She awoke as she had the prior 161 mornings. The hay scratched at her skin as her eyes opened to the sound of that damn rooster. She had dreams of strangling that stupid thing. Her dreams were all she had and he pulled her out of them every morning.
She sat up slowly and rubbed at her wrists. The bandages were itchy but she tried not to scratch. The skin on her wrists was practically non-existent from the restraints. One of them had switched them to her feet the day before and dressed her wounds, but the damage had already been done. Her mind daydreamed of infections and gangrene.
“It would be so easy,” she whispered.
She shook her head and let the thoughts scatter to the wind. “No,” she said. “I’m stayin’ alive. I’ve followed all their rules. I can’t surrender.”
She stood and walked toward the barn door. The chains on her feet allowed her some mobility but the walls were always just out of her reach. The sun was rising in front of her. It slipped through the cracks in the walls. She could hear them outside working the fields. One of them would bring her food soon.
She didn’t know if it was a cult or just a bunch of sadistic assholes. Perhaps it was a little bit of both. She didn’t like to think about why she was there. After five months, nothing made sense anymore.
She squinted as a ray of rising sunlight passed into her field of vision. She turned away from the door and walked back to her makeshift bed. She pushed the hay aside and stared at the marks she had made. She never thought there would be so many. She brought her leg up and grabbed the round shackle that held her right foot. She pressed it to the concrete and rubbed it back and forth until a small mark appeared. She pushed the hay farther aside until she could see them all. 162 in total.
Would she ever get out?
Her mind began to wander. The shackle was old and rusty. She imagined running it across her wrist until the blood ran fast and free. It probably wouldn’t take very long. She’d already endured so much pain. What was a little more?
She shook her head again and pounded her hands on the ground. She couldn’t afford to think like that. It wasn’t an option. She moved the hay back over the marks and turned to sit in front of the door. She was hungry. Her breakfast should have been there by now.
The next thirty minutes passed unnaturally slow. She sat perfectly still, acutely aware of her surroundings. She searched for shadows but none ever crossed the barn’s door.
Something was wrong.
The sounds of the morning had ceased. The men were no longer working the fields. Even the birds seemed to have stopped chirping.
A gunshot tore through the morning. She jumped and covered her ears. Two more rang out in quick succession. Pop. Pop. What the hell was happening?
She crawled forward but soon retreated back to her bed. Shadows moved all around her. People were running around the barn. Every few seconds, a new pop would shatter the peace of the morning. She curled onto the floor and covered her ears with her bandaged hands. She survived for 162 days because of routine. This disruption tore her brittle sanity to shreds.
She didn’t know how long she laid there before she opened her eyes again. The pops stopped as suddenly as they began. She sat up, her eyes on the large barn door. A shadow displaced the light. Someone stood on the other side. She curled her knees to her chest and waited. The locks clanged against the wooden door.
Was it her savior?
Was it her captor?
Or was it someone infinitely worse?
She brought herself to her feet as the door swung open. The morning sun blinded her. She covered her eyes as the shadow moved closer.
Bracing herself, she looked up into the eyes of her fate.
I know, I know. I’m the cliffhanger queen … I’m sorry … #notsorry
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