I wake with a soft grunt. A cold draft from the dark and frosted window chills my face. Weakness flows up and down my body, but I manage to lift my hand to my waist. I find it tightly wrapped with a firm bandage.

Michael’s voice reaches my ears and, with greater effort than I thought it would take me, I struggle my head to the side. He passes some money to an unfamiliar man in the doorway.

Horror bleeds through me and I strain to get up, my muscles tingling with the movement.

By the time he shuts the door I’ve managed to prop on my elbows. “Lie down,” he says calmly.

I don’t listen even when he sits on the edge of the bed. Silent, he puts his big hand on my shoulder and pushes me back no matter how strongly I tense to get up. “He was a doctor.”

I part my lips, noticing itching dryness sear the insides of my throat. “And he didn’t say anything?”

“We made a deal.”

He counts the rest of his money as I watch him, swallowing my spit to lessen the thirst. “You helped me so you can get me to the Mexican border and kill me there?”

He glances at me but keeps silent. I shift, trying to roll off the other side of the bed.

“Stop it,” he says. “Or I’ll tie you to the bed.”

“Go ahead.” I tense and turn before he grabs me. I flop to the ground with my whole body. A yelp escapes me as the pain shoots through my side, followed by black spots, dotting my vision. My muscles can’t seem to strain enough to get me up to my feet. I wish I stayed in bed.

I look over my shoulder at Michael. He gets up and, after a disinterested glance at me, walks to the kitchen. When he opens the fridge I realize I’m starving.

He grabs a TV dinner and pops it into the microwave, then pulls a plastic bottle of water, unscrews the cap.

I gape. My bone-dry mouth doesn’t even water anymore. “Can I have some?” With effort I manage to lift myself to my fours, gritting my teeth from the pain in my side.

Michael fills a plastic glass and sets it on the ground in front of me. I extend my trembling hand towards it, fingers grasping for the heavenly liquid. Sure enough I spill it. “Fuck.”

Devastated, I slump back on the ground, laying my head on the ground and into the spilled water. Somehow there’s enough liquid in my body for two tears to run down my cheek. “Why is life so cruel? Why do I have to be tortured when all I want is to die?”

His reply is instant. And, to my surprise, double. “I’m not a torturer. I’m not torturing you.”

“Yea, sure. And I’m not being kidnapped by a murderer.”

His large boots near me. He squats, then shoves his arm under me and turns me on my back. I’m so tired I don’t care what he does to me anymore.

He lays me on the bed, then brings another glass and helps me sit. “Drink.” He raises it to my face, holding his free arm around my back.

I glance at him warily. What’s the point? I’m going to die either way. Yet my shaking fingers grasp the glass like a treasure, digging into his gloved hand. I set my lips to the rim of the plastic surface and let the cold liquid run down my throat. “Can—” I take a deep breath “—can I have another.”

He brings me another.

I let out a happy grunt when I finish it. “Another?” I utter.

He brings me the whole bottle. Though he still supports my back with his arm I manage to hold the drink on my own. As I greedily drink I notice him look away, just turn his head the other direction and study the rotten interior of this room. What is it with him? He can’t kill me for some reason, but he still wants me to die. Murderers— you never get how fucked up they are and what’s in their scrambled heads.

With a few heaves for breath I force the water down my stomach, until he takes the bottle away. “Hey!” I reach for it.

“Take it easy so you don’t barf it out five minutes later,” he says.

Good point. I already feel like there’s a water balloon inside my stomach. “Damn, that was good.”

“Hungry?” He asks.

“I am, but I don’t see the point of depriving you of food when I’m going to die.”

For once his face looks lost, a quick emotion overtaking his usual blankness. “Bathroom?”

“Nah. Not yet.”

He places the bottle to the ground and turns his body to me, then lowers his hands on my upper arms, leaning me back onto the bed. Before I know it he grips my wrists and lifts them above my head. “What-what are you doing?”

I don’t need to repeat myself when I see him pull a roll of thin rope from his pocket. He ties my wrists together, careful over the thick bandages, before he secures them to the bed frame. He glances at me periodically, as if looking for any signs of a fight.

“What?” I grunt.

He sits on the bed and covers my legs with a blanket. I notice I’m not wearing my shoes. “No struggles?”

When tears start rolling down my cheeks I turn my head away. “Fuck you. I’m going to die, aren’t I? What’s the point? It’s like you’re expecting me to be a feisty kid who’s gonna give you a hard time. I accept my fate, okay? Now stop looking at me like I’m some miracle.” I feel him move from the bed. “Why can’t you kill me? You’re acting like the worst assassin ever,” I murmur with a glance back at him.

Sitting on the ground against the bed, he leans his head back, eyes closed. “I’m a thug in a gang. Always been.”

“Got it. Good night.”

Silence. “What?”

I assume my ‘good night’ confused him. “Good night, you son of a bitch! That’s what people say to each other.” Inside I proudly chuckle. For some reason I feel like I’m actually living every second of whatever life I have left living. Probably adrenaline making things feel more real. “Good night, Mikey,” I tease him sarcastically once again as I turn on my side and shuffle up on the pillow so my tied hands are more or less in a comfortable position.

“Go to sleep, freckles.”

I chuckle. “Oh, look who has a sense of humor.”

He doesn’t reply and I drift off into sleep, wondering how on earth did a serial killer just call me freckles.   


About the author


Bio: I write contemporary, sci-fi, crime, drama, romance, war stories. I love translating emotion through action, adding depth and complexity to my characters, and weaving meaning into my stories. Hopefully, all of that will result in one adventurous ride for my readers.

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