Contributor: Ward Webb

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The gash in my forehead stung like a bitch. If it wasn’t so dark I’d be able to check my fingers to see how bloody it is; but it’s too dark in here. Dark and stale and hard to breathe. I don’t feel a lot of wetness on my fingers – so the cut shouldn’t be that bad.

The tire iron is wedged under my ribs – pressing into my side with each bump we hit. He was on paved asphalt for the longest time, but somewhere in the last five minutes he must have turned off. Now it feels like we’re on some kind of unpaved dirt road - one with an obnoxious amount of potholes. His speed is reckless. I can tell from the roaring thunder surrounding me. If only it wasn’t so dark...

I never saw him approach me. June and I had just checked out and were heading back to the car when she told me she’d forgotten to pick up her pads (the whole reason we’d even gone to the convenience store in the first place – I was always forgetting things, so was she – that’s why we were meant for each other). I climbed behind the steering wheel and gulped away at my Slushee. The tiny rocks of ice peppered my teeth and almost hurt with the chilled bite. I watched through the window as June thoughtfully selected the proper size, and made her way to the bored looking cashier. He never even looked up at her while he rang her up. I just sat in the car and watched and worked on my Shushee, as happy as an eight year old.

I never heard the breathing. I never even thought to turn around and check the backseat like they warn old ladies to do. I guess I should have, but it’s a little late now. If I ever escape from this guy, I’ll check my backseats from now on. I swear.

A particularly large dip in the road sent the iron tools below me clanking together. I gasped; the jolt had rocked the air from my lungs and sent it exploding out into the darkness like a sour burp. He couldn’t hear me. He couldn’t hear anything over that music. How someone can listen to German marching songs at full blast while driving down the interstate is beyond me. All of the tracks sounded the same to me. Heavy, driving drums and cheers in a foreign language where every word sounded hostile. I closed my eyes and tried not to panic as the car purred around me.

The thin, coarse carpeting mashed into my face and left an itchy imprint. The smell of oil and antifreeze was suffocating, but I kept quiet and thought about my next move.

There was nothing I could do lying here in the dark listening to the gravel of the road crunch a foot beneath where my head was positioned. I had to move fast when the trunk opened – I knew that much. He had not had the foresight to tie me up, which was my one and only hope. Knocking me unconscious hadn’t done anything to render his plan effective. I was crafty and as soon as that lid popped up, I’d be ready. Somehow.

I picked and pulled at the tiny, curling lip of carpet. I struggled to get it loose. Held in place and glued down by years of accumulated spills and pinned against the ground by the weight of my body – I tore and pulled as hard as I could and finally a tiny strip came loose. Being blind made things much harder.

Finally I felt the car bank to the right and then swoop off to the left. The sound of gravel disappeared. There was suddenly no sound at all – but I still felt the car moving, so we must be on grass. I struggled to find something to use as a weapon as we slowed down. The marching tunes died. The only sound was my breath.

The engine cut off like a roaring lion being shot in the face. Instantly the silence was overwhelming as I lay there listening to the muffled sound of footsteps coming my way.

The jingling of keys came through the heavy steel lid, one grinded its way into the lock and a tiny sliver of night peeked through. I’d had no time to pry the tire iron from under my ribs. I thought I had more time. I had to get up. I had to spring now, as soon as the lock released.

With my free legs I kicked against the bottom lid of the trunk as hard as I could and the sheet of metal flew up. Instantly I saw what lay in store for me. Framed by the edges of the car’s trunk, four men waited quietly behind the man that had appeared in my back seat. Standing there grinning and looking ominous; I’d seen enough of their faces in that fleeting glimpse to know I was in trouble.

My kidnapper stood there looking down on me like I was a particularly nice stuffed animal he had won at the fair.

“Told you I’d find us a nice ‘un,” he said over his shoulders to the others. “Now hand me the rope. We gone show this here boy how we do things down South.”

A triumphant murmur escaped the onlookers as the one furthest from the car tossed an old, dried bundle of rope to the man from the backseat. It landed at his feet with a thud but he never took his eyes off of me. Squinting and mouthing words I couldn’t hear, he sneered and his broken teeth glistened in the moonlight.

Suddenly I realized this wasn’t a game. It wasn’t some hate-crime-prank carried out by the local frat boys – this was serious. I saw the men behind him clearer again. My bloodshot eyes searched around looking for any chance I could cling to for hope – but there was none. Parked alone miles off the road in an abandoned, fallow field I was all alone. I was outnumbered. I was blocked from leaping from the trunk. If I tried to run, they could just overtake me in the car. There was no hope.

He ushered me out of the trunk by my throat with another ignorant slam about my religion spewing from his whiskey-cracked lips. As I stepped over the rim of the car’s boot – I looked off across the field. Plowed lines lay parallel, tilled and churned and ready to take the seed of another year, they covered the ground like corduroy in every direction.

I turned and faced my five attackers. I didn’t see men, I saw only the weapons they carried. As I pulled my right leg out of the trunk and stood up – the only thing I saw coming was the rope, a crowbar, a baseball bat, a short-stubby carving knife and a dirty old pistol.

The land shimmered in front of me and my feet suddenly felt like lead. I panted. Air choked off in my throat and tiny blue fish swam around everywhere, toying with my vision. I fainted and landed face down in the cool earth.

The last sound I heard were the footsteps approaching; and that heavy, lustful breathing from the five men.

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Some of my other work has appeared in Deep South Magazine as well as Dew On The Kudzu.
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