“Go and rest,” he said again, a growling undercurrent in his voice once again. I stared at him, wondering for a moment what would happen if I did lash out at him and claw at his eyes, if I slashed with my nails and tried to run away. The air was open and the night was all mine, but fear cowed me and gripped me completely. My hand trembled. It was as though an invisible force put pressure on my hand and would not allow me to lift it up. I was trapped completely, unable to strike out at him, or at my freedom.
I felt like a failure, just as I had done so many times at the auditions. I slunk away back to my prison, back to the only building in sight. Jack spoke with such certainty and threat. I knew that, somehow, even if I tried to escape he would hunt me down and find me. Even if I made it into the depths of the forest or to the summit of the mountain, he would be there, knowing my every move before I made it. A small sob erupted in my throat as I returned to my prison. My shoulders slumped. I had the air of a defeated woman. I was still so tired. I had never thought of myself as one to surrender so easily, but it was a habit that I had adopted in life. It had taken everything I had to break free of Mom’s control and that was a process that had taken years.
It wasn’t so easy to escape as you might think. I had no idea where to go or even in which part of the country I was in. I wanted to flee, but there was something inside holding me back, and every time I did I saw Jack’s eyes flashing inside my mind. In the depths of his gaze I saw the control he had over me, the utter certainty that I would never do anything to disobey him and it was so overwhelming I found it
impossible to resist.
Perhaps there was magic in the world after all. Perhaps he had cast a spell on me. They had given me an elixir that had cleared my mind, but what else had it done? The world was a dark place and I was but a single soul, adrift and alone with nobody to turn to. I certainly wasn’t going to get any sympathy from Jack. I turned to the stars before I went back into the building and wished that Mom was still around. Say what you like about her, but she was fierce and she wouldn’t have allowed anyone to treat me this way.
I took a final look at Jack before I went inside. He was standing there, as still as a statue, staring up at the moon as though it was a goddess. It was a foolish story, I thought, and I didn’t much care for what he said about singing. My voice wasn’t anything special. He had some idea that I was special, that I was more than I actually was. How could he know these things when I didn’t even know them myself?
I shook my head as I returned inside. I felt certain that they must have taken the wrong person. If they were looking for someone special then they hadn’t chosen well in me. Perhaps I’d get lucky and they’d realize their mistake before too long and return me to the sorry excuse I had for a life.
I sometimes wondered what would have happened had I continued on the path Mom wanted for me. If I had managed to overcome my anxiety, and not let myself get so bothered by the pain of performing or the expectations and demands of the lifestyle, could I have actually made it? I doubt I would have become anyone famous, but I might have carved out a niche for myself, a comfortable life where I didn’t have to worry about anything. It was easy to think about a better life after I had been kidnapped though. In fact I’m not sure that the magnitude of what had happened had sunk in yet. All I could think about was a parallel version of my life, one that was better in every respect. To be honest it didn’t take much imagination, considering that it couldn’t get much worse. All the decisions I had made had led me to this point, and I dreaded to think what the decisions I would make in the future would lead me to. I had my hand on the door to the building. I closed my eyes. A tear squeezed through my eyelids and trickled out. I could have walked away, maybe I should have, but I was filled with fear that it could mean my death. The way that Jack had hissed at me…I couldn’t deny his power. They had already succeeded in kidnapping me once and I had no doubt they would find me again. He was so confident, that he was willing to let me walk away by myself without an escort. I got the sense that he wasn’t the type to misplace his confidence. I still wanted to escape but I would have to wait and bide my time. I couldn’t risk angering them when there was still so much that was uncertain. I had escaped their wrath so far, but I couldn’t be sure they wouldn’t kill me.
I clutched my arm again. In the faint moonlight I could already see the bruises start to bloom upon my skin. Jack had marked me, and the thought of it made me tremble.
I felt at my lowest ebb as I returned to my cell. My head hung and my feet dragged across the floor. I wished that I could have been braver and stronger. I wished that I could have had the strength to fight, but my mind had cracked and every time I thought of resisting, I was filled with fear. I just couldn’t bring myself to do anything like that when there was so much against me. It felt as though the world had caved in on me and there was no hope of escape.
But as I walked, I passed a door, and behind it I heard murmuring conversation and soft music. There was a clink of glasses and some people were louder than others. Without Jack accompanying me I was free to linger and press my ear against the door to try and glean whatever information I could.
“Do you think she’s the one we’ve been waiting for?”
“I hope so, we’ve been waiting for long enough.”
“We’d better make sure to keep her hidden. We can’t let the Hunters get wind of this.”
“We won’t. The Hunters are just arrogant upstarts who think they know more than they really do. We’ve dealt with their kind before and if they try anything we’ll slap them down into place.”
“I still think we should have asked her. This kidnapping business doesn’t sit right with me.”
“What would you have done? Told her the truth?” There was a lot of laughter at this comment. “Good luck with that. This is the best way. Jack knows what he’s doing, and you care too much. We need her and that’s the end of it.”
It felt as though there was going to be more to the conversation, but at that point footsteps came near the door and I got scared. I squealed a little as I didn’t want to be caught eavesdropping and find out what punishment would wait for me. I skipped back into my small room and closed the door, and then I retreated to the bed.
Even though I couldn’t hear properly, I was certain that two of the voices I heard were Buck and Matt’s. There were a couple of others I didn’t recognize, and it was unclear exactly how many members the motorcycle club had, but at least there was one person who wasn’t in favor of the way they had treated me, and I hoped that it would provide a window that I could take advantage of. But the way they spoke of needing me…it just didn’t make any sense. What kind of thing would they need me for? I didn’t understand…I needed answers. I needed to know what was going on and why they thought I was so important.
And what were these Hunters? Perhaps they could provide my salvation if they were the enemy of Jack’s group. My mind whirled as I clutched the flat pillow and sobbed myself to sleep. It was soon wet with my tears and I wished that I was anywhere else. At least when I slept I could be free of the horror that pervaded my mind, although I was terrified of my dreams too.
I awoke feeling lethargic and aching. I checked myself as the daylight streamed through the narrow window. It was so bright that it illuminated every corner of the room, and highlighted how dreary everything was. A copper pipe reached down in the corner and led all around to a metal radiation. The bed frame was cold and sturdy, and the blanket was scratchy and stained. I preferred it when it was shrouded in darkness. I wiped my eyes and caught sight of the bruises on my arm. I hadn’t realized Jack had gripped me with such strength. I gently brushed my skin and winced. There were three round bruises, and I wondered how many more there would be by the end of this.
I rubbed my face and swallowed. My throat was dry and my stomach rumbled. I hoped that someone would be along with some breakfast soon. Now that I could see better, I tried to clamber up the pipe and reach the narrow window. I thought that if I could reach it I might at least be able to squeeze something through, but it was to no avail. It remained tantalizingly out of reach. I could feel some of the warmth of the air outside and I could see the blue sky, but it might as well have been an alien world.
Eventually the door opened and Matt was there. He brushed his long hair away and his clothes hung off him like a cloak. He glanced towards me and there was kindness in his eyes, and a hint of regret. I was certain that it had been he who expressed reservations during the conversation I had eavesdropped upon and I was keen to exert some influence to exploit this.
He set down a tray that had upon it a glass of juice and a bacon sandwich. It wasn’t my usual breakfast of choice; I much preferred something more nutritious and healthier, but clearly I didn’t have a choice. He went to leave, but I couldn’t let him. Not yet.
“Wait…Matt…isn’t it?” I asked. Matt paused. He stood halfway in the room and had his hand on the door handle, ready to close it at a moment’s notice.
“Do you think I could eat this somewhere else? This room it’s…it’s not very nice and I just feel so dirty,” I winced and rubbed my arms, casting my gaze away from him, to appear even more vulnerable than I felt. My request lingered, and the more time he stayed the more chance I thought there was of him granting my request.
Eventually he sighed. “I can take you somewhere else, but we can’t stay for long,” he said, and held the door open. I picked up the tray and followed him out into the hallway. The juice sloshed inside the glass. We passed the door I had eavesdropped behind and then went into one beyond that. It was a small room, a lounge area with a couch, TV, table and chairs around it. There were cards strewn about the table and empty nut shells that had been cracked. The room had the stale smell of beer, peanuts and grease, as though these smells had been imbued into the walls and the ceiling. A triangular banner hung on the wall, pointing at an angle. One word was depicted on it; ‘Howlers’.
“Is that the name of your club?” I asked as I took a seat on the couch. I turned my nose up at the stains and the torn leather, but I had sat on worse. Matt placed the tray beside me. I took the food and tried not to wolf it down. I didn’t want to betray my desperation. The bacon was crispy and the bread was soft. It was a good sandwich and I immediately felt better, but I was still on my guard.