Authors: Violet Savage
Leah sat in the
passenger’s seat of her date’s car, nervously fidgeting with the hem of her dress. His hands gripped the steering wheel loosely and she noticed how smooth they were for a carpenter. They had exhausted all subjects for small talk over dinner and now sat in an awkward silence. She was psyching herself up to ask him to come inside for coffee, but didn’t want to come off too desperate. It was their fourth date and it had been ages since she’d had sex, but the last thing she wanted was to screw this up.
Her mind drifted back to the first day she’d met Adam. She didn’t believe in love at first sight, and of course she wasn’t in love with him, but she’d never felt that level of attraction before. It was like a lightning bolt. They were at a bar, a place that Leah never liked to look for men, but it was yet another friend’s bachelorette party, so she was obligated to go. She noticed him immediately as he walked in the door, alone, standing taller than any man she’d ever seen. Their eyes locked right away and Leah felt like she was going to fall out of her heels. As the night went on, they exchanged glances from across the room and she did her best to look confident, but she could feel her cheeks blushing every time he looked at her. Eventually he came over to ask for her number and called her the next week.
There was obvious sexual chemistry between them, but something was a little off. He seemed almost distant and asked her a lot of questions but offered little information about himself. He didn’t seem to be as nearly enthralled with her as she was with him, and sometimes he acted downright distracted. Yet he kept calling her to set up another date, always giving a time and place, more like a demand than a request. Tonight she had plans but cancelled them because she was just so excited to see him again.
They pulled up to her apartment building and Leah waited for him to come around and open her door. Offering a hand to help her out of the SUV, their eyes met and she studied the contours of his gorgeous face. Dark, nearly expressionless eyes that stood out against his light skin were framed by even darker, perfectly manicured eyebrows. His incredibly square jaw was her favorite feature and she ached to feel his stubble against her face.
He led her up the stairs and she started to fumble through her purse. His gaze was distracting as she searched for her keys and the right way to ask him to come up. Finally, with keys in hand, she looked up at him, ready to speak. A crooked smile crossed his face and she paused, getting the distinct feeling that making the first move was a bad idea.
“Um, I had a nice time,” she stuttered, biting her lip. “Thank you for dinner.”
Adam simply smiled at her, his face looking friendlier than it ever had before. Then the smile dropped and he stared at her intensely, moving closer and placing his hand on the small of her back. Leah started to feel lightheaded and weak in the knees as she brought his face closer, his warm breath parting her lips. Slowly, his hand traveled up her back, grazing her neck before he grabbed a handful of her hair and pulled her head backwards firmly. She let out a gasp as his lips locked with hers and his other hand found her round behind. Reaching out to grab his hard shoulders for balance, she went all but limp in his grasp as his tongue circled hers. He pulled her bottom lip with his own as he broke away and gave her rump one last grab as he released her. Breathless, she stared at him and did her best not to fall over.
“I’ll see you soon, Leah.” Taking her hands, he raised them to his lips and kissed one, then the other.
Once inside her apartment, Leah leaned against the door took a deep breath. They had never kissed before and that was not what she pictured. She could still feel his hand in her hair and his lips on hers as she walked into the kitchen to get some water.
A strange reflection looked back at her as she closed the door to her stainless steel refrigerator. Startled, she dropped her glass and it shattered on the floor, sending ice cubes sliding across the tiles. A black-gloved hand reached from behind and covered her mouth before she could scream. Leah kicked at the masked man that held her, but he was too strong. Her muffled cries echoed in her head as she was dragged her out of the kitchen, struggling fiercely to free herself. He turned her toward the door and she saw another intruder coming at her with a length of black rope. Heart pounding, Leah stomped on the foot of the man holding her with her pointy heel, causing him to loosen his grip enough for her to slither free. Since the door was blocked, she ran towards her bedroom in hopes to make her way to the fire escape.
One of the men tackled her after she took a few steps, knocking the wind out of her and breaking a lamp against a wall. Rough carpet dragged across her face as they fell to the floor and she let out a breathless silent scream. He wrestled her to her back and shoved a
round ball into her mouth as the other man tied her kicking feet together. Flipping her over, they tied her hands together behind her back and fastened the gag behind her head.
A sharp jab landed on her neck as she struggled against her restraints until a wave of sudden drowsiness washed over her, turning her muscles into jelly. She barely felt her limp body being hoisted over her attacker’s shoulder and her head flopping against his back as she was carried down the stairs. Just as her consciousness was fading, she realized she was being loaded into the trunk of a car. Then everything went black.
When she awoke, Leah was lying on a soft mattress. Her head was pounding and she felt nauseous as she sat up, unable to pinpoint exactly where she was. Rubbing her eyes, she looked down at her bare breasts and realized she was naked. Vague memories of her capture came to the surface but she couldn’t piece it all together. She quickly covered herself with her hands and looked around.
Through blurred vision, she surveyed her surroundings and tried to remember exactly how she got here. The first things that stuck out to her were the bars. Thick, iron bars reminiscent of an old style animal cage, the kind that they would use in a traveling circus. Every way she turned her head, bars obstructed her vision and she realized that she was, in fact, inside of a well-constructed, animal cage. It had a low, barred ceiling, too low to stand up in. Her mat was in the corner and ran the entire length of the longest wall, taking up almost half of the floor space. She spun around to inspect the bars that were closest to her, studying how they were securely fastened to the thick wooden planks that made up the floor of her enclosure.
Leah took a long breath and squeezed her eyes shut for a few seconds only to open them and see the same surroundings that she had hoped were an illusion. Her cage was inside a small empty room with nothing but a strange round window and closed door. Near the door of her cage, there was a large bottle of water, and what appeared to be a bag of trail mix. There were also two buckets, one smaller and lidless, and the other larger with an odd looking double layer lid.
Rolling her knees beneath her, she crawled over the door and tried to open it. She pushed and pulled to no avail before finally running her fingers along the cold hinges. The bottle of water called to her but she was too afraid to drink it. Crawling to the back of her cage, Leah inspected the buckets. The small one was simple enough, just a plain pail that you’d find in the kitchen. But the larger one frightened her somehow. Tentatively, she knelt beside it and lifted the lid and looked down at a toilet seat.
For some reason, she found the site of her latrine entirely overwhelming as the gravity of her peculiar situation finally pushed down on her. She let out a howl and kicked it backwards, scampering back to the door of her cage. She flung herself against the door in a vain attempt to push it open and thrust her arm and shoulder between the bars to see if it was impossible to squeeze out. Lying on her back, she kicked at the door over and over, crying out as hot tears ran down her face.
Looking up at the ceiling through her cage, Leah noticed a shiny black orb. It appeared to be a security camera, similar to the type that you see in a department store. Most of those were fake, but she knew deep inside that this one was functioning, and someone was watching her. With her face red with rage, a determination settled over her and she rose to her knees. Stretching out her arms, she gripped two bars on opposite walls of her cage and began rocking her body weight back and forth, hoping that she could
some how tip the cage over and it would break, as unlikely as it was.
After several motions, she found a rhythm that started to lift the side of the cage. It was beginning to work and she began to put all of her might into the rocking. Her arms felt like they were going to rip out of the sockets, but she kept it up, her loud, guttural grunts echoing through the tiny room.
“Stop that!” a loud voice commanded from overhead and Leah froze in shock. Having lost her momentum, she pulled her aching arms around her and looked up at the camera, her eyes filled with hate and despair. “There is no use trying to escape. A gorilla couldn’t force its way out of that cage.”
“What do you want?” she asked quivering, terrified of the answer.
“If you continue to fling yourself around, you will be further restrained,” the electronic voice responded blankly. “Drink some water, or someone will make you. Now.”
Hands trembling, she picked up the bottle and opened it. Once she brought it to her lips, something instinctual took over and she gulped it down until she was out of breath. When she was done, Leah collapsed into a heap on the mattress, letting out long sobs and curling up into a ball. She pressed her forehead against one of the cold iron bars of her prison and watched the light fading through the tiny round window. She lay there, crying until her tears were spent and then gradually drifted off to sleep, feeling the eyes of her electronic observer on her bare helpless body.
The sound of a lock opening jerked her awake and Leah moved to the back her cage, covering her breasts with her hands and staring wide eyed toward the door of the room. To her relief, a tiny and weathered Hispanic woman walked in carrying a plate of food that she slid through a slot in the front of the cage.
Hola,” Leah said, the inviting aroma of spicy seared pork filling the room and making her mouth water. “Please help me!” she begged in Spanish, but the little old woman wouldn’t even make eye contact. She walked over to the window, opened it and then quickly shuffled out of the room.
Leah crawled over the food and attacked it. If she was going to be poisoned, so be it. It would probably be better than whatever her captors had in store for her. As she finished, she tried to listen to anything that could give her a clue to what lie outside the room. It was daylight again, but she could hear nothing outside her door. Although she sat very still, it seemed like she was moving. She rose to her knees and pushed her head against the top of her cage, straining to peek out the window.
Slumping down in defeat, Leah looked up and saw that a bird had landed on the windowsill. A rush of excitement ran through her as she reached toward it. It bounced around for a bit, looking at her with as much curiosity as she had for it. She recognized it as a Least Tern, a gray sea bird with a black head and bright yellow beak. Leah knew a great deal about birds. She was a zoologist, specifically an orinthologist who specialized in the study of birds. Although she held a master’s degree, she’d never been able to truly pursue her passion and currently worked as a manager at a department store, earning barely enough money to pay off her college debt and make the rent on her crummy apartment.
It flew away as quickly as it appeared and Leah pondered its meaning. As fresh air filled the room, she detected the distinct salty smell of seawater, and finally started to figure out where she was. The room was moving, she’d seen a seabird, and the air was salty. She was on a ship, on the ocean, and obviously very far from her home in Chicago.
She looked up at the camera and wondered what was in store for her. Panic had settled into a strange calmness as she accepted her fate, whatever it would be. She wasn’t leaving much of a life behind, if it did in fact end. Actually, she was rather depressed much of the time, and life seemed to be nothing but one meaningless day after another, with nothing to look forward to. She hated her job, she hated living in the city, had no family and no real friends. Her 27th birthday had recently passed and she hadn’t been in a real relationship since college, and it seemed unlikely that she would ever find a decent guy in time to have children. As terrifying as this was, if she allowed her mind to run through the possibilities of what was likely to happen to her, at least it was a little, well, exciting.
The day passed slowly as Leah lay there on her mattress, noting that it was strangely comfortable and covered with soft cloth. As the sun began to set, the little old woman returned with another meal and more water, this time closing the window before exiting promptly. It was once again delicious and Leah thought it odd fare for someone who was probably going to be sold into slavery. As it got dark, she once again curled up and slept through the night soundly, hopeful that tomorrow would be a more interesting day.