Authors: Tessa Escalera
In the Darkness of the Moon
If Travis is correct, I've been here about three months now. That makes me somewhere in the range of 14 or 15 weeks pregnant, I think. I write the days of my captivity instead of the date because that is the only number that matters anymore. It's somewhere around Thanksgiving now. I'm sure my parents have given up looking by now. They will sit around their table with extended family and the stuffed turkey and the casseroles and pies, and they will hold hands and pray. Will they pray for me? Do they still hold out hope that I'm alive, or have they given up on me? For their sakes, I hope it's the latter. Accepting the inevitable is always easier than false hope.
The snow doesn't stay all the time out here. I know it must still be cold, because frost collects on my window. I see the bush straining against some pretty stiff wind.
Travis always leaves the tray from one meal until he brings the next. I don't always get a spoon. I always give it back so that nobody suspects. I've started up working on the window again. The second side is almost free. I have started requesting oatmeal and soup whenever I can, but it seems like Master has been home a lot more lately because mostly I get the nasty toast and lunch meat sandwiches.
I have wasted far too much time in depression and self-pity. Brooding won't get me out of here. I have to work hard. Already I fear that by the time the glass is free, I will be too far into my pregnancy to fit through the window. It's probably already too late. I wasted precious time. I won't waste any more.
The baby moves a lot. It still feels like little butterfly kisses. I feel horrible for even writing this, but I don't feel much of a connection with the baby. I know it isn't the baby's fault, but it makes me feel so unclean to be carrying a child that is part of him. Like even though he no longer touches me, he's always inside of me. It makes me feel sick to think about. Even though I know the baby is innocent of his or her father's crimes.
The Bible talks a lot about forgiveness. One time somebody asked Jesus if they should forgive seven times, and Jesus said not seven, but seventy times seven. Obviously nobody can keep track of that many times forgiving someone else, so it probably means to keep forgiving as long as they keep hurting you. But I don't know how to forgive Travis and Master. How do you forgive someone who does something like this? I
Master to go to hell. I want him to feel the pain that he's dealt to others. I want him to burn in fire forever. God, forgive me for these thoughts, but that is how I feel. I know that we all deserve hell, but surely some people do more than others...
The second side of the window is finished. It snowed again last night.
My belly hurts. It's a sharp pain when I stand up or cough. I don't know whether to hope everything is okay, or hope that it isn't. I think it would hurt to lose this baby, but wouldn't it be better for this baby to go straight to heaven instead of coming into this world? If the baby dies now, it will never feel pain or trouble. But that seems so horrible, to hope for a baby to die. I'm so used to feeling it there. I think I will miss it if it was gone.
The snow must have broken a branch from the bush because I can see through it now. I can see the fence around the property and the top of a mesa in the distance.
The sight makes me fidgety. It's not hope exactly, but being able to see my goal gives me a little more motivation to keep going. Except I didn't get a spoon today so I have nothing to work with. I need to think of something to ask for that I might be able to use. Something that can scrape the plaster stuff without breaking or wearing down too quickly.
Travis was pale and feverish when he brought my lunch today, and he brought me two meals because he said he might not be able to come back down tonight. I never thought about this element of captivity. When your kidnapper is sick, you're sort of a “captive audience” for their germs. Just a little prisoner joke.
Travis didn't bring us any breakfast today. Sophie is rather loudly protesting this fact. She's a tough girl, Sophie. She must have been a street kid or something. Master has been to visit her several times and I always have to help her with her bruises afterward, but her attitude never changes. She's a fighter. She never shows pain, only anger.
My stomach is cramping so bad. I don't know if it's hunger, something with the pregnancy, or I'm coming down with what Travis has. I don't feel feverish or nauseous, just the pain.
I feel strange. It's something beyond my normal longing to escape or see the sun...or do anything normal. It's like I'm itching on the inside. My legs itch so bad at night that I can't sleep. I don't know how it's possible to be so tired and not be able to sleep.
I definitely caught what Travis had, though it wasn't the cause of my stomach pain. That was vicious. Fever and chills and I thought I would die if anything touched my skin. This is the first day I've even been able to sit up. It's probably a miracle I didn't lose the baby. I could barely eat or drink anything. My throat still hurts and I have a cough now, but at least I can sit up for more than 10 minutes without passing out.
Maybe another week or two and the window pane will be free. My belly has grown a lot in the last few days. I hope it doesn't continue at this rate for long. I don't even know if I could fit through the window anymore. But I have to keep trying.
When I was sick, Travis brought me a gallon water jug so I didn't have to get up to get more water as often. I hid it under my cot. So far he doesn't seem to have noticed...I hope that continues. Whenever I get out I'll need something to carry water in. I haven't figured out food yet.
A few days later, day 117, the last of the plaster crumbled into my hands. Heart pounding wildly, my ears straining for the sound of anyone coming down the hall, I dug my fingernails around the edges of the glass and pulled it toward me. With a scraping sound, it gave. A blast of frigid air entered the cell, swirling around me, heavy with the scent of winter.
I laughed out loud, giddy from even this little taste of freedom. I moved the chair aside and pushed the desk under the window. Careful not to injure my belly, I laid sideways on the wide windowsill and twisted my body into some very painful positions to see if I could fit through. I did—but barely. Another couple of weeks and it would be impossible. My heart was pounding so hard that I felt lightheaded. I got down and pushed the desk back into place, before climbing back on the chair and carefully replacing the glass. I was shivering with cold and with anticipation. The first step of my escape plan was finished. Even though I hadn't really thought beyond this moment, I felt exhilarated. I had felt air—real, fresh outside air—on my skin. That alone was enough to keep me going for a while longer.
I heard Travis's boots thumping down the hallway. I rushed to put everything back into place, barely having time to check my work before I heard the jingle of keys and he entered my cell with a tray balanced on one hand.
“How are you feeling?”
My face felt flushed and I was breathing heavily. I prayed he couldn't feel the difference in temperature in the cell, which was colder than normal from the influx of outside air. “Better.”
“You should probably rest. You don't want to exhaust yourself and get a secondary infection. You look like you might still be a little feverish.”
“I'll rest after lunch.”
Travis nodded, gathered up my breakfast tray, and left.
For once I'm grateful for the coldness of the winter here. It hasn't come anywhere close to going above freezing in the past couple days. I tested this by placing a cup of water outside in the middle of the day and it quickly froze. I tore a corner from one of the blankets and every meal I put a piece of bread or toast in it and set it just outside the window, off to the side. It can't be seen from outside because of the bush. At least I'll have a little food.
I need to make a plan. I have to find a way of getting a note to Sophie and telling her what I'm planning. I can't take a chance of Travis overhearing what I tell her. I can't hide a piece of paper in my gown anywhere...there's no pockets and no underclothes to hold it to my skin. I think I have an idea. I just don't know when I will get a chance to try it.
That chance came the next day, when Travis came to get me to bandage a wound on Sophie's hip. Master had beaten her the night before and she had fallen against the corner of the desk. My nerves were shot from listening to the exchange, and I felt strung out on adrenaline. Those sounds would never stop being incredibly painful, even just to listen to from rooms away.
As soon as I woke up I had torn a page from my journal. On it I wrote:
I might have a way to escape. Through my window. Has to be soon. I'm not sure where to go once I get out though. I would appreciate your help. If you have any ideas, ask me how I'm feeling.
I rolled the paper tightly and pulled my hair back with my ponytail holder, concealing the thin roll inside the tail.
When Travis came I got up quietly and followed. Inside her cell, Sophie lay on her less injured side, a bloody washcloth pressed to her hip. Travis closed the door and stood just outside like he always did. The random respect of our privacy had always seemed weird to me considering what else went on in this house of horrors. I was grateful for it though, especially now.
“Sophie? I need to clean the wound.”
Sophie removed the cloth from the wound, her green eyes following me distrustfully. Like both Jenny and Annabelle she had fair skin and dark hair, (though hers was red) and she was pretty. Even though I had never done nothing but help her, she had always treated me with thinly veiled hatred. Or maybe it was just her hatred at our captors spilling over onto me. She had never spoken enough for me to know either way. As always, anger radiated from her in waves.
The wound was nasty. I was no medical professional, but even I could tell that it needed stitches. With the limited help I could provide, I knew that infection was very likely.
I picked up the bottle of alcohol, cringing inwardly at what I knew I had to do. “I have to wash it out.”
“Yeah? So just do it.”
“It's going to hurt.”
“Okay. Hold on.”
I unscrewed the top from the bottle and used my teeth to peel off the protective plastic. I wadded the cloth and placed it under the wound. There was nothing for it but to do this quickly.
I poured the alcohol onto the wound from top to bottom, letting the antiseptic wash through the gash. Sophie stiffened and screamed, her hands scrambling for a corner of her blanket, which she stuffed into her mouth.
“I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.”
it!” Sophie yelled through the blanket.
I let the alcohol pour into the wound until all that ran into the cloth was the clear liquid and fresh blood. Then I stuffed it with clean gauze, placed a big gauze pad over that, and taped the whole thing down. I pulled Sophie's clothing down to cover her legs.
When you lived the way we did, nakedness soon ceased to mean anything. There is no shame left to be felt after the way our dignity had been stripped from us.
I moved back and packed the unused supplies back into the box. I peeked at the door. Travis was standing outside, facing away from us. Heart beating a little faster, I dug in my ponytail until I found the roll of paper.
“Can you sit up? I need to look at that bruise on your neck.”
“It's fine. Just go.”
Irritation washed over me. Normally I would have just backed down, but Sophie could be throwing away my only chance to communicate with her.