When everyone’s quiet, when everywhere becomes dark, when the door is locked shut, that’s when you don’t suspect a thing.
That’s when you think you’re perfectly, utterly, safe, and you snuggle under your covers like there’s not a problem in the world.
That’s why, in those times, when the floors creak and the wind howls, you scoff and think it’s your ‘overactive imagination’ acting up again.
Allow me to start from the very beginning.
My name is Summer, but it’s brisk cold winter out here. It all started on a Sunday last month. I had finished my homework merely seconds before the clock struck midnight, and was almost falling asleep in my chair, facedown into my scribbled on biology textbook. I knew the information I was reading at that point was just flowing into mush in my overtired brain so I shut it and brushed my teeth, ready to call it a night.
A flash of light caught my eye, in the otherwise pitch-black window.
It was gone as soon as it came, and after blinking twice I decided to think nothing of it.
That was mistake number one.
About 2 minutes later, I was laying in bed, getting into the perfect position under my blankets, is when I heard a floorboard creak. I froze and held my breath, counted to ten.
That, too, I waved off as nothing but an old house or an exhausted mind.
That was mistake number two.
I drifted off to sleep sometime soon, my thoughts a blur between my upcoming test and whether or not it would snow soon.
When a hand clamped over my mouth, I didn’t have time to scream.
It was blink, drag, and then black.
It’s hard to say how long I was out because I don’t know. It was still pitch black when I woke up, but I faintly realized I was moving. I had good mind to stay silent as I surveyed my surroundings. I was in a car. In the front seat, facing the window. It hurt my eyes to look so far to the side, but I saw the driver was someone wearing a ski-mask, and he looked about my age.
I had been kidnapped, but I wasn’t scared. It was either that I was for some reason suddenly brave, or that my brain had processed enough information for the day and hadn’t yet had enough power to switch into fight or flight mode yet.
His hands were clenched tight on the steering wheel.
He was nervous.
Late for something maybe?
It didn’t matter.
It finally dawned upon me that I was in a car with a stranger, and had been taken from my bed in the night.
My throat suddenly itched to scream, but I felt a damp gag in my mouth. I tried to push it out with my tongue, but it didn’t budge, the fabric was too thick, too sticky from my spit.
I must have made some sort of noise, because the boy, my kidnapper, whipped his head to look at me.
My eyes were wide. I noticed my arms weren’t tied, the seatbelt was the only thing keeping me from leaving.
But at the same time, we were driving on the highway, at a 70 something speed, and I didn’t want to be roadkill. I simply picked up my arms and hugged myself defensively.
He had sighed, and upon looking back on the road, moved his hand up to presumably push his hair back, but dropped it just as quickly, realizing he had a ski mask on.
“You don’t have to be scared of me.” He had a deep voice, slightly muffled by the mask. The tone further asserted my assumption that he was my age.
“Yeah right, says the one who snatched me from my bed.” is what I tried to say back, but with the gag sounded more like “Tha shite, hahs ha one who hahed we fom my bed.”
And my voice trembled a bit too.
I kept my eyes fixed on him, not moving my legs or position, so it strained my eyes and my neck. He took the ski mask off in one swoop, and finally, I saw that he most certainly was my age. Deep brown hair fell on his head, and he pushed it back to see the road. I couldn’t make out his eye color.
Since his eyes were fixated on the road, and his hands were back to being tightly clenched on the steering wheel, I thought it safe to slowly inch my fingers to my mouth, where I steadily took the cloth from it. I dropped my hands back in my lap and flexed my jaw, wanting to cough out whatever liquid it was soaked in, whatever made me blackout.
I hated sleep, hated fainting. You could lose so much time.
“Where.” My voice was a dry croak, I was still tired and it was still late.
“Pardon?” His eyes were still on the road, it didn’t seem to bother him in the slightest that his victim or whatever you call the kidnapee had taken her gag out. I was one step, one unbuckle from jumping out the window the second he slowed down. He was bothered by something, but it wasn’t me.
“Where are you taking me,” I said it like a statement to sound stronger, like it also didn’t affect me, like we were some friend group going to a pizza place and I wasn’t being taken somewhere against my will.
“Ah.” He sighed, shifted his position on his seat. I took a deep breath, sick of the still sour taste in my mouth.
The car smelled of cigarettes and wet dog.
“This isn’t your car.” The silence was killing me, the cars were normally deafeningly loud in this part of the highway, but it was who knows how late so no one was out. He let out a small dry laugh, his eyes still on the road, and his knuckles still white holding the wheel.
I clenched and unclenched my own fists. Open. Close. Open. Close.
“Will you say something!?” I said it loud, loud enough to make him break his staring contest with the road.
I was afraid of silence, the quiet, when all the smaller sounds seemed louder. It was hard to make me yell, to make me lose my cool, but everything that was happening ticked boxes off my checklist.
No sense of direction.
I tapped my fingers lightly on the worn-out seat.
“Stop.” My fingers froze in midair.
“If I do, will you start talking?” He sighed again. A habit of his, I noticed. When he was still silent, I started tapping again.
“Alright alright, stop. What the hell do you want me to say?” I crossed my arms and set my eyes on the window, trying to make out street signs.
“Whatever. Rant. Ramble. You kidnapped me, there must be something interesting you can say.”
“I didn’t kidnap you I-”
“What? Borrowed me? I’m not just some expensive jacket you can return with a warning you know.” My voice didn’t shake this time. He wasn’t scary to me. It was somewhat normal, I had dealt with annoying teen boys at my school before, it felt the same.
“If you want me to talk, then stop interrupting. Let’s see… My name is Damon, to start. I thought it’d only be fair since I know yours, Sofie.”
“It’s written on your door. Anyway, I hope you don’t get carsick, it’s quite the long ride to De- where we’re going.”
D. D something.
“I don’t. Get carsick I mean.”
“Good,” he spoke incredibly calm for someone who’s knuckles were whiter and whiter by the second.
“Listen, I’m the one who just got taken from her bed in the middle of the night, what are you so nervous about?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Right. Loosen your grip on the steering wheel, your blood flow’s about to cut off.” His grip loosened slightly and the car turned a corner. It was silent once again.
“You scared of silence or something?” His voice was light like he was on the brink of laughing.
“I-no.” My voice cracked and I slid low in my seat. The signs were coming by so fast, it would be impossible to read them. And even more impossible to try and leave.
“You sure? Every time it gets quiet you hold your breath.”
“Just imagining myself strangling you.”
“That’s not something the victim- or whatever the kidnapee is called- is supposed to say you know. Kinda stole my line there.” I scoff.
“Really? You’re not acting like a very normal kidnapper. You’re being so-so-” I sputtered, unable to think of the right word to describe him.
“What? Nice? Kind? Charming?”
“Since when does kidnapping imply charmingness.”
“Since it was paired with me and my dashing smile of course.”
“I’ll just have to take your word for it, it’s a little too dark to see anything further than my hands.”
“You get used to it.”
“What, the dark?”
It was silent once again, and I forced myself to remember to breathe. In. Out. In Out.
“What is it that you hate so much about silence?”
“I-Nothing. None of your business.”
“Okay, fine.” We stopped at a red light then. It was a long one. My eyes flitted once around the car, and they met his.
“You can leave. If you want. I’m not allowed to tell you how long you were blacked out, but I’m betting it’d be a bit hard to walk home from where you are now. And you also most likely don’t know anyone here.” I don’t know how long we were stopped. How long I searched his eyes for some sort of answers. I’d never stopped at a red light so long.
A little thinking told me he was probably right. The red turned to green and the car continued on and after a millisecond he turned his eyes back to the road.
That was mistake number 3.
I saw one car in my peripheral vision zooming by, most likely above the speeding limit. I wondered if the person in there knew where they were going, knew where they were.
I wonder if they were just as confused as I was.
“You’re chatty.” The corners of my mouth lifted slightly. Chatty. I never thought I’d ever hear anyone use that word to describe me. Always analyzing, observant, shy, those were the words they used.
“I just want to break the silence.”
“If you could have one wish, what would it be?” he laughed, hair falling in his face. ”What? What’s so funny?”
“That’s just an oddly deep but light question at the same time. I’d bring my mom back.” I stayed silent for good reason, not holding my breath but absentmindedly curling my hair around my fingertips over and over again. I wrapped it tight around my pinky, the tips going white like his knuckles.
I couldn’t, wouldn’t, feel pity on the one who kidnapped me.
They say you’re most vulnerable at night, more likely to spill your secrets.
I think they’re right.
The drive could’ve been minutes, hours, it could've even spanned for days. It was mostly quiet, though I did break the silence to ask some questions along the way.
I asked more questions to myself though.
Why did I not leave when I could?
What places start with the sound ‘De’?
What was going to happen to me?
Was I going to die?
He didn’t seem to relax until we pulled into some parking lot. He stopped, but didn’t pull the keys out of the ignition. He covered his face with his hands, let out a long, tired sigh.
Slowly, his hands fell.
“Stay here. If I’m not back in 5 minutes, the gps is working. You should be able to get home.”
“You heard me. I can’t- Just- You have to, okay?” His voice shook, his hands shook, his whole being shook.
“I don’t think you’re following the kidnapper role very well.”
“Listen to me- I shouldn’t have done this- I’m just a stupid guy listening to his stupid dad but he’ll find out soon and I just need you to leave. For you, not for me. Me, I can handle it, I’ve been dealing with it for my whole life. I can’t do this! Look, I’m running out of time. Five. Minutes. And you go.”
“Your dad? What was your dad going to do with me- come back!”But he had already left, and closed the car door. The thuds of his footsteps echoed in the nearly silent night.
My mind put two and two together, connected the pieces.
Over analyzing. Observant. That’s what they said.
Four minutes passed. I had counted the seconds in my head.
My leg bounced up and down almost as fast as my speeding heartbeat.
What was I supposed to do?
Was I supposed to leave?
Leave him here with a dad that was likely going to punish him for not capturing me, whoever I was in their eyes. Just another victim maybe?
It would be suicide to turn myself in.
But it would feel like murder to leave.
The seconds reached 30000.
He expected me to leave now. Drive away.
But I didn’t.
I took off my seatbelt and opened the car door, shivering in the midnight air. I stood on the gravel and winced as my barefoot feet touched the gravel. It couldn’t be too far.
Whatever it was.
What was the plan?
I didn’t have one.
I started walking aimlessly away.
My eyes were used to the dark, but I was still scared.
It wasn’t silent, but at that moment I wished it was. The wind howled in my ears, the crickets chirped like their life depended on it.
I heard hushed voices somewhere in the distance. I stopped to try and see where to go. I couldn’t make out words, just one angry voice, one scared. A familiar sigh sandwiched in between words.
My time was up. In some way, though I didn’t know what.
I kept walking, with a little more purpose, towards where I heard the loud voice.
When I stopped, abruptly, to listen a little more, the voices stopped too.
A string of curse words was followed by the sound of a slap that echoed through my skull, though it obviously wasn’t to me.
Both of them.
The weird ‘Damon’ boy who had kidnapped me and let me go, and his father.
It was the second time a hand was placed over my mouth that night. I didn’t move, didn’t breathe, didn’t dare struggle.
I knew it was the hand of his father. Partly because of the skin, and the size, but the other part because I could see him from the corner of my eye.
“Dad. Dad please.” There was begging in his voice. It was more tired than it was when he had spoken to me. Soft.
He walked around so I could see him clearly. I wanted to tell him I would be okay. He wasn’t holding me too tight, I could still breathe.
But then I felt the cold of the knife against my bare skin.
“She didn’t do anything wrong.” Then his voice rose. “Dad! She’s innocent, okay?! Take me! Take me for God’s sake! You can’t go on like this! I sure as hell can’t! Don’t you have any humanity in you left!”
“Everything I do is for you! You ungrateful brat! It’s all for you!”
“All for me!! All. Every single thing you’ve ever done was for my own good? Right. Right. When you lit my room on fire to force me to run, was that for me dad? Yeah? What about when you didn’t feed me for a week? That all for my own good?” His voice was low by the end. A whisper.
“What about….when you killed mom? That for me too? Well I’m flattered.”
His dad got mad then. The knife punctured a little too deep, and I felt sticky blood go down. It didn’t hurt, not really. I forced myself to stay looking forward, not to look down.
“Let her go.”
“Damon, listen here, I took such a long break for you. See that was for you. Just let me one more time. Won’t you?”
“Do you even hear yourself!?! God you’re sick! Give me the knife dad.”
“I do it if you come any closer, you hear?! Get back! GET BACK!” He moved the knife from me then, and pointed it at Damon instead. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding, tried to calm down the rush of adrenaline pouring through my veins.
But it just shot up again when my arm was grabbed and pulled to the side. I gasped before realising it was him.
“Drop the knife. I said drop the knife.”
I closed my eyes. Didn’t want to look.
But I didn’t have to.
I heard a clink of metal hitting the ground.
“You can open your eyes now.” He whispered, and I did.
I peeked and saw the knife on the ground, slightly red at the tip from where it grazed me.
Besides it, his father, unconscious.
I rubbed a hand at my neck, wincing at the warm blood.
“What did you do to him?”
He shook his head.
“Wasn’t me. Come on, I’ll take you back home.” I looked at him in the light of the moon. His eyes. I could make out the color- bright, piercing blue.
And his cheeks-one of them red, where I supposed he had been slapped.
“Can we go...somewhere else? Or just drive? I...want to clear my head.”
And that was the end of the beginning...