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  • Writer's pictureSam Palmer

Bad To Worse

Her head was pounding as she paced her small room. Prison. Not my room. She reminded herself. She had been held captive in this basement for months now and she knew that her captor, the brawny but soft-minded Cal, was slowly trying to give her a healthy dose of Stockholm syndrome. She wasn’t going to have that.

No matter how much she hated the man, however, she still had to eat and drink and it had been nearly three days since he’d come down to give her supplies. It wasn’t like him. In the six months since she’d been kidnapped, he’d come down every day at least once. Usually with a plate of food he’d just prepared and a jug of water, maybe some magazines and always a piss poor attempt at conversation. She suspected he had a copy of “How to Get Your Victim To Identify With You— For Dummies” on his nightstand, the pages dog-eared and binding cracked. His attempts at forming a bond with her were obvious and clumsy. As the months had gone on she went from ‘terrified and desperate girl in the basement’ to ‘annoyed and desperate bitch in the basement’. Once she’d realized his focus was more on convincing her to like him and not to rape or kill her, her pleas of release and tears evolved into insults and threats.

“Cal!” She yelled up at the ceiling of her windowless prison. “Hello!”

She leaned back against the cold cement wall, lowering herself to the ground as she felt a wave of dizziness come over her with the exertion of yelling. She was getting weaker and she knew she wouldn’t survive much longer if he didn’t come down.

“Where the fuck are you?” She whispered.

Perhaps, the police had come. Taken him away in handcuffs. No, no. If the police had come they would have certainly discovered her down here. She envisioned them breaking the door down and her rushing out, thin and dirty with tears of joy streaming down her face. Eventually sitting at the police station with a blanket around her shoulders and a cup of hot coffee between her hands as the detectives asked her how she’d wound up in the basement.

“Well,” she’d say, looking down at her cup of coffee. “I’d met him on Tinder and he’d seemed like a nice enough guy.”

She could already see the judgement blaring from their eyes as they looked at her, declaring her a desperate naive slut. She shook the image out of her mind, scolding herself for being an idiot. Of course they wouldn’t think that, and most importantly– so what if they did. You’d be a free desperate naive slut, wouldn’t you?

For the first time in days she heard movement upstairs. Great booming footsteps and a crash like something falling on the floor above her.

“Help! Help! I’m down here! Please somebody help!” Her voice was hoarse as she gathered the energy for the volume. Standing she walked to the locked door, banging both hands loudly against its sturdy wooden face. “I’M DOWN HERE! HELP!”

She heard hurried footsteps down the stairs and felt the tears already forming in the corners of her eyes, a smile spreading across her dry and cracked lips as her rescuer neared the door to the room she was held captive in. The jangle of keys made her heart drop, and the sound of a key being pushed into the lock, the mechanism turning inside told her she already knew who was behind the door.

The door flew open, Cal came rushing in with two backpacks and a rifle in his hands. He looked filthy, clothes disheveled and dried blood coming from somewhere beyond his hairline. He tossed one of the backpacks at her feet and looked up at her, a terrified and serious expression on his face.

“We need to go. Now.”

She eyed the door behind him, still wide open, then looked back at him. “What’s going on?”

“They’re everywhere. We need to go. Now. Take the backpack. And here,” He turned, pulling a small handgun from somewhere behind him and held it out for her. “You’re gonna need this.”

She didn’t hesitate, lurching forward and grabbing the gun. Her hands shook as she held it tightly in her grip, pointing it at him. He didn’t flinch as he stared past the barrel of the gun and into her eyes.

“Listen to me, Erin. I know why you want to shoot me, and maybe you should. But right now, I’m your best shot at survival. I came all the way back here for you and that may not mean much to you, I get it. But outside of this house the world is under attack and if we don’t leave right now, we’re going to die. Do you hear what I’m saying to you? We. You. You will die.”

She could see he was scared, and even though she had played out this very scenario in her mind a thousand times during her captivity, something didn’t feel right.

“What are you talking about? What’s going on up there?” She tried to keep her voice and the gun steady as her eyes bored into him.

“Erin, it’s all gone. The city, the people. Burned to the ground and dead. Or worse.”

“What could be worse than dying?” The question landed like a lead weight on the cement floor between them. She already knew what could be worse than dying, she’d been living it for several months now. “This better not be a trick, Cal. I swear to God, I’ll–“

“Do I look like it’s a joke, Erin?” He raised his voice at her for the first time in six months, and she felt the involuntary flinch. The blood came rushing to her face with the anger at herself for the show of weakness.

“You son of a bitch!” She cried, the tears flowing and blurring her vision as she jutted the gun forward at him.

She blinked away the tears and took a few steadying breaths as his face came back into focus. His eyes softened, and still holding the barrel of his rifle in one hand, he lifted both hands up in the air.

“Erin, look, I’m sorry for yelling. I’m sorry for everything. I really am. But right now,” he lowered his voice to his normal calm tone. “Right now, we really need to go. If you’re going to kill me, I suggest you do it sooner than later and take the pack and the guns and get away from here. As far away as you can.”

“What-what’s going on?” She felt her chin trembling as the fear gripped her spine.

“They came a few days ago. They hit everywhere. Everything–“

“Who goddammit!” She cried.

He sighed, lowering his hands, and she watched as tears filled his eyes. “Aliens, Erin. They’re here. And they’re killing or enslaving us all.”

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