Will of Instinct

“All right, bitch, wake up,” says a grizzly voice, belonging to a man in a leather coat.

My face hurts, my head hurts. There is a great weight upon my chest and body. I look down and see I am chained to a chair.

Then a different voice speaks, this one higher-pitched: “Do you know who I am? My family will give you anything—anything! Let me go.”

“That’s what we’re countin’ on, girlie,” a second man utters. The other girl is chained to the wall; I am chained to a chair.

The two men walk over to the only door in this room. The first one says, “We’ll see you bitches later.”

“Oh yeah,” the other agrees and with that, they both exit. Blaring music grows louder. Gunshots and hoots and hollers echo all around. It’s not just the two of them.

The chains on me are really, really heavy. They feel like the type big rigs use over snow. Those guys are definitely large enough to be truckers. There is a little give in the chains, not a lot, but maybe enough. The chair is wooden. If I shake myself I can hear the wood squeak. It might break if I—

“Oh my God. What are you doing?”

I ignore her. I focus on the chains and the chair. I rock back and forth and side to side to see—

“Stop that, they could come back at any point—”

“Would you shut up?!”

“But they’ll come back and… and…”

“Do you want them to do more?” That threat seems to shut her up. Or not.

“They could make it worse.” She keeps trying to get me to stop, even naïvely saying, “My family is rich. They’ll pay whatever is asked to set us free.”

Set you free. I probably look like your housekeeper.

“We just have to do what they ask and when my parents pay the ransom, we’ll be out of here.”

You’re an idiot if you think that. Of course I don’t say that aloud. She’s afraid and stupid; she has no real-world experience beyond her pampered life.

The music grows louder. Here’s my chance. I jump up and down, up and down. Crack, crack, crack, SNAP! The chair collapses under the weight of the chains and me. I push my chest forward and roll my shoulder blades back. I twinge from the pain. The chains scratch my nipples through the material of my dress and bra. There might be scars later. A small price to pay. I wriggle my hips and waist like I was swinging around a lead hoola-hoop.

The back of the chair falls down and with a loud clank, the chains fall off. Goddamn that hurt. Of course it did, they took my shoes.

I quickly look to the door for a response. The other girl starts freaking out: “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!”

“Shut up!”

She doesn’t hear me, despite the venom. She’s panicking. She might scream. I have to tell her something, anything to shut her up. “I can’t get us out of here if you keep babbling like that.”

I begin to coach myself: Move in closer—slowly, so she doesn’t notice your approach. Look for a rag, a sock, anything to serve as a muffle. My tights? No, ripped as they are, I’ll need the warmth. I look down at the ruffle in my dress. Another sacrifice. I tear a line from the edge of the skirt, wadding it up.

The other girl trembles in fear, pleading with me to set her free, then pleading with me not to do anything. She’s all over the place, afraid of reprisal but demanding to be free. She begs me to help her. No—too much of a liability. And anyway, her chains are bolted and welded to the wall. There’s no way I could break them.

“I can help you, but you have to be quiet.”

“They’re gonna hurt us. Let me out of here!” On and on she goes.

Clinks and crashes come from outside. The music stops. I act quick and gag her, wrapping the length around her mouth as tight as possible. She tries to scream through the gag. “Be quiet,” I whisper. Say something to reassure her. Say it like you mean it. Look around for emphasis. “I’ll get keys and unlock you, but you have to be quiet.”

More trembling through the gag. Hug her, comfort her like a mother. Let her believe she won’t be abandoned.

She eventually calms down.

Slowly I move to the door. It’s not locked. Why would it be? They had us chained.

I take a deep breathe. Out the door I go. The hallway is broken down and dank, pitch black. It’s terrifying. I can’t tell how big it is in the dark. Keep your tears in check, keep your fear in check. Keep your adrenalin down.

Out into an open space, a garage converted into anything but. I move toward a door—the only door. It is miles away. Snoring and groans echo. They are asleep or coming off of a high, or some combination. Be quiet, dead quiet. Be a whisper. Be a ghost.

Their crap is discarded on a table: coats, boots, guns and money. No sign of our belongings—none of our shoes and coats—except our iPhones. Of course those they kept. Who would throw away an iPhone, let alone two?

Reaching the door, it is cold to the touch. Shit! Wiping clean a silver layer on the window. Flutters and spirals of white outside. Snow. Shit! Shit!

Walk back to the table. You need their stuff to get away. It may not fit, but it is better than the alternative.

The snoring is louder. One them has stopped. Duck down!

Are they waking up? Someone tosses and turns, rolling over. I release my sigh.

Slowly, quietly, I move to the table. I take one of their coats, a pair of boots. Pocket both phones. Pocket some of their money, just in case. Take one of their pistols—you might need it.

I check the pockets of my “new” jacket. None of them have keys. Of course. Where would they have them? They are something close to men. A belt clip.

I move closer to the den of couches around the big TV. A fat one sleeps on a corner uncovered. His belt shines. A full ring of keys dangles from his clip. Can’t see the others. He’ll have to do. His gut is so big, his beard so dirty. He’s an ugly fucker.

Remove the clip slowly. Wrap your fingers around the key so it won’t jiggle. He might be a light sleeper.

His snoring has grown louder. Be quick. Snip the clip and pull away. STOP!

I almost fall over. Hurry away without making noise. Out of den. Move to the door. NOW!

Almost slip on the floor. No one has woken up. Thank God. Then I feel something. What is that? Marbles? No, kibble. Dogs. Oh shit!

A muffled hum comes to life. It’s a refrigerator. I open the refrigerator door a crack, blocking the light with my body. Steaks. Jackpot! Only four. Hopefully there won’t be too many dogs. I take the plastic off of steaks so the dogs will be able to smell the blood. Then go back to the door.

One last look back at the dark den. One more look back at the dark corridor. One more look back toward my fellow prisoner. She’s been quiet. She hadn’t managed to remove the gag. She thinks she’s going to be helped.

I take out her phone. Put it on silent/vibrate. Turn it on. Barely a signal. Barely is still a chance. All I can give her. I stuff in a chair. Now leave!

Crunch of the snow. There are the dogs hunched together. They look angry. I throw them the steaks before they bark and awaken the captures.

I take out the keys. They belong to one of the trucks parked at the driveway. Press the FOB. Lights flash. An SUV? It’s unlocked.

Climb in, put the keys in the ignition. WAIT!

That’s an expensive sound system. The owner probably didn’t turn off the radio. No one does. It will be loud enough to wake everyone. I take the faceplate off, throw it into the snow. Then start the engine.

I put the SUV into gear and drive it out into the road. This frozen hell is in the middle of nowhere, but will lead to civilization eventually. Follow the existing impressions. Take it easy. You don’t want to spin out, you don’t want to crash. When you get to the highway, you can put some miles from this place, but not until then. Patience. Patience.

They don’t know I have gone… yet. They won’t know for a while. And when they do… they still have her. They will take it out on her. Maybe she is someone valuable. Maybe there is someone looking for her, but it won’t be in time. This isn’t like the movies. This isn’t even Law & Order.

The highway. Thank God. Now drive, drive back to town. Drive back before the snow plows get to work on the road. Drive back before the commuters file out from their breeder bunkers. Drive back before the sun rises.

Halfway there. Dammit! That piece of shit didn’t fill the tank. Have to gas up to get close to home.

The overnight attendant remarks on the patch on my borrowed coat. I say nothing. Go back to the SUV and fill the tank. Pop! Leave the change and go.

It felt like an eternity, but I get back to town.

Dump the SUV. There’s a Walmart parking lot. Perfect! Call a cab and go into the store. Buy some random crap. Wobble around. Act like you’re coming off of a heavy night of drinking, a high or heavy fucking.

Act tipsy when the cab arrives. Have the cabby drop you off close to the lot, but not at the garage. The corner at the coffee shop will do. The cab drives off. I dump the groceries.

Thank God for hideaways: there’s my spare car and apartment keys. A monster of a parking fee. I head home.

The snow is bad, but only a thin coating bleeds into the paid covered spaces.

Upstairs, behind the door, I collapse on the bed. Some luck and looking over the shoulder to come. A shower and then sleep.

I am alive. No regrets.