but exposed whilst prying into her previous relationships, and he was in her presence once more.
She tried to speak, but she could only slur an unintelligible mumble on her first attempt.
She cleared her dry throat and tried again, slightly more coherently. “Why am I here?”
There was no answer. She felt the sadness depart briefly, replaced by a sudden, intense rush of anger through her mind. She had never experienced such thought-clouding fury previously.
“I can hear you!” she said loudly. “I can hear you. I can hear you breathing. What are you doing, you pervert?”
There was an exaggerated sigh, followed by a calm reprimand. “Someone needs to teach you some manners, girl,” came the words in a quiet, sinister voice. “You shouldn’t speak to adults like that.”
“So I can’t call you a pervert? That’s what the girls at school call men who chase after young girls. That’s all you are to the girls you talk to. Nothing more than a perv-.”
Out of the darkness came a hard slap, leaving a hot, stinging feeling on her left cheek. She had antagonised this man, but she didn’t care. She needed to draw a comparison verbally between her captor and those worthy of the respect of others.
Buried beneath the fear, the self-pity and the need to retreat, something at her core was starting to emerge. I have the strength to overcome anything that this man can do to me. She knew that her best chance of survival was to stand firm against any kind of attack, even if she couldn’t physically move. This man has no right to ruin my life. I’m not about to give up, lie down, and take any of this.
Memories of school bullies shot into her mind. She thought about dictators, past and present, courtesy of history lessons. She thought about those who attempted to build themselves up purely by destroying those that they deemed to be lesser mortals. The only way to beat a bully is to hit back… hard.
There will be an opportunity, and I’ll strike. She remembered the two times in her school life when she had taken a stand against a bully. Despite being nervous as hell, she had done it, and she had won her freedom from their own type of tyranny. Maybe I’ll have the chance to do it again.
She could hear faint footsteps fading into the silence. She wasn’t going to let him leave without one more sound-bite to rattle around in his head.
“There’s a difference between adults who deserve respect and people like you.” She practically spat the last word from somewhere deep inside, where the rage was even more intense than it had been a moment ago. She felt as if she was about to get a better idea of the reactions of this man, whether anger would cause him to retreat or to retaliate.
There was no verbal response. She heard the man moving towards her. What was he going to do? Was he going to slap her across the face again? Would he attempt to strangle her?
Before she had an opportunity to think of any other possibilities, she felt the increasingly familiar smell of a soaked cloth across her face. She fought the urge to breathe, but without the warning necessary to hold her breath, it was seconds before her body gave in and the toxic fumes from the flannel hit the back of her throat.
She felt her eyes close. It didn’t get a lot darker, but it did get quieter.