“Since I have been here, they have checked on me once in the morning, and once at night. They take me down to the bathroom and give me some water or bread then send me back up.”
“So they will be coming back. Staying here isn’t an option,” I say then hear a vehicle start up, and Ellie stands, peeking over the pitch in the roof.
“He’s leaving,” she hisses, sitting back down next to me. “What if we go down over the cages and open them as we leave?” she asks.
I hate the idea they would hurt the dogs if we let them out, but I know we need to do something. If we stay put, we are sitting ducks, and that is not an option.
“Let’s head over to that side of the roof. We’ll find a safe way to get down then make a run for it.”
She agrees silently and we make our way across the roof again as the sun sets in the sky. Once we reach the side of the house with the cages, I know we can get down, but I also know the minute we make our presence known to the dogs below, they are going to start barking, drawing attention to us.
“We’re going to have to be fast…really, really fast,” I whisper.
“If we make it out of this, I’m joining the gym.”
“I’ll go with you,” I whisper back, making her smile, and even with the events of the day and how exhausted she looks, I realize how beautiful she is. Her smile is blinding, and I hope when we’re out of here and she gets her daughter back that she smiles more.
“Let’s get the hell out of here, and then go get your baby,” I say, and a light fills her eyes right before she hugs me.
“Let’s go,” she murmurs, releasing me from her grasp. I take a few deep inhales and then lower myself to the shortest part of the roof. A fresh wave of adrenalin starts coursing through me as I watch Ellie get down next to me. It’s about six feet to the top of the cages, which have pieces of plywood set on top of them. I hop down, and the dogs immediately begin to bark louder and snarl in the cages.
“Hurry,” I tell Ellie, looking up at her. She hops down, and I hear someone off in the distance yell, “Shut the fuck up!” and my body freezes. Then I slide over the back of the cage, hitting the ground hard, and Ellie comes down next to me, her feet hitting the ground then landing on her ass.
“We can’t let them out. They’ll attack us,” I tell her as she looks at the dogs. “Let’s run back that way.” I point towards the forest behind the house. “I don’t know where the road is, but maybe we will see another house.” We slowly make our way back into the woods, and the deeper we go, the darker it gets.
“What was that?” I pause, asking Ellie as I hear what sounds like a four-wheeler.
“I don’t know.” She holds my hand a little tighter, and we begin to run as the sound gets closer.
“You can’t hide, you dumb bitches. This is five hundred acres of private property. No one is around for miles,” I hear yelled from off in the distance.
“Oh, God,” Ellie whimpers, and I stop and grab her shoulders.
“Listen to me. We got this far; we are going to get out of here,” I tell her. Even as scared as I am, there is no way I’m giving up. Not now, not when we have come so far.
“I’m not giving up, but I’m scared,” she says.
“Me too, but we need to keep moving. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to make it out of this alive,” I say then begin pulling her with me again. We run forever without coming across any sign of life, and my body is beginning to shut down from exhaustion. I know Ellie is in the same shape, because we both start to stumble more. Then I see lights shine through the trees, as the sound of the four-wheeler gets closer than it has been.
“I have a plan,” I whisper when I see the lights coming closer. “But you’re going to have to be brave.”
“I’m going to stand out in the open for him to see me, and you’re going to hide behind a tree. When he gets close, I want you to hit him in the head with the two-by-four,” I say, looking down at that weapon both of us have taken turns carrying since finding it.
“I think you should hit him. I’ve been here for four days. I don’t know if I’m strong enough to hit him,” she whispers.
“Are you sure?”
“We have a better chance if you do it,” she replies, and the lights get closer, so I know we don’t have time to debate with each other who’s doing what. I slip behind the tree, keeping my eyes locked on Ellie.
“I’m here, and we’re not going down without a fight,” I tell her, looking into her scared eyes.
The lights land directly on her, and she yells, “Please, the other girl is hurt. She needs help!” She starts to cry, and I see the four-wheeler move closer, driven by a guy I don’t recognize.
“Where is she?” he growls, reaching out to Ellie, so I take that moment to run out from behind the tree. His head turns my way and his eyes grow with shock as I hit him in the side of the head. His body slumps forward and I push him off the four-wheeler.
“Let’s go,” I tell Ellie, who seems to be frozen in place. Her body startles then she jumps on behind me.
“Do you know how to drive one of these things?” she asks as I pull off quickly. Uncontrollable laughter bubbles out at her question, and I don’t answer, just drive faster. “I hope so.” She wraps her arms tight around me.
“I know it’s stupid, but we need to go back to the house and follow the road. We stand a better chance of making it to safety if we do.”
“You’ve gotten us this far,” Ellie says, and I just hope I can get us to safety.
We drive for a good hour, and I’m actually really surprised how long it takes for us to get back to the house. When we get closer, I notice a figure standing outside. I zoom past him, fishtailing, then press the gas harder as we head down a long dirt road.
“He’s coming!” Ellie screams right before the four-wheeler jolts forward. “Oh, God! He’s got a gun!” she cries, and I yell, “Duck,” getting down as low as I can while pulling back on the throttle. Then I see it, off it the distance—headlights. My pulse kicks up, and I know if these are his friends we are as good as dead. Shots ring out from behind me as I drive faster, and then I pull off the road and into the forest when the headlights coming from the other direction get closer.
“July!” I hear roared, and I’d know that voice anywhere. Wes. Then I hear gunshots, and my body begins to shake with worry. I turn, going back towards the road, and stop.