Chapter 1

Katarina stirred in her sleep, the handcuff shifted and caused a rattle that snapped her from a dream world. Back to the dark reality of the world she lived in. There was no point in fighting any longer. The flesh on her wrists remained red and swollen from her struggles. Her screams remained unheard and unanswered.

Kat kept her head on the hard pillow, arms locked above her head. There was no comfort. Not in the perfect black of her room or the dead silence telling her the capture was not present. She turned to face the direction away from the door. Knowing this only from sound and memory. Her hair, long and unruly, pulled along the pillow behind her. She couldn’t remember her hair color, it had been too long since she’d seen in a mirror. Dreams told her it was a deep cherry red and a faint recollection of her last free birthday was twenty-three. She opened her eyes but the darkness of her eye lids was the same darkness she blinked open to. She lived in a horror film.

She couldn’t recall how long she had been held captive. Kat was sure it couldn’t have been more than a year and yet, her past was hidden behind a curtain of confusion. Everyday she would speak to herself to remind herself of the facts. Certainties were a luxury she didn’t have, so the few she recalled, she rehearsed.

“I’m older than twenty-three. I have a job at the newspaper,” that much had taken weeks of meditation to recall. It came to her only as a dream. Lines of typed words seemed to scroll across her eyes in the dark. That was the only logical explanation.

“I’m single,” even if she wasn’t before, she certainly was now. There was no chance anyone would wait this long for her to return.

“I like chewing my finger nails,” since there was nothing else to do.

“I’m shorter than this bed is long,” which wasn’t saying much when she had no way of comparison.

“I had a dog,” she thought. Kat could vaguely recall the love offered from cuddling. The unconditional affection that only a tiny would give. With the long days, she spent many hours using her fingertips to explore her body. That told her the most about herself. As if she had never existed before this place. Like her body had been grown and raised and suddenly she was just here. Trying to figure out who it was.

She knew she had no piercings, not even her ear lobes seemed to boast a healed over hole. There were no stretch marks on her tummy, so she never had a baby. The only scar she could ever discern was a small diagonal scar just over the top of her pelvic bone.

“I had my appendix removed,” Kat continued to speak the facts to the darkness. Her only friend. A cramp grew in her side and forced her to roll toward the door. It also caused more pain as that was the arm cuffed to the bedframe. It took her many tiny movements to become somewhat comfortable again and suddenly she looked forward to the door opening.

The morning urgency began to grow, her stomach growled and she yearned to stand. If even just for a moment (which is what she would usually get to use the bucket.)

The blanket sat tangled at her feet and she concentrated on using her toes to pull it back up. A draft was growing in the cement floored room. It crawled along the floor and up the edge of the bed to bite her naked legs. The thin nighty that she lived in never did much. The blanket was her life.

Kat waited silently for the unknown assailant. The man that showed her a twisted type of affection. She had the sense often that if she wanted him to, he would have sex with her. She had even offered it a few times, in exchange to answer questions for her and yet, he remained silent and she remained pure in her bed.

                Her free hand massaged her stiff neck. Her last screaming fit had caused her to twinge her neck muscle and it ended in a ball. Not matter her screaming, he never released her. The hidden man did return with a warm towel later and placed it on her neck in silence.

“Can you not speak?” she could almost hear herself saying as she had that moment. His hand touched her forehead in response before the door opened and closed once more. The only way she knew when the door opened, was the creak that shattered her soul every time. There was no light, no sun, no moon. Nothing. Just a screech against the concrete and he was gone.

Kat began her morning exercise, one leg straight up, then out, then back. Her fingers played with a new knot that had formed in her waist length hair as she pictured herself practising yoga on a beach. Putting the image together in her mind like it had been with her growing up. That was all she could picture perfectly. The beach she had grown up near.

The waves would lap between her toes as she performed pose after pose. The sun slowly breaking the horizon to flood her skin with an orange hue. Kat wished so badly for the warmth and coloring of the sun once more. A fresh tear formed as she then pictured her free self running along the beach. Kicking tuffs of sand up behind her bottom.

Her fingers made their way half way down the incredible length before the rat’s nest became too large and she gave up. Rolling away from the door, she began to exercise her second leg. The left side of her body now pinched between the half-starved weight of her body and the bone stiffness of the mattress. No one could consider it a bed. If it weren’t for the pieces, she had ripped off of it in anger, she would have thought it were just wood. Kat had spent a solid week one time digging down through the mattress to find a spring. She imagined she could slice the man’s throat open with the sharpness of the spring. Not only did that trial end in a failure with no spring in the mattress, it also reminded her that if she killed the man, she would just be left to starve to death on the mattress.

Her free left hand was now pinned under her body so she exercised her right leg in the bicycle movement in the air and braided strands of hair to pass time.

                Time passed different in perpetual darkness and yet, she could still sense when it would be nearing time for his morning visit. She pulled the corner of her night gown up to wipe the remnants of sleep from her eyes. She refused to allow him to see her vulnerable like that, although he did keep her about as vulnerable as you could get. That thought caused a sharp burst of anger through her.

Kat wiped at the crusts of sleepy depression from her eyes. They clung to her lashes just as the sadness clung to her mind. She tried to keep herself afloat by singing, telling stories out loud and playing hangman word games alone. Her kidnapper was good at least at giving her what she asked, except for freedom.

If she requested water to clean up, it came. Extra food, music, news radio, extra blankets. He seemed to only not be able to supply extra clothing, a hair brush or any lady products. She seemed beyond needing them anyway. Kat caulked that issue up to the fact she was so depressed that her body must be in shock.

Katarina often wondered why he kept her captive if it wasn’t for sex or money. Or at least she didn’t think it was money. Maybe her parents had been crazy rich and he was waiting for the drop off. She couldn’t pull up a recollection of their faces. In fact, not a single face could be recalled. Not her third-grade teacher, or a sibling, or even this make-believe puppy that she was sure loved her so deeply.

She blinked and rolled back to face the door. Blinking again, Kat stared. Waiting for the door to open. There were no sounds of outside. No vehicles, no rain drops, no thunderstorms. The only storm she was ever purvey to were the ones that formed in her mind. They would grow from the corners of her subconscious and sometimes she couldn’t even discern if she were sleeping or awake. Sometimes the man would appear when she felt her mind was beginning to slip. As if it could only take so many sobs before it would break.

Kat learnt quickly that he would appear with sweets for her. Pushing candies into her palm, chocolate. Even a bag of crunchy chips one time with a can of cola or pepsi (she had never been good at the taste test challenges at the mall.) It would lift her spirits for awhile but still, he wouldn’t answer any questions she had.

                Her nighty had been changed a few times, by him placing a new folded one on her lap. She would hear the door creak his exit and she would be left alone with the two nighties. One time, she had spent hours trying to figure out the color. She had brought it right up to her eyes and put all her focus to it but the thing about perfect darkness, is it’s dark. There is no light to reflect a shade, shadow or color. Nothing.

Katarina lived here, wherever here was.

She spent hours playing with the lace on the nighty. The tiny frays that belled down and out along the bottom and her neck. She would twist them together, pull them apart and chew them off.

Kat pictured the delicate flowers that had once been in place. Amazed that each nighty had always the same, “could I have some pants?” she had asked once with again, no reply. And no pants. This nighty hung together barely, it might almost be time to ask for a new one. The threads were thin and hung on for life, just as Kat was. She told herself the nighties were blue/green. Like the ocean of her dreams. With flowers embroidered on like the strong tides crashing on the beaches of her receding memories. 

The deep reflection of the water was all that came to her dreams now, one of two most mesmerizing elements on earth. Second to fire but the outline of that was gone to her. She prayed for it some days. To come and engulf this damn room and take her with it. Kat pictured it, played with the idea and prayed something would rescue her. Even if it were death. It would light the corners of the room, show her what hid outside the corners of her bed. Bring realization to her world before releasing her from the horror of her life.  

The dreams of the ocean however, kept her aware. During the day, she might had prayed of a fiery death but at night as she slept, it was gentle waves washing her away and saving her. Taking her from a black room to a blue ocean to a beautiful viridian green grasses and chocolate brown sands. There she lived half her life, free.

Upon waking, the intensity of the colors in her dreams faded quickly.

                Kat smoothed the silk of the soft nighty on her thighs. The metal bed frame clanged and echoed in the empty room with the movement of her cuff. Sleep was not always the best escape but seemed to be what she fell back on. Morning, daytime, or evening- she never knew the time. It was the meals presented to her that would give her some insight. She had no choice but to become accustomed to the routine, to sit and wait in the shadows for him to enter.

Kat couldn’t recall the day she had been taken, the place or even a smell associated. It was all gone from her. What she did know from her time being captive, was that they moved around a lot. She couldn’t recall how many times but the tell-tale point, was the smell of the Propofol soaked rag. It still haunted her. Aside from dust, mold and urine; the only other smell she could ever pick out was Propofol. It would set off a panic attack even when half the time, the smell was imagined. It had been awhile now since he had placed that rag over her mouth and nose but she could still smell the metallic fumes.

The bed frame was the second tip off, it had changed. Once, she recalled a wooden frame where the man had wrapped chains around the wittled holes. Dust smells different too, even the smell the man carried walking into the blanket of darkness changed often. They were no familiar to her, she couldn’t connect anything to a scent she might have grown up with a father around. But there was nothing.

This man moved so swift in the darkness, Kat figured he must have night vision goggles. A second handcuff would be snapped on to restrict her movements as he would set a TV tray next to her. The sounds creating a picture in her mind, then the scent of food making her mouth water.

The second hand-cuff would release and Kat would be free to turn her body, hang her legs over the edge of the bed and eat in the dark. She would sit perfectly still and wait until he left, giving him no satisfaction of a thank you or curtesy of enjoying the meal in front of him. Then she would eat and the food was like tiny miracles in her mouth, flavor explosions that saved her from going completely insane.

Yesterday, something changed. As she settled her wrists onto the wooden tray to prepare herself to eat, something landed on top of her middle knuckle. She blinked in the dark and held the gasp back in amazement. It took several more minutes before she heard the door creak open then closed once more. That’s when she broke down crying. Not from desperation but sheer joy. What had landed on her hand, had surely fallen off her captures jacket, sweater? She wasn’t sure. What she was sure of, was it was a snowflake. A crystallized piece of heaven and the first sign of a season or time for Katarina in what felt like years.

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