1st John - Chapter 3
Time was out of step and Margaret was blanketed in a cycle of darkness. She inhaled and waited for her eyes to adjust. There was no source of light and nothing to adjust to.
The knife Russell left behind was just in front of her. She couldn’t see but stepped toward the chair with the knife in it and stopped short. Her mobility in the harness was limited. She tried stretching forward to reach it. She felt around for the chair. No good. She remembered the belt around her waist. The harness was secured around her. It was tight but she was able to work around it and get the belt off.
She squatted to the floor on all fours and crawled in the direction of the knife, as far as the harness would allow. She whipped the belt outward as a feeler. It clanged against the chair and fell to the floor. There wasn’t much of a sound under the white noise but it was enough to let Margaret know she was on the right track. She pulled the belt back and whipped it outward in front of her again. Again, the same effect.
When the belt landed it smacked the knife toward the edge of the seat, which Margaret could not see.
This time she did not feel the belt fall to the floor. She pulled back and sensed the belt caught between the folds of the chair. Margaret rose to her knees and pulled the chair to her. It did not slide easily against the hard concrete floor. Instead it took a bit of effort, making certain the legs did not catch on the plastic and fall over. While the legs were pulled along the plastic the seat vibrated and the knife fell out of the chair. Margaret thought she heard it fall but continued pulling.
When the chair was in front of her she felt around for the knife. She did not panic. She reached forward along the floor, sweeping with her hands. Margaret found the knife and gripped it firm. She pulled herself up off the floor and considered how to use her new found tool. Uncertain of where to cut she turned round and round, trying to feel for the best place to start. In doing so she saw a small blinking red light. It was obstructed by a shape she could not make out.
She knew that with her limited range she would never be able to reach it, whatever it was, even with the belt. For the moment she focused on getting free.
The cable attached to the harness was a steel metal cord. No use trying to cut it loose, though she tried and gave up. The straps of the harness were thick leather and held firmly in place by the small master locks. She got to work on one of them along her side, connecting the front to the back. The knife was sharp, but she was cutting from a difficult angle.
The strap fell free and Margaret wrestled the harness. It was not enough to pull the thing off, so she went to work on the other side. When that strap was cut loose she found she had just enough slack to wiggle her way out of the top portion of the harness. But her legs were strapped in tight.
Fighting in the harness Margaret fell over. She was not hurt, just frustrated. She kicked her legs with violence and pulled away from it. The straps held onto her legs like the claws of a monster, refusing to let her go.
Forcing herself to calm down Margaret used the knife against the remaining straps and the monster’s hands set her loose. Margaret sighed, relieved. She turned her head. The small blinking red light stared at her.
Knife in hand, Margaret got up and walked over to it with some caution and excitement. She felt around. The black plastic was covering it. She pulled it off and the red light illuminated the garage with a dim sporadic glow.
She held up an electrical drill. The blinking red light was an indicator of low battery. She squeezed the trigger. Not enough juice to get it going, but the light it offered was useful.
Margaret held the drill in front of her, using that small red light like a flashlight. There were numerous tools lying about; boards, etc. Anything could be used as an implement against her captor.
She rotated a hundred and eighty degrees. A single eye of the dead pig glimmered in the red light. She grimaced and kept turning. The workbench caught her attention. She stopped.
Margaret went to the workbench. The chains that held her locked in one position for four hours were piled in a loose heap to one side. She tucked the knife into her back pocket and sat the drill down. She picked up a chain and considered how she would use it to choke Russell. Knowing that she was not strong enough, Margaret dropped the chain and rested her head against the workbench. Her hand ran along a groove. She raised her head and examined the workbench. It was hollow.
She opened the workbench. Inside were a variety of tools, nails, nuts and bolts. And a crowbar. She took it out and looked back at the garage door, and ran to it.
There was very little red light but Margaret could see well enough to avoid the cable connecting the sledgehammer and the timer on the wall. She made sure she wasn’t in the path of the sledgehammer were it to come down.
Margaret thrust the crowbar between the floor and the garage door. It slipped under with ease. She did not have to work long before she realized it was not locked. She pulled the garage door open. It rattled and she stood back, dropping the crowbar.
There was no opening to the outside world. Margaret stared at a concrete wall.
The white noise shut off and the lights flickered on. Margaret watched with fear and anger. Russell walked in, a knowing look on his face that this was anticipated. He informed her, “The garage used to flood in the spring.” He shrugged. “The Ohio rises.” He meant the river his house sat perpendicular to. “Previous owners had it walled up and sealed.”
Margaret pulled the knife out of her back pocket.
Russell looked down at the harness and kicked it. He paid her a compliment, and retracted. “You got out of that quicker than I thought. But let’s be honest. I made it pretty easy for you.”
The tension in Margaret’s fist turned her knuckles white. She clinched the knife tighter.
He said, “I did tell you there was no escape.”
The emotion was overwhelming. Margaret screamed and ran at him, thrusting the knife down to plunge into his chest. Russell did not flinch. He stepped to the side and punched Margaret in the face. The knife flew elsewhere. Margaret fell to the floor, almost unconscious, her face bloodied. She whimpered.
“I don’t want to sound like a sexist, Sister Margaret, but that was just pitiful. You’re a woman. I’m a man.” He picked up the knife and walked it back over to Margaret. He bent down to hover over her and sat the knife within a hand’s reach. He said, “Unless you were trained to handle physical combat—or an athlete—there’s no way you can overcome me. I’m sorry. That’s just the truth.” He stepped back, and asked, “Want to try again? I don’t mind.”
Margaret reached for the knife. She pulled herself up to her knees, took the knife, and held it to her own throat. She said, “Let me go.”
He found the threat intriguing. He said, “Now that’s interesting, Sister.” He closed the lid to the workbench and sat on top. “Let’s see what happens.”
“Let me go!”
“But what about eternity?”
Margaret looked away, holding the knife in place.
“Hmm? You take your own life, you rob me of my intentions. That’s true enough. But you also condemn your soul for all eternity.”
She dropped the knife and fell over. He picked it up and tucked it into his belt. He helped Margaret up from the floor. “Alright, let’s get you up.”
She jerked. “Leave me alone.”
“Don’t touch me.”
Russell forced her up and into a chair. “Gotta ask you something, Sister. A little under an hour ago you had the chance to walk out the door. Why didn’t you? Granted, you have no idea what’s on the other side. But you could’ve tried.”
Margaret shook her head, unable to understand her own actions, let alone his question.
“Let me offer you an explanation,” he said, and took a seat atop the workbench again. “In preparation for our big day I’ve done a whole lot of googling. And there’s this big head doctor who did some work for the CIA on the side and under the table. Well, he came up with something called ‘learned helplessness’ and they were excited to use the technique when they questioned persons of interests suspected of terrorism.”
Margaret squirmed. She would have given real money if he’d shut up. “I’m getting real tired of hearing your voice.”
He insisted. “Stay with me, Sister. This is interesting stuff. Because I had no idea you would take to it so quickly. See, all I had to do was convince you that what waited for you on the other side of the door was much worse than staying put. I didn’t have to do much. I just suggested it was worse, and because you don’t know one way or the other, you chose the path clear to you.”
His condescending voice dug under her skin. She told him to shut up but he went on. “Hear me out. You are so afraid of the unknown that, for you, the only thing you could do was choose the lesser of two evils. And that’s just human nature. No matter how desperate you are, you still cling to a little hope that either God will save you, or you can somehow make an escape. That’s just remarkable.”
Margaret tried to get up from the chair but Russell pushed her back into it. She said, “You’re just full of insight, aren’t you?”
He countered. “There’s an alternative, you know? A different reason you chose to stay here.”
“And what’s that?”
“You’re looking forward to the end.”
Margaret jumped up and struggled with Russell. As angry as she was she was not strong enough to fight and overcome him. He slapped her and she fell back into the chair.
“Stop wasting time and energy,” he said. “There’s nothing here going to help you get out. And I’ll prove it to you.”
Margaret’s lip was cracked from where he struck her, and her face swelling.
Russell stood up from the workbench and walked away from her, toward the exit. He said, “I’m giving you an hour with the lights on. You’ll be able to rummage through everything, then you’ll see for yourself.”
“Why would you do that?”
He opened the door, saying, “I told you, Sister Margaret. There’s only one way out.”
The door closed behind him. It did not lock.
Margaret wept, maybe from exhaustion. When she recovered she went to work in a hurry all about the garage. There was not much space, but there was a lot to uncover. She pulled up the black plastic from the floor and let it scatter.
The sight of that dead pig disgusted Margaret. She decided to pile up the discarded plastic on top of its corpse in the tub. It was not out of mind but it was out of sight.
There was nothing she had uncovered to be excited about. There were numerous hand tools, a shovel she could use to knock him over the head with. A few of the power tools were operated by battery, others by electricity.
Margaret held up the rotary saw. She looked in the direction of the door, then sat it down and worked on pulling the plastic from off the walls. Shelves were revealed, and the door.
She looked above her. The plastic up there was going to have to come down. She climbed the ladder and yanked it down. With it pulled away from the floor, the walls, the ceiling, Margaret let the noise settle around. Her eyes focused on that door. She looked long and hard at it. With every breath her thoughts weighed heavy on her face.
She picked up the rotary saw in one hand and wrapped a portion of the extension cord around the other hand. She walked with it to the door.
Too short. It would not reach.
Frustrated, she threw the saw against a wall. It crashed there and fell to the floor. Margaret slumped to the floor herself, like the saw. She looked down at nothing, then back up. Her eyes widened. Leaning in a corner was a rifle.
Margaret got up and went to the rifle. She picked it up and looked it over. She had never been a gun person, though it was not hard to figure out. She pointed it at the door, looked down the barrel, and squeezed the trigger. She was not surprised that nothing happened. She opened the chamber to find it empty. Again, no surprise.
Margaret pulled the rifle in close to hold it like a precious child. She hunted through the garage in search of ammo. None to be found.
She was in darkness and static again.
Margaret collapsed under the weight of her situation. She let the rifle drop next to her, within reach. She lay on the floor in the fetal position, one hand clasped around the barrel. In the darkness the white noise was anything she imagined. Now it was the ocean, rising and fading. It faded further and further away.