A door slams, the jolt awakens Amanda. Her vibrant brown eyes are wide open, but she does not see anything. It is pitch dark. Slowly her senses adjust. She detects a whimsical stream of light shining through a corroded bullet hole and wriggles across the scratchy tiles towards it, dragging her body causing carpet burns to her exposed skin. She stares hard to view the outside world to see where in hell she is but is unable to focus. Trees zip by like green and brown lines. The speed is causing everything to blur. Her immediate area is slowly immerging through the darkness, although the small light is not enough to show the whole picture of horror that lay in the depths of the trunk.
Uncomfortable, she stretches out her legs, attempting to straighten from the fetal position that cramped her body. Only then did she discover restriction in her movement and felt a soaring pain above her ankles. Plastic strip binding wrapped tight around her legs. The pain was from the constant sawing motion into the skin as she wriggled her legs while unconscious. Amanda pushes her body, pressing into the back of the container, measuring how much space is inside, crushing something that felt mushy. Frightened, she recoils. Then, raising her arms aloft to measure the couple of inches of room above her head and realizing that her hands are strapped with itchy rope causing a rash to develop on her wrists. The kidnapper positioned and bound her body and hands as if for prayer. Freaked by this, Amanda violently tries to free her hands by squeezing and pulling. For her many attempts receives a red burn.
After discovering the measurements of her tomb, she lay still regaining her strength, wondering what her captive has planned. Her face pressed into one of the many oily carpet tiles. Under which she can hear a constant roaring groan. The overwhelming nauseous feeling of moving but going nowhere, with the combined odour of diesel, iron, paint, and something rotting, causes Amanda to feel queasy, making her heave and cough. Unintentionally, she brushes her tongue across the taste of frayed musky material moist from her sleep saliva.
The spyhole allows a cold breeze to venture around her metal prison, which sweeps past the bloody sticky patch of matted brown hair from where the hammer connected with her head. The pain that follows sensing the spot is a belated dull throb. She cries uncontrollably from finding and feeling the wound, and from fear. The gag prevents the sound, she just manages a muffled groan. A sense of confusion followed by dread causes palpitations. Finally, she acknowledges she is in the trunk of a car, kidnapped, and will probably die.
Fear spreads, triggering an alarm. She screams intolerably for help through the gag, but all she can manage is a muted cry. Attempting again to loosen her ties, she shuffles around, rubbing against the carpet tiles, wriggling, and writhing her body constantly. After failing this struggle, she thumps the roof of the container with her bound hands. Then by twisting her legs and shimmying her feet, she battles to slacken the tight binding, feeling pain whenever she stretched the pinching straps using every ounce of strength that she could muster. Sweat from her forehead sinks into her eyes, the salt stings, causing tears that she cannot wipe. The exhaust fumes burn the hairs inside her nose and eyes, inviting more tears.
Curling into a ball, she forces the weight of her body, pressing it against the lid, trying to burst it open. But she is too weak and fighting a losing battle, her frame is far too petite, and the trunk prison is locked tight.
The journey seems endless, and the engine’s drone with the added burning exhaust smoke makes Amanda feel weary.
“I must stay awake, must not sleep.” She repeats these words until eventually her body and mind give in with the help of the sleep-induced fumes.
When Amanda awakens, she finds she is still in the trunk, still tied up, still travelling and still alive. However, relieved that wherever this person is taking her, it seems like a never-ending journey to her doom. It also means that she has time to escape, be free and breathe in the fresh air and not the choking trunk odours.
She tries pushing and bashing the metal hood again, and after so many breathless attempts, she recoils back, defeated, pressing her body into something hard and cold. The alarm overrides her other senses. What could it be? A hammer, an axe, or a spade? Trembling uncontrollably from the fear of not knowing what will happen when the car finally reaches its destination is racing through her mind. The palms of her strapped hands are itchy and damp with sweat. The smell from her running shoes is now mixing with the other stinking and rotting odours inside the trunk, which triggers heaving from her weak intolerance to bad smells. The rising taste of vomit in her throat is sour and sweet. She manages to move the gag slightly aside with her tongue and dribbles out the foul taste in her mouth onto the tiled carpet.
The sound of muffled music has gone. She can still feel a slight movement and hear the engine. The red and orange lights appear on either side of the metal box, blinding her for a second, like giant dragons’ eyes. One side is blinking. As the car turns, she rolls slightly in the opposite direction. The kidnapper pulls the car into a parking bay and sets it, so the trunk is facing the building with a neon sign of a pink woman smiling sat in a champagne glass. He gets out and then slams the door, causing Amanda to rock. Peering through the bullet hole, Amanda watches a silhouetted man, the one who put her in this metal prison, walk towards the tempting, bright lights. Trying to get a sense of where the location is, she arches her neck to get a better view. The thumping beat of live music and singing from inside the building echoes on the outside. Amanda could hear laughing and muffled chattering from the people inside the building. Amanda’s heart races.
“It’s a club.”
Through the loosened side of the gag, she starts shouting and then banging the trunk roof again.
“Help! I’m in the trunk!”
“Help me please!” But her efforts are unheard, over the live band that is playing. She looks through the hole then listens intently. There is someone outside smoking, leaning on a post, she screams again.
“Help! Please help me!” The smoker looks around.
“Did he hear me?” Increasing her volume, she yells again and bashes the trunk with all her might.
“Help! I am in the trunk! Can you hear me? Help me please!” She peers through the hole. The man pushes away from the wooden post and flicks his smoked nub onto the ground, treading on it, then glances around the dark wooded parking area. Then he walks back into the club. The sound increases as he opens the door. Amanda cries out.
“He didn’t hear me.”
Defeated, she wriggles back to the messy carpet tile and lays her head in a way so she could see through the hole. Realizing now that the club music is too loud and lively and that it would not matter how hard she bashed or how loud she screamed.
The heat from inside the car mixes with the exhaust smoke and the other smells, causing Amanda to feel suffocated. Sweat as made rats tails of her long dark ponytail. Her recently trimmed fringe sticks to her forehead. Guessing that her kidnapper may make a night of it, she reclines in her metal coffin, staring hard through the hole just in case someone else steps outside. Her eyes are growing weary. They blink a couple of times, she glares again, suddenly waking, but the exhaustion overwhelms her, and she sleeps.
The sound of frozen peas dropping on a metal roof and the feeling of motion sickness from the rocking causes Amanda to awaken. The car is on the move again.
“Is it morning?” Wriggling to the bullet hole she peers through, there is no brightness like before, but a dull light.
It is raining. Usually, the sound of rainfall would help her to relax. This time it did the opposite keeping her alert. She returns to her warm spot on the small square tile, trying to avoid the vomit puddle. Grazing her back on a dislodged spade from the back of the trunk, and she cries out. After screaming, she suddenly pauses, holding her breath and listens to see if he heard. A faint sound of music is still playing. This time a deep muffled voice is heard singing along. Relieved, Amanda breathes out.
She lay trapped in the car for a day and a night, although this journey felt like an eternity.
Her mind sprints with unanswered questions.
“Where am I? How did I get here? Where am I going? Many thoughts are rushing through her mind, but the one that repeats the most is. “Am I going to die?
Closing her eyes from the darkened prison, she re-plays the moments before the kidnapping, running through every detail like a DVD on rewind. Picturing the scene, she is running, her heart rate quickens.
“I’m jogging, keeping to the path on the seawall. My raven ponytail sways side to side, each step I take.
Feeling a slight breeze on my face as I run. I am thinking, I look the part, in my black ‘cool’ lulu lemon skin-tight jogging shorts and the ‘swift tech’ monogram grey tee-shirt, and the black-tipped white Nike runners that I treated myself to six months ago, for starting the exercise routine. I have a metallic blue water bottle clipped to my fanny pack, which has a few necessities inside, a mini first aid kit, a packet of wipes, my muted phone, so I am not disturbed, my earbuds, my car keys, and some glucose tablets.
I constantly control my breathing not to burn out and check my smartwatch for my heart rate and oxygen levels.
I remember the sun setting to my right, thinking this is my favourite time of the day. Not too hot or cold the perfect time to get some much-needed exercise in and beat my current step record. I watched the sun disappear into the sea; from the protection behind my ray bans—the sky changes from blue to red in a matter of minutes. I could see the opening to the forest approach. I check for the time and then run up the grass mound towards the under-fives play area. It is empty. A line of swings gently sways, playing with the wind. I jog across the soft grass and then over the gravel in the playground. The reduced sunlight is peeking through the leaves on the trees making dappled shadows on the ground. Feeling the mottled warmth on my skin as I run under the branches. I multitask, unzipping my fanny pack, removing my earbuds and my mobile phone, placing the buds in each ear, then on my phone swishing through my music apps, finding and then playing my favourite song while still jogging.
I take the route through the trees along the footpath that leads under the bridge with the two giant floral baskets on either side. I am listening to Stevie Wonders, ‘Isn’t she lovely.’ The perfect song for this beautiful moment.
I recall watching this elderly couple I smiled at as they walked over the bridge. Thinking how sweet and romantic this couple looked holding hands. I saw how the guy moved a strand of his partner’s hair that had strayed from her neat, curled hairdo and onto her face. He smoothed it carefully back into place with his wrinkled hand. Then he lovingly smiles. I remembered hoping that I would be as happy as they are, later in my life.
Then, checking my smartwatch for the step numbers, I clocked the time, realizing it was getting late, and that my car will be inside the park gates. I headed under the bridge and ran in the direction of the entrance.
She is pounding the ground under her Nike runners, lifting her sleeve to check the smartwatch for the time and the number of steps so far.
“I have 20 minutes to get to my car. Hmm, 12,400 steps, better than last time.” She says, congratulating her achievement.
Panting heavily and needing a break, she can see the worn splintered signpost with the park directions planted behind a red metal bench. Stating.
“I have time for a rest.” And she pauses for a drink.
Sitting on the bench, she pulls out the wipes from her fanny pack, rips out a sheet and rubs the cool tingling cloth over her face. The refreshing wipe rejuvenates her skin. Then uses the same tissue to clean her hands which feels cold for a second. Returning the packet, she zips the bag. Then, she unclips the water bottle and raises it to her mouth, pulling out the spout with her teeth, getting the scent of the fresh-squeezed lemon that she added at the last moment before leaving—a recommended tip from her best friend, Jenny. Amanda takes a good drink. Then she pushes the nozzle in, popping it with her hand and re-attaches the bottle to the clip on her fanny pack.
Raising her leg onto the bench, she ties the dangling shoelace and is ready to move off again. Her muted phone begins to buzz. Unzipping her fanny pack, she moves and quickly glances at her mobile. It is Jenny.
She rolls her eyes, groaning, then picks up her phone.
“Jenny don’t call me Moo. I hate that.”
“Sorry, Hun. Are you coming out tonight? That cute guy Pete will be at ‘Charlies.’ He likes you.”
“No, Jenny, I’m jogging. I must beat my count. You know how I get if I don’t do it.”
“You are so competitive, with yourself, and stubborn too. Moo, who are you in competition with?”
“Jenny, my friend, you will never understand a Taurean. I have to do it.”
“Well, when you have finished beating your score, then will you come out? Please?”
“Oh, okay. I will meet you at ten. I have to shower first.”
“Ten is better than not at all, Moo, So, ten sharp it is.”
“Okay, can I continue running?”
“Yes, Moo, knock yourself out.”
Amanda laughs at the sarcasm.
“I will see you later, bye.”
Replacing her mobile into her fanny pack, she hears a cracking of twigs, followed by a rustling of bushes. The sounds unnerve Amanda. The lone runner turns towards the noise.
“Hello, Who’s there?” No reply.
Feeling uneasy, she checks the shady trees with her eyes and does not see a soul. The park is now empty. The sunlight has almost gone, and the night is creeping in. Amanda grabs her phone to call Jenny, but the mobile is out of charge and dead. She sets off, picking up the pace, increasing her heart rate and breath. The trees look more ominous than before, creating shadowy figures from their branches as the slow, brightening park lights illuminate.
She can hear footsteps like someone running in the distance. Increasing their pace as she does.
Aware that she is being tracked and feeling completely alone, she takes a shortcut through a group of rhododendron bushes and notices the park gates ahead with the flags unfurling in the night breeze. Feeling relieved but pumped, she sprints towards the entrance exhaling heavily, reaching the bars of the gate, leaning on them to catch her breath. Her eyes meet darkness looking into the park. The trees are now gone, and the park features have disappeared. She looks towards the parking bay. Amanda’s car is the only one left in the dimly lit parking area. It is so quiet. All that she hears are crickets chirping and her footsteps crunching the gravel as she walks towards her car. Her car keys begin to tingle as she pulls them out from her fanny pack.
Pressing the button, listening anxiously for the ‘beep beep’ and unlocks the car. Growing closer, she increases her walking speed; she cannot wait to be inside the safety of her car. Exhaling in relief, and confidently lifts the silver driver’s side handle.
A sudden pain shoots across the back of her head like nothing ever felt before—a sharp, searing ache. The heavy blow sends her crashing down onto the gravelled path beside her car. A man’s silhouette is towering above her, holding a hammer. He can see Amanda looking at him. He kneels beside her and punches her hard in the face. Then, nothing.
The engine stops humming, the music on the radio has gone. The sudden slamming of the car door causes her to rock involuntary, snapping her back to reality and out of her thoughts. The sound of gravel crunching and footsteps growing closer increases her anxiety. She closes her eyes, in fear of what will happen, wishing that she had stayed home watching the television like ordinary people. But no, being a typical stubborn Taurean, she had to get her steps in.
Her thoughts are interrupted by the muffled sounds of many men shouting. Through the hole, she can see flashes of light.
The lock on the trunk clicks, and it opens. The streetlight from the outside world blinds Amanda as she tries to focus on her abductor. She groans as she is pulled feet first from the trunk and then lifted out by her arms. A man in uniform greets her. Bright flashes of blue and red help light up the darkness coming from a blockade of cars that have pulled along the road creating a barrier. The police silently tracked the kidnapper. Unfortunately, Amanda was the bait. Inspector Younger. He is a detective on the case of the ‘hammer man’ and has searched for him for over ten years. He received a tip-off from a former hurt girlfriend of the kidnapper. She gave the location and the time he frequently visited the park to the detective. Amanda knew of the Hammerman by watching the local news reports. But she never thought for one minute that she would be his latest victim. She glances across the road and views a dishevelled man wearing a monogrammed t-shirt and blood-spattered jeans. His scarf drops from his face as he falls. Showing his five o’clock shadow and deep-set dark eyes as he struggles, pinned to the ground by a group of armed police. A helicopter is whirring above with bright spotlights portraying the location of the arrest.
The detective who helped Amanda from the trunk gently removes her gag and swiftly unties her hands and feet. As the binding drops to the ground, she hugs him forcefully.
“Thank you, oh, thank you.” She repeats, then recoils, embarrassed. He briefly chuckles, then quietly announces with a smile.
“You’re safe now.”
Curiously, Amanda turns, looking in the trunk at a sight that will haunt her for the rest of her life. Several previous victim’s severed heads wrapped in cling film occupying the space behind a shovel, rope, strip ties, paint, and a hammer. She shouts, alarmed.
“Oh my god, he was going to kill me!”
A female paramedic throws a silver mylar space blanket around Amanda’s shoulders and leads her to the awaiting ambulance away from the horror’s that lay inside the car.