I barely noticed when the car turned. But the sudden crunch of wheels on gravel got my attention and told me we'd left the asphalt. I guessed we'd be stopping any time now, and just the thought of that made my heart start jack hammering again.
Too soon we rolled to a halt. The driver killed the engine. I guessed we'd been traveling a good hour. I heard the doors open and felt the car shift as my kidnappers got out. Tensing, I waited for the trunk to be opened again. I wasn't disappointed.
The fresh air felt good, but damp. Someone grabbed me by the arms, pulling until I sat up, then lifted me from the trunk and set me on my feet.
"Who are you?" I demanded. "What do you want with me?"
No one said anything, which was even scarier than their answers might've been. Abruptly shoved from behind, I almost tripped over my own feet. The creeps should've served as guides to wherever we walked since I couldn't see a thing. But no. They just kept shoving whenever I stopped moving, which left me groping the air in front of me. Though no one actually laughed, I felt sure they got a sadistic kick out of my efforts not to slam into anything.
I thought about trying out some of the self-defense moves I'd learned, but gave that up for the moment, since I couldn't see squat.
I felt a subtle change in the ground beneath my feet. Gravel no longer crunched beneath my shoes. Instead, the terrain felt smoother, like dirt. My toe bumped into something, almost tripping me. I felt around with my foot and realized I'd run into a step. I climbed it. Instantly the scent of hay and manure assaulted my stuffy nose, and I sensed a slight rise in temperature. I heard the soft whinny of a horse and another rumble of thunder.
A barn maybe? I walked slowly, feeling along with my toe.
Suddenly someone grabbed my shoulder, nailing me to the spot. I heard some swishes, the creak of a rusty hinge. Hands engulfed mine and set them on something wooden. A ladder I realized as I automatically explored what I now touched.
"You're going down now."
Down? Down where? I pulled my hands sharply back.
"Just push the bitch in."
In what? I suddenly remembered horrible stories about kidnap victims who'd been buried alive.
Once again my hands were placed on the ladder. By feeling all around, I determined that it stuck out of some kind of opening in the ground. I managed to get my feet on the rungs and began to slowly descend into an unseen hell. When my feet touched solid ground again, I released the ladder. I heard the scrape of wood on wood as someone pulled it out of reach. Hay and dirt rained on my shoulders as the trap door banged shut above me. I heard the sound of footsteps, leaving. I stood absolutely motionless for long moments just listening, but heard nothing else.
"Hello?" I called, my voice sounding a little nasally and a lot scared.
Eerie silence was my only reply.
Time to get the blindfold off. I tested the fabric, which felt like denim or canvas too thick to tear. So I found the knot again and fumbled at it, breaking a nail but finally loosening the cord enough to work it loose. With a cry of relief, I pulled it over my head and threw it on the floor.
I turned slowly, assessing my surroundings with the aid of a single light bulb, screwed into a socket on the wooden ceiling. Mounted next to it was a surveillance camera, which slowly rotated three-hundred-sixty degrees to cover the entire room.
What is this place? My frantic gaze jumped from the hay-covered floor to the rough wooden walls to the trap door, way out of reach. I also saw a bucket. My bathroom, I guessed.
I walked along the edge of the room, testing the rough-hewn wood walls by pounding them with my fists. They felt solid, unmovable. Careful to stay behind the camera, I slipped my phone from my shoe and checked out the signal. No bars. Not even a half of one. Damn. I left it on and stuck it back in my shoe. That's when I saw it. A pair of glasses, one lens cracked.
So I wasn't the only human who'd been locked in that hole. Impulsively, I kicked at the straw beneath my feet and found other things: a child's barrette, a single earring.
Goosebumps raced up my arms.
What Is. This. Place?
Knees suddenly wobbly, I sank to the ground and leaned against the wall. My head felt light; my stomach churned.
I might die here.
But not before I puked.