Amy opened her eyes to total blackness.
She was confused.
She tried to rub them thinking she could rub away the dark but her hands were bound behind her back. A wave of panic surged though her body. She tried to scream but could only mew like a kitten. Her mouth was sealed with a sticky substance she knew to be duct tape. Her breathing came hard and ragged in and out of her nose. The sudden loss of carbon dioxide brought her to the break of hyperventilation.
She tried to slow her breathing but cold fear tightened around her neck like the grim reaper, threatening her life. Fearing death immenent, she made herself concentrate on each breath until it slowed
Again, she tried to move but to no avail, except for a slight sway back and forth. To Amy’s horror she realized she was hanging upside down. Warm liquid, she knew to be blood, ran down her legs from her shackled ankles. The shackles that bit hard into her flesh had been tightened by a horrific man with super human strength. The pain was almost unbearable and Amy did the only thing she could…cry. Silent tears dripped to mix with the blood and cold earth below.
Tonight, Amy’s naked body hung helpless like a piece of meat awaiting the butcher’s saw.
He was confident she wouldn’t be able to escape. The shackles he used were old but solid, and he had added a bit more force when clasping them to her ankles. He smiled beneath the mask and whispered… “There’s no way the bitch can get out of them.” He hadn’t wanted to leave her alone in the root cellar but there were things to do…items to prepare before they could spend their first night together.
It had to be perfect.
The cabin was cold and full of cobwebs but that didn’t bother him. He busied himself making a fire in the old stone fireplace and unzipping the mummy sleeping bag that would serve as embryo for Amy’s naked body. He placed it close to the fire…after all he wanted the womb to be warm and life-giving. As he tidied the place of birth, his stomach growled with hunger pains, but he cursed them knowing eating would have to come much later. He knew Amy would be hungry as well, but what did he care…after all it was her soul he was trying to save and not her body.
Her body was beautiful…he would have been an imbecile to not notice her womanly curves and toned physique. He knew she would be fit even before he took off her clothes, after all he had spent hours watching her and her friend run every morning at 6 am. Amy was a creature of habit and that had made his job so ridiculously easy.
When he thought of how careless she was it made him angry, but he was a teacher…so he would teach, and she would learn. Would she learn the easy way or the hard way? Well…that was entirely up to her, but he hoped for the latter because he was prepared for the challenge. He glanced at the freshly polished tools lain neatly beside the sleeping bag…oh yes…he was prepared.
He had practiced and practiced a lot. All the other girls had been unworthy but necessary. After all he had had to learn, and learn he did.
Amy would be his masterpiece. Of this he was certain.
Amy floated in and out of consciousness as she hung in the dank root cellar. Exhaustion and pain, from gravities pull on againist her own body weight, made even shallow breathing near to impossible. The vessels in her brain bulged heavy with blood, so no matter how hard she willed herself to stay awake, she eventually could do nothing but surrender to the darkness.
In those short waking moments, she tried to remember what had happened to bring her to this place of hell. Memory came and went in flashes, and the very moment she thought she understood, darkness clouded her mind and once again she fell into unconsciousness. At first this was frustrating, but then, in a sick sort of way, it became a game of cat and mouse. Amy conditioned herself to capture, hold, and tuck away every memory from each awakening moment.
Conscious once again, Amy began to sort the snippets of memory she had collected…a cabin…a phone call…Rudy…barking and growling…utter fear and confusion…
Slowly, ever so slowly, the pieces fell into place and Amy was able to remember the sequence of events that had led her here…
(six hours ago)
…Amy and Rudy finally arrived. The snow storm had made the roads treacherous, so the two-hour trip had turned into four. Amy, checked her phone for a signal, and was relieved to see at least one bar, so she called Sky, not wanting her to worry.
Sky’s voice greeted her after the third ring…
“Hello! Unfortunate for you I’m unavailable, but if you leave your message, “yours truly” will call you back…if you’re lucky! Beep Beep!”
Amy rolled her eyes.
“Okay…the greeting is getting a little old…why don’t you change it already…”
“Listen,” Amy continued, “I didn’t want you to worry. The roads were hellish, but Rudy and I made it to the cabin in one piece…errr…maybe I should say two pieces.” She looked at Rudy’s hassling pink tongue and smiled. “Anyway, we’re here, we’re safe and sound. Try to be good while I’m away. I know for you, that’s quite the challenge! Call me when you get a chance. I love you, babe…bye.”
In spite of herself, Amy smiled, and tossed the phone into her handbag.
Rudy, eager to escape the confines of the car, licked the closed window. Amy reached for the passenger’s door handle, “Poor baby, how dare mama keep you cooped up for so long…”
Rudy jumped into the undisturbed snow and rolled vigorously.
Smiling, happy to see her golden so excited, she gathered her handbag, suitcase, and easel and trudged through the deep snow towards the log cabin, she and Sky had built together.
The musty air, that had been trapped inside for months, assaulted her nose, causing her to pause for a moment, but Rudy nonchalantly padded past her and went inside. He busied himself sniffing here and there, as Amy opened windows to let in the fresh air. A cold snowy breeze rushed in and Amy breathed it deep into her lungs.
Looking around at the rustic walls, she felt a peace she hadn’t know for a long time. Secretly, she thanked Sky for insisting she take this week to rest, recover, and perhaps begin a new painting. God knows she needed recovery, after barely surviving the horrors of the previous months… Immediately her mind began to replay each horrific scenario; the letters, the calls, random gifts…the home invasion.
“Stop it Amy!” She chastised herself and willed her mind back to the present.
Rudy, sitting on his haunches, stared at her and shifted his head sideways trying to understand what, “Stop it Amy” meant. Amy noticed his quizzical look, laughed and ruffled the golden locks atop his head. All at once his confusion dissipated. He gave her hand a quick lick before padding away in search of stinky new smells.
The cabin, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, was so isolated that cell phone reception was hit and miss, and often became the dream that never came true. So, Amy, a lover of antiques, had purchased an old rotary phone, from a local flea market; and hung it on the wall, beside the entrance that opened into a small but modern kitchen.
The entire cabin was small; other than the kitchen, it contained one bedroom large enough for a king sized bed and dresser, a bathroom with shower and double sink, a cozy den with a plush sofa and huge stone fireplace with cedar mantle that covered an entire wall, and a front deck complete with hot-tub and many pots that would filled with ferns and flowers come Spring. It was a perfect weekend get-a-way for her and Sky. With only a two-hour drive, the cabin became the magic elixir needed to de-stress from the cities rat-race that dominated their lives. Their goal was to eventually live here, but for now their jobs kept them tethered to the city.
Rudy barked, startling Amy. He anxiously scratched at the screen door that led outside. Thinking he had to pee, Amy opened the door to let him outside. Simultaneously the phone hanging on the wall began to ring. Amy knew it was Sky returning her call. She picked it up on the fourth ring and immediately said into the receiver, “Hey babe! It’s beautiful here! You should see the snow!”
The voice on the other end replied, “Amy, listen to me…lock the door!”
Amy recognized Sky’s voice, but Rudy’s incessant barking garbled the message.
“Damn it, Rudy, hush up!”
In response, Rudy’s barking deepened with guttural growls, making it impossible for Amy to hear Sky.
“Wait a minute…let me see what the hell Rudy is barking at. I’ll be right back,” she said into the phone and laid the receiver down and walked toward the screen door. Amy didn’t hear Sky’s voice begging her to lock the door.
The screen door squeaked when she opened it. Amy stepped outside to stand on the deck. Rudy, only a few feet from her, crouched low and snarled baring his sharp canines. Amy felt a wave of uneasiness, for she knew Rudy…her happy-go-lucky retriever, rarely growled.
Amy scanned the edge of the woods looking for anything that would explain her dog’s vicious transformation. Seeing absolutely nothing, she knelt and began to coax Rudy to come to her. “Come on boy…it’s okay…”
A shadow, flickered quickly past her peripheral vision, before she could turn to see what it was, Rudy lunged in her direction. Gnashing teeth, unbearable pain, and a deafening BANG were last things Amy remembered.
Afterwards, came the darkness.
Afterwards came hell.