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Reaped by Shadows
Laughter filled the empty air as we pushed our way out the door of Nero’s; the smell of stale beer and cigarettes lingered. Broken bottles were scattered across the surrounding sidewalks, and it was considerably cold out; a light breeze made my satin party dress dance in the moonlight.
“Where did you even get fake ID’s?” I giggled.
Grace hiccupped, grinned, and replied, “I got it from a friend’s friend!” She was blending her words slightly, but we continued walking down the sidewalk. “Umm I think we should go… this way,” she slurred again pointing in two directions. I giggled once again and picked one of the directions, hoping she knew where her own apartment was. Following her lead, we began swaying while singing a song we just finished dancing to. The further we walked, the further away all bright lights became, and the street began to get narrow with potholes and cracks strewn across the alley. Not noticing anything but Grace and the seemingly funny song, we turned again onto yet another slummy street that was blanketed in shadows. Overgrown shrubs spilled over onto the sidewalk; and we twirled past them carelessly. A twig snapped on the ground by one of the bushes, but we thought nothing of it; maybe it was a stray cat or dog. I turned around and opened my mouth to say something to Grace when I was caught completely off guard by a large, hasty figure that loomed over my shoulders.
Massive, intoxicating hands pressed against my mouth and nose, and a knife was threatening to make an incision at my throat; my eyes strained in the darkness to look for Grace. Panic coursed through my veins, as I struggled to fight against the suffocation. Thrashing about lessened the already limited air I had, and the man that had a hold of me took every blow unfalteringly as if he was a brick wall. My blood now heated, gave me a burst of energy and urged me to struggle against his will. I flailed and swung my limbs violently to no avail. Exhaustion overwhelmed me and I sunk to the sidewalk defeated. I quickly glanced over at Grace, and it seemed she had been cooperating in order to stay unharmed. The knife was no longer at my throat, but from my thrashing I had a considerably large cut across my neck. Trickling blood ran down my neck as I lay in a huddled mass with my attacker hovering over me. He bent over to my ear so there was to be no mistake in his words; he ordered me to stand up quickly and quietly before I hurt my friend and myself again. I had no other choice but to do as he said, and Grace was in the same situation as I. What had we gotten ourselves into?
I recognized the van that we were shoved into the back of. The interior was like a utility van; two seats up front, a row of seats in the middle, and the last row of seats were taken out to make empty space in back, which is where we were pushed. The gray carpet on the floor was rough and musty smelling; it reminded me of fresh potting soil. Lying on our stomachs, our hands were being bound behind our backs with rope. After the man tying me up gave a final tug to secure the series of knots, my wrist got pinched and I yelped out in pain. We had taken a wrong turn down the wrong road after drinking alcohol under age. Not only that, but it was a little past midnight on what looked like an abandoned street. The two back doors of the van slammed shut, and the van rocked as the two men climbed in the front seats. As they looked back at us, I dimly saw their faces in the luminescent moonlight. These were the same two I have been seeing all week. Each time I saw them, they had grim expressions while they were carrying on solemn conversations; at least that is what I saw from a distance. They scared me, and now they were in control of our lives. The van roared to life as we shook with fear in the back. I looked over at Grace, and our met eyes for a brief moment; we were scared and unsure. Finally I got the courage to whisper to Grace. “I’ve seen those men before and they definitely seem sketchy,” my voice shaking as I whispered.
“What do you think they’re after?” she stuttered.
“Hopefully money is the only thing, I don’t think I could live with anything else,” I said looking at the carpeted floor. The two attackers noticed us whispering, and one turned in his seat.
“Shut up back there!” he boomed with a look of hatred in his eyes as he pounded his knuckle against the side of the van. Knowing how scared Grace already was, I didn’t feel that it was necessary to point out the dent he had made with his fist into the side of the van. We remained silent for what felt like an eternity, unable to sleep, traveling to an unknown destination in an unknown vehicle. The world we once knew was now foreign.
At last it felt like we had come to a halt; it was still dark out, but I strained my hearing to listen to their conversation. They were quiet, but I managed to hear the words “truck stop” and “tired”, so I decided to create a plan. Both of us were still sprawled out on our stomachs, unable to muster enough energy to change position. Our eyes were closed, but sleep was far from inevitable. I waited until the engine sputtered to a stop before nudging Grace in the back with my knee.
“Do you still have nail clippers from the sleepover in your pocket?” I whispered. She looked mystified, and decided I was crazy for asking.
“You sure picked a good time to fix your broken nail,” she snapped. “At a time like this you really choose to be selfish? How are you even going to use them with your hands tied behind you anyways?”
“You don’t understand! This is life-or-death, so I’m searching your pockets. Don’t make a lot of noise, and just stay still.” I squirmed around until I was positioned to search her pockets. I checked each pocket until I discovered the nail clippers, thanking the Lord. “Give me your hands,” I demanded. Reluctantly she thrust them in my direction. The rope was thick, but I was determined to clip away until she could break free. It took hours; hours of my body aching endlessly, hours of my mind straining, hours of clipping away at what seemed like a strand of rope at a time, and hours of lying in the darkness with daylight soon approaching, my life slowly ticking like a bomb. At last, the rope was thin enough for Grace to slip out of. The sun was beginning to rise, and there was no time for me to be cut free; my plan was being improvised, but definitely working. Slowly I sat up wincing from my aching body, and turned my back to the doors at the rear of the van. “Grace you have to pretend you’re still tied up in case they wake up,” I reminded her. She nodded, still dazed from lack of sleep. She mimicked my position, and leaned against one of the doors while I tried to find some sort of latch or handle. At last my hand came across what I presumed opened them. Leaning over to Grace, I whispered in her ear, “As soon as I pull this latch, they will probably wake up. You have to promise me to run as fast and hard as you can when these doors swing open. Whatever you do, don’t look back no matter what.” Her eyes widened and she began to tear up.
“What about you? I don’t understand what you’re doing!”
“There’s no time!” I felt frustrated with her reaction, but touched that she was so sincere. “If you escape Grace, you need to get the police so that I have a chance of being rescued. It’s now or never, while we are still relatively close to home. You can get help Grace, but you have to go without me. I can run with you, but in order for you to escape you have to keep running while I keep them occupied; it’s the only way,” I said, my eyes beginning to fill with tears also. She nodded, and I could tell she couldn’t trust her own words. I counted down from 3, and jerked on the handle.
The two men stirred awake and began shouting violently as Grace and I took off down the parking lot in the direction of the highway. As planned, I tripped, using my shoulders to stop my fall seeing as my hands were still bound together behind me. Grace only glanced back once, tears streaming down her face, until she crossed the highway and started flagging down a vehicle. A young couple in an old beat-up car stopped and picked her up as the two thugs finally caught up to me. I watched them drive away, and reality sank in. I suddenly felt the raw skin on my shoulder, and one of the men grabbed me and picked me up by my neck.
“Looks like your little friend left you for the taking,” he said sneering. I had spent my energy, and my breath was being sucked away slowly, his grasp tightening on my neck like a cobra. I looked into his black, soulless eyes praying he would loosen his deadly grip.
“Chris, calm down dude she needs to be alive,” the other thug warned. He released me, and I dropped to the asphalt gasping for air. Chris glared at me while the other man led me to the van and pushed me in the back again, this time alone. Fatigue washed over me, and I sank into a deep unconsciousness with my shoulder burning and my body throbbing.