This story is by Jodi Elderton and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“She’s never getting out of here,” a garbled voice declares. Whispers, hushed tones and cries startle me.
I strain to hear the rest, but can’t. Someone is squeezing my hand way too tight and I want to cry, “You’re hurting me,” but no sound escapes. It feels like someone jammed a rag down my throat. Just breathing is a miracle. Maybe I’ve been kidnapped, since Dad is a local celebrity and all. If I can get a look at their faces, identifying them will be easier once I’m free. If there’s a way to break out of here. Seems impossible right now!
Oh, God why can’t I open my eyes? I feel like they have lead weights on them. The bastards, they taped my eyes shut! My chest is heavy, moving up and down with a rhythm all its own. Think Loni. Think. What is the last thing you remember? Oh yeah. Baseball practice. Maybe some goons jumped me coming out of school and knocked me out. That could be it. The animals. Have they no decency? I’m only in high school and my Dad’s really not that rich. I bet they’re looking for me; Dad, Maya and the entire sheriff’s department.
Holy crap my head hurts. The rhythmic throbbing erupts into beating drums and the echo of cadenced stepping bounces against the walls. Ginormous eighth notes appear and burst into a cascade of colors. They swirl like leaves on a Fall day, then fade into oblivion as the music begins.
Trumpets sound as the music swells into a chorus, “We’re Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band…”
Oh man, they’ve drugged me. This must be what an acid trip’s like. I’m freaking trippin’ out. Oh, shit! My heart is being squeezed like a grapefruit. Why can’t I take a deep breath?
“She’s starting to come to. She needs more,” said a disembodied voice.
“Go get it then,” replies the other.
For a brief instant I can open my eyes. Everything is blurry and there is hazy smoke in the room. Shadowed forms surround me, but I can’t make out their faces. Summoning all my strength, my eyes open wider. Grotesque, twisted faces leer back. A wave of nausea swells up within my throat. They’ve got to be wearing plastic masks. That can’t be human! I struggle to move my arms, but something around my wrists restricts them. I should have known they’d tie me up. Can’t collect a ransom if the prey escapes.
“Just a little more and she won’t fight us,” a raspy voice murmurs. “Here, make sure you give it over a minute.”
My body responds with a repugnant metallic taste and a racing heart. No. I don’t want any more of your crazy juice. I want the hell out of here. My Dad will pay up. He’s good for it. I don’t want to die! I’m only 16, only…
Then I’m floating, my body buoyant and light. The heaviness is gone and I drift up to the ceiling with incredible ease. The fear and panic flee; nothing really matters right now. I could get used to this. For a moment, I’m worry free.
“Loni, don’t leave me! Don’t leave us,” wails a familiar voice. My tranquility shatters and I can hear the shards of glass hit the floor.
They have Maya, too? Not my little sister. She’s a brat, but I love her. Dad would be lost without us. We’re all he has!
Still floating, my eyes follow the sound of Maya’s voice. She’s easy to spot with her blaze red hair and unruly curls escaping from beneath her baseball cap. The sound of her sobbing rends my heart. Peering down, it’s standing room only, except for a blanketed supine body. What are those hideous figures doing? Jumping on that poor soul? The body in between lay motionless in response to their gymnastics.
Everyone or everything seems unaware of the fact I’m suspended in mid-air above them. Everyone except Maya. She’s waving one arm up in the air, wildly motioning, “Loni, come back, NOW!” Her other hand gripping the hand of the unfortunate on the bed. Her bottom lip quivers, “It’s the bottom of the ninth with two outs, Sis. If you don’t come back now it’s game over!”
“Maya, it’s so nice. My head doesn’t hurt anymore.” I am now aware of a high- pitched whining sound and wonder why I’m headache free.
“Loni,” Maya replies. “You need to live!”
Why is she the only one who can hear me?
“Charge to 360,” a commanding voice yells out. “Finally, something we can work with!”
“Clear. Shock on three. One, two…”
As I hear three, I’m jolted from my solace and plummet into the middle of chaos. Searing red hot pain shoots through my chest and I think the top of my head will explode at any moment. That would be quite the mess to clean up.
“Loni, I’m right here,” says Maya. I can feel her squeezing my hand. Quite a grip for a twelve-year-old.
“Stop CPR. Hey, we have a rhythm change. Do we have a pulse?”
“A weak, thready one,” came the reply.
Maya leans over and plants a kiss I don’t feel on my cheek. She’s usually not the mushy type. “It’s going to be okay, Loni. Time for me to leave.”
“Wait, where are you going?” I ask. She takes a few steps away from me and it’s difficult to see her.
“None of it was your fault. Tell Dad I love him. Maya blows me a kiss. “See you later, Sis.” More mushiness. Her freckled face starts to run like watercolors and fades into nothing. Nothing’s there.
Instead, a large bearded face appears in my line of sight. The onions on his breath make my stomach flip-flop. “Loni can you hear me? If so, blink twice.”
I try to speak and end up gagging. Would someone please pull this rag out of my throat? I blink twice. My eyes fill with tears. Partly because of whatever is jammed down my throat hurts like hell, but mostly because Maya disappeared and I start to remember. She’s not supposed to be here anyway. Something horrific happened to her a long time ago when we were kids. My fuzzy brain struggles to retrieve the lost memories.
“She’s conscious and responding. Pull the tube,” the bearded guy said.
I want to hurl but can’t and I’m trying to cough. Something is being yanked out of me. The weighty, pulling sensation feels like my lungs and stomach are coming with it. Coughing and more coughing. My throat burns. I try to say “Maya,” but all that comes out is a hoarse, croaking sound.
“Don’t try to talk. You’ll be able to later if you rest your voice. He turns towards the open glass door. “You can come in now, Sir. Remember to give her information slowly. After a head injury like that, the brain needs time to catch up to the present.”
They wheel in an old man right up to my bedside. His forehead is creased with worry and age. Dad. How did he get so old? What happened to me? His eyes are moist and his face solemn.
“You sure gave me a scare Baby. I couldn’t lose you too. Maya’s been gone for a while, but it feels like yesterday. Doc said the wreck was so devastating, they didn’t expect you to wake up. You’ve been out for weeks.”
Images deluge my brain. Newspaper headlines whiz by in flip-o-rama succession: “Sherriff’s Daughter Abducted,” “State Wide Search for Missing 12-year-old,” and “Kidnapper Killed in Gun Battle- Girl’s Body Found.” My heart flutters as I choke down the grief at the last headline. Maya told me not to wait for her on the way home from baseball practice that night in’75. She never came back. Until now.
Dad grasps my hand with his calloused one and smiles broadly. “You’ve got a few more innings to play yet, Slugger. Game on.”