Jill sighed and let her head fall back on the bed of sand where she lay and closed her eyes again. She wished for the escape of sleep but knew it was no good. Once awake she tended to stay that way, even under these hellish conditions. She brought her hands to her face, ignoring the jingle of chain, and wept without tears.
Presently though, she uncurled and sat up. She ignored the sand adhering to the rest of her body and attempted to stand up. It wasn't easy, for her ankles were cuffed together with only three inches of chain between them, but she had gotten in a lot of practice lately. She raised herself almost to her full height and surveyed her world once more. Nothing had changed. The cave lay as desolate as when she went to sleep.
Only the cast iron bowl on the other side of the cave existed to tell anyone that someone human had been here. Someone other than Jill, that is. While they might not have been too surprised to see the man made object in the isolated cave stuck in the middle of a burning desert, they would certainly have been surprised to see its occupant.
Nude, chained hand and foot, Jill gave the appearance of being a wild woman barely tamed. Her hair was all over the place, her skin dirty and scraped, and her face... There was a haunted look about her face that spoke of suffering and loneliness. Yet, there was also something else there, a determination not to be beaten. Looking at her, they might think she had already succumbed, but one look at her eyes might tell them differently.
The trouble was, no one was there to see. No one came, except HIM.
Jill closed her eyes for a moment, pushing the thought of him aside. She needed to concentrate, to maintain her routine. Jill was the kind of person who lived by the rhythm of her life. Everything scheduled, everything well planned and thought out, repeated every day, security in sameness.
Well, she had sameness now, and it was driving her crazy. The same walls of this miserable cave. The same view of the desert from its mouth. The same way her hands and feet had been cuffed since she woke up here. The same food, the same water, the same visitor.
Jill shook her head. She looked down at her wrists, marked red and bruised under the hard metal handcuffs, a chain leading down to the cuffs about her ankles, stopping her from standing upright. That chain had been the only new thing added since she came here. Added to her bondage after she had managed to hop a quarter mile away from the cave before discovering that there was no place to hop to. No place where a nude and bound woman could survive without any way of carrying water.
She had simply stopped and sat dejected, until HE had found her later that day and took her back. He added the chain to prevent further tries, although Jill didn't think she'd try again anyway. There was no need for bars in this prison, and she thought that even completely free, she wouldn't stand a chance.
Jill looked up and brought herself back to the present. She crouched down and got to her knees, and then shuffled over the uneven cave floor to her calendar. The floor of the cave was made up of large slabs of rock and boulders, half filled in with sand that had blown in from the outside. In her chained state it was hard to get anywhere, and her body testified to her hard existence here by the number of bruises covering it.
But Jill was determined to reach her calendar, a relatively smooth section of cave wall where she had been scratching a record of each day she spent here. Marking the calendar was a part of her new routine, and it was in her routine that Jill kept her sanity.
She sat down, bare skin against bare rock, and picked up the small stone she had been using to scribe with. Laboriously, she hacked at the wall, carving a short line among the others already there. Whispering to herself, she put down the stone and began to count. Even though she knew by heart already how long she had been there, she counted anyway.
"...fourteen...fifteen...sixteen...seventeen...eighteen . Eighteen days," she said to herself. Eighteen days since she woke up here naked and bound. Eighteen days since she left for work one ordinary morning, kissing her husband goodbye as always, dropping her two children off at school as per her routine. Eighteen days.
Jill sighed, and tried not to think about them. She had to assume her calendar was right, although she wasn't absolutely sure. She might be one or two days off, she didn't know. What she did know was that there were no deserts anywhere near where she lived, so if her family was looking for her they had no hope of finding her. Wherever she was, she was a very long way from home.
Jill started coughing again, and curled up where she sat, her throat feeling like sandpaper in the dry dusty air. Despite eating somewhat regularly and having as much water as she needed to drink, she hadn't been feeling all that well for a few days now. Sleeping and living rough as she was now was not what her body needed. It didn't need to be kept here where nothing lived. It didn't need to be kept chained and naked like an animal. It didn't need any of this.
Jill fought against the depression that threatened to overwhelm her and shakily got to her hands and feet. She shuffled slowly toward the heavy metal bowl of water and dipped her hands in it, smearing the warm, brackish liquid over her dry skin.
She would have given almost anything for a bath, to immerse herself in water and just soak it in, but this was all the water she had, and it was for drinking only. HE usually refilled it when he visited, but it seemed like there was only just enough to last her until then...if she didn't waste it. She bent low, and stuck her dirty face in the water, and drank her fill, before moving reluctantly away.
Her stomach growled; it was hungry, but she had no food to give it. While HE would leave her water, he wouldn't leave her food. Instead he insisted that she eat only while he was there, making her gorge until she couldn't stuff herself any longer before taking the food away. She would have to survive on what she had eaten until his next visit, which was usually every two or three days, although once it had been four.
That time she had been scared more than she already was. He was her lifeline; her source of water and food. He was the only person she had seen since she woke up here, and for all she knew he was the only person who knew where she was. Her chances of survival were irrevocably linked to him. Without him, she knew she was dead. If she let herself, Jill would have worried constantly whether he was all right, if he had been in a car accident, or arrested or something. Anything that would prevent him from coming back here. Her mind could easily fill with the possibilities.
Jill pushed such thoughts away from her, intent on her routine. She made her way to the cave mouth, and into the sunlight.
The sun was still low and the chill of the desert was still in the air. Yet the sun's rays were warm, and Jill pulled herself out onto a rock, where she lay like a lizard absorbing the heat. The sun on her skin was the only good feeling she had discovered since waking up here, and while Jill knew she was risking sunburn, she found herself needing this momentary pleasure, for it was the only one she had. At least she kept her sunbathing to the early morning and late evening, so she avoided the worst of the sun's damaging UV, but even then under the layer of dirt that covered her, she had developed a tan. More than two weeks in the desert would do that to anyone.
At first, she would come out here and scan the horizon, looking for any sign of someone passing by her lonely outpost. She actually had a good view; her cave was set into the side of a wide valley that reminded her a little of some old westerns she had watched as a kid. Yet even those movies had shown more life than she could see now. Brush, a few gnarled trees, tumbleweed. None of that here! Jill would love to see some tumbleweed go by. But it was more like living on the moon, and if she hadn't seen it in the sky at night, she might have believed she was there.
The only sign of life she had seen was the occasional jet drawing lines across the sky. She knew they were miles up above her, but she had waved anyway.
Now she didn't bother, she simply lay back and let the sun bathe her.
As she lay, she thought about how strange it was to be lying naked on a rock. The old Jill Garvey wouldn't have dreamed of appearing outside like this. Even swimming with the family had meant donning a very modest one-piece suit first. It wasn't that she wasn't proud of her body, she was. It was just that she had been brought up to be conservative about it, to keep it for her husband's eyes only.
Being here had certainly changed that, though. Discovering her nudity, and that there was absolutely nothing here for her to wear had been a great shock to her already overloaded system. And when HE had first visited, Jill had almost been in hysterics over his seeing her like this. Yet now when he came, his seeing her was the least of her problems, and lying out here in the sun without a stitch on was a pleasure, not a punishment. She took what little happiness she could.
But soon the sun grew warmer, and as it climbed rapidly into the sky, Jill knew she had to go back inside the cave. It would be murder to stay out where the sun could cook her naked skin.
During the day, Jill could feel the heat coming off the surrounding rocks as the sun baked them, and she would have to retreat to the back of the little cave to avoid the worst of it. Even then, it got quite stifling inside her rock shelter, and relief didn't come until the sun dropped below the horizon and the desert cooled. So she lay and tried to sleep, or tried to fill her time with limited exercise in order to keep her strength up. She tried to invent word games, thought puzzles; anything to stave off the worry that she felt could creep up and overwhelm her at any moment. The biggest puzzle she tried to solve though, was why?
WHY was she here?
WHAT did she do to HIM to deserve such a fate?
Jill wracked her brains trying to figure it out, but had no answers. She certainly didn't know the man, never seen him before in her life. And she didn't feel she had ever treated anyone badly enough in her life to deserve being kidnapped and left to barely hang onto life in such a desolate place.
HE wouldn't tell her, either. In fact, he didn't say much of anything when he visited, except to either order or threaten.
That first day, when she had screamed to be released, had screamed for answers, had screamed out her threats of prosecution, he had simply told her that if she didn't shut up and obey him, that he would leave her without any water.
She challenged him. He tipped out the water in the bowl and climbed back into his Jeep, leaving her alone in the cave.
One day without food or water had gotten her attention.
The second day earned her obedience.
Since then she did her best to obey him, and still he gave her no answers, no clue as to why he had kidnapped a mother of two and kept her naked and chained in a cave in the middle of the desert.
It wasn't for sex; she hadn't been touched.
Jill's musings were broken by the sound of an engine. She would have gotten excited, but she knew this sound. It was HIM, coming along the trail that led up the side of the valley to her cave. Jill knew she had a little time, sound carried out here, but she had something to do. He expected her to obey him, and she wasn't going to risk losing her water privileges again.
She slid off her rock to the sand at the cave entrance and knelt. With a practiced ease, she flipped the chain that connected her wrists to her ankles around so that it fell behind her, and put her hands behind her head. She then opened her knees until they were spread wide, shifting them in the soft sand to get them comfortable, and straightened her back.
Jill now knelt in a rather exposed position, her breasts thrust out, her sex unprotected. She had blushed furiously the first few times she had knelt this way for him, but now she felt nothing but the extra strain it put on her bruised ankles. HE demanded that she assume this position before he arrived, so assume it she did.
Jill could feel the hot sun burning into her side, the sand growing warm beneath her, yet she dared not break position. She was thankful that this time he had come in the relative cool of the morning. Last time had been late afternoon, and she had almost screamed from the heat of the sand.
The Jeep suddenly appeared on the trail and pulled to a stop nearby. Jill watched the jean-clad figure climb out from the cab and stroll casually toward her. Jeans were all she had ever seen him wear. No shoes, no shirt, not even a mask to hide his face. He looked to be about the same age as her husband, and he looked very fit. He also seemed impervious to the heat of the sand or the sun, and didn't seem to care that she knew what he looked like and could probably identify him later.
That little fact alone scared her. If he didn't care, was it because she would never be in a position where she could use that information against him? The thought of spending the rest of her life here was more than she could endure. Yet what else was she to do?
HE stopped in front of her, looking her over. She kept her eyes level, not looking at his face, as ordered. They maintained this little tableau for a little while before he walked slowly back to his Jeep. He sat casually on the driver's seat, and pulled onto his lap a bag of fast food hamburgers. He unwrapped one and took a bite, watching the naked woman on the sand a few yards away.
Jill could smell the meat, the sauce, and felt her empty stomach rumble. Each time it was the same; he would make her wait to eat, torturing her with his patience.
He finished the burger and tossed the wrapper aside before picking up another one. He opened it and looked at her.
"Come here," he said, his first words since his arrival.
Jill closed her eyes and pushed her knees out even wider. She knew what was expected of her and hated it. She wasn't allowed to get up and shuffle, or even hop over to him. She wasn't allowed to crawl on her knees to him either. There was only one way he allowed her to move in his presence. Jill leant forward and pushed herself hard with her legs until she fell flat on her face, her breasts and stomach now making contact with the hot sand.
With her hands behind her head in a sort of hog-tie with her feet, Jill now had to crawl along like a snake, her belly to the ground, weaving her way through the sand until she reached him. It was very hard to do, especially chained as she was, and the effort usually left her drained. Yet she had to do it, for to not do it meant not eating. And while a day or two without food could be withstood, more than that would kill her.
Halfway to him, she stopped and started to cough, her breath taken away from her. She fought to get it back while trying to avoid inhaling sand or dust, and soon got settled again. She resumed her crawl, and before long made it to the Jeep. Jill then rolled over, lying flat on her back on top of the chain that connected her hands to her feet, her ankles forced up close to her buttocks, her knees falling open.
Like this, Jill felt more exposed than ever, more vulnerable, less human. Every time he had come up here and made her do this, she had expected him to take advantage and rape her. Yet he never touched her except for his eyes, which roamed casually over her body without the faintest sign of lust.
A couple of times Jill had actually been annoyed that this man hadn't found her helpless body alluring, and had later chastised herself about such thoughts. But the way he DIDN'T approach her sexually was unnerving. It confused her.
"Open," he ordered, and Jill opened her mouth. He began to feed her, holding the burger with all the fillings for her as she took bites out of it. He had always fed her this way, never letting her handle her own food.
He would give her a few bites, and then from a squirt bottle he would give her some water to drink. They would go slowly, Jill roasting in the sun as she ate, until she could eat no more. Then he would have her crawl back into her cave while he refilled the water bowl inside. That was how it usually worked, but not this time.
Once she had eaten her fill, he sat back and looked down at her naked body, and smiled. It was a break in the routine, and Jill was scared.
"You've been a good girl, Jill," he said suddenly, saying her name for the first time ever. Jill was stunned, and she wondered if this was the end. Was he going to kill her?
He must have seen the fear in her eyes, because he laughed and shook his head. "No, don't worry. I'm not going to hurt you. I have some good news for you." He reached over to the seat next to him and pulled out a syringe. "You're going home!"
Before Jill could reply, he reached forward and injected the contents into her pinned down arm. In seconds, Jill's world went black.
Jill woke with a start and started to cough. A deep wracking cough, deep from the bowels of her lungs. She put one hand over her mouth and held tightly onto the steering wheel with the other until the coughing subsided, and then she realized that something was different. Everything was different. Looking about in amazement, Jill could see that she was in her car, parked outside her work place, dressed, and without the cuffs.
For a brief moment, Jill wondered if her entire stay in the cave had been just a weird dream, so sudden in her mind was the transformation from there to here. But she could still feel the pain of the bruises about her wrists and ankles, the general pain throughout her body from sleeping on the sand, and the fatigue of her experience.
Yet here she was, in pretty much the exact place she figured she had been kidnapped from. She thought about getting out of the car and going in to see who was at the office. But she had a very strong urge to get home and see her family, so she started the car and began to drive.
Her hometown never looked so good, even though it felt rather cold to her at the moment. She cranked up the heat in the car and enjoyed the sight of seeing all the people as she drove home. Jill was happy enough to even start singing as she pulled into her own driveway and got out of the car.
Walking was a new sensation after spending so much time with her ankles cuffed together, and she had to resist an urge to hop. Instead, on shaky legs she made her way to the front door and went inside. In the living room, she found her husband reading a book.
"Jill?" he said, his mouth open in amazement.
"John!" Jill replied, and in moments she was in his arms. She tried to tell him what had happened to her, where she had been. But John kept on quieting her, and she soon stopped trying. "What is it?" she asked him. "What's wrong?"
"We aren't to talk about this, ever," John replied, a scared look on his face.
"What do you mean? We have to tell the police, they have to get this guy!"
"No, no police. We don't tell anyone. You've just been out of town taking care of a sick aunt. That's all people need to know."
"John!" Jill said shocked. But then she saw the fear in his eyes. "Do you know why I went through what I went through?" she asked him.
John nodded. "I do, and if we talk any more about it, you will be taken from me again, back to that cave. And this time...never brought back."
Jill looked at him, wondering what horrors her husband had seen, and slowly agreed.
HE was sitting in his air-conditioned trailer, paging through his high school yearbook. He reached a page where one of the pictures had a big black X drawn through it, John Garvey in his football uniform, and he paused. He picked up a big black marker and held it over the picture of another young man also in football uniform, and drew an X through it.
"I really hate bullies," he said quietly to himself, "and I told you I'd get you back in the end."
He flipped a few more pages and found a picture of himself, although no one would recognize him now. No more geeky glasses or odd hair. "I always keep my word," he said with a smile.
Out in the desert, another woman woke and brushed the sand from her face. She was startled to find herself naked, chained hand and foot and alone in a cave.
She started to scream.