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After the Dark-Chapter 1

Chapter One

 

“Don’t forget we’re meeting Ted and Wendy at seven o’clock tonight, darling.”

 

“Yeah, I remember, Kath. I should be back by five, at the latest, so I’ll have plenty of time to get ready.” Meredith took her eyes off the country road in front of her, flicking her gaze over the GPS sitting on her dashboard. Shaking her head, she muttered, “This is ridiculous.”

 

“Sorry, honey, I didn’t get that,” her long-term partner Kathleen said from the speakerphone.

 

Stop with all the bloody cutesy names! Meredith hated the pet names. She marvelled at how many Kathleen knew, hardly ever the same one twice. She wasn’t sure if she hated them in general or if it was just Kathleen’s use of them that irritated her. She pulled her gaze back to the winding road.

 

“I was talking to the GPS. I’m sure the guy at the car dealership messed with the programming just to mess with me.” She remembered the look in his eyes, the smarmy way he leered at her. She had been brusque with him, hoping he’d take the hint that she wasn’t interested. He did, and she was positive he did this to her GPS because it was the fifth time in two weeks, she had gotten lost following its directions.

 

“Sweetheart, are you sure you’ll be back in time?”

 

Meredith was on her way to meet a client in the Yorkshire Dales, and as she was driving up from Bristol, she had been on the road since six that morning. The meeting would be relatively quick, so she had plenty of time to get back home. She had originally tried putting Kathleen off from meeting her friends, knowing she would be tired after driving most of the day, but Kathleen wouldn’t hear of it. Ted and Wendy were not the kinds of people you put off, apparently.

 

Meredith rolled her eyes at Kathleen’s whining tone. “Yes, I’ll be back in time, I promise.” No sooner as she uttered those words when an ominous, loud, grumbling sound came from the front left tire. She quickly said her goodbyes and slowed to a stop in the middle of the narrow country lane.

 

She pulled on the handbrake, switched off the engine, and got out of her newly leased BMW Seven Series car. The wind blew softly around her, and she reached up to push the fire-cracker-red curls back from her face. She bent low and examined the now flat tire, cursing under her breath that she had never allowed her father to teach her how to change one. Just as she stood up with the intent of calling her breakdown service, she caught the flash of something big and heavy swinging toward her face, catching her on her right temple. Pain exploded in her head, her gaze swam out of focus. Landing on her back, she caught sight of a dark figure leaning into view. She had the tiniest glimpse of soulless eyes staring into hers. Glove-covered hands reached for her, and before Meredith had the chance to scream, her world went black.

 

 

Meredith awoke in pure darkness. She lay on a thin, ratty, and smelly mattress. As far as she could tell she was alone. Her eyes adjusted to the inky black surroundings but still couldn’t make out any form or function to the room. It was small, she thought she could see a door to her left. As she tried to stand, her arm snapped back behind her, her wrist tied to something by a chain, keeping her in place.

 

She sank back into the filthy mattress, trying to piece together what had happened, how long she had been here. Meredith had no idea about anything. The handful of times she had awakened it had been to the sounds of the Man shouting at her as he humiliated her and abused her. Her body was bruised and damaged, she had no clue as to how many times he had beaten her, raped her, or tortured her.

 

Meredith ran her swollen hand through her thick, matted hair, realising she hadn’t had a bath in God knows how long. She smelt horrid. If Kathleen could see me now, she mused. She wondered if Kathleen was all right, if she was worried about her, looking for her. Surely someone had found her car by now. Not if the man took it with him! There was a good chance no one had any idea where to even look for her. Kathleen only knew the general area Meredith had travelled to, not the exact location of the meeting. She hadn’t been overly interested where Meredith was going, only that she be back in time to meet her friends. Meredith had the sardonic thought that maybe being here wasn’t all that bad if it meant missing out on meeting with Ted and Wendy.

 

Meredith continued to think about her circumstances, trying to find a bit of hope in an otherwise impossible situation. She had just about given up on planning her escape when the door to her left flew open. The Man walked over to her and kicked her hard in the leg. Pain exploded in her thigh. Her whole body ached, not one part of her felt normal. It wouldn’t have mattered where he kicked her, she still would have felt the pain all through herself.

 

“You dead yet? You’ve lasted longer than the others.” He pulled her up by her hair and twisted her around to unlock the cuff on her wrist. “Don’t be stupid, bitch,” he warned.

 

“How long have I been here?” He didn’t reply. “Look, I'm sure I can get you money, I’m a wealthy woman. I know people.” She tried all she could to talk to him as he pulled her down a darkened hallway, her feet dragging along the stone floor, skin peeling off as she tried to push back away from him.

 

He opened a door at the end after a thirty-second walk from her previous location. She counted at least ten other doors on either side of the corridor and she prayed they didn’t conceal any other victims. He did say I outlasted the others, perhaps there were dead women in them. Horrified at the thought, she began to struggle against his grip. He backhanded her across the cheek and roughly threw her down onto the hard concrete floor, the rough stone cutting into her back. The air was decidedly chillier in here and it raised gooseflesh on her overheated skin.

 

“Time for some more fun.” He punched her in the face and she was momentarily stunned, blinking her eyes, trying to clear the pinpoints of light dancing in her gaze. This gave him enough time to tie her down in the shackles spread out on the floor. Lying there, spread eagle, Meredith felt her emotions shutting down. This room was new. She couldn’t remember being in here before, unless she had been unconscious, and she feared what would happen to her now. Closing herself off on the inside was the only way she could get through whatever was about to happen. If she thought too much about it, it would drive her insane. Putting her mind to a place of happier times she thought of her childhood, her old bedroom, and her parents. She thought of anything she could to remove herself away from the brutality he was about to inflict on her and the tightness of the shackles around her extremities.

 

He injected something into her arm and slowly her tense muscles began to relax. She couldn’t move, her eyes refused to remain open. Her last recollection was of her dirty blouse being ripped from her skin.

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