They were taken in the middle of the night. That’s all they knew of their past life. It had ended in darkness and they hadn’t had much cause for light since. The they were constantly on the move, never staying in one place for longer than a few nights. One time they had a bed to sleep on. It was yellowing with piss and the mattress barely merited the name, but it was better than the cold floor and it was the most luxury they could remember. That felt like a lifetime ago. They supposed it could’ve been.
They had tried to escape a few times, if only to break the monotony, but they never got further than the door of the room. It had got to the stage where the man now saw their attempts as a joke and had stopped locking the door.
After all, where would they go.
The boy tried to keep track of the days at first. He would make a notch in the stick he carried around with him. A kind of comfort the girl supposed. Each night she would hear him desperately scratching a mark into the stick with his nail. Each night she tried to get him to stop but he kept going. He scratched and scratched till his nail bled. Eventually the stick was all notch and he stopped. They didn’t know how long they’d been lost.
The girl was the older of the two and the man treated her as such. Whenever she was taken from the room the boy cried. He cried loudly until the man gagged him. His body shook with silent tears until she was brought back into the room. The boy always rushed to her and she always ungagged him. They held each other until it got dark and they were moved again.
They didn’t even know each other’s names.
One day the boy was taken instead. The girl screamed and tried to batter down the door. The man had locked it and she couldn’t open it. She hit the door again and again until her fists were raw and bloody. She screamed until she was hoarse. The boy was gone a very long time. She gave up before he returned.
The boy was carried back into the room and set down slowly by the man. The girl hit at the man’s legs as he walked, but her strength had failed. She went to hold the boy. As she touched him he flinched and moved away. They sat in silence. The boy didn’t cry.
They weren’t moved that night and the man didn’t come back the next day. They sat in silence. The girl cried. They waited again and still the man had not come. They were both very hungry. The boy cried.
Another day came and went and the man hadn’t come. The girl went to the door and pushed at it. It swung open and she walked through. The girl stood on the landing, looking down the decrepit corridor uncertain of what to do. She went back into the room and closed the door. The boy hadn’t moved.
She waited an hour and went to the door again. She pushed it and it opened. She walked to end and looked through a door to a bedroom. The light coming through the boarded up window revealed the heavy dust hanging in the air. The bed was made and a half drunk glass of water sat on the bedside table.The room had a heavy smell of mould so she shut the door. She turned around and the boy was standing behind her. He looked so small. She took his hand and turned to the door opposite the bedroom. The boy squeezed her hand tightly. He reached out and pulled a strip of flaking paint from the door and dropped it to the floor. He reached out and pulled at the paint again. The girl caught his hand.
The girl pushed at the door. It didn’t move. The boy gulped and stepped backwards. The girl held him firmly and reached out for the handle of the door. She turned and pulled and it swung towards them. The boy tightened his grip, drew a sharp breath and closed his eyes.
The girl peered into the inky darkness of the stairwell. Nothing moved.
They waited, hand in hand. The boy was tired so sat down. The girl sat next to him. They both stared down the stairs and waited. The boy fell asleep, the girl did not. She was too hungry for sleep.
When the boy woke up the girl pulled him to his feet. They stepped together down the stairs. The thick carpet muffed their progress. Half way down a step creaked under their weight and the boy screamed. The girl pulled the gag up from around his neck and covered his mouth. The boy screamed silently. The stepped again and each step creaked beneath them. The girl drew shallow breaths and kept a firm hold on the boy. He continued to scream into his gag.
At the bottom of the stairs they turned onto an identical corridor. The door opposite them was open and led into a bare room. It was the mirror of the room they had spent the last few days in. They had both been taken there by the man. The girl closed the door and they moved on. At the end of the corridor there were two doors opposite each other. This time the girl took the left door first. She turned the handle and pulled the door. It didn’t move. The boy had stopped screaming. She moved the boy behind her, obscuring his vision of the door.
She couldn’t handle him screaming again.
She pushed at the door and it swung inward silently. In the centre of the room there was a chair on its side. As she peered in more she noticed a pair of feet swinging at her eye level. The girl was motionless. The man swung slowly around, his neck limp and tilted at an odd angle, a rope was tight around his neck. The girl closed the door and turned to the boy.
“Let’s go” she said.
She hadn’t spoken in so long she was shocked to hear her voice. She sounded so young. The boy flinched and tried to run. She held on tight. The boy stared at her, eyes wide.
“Let’s go!” she said again.
“Lshsrh grrr” the boy tried to speak but his words were muffled by the gag. She lifted the gag over his head and threw it at the door she had just closed.
“Go? Where?” said the boy.
“Let’s go.” replied the girl.
The boy and the girl turned to the other door and opened it. They ran down the staircase, through a dark kitchen and out of a back door. The ran and ran and ran. They didn’t stop for breath. After what seemed like an age they stopped. They were drenched in sweat and exhausted. The boy collapsed to the floor, still holding the girl’s hand. She pulled him up and they stood in silence.
The girl looked up at the grey sky above them and breathed deeply. She stared towards the dead, leafless trees. It must be winter she thought. She laughed. The boy bent down and picked up a stick that was nestled in the leaves beneath them. He began scratching a notch into it with his nail. They drew together, the cold wind biting at them. The girl realised they were still wearing pyjamas.
“My name is Sarah” said the girl.
Writing Prompt = Cover Photo
Photo Credit to Annie Spratt