A foul odor reeked from the guard. He guarded only me. Not that he was necessary; video cameras, heat sensors, bars, and chains prevented escape. Only my cell existed and I knew every inch of it. I would not be able to describe the building I was held in, just these four walls and what was inside them. My arms shivered against the ice cold, thick steel composing three of the four walls. Cement created the ceiling and floor. The lack of windows left me clueless to the time of day, but it had to have been early morning because there was the same guard from last night and I had not been given the table scraps my captors call a meal. Not even a dog would eat that garbage, but I do. My frail body, once fit and strong, was chained to the wall opposite the bars. Even if I could escape from these chains, I would not have been able to get through the three inch diameter, steel bars. The blank space between the bars revealed a hallway made of more steel.
Unlike normal jail cells, this prison room had no bed, no sink, no toilet, no chairs. Any of that furniture would have taken space away from the area that could have been used for the torture devices. Every day, between lunch and dinner, a man dressed in camouflage digs and decked out in a buzz cut strutted into the cell carrying different instruments of torture. Even though the year was 2019, the devices were pulled right out of the dark ages. A stretcher, whip, needles, hot iron tools for branding, each left welts and scars. The blood dripped down my face and back, only then to cool, because of the air conditioning, turned so low that I would shiver at the slightest blow. The only remotely modern invention cold and calculating used was an electroshock machine that sent waves of sharpening pain through the core of my body. I wondered what he would use today. That was all I had to look forward to, torture, in the confinement of this bleak desolate room. I was a prisoner.
Fourteen hours later, I had more bruises blooming and more blood oozing from fresh wounds. He asked about the rebellion group, again. You would think he would have gotten tiered of asking the same questions over and over again. But once he was gone, I was left in quiet all over again. Just as I was about to drift off in to sleep, I heard a thump from the hallway. I could barely gather my thoughts, because so much of the blood that belonged in my brain, seemed to coat the floor. I acknowledged the heat sensors shutting off and the bars sliding open. A petite girl entered the cell dressed in jeans and a loose, brown, long sleeved shirt. I had enough brain power to notice her big brown eyes peering out from under her bangs. Her blonde hair cascaded around her face, down her shoulders, ending at her waist. Her fair skin brought a brightness to the room I had not had the privilege of seeing in months. Her beauty felt unreal. This made me suspicious. Was I dreaming or was she a ploy to extract my secrets?
“Who are you? What do you want?” My voice came out far more hoarse sounding than I would have liked.
“Shh… Don’t worry. I’m here to help you.” She whispered in a hushed tone.
“Ha! How could you possibly help me?” I asked rhetorically, rattling the chains.
“Bandages, food, medicine,” she answered, pulling out a bag from behind her back.
Kneeling on the hard floor, she unzipped the duffle bag, revealing fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, water, bandages, and medicine. She pulled out some of the food and began to feed me. The apples tasted sweet and ripe from the sun, which I had not felt in half a year, as they slid down my throat.
“You still didn’t answer my first question. Who are you?”
“That’s a difficult question,” she replied, trying to hide the truth.
“Just give me a name,” I pleaded.
“Thanks, Dawn. I’m Jack. So how did you end up here?”
“I live upstairs.”
I was so thrown off by this reply that my head jerked back, nearly crunching my skull against the wall. Did she mean that she was being held captive, too? Or that she had a warm, soft bed waiting for her?
“What do you mean?” I asked, as she began to treat the injuries on my arm.
“I mean, you are living in my basement.” She replied in her melodic voice. Well, that explained the lack of windows. “My dad is the man who captured you. Until yesterday night, I didn’t even know you were down here.”
“Am I really in your house?” Had I really been stuck in this girl’s basement for six months?
“Yeah, my dad works for the government. That’s why his partner, Richard Van Halen, has been torturing you for information.”
I winced as she poured hydrogen peroxide over one of the deeper wounds.
“Sorry,” she apologized, for bringing me pain, no matter how necessary.
“It’s not your fault.” I said through clenched teeth. Trying not to think about the pain, I asked more questions. “So why are you helping me? Not that I’m not grateful, but aren’t you going to get into trouble?”
“Not if they don’t know I helped you escape.”
“Sorry, babe, but they have you on video.” I said, nodding towards the cameras.
“I went into the surveillance room to make it play on a loop. It isn’t recording right now.”
“What about the guard?” There was no possible way this petite girl could take on a built guard.
“I knocked him out with my mom’s meds that she refuses to take. If you take the medication, you’re sane, if you overdose, you pass out.”
“How’d you get him to take them?”
“I baked them in cookies.” She replied, sly smile settling in her eyes.
I gave a good hearty laugh that sounded strained from not being used in months. Dawn started to tend to the wounds on my legs. The branding marks could not be helped, but Dawn still winced at how much pain had been inflicted on me.
“Don’t worry about it,” I comforted. “I could have stopped the pain if I had told him the information he wanted.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“I can handle this, but he wants to hurt other people, and he can’t without this information.”
“Who would he hurt?”
“Women, children, the elderly.”
There were a few minutes of silence as she moved from bandaging my legs to bandaging my face. Her gentle fingers traced over the tender skin. Realizing that my hair was stuck to my forehead from blood, she grabbed some water to wash the blood from my face. The left eye was swollen shut, but the right, blue eye was wide open. Dawn finished bandaging my face and I was ready to go.
“So what’s the escape plan? How are we busting out of here? Do you have a bunch of clothes you want me to carry?”
“You want me to go with you?” She asked sheepishly, considering what she had done so far.
“Yeah, don’t you want to come?” Only then did I realize that she was planning on busting me out, not coming with me. She had a warm bed, parents who probably cared very much for her, friends who would miss her, all waiting upstairs.
“Of course, I’d love to run away with you, but I don’t want to waste time packing. Let’s just take this,” she gestured to the duffle bag. “We don’t have enough time for me to go pack.”
My heart warmed. She was willing to leave her comfortable lifestyle to be with me. She’d give up her life to run away with a person she’d known for shorter than a couple hours, for a relatively unknown cause.
“Then get me out of these chains, please,” I suggested, with a smirk. She pulled a key out of her pocket and unlocked the shackles from my ankles and wrists. My arms dropped down to my sides. The first time in months my arms could rest. But not my legs. They needed to run. Feet bare, I grabbed the bag, threw it over my shoulder and headed towards the door. Dawn gasped behind me. I turned back to her.
“Your back. I forgot to bandage your back.” She was about to break down into tears. Her strong exterior was melting down. I wrapped my arms around her as she sobbed into my chest. The whip had left countless scars and raw skin all over my back.
“It’s alright, Dawn. We can deal with it later, but we need to get out of here, or there will not be a later.” She looked up at me, with cheeks tear stained, eyes afraid but hopeful. I still felt skeptical about taking her away from her home.
“Are you sure you want to leave your parents? Your home? Life isn’t easy out there.” I nodded towards the opening.
“I’m sure. My parents are never around, and if they are home, they fight. I can’t stand what my dad does for a living. Besides, I’m just as caged as you are. My parents pay tutors to home school me. A maid brings me meals. I don’t even know what is going on in the outside world. I’ve barely walked outside of these four walls. Please, take me away from here.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll take you with me. I just wanted to be sure that you knew how heavy this decision is.” I paused taking one last look at her. She looked ready to brave the world, tough as nails. “Let’s go.” I paused. “Wait. Are there any obstacles on the outside?”
“Just a chain link fence, eight feet high, but I have a key.” She smiled pulling out another key from her pocket.
“Great.” I grabbed her hand and ran out of my cell, down the hall, up the stairs, and out the door. I searched the marble hallways to the left and to the right, wondering which way to run. Dawn tugged my arm to the left and rushed down the hall, out the front door. My bare feet immediately hit snow, the ice cooling my raw skin. The forest surrounded us, beyond the chain-link fence. We jogged to find the opening in the gate. Dawn slid the key into the lock. All was quiet for a split second, but long enough for me to hear this fast beeping noise. It sounded like a timer to a…. bomb.
“Run!” I yelled, as I pushed Dawn through the opening. We sprinted side by side, but not fast enough. We only made it ten yards until the bomb exploded. We flew in the air. I hit a tree and I felt parts of my already raw skin cauterize from the heat of the explosion. I would live. After a minute of unconsciousness, I stood up to find Dawn. She lay ten feet away from me with a metal bar from the fence lodged into her. Blood stained the pearly white snow as it dripped form her back. I kneeled beside her and turned her so she was resting on her side. Her eyes looked up at me with a blank stare. There was no life in her. I put my fingers against her neck to feel for a heartbeat. There was none.
I gently slid the bar from her back, shut her eyes, and leaned her, arms crossed, against a tree. With the exception of the blood, she would have looked like a girl, peacefully sleeping against a pine. I hoped someone would find her, to give her a proper burial. She deserved better than me leaving her in the woods, but that was all I had time to do. She had already sacrificed her life for mine, and I would not let her sacrifice be in vain by letting myself be captured in the process of burying her body. So I ran.