Here is Chapter 1 teaser!
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"Come out, come out, wherever you are," he sang out.
I stayed on my hands and knees, praying my heart would stay quiet. I could feel the dirt and shards of glass under my palms. I held my breath, trying to force myself to slow my hammering heart. We played this sick game of his several times and I knew he was going to find me. The question was only how long he would let me hide, and how long pretended to look. I have come to the conclusion he enjoys giving me hope only to demonstrate he has the power to diminish it.
The warehouse was scattered with decay. Old furniture was left abandoned and haphazardly discarded about. Pallets covered in dust and grim are randomly stacked or sat propped up along the walls. Papers and empty boxes carpeted the cement flooring. Large pillars covered in peeling paint trailed the length of the building and graffiti decorated the brick walls.
The ceiling was higher on this side of the warehouse. The only dim rays of light filtered through the gaps from disrepair in the roofing. I could hear the rain drumming on the metal above and water pooling on the floor from the leaks. I slowly inhaled the smell of mildew and wet wood while trying to slow my rapid breathing.
I could still hear him counting from the center of the room. He was never consistent with how long he would count when we would play this sick game. I quickly crawled from behind a rusty filing cabinet and tucked myself under an old desk. I stayed there crouched and held my knees to my chest. The movement to the new hiding spot made me aware of my growing soreness. I could feel rocks and glass stuck into my palms and knees.
I felt an overall weakness and pain. I closed my eyes to concentrate on breathing evenly and tried to push the pains out of my mind. I rested my head on my knees, hoping my arms around me would muffle my pounding heartbeat. If my heart or lungs didn’t betray me, surely my empty stomach would.
I could hear his heavy footsteps echoing. They sounded like they were moving away from me. A little part of me celebrated inside. I always thought that if I had a little more time to hide, I could find my way out of here. The only door I saw so far was the one he comes and leaves from each day, never forgetting to lock it behind him with keys he keeps on him at all times. I took a few more deep and deliberate breaths to stop from panting.
His footsteps stopped on the other side of the warehouse. I crawled forward just enough to peak around the side of the desk. He was leaning against a pillar with his phone lighting his face. Apparently my tormentor must have a life, outside of making mine a living hell. I sat up so many nights wondering what kind of life he leads when he's done with me. Is he somebody's husband, father, or son? Does he go home to a family and eat dinner like he doesn’t have a hidden hobby?
I shuffled back into the nook under the desk. In front of me, there was a board of plywood leaning against a pillar. Confident he couldn't see me, I quickly scurried to it. With my back against the board as a shield, I squeezed my eyes shut and waited for his arms of evil to wrap around me to drag me back to my cage. I opened my eyes and stared straight ahead bracing for impact, only to hear his footsteps start again. This time the steps moved even further away from me.
I relaxed only a fraction and slid myself up to my feet. My hands were throbbing and I tried to inspect them in the darkness. A sliver of light crossed my hand. Light is something I haven’t seen in a while and my heart picked up it’s pace. I followed the path of light to the wall on my left. The light was peaking through a boarded up window at the top of the wall. The boards looked dilapidated enough that I might be able to get through, if I was only able to get up there.
I stepped forward to turn around and instantly missed the shield against my back. Fear engulfed me as I stood unprotected and unguarded in the darkness. There was a second floor above the opposite side of the warehouse. There was a door and a large dark window facing me but I couldn’t find any stairs that led there. My eyes slowly followed the railing in front of the office window and door.
I willed my eyes to see through the darkness and I followed the railing along the wall to my right towards me. My heart sped as I started to make out the metal walkway leading from the office, along the wall and right past the broken window. I slammed myself back against the board as my eyes followed the walkway to the stairs in the corner behind me.
My heart jumped into overdrive and I knew there is no way of calming it now. Without another thought, I limped my way towards the steps as quickly as my sorry body would let me. My hand finally slapped into the rusted cold metal of the rails and my knees fell to the first step. I could hear the echo of the soft thud from the impact and knew he must have heard it too. I was confirmed with answering echoes of his running footsteps. I pulled myself up and tried to run up the stairs.
My heart was pounding in my ears so loud I couldn’t even hear how close my captor was. I felt fear rush over my body like a wave, but kept looking straight ahead. I tried to think of nothing but the broken window I needed to reach until I felt his hand on my ankle. I fell forward as he pulled me back towards him. Tears broke through and I cried out as I linked my fingers through the metal grating. I started kicking with all that I had. My ankle finally broke free and I pulled myself up, scrambling to the top landing.
I could see his shadow lifting himself off the floor and start for the bottom of the stairs again. I prayed the neglected metal would give way on him. I ran forward and slammed into the boarded window. The boards were falling away from the window, and some light streamed through. I pulled at the boards, making a large enough opening to fit through and punched my already pained fist through the glass.
As I climbed up and pushed myself through, I could hear him yelling at me to stop. He threatened me of what would happen when he caught me. I felt burning and tearing at my sides and stomach as I shoved myself to the outside. The overcast sun blinded me and gave me an instant headache. Pains shot throughout my body.
I was relieved to find a rooftop on the outside of the window, and not just a drop down two stories. I struggled to free myself from the shards of glass that I was caught on. Finally I broke free and fell to the rooftop. I turned around to see his face in the opening I just escaped through. He was enraged, glowing red and fear paralyzed me for a moment. He started to rip and pull at the boards, pounding away the leftover glass.
I scrambled to my feet and turned to run.
"Ma'am! Please...." It wasn’t his voice I heard, and it sounded so far away.
The light I wasn’t used to made my eyes water and vision blurry. I could see the end of the roof coming near and stopped right before the edge. What was I going to do now? I frantically looked for any other escape, but my tormentor was pulling himself from the window.
"Ma'am... tell ... name... safe" I felt dizzy and the voice sounded even farther way now. I wobbled on the edge of the rooftop.
"Please... calm... help!" Lights flickered in front of my eyes as the sensation of falling washed over me. Hands holding my arms down evoked a new panic in my body and I let out a scream.
"Ma'am...please... safe". The voice sounded closer as white walls came in to focus. A blur of faces came in and out of vision, until everything was darkness.
A persisting beeping played in my mind. The insides of my eyelids were brighter than usual and a sterile smell burned my nose. My eyelids were heavy as I struggled to pry them open. Soft white light filled my eyes and I instantly shut them from the intensity.
I felt groggy, confused and tired. I thought I could go back to sleep for a little longer. Then I promised myself I would wake up. A warm hand touched my arm making me jump. Sharp pains shot through my body from every direction. I couldn’t even begin comprehend where the pain was coming from.
"I'm sorry to startle you dear, but I'm afraid I need your name" asked a sweet and soft voice.
I opened my mouth to answer but felt nothing by dryness. I opened and closed my mouth like a fish, trying to find the words. The friendly voice knew what I needed and a straw found my lips. After not enough sips, the straw deserted me. I felt dizzy and drowsy again. I felt my body swaying even though I was pretty sure I was sitting still.
"Dear...your name?" asked the sweet, but now pushy voice.
"Natalie. Natalie Bradshaw." I finally answered in hopes I could sleep just for a little longer.
I opened my eyes what felt like minuets later, freezing cold. I reached for my blankets and the jolting pain returned to my body, shocking me still. I wasn’t sure if the whine I heard came from my mouth, because it didn’t really sound like me. Why do I hurt this bad? Tiny bolts of pain scattered all over me, from my head, through my neck, in my chest and stomach down my arms and legs. I took some deep breaths and braced myself to open my eyes. It was dark when I opened them a crack and a fear coursed through me.
"Honey, what do you need? You cold?" asked my mother’s voice from beside me. Confusion, happiness and worry filled my foggy mind. She was bending over me pulling some more covers over me. I couldn’t make out much in the dark, but I could see the tiredness in her usually bright face. Her face was red and her eyes were tearing up as she looked down at me.
"Mom?" I managed to rasp out.
"Shh. Honey, you need to sleep. I'm right here. I promise," she whispered with a reassuring smile as she patted my hand. I felt uneasy and wanted to sit up and find out what was bothering her. My head decided to gain ten pounds at that moment and I needed to rest. Just for minute or two though, I told myself. Then I would find out why my mom looked like a train wreck.
I woke up later feeling like I was late for something. I had that feeling you get when you wake up and you just know you’re late. The brightness showing through my eyelids was much brighter than usual. I felt more rested than I usually did when I woke up. A panic ran through my mind and my body became instantly alert. My eyelids sprung open. Visions of white lights, walls and blinds assaulted my eyes. My heart started pounding with fear and somewhere, there was an annoying beeping keeping up with my heart. I squinted and tried to take in my surroundings.