The town carnival was always the biggest event of the summer. People from all over the county came to the small field on the edge of my town to ride the ferris wheel and eat elephant ears. Every year, on the Saturday of the carnival, all of my friends and I would meet up and spend time together. This usually only meant a couple of people. This year, we decided to meet each other at the carousel and spend the rest of the night together on the rides.
At seven sharp, I took a seat on the bench that was next to the carrousel and waited for the rest of my friends to arrive. Slowly, one by one, they began arriving. First, Anna, my best friend that I’ve known since kindergarten came and sat next to me. Following Anna was Jackson, then Sophia, and finally, Caleb. “Let’s go to the ferris wheel!”, Sophia shouted. She has always been one of the loudest people I’ve ever known, pretty much the opposite of me.
We ran along the dusty path to the ferris wheel, where the stagnant line stacked up. Our smiles slowly faded as we realized that it would take at least an hour to get to the front. Sighing, Anna said, “Why don’t we try another ride?”
“I want to go on the water log ride!” Jackson shouted.
“Yeah! That’s always my favorite ride,” Caleb added.
“Are we agreed then?” Sophia asked.
I was absolutely, positively terrified of that ride. I remember the first — and last — time I rode it. I was seven years old and my older brother had convinced me that it would be fun. The whole ride, I sat in my seat with my eyes squeezed shut, screaming. It’s never left me with a good feeling knowing that it just took a few hours to set up and take down. How could it be safe? “I don’t feel like going on that one, but you guys go. I’ll just wait here until you’re done.” I sat down on the wooden benches and pulled my phone out. I knew that it would be a matter of time before they came back, plus there weren’t any rides I wanted to go on alone.
Just as I unlocked my phone, I felt a hand latch onto my upper arm and yank me behind the bench. Before I could make a noise, a hand covered my mouth and someone blindfolded me. My palms were profusely sweating and my mind went blank. I squirmed and flung my arms around, but the large figure was bigger and stronger than me. It carried me out of the fairgrounds and into the woods while I continued to struggle. I couldn’t see a thing, but I knew exactly where the person had taken me. The noises of the birds, the crinkling of the leaves, the smell of the soil - it was all too familiar. We were in the forest just outside of the fairgrounds. I used to go camping here.
My mind and heart were racing. What had just happened? Who is this person? I kept trying to get away, but any time I moved the grip on me got tighter. Eventually, my mouth was duct taped and I was shoved into some sort of metal box. My attacker ignored the muffled noises coming from underneath the duct tape. I could now make out some of the words him and another person were exchanging. More importantly, I could begin to make out the voices and knew, for a fact, that the people who had taken me from the carnival were not people I had ever met. I have always been so shy, though, so it’s not like I knew that many people anyways. I continued to kick the box, but it didn’t budge. I was trapped in, and from what I could hear from the voices, it sounded like they weren’t planning on staying in these woods too much longer.
“We have to load her in the bed of the truck. Once we do that, we can easily drive away from here with her.”
“Yes, that’s true.”
Before I knew it, I felt myself being lifted from the ground. At this point, all forms of resistance felt useless, but I kept on kicking and punching the walls of the box. The box and I were haphazardly thrown into what I assumed was the back of the truck. I heard the doors to the truck open, and both of my kidnappers climbed into the front of the truck. Once I heard their doors close, I started kicking harder than I’d ever kicked in my life. My breathing intensified and I felt as though the walls were closing in on me. For a second, I stopped and thought about giving up. The walls were so strong, and I was not. My legs trembled from exhaustion and my arms felt like they were going to fall off. The only thing keeping me going was the thought of what was at risk and what would happen if I didn’t free myself. The chances of ever seeing my friends and family again was slim to none. With that in mind, I mustered up all of the energy I had and kicked the bottom of the box with all of my might. I started to hear the hinges coming loose. I kicked again, and after five more kicks, the hinges broke off the bottom of the box and I was free. I still had to be careful, though. They could still see me through their mirrors or the window, so I army crawled out of the box and to the edge of the truck. We were travelling fairly quickly, but up ahead on the dirt road there was a curve. I knew, in that moment, that as soon as they slowed at the turn, that I would have to jump. I began to have second thoughts. What if the fall injured me? What then? Before my brain could completely over think, I pulled myself up and over the side of the truck, landing hard in the dirt and stones. I popped up in a split second. My arms and legs were covered in scratches and blood from the fall, but I had to focus on what was important in that moment -- getting back to safety. My already limp legs flew across the ground as I sprinted away. When I was halfway down the street and I heard the truck turn around, I ran even harder. My legs were moving faster than ever, my lungs gasping for more air, my heart pounding in my chest. Despite how much I wanted to stop running, I kept going. Once I had made it onto paved road, I heard the truck turn around behind me. They knew, just as well as I did, that a truck chasing a girl was not something that would go unnoticed in our small town. Even though I knew they were gone, I kept running. At some point, once I was in the middle of the town, a police officer pulled up next to me and picked me up. He explained that after my friends had returned and I was gone, they called the police and everyone started looking for me. That’s how he knew to pick me up. He also explained to me how I would have to explain what happened once I felt safe and comfortable. I just nodded, because I knew that within a matter of time I would be sitting in a chair at the police station, crying with my parents by my side as I told my story.
That was yesterday. Today, I am sitting in my living room, with bruises and cuts up and down my arms and thighs. I am writing this now, because I know I need to get this story on paper if I ever want to be able to move on. It was hard for me to talk to strangers before, but after what happened last night, I don’t know if I can ever talk to another stranger again. On the kitchen counter sits flowers and letters from the neighbors, my classmates, and my friends, saying how sorry they are. The road to mental recovery is long. I won’t ever be able to return to the fair. I’m just grateful to be home and safe right now. Many people aren’t as lucky as me. I know it’s just the day after, but I’ve already realized that some things will never be the same. The bruises and cuts will heal, but the trauma I experienced last night is something that will never, ever, fade from my memory.