She might be able to escape...
| Hours had passed, or maybe minutes, maybe days, she didn’t know. But when the door opened and she heard him step in, she immediately wet herself.
Teresa sat, too scared to move.
He slapped her hard across the face and she screamed. Then he tried again.
She obliged him this time, rising on legs that shook with the effort. She wobbled and swooned; it had been ages since had last stood up. How… long…in chair? He… going…to kill…me…now…? Want to sit…down…
“Time to get going.”
It took a moment for his words to make sense. “Wh…where…?” The word tripped over her parched tongue and cracked lips.
He moved in close; his rank breath touched her cheek and she recoiled. Why…won’t he…take…blindfold…off…off…
“You’re going to be set free.”
Teresa’s head pounded and rattled. She wondered if she heard correctly. She cocked her head towards the sound of his voice, but shrugged her shoulders upward, timid and frightened. “Not…going…to kill…“
“You’re going to be set free.” He spoke with a flat, even tone that belied the torturous, evil nature of the man he really was. Despite his proclamation, Teresa’s whole body trembled with fear and trepidation. Her shaky knees threatened collapse, but his sudden grip on her arm steadied her, if but for a moment.
“You’re going to be set free.”
He’s… kidding...lying…going to die…
“You’re going to be set free.” He whispered it into her ear, and she jumped at his nearness.
It was hard to think, to concentrate. Her wrists throbbed from the tightness of the chains and cuffs, and each intake of breath meet a jarring stab of pain from beatings to her torse and abdomen. And between her legs—
“I’m going to set you free.”
She shook her head, trying to understand. ...free… he…would free…her?
With his grip on her arm and Teresa huffing and moaning, he pushed her to walk. Blindfolded, wrists bounds, legs weak, she half-walked, half-stumbled, bumping against and bouncing between wall that scraped her shoulders, tearing the skin. Her thoughts were jumbled, but she seemed to understand something.
…there’s a vice…on…my arm…set…me free…wall…is cold…not going…to kill me…live…I’ll…live
Despite the ache of her body, the pain in her bones, her heart quickened.
…free…I’m going…to survive…
Their footsteps—his even and clipped, hers heavy and haphazard—echoed in the…hallway? ...corridor?...and the chains that bound her hands her wrists clanged dully, desolate and grim. Clank of chains, clip of steps. The sounds filled the space, dark and ominous, but still her thoughts raced, faster and faster.
…ghosts… clank chains…’cause their dead…but I’ll…escape this…place…leave…free…
Suddenly, he yanked her to a stop. Teresa heard keys jangling and scraping, and then the swish of a door being opened. A foul odor attacked her senses, and she doubled over, gagging. But before she could recover, he shoved her, hard. Teresa flew forward, and when she came down, she landed in something loose and hard and sharp. Pieces and bits of something. Noisy somethings, possibly metallic, pricking her skin, scratching at her flesh.
She tossed and turned, trying to pick herself up, trying to orientate herself, moaning and wailing with each failed attempt. The smell sat on the air, heavy and dank, and she clinched her face and scrunched her nose in disgust.
And then she heard him coming: each step made a large clink, clatter sound against whatever was on the floor and she steeled herself, rounding her shoulders and covering her head with her hands, despite the shackles.
His hands were on her head, yanking and jerking, tugging at her hair, but before she could scream again, he pulled the blindfold off. The light that assaulted her eyes burned and glared, and her eyes watered in shock. She opened and closed her eyes, trying to adjust.
He squatted before her. The light lit him from behind: a menacing, dark silhouette. “You can say bye-bye, if you want, Teresa.” Though she was still getting acclimated to the light and his features were obscure, she sensed his eyes boring into hers. Intuitively, she knew they were empty pools of blackness and she shuddered.
“I’m going to set you free.”
“You can leave at any time, you only need to find the key.”
Teresa furrowed her brows together, confused. “Key? Wha…what key?”
Abruptly he reached for her hands bound by the chains and yanked them up before her. “The key for the lock, Teresa. Unlock the padlock, release the chains, and you are free to go.”
“Find…find the…key? Yes…I can…find the k—“, she started, struggling to get up. But as she propped herself up on one knee, the second, pushing for traction, slipped among the things that were on the floor, and she fell, not only with a thud, but with a clear and heavy crash against the items that covered the floor.
…what is…this…pieces of…metal…
She stopped then, and looked down around her.
There were keys on the floor.
Everywhere around her, keys abounded, thousands of them, perhaps millions, of every shape, size, and color. Some keys had pressed into her flesh, others pricked at her legs and feet, and still others bit like teeth into her skin.
Despite the alarm that began to grip her around the chest and constrict her throat, Teresa didn’t understand.
…free…going to be free…
He stood up and began walking back to the door.
Teresa pulled herself upright to sit on her knees and the she bent forward, to rummage through the many keys. She saw tiny keys for padlocks, car keys with an inflated, protected rubber heads, and house keys. Some of the gleamed a shiny silver, others were rusted, and some were attached to key rings.
"Find the key, Teresa, and you can find your way out.” He turned and stepped through the sea of keys to the door.
"But…you’ll release…me, right? You’ll unlock it, if I find it?”
He turned back to her, and for the first time, she saw him: thin lips that slashed across an old, wrinkled face and eyes that held the hard glint of cruelty and inhumanity.
“No, I won’t. If you find the key, you can release yourself.”
Teresa brought herself up on her knees. “But how…I won’t be able…I can’t…”
“Look to Jenny. She figured it out.”
He nodded to the corner of the room. “Jenny. Over there.”
Teresa twisted with difficulty through the keys to look behind her. In the corner, a woman lay on the floor, surrounded by small mounds of keys. Her dead eyes stared out at nothing, and there was a gaping hole in her cheek where the flesh had started to rot. Her handcuffed wrists had been pulled up almost where her mouth was, and between her teeth, something gleamed in the light that Teresa had to squint to see: a silver key.