BY: ALAN BRENHAM
A teenage girl sneaks into an old abandoned house on a dare, but her mission quickly goes sideways. Bound and whisked away, a terrified Cailey relies on her own resourcefulness and extraordinary bravery to find ways to survive. She escapes, but her kidnappers are close on her heels. That’s when she has to decide what she must do in order to stay alive.
Her parents experience their own torments. To satisfy the kidnapper’s demands, her father is forced to make an impossible choice. His daughter’s life or that of another. He has seven days to do it. Realizing time is running out, Cailey’s mother decides that the only way to save her daughter is to risk it all.
“An arresting, intelligently crafted drama… darkly atmospheric and deeply unsettling.”
I shouldn’t have been anywhere near that old Pierce house. A creepy silhouette of a shack. It’d be my luck the place would collapse on me as soon as I went inside. If my mom knew where I was, she’d have had a cow. But then I’d been to a lot of places my parents didn’t know about. I’d come here on a dare. Certain girls in my eighth-grade class had their so-called club. I wanted in. To join I had to visit that house after dark and bring back an item the girls had left there. My only clue was to look in a place that gets filled with water.
Anyway, there I stood, shining my iPhone flashlight around what had been the kitchen of the old Pierce house. It still had the linoleum floor. Parts of it torn up. Parts of it flat out missing. A double sink sprinkled with mouse crap. Nothing else in them. A space where a refrigerator had been. Missing cabinet doors. Pieces of ceiling dangling. The whole place smelled like mildew.
Nobody’s lived here since the Pierces died a few years ago. At least that’s what the kids at school said. I don’t know since I’d never been to this neighborhood. It was old. Seedy. They also said the Pierces still haunted the house. That’s the part that scared my best friend, Teegan, from coming with me. According to them, the Pierces’ ghosts still roamed the house. Yeah, right. Probably said it to scare me. Hadn’t seen one yet. No chains clanking. No weird moans. The only sound I heard was broken glass crackling under my shoes when I walked in through the back door. Probably came from the glass panels in the door having been busted out.
I went into a medium-sized room. It had two large windows, all busted out. The fireplace was coated with dust and webs. Words that make my grandmom blush were carved into the walls. The room looked like a trash dump. Crumpled-up McDonald’s bags and cigarette butts scattered everywhere. Crushed paper cups, smashed beer cans, and empty wine bottles piled up in the corner.
A passageway led into a short hallway. The most awful pukey smell told me where the bathroom was. I pinched my nose as I went in. Both the sink and the tub were empty. The toilet hadn’t been flushed for who knows how long. One more bathroom left to check. Had to be in Pierce’s bedroom. Only thing left in that bedroom was an old queen-sized bed. That and some condoms tossed in the corner. I heard a clicking sound when I walked in the bathroom. Like somebody or something walking across the floor. Must’ve been a rat. Oh great.
A grunt told me I wasn’t alone in here. I’d shut the back door so it couldn’t be a dog. No rat I’d ever read about made grunting noises. Could be one of those girls from school. I decided to check it out. I walked out of the room. That’s when I heard it. The hurried clump-clump of heavy footsteps. My stomach stuck in my throat.
A man’s gruff voice made me quit breathing. “Ah know you’re in here, lil girl.”
I backed into a corner behind the door. No good, I told myself, that’d be the first place he’d look. I gotta hide. But where? His clumping steps grew louder. I shined my iPhone light around the room. The closet? Nuh-uh. He’d look there for sure. The bed.
My only hiding place. Underneath it. I scurried across the room. I dropped down on my belly and slid under. I clicked off the flashlight. Cobwebs snagged my face and ears. Must’ve been an inch of dust under there. I lay still, waiting and hoping he’d go the other way. Pieces of the mattress brushed against my face. Could’ve been more cobwebs. I never should’ve come to this run-down house. In the dark. Alone. Should’ve never accepted those girls’ dare. Probably wasn’t anything hidden in the sinks or tubs anyway. If I made it out of here alive, Mom and Dad would scream and yell. Mom’d ground me until my thirtieth birthday. My life would be over. It may be anyway if this man found me.
I saw his legs as he came through the doorway. Work-boots. Clumping into the room. I felt the color drain from my face when he stopped short of the bed. His raspy breathing sounded like a panting lion. I held my breath and lay still. Don’t make a sound, I told myself. Every second seemed to last an eternity. I listened as his footsteps came ever closer. I hoped and prayed he wouldn’t hear the thumping of my heart.
“Ain’t no place for ya to hide, lil girl. Might as well crawl out from under that there bed.”
I jammed my fist into my mouth so I wouldn’t scream. My whole body shook even though I tried to stay very still.
“C’mon out. Ah ain’t gonna hurt ya.”
I stayed put.
“Goddammit, ya lil blonde bitch. Don’t make me hafta drag your scrawny little ass out from under there.”
I blinked sweat from my eyes.
Suddenly, the bed lifted off the floor. It made a loud bang when it slammed against the wall.
A shadowy profile of a huge man. He bent over. His hand reached for me.
I rolled away and scrambled to my feet.
He reared up, stretching his arms wide.
I faked right then ran left.
He yanked me back by my hair and wrapped his thick arms around me, lifting me off the floor. He smelled like a gym locker room and beer breath.
My mouth felt like a it’d been stuffed with cotton. Then I peed. The warm wetness streamed down my pants leg. I squirmed and twisted to get free. Didn’t work so I did the only other thing I could. I screamed as loud as I could.
He clamped his hand over my mouth. A hand as big as a baseball glove.
I chomped down on his finger. Hard. He bellowed like a wounded animal. When he let go of me, I ran out of the room. Get out of here, I told myself. Get away from him. Run. I tore out of the room, raced through the kitchen. My wet pants leg stuck to me. I kept running anyway. Out the back door. Into the night. Once I got outside, the pee smell disappeared. I darted around the corner. Footfalls pounded behind me. A fast glance over my shoulder.
His shadowy bulk running. His voice growled. “Ah’m gonna kick yore little ass when I catch ya.”
Yeah, right. I raced past the bushes. Right on by my bike. My heart pounding.
He grunted. “Ya ain’t gettin away.”
A sharp stinging pain in my shoulder. Right about the time I heard that crackling sound. A bad burning feeling roared through my shoulder. I tried to run but only stumbled. Then a second burning feeling. This time in my back. It hurt super bad. My legs turned to rubber, and I belly-flopped onto the ground. My brain went fuzzy.
Strong arms scooped me off the ground. Him. He laid me in the trunk of a car. A woman wearing a mask bent over me. She gripped my arm. A sharp prick like a needle. I remember begging her to let me go home. Those were my last thoughts