I Chose Life.
I visit his grave often. Everyone says I should hate him for what he did to me, but he showed me just how much I want to live. He gave me a reason to never give up on my dreams, life is too short for regrets. I walk through the cemetery alone on a beautiful summer's day.
The bright afternoon sun reflects of the polished white marble of his headstone, making it almost blinding to look at. I kneel in front of it and read the plain inscription.
Here Lies Wayne Schofield.
His family disowned him when they learned what he had done, so there was no mention of him being a husband, a son or a father. He was in fact all three of those things, not that they came out here. As I sat by his headstone, I once again remembered all that had happened.
My best friend and I had been lounging in the sun on our local park every day that summer. We had taken a few bottles of cider along to complete the image of summer. Cold cider, hot day. Things couldn't have been more perfect.
Elsie had been my best friend since we could walk and talk, our mothers had been close and had been pregnant together. We had spent our entire lives around each other. It was a Saturday and we were finally heading back to my house, the sun had mostly gone down and we needed to eat something soon.
At the gates to the park, Elsie started hanging back, nervous.
'Tammy, maybe we should stay a while, finish this bottle before we go home.' Her speech slurred, she was obviously drunk.
'Elsie, we need to get home and eat before you can't stand up any more. Come on.' I laughed, almost falling over myself.
'No! I don't want to go through the gates, maybe we could go around? I just have a creepy feeling. Tammy, I feel like we're being watched.'
'Seriously, if someone were watching us it wouldn't matter which way we went. They'd just follow us. Is any one there? Come out come out where ever you are.' I called out loudly, laughing.
Elsie stared at me open mouthed, I watched as the colour drained from her face. Following her eyes, I looked behind me where I saw a tall, muscular man rushing toward me.
'Yes I'm here, and here I am.' He laughed gruffly to himself.
Elsie turned away from him and ran full speed towards the gates of the park. I watched as she turned back to look for me, frozen in place just inches away from the huge stranger. She paused, uncertain of her next move, I stared into her eyes willing her to keep running. Then everything was black. I fell to the floor hearing that rough laughter all around.
When I came round again, I was aware that I was inside. I had no idea where I was because I had been blindfolded and I couldn't move because my wrists and ankles were tied with thick rope. The lack of breeze told me I was indoors, and no-where near a window.
I felt my chest tighten at the thought of being stuck somewhere tiny and closed off to the world, with only that huge, hulking stranger for company. I wondered if Elsie had gotten away, surely she would have gone for help. I wouldn't have to wait long before I was free, Elsie would make sure of that.
Something crawled across my face, momentarily blocking my nose and I screamed through the gag I was wearing. My mouth was dry and sticky, what ever had been shoved in there had soaked up any moisture. I was desperate for a drink.
'Alright, alright, keep yer 'air on Tammy.' How did he know my name?
With the loss of my sight, my ears had become super sensitive, I heard heavy footsteps approaching me. Who ever they belonged to, obviously wasn't wearing shoes or there would have been a much louder noise. The soft padding stopped in front of me. I could feel hot breath on my cheek and then, rough lips as the stranger planted a kiss on my left cheek.
I squirmed but didn't dare make a noise, I doubt I could have anyway; the dryness had spread down my throat now. A calloused hand travelled up my body from my knee, sliding over and around the natural curve of my body. Now I was afraid. I wet myself, feeling the hot liquid splashing onto my toes.
'Now now, don't get too excited. It ain't time for that.' The voice was hoarse and gravelly.
His hand travelled up from my knee again, this time removing the blindfold as it passed my eyes. I was standing in what looked to be an abandoned warehouse. Crimped steel sheets lined the walls, a cold concrete floor beneath my bare feet. I was tied in a standing position between two steel girders that reached up to the roof. My arms raised up and out, my feet tied to the bottom of the pillars. I looked like a female Vetruvian man.
I desperately tried to think where we could be, there were no warehouses near the park we had been visiting. The realisation that I had no idea where we were sent chills down my spine. If I had no idea, how would Elsie?
It was the thought of Elsie that made me look around again, then I saw her. She was lying on an old work table, and was covered in blood. I let out another muffled scream. The stranger chuckled softly.
'She fought me when I caught her. She didn't win.' That gravelly voice again. 'If I take out your gag, so we can talk will you scream?'
In a random act of defiance, my head bobbed up and down. Yes. He sighed and turned around briefly. When he turned back, he was holding a long steel pipe. It was glowing red at one end. I desperately tried to back away from him as he approached, but my bonds were too tight. He placed the glowing end of the bar across my stomach, it burned straight through my vest and seared my skin.
My head snapped back and my eyes streamed as I could do nothing but release muffled wails. After what seemed like a lifetime, he removed the pole and stepped back. I knew that if it weren't for the ropes holding me up, I would be on the floor. My breathing was shallow, panting as I tried to stay conscious despite the pain.
'Now, are ya gonna scream if I remove the gag?' His voice was calm and level, as if this was normal practice for him.
I shook my head furiously and waited while he removed the gag. I sucked in a couple of deep, life giving breaths and looked up at him.
'Thirsty. Please.' I managed to whisper.
He held a glass of water with a straw and I slurped desperately. Once my thirst was quenched I returned my gaze to my captor. I made a conscious decision to give him what ever he wanted. He obviously had no problem with hurting me, and I realised now that I wanted to live.
A few days after he took me, he released my bonds. I had given him everything I had, and willingly too. I wanted to live, and my survival instinct told me I needed to keep him happy. He had used me in any manner that came to him, and I had let him. I was ashamed of the things I had done, but I knew I had to wait for my opportunity to escape.
For weeks after he had released me from the uncomfortable position, I was made to do any jobs and duties he could think of in the warehouse. I was forbidden to touch Elsie's body though. I found this out the hard way. One day as late afternoon sunlight shone through the high narrow windows, he left the warehouse.
I didn't know where he went when he left me, but I took the opportunity that day to try to clean up Elsie, and show her the respect she deserved. I was just finishing wiping the dried blood off her face with a rag and water when he returned.
'Jus' what do you think yer doin'?' His voice was low, a deadly whisper.
I dropped the cloth and backed away.
'I was just cleaning her up. She was my best friend.' I tried to explain, but his face was thunder and I knew I was in trouble.
He crossed the room in a fury and gripped me in his huge hands. He threw me into the wall and came to pick me up again. He carried me over to the table and pushed my face into Elsie's body. It was already starting to decompose I could feel it cold and unstable beneath my cheek.
I started to think I would go right through her chest if he pushed me hard enough, and as if to confirm my thought he pushed my head with all his weight. Pain travelled through my head under the pressure, and my ears were filled with the sound of cracking bones as her chest gave way. He held my head in the soup like remains of the body for a lifetime before pulling me up for air.
'Still think she's your friend? Your friend is dead. Nothing but mush and gunk inside her. Do not touch her again.' With those words, he tossed me into a corner and left again.
I lay still in the corner for a while, in shock. When I finally sat upright again I did so carefully, checking for broken bones along the way. My right arm was broken and my left wrist was painful to move. I scrambled to the table and found my rag, quickly crawling back to the corner in case he returned.
I carefully cleaned my face, trying to get rid of the smell that had invaded my nose and stuck there. No matter how much I scrubbed, or how much I frantically blew my nose that smell stuck like it was burned into my senses forever.
I sobbed as I remembered Elsie and thought about how no matter how fond my memories, the one that would stick would be that smell. I could feel my will slipping away, and in it's place a further determination to please the huge man who had become my lifeline, and my death sentence.
All at once I realised that I had been sat here for a day or maybe even two, and he hadn't been back. Panic overtook me as I realised I hadn't eaten in days. Sure he only brought me bread and butter but it was better than starving in this cold and miserable prison.
I crawled to the door, my hands cracking and bleeding on the concrete. They had dried out from all the bleach filled water I had had them in while doing his menial tasks for him. I didn't have the energy to stand, but managed to shuffle my way to the door and try to get it open. Locked. Obviously he wasn't just going to let me leave the second he left me alone. I curled my already ruined hands into fists and began pounding on the door with all the strength I had left.
The next thing I knew I was being shaken awake by the stranger. His face was filled with panic and worry. I must have passed out from hunger or exhaustion while I was banging on the door. Staring up at his face confused I noticed his lips were moving.
'Don't be dead, I'm sorry, please don't be dead. I brought you more food this time. Tammy, wake up!' He was repeating on a loop, I had to stop him.
I reached up and tried to squeeze his arm, all I managed was to place it there. It got his attention though and he helped me to sit up and eat some of the chips he had brought me. The first few came straight back up, but after that my famished stomach began holding them down.
I drank half a bottle of water that he had brought for me and eyed the bag from the chip shop. Reaching over I took it and emptied it's contents in front of me. Fish, Chips, Peas, Gravy. My mouth watered and I immediately tucked in. He sat watching me as I ate.
'You know my name is Wayne.' He told me, looking dejected. 'I have followed you for years, but you never noticed me. I always wanted to love you, but you never saw me. It was like I was invisible. I moved on eventually, got married even had a couple of kids. Then I saw you at the park with your... your friend. I lost control. I never killed anyone, I didn't want to kill her. I swear.'
I looked up from my food wondering why he was spilling his guts now, but not really caring. The hunger was too much, the food too tempting.
'I dunno what I'm gonna do now Tammy. Now that I have you and you're mine. How do I explain to my wife and kids?'
Realisation dawned and I knew I needed to escape before this went too far.
'Wayne? I know you must be feeling awfully confused, but I don't know you. There can never be anything between us that would mean anything. Go home to your wife and kids and forget about me.' I pleaded with him, knowing now he was not a monster. Just a desperate man.
'I can't. I have to have you.' He stood up and lumbered toward me.
I got to my feet and ran, fleeing to the other side of the table that Elsie lay on. I could see tears streaming down his face as he reached the table and, they must have blurred his vision because the next thing I knew, Wayne had tumbled to the floor, tripping over the bucket of water I had been cleaning Elsie with.
His head bounced of the concrete with a sickening thud and a small pool of deep red blood formed around his head. I stood for a minute shocked at the sight, not knowing if he was dead or alive, before I stumbled for the door, and finally left my prison.
Sunlight fell across my skin, warming me and bringing life back to me. I had lost weight and really looked like nothing more than a sack of skin, clinging greedily to a skeleton. My hair had fallen out, malnutrition and endless bleach products had seen to that. I staggered through the streets until someone finally found me and called an ambulance.
The authorities eventually pieced everything together, with my story and the scene in the warehouse. I had to talk to Wayne's wife and apologise for the role I played in her husbands descent into madness. She didn't blame me, but refused to acknowledge the existence of her former husband.
So no one visits this grave but me. I forgave Wayne for what he did, because he made me realise how much I want to live. How much life has to offer me. I will never give up on my dreams, and I will always thank Wayne for showing me how important they are to me.
I chose life. Now I will live it.
© Copyright 2016 R A B Bradbury. All rights reserved.