It started eight days ago. There was some sort of disaster that created a domino effect. The bombings came first, which knocked out power and water and just about everything else. People fled in mass hysteria while I tried to wait it out. I didnât hear much before the TV was gone â chemical disaster, and something about gas masks, and locking yourself inside.
It had been seven days since I left my homeâone full week of solitary confinement. Although I guess I could have left if I wanted to. I just had no reason to walk out into what I suspected was a warzone and risk my life. This house was all that I had to my name. I had nowhere to go.
Luckily, according to Jean from next door, my lack of family or any meaningful relationship allowed me to stay hidden in my home. Sheâd left two days ago to find her parents who lived on the Eastern side of Rhode Island. She was worried about having to travel through Hartford to get there. I had a sinking feeling I would never see her again.
But what was worse than the destruction outside my window was the screaming and moaning and crying. People wandered the streets with empty eyes. Three days ago, I saw a man meandering down the road with tattered clothing. He was missing an armâit looked like it was torn from the socket, no clean break and rounded skin. Just crimson emptiness. I emptied my stomach at the horrific sight of that broken man, but made no attempt to go help him.
Instead, I hid from the images. I now found myself spending most of my time in my bedroom since it was facing the woods and had only one window. I boarded the window with my kitchen table to block the noises. I hated the criesâhated the torture. I didnât want to know what was going on, but I had to face it sometime.
A cacophony of explosions rocketed me backwards into the maple bookshelf in the dusty corner of my bedroom. My head erupted in a searing pain. I cradled my head as waves of hurt tore through me and pulled my knees into my chest. I lay there in a ball as the world around me was destroyedâagain
It sounded like a shot gun shot off a round near my front door, too close to be near the road, and then the world around me quieted. It was too silent. I was paranoid by this point. I almost came out of my ball in the corner of the room, but then sirens wailed in the distance. Cop cars, ambulances and whatever other emergency vehicles zoomed through the streets, sounding louder but then fading, like they went right past my home.
I could smell burning human flesh nearby, a bitter, vile smell like fat on a grill that I wished I could forget, but I couldnât react. I squeezed my eyes shut harder and tried to count to one hundred without the sounds of screaming forcing me to stop.
As I hit the lucky number one hundred, I peeked open my eyes. My house was only a one storyâan old ranch with a rickety front porch and a screened door that bangs with the wind. I lived just outside of Hartford, in a neighborhood that is painfully white trash.
Jeanâs place had a metal fence that squared off her small plot of land. It was rusted from not being taken care of. She had this annoying yippy dog that would bark at every passersby, which was a lot since most people couldnât afford cars.
Before the destruction, Iâd spend more nights than not listening to dubstep through the walls from the house next door on the other side. There was a group of five guys who lived in the house and they never stopped partying despite being in their mid-forties. Theyâd get out their white lawn chairs and park them right on the front lawn. Theyâd sit with their beer bellies popped out, crack open their blue cooler and drink until the sun came out. I was constantly going to work singing lyrics to Skrillex that refused to stop haunting me and nursing my exhaustion hangover.
I wished that I could go back to my biggest worry being my noisy neighbors. Hell, Iâd take moving back into my last foster house over whatever is going on outside my door. That says a lot since there were ten of us under the age of sixteen living in a two bedroom trailer with a guy who couldnât lay off the bong for more than an hour.
Another loud gunfire shot back to me, shaking my small home and my head back to reality. I tried to convince myself it was just the old wood creaking. I tried to convince myself that it was just the screen door opening an inch or two by the wind and then shutting. But what I knew were footsteps got closer and closer to my bedroom.
I scooted on the wood floor of my bedroom against the wall until I felt the familiar paneling of the closet. Creakâanother footstep, this time just outside of the bedroom door. I rolled backwards into the closet and pushed myself until my back was flush against the back wall, clothes hanging and whipping me in the face.
I covered my mouth with my hands, worried my ragged breaths would be too loud A warm tear trickled down my face, stopping at the dam my pointer finger made below my nose. I didnât wipe it away.
âMake sure you clear it.â The door to my bedroom slammed open against the wall. Crumbles from the wall landed on the hard wood, clicking like rainbow sprinkles. I squeezed my eyes shut harder and if I could have stopped my heart from beating, I would have.
The same deep, gruff voice mumbled something and then stomped through my bedroom. His steps sounded as if he was wearing combat boots, each move a mini explosion rumbling. He huffed under his breath; even his exhale sounded angry. I heard a knee crack. He became oddly quiet and I fought the urge to look out from the veil of my closet.
âI swear I have to do everything myself.â My bed creaked and a foot shuffled. I faintly smelled something sour and bitter, like sweat and vodka, but it was too close to be the man near the bed. I struggled to hold back a sob. His boots got closer. The clothes above me swayed, a soft wind trickling over my face. I couldnât move.
âYou didnât think weâd leave you?â Arms wrapped around my shoulders and two more hands got my legs. âWeâve got a live one!â the man yelled, and two more sets of feet came towards me, heavy and strong, poundingâthum thum, thum thum, thum thum.
âShe sure is pretty.â The new voice was nasally and wicked. Goose bumps prickled down my arms and up my spine. I screamed as he lifted me up. I quickly tried to memorize the manâs face, but before I knew it, a calloused hand covered my eyes. I only got blue eyes and a sad frown.
Hands smelling like raw sewage slide a silky blindfold over my eyes. The hands were calloused and hard, needy with each touch against me like heâd never had human contact before.
I didnât fear for my life anymore. I feared what they would do if they let me live. I couldnât see them so I listened for a female voice as they probed and inspected me. One manâs fingers were digging into my upper arms, pinching my skin under my armpits. I felt hands trail down the curve of my back and reach around my pants, searching. Fingers dug into my pockets, lifted up my shirt, and felt around every crevice. I never once felt like I had a chance of escape, their arms strong and firm.
A man hauled me over his back, my face hitting his muscle covered back and my ass in the air. I just wanted to pull my shirt down to cover my midriff. I wanted to fix my pants that had slipped to show my butt. Before I had the chance, my arms were zip tied together and my ankles as well.
The man carrying me walked through my hallway. He acted as if he knew my home. He pushed through my rickety old screen door. It crashed shut behind us and I heard another manâs feet catch and a bang from behind me.
âFuck, Jim. You shut the damn door in my face.â
âOh, screw off. Hold your own damn door.â
Suddenly, my captor, Jim stumbled and my head slammed against his back. His arms tightened around my waist and I wished heâd just drop me to put me out of my misery. But without working arms and legs, I wouldnât get far.
âWhere do you want her?â Jim asked.
âJust put her in the middle of the back seat and Iâll sit next to her.â A finger traced the outline of my hip and trailed up to my face, pausing along the way at my breasts. He felt the side curve of me. He squeezed my nipple through my shirt and I screamed. His other hand got lost in my hair and tugged my head backwards. I screamed again as loud as I could. Someone slapped me hardânot Jim, since he couldnât reach. My cheek ignited, a sharp fire where his palm connected.
âLet me go!â I struggled in Jimâs arms, yelling and kicking since I knew that no matter what happened I wouldnât be free. I bucked my hips up and thrust my shoulders forward, hoping to flip over and at least stand alone. Jim pulled me down off his back and held me roughly in his arms. My right ear was pressed against his chest, his heart thumping steadily. His arm was behind my head, holding my shoulders a little too tight, and his other arm was under my knees.
âJust get in the car before you get yourself hurt,â Jim said, his voice hush hush. His knee cracked as his arms released me into a low-to-the-ground seat, I ran my hands along the seat and felt a cold firm fabric, like leather. I heard the car rumble to life as one of the doors shut from the front. I wished someone would just take the blindfold off of me. The edges bit into my temples, a headache already beginning in the back of my skull.
I tried to sit up, but it was impossible without my arms. A loud bang against the car jolted me and I quieted, trying to listen to what was going on. Nobody else had gotten into the car and it didnât feel like we were moving.
âGet in the other car and meet us there.â It was Jim who spoke first.
âI want to play with the lilâ lady.â The nasally voiced man was farther away than Jim. He was probably standing near the door to my house, or just past the front stoop. Jimâs heavy booted foot stepped towards me.
âGet in the other car.â Another bang against the car, like a body being shoved against metal. I could only imagine the dents in the side of it. Jimâs voice was getting angrier by the second, the gruffness returning.
âWhat the fuck is your problem? This is what we do now. New world order and all that shit. Youâre the jackass in charge.â The nasal voice was painfully close to me now. It sounded like his head was just outside of the car.
âGuys, just relax,â another guy said, his voice completely foreign.
âIâm pretty sure if I was you, Iâd listen to the jackass in charge then.â Jim exhaled through his nose and I pictured him about to charge with fists raised. âNow get in the other car and get the fuck out of here.â
For a moment, there was just silence. And then another hit. And then the heavy boots retreated. The man in the driverâs seat mumbled under his breath, something about hurrying this along, I gathered. And then I felt someone beside me, and I honestly wasnât sure if it was Jim, or the other guy.
âDrive to the house.â It was Jim. For some reason, I felt relieved that it was Jim and not the other guy. Iâm not sure if it was the mere fact that I knew Jimâs name or what, but I was thankful he was beside me.
âGot it.â The driverâs tone was clipped, like he knew the drill and didnât need to be reminded where to go. His voice was quiet, soft, not menacing or evil like most of the others. It didnât mean I trusted him.
Jimâs hands touched my shoulders and I flinched backwards. I used my knees to kick against the seat and I pushed myself until I was pressed against the side door, my head tilting in an awkward angle. I felt the indent of his weight in the seat as he hovered above me. His breath was on my face, and oddly enough, it was minty and not unpleasant like the others.
âI wonât hurt you.â He sounded sincere, but I didnât believe him. âWhatâs your name?â
I almost didnât answer. But I figured if he knew my name, maybe heâd be less inclined to kill me or hurt me. âLana.â