Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep it? (Part 13)
Consciousness returned to Ciel in layers: softness beneath her cheek, a dull stiffness in her bones, blaring pain throbbing behind her temples. When she became cognizant of individual body parts, Ciel realized her eyelids were sticky, her tongue and throat dry and burning.
What happened? Her thought brought on an avalanche of memories, one atop the other. They crashed around her, echoing inside her aching head. Rapid-fire images and snatches of conversation overwhelmed her already sluggish mind. Ciel brought a hand to her head, and her eyes popped open, lids blinking rapidly as she struggled to focus.
The roughness of cinder blocks appeared mere inches from her nose. As her gaze traveled up the wall, she spied a small picture taped to it depicting a miniature dragon perched on human fingers. Thin wisps of smoke drifted from its nostrils, veined leather-like wings relaxed back, and its eyes were half-closed in contentment. She swallowed around the dry swelling in her throat and lifted her head slowly. Metal springs creaked in response to the movement, and Ciel discovered she was lying on a narrow cot. A spinning sensation had her closing her eyes, waiting for everything to come to a stop.
When Ciel was able to sit up, she rested her back against the cool wall and opened her eyes. The entire room was a rectangle of cinder blocks with a concrete floor. A few fluorescent light bars flickered and hummed from their place along the ceiling. Aside from her cot, there was a wooden chair, a small wooden desk, and across the entire far wall, floor to ceiling metal shelves were bolted into the cinder blocks. Her eyes widened as she took in the contents of the shelving: rows and rows of canned goods, powdered milk, bottled water, cereal, crackers, MREs, basic toiletries, a first aid kit, and blankets. A step stool was propped in one corner—because it was obvious you'd have to be a giant to reach the top shelves otherwise.
There were no windows. A faint hiss of air came through one small vent in the ceiling, and a foreboding metal door was set in a short wall at one end. The dragon picture taped by her cot was the only adornment in the utilitarian bunker.
“H-hello?” Ciel's voice was a raspy whisper quickly absorbed by her surroundings. The dampening effect unnerved her far more than the echo she'd expected. The shackle clamped to her ankle did nothing to reassure her, either.
Ciel didn't speak again. Instead, she explored her surroundings a little at a time—running the pads of her fingers along the rough blocks, perusing the massive shelves full of supplies, and discovering some type of natural toilet hidden behind a small privacy screen at the far end of the bunker opposite the thick metal door. The chain attached to her shackle scraped across the floor as she moved, pulling taut about ten feet from the metal door.
After a few hours of exploration and sifting through memories in an attempt to make sense of her predicament, Ciel finally curled into a ball on the cot and cried.
Melinda Jeffries is crazy. Did she find out Janice was having an affair with her husband? Oh, why did I get in his car? She doesn't mean to starve me with all this food here, but what is she planning? Mommy . . . I need you.
There was no way to ascertain the passage of time. Ciel eventually slumped over on the cot and fell into an exhausted sleep.
A loud scrape jolted Ciel awake. She sat up, blinking against the light. When her eyes adjusted, she noticed the metal door was cracked open, and Mrs. Jeffries was carrying a tray in her arms. A soup bowl with steam rising from the surface sat in the center with a glass of milk beside it. Mrs. Jeffries still wore a baggy hoodie, keeping her face carefully concealed. She placed the tray on the wooden desk and turned back toward the door without speaking.
“W-wait! Please.” Ciel stood, the links of the chain clinking together. Her eyes focused on the retreating back of her captor, who hesitated but didn't turn around. “Why are you doing this?”
Ciel received no answer, and the silence grew as the two of them stood frozen. Sensing she might lose her chance, Ciel decided to try again.
“I swear nothing happened between me and your husband, Mrs. Jeffries. You've got to—”
“What did you just say?” The voice was all wrong.
The figure by the door whirled around and pushed back the hood, revealing pale skin and a wild tangle of dark hair.
Ciel reeled in shock, losing her balance and sitting down hard on the creaky cot.
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Sarah Aisling hails from the East Coast of the US and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and precocious daughter. She’s currently editing her upcoming novel, The Weight of Roses. When Sarah isn’t being enslaved by her characters, she can be found with her nose in a book, obsessing over nail polish or anything leopard, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook