Finally I could stop running. I was here. They would never find me now. I just couldn’t believe how far I’d come tonight, miles probably. My lungs were burning and my legs felt like jelly. I collapsed to my knees with exhaustion; letting my bare arms rest on the cold, dusty floor slabs, and laying my head on the pillow they created. Slowly my breathing returned to normal, and I stayed in that position for what could’ve been hours. It felt like hours.
When my legs started to go numb I realised that I’d better get up. As I slowly rose the thought occurred to me that I hadn’t eaten in about a day. Or maybe two. Crap. Could there be something lying around here? Worth a look anyway. I allowed myself to use the wall for support as I unsteadily made my way further into the depths of the old building.
It dawned me, as my fingers brushed along the rough bricks, that I had been here before. A long long time ago. When I was kid in fact. Me and my brother had ran away once after a particularly nasty encounter with our whisky-fuelled father – who’d tried throwing me against a wall like a rag-doll. Sam had somehow dragged him off me and we’d gone off together into the night. After running for two hours we’d spent the night here – in this very building – just the two of us and some rare freedom. When we’d cooled off the following day, and returned home, dad had barely even noticed we’d been gone. It’s one of the only peaceful memories of my short time with Sam; he died when he was 17.
After he died I had left my father, and gone to live in the nearest big city with some of Sam’s friends. My life wasn’t any better but at least I was away from dad. Plus clients didn’t tend to beat on me, not as often he did anyway. Sam’s mates took care of the rest. Gave me enough stuff to get by. The fact I was only 15 didn’t seem to bother them.
I didn’t think about Sam much these days. It hurt too much. Something from that tightly locked vault of memories must’ve steered me here tonight, unbeknownst to my consciousness.
I had been exploring for a while now but my eyes weren’t adjusting to the dark very well; I was struggling to see anything at all, let alone find any food. Maybe this was pointless, I should save my energy and get some sleep. In the morning I could go back to the town, find Lenny; get him to help me. Tonight though it was too late, too dark, to carry on. In a manner that reflected my feelings, drained and defeated, I threw myself into the corner of a room and curled my tired body into a tight ball.
As I lay there thoughts of tonight’s events ran through my mind. How had I ended up in that hell-hole in the first place? God only knew. I told Lenny to give me the shit outside. I didn’t wanna go in. Didn’t like that place. Then I’d walked in on them by accident. Those guys. Strangers. Evil strangers. Something in their eyes had told me instantly I had made a mistake going in there. Before I had even seen what was going on I knew they were evil. Turns out they were dealing and selling foreign girls in the back-room – the girls had been roughly strung from the ceiling like pieces of meat. They were hanging there, nearly, but not quite enough, dead. I knew that Sam’s old friends didn’t hang out with first-class guys like, but I thought it was just an underground drug ring. Not all-out sex trafficking.
I would’ve been long gone if I’d figured that out sooner… tho’ that’s probably why they kept that side well out of my sight. I would never forget the utter horror in that one girls face, she must’ve been no more than 12 or 13 years old; she had looked right into my soul. That’s all it had been – a look – but I knew she was pleading with me to help her.
I had tried. Honestly I had tried, but my attempts had only resulted in failure. Not only had I failed but they’d killed her in the process, and it was all my fault. I’d heard her screams be cut off by a sickening crack as I’d managed to escape their grasp, and run away. Now I was here. Alone. Always alone. Oh Sam… why? Why did you leave me here, to get in this tragic mess?
Strangely enough though, the longer I was here, laid in my ball on the freezing floor, the more I felt at peace in the emptiness. Almost like the empty space, and the old building, had seen enough in its time to recognise my fear, and to soothe it. To wash over the chaos in my mind with its icy coldness, and numb the layers of pain, every layer of memory back to my childhood, till all that I felt was a strange peace. A cold, empty, peace.
As the sun started to dawn on the horizon, hours later, I remained still; my body frozen to the spot. I was hyper aware of every muscle in my body, but in an oddly detached way. I felt the crack in the floor slab making a red line in my thigh. I felt my right breast being squashed against the solid, hard floor. Under my fingers I could feel the ancient dust, undisturbed by my presence.
Then I realised I could see him. He was standing at a distance from me, his body a silhouette against the bright morning sun. Now I knew why I was here. I’d come to join him. Finally.