“So Cold, So Dark, Melissa Collins” by Jennifer Liggett

   It is so cold, so dark, and I’m not sure where I am. I remember walking out of work to my car and hearing a noise behind me. That’s it. That’s all I can remember. Now I’m somewhere unfamiliar, somewhere cold and dark. I’m not sure what I should do. Should I panic, yell, scream or cry? Are my friends playing a joke on me or could this be the things we see in the news and think how horrible? This could never happen to me. So this is my story; this is how I, Melissa Collins survived the unimaginable.

   For weeks I was in “zombie” mode. I’d get up go to work in my cubical punching numbers and then I’d leave later in the evening, order some kind of take out and watch TV for about two hours then head to bed. Then I’d just repeat the same routine the next day. I was a stickler for sticking with the familiar. I parked in the same spot or at least close to it, I left work at the same time and I call the same exact place for food each night. While I lay on this cold floor, I think to myself, “Wow, how easy did I make it for the person or persons that took me.” I basically mapped out my entire routine to anyone that would want to know.

   Who would want to do this? What is it that they want from me? I can’t hear anything around me. I’m not sure if I’m in a sound proof box or a room. I am still laying on my right side with my upper body slightly off the floor on my elbow. I decided that the best thing to do is to try and stand up, feel my way around and see if there is anything in this room or box with me. The problem with this is that it is completely dark; I could not see my hand in front of me. I felt my body, I still had all of my clothes, and nothing appeared to be injured. I slowly walked forward with one arm stretched out in front of me and the other out slightly to my right. Within minutes, I ran into a cold wall and then with one arm still touching the wall I turned myself 180 degrees to face directly parallel to the wall.

   From this point I began to walk and count each step from the wall. I wanted to see how big of a place I was in. As I began my 12th step my toe stubbed the wall. I began to walk along the side of the wall feeling for anything I could use for protection or a way out. I reached the end of the wall and a corner, but the wall seems to turn into bars that are evenly placed to the other end where the parallel wall begins again. Is this a cage? Am I locked in a cage? I reach through the bars and I can barely touch what is on the other side. I now can hear someone walking around outside of this wall. I don’t know if I should yell or if this person is keeping me here. This person may hurt me if I yell.

   By now I feel hungry which tells me it has to be close to the normal time I usually eat. So I have only been locked up for close to an hour or two, which means I have to be somewhere close to my work or home. Who could have me here? Who sees me daily, knows my routine and could have access to me without me knowing? I’m usually the last one out from work, and I don’t stop anywhere to pick up food. I have it delivered. “Oh my God,” that’s it! This has to be my delivery guy. He is the only person who knows where I live, what kind of car I drive, and who would have access to follow me. But, why?

   I began to cry out,

   “Please, please open the door! I’m so cold.”

   I hear a rattle, a bang, and then see a glimpse of light. The door begins to swing open. There he stood, my delivery guy, still dressed in his work clothes. He just stared, not saying anything. I ask him

   “Why are you doing this?”

   He smiled slyly and said, “I’m doing this for you.” I was taken back at first, not knowing what he meant. So I asked him. He came closer and I noticed the keys hooked on his belt loop. As he got closer he leaned into the bars and whispered, “Because you need some excitement in your life and I’m about to give you some.”

   At that very moment I grabbed his head and smashed it into the bars. He fell down unconscious. I frantically reached through the bars grabbing the keys! I stood up, found the key hole and unlocked the door. I ran looking around as I noticed I was in an abandoned warehouse. I reached the main road, finally free and was able to get help. I told the cops everything and they later came back and said that they found the warehouse, but no one was there. As they investigate further they told me that the delivery guy never worked for the restaurant and that the actual delivery guy said he was always met outside of my building by security who would take the food to the apartment. Still, even today I don’t know who or even why, but what I do know is I, Melissa Collins, survived and learned to never be predicable and to enjoy life!

   Life Goes On

   It’s been a few months since the indescribable horror that I was subjected to by the nameless stranger that abducted me. Every day is different. Sometimes, I find myself obsessively changing my daily activities and routine just to ease my mind. Life has become harder. It is tough to hold jobs, keep friends and trust anyone. Every man I pass on the street I see him. I see his unshaven face, tall lanky body with shoddy tattoos of random symbols and the sly smirk on his face.

   Today is Tuesday and I have to be at work by eight am. Since I keep my routine unpredictable I have to leave at different times in the morning depending on which route I drive to work. Unfortunately, this way of doing things has led me to be late a good bit and to lose jobs. So things have been tight, financially. Keep my hair up or down. If that was the hardest decision I would have to make each day life would seem so simple. I like my new job because it is peaceful working in a pre-school with youngsters and seeing their smiling faces carefree and alive with energy gives me a sense of peace for the few hours a day that I’m there.

   I have done my best to make friends with a few coworkers so that I don’t feel so scared and alone. They are nice but I know I don’t open up completely, and because of this it’s hard for them to understand me. I often wonder if maybe I should change my name, move far away from here to start a new life. Then, maybe I would be able to relax and enjoy life. I struggle with the fact that I don’t know where my captive is or if he is still out there watching me and waiting for an opportunity to finish what he started.

   Tonight some friends from work invited me to go out to the local club for drinks and dinner. I’ve never been out like that before and never really drank, but I knew it would be good for me to get out of the house and be around people. Sarah, one of the girls from work, said she would pick me up by seven.

   “Wow!” “I mean what could happen, especially since I’m not driving alone.”

   I stand in front of my full length mirror in gray dress slacks and a white knit sweater with my hair pulled back in a bun. What am I going to wear! I look through my barren closet and I start to think this is a bad idea, but I have to do this. It’s good for me.

   “Oh my god it’s already six thirty!” “I’m not going to be ready in time.”

   After finding something to wear, which was a pair of overly tight blue jeans that I haven’t worn in years, and a light blue v neck T-shirt that my grandma sent me a few years ago for my birthday, the doorbell rings. Sarah is here to get me.

   “Hello Sarah” I awkwardly said.

   “Hey Melissa you ready to go?” Sarah said excitedly.

   “Do I look ok for the club” I nervously said hoping for a good response.

   “Umm… ah… yeah sure, you look fine.” Sarah said in a very uncertain voice.

   I grabbed my purse, which I now I keep a small 22 pistol in for protection, and off we went to the club. I was nervous. What would I see or how would I act in a club? The club was only about twenty minutes from my neighborhood which helped put my mind at ease. We got there shortly after seven and the place was packed, so we sat in the dining area first so we could eat. With our backs against the wall I could feel the vibrations of the loud music next door. I was getting excited to go to my first club and night out with friends.

   It was now almost nine o’clock and we had just paid our food tab. I had one drink at dinner although I never really drink. My friend ordered me something she called a screw driver. It was good and tasted mostly like orange juice. I stood up to get ready to go over to the club and found I was a little light on my feet. We walked next door and the music was so loud that I didn’t even hear Sarah ask me if I wanted another drink. Sarah turned around from the bar and handed me another orange juice drink thingy. Sarah and the other girls started venturing out onto the dance floor, but I was hesitant to join because besides dancing around my apartment alone to music I’ve never really danced in front of people.

   “Come on Melissa, come dance with us.” The one girl shouted.

   Sarah was waving her arm as if to say come out. I shook my head with a slight smile as to say no thank you. Apparently, I didn’t know that it wasn’t really my choice. Next thing I know Sarah is dragging me and my drink out onto the middle of the crowded elbow to elbow people on the dance floor.

   “Let’s party!” Sarah yelled.

   “Have you ever been to this club?” said Sarah questionably.

   “No, I’ve never been to this club.” I responded.

   Obviously, I know I’ve never been to any club but I didn’t want her to know how lame I am. We danced and danced for what felt like hours. I probably had three more drinks during this time. I was so relaxed and so carefree that it was like I hadn’t a worry in the world. I almost forgot that just a few months ago I was in a cold metal box waiting for my freedom. As I twirled, dipped and waved my arms around, I looked towards the back of the club near the restrooms, and I lost my breath.

   There he was, standing in the far back of the room just staring at me. His eyes were black as coal, his hands were in his pockets, and he wore an old ratty baseball cap on his head. I froze, my body stiff, unable to catch my breath as I had locked eyes with him. I did not know what to do. The girls I was with had no idea about what happened to me and they would think I was crazy if I tried to explain it now. I was afraid to take my eyes off of him and worried I’d lose him in the crowd, but the feeling of his eyes on me was disturbing to the point I wanted to vomit.

   “Melissa why aren’t you dancing?” shouted Sarah from the dance floor.

   “Ah… oh… sorry I got tired.” I shuddered.

   As I turned back to where my captive had been standing I noticed he was gone and out of my sight. I was panicked, but couldn’t let on to the girls that I was scared. I thought maybe it was not him. Maybe I drank too much and it was the alcohol getting to me. I pretty much talked myself into the fact that I was losing my mind and that there would be no way he found me here. I turned back to the girls and said that I was going to go to the restroom because I needed to wash my face and pull myself together.

   As I saw the Neon ladies sign flashing above the door, I pushed my way in through three giggling women coming out of the bathroom. I sat in the stall staring at all the funny things people had written as I tried to shake off the eerie feeling I had. I heard the bathroom door swing open, but I didn’t hear anyone talking or giggling, just footsteps walking passed my stall. I paused, mid pee. There is no way this could be. He could not have just walked into the female bathroom with no one seeing him.

   I slowly stood up, pulled my now sweat dampened pants and buckled them. Gradually, I reached into my purse and retrieved my gun, hands shaking, and barely able to hold the gun still long enough to take the safety off. I had only shot this thing a few times. Little by little, I turned the door knob to the stall and crept out looking side to side holding the gun out. Trembling, I turned my back to the sinks, facing the stalls and pointed the gun at the last stall where I could see his shadow.

   The door slowly crept open and the squeaky door hinge was all I could hear. The silence was spine-chilling. The door was now wide open as I slowly started to back towards the bathroom exit when he stepped out of the stall, not saying a word. He just stood there staring at me.

   “If you ever come near me again I swear I’ll kill you” I shouted sternly.

   “No you won’t. Look at your hands, your shaking.” he said with a grin on his face.

   “I swear to you, don’t come near me” I sneered at him.

   BANG! BANG! The gun suddenly went off.

   “Oh my god! What did I do?” I thought.

   The sirens, the screaming, and the flashing lights of the club’s fire alarm are all that I heard. Someone pulled the fire alarm when they heard the gun shots. I sat down on the cold floor crying, just staring at his limp dead body while blood soaked through his dingy shirt.

   “He lunged at me. He would never had stopped.” I murmured.

   “I had to do it. I would have never had a life.” I kept repeating as I sat rocking back and forth.

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