This story is by PJ Taylar and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Where am I? How did I get here?”
I’ve never felt so confused in my life. As the gentle breeze cools my face from the harsh sun that woke me, I’m instantly relieved by the smell of lavender. “Ah, like home. Am I near home?”
The calming sensation of a familiar smell quickly vanishes as I begin to take in my surroundings.
There I am… alone, sitting in a rocky paddock with no sign of life – no people, no animals, no cars, nothing but silence.
My pockets are empty. I wonder if I have been abducted, robbed and dumped in the middle of nowhere. I have no idea why that would happen to me though. I lead a relatively dull life, mostly minding my business and keeping to myself. It can get quite lonely, but it is the life I built.
I don’t think I’ve upset someone so much that they’d abduct me. The only reason I can think of is being late with my home loan repayments… but I don’t think the banks have started to abduct people for late repayments.
“I am kind. I am considerate. I do all the right things. I went to school, got a job, let the bank buy a house for me, and sometimes, I give to charity. I am a good person!”
I begin to panic and project my thoughts out into the silence.
“Hey, keep it down!” someone yells at me from across the paddock.
Keep it down? What are they talking about? We are standing in the middle of a paddock, yet this person is telling me to keep it down.
Wait. My abductor?
I do not wait any longer. I run as fast as I can in the opposite direction. As I get further away, I hear my paddock companion’s yells linger in the distance.
“No… no… don’t… argh…”
Losing my breath, I stop for a minute to sit down and look around. A house on the horizon! Well, more of an apartment-looking complex than the small farmhouse I was expecting to run into eventually.
Lunging towards the complex, I begin pounding on the metal door. Nothing. There’s that silence again. This time, there is no sweet lavender breeze to calm me.
I try the handle and the door opens to a room full of bunk beds. My first thought is that this is an army training base, but there is no sense of order or cleanliness and so, I quickly become unsure.
The only sound I can hear is a humming refrigerator in the corner. It is bright red and doesn’t match the rest of the room’s dark metal decor. As I ponder how this place is getting power, I begin to tiptoe across the room. I feel like I can hear my heart pounding.
I lift the fridge handle and smile – cakes, puddings… this refrigerator is filled with delicious-looking desserts. While eating fistfuls of cake, I turn my attention to a single piece of paper on the front of the fridge. I remove the magnet and unfold the paper.
A map…. with directions.
Cake and a map. My luck has turned around.
Before I can work out my location on the map, I hear a rumbling sound in the distance. I peer out of the narrow window and see a large truck zooming up the dirt road.
“What is my move here?” I ask myself, trying to work out if it is a better idea to stay, hide, offer to bake them a new cake or run. I grab the map and slide under one of the bunks. After all, I am full of cake and don’t know how to bake, so I figure this is the most sensible option.
Two people with heavy accents enter the room. They talk about having lost something, but I cannot quite discern the details.
“…. where did the… go…”
“… quota.. not… well done”
“…find… or else”
“…rest now… go… later”
They say something of this sort and then go to bed. Thank goodness for the snoring. Otherwise, I would have never been able to sneak out of the complex and snatch the truck keys from the bench on my way out.
Before starting up the truck and slamming my foot on the pedal to get out of there, I locate the complex on the map and decide my best bet would be to head towards the fork and knife icon on the map – food and potential help.
I am on my way, too scared to look back and see if I am being chased. I have no idea how long I would be driving for, so I decide some music would be nice to fill the silence and keep me company. No radio stations… but suddenly, I appear to be tuned into a private discussion.
“Look… that’s the reason why we get these nobodies… if they go missing… who’ll miss them? Don’t worry… really.”
“What the fu–”
I twist my ankle as I jump out of the car to see what I had hit. The adrenaline rush helps me ignore the whiplash and possible knee damage from the impact. I am sore, but I have to keep going.
A naked person with severe damage to their legs lay on the ground in front of the truck. They look like they’ve been mauled by a lion, I think to myself.
“Are you okay? Oh God, why didn’t I pay attention during the first aid training the other week!”
But there’s no pulse anyway. Sighing, I climb back awkwardly into the truck and take off towards the little food icon on the map.
White noise on the radio. Rumbling in my stomach. I pray for the rest of the journey. I don’t usually pray.
Before long, I approach a roadhouse-style diner that is connected to a bunch of other shops and a large factory. Only the diner has lights on, but there are no cars in the driveway.
Hobbling into the diner, I yell to the only other person in there that I needed a phone for an emergency. The person in the diner is nice and gentle, which reassures me.
“You’ll be alright. You’ll be okay. Just step this way.”
Finally. Now I can call the police and this nightmare will be over.
“You did good to find us here, well done,” the person says with half a smile.
“Take a seat here, and I will be back. Here, have this… made it on the grill… fresh… well done… the person who ordered this didn’t turn up. Hope they are okay; it is getting wet and dark outside…”
That’s the second time today I’ve heard this accent that is completely foreign to me.
I remain silent about the body. I mean, would you mention it?
As I wait for the phone, I start eating the fries and burger. The fries are oily, and the burger has a strange sauce, but I am getting food and help, so I can’t complain.
Fifteen minutes pass by.
Now, I am alone in this diner. Where did they go? I have finished my meal (milkshake included), and now, I would really like to get back to my normal life. This is too much action for my nervous system. That’s probably what my therapist would say.
I try to find where the diner person has gone but have trouble navigating the area behind the counter. In one door… in through another door, another door… it’s getting colder and colder… and it starts to stink. I can no longer hear the ambient sounds of the diner.
I wake up… again. The last thing I remember before going unconscious is slipping on a metallic surface. My wrists hurt – I cannot move them – and my back is freezing. You know when you’re taking a nice warm shower and your back touches the cold glass? It’s like that but much worse. I feel like I am on a metal plate.
Before I can ask if there’s anyone here, the silence of the room makes way for screaming.
The room lights up and the machinery rattles my eardrums. The screaming person is right in front of me – their hands tied to a metal plate.
Like my hands, I realise.
We are both headed straight for four large metal grinders with no sign of a late rescue.
As their body gets torn apart right in front of me in a most gruesome – starting with their legs – I concede this is the end for me. Years of therapy would not be able to make me forget that sound anyway…
The grinders get closer. Louder. Flicking blood and flesh on to my face. I am next. Any moment now, I will be done.
Maybe I am going to be ‘well done.’ My brain begins to piece the puzzle together. But it is too late.