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by Emma Diane McManus about a year ago in fiction
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A year and more go missing

Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash

I slowly opened my eyes and stared up at the ceiling. My head was throbbing and I had a ringing in my ears. The lighting was so dim that it took my eyes several minutes to acclimate to the gloom. I slowly sat up and winched in agony. I clutched my hand to my side and let out a small whimper, the pain was so intense that I couldn’t even manage a scream. I gingerly lifted up my shirt and saw that I had a bandage haphazardly wrapped around my lower abdomen. The part of my side that I had touched had faint traces of red soaking through. I lowered my shirt and looked around at my surroundings but there wasn’t much to look at. I was sitting on a bed that was like an extension of the wall with an old stained mattress on it. There was a small desk and chair facing me and a small bedside table right by the bed with a rusty lamp on top of it. I shuffled over to the lamp, clenching my jaw every time I moved too quickly. I pushed the switch on and tilted the light up to get a better look at the room I was in and regretted it.

The dull glow from the light leaking through the window hadn’t been enough to illuminate how filthy the places was but now I could see that the walls where covered in disgusting stains, all colours of the most horrid rainbow you could picture. The window was too high for me to see out of without climbing on something but I didn’t trust my strength at this moment in time. In the corner, furthest from where I was sitting, was a metal toilet and sink combo and that was it. I studied two small letterbox size slots at the bottom and top third of what I assumed to be a door.

I was in a prison cell of some kind and I couldn’t remember why.

The last thing I remembered was being out with my friends. We had all banded together to go on a girls holiday to Thailand. It had been two weeks of sun, sea and parties. For our last night out we had decided to go to one of Thailand’s famous Full Moon beach parties. We had all been having a great time, dancing and drinking. Then…nothing.

I pushed myself up onto unsteady feet and shuffled over to the top slot on the door. When I stood up on tiptoes the slot was just about eye height. The hallway was lit by florescent lights, one of which flickered constantly. It seemed like I was in the middle of a corridor lined on both sides with doors like mine. I could see that one or two had lights on inside them. I tried to force myself to stand higher but the pain in my side became too much and I was sure I could feel stitches pulling as I stretched. I leaned against the grubby wall and felt myself start to cry, more from self pity than pain or fear. I slid down to the ground and held my side. I tried to recollect if I’d fallen and injured myself and this was just some kind of really grim hospital but nothing came to the surface. It then occurred to me that my friends might be in some of the other cells. I climbed back to my feet and looked out into the corridor.

“Amy? Phoebe!” My voice was hoarse and it hurt my throat to talk. I tried to create some saliva to swallow but my mouth was dry as a bone. “Mikyla? Nora!” Silence. Nothing but a dull echo. I sighed heavily and started to head back to the bed.

“Paige? Is that you?” A voice called back. I practically ran back to the door, pain replaced by adrenaline.

“Mikyla? Is that you?”

“Oh my God. I thought I was the only one! What happened? Where are we?”

“I have no clue! What’s the last thing you remember?” I ask both her and myself.

“The fireworks… I think,” she replies. That memory came back to me too. The five of us sitting on the sand with a lot of other party goers watching the colourful display.

“I remember that too,” I hesitated but I needed to ask. “Do you have, like, an injury?”

“Holy shit! You too?” I started to feel sick. “Do you think they did something to us?” She asked but I had no answers.

“Will you two shut it?” An American male responded from the room next to me. “If they hear ya, they’ll beat the crap outta ya,”

“Who’s they?” I asked in a much lowered voice.

“The Johns that drugged us. They only show up to drag someone in or out and to bring food,” he explains. I guess that’s what the bottom slot in the door was for.

“Do you know what they did to us?” Mikyla asks.

“Yeah. You’ll find that you’re missin’ a kidney,” he stated in a way that sounded like he could’ve been telling us it was raining outside.

“They took our kidneys?” I exclaim.

“Big black market for them, apparently,”

“How do we get out?” I ask him in a tone barely above a whisper.

“I’ve tried just about everything I can think of,”

“How long have you been here?” Mikyla had asked the question I wanted to know too.

“About four months, I think.”

Four months?!” Mikyla and I cry together.

“How has no one came looking for you?”

“I don’t have anyone who would be able to pay the ransom,”

“How much were they asking for?” Mikyla once again asked the question I was thinking.

“Forty thousand dollars,”

“HEY! Be quiet! No talking!” A male shouted in broken accented English and we immediately shut up. A minute or so later I could hear Mikyla sobbing. All I wanted to do was hug her and tell her it was going to be okay but I didn’t know if I would be able to lie confidently enough. None of our families would be able to round up forty thousand dollars either. All I hoped was that the other girls were safe and not in this horrendous place. I sat back down on the bed and wondered how many people had been trapped in here like me?

By Wendy Alvarez on Unsplash

At some point I must’ve fallen asleep because I was jerked awake by the door to my room being flung open. Three men walked in and one pulled the chair over from the desk causing it to screech along the floor. He sat himself down and stared at me with unblinking eyes. He stared so long that it was starting to make me feel uncomfortable but I was determined that I wouldn’t be the first to look away. He smiled and leaned back in the chair and crossed his skinny legs. He nodded his head and the man on his left stepped forward and I flinched back but he just set a notepad and pen down on the bed.

“You write letter home. Asking for forty thousand dollars. No money, no go home,”

“My… my family doesn’t have that kind of money!” I stammered and his smile faded. He uncrossed his legs and leaned forward. “No money. No go home,” he repeated with much more menace. I picked up the pen and notepad with trembling fingers.

‘How the hell do you write a ransom note?’ I thought to myself as I addressed it to my mum and dad. My hands were trembling so much that it was difficult to write. Once I’d written everything I felt was needed, I was instructed to write down the address of my parents house. Then, as quickly as they arrived, they left; slamming the door behind them. I pulled my right knee up to my chin and hugged it to try and comfort myself. I kept shaking my head and pinching myself to try and wake up from the nightmare I was in but nothing worked. After, what I guessed was about an hour, a plate was slid through the bottom door slot. I hadn’t realised how hungry I was until I saw the food. I picked it up and sat at the desk. They hadn’t given me an cutlery, so I had to resort to eating the strange cold mixture of rice, peas and lentils with my fingers. While I was eating three bottles of water were then rolled into the room. I downed the first bottle in nearly one go. The food was horrible and the water was room temperature but I didn’t care. It had given me back some much needed energy. I slid the plate back through the door when I was finished.

The midday heat soon had the room feeling like I was inside an oven. The window was just bars and there was very little wind. I’d climbed up on the chair and was practically hanging out of it just to get some air. I did try to see if I could fit through the bars but my head wouldn’t go and I was too afraid of getting stuck. My side was starting to itch like crazy too, so I made the decision to unravel the bandage. Under it a bloody gauze square I found the nasty scar I’d been left with. It was slightly curved and just above my hip towards my back. The skin around the incision was inflamed and painful just to look at. I went to the door and banged on it with my firsts.

“Hey! Is there anyone there? I need clean bandages!” I yelled a couple of times before I heard the sound of someone wearing flip-flops walking down the hall. I stepped back from the door expecting someone to come in but instead a plastic tray with new bandages and gauze was slid under the door. I did my best to wash away the dried blood then replaced the clean gauze and bandage.

This was not how I imagined my last day in Thailand would be like.

I had no sense of time; only the sky getting lighter and darker. I judged that they fed us at around nine in the morning and five in the evening from the sound of the traffic that I could hear in the distance. Occasionally I would hear people calling out for help but they were usually greeted with someone shouting at them to keep quite or a metallic object being hit against their room door.

By Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Days went by, maybe even a week or more when I started to feel ill. No matter how I lay, I just couldn’t get comfy and my entire body hurt. When my morning plate was slid under the door I gathered the energy to tell them that I needed serious help. Ten minutes past before the door was opened and the same three men that had made me write the ransom note walked in.

“What wrong?” The main man asked.

“I think my wound is infected or something.”

The main man said something to the guy on his right who promptly left the room. When he returned he was followed by a female carrying a tray with an assortment of bandages and surgical looking items on it and she was in a dirty white doctors lab coat. The three men stepped outside the door but left it open to watch. The Doctor motioned for my to lift my top and she cut open the bandages and removed the gauze. The look on her face told me what I needed to know. She squawked something to the guard who had brought her in and he jogged off. She began to roughly poke at parts of my wound and each time it felt like I was being stabbed. I tried to tell her to stop but she would swipe my hands away.

“Please…” I begged but she just ignored me. The guard came back to the room with a bottle of pills and handed them to the doctor. She popped open the cap and tipped three out onto her hand and forced them in my mouth. She hand me one of the water bottles and motioned for me to drink and swallow the tablets. Half of me was terrified that they were sedatives and the other half hoped that they were but both sides agreed in the end that they were most likely antibiotics. I lost consciousness at some point and woke up in the dark. I turned on the light to see the bottle of pills sitting on the beside table with a fresh bottle of water. There was a small note with instructions to take three after food each day until finished.

When I had finished the course of antibiotics the doctor paid me another visit. She seemed satisfied that the infection had cleared and left without a single word.

By Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Days turned to weeks. Weeks turned to months. Every day was the same.

Mikyla and I were moved into rooms beside each other so that we could talk without having to shout across the hall. We both agreed that the other girls weren’t here. Others did come and go. So stayed days and others weeks. Clearly their families could afford the ransoms. I knew every inch of the room in detail including how many steps it took to walk the entire floor surface. Once a week we were let out and taken to shower and give clean clothes. This was the only time were allowed out of our rooms. Both Mikyla and I had lost shocking amounts of weight but we were both as healthy as we could be in this scenario.

One morning we didn’t receive breakfast at the normal time. Mikyla wasn’t too worried but my stomach felt like it was doing backflips. They did everything at the same time. Every day. Without fail. So why deviate now after so long?

An hour past and still no breakfast. Then two hours, then three. At around midday there was a sudden flurry of activity. The doors to our rooms were swung open and Mikyla and I were dragged out into the hallway. We were given flip-flops and had a sack forced over our heads. Before we could ask what was happening, we were getting pulled along the hallway and outside. For the first time in… I don’t know how long, I felt sun on my skin. We were pushed into the back of a van and driven off.

“What the hell is going on?” I whispered to Mikyla.

“Maybe our families paid the ransom?” I could hear the hope in her voice.

After an hour of driving on pothole filled roads, the van came to a stop and we were yanked out onto the ground.

“Stay!” A man instructed and we did what we were told. The doors to the van open and closed and the van took off at speed. When I couldn’t hear it anymore I pulled the sack of my head and blinked at the dazzling sunlight.

“Mik, they’re gone! We’re free!” I hopped up onto my feet and held my arms out. Mikyla took the sack from her head and joined me. We jumped and danced around until we were exhausted. We gathered our senses and headed for the nearest house. Through mime we managed to get the owners to ring the police.

When they arrived we discovered that we had fallen victim to an all too common experience of tourists being drugged and held hostage. They weren’t even that surprised that we had had a kidney removed. We were able to phone home and that’s where the biggest shock came from.

We had been missing for a year! An entire year in that horrible place. Our families had just managed to convince the British government and embassy to help pay the ransom.

Two days later we were health checked and on a plane home. We were greeted by our family and friends and a barrage of news crews but we didn’t care. We were safe, we were home and our friends were all okay.

By Austin Schmid on Unsplash

For a long time afterwards I couldn’t sleep in house by myself, so I’d gone back to live with my parents. I also developed night terrors for a while but it was all worth it because I was free and healthy. I’d had a year of my life stolen but I was okay… oh and a stolen kidney but you can live with one.


About the author

Emma Diane McManus

Hi! I’m Emma from Northern Ireland. I’m a tattooed, ghost hunting semi-professional photographer and aspiring author.

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