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I awoke in an unfamiliar room. A dank mustiness hung in the air. Moisture and mold coated the concrete walls and ceiling. I tried to lift my head, but I found I had no strength. As I turned my head to the right, my neck gave a loud crack. I winced in pain and shut my eyes tight. When I opened them again, I saw a woman standing to the right side of me – she too, was unfamiliar.
Panic and shock started to set in. I could not move, and everything around me was strange. It was as if my surroundings were coated in a dark slimy muck. The only brightness in the room was the woman’s pale skin. She wore dark clothing and had dark hair and eyes. As our eyes met, a smile slowly spread across her face.
“Good morning, my dear.” She walked closer to me, and I felt my body try to recoil. All my strength was drained. Her smile widened as she watched my struggle. I followed her movements, and watched as her hand hovered over my legs. I realized I was in a small bed with a metal frame, not unlike those used in old hospitals. I was covered in a grey wool blanket with frayed edges. I seemed to be wearing a hospital gown. She lifted the blanket from my legs, and I let out a quick gasp.
My body was withered. My skin was hanging off my bones. Bed sores ravaged my exposed skin. The shock of being in an unfamiliar place was subsiding, and I now felt pain flood through my body. My muscles were aching and my skin felt like it was under intense pressure that needed to be released. My mouth was painfully dry. My lips were chapped and cracking. Any movement engulfed my body in pain.
“Where am I? Who are you?” I used all the strength I could muster to address the mystery woman, croaking out due to my dry throat and mouth. Her face lit up, and she seemed almost giddy.
“Oh Sweetie, it hurts that you don’t remember your own mother! But that’s to be expected, you’ve been asleep for quite some time. The doctor informed us that you would be fuzzy after you woke up.” She laid the blanket back over me, and tucked the edges underneath me with force. The pressure of being touched sent fire coursing through my legs.
It took a moment for her response to sink in. My mother? I had no idea who this woman was. I laid my head back down and tried to rifle through my memories. The last thing I remembered was walking down my street. I heard a car horn blare, and turned to see the commotion in the road. The next thing I knew I was laying in this bed. The rest of my memories were running together, mixing and clumping like algae in a pond.
Before I could search my memory for any more answers, the woman patted me on the legs. Pain surged from my toes to my chest and gripped at my lungs, causing me to gasp for air. I heard a small pop, and felt a warm ooze down the back of my leg. I remembered my body covered in sores, and realized that a wound must have ruptured. The smell rose up from under the blanket and made me gag. When I opened my eyes, I found the woman looking down at me and smiling.
“You’ll heal up in no time, my sweet one. You just need to rest!” With that, she turned her back to me and walked to the heavy metal door in the back of the room. She looked back to me, gave me a big smile, and left. I heard a lock click behind her. Even if I had the energy to move, I was stuck in this room.
I heard footsteps, and she seemed to not walk far before opening another door. It slammed behind her, and I suddenly felt alone. Panic washed over me. I struggled to move in my weakened state. The adrenaline from the fear gave me the power to sit up and swing my legs around the side of the bed. My feet hit the slimy floor and I had to catch my breath.
I heard a faint scream from beyond my door, and any need to rest vanished. A cold sweat coated my neck and face. My breath quickened and I clutched at my chest. I looked down at myself. My bony body was unrecognizable. It felt like I was in someone else’s body. My head was pounding. I told myself to keep moving – to make sure I could still walk. Every cell in my body was screaming to get out of this place.
I pushed myself off the metal bed frame. The springs squealed under the shifting weight. I stood upright for a moment before collapsing to the floor. It must have been sometime since I last used my legs. I started to scramble. My palms slipped on the wet, grimy floor. My face hit the ground with a thud, and I felt a warm trickle of blood run from my forehead and down my right cheek. My struggle to move just fueled my fear and panic.
Another hushed scream could be heard beyond my door. It was clearly a woman crying out. Suddenly, a heavy slam rang out and hurried footsteps went past my door. It sounded as if whoever was walking was ascending a flight of stairs. I decided it was time to get moving again before someone came back to this room. I did not want to be the next person screaming.
I pushed myself up and forced my legs to stand. My knees wobbled like a newborn fawn. I gripped the metal bedframe to steady myself. I looked to the door and remembered how it had been locked from the outside. I let out a heavy sigh and sat back down on the bed. I needed a plan before moving anymore.
I looked around the room. All I could see was the metal bed frame, topped with a thin mattress. The mattress was cold and damp, presumably from my heavy sweating in my attempts to move. Next to the bed sat a small metal table. I touched it lightly, and noticed it was wiggling, as if the legs were uneven. I wobbled the table back and forth and watched the ground. I determined that the back left leg was casing the wiggling. I inspected further, and noticed a small glint of metal on the floor.
I leaned over, and my back cracked and creaked. I fought past the pain and picked a safety pin stuck through a small folded piece of paper. I hastily sat back up and struggled to open the pin. My panic quickly turned to glee. I knew I could force open the lock someway with this pin. It was then I was filled with a sudden memory.
I remembered sitting in a large room with a wooden floor. I was opening a safety pin and picking at a lock. The lock popped and I turned the door knob. Inside was a room filled with wrapped presents, all labeled “To: Megan, From: Santa” and tied up neatly with bows. I then remember being scooped up by a man, my father, who rushed me out of the room and closed it again. He was a slight man who wore bottle-rimmed glasses. I then remember a woman, my mother, running up to me and scolding me for peeking at the Christmas presents. The woman in my memory was short, with light blonde hair, and olive toned skin. She radiated warmth. She was the polar opposite of the woman who was just sitting at my bedside.
Now that I was certain that I was not in my own home and that woman was not my mother, I knew I had to try and escape. The screaming from outside the room, coupled with the unfamiliar woman and the obviously neglected state of my body, all culminated in a resounding fear. I knew I was not safe where I was. I fumbled with the pin.
I stood up and shakily walked to the door. I forced the pin into the keyhole and jiggled the pin. I worked as quickly as I could. Before I could hear the satisfying “click” of the door unlocking, I heard footsteps descending the stairs. They crept closer to my door, and I was beginning to worry that the woman may notice the moving knob. I held my breath and clutched the pin. I kept my hand steady as the steps crossed my door. I heard a creak and a slam -- someone had entered a different room. I began rushing to unlock the door once again.
Another scream rang out. Cursing my weak fingers and shaking legs under my breath, I continued to try to force the door open. Tears were welling up in my eyes. My chest felt hot and my breathing was labored. Finally, the doorknob clicked and I felt the release of the lock. I held my hand on the knob for a moment. I was hesitant out of fear that the woman would be coming back to my room. I heard a creak and slam of the door once more, and an eerie silence. No footsteps rang in the hallway.
I shut my eyes tight and backed away from the door, pulling the pin out of the lock slowly and keeping it in my palm. It was the only form of defense I had, and I doubted I could even put up a fight in my weakened state. I had just used every ounce of energy I had to unlock the door. I panicked and backed away from the door. As I edged backward toward the bed, I heard the footsteps once more. They crossed my room and ascended the stairs.
I felt confident that whoever was walking around near my door was now gone. I walked back to the door and turned the now unlocked doorknob. It took all I had to push open the metal door. When I peered out, I saw a hall that extended left and right, lined with large metal doors similar to the one I had just opened. A staircase was parallel to my door. The stairs and the whole hallway reminded me of the bottom floor of a ship. The stairs were metal and led to another heavy door.
I knew someone had gone up the stairs, so I immediately walked away from the staircase. I followed the hallway to the right. I could hear some muffled screams from behind some of the doors. The hallway lead to a dead-end and I turned around. I walked back past my door and down the other side of the hallway. I heard a loud sobbing from behind one of the doors. I gently knocked on the door, only to get a scream in response. I knocked again, and the sobbing picked up once more.
“I want to go home. Please. This isn’t my home! Who are you?!” The words were clear to me, even though they were coming from behind that heavy metal. I felt compelled to try and open the door. I tried to turn the knob, but realized it was locked just as my door had been. I jammed the pin into the keyhole and tried jiggling. The sobs behind the door grew and were interrupted only by screams of fear. Finally I unlocked the door and swung it open.
I saw a girl, about my age, in the same state as myself. Her skin was clinging to her bony body. Her hair was matted and her eyes were sunken. Her exposed skin was covered in sores. When our eyes met, she abruptly stopped making any noises.
She bolted past me. I watched her make a break for the stairs. I backed up toward the room where I had been and watched her. She was just as unsure on her feet as I was. She tripped up the staircase and clamored for the door. I watched her as she frantically tried to make an escape. Just then, the door at the top of the stairs started to open. Light filtered down into the dank underground. The mold that coated the doors and walls shined in the light from above. The woman I had seen earlier was smiling at the top of the stairs.
“Oh dear, you know you need to rest! I’ll have Dad put you back to bed.” She smiled as she gestured to someone behind her. A large man appeared. He was overweight and bearded. The hair on his head was thinning and he wore a white shirt with a large red and orange stain. He quickly stepped around the woman and began to descend the stairs. He grabbed the other woman and hoisted her frail body over his shoulder. I stood frozen in front of the door. He whipped open the door to the other woman’s room and flung her back onto the floor. The door slammed and he looked back at me.
I was trapped. The woman stood at the top of the stairs. The man began briskly walking towards me. I backed away toward the other end of the hallway. Tears were streaming down my face. I tripped over my own feet and fell to the ground.
"Please! Who are you!? What is going on here?!" I desperately cried out, hoping anyone but the couple would hear me.
Before I knew it, the man grabbed me. My body cried out in pain. His hands were gripped tightly around my wrist. I struggled to break free, but he quickly overpowered me. He grabbed me by the waist and put me over his shoulder. I kicked and screamed, but it made no difference. I remembered the safety pin I had found and tried jamming it into his neck. He was not phased. He walked back toward the door and opened it with his free hand. He hurled me back into the room and I landed with a thud on the cold ground. I heard my bones crack and I let out a loud scream. My ankle was tucked under my foot at a strange angle, clearly broken from the fall.
The man and woman stood in the doorway. They both smiled at me. I tried to move my broken ankle and screamed again. There was no way I could move now – I had only been able to move as much as I did before due to adrenaline. I hopelessly looked up at the couple standing before me. Their smiles were unnerving. The man gingerly picked the safety pin from his neck and tossed it on the floor in the hallway.
“I thought I told you that you needed rest, dear!” The woman motioned to the man to put me back in the bed. He started the cross the floor, and I tried to push my body away from him. The man picked me up and threw me back onto the bed. The woman then glided over toward me and tucked the wool blanket back under my body. She patted my broken ankle and I screamed out in pain. The both turned their backs to leave. The woman stopped and turned to say one last thing before she left.
“You know, mother always knows best!” With that, they shut the door, and I heard the lock turn.
I sat for a moment in disbelief. My ankle was shattered. My body was weak and my head was spinning. I took a few deep breaths to try and calm myself. In my panic, I had been gulping down air, and it was starting to turn my stomach. All of the pain and confusion I had pushed to the edge of my mind lunged toward my consciousness.
As my body flooded with pain, my mind began reeling. I searched every corner of my memory for what had happened. All I could remember were the faces of my parents, and the warmth that radiated from them. They were but a distant mirage in my mind now -- instead replaced with the horrid monsters who were holding me captive.
I wriggled beneath the blanket. The wool scratched against my sore skin. I felt like a fly caught in a spider's itchy web. I closed my eyes and tried to formulate a plan. I needed some more information before I could try and leave again. The thick concrete and heavy metal doors made it nearly impossible to make out voices beyond my small room. However, footsteps rang as clear as day. I decided to wait until I heard both the man and woman walking in the hall. Perhaps they would visit a different room and I could make my escape.
I stayed on the bed for what felt like an eternity. I wanted to scratch my entire body, but any movement reminded me just how weak I was. I surveyed the room. I figured the pin must have been left in this room by its last occupant. I shuddered at the thought of another girl in this same bed, and wondered what had happened to her. What would happen to me?
I shakily pulled the blanket off of me. The cool air hit my skin and for the first time since I opened my eyes I had felt relief. I looked down at my ankle. It was swollen to double the size of my other foot. It was purple and green. I could almost see the throbbing pain I felt.
My nails had overgrown to talon-like proportions. I used all my might to puncture the blanket with my fingernails near the frayed edges. I ripped a portion away and tied it tightly around my ankle for support. As soon as I tightened the make-shift splint, pain surged. I nearly vomited and had to lay back for a moment. Sweat was beading down my forehead and I had to catch my breath again.
As I was recovering, I heard the slam of the metal door from the top of the staircase. I listened carefully. It was clear that both the man and woman were descending the stairs. As they passed my door, one of them gently knocked, reminding me they had not forgotten my last escape attempt. The footsteps faded to the right, toward the door of the other girl I had let run past me. Her door opened, and I heard the muffled voice of the woman. Before I could make out any words, I heard the girl scream, and the door slam shut.
I took this as my opportunity to move. I flipped over the small metal table next to the bed and forced one of the table legs off to use as a weapon if I had to face my captors again. I could hear a lot of movement to my right. I reasoned that the couple must be in that room, dealing with the other girl as they saw fit. It shook me to think of what they might be doing to her. Adrenaline rushed through me once again. Fight or flight took over, and I knew I had to get out.
I looked down at the table leg in my hand, and noticed it was hollow. Inside was a small piece of paper. I pulled it out. I unfurled it, and saw that instead of ink, someone had used a pin (the previous safety pin) to etch a message.
"Up the stairs. To the right. Second door down the hall."
I memorized the note. Someone must have escaped before, and these were their instructions on how they had succeeded. I gripped the table leg tightly. I had no ideas as to how I would get the door unlocked.
I looked back at the rest of table on the ground by the bed. There had been screws and springs that had barely kept the leg attached to the base of the table. I saw one of the flimsy springs had fallen to the side. I picked it up and did my best to bend and flex the metal into a straight edge. I then began to pick the lock once more.
I was carefully listening for the man and woman, but the hallway to the right had fallen eerily silent. There were no screams of agony, no pounding of fists. I could not even hear the muffled voice of the woman, with her pseudo-soothing lull. Her attempts to be comforting were all the more unsettling, and I wanted nothing more to escape.
The lock popped. Before I opened the door, I rested my broken foot on the ground. Pain shot up through my leg and I could not help but cry out. At that moment, I felt like I would be in less pain if I just lost my foot all together. I was starting to feel hopeless. I shifted my weight to my good foot and rested my head against the cold and slimy metal door.
In my moment of despair, a memory returned to me. My mother was worriedly standing over me. My father was behind her, peeking his head over her shoulder, wearing the same worried expression. My surroundings were reminiscent of a hospital. I could not remember why I was there. All that I could remember were their worried faces, and both of them telling me they would return tomorrow to visit me again.
I straightened myself up. I wanted to see my parents again. I wanted them to know that although I was battered and bruised, I was fighting to see them. I was fighting to get my life back. I gripped the table leg and swung open the door.
I made the best mad dash to the door that I could muster with a broken ankle. I sunk down to all fours and ran up the stairs like an animal. Using more of my limbs helped take some of the pressure off my broken foot. I pulled at the door handle and was surprised to find it unlocked. They must not have expected anyone to make it this far.
I opened the door and immediately headed right. The room above was a normal living room of a home. The walls were dotted with pictures of the man and woman. Down the hallway, there was a picture of a young girl. She was about my age, and had the same color hair and eyes as myself. Beneath her picture was a placard.
"Rest in Peace, Our Sweet Caroline."
I opened the last door in the hallway. I thought that it may hold some more answers for me about who these people were or where I was being held. I gasped as the door opened to reveal a room filled with papers. Newspaper clippings lined the walls.
"MISSING! YOUNG GIRL GONE FROM HOSPITAL AFTER CAR ACCIDENT"
My picture was beneath the headline. Scanning the room, there were at least a dozen other headlines with pictures of other girls who had gone missing. In the back of the room, was the oldest clipping of them all.
"LOCAL GIRL GOES MISSING. BODY FOUND AND IDENTIFIED AS DAUGHTER OF LOCAL COUPLE"
My arms went limp and I dropped the table leg I had been clutching. The couple had a daughter who had been kidnapped and killed. It appeared that the couple then researched for local girls in compromising situations, and would take them back to their home as revenge for the loss of their daughter.
A rough hand grabbed my shoulder and swung me around. I was suddenly face to face with the large, burly man. I screamed in his face and tried to swing the table leg at him. Before I could make contact, he kicked my broken ankle and sent me to the floor. I nearly passed out from the pain. My vision was fading in and out, and he scooped me up and started to carry me back down the stairs.
He opened the door to the room in which I was being held. He threw me towards the back and shut the door and locked it once again. He had not checked the room. I finally realized that I was not getting out. He did not care what I was concocting behind my door. They had let me wander up the stairs. They knew I had no where to run.
I pulled out the scrap paper that had been in the leg of the table. I had stashed it under my mattress. I decided that if I was not going to get out, I could give the next girl a chance. I forced my finger into a pile of moldy muck that was caked onto the wall where it met the floor. I scrawled out a message in filth for the rooms' next occupant. Underneath the directions to the newspaper room, I wrote my last words.
"Don't stop running. You can make it. Tell them that Megan Otterly loved her real parents."
I tucked the paper back into the table leg and hastily patched it back together. I sat alone on the floor. Beyond the door, screams echoed down the hall. I heard a shuffling up to my door, and the handle began to turn. The couple appeared before me, and their cold smiles told me that this would be the last time I would see them.
The woman walked up to me and stroked my greasy hair. She smiled at me. The smile sent cold needles down my neck. I could not understand why these people had captured all of these girls. It wouldn't bring their own daughter back. Behind her, the man was unsheathing a large buck knife. He walked around her and hulked over me. I looked at both of them and tears sprang from my eyes.
"Why? Why is this happening? Why me? Why would you do this?"
For a moment, they looked at each other and the woman quietly chuckled. The woman looked back at me before giving her final answer.
"Well, we always wanted to give Caroline a sister. And now she will have plenty- in heaven!"
Written by BlizzardLemon