I dashed through the woods, my night shirt snagging on low branches and my bare feet stinging from the small rocks littering the floor. My long hair, a large tangle at the nape of my neck, was making the skin at the base of my spine sweat, but I wouldn't dare take the time to stop and lift it.
I knew he was coming.
I could feel it in my bones, even if I hadn't been able to hear his boots crunching the twigs on the ground behind me.
I was so tired. I had been running for what felt like hours. I knew I couldn't have gone very far; I still hadn't seen lights, a road, anything. Then again, I don't know how far into the woods the man had brought me. I just woke up in his cellar, exactly 703 days ago. I know because I marked down every single agonizing day, no matter how bruised, beaten, and lost I felt.
The man, I still don't know his name, was horrible. Locked in the basement, I felt incredibly vulnerable, and that's exactly how he wanted me to feel. Everyday he would tred down the old wooden stairs to my prison. The beatings he delivered depended on his mood. If he was feeling good, maybe just a black eye, a broken finger. But if he was having a bad day.. Much more fierce. He practically bludgened me. A broken leg, multiple cracked ribs, he's even broken my jaw. My teeth aren't perfectly aligned anymore; years of braces, wasted.
Now, I work my jaw as I pump my arms, still trying to lose his trail as he chases me. It's as if I can feel his stale, smoker's breath on the back of my neck, though I know that's just my imagination. I feel like his pounding footsteps have faded while I recount nearly the last two years of my life. No, his steps have definitly faded, somewhat, but I dare not look back. It will cost precious time and that is one of the many things I don't have. I continue to sprint, my lungs putting up great protest. I give myself one last burst of speed, and lean against the backside of a tree. Lifting up my right foot, I see there is a twig protruding from my heal; that was the source of my pain just five minutes earlier. Blood streems from the injury, but that is the least of my worries.
Slowly, I peer around the trunk of the tree, but all I see is the darkness, and the slight outline of trees. Now, the fear hits me full force. As a child I was deathly afraid of the dark but being locked under ground relieved my of that exact form of baggage. I learned to welcome the dark, and it made me feel stronger. In the cellar, I knew where every little thing was; the opening to the crawl space beneath the stairs; the jug of water in the corner; the crack in the wall the mice used to get in and out of the cabin. It comforted me, knowing that I could move those things. They bent to my will. But out here, in the forest, I knew nothing. I didn't know if there was a fallen tree branch close, or if there were any animals near. That's what frightened me. I leaned back against the tree, closed my eyes and listened. There was a deep hoot, from far away and I knew at once it was a Barn Owl, though I wasn't exactly sure how I knew. I think I did a report on them when I was younger, in middle school. Yes I definitly did a report of some sort.
Taking a deep breath I reveled in the cool night air. You would think that in a stone basement it would be cold, but the air was always stifilingly hot. It didn't help that my only clothing was interchangable nightgowns. My captor would bring me a new one every two monthes and ironically, the one I wore now was white. Or used to be white. It was now covered in dirt and was torn in several places.
I heard a crunch, like pine needles breaking and tree branches snapping in half. My eyes flew open. I held my breath; then, without a further thought, launched myself into the night, once again running as fast as my battered feet would allow me. It felt nice to run because I hadn't had exercise or enough room to run in the cellar, but it also was quite painful; my body was unaccustomed to the feeling. My feet pounded the ground and my breath hitched with every step. My lungs screamed for air, but I wasn't even close to being done. I'm not sure what made the noise but whatever it was, it hadn't followed me. Just an animal. Still, I was spooked, and I needed to of gotten going anyway. I can't afford to stop like that, just to think petty things; it could have very well cost me my life.
I turned a sharp corner, and nearly got slapped in the face by a branch. Ducking, I huffed out a breath of annoyance and kept running. I ran for a while after that, not thinking of much but getting out of the woods. I had no idea how long it would take me. It was entirely unfamiliar, as I had never left the cellar until tonight.
Finally, finally, the trees started to thin and I could see at least a bit in front of me. I slowed to a jog and then to a brisk walk. There. A light. A light! I started to jog again, elated when my feet started aching from the sharp jabs of gravel that I could see now was a road. The side of a house, with a screen door, showed to be the source of the light and I sprinted toward it. I jumped up the steps to the rickety porch, vaguely aware that I was leaving bloody footprints on the peeling white paint. I slapped my palms against the sides of the door, pounding, demanding the attention of the inhabitant of the home. A woman walked quickly to the door, squinting through the screen. She had very long brown hair, almost to her waste, and large bags under her eyes, as if she hadn't slept in a long while. She looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place her face to a name. Grabbing the handle of the door she swung it open and took a closer look at my face, taking in the smudges of dirt, and the scratches. Then her mouth twisted into a sort of sinister smile, showing her yellow and rotten teeth. Confused, I glanced to both sides, and then behind her, finally taking in my surroundings. The man who held me hostage, who locked me in the cellar, stood behind her, smirking. Then I relized the woman was his wife.
I tried to turn and run, but the woman grabbed me by my throat and hauled me over the threshold, practically offering me to her husband, like one would offer a child candy. I was already weak and tired but still tried to put up an ounce of a fight. I thrashed wildly, trying to pry her hands from my neck, but it did no good. The man advanced toward me, raising his fist, a look of pure hatred worn plainly on his face. Then I saw my reflection in his glassy eyes. I didn't look scared, although I felt the adrenaline that accompanies fear flowing through my body. I just looked sad. Like I had been dealt a bad hand at the poker game that is life and was now giving away my chips. The mans fist connected with my jaw and pain shot all the way up to my temple. The strength he piled into his punch forced the woman's hands from my throat and my body slammed into the sticky lenolium of the kitchen floor.
I allowed myself to squeeze my eyes shut for just a second, and then pushed the pain from my mind, as I had done so many times before. I opened them and the man was shaking out his hand and the woman was lunging for me. I rolled out of the way, and she went sprawling on the tile. The man started toward me and I jumped up and attempted a run for it. He was quicker though, and his beefy arms wrapped around my midsection. I screamed, a loud, blood curdling scream, hoping someone would hear me, though I knew they could not. There was no one to here my cries for help.
"Shut up!" The man yelled roughly in my ear, and the breath that hit the side of my neck was no longer my imagination, as it once had been.
"Maureen! Get the basement door open," he said over his shoulder, to the woman who was Maureen, just now getting up and looking dazed. She hurriedly climbed to her feet and murmured, "Of course, I'm so sorry Darren. I don't know what has gotten into me," and glanced fearfully into his face.
"Now!" Darren bellowed. She scrambled to the door and unlocked four big locks with various keys, all on a ring she pulled out of her pocket. Then she wrenched the door open.
"Please! Please just let me go!" I sobbed, over and over again, tears dripping off my chin. I let my bloodied feet drag behind me,determined to make this as difficult as possible. His response was an unintelligable grunt and with that, he, with some effort, threw me down the rickety stairs, onto the dirt floor. I crawled to the base of the stairs but was too weak to climb them. Silohetted against the light from the kitchen, Darren and Maureen, the two human beings who had bestowed upon themselves the job to make sure I cease to exist, stared down at me. Darren chuckled softly and Maureen started to giggle. The look on both of their faced was easy to decipher; they will be the ones responsible for my death. And they will do whatever they must to make sure it is as slow and painful as possible. I shut my eyes, willing away the tears. When I opened them, Darren was swinging the door shut and I heard the jingle of the keys for the locks.
Then I was once again surrounded with the darkness that had pressed down on me for 703 days in a row. It had to be morning by now, before sunrise. I made a wobbly line in the dirt with my shaking finger.