The silence was the worst part.
Lindsay lay in the dark, straining to hear Katie’s voice. She wanted to know she was alive. For a time, there had been shouting but then, suddenly, nothing. She’d been terrified she would hear screaming but the silence was so much worse. Nothing indicated Katie still lived.
Unsure how long she lay in the quiet darkness of her cell, Lindsay slipped in and out of a disturbed sleep. Sometimes she dreamed of sunny days at school. She’d be in study hall, talking to Sidney Meyers about the Senior Prom plans. Danny Phillips asked if she’d go, but Lindsay hadn’t given him an answer.
Danny was probably dead and still walking home from school, maybe forever. She saw him like that in another dream, the bad one. The dead lurched and scrambled through windows and open doorways. Teenagers roamed their old, destroyed high school, not on their way to class but as fumbling automatons. They roamed there because their muscles remembered the way. The brain was dead, but the reflexes were not.
In the gymnasium, Lindsay stood in her prom dress with a corsage on her wrist and a boutonnière in her hands. She was the only one there, standing at center court among all the decorations she and Sidney designed. Outside the dead walked. Inside, she waited.
Not for Danny but someone else.
Even in her dreams, she couldn’t bring herself to see it. A shadow would appear in the doorway and she wouldn’t look. Couldn’t look. Looking meant she knew.
She started awake, her fingers numb and her wrists inflamed and swollen from their bonds. Her ankles were chafed raw and a smear of blood trickled down over her foot and between her toes. Strangely, the pain was very far away. Like it was happening to someone else.
Her eyes were wet with tears that she blinked away. Turning to press her ear to the door, she listened again. No screams. No voices. Still no signs that Katie was alive.
Had she failed after all? Could she not even die to protect her? All of this was her fault. Her own, stupid, fault. If they’d just stayed, if she’d just waited…
Lindsay’s breath caught. The sound was coming closer to her, the steady beat of boots on cement. She backed away from the door, her heart beginning to pound in her chest. They were coming for her. This was it. She had minutes left to live.
For a moment, the fear enveloped her. She couldn’t think of anything to do, to say, only that in moments a man would open that door and cause her pain. For a time since she’d been tossed in here, she’d considered how long she could withstand torture. She imagined herself relentless, even if they snapped her fingers and broke her teeth.
But it as a lie. They wouldn’t do those things. They’d cause her pain in other ways. They’d beat her, choke her, drown her, and… and… The thought of being forced upon, of being…
Say it, she thought. Say the word.
She couldn’t. Opening her mouth only produced a terrified gasp. Scrambling further away from the door, she reopened the wounds on her shoulders. She hardly felt them.
The door opened slowly with a squeal of rusted hinges, like something out of every horror film she’d ever seen. Did doors really make that sound in real life?
In the doorway, a man loomed. He was tall, but most men were much taller than Lindsay was. His build was not large, his frame slight and his limbs thin. When he stepped inside the doorway, the light illuminated him slightly. He was just a boy, barely older than she was.
“Hi there,” he said and reached above him. Light burst into being, illuminating the room. For a few moments, Lindsay was blinded. When she blinked away the haze, she looked around. The room was cinder block and cement, with old steel racks along one wall. They were empty and rusted. The whole place was the size of her old bedroom, small and intimate.
She opened her mouth to say ‘what do you want?’ but her throat was so dry she only rasped something wordless. The boy nodded, shut the door and came to kneel at her side. He had close-cropped blond hair and eyes that looked gray or blue depending on which way she looked. His lips were thin but smiling slightly. In his hands, he held out a canteen.
“Here,” he said. “Some water.”
He held it to her lips and she drank, faster than she thought possible. The water tasted so good, like a cold anesthetic to her parched and painful throat. She drank so fast and so greedily that some ran down her cheeks and onto her shoulder. She found it a terrible waste and stopped drinking.
“Good now?” the boy said. His voice was quiet, almost kind, but not quite. There was something off in it, like steel rasping against leather. When she looked up, she realized those gray-blue eyes cold, like chips of flint frozen in ice.
“What do you want?” she managed to get out.
“Not much,” the boy said and smiled. His smile was small and dead. His eyes never changed expression. It scared her more with each passing moment.
He pulled out a knife.
Lindsay screamed. The sound was quick and powerful, her refreshed throat giving all it had. The blow came fast and hard to the side of her head. Stars exploded into her vision and her mind began to swim. She slumped over and felt the boy cut through the bindings at her feet.
“I’m supposed to ask about the guns,” he said, his voice conversational. “But I really don’t care. We have M4s. Yours are the AR-15. The body armor is nice though. Could always use more of that.”
He shoved her over onto her stomach and then grabbed a fistful of her hair and hauled her up into a kneeling position. It hurt, but the blow to her face still stung worse. She felt his breath on the back of her neck.
“So where did you get it?” he said, the voice still calm and collected, like he asking her how her day was.
“Forget it. I don’t care. I’m sure the other girl will tell us. Once I’m done here, I’ll go show you to her and then pow. What are you two? Sisters or something?”
He didn’t let her answer but shoved her over. Without her hands to catch her fall, she struck the cement floor with her forehead and right cheek. It hurt worse than the blow.
He cut her belt and pulled at her pants. She heard him undoing his own and once more the fear stabbed right through her pain and disorientation. It was happening. It was going to happen in moments. There was nothing… nothing she could…
“I wish they’d let us wash you first,” he said with a sigh. Her pants came down her backside and onto her thighs, her underwear following soon after. He let out a sigh. “Yes, definitely needed a wash first. You are a dirty thing.”
A thing. For some reason that chopped right through the pain, the fear, the dizziness, and the dread. She was not a thing. He shifted and knelt, then moved one leg over hers as he moved to get between them. She felt his manhood press against her skin.
She drove her heel upward into his crotch.
The action as so swift, he didn’t even have time to move. She felt the blow connect with something tender and round. Then he cried out and fell.
Lindsay spun, falling onto her side. The boy lay on his back, his hands covering his groin. The ground was wet but she didn’t know what from. He opened his eyes then, gritting his teeth as he stared at her.
The fear, the rage, the pain all came back and she moved without thinking. Her legs caught underneath of her but she fell onto him, driving her knee onto his chest and pressing it down, forward onto his throat.
He gagged, eyes bulging. His hands came up from his crotch to push at her leg, so she put all of her weight into it. Her mouth hung open, a silent scream within. She was crying as she pressed harder and harder.
The boy panicked, pushing back, his legs drumming on the cement. Those gray-blue eyes shifted up and down, side to side. They were so big, almost popping out of their sockets. He was so scared. Whimpering, drooling and crying.
She pressed harder and something snapped. Blood and foam came out of the boy’s mouth. He grimaced, gasping again but this time it was wet and gurgling.
“No— please— mommy—“
She wasn’t sure who said it, herself or the boy. Down and down she pressed. More snapping. Blood. Spittle. His body spasmed again and again. Then, almost too suddenly, his eyes stopped moving, his lips stopped writhing, his legs stopped drumming.
Lindsay looked down into his face and saw no life. Blood ran out of his mouth, mixing with little chips of what might have been bone. Her knee was soaked in blood where she’d crushed his throat.
He was dead. She’d killed him.
Lindsay began to shake and tremble. She felt sick, her stomach roiling up and she turned to vomit on the cement floor. For a time, she lay there, shaking, not wanting to see what she’d done.
She forced herself to look, had to know that he wouldn’t get up and try again. He was dead. His pants were still down, his penis still erect. She wasn’t sure why she fixated on that. Forcing her gaze away, she saw a knife at his belt. It was the knife he’d used to cut her feet free.
“I’m sorry,” she said through silent sobs and turned her back, her hands reaching for the weapon. A minute later, she had it free and her binds were cut. Her wrists were raw, her palm cut where she’d gone too fast with the blade, but she barely felt any of it.
She stood, pulled her pants up and secured them, but kept the knife in hand. Padding her way to the doorway, she refused to look at the body behind her. The victim. Her victim. Her body. His body. Dead.
She grit her teeth, reached out for the door handle and turned it. Outside, the hallway was clear. She gripped the knife tightly.
“Hang on, Katie,” she said and went out.