She lost track of how much time had passed. Her terror was a never- ending cycle of darkness and deprivation. When her stomach clenched from hunger, she couldn’t tell if it had been hours or days since she had last eaten. Whether her eyes were open or closed, she saw nothing. Every inch of her small prison had been carefully catalogued; there was no way out. Part of her feared the return of the man, but another part of her longed for an interruption to the utter darkness. To the silence.
She began to fear the light more than the darkness: the chink of the door opening, the slice of his flashlight stabbing through her pupils like shards of glass. When she could pry her eyes open long enough to try to see him, she couldn’t focus. He seemed to be everywhere at once, and nowhere at all. The center of a blinding sun. When he finally brought food, she ate it with her eyes closed, shoveling it into her mouth hungrily with both hands, squatting in the corner of the chamber like a wild animal.
All she could depend on was her sense of smell. By the third time he came to her, she could sense him before the door to her cell creaked open. His scent traveled along the dirt floor like a colorless mist, filtering through the cracks, jabbing her awake like the elbow of an unwanted visitor. He smelled of tobacco, detergent, and onions. If she ever got away from him, she would know that smell anywhere.
Sometimes he knelt beside her and stroked her hair. For once, gentle. But she didn’t like it. There was something worse about that than the way he had dragged her through the woods or thrown her against the wall. She didn’t like the way his breath quickened as he did it.