Daddy, are you listening? Oh, God, please say you’re listening. I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t reach you.
It seemed to Annie that she’d been pleading for hours, not sure if she was getting through but refusing to lose hope. The dank air smeared her face with icy cold fingers as she curled around herself, adjusting her body to hold as much heat as possible in the tiny circle her body made when she pulled her knees to her chest. The tinkling sounds of chains echoed on the walls making her feel even more alone.
She knew that in order to communicate she would need to stay calm. It wouldn’t help to send him a jumble of images all at once. She knew how overwhelming that could be. She also knew that unless he opened up, he wasn’t going to hear any of it anyway.
Oh, Daddy, please hear me. Please find me. I know you can if you just listen.
She could feel the link between them, could almost see it stretching away from her, glowing a faint blue as it disappeared beyond her sight. She had no way of knowing if his end was open, but she had to try. Otherwise, she was certain she would succumb to despair.
She shivered, remembering how her darkest fears had been realized, how she’d been taken just as she always feared she would be. Taking a deep breath, she slowly went through what had happened hoping he was listening on the other end and that he would understand what she was sending him.
The first image was the struggle in the parking lot outside the Ford building where she had just finished her psyche class. She knew the minute she stepped out of the building that she was in trouble. She couldn’t define it, but she knew long before it actually happened. She had quickened her footsteps on the sidewalk, pulling her keys out, getting ready to jump in her car the minute she was in front of it. She remembered glancing around, feeling as if the clouds were descending on her, enveloping her in their chaotic madness.
Where did everyone go, she remembered thinking? The sidewalks were strangely deserted. She picked up her pace again, not quite running but getting close. Her feet slapped on the pavement and her breath started coming in gasps. Over the thunderous beat of her heart slamming in her chest, she thought she heard another sound but couldn’t be sure; her own internal noise drowned out everything else.
When she spotted her car, she had breathed a sigh of relief. She didn’t realize she’d spoken aloud, but she heard a whispered finally when she was within reach of the car.
It came so fast, she didn’t have time to think. She felt the hulking shape seconds before it slammed into her and she went sprawling on the pavement, her keys flying out of her hand and rattling to a stop just out of her reach. She flipped around just in time to see big hulking arms reaching for her. She tried to scoot back, but it was too late. The hands clamped around her waist and picked her up as if she were weightless.
She had screamed and kicked and flailed her arms, hoping to surprise her attacker with sound and movement, but it didn’t help. The hands were like iron grips and before she knew it, she was thrown over a huge shoulder and carried away from her car.
The next image was of the dark vehicle on the other side of the parking lot near the trees. She couldn’t be sure what it was because she was still struggling, still trying to fight the overwhelming presence that had grabbed her and carried her as if she were an inconsequential nothing. She knew it was a van or a truck, but she was hoping the image translated more clearly on the other end. At the time, she’d been battling tears and a ragged throat from screams that echoed into the empty night.
Once she was thrown inside, she found herself in almost complete darkness. She had almost given into the panic that was crawling up from her stomach, but a calm force had settled over her and she knew exactly what she needed to do.
The next thing she sent wasn’t an image, it was numbers and directions. Someone had told her once that counting calmed you enough to put you to sleep. In the back of the vehicle, she was a long way from sleep, but she had hoped that counting would somehow save her. As soon as they started moving, she started counting. When they turned, she noted whether it was right or left and started the count over again. There were six turns and plenty of counting in between before they came to a stop and a few moments later the door opened.
She sent the image of the hulking figure grabbing her and her pleas and cries that were met with silence.
Who are you?
Why are you doing this?
What do you want?
I’ll do anything. Just please, don’t hurt me!
It all seemed to fall on deaf ears. She was carried effortlessly into an ordinary industrial building, down a flight of twelve stairs (she had made sure to count) and into the cell she was now locked in. The figure chained her to the wall and left, slamming the iron door behind him without so much as a sound or a grunt. As soon as she heard the lock turn in the door, she had crumbled onto the floor and cried.
Having sent the images, all Annie could do was wait. But while she waited, she decided to keep the line open, like a recording. She’d never tried anything like it before, but she found that it was as easy as breathing. Just like riding a bicycle, her daddy always said.
She was still recording when what seemed like hours later the door opened and the hulking figure walked in, undid her chains and led her from the room. She didn’t protest this time, knowing there was nowhere for her to run. She kept quiet as he led her down a long, barren hallway with bright lights that burned her eyes after the darkness of her cell.
At the end of the hallway, he opened a door on the right and led her into what looked like an exam room in a hospital. Seeing the bed and the monitors, her whole body started to shake.
“What do you want from me?” She looked at her guide, but it was as if no one was home. His eyes looked through her like she wasn’t there, and he led her to the bed as if she hadn’t spoken. She kept thinking she was going to make a run for it, going to try and get away but before she knew it, she was strapped down and there was no more fight left, if there had ever even been one.
She continued recording, almost as an afterthought. She knew it wouldn’t help her now, but the thought of her father finding this place and blowing it to hell in order to avenge her death made her smile.
She was still smiling when a woman dressed in gray scrubs and wearing the same vacant expression as her guard walked up and started attaching wires to her body. She winced when a needle was stuck into her arm and liquid started dripping down a tube directly into her blood stream.
Too late, Daddy.
Her eyes were getting heavy and she was just starting to float into oblivion when she realized another person was standing above her. He patted her arm and she heard him say, “It’s not too late, Annie. You’re doing great. You’ve already given us so much.”
Her eyes snapped open as she realized who it was, but the drug that was making it’s way through her body had done it’s job well.
The two words echoed inside her head, a silent scream that followed her into the darkness.
Chuck Wendig’s challenge this week was to pick an opening sentence that someone else wrote and write a flash fiction up to 2,000 words. Mine finished around 1,350. The first sentence I chose was written by Kalen Ivey. I hope I did it justice, although I have to admit that this was a rough one for me. As with many of Chuck’s challenges, I almost gave up on it. I hope it wasn’t too much of a mess and that you don’t scream at me too much. I have to say, for someone who hates cliffhangers as much as I do, I sure do end a lot of my stories with them.