Every trunk has a latch somewhere on the inside. It’s to save children from being locked within and trapped. I know because I once played hide-and-seek with my sister and tried to get in the trunk, only to have my mother scream at me. She said it was dangerous, and the neighbor girl we were playing with told my mother what her mother had told her. That there was a latch on the inside. Sure enough, there was. My mother still didn’t let me hide in the trunk though and after she grabbed me by the hand and brought me inside, I didn’t want to play anymore.
Since being dumped in here, I’ve spent all my energy maneuvering through the pain to search for the latch. I can’t fucking find it. So I resorted to bucking my body in a desperate attempt to force the trunk open or to kick out a taillight. Anything. Anything at all to get the hell out of here.
No luck. And now it’s too late.
It’s funny what you think of while you’re waiting for the inevitable. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism, a way to take your mind elsewhere when darkness is looming. Or maybe my memory was simply triggered by the lack of a handle and how I learned such a thing should be here because of hide-and-seek. Maybe that’s why as I close my eyes and listen for something, for anything at all, my mind takes me elsewhere. I hear my sister call my name down the hall of our childhood home.
I’m in the closet upstairs, and it’s so hot. I buried myself under all the blankets my mother stored on the floor in there and carefully laid them on top of me, hoping that when Jenny opened the door, searching for me, she wouldn’t see me.
She was always better than me at everything—every game, every sport, every class. But today, when she opened that door, and I waited with bated breath, she closed it and continued silently searching the house.
With the smugness to keep me company, I stayed there under those blankets and I must have fallen asleep. It was Jenny’s voice that woke me and when I came to, I felt so hot. I was absolutely drenched in sweat and the blankets felt so much heavier than they did before.
“Jenny,” I cried out for her, feeling an overwhelming fear that didn’t seem to make sense, but I knew I needed to get out from under the blankets. I couldn’t shove them forward though, the door was closed and I couldn’t lift them up because a shelf was above me. “Jenny!” I cried out again. Louder this time, as I tried to wiggle my way free under the weight of the pile. I didn’t have to free myself alone though; Jenny opened the door and helped me out, telling me I was okay all the while and when I did crawl out into the hallway, I knew I was okay, but it didn’t feel like I was.
I never hid there again. I don’t think I ever played hide-and-seek again at all.
There’s another loud crunch, and another. My eyes pop open and suddenly I am very much in the present, leaving the memory behind. I’m listening to the sound of shoes walking along small pieces of gravel maybe. The beating in my chest intensifies and I can’t breathe as I hear the steps get closer. I even squeeze my eyes shut, wishing I could make myself disappear, or go somewhere else. Like I used to do when I was a child. As if this could all just be a dream or I had somehow gained impossible abilities.
I would try to scream, but the balled-up shirt in my mouth is already threatening to choke me as every small movement sends it farther into my mouth. Any farther, and I think I’ll throw up.
When the trunk swings open so loud that my instincts force me to look up, the light’s bright, almost blinding.
I wish I could beg; I wish I could yell. I wish I could fight back when I see him towering over me and taking his time to consider me.
“That looks like it hurt,” he says as if he finds it funny. The words come out with condescension as he reaches down to let his fingertips glide over my already bruised knees. Even the small movement makes me buckle, forcing my weight back onto my shoulders and it starts a series of aches cascading throughout my body all over again.
The agony begs me to cry, but in place of tears, I find myself screaming the words, “Fuck you,” over the gag in my mouth. The soft cotton nearly touches the back of my throat, and for a moment I think, if I were to vomit right now, I’d choke on it.