The Man is gone, and I realize this is my only opportunity for escape. I am not sure how long he will be away, but after a short call the TV is on. I can’t see anything as the curtains are closed. But I see this as my blessing. Although my legs are bleeding and my hands are numb, what hurts the most is the sheer weight that is pressing down on my wrists. My hands are turning blue as I wriggle, but there is little space by way of freedom to move. As I thrash something lands in my eyes and temporarily blinds me. It’s sand of some sort, and I blink and blink to push it out. When I finally manage to open my eyes, now raw and tear drenched, I discover the sand’s coming from the ceiling. The attachment in the ceiling is coming loose, and the more I bounce with my full weight, the more the plaster and concrete give way. It takes me about five minutes before I finally land on the floor, barely missing the steel table. It’s a dull noise, with the exception of the chain, which momentarily rattles, but the Man doesn’t seem to hear it, the TV obscuring any sound emitting from the other side of the door. I undo the clasp, freeing me from the chain and limp to the iron metal door. It’s heavy, but with sheer determination I manage to open it enough to slip through. It makes a squeaking noise at the same time as the TV is turned off.

 

It’s dark outside, a faint light emitting from a far away streetlight. But I run the other direction, turning darkness into my friend. In the background I hear the door shifting further and then closing. There are no calls for my name; it’s all quiet except for my heavy breathing, which leaves a trail of mist.

 

As I move hurriedly through the wasteland, my foot gets caught in something and I fall to the ground. It’s a round lid that has been placed slightly ajar. It reeks of filth, but right now it’s my only escape as I see a shadow at less than two-hundred metres distance. I push it aside with both of my still-cuffed hands and take a plunge, landing on what appears to be a discarded mattress. I slide the lid back into place from below, until it locks with a dull thud. At first it’s entirely dark, but after getting used to the coffin-like oppressiveness, I make out a trickle of light.

“Who’s there?” To my relief it’s a woman’s voice. Still, I am in too much of a fright to answer.

“Who’s there?” The light is coming closer and I huddle against the side of the tunnel.

“What’s the matter girl? What are you doing here?” I look at her. She must be a gypsy with her dark skin, long braided hair and hauntingly grey eyes.

“I need help.”

“I can see. You are bleeding.”

She puts my arm around her neck and shoulder and drags me to safety. It’s a cramped up place with a dirty mattress, a soup kitchen on gasoline, pots and pans. Clothes are hanging on wires making an improvised division between two rooms.

“Shh. My grandchild is sleeping,” she explains.

She places a homemade ointment and some compresses onto my skin. It stings, but I try not to scream, biting my lip raw to keep silent. She hands me a drink and I take it readily, quenching my thirst. Then I fall asleep.

I am not sure what is real or not, for the nightmares seem so vivid. It’s a state of confusion I have never found myself in. The few times I am lucid a woman whispers in my ear. “Sleep, sleep.” Her words have a soothing effect and the seductive world of darkness claims me once more.