CHAPTER TEN: total darkness

The girl woke to total darkness. She lay very still, panic rising in her chest as she blinked several times to make sure her eyes were really open. They were. Around her there was only blackness. Could it have all been a dream? The man in the woods. His hand over her mouth. Him dragging her deeper and deeper into the forest. Then she remembered her very real fear as his hand squeezed more tightly over her mouth and her nose, cutting off her air until her lungs burned and her vision grayed.

Now this. A blackness so complete that she couldn’t even see her own body. This was no nightmare. She had been taken.

Beneath her was what felt like a bed of dirt, rocks, and twigs. The soil slid through her fingers as she felt for  something—anything—familiar. The air was moist and fetid. She wondered if she’d been buried alive. No, she told herself as she stood on wobbly legs. The space she was in was   too large; she could move around it, and she should. Her hands reached desperately for the walls and a way out, but found nothing except cold,  wet stone. The sound of her own sobbing bounced back at  her  every which way she  turned. She  used the  hem of her shirt to wipe her nose and kept moving, frantically chasing the sides of the chamber, her hands running up and down the brickwork until she was certain there was no  way out. “Hello?” she screamed into the thick,  muting  darkness.  Not  even an echo returned.

She forced herself to slow down, taking long slow breaths to calm her racing heart as she moved her hands methodically around her, feeling every inch of her cell until, at last, her fingers found something wooden. A door. She pushed against it with all her might but it was thick and immovable. She swept along the edges of it, digging her fingers into the seams, searching for light. There was not one crack, no handle, no lock. Her small fists pounded against the wood until her bones filled with fire

and all she could do was scream and scream until her throat was raw and the sound broken.

No one came.

She collapsed, curling into a tiny ball as the chamber grew colder and colder around her. She folded her legs up and inside her skirt to cover them completely, tucked her arms inside her shirt and held her trembling body close.

“Please,” she whispered, rocking back and forth. “I want to go home.”

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CHAPTER ELEVEN: the left Sandman’s