Where the hell was she? Shivers of silent panic swept through my body. My heart thumped. Harder. Faster. Adrenaline surged through my veins, senses on high alert. I’d been searching for more than three hours without success.
We were on our way to the drive-in to watch “American Graffiti” when my truck crapped out. Pissed, she got out of the cab. She’d vanished before I’d even gotten around to the passenger side. “What the…” I tried calling her on my cell phone. Nothing. No goddamned signal. I waved the phone above my head like a madman swatting a swarm of angry bees as I tried to get a signal. Nothing. Nada. No bars.
My voice cracked with apprehension. This was a first date she wouldn’t forget in a hurry. Rapid-fire thoughts bombarded my brain like bullets from a machine gun.
Where was she? Will I find her? What if I don’t? What if she’s…?
I took a left off the main road and followed a dirt-track. This had to be where she went. The fire behind my eyes burned hotter and hotter as I speculated on finding her. Pain surged through my chest like a caffeine overdose. Sweat drenched my body, sticking my T-shirt to my back like a second skin.
An abandoned farm loomed ahead. She had to be there. I had to find her. The corroded remains of an old John Deere tractor sat on deflated, cracked tires next to a pile of rotting logs. Disoriented and jittery, I searched every square inch of the overgrown mess to no avail. A dilapidated, crumbling barn lay beyond the decaying farmyard detritus. Decades of blistering summers and harsh New England winters had exacted their toll. The protective coats of paint had flaked away leaving the exposed timber cracked and splintered. Corrugated-steel sheets on the roof carried large rusty holes, leaving the contents within open to the elements.
I pushed one of the broken doors open, the corroded hinges shrieked in protest. As my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I spotted the rusted-out hulks of several old cars and pickup trucks.
“Kayla!” Silence. She wasn’t there.
Next was the farmhouse, the structure was in as poor a shape as the barn, somber and weather-beaten. I gave the door a hefty kick and it shattered into a thousand splinters. I raced from room-to-room, my frantic calls echoing around me.
I searched everywhere I could think of. Nothing. This was ridiculous. She couldn’t have gotten this far in such a short space of time. I almost tumbled head first into a pond hidden by knee-high weeds and grass when I came out of the house. Stagnant algae coated the water like a green carpet. My nose tingled and eyes streamed from the reek. Shit, that was too close.
My heart damn-near exploded as I sprinted into an adjoining field. I hadn’t run this much since high school. A cloud of soft powdery dust trailed behind me as I traversed the ridges and furrows. Where the hell was she? Sweat stung my eyes as they darted left and right, scanning the landscape, searching for a clue to where she may be. Tall oak trees swayed in the wind on the outer edges of the once-active pasture. Their branches overhung a rickety wooden fence that supported a five-bar gate. A rust-covered water trough sat in the middle of the field. Panting and gasping for oxygen, I glanced inside. Fear and trepidation ran berserk in my head. Please be there…Please be there…Please be there…Nothing. Only stale, dirty water.
A surge of unease consumed my body to the point I tripped face first with exhaustion. The ground rushed to meet me in a blur. Impact and pain, lots of pain soon followed. My head slammed into the uneven land and the air rushed from my lungs. I struggled to my feet. I didn’t have to look to know blood was seeping from my torn skin. Something was odd. I was aware of the scent of fresh soil and the field was darker in appearance where I stood.
Someone had been there, and not long ago. Dropping to my knees, I clawed at the ground with my bare hands and scooped handfuls of earth until my fingers bled. Hope faded, until my fingernails scraped on something hard…something wooden. My muscles tied themselves into knots as the ghastly truth dawned on me…I was uncovering a makeshift coffin. With renewed hope and energy, my bloodied hands dug faster and faster. I leaned into the grave and pressed the side of my face to the cold, damp wood. Listening. Please be there…please be there.
The all-encompassing sound of silence surrounded me. Please be there…I tried to calm my rapid breaths in anticipation of a reply. Nothing. No wait…that was a voice. Muffled at first, it soon increased in volume. Kayla’s cries of desperation filled my ears through the wood. She must’ve comprehended she was being rescued and released a shrill scream.
“Kayla, it’s okay. I’m going to get you out.”
I plunged my hands into the dirt and resumed digging. It was hopeless. This would take forever and time wasn’t on my side. There were some tools in the barn. Gotta get them. I sprinted back, ripped the barn door open and found a shovel. For all I knew it could have been the same one used to bury her. I grabbed the shovel and a pick before returning to the field like my ass was on fire and started to dig.
Dirt flew as shovelful after shovelful piled up. More of the wooden box came into view. The first chance I got, I jammed the edge of the shovel under the lid and levered it open. Kayla stared back at me from the clammy darkness, her face a rictus of horror and misery as she gasped ragged, harsh mouthfuls of cool, fresh air into her lungs. Found her, thank God. Tears covered her face as I lifted her out of the makeshift casket and untied her hands and feet. She sobbed and shook in my arms – anguish and shock weakening her trembling body. What must it have been like to lay helpless in the all-consuming darkness listening to dirt being shoveled on top of her? I held Kayla until her heartbeat slowed. Color returned to her face. I smiled with relief.
“It’s okay. It’s all over.”
She returned my smile but her eyes told a different story. Her nose twitched as if she detected a familiar smell. She spoke but her words faded when a hand appeared from behind and clutched a rag to her face. The chloroform’s sweet, chemical fumes engulfed her nostrils and mouth. She kicked and thrashed at anything she could see as she tried to free herself, but within a few minutes, she’d fainted at my feet.
“Sometimes you can be a real dick. Let her recover next time.” I said.
My brother laughed like the idiot he was as he helped me lift Kayla’s unconscious body over my shoulder.
“Took you long enough to find her didn’t it, little bro?”
“Yeah. You almost had me. Now it’s my turn…”
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