The White Cottage Illusion

To my honorary first viewers, here’s a sneak peek:

 

I opened my eyes—darkness. Closed them—darkness. Blinked a couple times—no change.

My memory escaped me. I couldn’t think of any place I’d been in my entire life with such an extreme lack of light, not even my menacing childhood closet. Actually, lack of light sounded too kind; it was more of a complete absence, like I was in a place where light never existed, a land of blindness. I tried to sit up but only made it half a foot before whacking my head on something hard. On either side of me were two similar walls. When I stretched my legs, a fourth met with resistance.

Bile rose in my throat.

“Is someone out there?” a voice responded to my squirming.

I said nothing.

“Please, can you tell me why I’m here?” the voice pleaded

I tried, and failed, to manage my emotions with deep breaths. This guy knew no more than me. For some reason, that wasn’t comforting.

We’d been locked away in boxes like animals.

A lurch made me realize that we were moving, on water. As my confined package hit a wall, I let out a scream. “Ow! What is going on?” I rubbed my arm, not seriously harmed but more aggravated and afraid than I’d ever been.

“You can talk to me,” the voice informed, so inviting.

A trick, probably.

Instead of replying, I granted my tears permission to run free as wild horses. I desperately wanted to hug my knees to my chest for some semblance of comfort, but the narrow box decided against it. Pounding the sturdy walls only sent pain through my knuckles.

I chewed on my lip to stop my sobs from escaping but a pathetic whimper bolted out in its place. Great, whoever captured me would know how weak I was. The easiest target in the world.

“Just take me now!” I pleaded towards what I assumed to be Heaven.

“Settle down over there.” There was that voice again.

“Can you let me die in peace, please?” I aimed my pleas towards the direction of his voice.

“Okay, sure. Can I ask how you’re going to do it? Don’t exactly have a lot to work with in there, if your set-up is anything like mine.”

I considered it. “Choke myself.”

“With your own hands?”

“Those are the only two hands I’ve got. Limited resources, and all that.”

The boat rocked under us, soothing yet petrifying. He inquired, “Still with me?”

Unfortunately, I was.

 

A glimmer of light filled my vision and then disappeared faster than a camera flash. A tease, like dying of thirst and watching the sweat drip down someone else’s icy cold glass of water.

Hours, maybe days, stolen from me and my companion. Shivering and sometimes overheating. Nauseous from the water tossing below us and the smells of humans without access to bathrooms.

Suffice to say, anger fueled me. Not like caffeine fuels a tired person, this anger ran deep. If I did drugs, I’d compare it to meth—like I said, if I did drugs.

When my wooden prison opened, exposing that little ray of sunshine, I’d barely opened my mouth before a blindfold covered my eyes. It was no ordinary blindfold. No pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey type of fold that moms tie to make it easier for the kids.

A hand clamped over my mouth when I opened it again. No words accompanied the action. Shockingly, I wanted to hear my captive friend’s voice. Needed to.

My head swiveled, automatically checking my surroundings for him before realizing how instinctual and stupid it was. Darkness was my environment. I used context clues: whoever clamped a hand over my mouth was likely a strong male by the taste of his meaty hand. Recently picked up dirt? They tasted awful. In different circumstances, I’d warn him that proper hand soap and kindness would get him a woman far easier than kidnapping her and shipping her across the ocean.

Miles later, the blindfold was yanked off. I clenched my eyes shut as light flooded my vision, a contradiction to everything I previously desired.

Breath caught in my throat.

None of the men next to me looked familiar. It hit me that any one of them could be my companion. Or that he could be one of them. They stood sturdily but somehow managed to make the simple action awkward, maybe in the way their thick arms hung at their sides like they hadn’t quite figured out where to put them.

Everything around me smelled off, wrong. Fresh plants tightened in around us, healthy and small enough to be newly planted but rotting of decay.

The thing that looked the strangest, though, was that in the middle of it all stood the most peculiar little cottage.

 

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