The Best Friend

1

Aubry

I'm going to die here.

I don't know why I'm so certain of it, I just am.  I’m trapped in a room. Thin walls. No windows. Concrete floor. Big steel door. There’s one tiny gap at the bottom where light or shadows rather, make themselves known. I’ve tried every way I can conjure up to escape but it’s futile. There’s a bare bulb that hangs far above me. The bulb, an Edison type, is dim and not constant. It rarely comes on. I know because I wasn’t always blindfolded.

Knowing I’m going to die makes me wonder, how do you measure a life? Most days of a life are unremarkable. They start and end with no true memory made. Most days have no lasting impact. So, is it the accumulation of memories and experiences or is it the lives you’ve touched? Or the lives that have touched you? It’s not money. I can tell you that much. It’s is nice to have while you’re alive but, as they say, you can’t take it with you when you go. Is a life well-lived shared coffees, laughter and hugs, or is it something else? Lord knows I have plenty of time to think in here. Most days I decide that love is what matters most in one's life. If you loved and were loved—fiercely, then, all the other memories and experiences happen naturally. Others I try not to think. Those are the times life doesn’t matter at all.

The first few days in this hellhole I screamed until my voice gave out. The cold seeped through the concrete floor into my soul. The blackness made my heart race and panic scampered up my spine. Every time that damned door opened I fought. I fought and screamed and pounded until I couldn’t any longer. I just—couldn’t. It didn’t do me any good.

The smell of feces and urine is nauseating. I’m cuffed wrists together at my belly secured to a waist chain. I'm blindfolded as well. My hands barely reach my mouth and no higher. I'm able to see through the blindfold just enough to notice shadows and the way the light changes. It's how I keep track of time passing.

The door squeaks open. Heavy footsteps approach. A shiver runs through me. Dinner time. Someone brings me food twice a day. In the morning, a peanut butter sandwich. In the evening, a tuna sandwich and a bottle of water. I hate tuna. I hear the tray slide on the floor. The boots recede. I shuffle slowly in the direction of the sound. The door closes. Latches. Locks. The space echoes with the sounds. My toe hits the tray and I stop. I drop to my ass and eat. Why bother keeping me alive? Why not just kill me? I don't understand what the endgame is.

The first week, there were Russian words being yelled outside my cell. Familiar terms I recognized from movies and books. The door popped open, and in a rush, three men were inside pinning me against the back wall. The third, a squat, acne scarred man approached me curiously. Taking me in toe to head, exploring, analyzing, as if he were gathering clinical evidence. I spit at him when he came close enough. He grabbed my cheeks roughly and whipped my head left, then right—inspecting. A wave of nausea bubbled in my gut.

"She's a little older, but we’ll make due." He released my face. I stretched my jaw and licked my lips.

"Just kill me," I said.

He laughed as he exited the room. "We don't kill income, precious."

The burly men pinning me to the wall released me. I kicked out, but missed them. They drew their intimidating black rifles and backed away from me until they reached the door. When it shut and latched, I was alone again in the cold, dank, darkness—alone with just the occasional flicker from that damn dim bulb.

Trapped.

I lean back against the wall. My hair is matted and I reek. I wiggle my nose to adjust the blindfold slightly. Trying to stay mentally sharp, I listen for hours each day but there are no discernable sounds outside the others. No train horns. No birds chirping. Nothing. I saw that in a movie once. The victim managed to get a phone and make a call from the trunk of a car, she had to listen and try to describe the sounds. They found her. I, however, am apparently not as lucky. This is no movie.

The last song I heard was Woman, by Kesha. My power jam. I was so amped up, singing along to all the words. The last person I talked to on the phone, Mike. The last Snapchat I sent was to my little sister, Aimee. The last friendly face I saw, Nora. What are they all doing right now? Is my mom surviving? Losing two kids might kill her. Is Nora helping them out? Comforting them? Aimee is deeply sensitive and feels life intensely. It physically hurts thinking about her and what my disappearance must be doing to her. I try not to think about it too much. It’s difficult to picture my mom in pain—again. Mentally, I’m heaving myself through a bramble bush, catching on every single thorn.  Emotionally, I allow my mind to linger on Mike and the flirtatious game of cat and mouse we played. I lament the fact that I never acted on it, never told him I wanted him. You learn just how many regrets you have when you don’t know how much longer you have to live.

The truth is, I’m still in shock. I know I am. I can feel the panic pounding through my veins, my thoughts are scattered. I see myself as if from afar, taking in the frailty of my frame, the sagginess of my skin and the frown on my face. A body locked away—stolen. The very idea of trying to stay vigilant has become absurd. I know I shouldn't eat the food. Should steer clear of the water. I know it could be contaminated or drugged, but if the choice is as simple as live or die, I choose life.

I’ve got a chill that never leaves. The concrete floor is unforgiving and frigid against my skin. I drink the bottle of water. The cold wetness against my hot throat sends a chill down my spine. I constantly feel on the edge of a cold. Hot flashes and chills and fatigue plague me day in and day out.

I never saw the short Russian again. But the guards rotate. It’s every third day that I see the same man bringing me my food. Tonight, it will be the smallest man and I’m prepared. I’ve smeared myself with my own feces from the bucket in the corner. I heard the boots first, followed by the click of the deadbolt releasing. I waited by the door. It swung open. When the man stepped in I was close enough to see his eyes widen when he didn’t see me. I swung, connected with his jaw. The crack of knuckles on bone made me cringe. Pain darted up my arm but I didn’t stop. The tray of food dropped to the floor. He clocked me square in the forehead and I stumbled backward. The man cursed in Russian and charged me. I dropped to my hands and knees. He tripped over me and I crawled, my palms slipping on the concrete, slick with my feces. I was out the door before he could get ahold of me. The hallway was long and dimly lit. Doors lined it for at least fifty yards. I scrambled to my feet and ran. Two men at the end of the hall shouted at me and drew their guns but I didn’t care. I kept running.

A burly guard tackled me. When he realized what I was covered in, he let out a slew of profanity and let go. I laughed maniacally. I only made it a few feet from them before he caught me again. I knew right then that was it. A finite moment in my mind, the end.

They threw me back in my cell. Later they came with a hose and I got a frigid shower that I didn’t want. Then, they cuffed and blindfolded me.

Someone enters. Small shoes come near me. I can just see them from under my blindfold. Must be a small man. My feet are probably bigger than his. This makes me laugh. Someone grabs my arm. I try to yank it away but I’m not strong enough. A pinch in the crook of my arm makes me cry out. The shoes recede. The door closes. Latches. Locks. A warmth washes over me and for the first time in weeks I feel like smiling. I swear I can feel sunshine in my veins. I sigh and lie on my back. The warmth dissipates eventually. Time creeps along too slowly. I have nothing to focus on but the sounds of my fellow inmates screaming. They make awful sounds, like someone is peeling off their skin. Tears. I feel tears everywhere. I focus on my breathing. When that doesn’t work I start humming. Loudly. Listening to the other girls makes me realize that silence is a luxury.

What are they doing to me?