Caity’s eyes flew open as she sprang up in bed, only to be yanked back down to the cot by the chains that held her there. Tears welled in her eyes as she remembered where she was: locked up in some guy’s murder room.
She laid back down, not that she had a choice. Why had she been so stupid? If only she hadn’t fought with Max over the diamond necklace he got for her birthday being too cheap. If only she hadn’t gone out to find someone to make him jealous. If only…
Surrounded by not only regret, she looked at the dark, cold room that she was in. Gray concrete was as far as the eye could see: the walls, ceiling, floor- all that pale ugly gray broken up only by the dark metal door. The old cot Caity was on had a bare gray mattress, the chains on her wrists were bolted to the floor on either side. It smelled stale, dank.
There was a creaking noise as the door was pushed open. Caity’s heart beat hard as it rose into her throat. She hadn’t seen him for hours, days maybe. Time seemed to slow down immeasurably the longer she was trapped. He sat on the edge of the bed, dressed all in black, a mask over his face.
Something flashed in his hand and Caity’s heart clenched in fear, “No, no, no! Please no!” Caity yelled as she struggled to back away from him.
“Shhhh…” he said, showing a plate with a sandwich on it. Her heart still beating hard, her stomach growled. She had been acutely aware of her hunger, but not as much as the second she laid eyes on that sandwich. She tried to sound kind, “Thank you… can you take these off?” She held her wrists up as best she could, hoping silently rising that she might gain back just a little of her freedom.
He only shook his head, holding the sandwich up. “I can feed myself, just untie me.” She more demanded, but he only held the sandwich higher to her face. “Please untie me,” she pleaded, tears forming again and spilling down her cheeks, “please. Please!”
Suddenly, the sandwich was in her mouth and she had no choice but to take a bite around her tears. He fed her and left with the plate. The tiny sprout of hope that Caity had allowed to blossom in her chest died out and was replaced with despair once again as the door slammed shut behind him.
Alone again, Caity cried. He came back minutes later with water and held the cup to her mouth. Then, awhile later, he came back with a bucket, setting it in the corner and putting a roll of toilet paper down next to it. She could feel something rise in her throat; disgust, maybe. Her heart beat faster and faster and then he began to undo the chains.
As Caity stood on her own, he blocked the door, crossing his arms over his chest and nodding towards the bucket. She had never been so humiliated in her life. She imagined that was how a dog felt when he used a puppy pad in the corner of the kitchen.
The days seemed to go on like that until Caity couldn’t be sure how long had gone by. Maybe a week, maybe a lifetime.
Eventually, he left her without the chains so she could walk around. Caity had never felt so blessed to pace the same three feet repeatedly. When he came into the room, she had to sit on the bed while he still fed her. Eggs, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, ham, and cheese sandwich- every day, it was the same.
It became a little more clear to Caity that if he wasn’t giving any clue as to who he was, that she probably wasn’t going to make it out alive. Tears formed behind her eyes as she stopped mid-step. This was it, this was how she would die. Plopping down on the bed, Caity felt a sense of emptiness wash over her as she gave up on her life second by second. He was going to kill her. Would it be quick, slow, painful? He had kept her alive this long, why keep her alive at all if he planned to kill her slowly? As she realized she didn’t want to know the answers to any of these questions, the pit of her stomach riled. One thing became abundantly clear to her: she had to escape.
The next morning, Caity sat on the bed like she was supposed to. She watched him carefully as he sat down and held a fork full of eggs out to her. Her stomach churned, she wanted to puke. She couldn’t stand the thought of eating another bite of scrambled egg.
Still, she opened her mouth and watched as the fork came closer. A pang of terror ripped through her and before she could think, she grabbed the fork and stabbed it into him. She didn’t look where she just ran from the room as fast as she could. It was all a blur until she burst out into the yard.
It was blinding, burning her eyes. A few moments passed as her eyes adjusted to the bright sunlight. She was on a barren farm, surrounded by trees.
Pounding echoed through the old house behind her and she ran for the trees. No matter what in the woods that might kill her, she knew whomever behind her would for sure. There was no going back to peacefully waiting in terror for her death.
He followed; she heard him crashing through the trees behind her. The distance she had gained on him was dwindling, as was her strength to run anymore. Caity had to find somewhere to hide quick. Every second she wasted was another second he could plunge a knife into her back or shoot her.
The thought of dying on the dirty ground pushed Caity further running down into a ditch, hoping the roots that stuck out around her would be enough to provide cover. Leaves crunched beneath her as she tried to quiet her breathing. Both of her hands were clenched over her mouth to mute the sound, but she was sure, as she squeezed her eyes shut, that her heart could be heard pounding in her chest from miles around. She tried not to cry, tried to pretend she was tiny, unseeable as she pulled her body as together as she could until it hurt.
Every chirp made her jump. Every snap of a twig in the distance made her think that it was the end. She even prayed to make it out alive and promised whoever was listening she would be a better person, a good person, oh if only she would make it out alive.
The silence around her sunk in as she listened, but heard no sign of another human. Caity’s hands moved away from her mouth but she held her breath, afraid to make even the tiniest noise. Even if he was still out in the woods with her, she had to move, she had to find help.
She willed herself to crawl from the ditch and looking around, waiting for him to pop up and drag her back to that cell. But he didn’t; the woods were quiet, peaceful almost. Relief washed over her as she glanced around once more, letting go of the breath she had forgotten she was holding.
Caity turned to move in what she hoped would lead her somewhere safe when a noise came behind her. Was it an animal? What could have made that godforsaken noise that was akin to a sad garbage disposal? The noise came again, making Caity jump. She followed the noise around a nearby tree.
What greeted her was no animal- it was a human. His face was beaten and bloodied, but Caity could still recognize him as the man she went home with on her birthday. He was barely alive.
If he was out here, that same guy must have put him there; that meant he knew that ditch. Panic rose in Caity’s chest she had to get further away or she would be caught again. She quickly turned in the direction she thought was away from the house and ran.
But she only made it a few steps before something caught her around the waist. She flailed and kicked and screamed but it did not relent. Something dangled in front of her face, a flash catching her eye and making her still. She stared at the delicate necklace dangling in front of her, the sun catching the facets of the tiny diamond pendant. It was the same pendant she had thrown back at Max at dinner when she told him if he couldn’t afford something on her level, she would find someone who could.
Turning slowly with the arm still around her, she looked up at the face that still hid behind a mask. It had to be Max. She had hurt him. Caity knew he would find out she went home with someone else; she had made sure of it. There had been no indications that Max would take it this far. He was quiet, so kind. So not her type, really. She didn’t know whether to be impressed or terrified. He must have really had feelings for her if he had gone through all this to get back at her, which was very alpha male of him, but they do say to watch out for the quiet ones.
But she had always been able to talk him into anything; she could talk to him. She could still save herself.
“I was so terrible to you that night,” she started meekly, putting her hands on his chest and fiddling with his shirt, “I didn’t mean it.” She looked up at the hard eyes looking back at her. Max’s eyes were green? She had never noticed.
He still didn’t respond, just stared back at her. He hadn’t moved, hadn’t tightened his grip. She could still get to him, it was working. “Why don’t we go somewhere, Max? Just me and you.” Her eyes darted behind him to the man lying by the tree, “Somewhere we can be alone and I can make it up to you.” She smiled, looking back up at him.
He pulled a piece of paper and held it up to her. It was a news article, short but succinct. Her stomach sank as she read, “A Wilmington man, Max Kenning, 27, died this Sunday morning, allegedly of suicide. He was found by a family member and no foul play was suspected.”
“Max.. killed himself?” She asked bewildered, the cold going up her spine making her shiver.
Max’s voice floated to her ears, “Hung himself. The note said ‘Caity, I will always love you. I hope he gives you what you deserve’.”
She looked up at the man that had Max’s voice, and when he took off the mask, he had Max’s face, but this wasn’t Max. There was an anger in his eyes that Max had never had, even when Caity was at her worst. She understood then: this was his brother. If he saw the note, he must have found Max. He imprisoned her, humiliated her, terrified her. “This won’t bring your dead brother back. This was all pointless!” she shouted at him, the article crumpling in her fist.
An inhuman look marred his face, an expression that shook Caity to her core. A single hand clasped over her throat and her breath was forced from her lungs.
Then, he spoke again, “Caity, I’m here to give you what you deserve.”