Edge of Escape
Mmm. Sleep. She took an involuntary sniff through her nose and made an audible sigh out her mouth, loud enough to pull her almost all the way up from the strangest dream. It was a soft nightmare, not scary but very unpleasant. Weird, the way dreams sometimes are. She rolled to her right and jerked herself completely awake. The room was pitch black but her eyes were wide and searching. Her left wrist seemed tethered to the side of the bed. She reached with her right hand and felt blindly from her wrist to a cold metal pole. She was handcuffed. Panicking, she rattled the pole and started to scream. The screams turned to grunts and groans as she struggled with the shackles. She paused to listen, holding her breath. Nothing. Still pitch black. There were faint sounds from somewhere. Far away expressway noises, a breeze through tall trees, closer crickets. But no house sounds, no refrigerator hum, no creaks, no ticking clock. She let out her breath and tried to calm herself. She was fully clothed but shoeless. Her watch was gone. She pulled her legs up under herself for leverage and started to stand, intending to rip her wrist restraint free of the metal. She placed the chain links in her left hand and grabbed the wrist metal with her right. She braced herself, tilted her head upwards, gritted her teeth and straightened her legs fast. Her head met an unexpectedly low ceiling hard enough to knock her back into the soft nightmare.
* * *
“Is she awake?” the nurse asked. A handsome man was hovering over the young woman’s bandaged body, continually checking the monitors and lightly kissing her cheeks, her right hand, and her forehead.
“She’s been moaning and her eyes fluttered once. I’ve been squeezing her hand but there’s no response.” He touched her face again, “Come on, Becca, wake up.”
The nurse scanned the chart again. Rebecca MacPherson, 18, unmarried. And what a hunk of man at her bedside. The nurse admired his devotion. He had not left her side in the 36 or so hours that the unconscious girl had lain there. Her injuries did not appear severe though her left wrist was bandaged. There was a lump on her forehead, which must have hurt, but the patient was unaware of pain and oblivious to her surroundings. The nurse checked the monitors and frowned. Rebecca should have awakened by now. She didn’t want the guy to worry any more than he already was so she smiled at him and gave him an encouraging thumbs up sign. “She’ll awake soon. Everything looks fine.”
She headed for the door and glanced back. Such a handsome young man, she thought. No matter the age, the good ones are always taken.
* * *
Rebecca was unconscious for only a few minutes but she had no way of knowing that. It was still pitch black in the low ceilinged room. This time she was more cautious. She felt around first with her feet and then with her free arm, stretching and twisting in order to get as clear an idea of her position as possible. All the way to the right she could feel the side of the bed. She could dangle her feet over the side and outwards three feet but could not feel anything solid. The top of the bed had a crib-like railing instead of a headboard and when she stuck her right arm through the slats there was no wall immediately behind it. She clicked her fingers in an effort to sense the space as if she had sonar abilities. She even squeezed her eyes tightly shut to concentrate on her hearing. She guessed that the wall was near, maybe a couple of feet away. She reached up and felt again the low ceiling. Rebecca was only 5 feet two inches tall and identifying ceiling textures was not on the list of things a short girl like her would do, but this felt like concrete, more like a basement floor than a ceiling. No wonder I knocked myself out, she thought, raising her fingers to her forehead. Whoa. She had a huge knot above her eyebrow, tender to the touch.
She continued her blind search, first feeling with her feet down the left side of the bed beneath the metal pole. There was a horizontal pole along the bottom of the mattress, then nothing. She couldn’t feel the floor. She placed both hands on the pole and lowered herself. Still no floor. She was dangling like a kid on a trapeze. She pressed one bare foot against the pole and made a 180-degree arc with the other. Her big toe grazed something hard and smooth. Glass, she thought, a window. She changed position and used her other foot, stretching harder and scraping with her toenail. A sliver of gray night bled through the blackened window. She continued to stretch and scrape until her muscles ached and her cuffed wrist bled.
Exhausted, she pulled her body back onto the mattress. She tilted her head toward the window and tried to think. The last thing she remembered was shopping with her friend, Sarah, and feeling a little nauseated from an ice cream drink. She was walking alone down a corridor to the restrooms when … what? Obviously I’ve been abducted, she thought. She had been suppressing this thought since the moment she awakened. Rebecca was stronger than her small frame indicated, physically and mentally. She was an iron-willed person, always wanting to be in control, and always the center of attention.
Her stomach growled and she realized she needed to go to the bathroom as well. She refused to acknowledge the chilling fear that was creeping up her spine and instead stared at the window, at the gray strips of light that were appearing to brighten. She worked the handcuffs along the pole and reached further but still nothing. She twisted until she could get her head over the bedside and then she vomited. Time to cry. The frustration and fear, the handcuffs and the darkness were overwhelming. Rebecca wept.