This story is by Jenn Engle and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
“Tell me what you remember.”
The wet leaves slapped at my face, stinging and leaving beads of cold rain on my cheeks and in my eyes. I slipped many times
so my bare legs were covered in mud and dirt. I had no shoes on and my feet were both warm with blood and cold with wet earth.
I was more than afraid. I was frantic.
When the rain started again there was lavender light pressing against my eyes. I knew I had to find shelter but there were only
trees for miles in every direction. I drank rainwater from a deep puddle. It was full of mud and tiny bugs but it was also full of hope.
I kept going.
When the sun was nearly gone, my hope began to fade as well. The woods are disorienting in daylight; at night they feel alive,
menacing. I prayed to find a place to rest my head. My prayer was soon answered. Twenty-something yards ahead there was a slight
incline, which, upon closer inspection turned out to be a hill and I knew that a hill meant something at the top.
The incline stretched before me as I neared the first crest that I had seen. Miles of inclines unfolded into tiny groves of trees that
seemed endless. Dipping up and down like tiny boats afloat on a sea of earth and rock.
“Where’s my boat?” I asked the sky.
The threat of nightfall woke me and I began my feeble attempt at ascent toward a newfound hope.
“What about before?”
Before the woods there was a slow time. Seconds became minutes then hours and days. They all run together now.
Days stacked into weeks and then months. I only knew what month it was because of the weather and foods he would bring to the cabin.
The windows were blacked out with paint, brushed by hand, so I never so the outside until…
“Take your time.”
Until he would come back and open the door. I could look over his shoulder before he quickly slammed the door shut and know that the
outside world was still there… waiting for me. If. Only. I. Could. Run.
“Why didn’t you?”
I could see myself doing it. Bolting like a scared rabbit- not unlike what I felt- screaming into the night until I found help.
But that’s what stopped me. There was no help. Not another house around, I just knew that. Only because I knew him.
Not at first. It took a few years before I got to know him, but I got to know him. Better than I would have liked. My nightmares
would have seemed like daydreams had I never known him.
“What made you run?”
My hope eventually overcame my fear. Or I was in despair. I thought that if I was going to die I wanted to do it while trying
to get out. Not curled up crying; a shell of who I once was. I started to forget myself. The mirrors lied. I began to blame my parents.
They never came for me. I couldn’t remember how much they loved me and I eventually came to believe they never did. That’s what
happens when the months stack into years.
It wasn’t raining when I decided to run. That came later. When I was lost. Uncertain. Frantic. I knew there was no rain because the roof
was silent. I spent my days listening to that roof. It spoke to me from the outside world. The world that was waiting for me if I could just
find the courage to make it back. The roof told me when it was sunny with a huge breath of expansion like an old man sighing at the end
of a long day. When the air grew bitter, so did the old man on the roof. Grumbling and creaking as he spoke and sometimes snapping
as if to wake me from my depressed stupor. But when it rained… that was the old man weeping for me. Tears that matched my own in the
drowning of the downpour.
“When did you know you were lost?”
I lost faith. That was the only thing other than my fear that had kept me going. When I lost faith my fear began to take over
and it left me going in circles. My fear kept me alive though. Fear of being found. Captured again. Maybe killed. I knew what he
looked like. I knew he drove a white Saab. He was looking for me. I knew that. But my faith faltered and I was unable to find my way…
until I saw the hill. The sight of that incline renewed my hope- not fully, but enough to make me press on. I climbed until I was too tired
and rested against a tree. With restored energy I started climbing again. I repeated this several times until I reached the top of the hill.
I was elated to find that my perseverance had paid off.
At the top of the hill I found a road. It was a dark and deserted winding country road but I knew that it was connected to the
outside world. I knew it would lead me home; wherever that might be after a decade had passed.
With that thought, a new fear began to settle in. What if my parents had moved away? What if they were dead?
What if I had nothing to run to?
“What happened on the road?”
I felt invigorated running on the pavement. I was prepared to fly. No more sliding and getting stuck in the mud. I was on solid ground.
My heartbeats matched my footfalls as my bare feet slapped the wet asphalt. I ran until dawn, resting in between.
The rain stopped just before the sun peeked over the crest in the distance. I was hoping that the warmth of that sun would dry my hair
and night shirt which both clung to me like wet tissue. I was starting to itch.
After another quarter mile or so, when the light around me turned lavender again, I saw headlights at the end of the outstretched ribbon
of ebony pathway before me. I ran faster.
I was doing it! I was finally going to be me again!
I could see the car more clearly as the distance closed between us. It. Was. A. White. Saab.
I could almost make out his features in the purple-gray morning.
It was him.
“What did you do?”
After the impact I heard him backing the car up and I knew he what his intentions were. I opened my eyes with effort and
turned my head with sheer will scanning the side of the road for hope. I saw a scrap of metal almost within my reach. I couldn’t move
my legs so I scrambled as quickly as I was able using only my arms. I left skin from my elbows and palms behind but…
I. Had. To. Get. There.
A second before the Saab was on me, my hand seized the metal which sliced into the meat of my palm as I held as tightly
as I could and jammed it into the side of the tire as it crushed my ribs. Air rushed out of me and it sounded like the old man on the roof.
I remember smiling when I heard the gunshot crack of sound as the tire gave way to the road. I smiled wider when I heard the
crunch and screech of metal and the tinkling of shattered glass sprinkling the pavement.
Then I woke up here in the hospital and smiled the biggest.
“We found another girl in that cabin; you saved her life. Your captor is dead and your Parents. Are. Waiting. Outside.”