I was convinced that I would die in that cellar after being held captive for twenty years. I remember the last day I was able to walk outside free, it was a sunny Saturday morning in June the year 2001. I was so excited because my 11th birthday was coming up in a few days and my mother planned to take me on a road trip to San Diego California to visit my grandparents.
Excited, I hurried to my best friend Morgan’s house to tell him about the trip. When I made it there I was not surprised to find his grandfather Mr. Tillman out front under the hood of one of his tractors. Once in ear shot I greeted Mr. Tillman and asked permission to go inside to get Morgan. He turned and nodded yes and I hurried inside yelling Morgan’s name.
After searching throughout the house, I found there was no one inside. I went to the kitchen and looked out the window noticing one of the cars were gone and Mr. Tillman was still working on the tractor. I turned to leave but noticed the chocolate cake from my mother’s bakery sitting on the kitchen table.
I could never resist my mother’s chocolate cake as I checked once again to see if Mr. Tillman were still working outside. Once I confirmed that he was still under the hood, I went into the cabinet and retrieved a plate. I grabbed a knife from the rack and sliced me a big piece of the chocolate cake not caring that it did not belong to me. I found a fork, sat at the table and began eating savoring the flavor.
Suddenly Mr. Tillman appeared in the doorway catching me red handed. He smiled while grabbing a plate and fork before taking a seat across from me. He cut himself a slice and we ate while having small talk about how good the cake was and my plans for the summer. He apologized for forgetting to tell me that Morgan went to Topeka Kansas with his parents to pick up a puppy.
I was excited because Morgan told me he was going to get a puppy. We had discussed names and how we were going to take care of it. I began rambling to Mr. Tillman about our plans with the puppy and he listened while retrieving the milk from the refrigerator. He returned to the table with two glasses of cold milk. I was almost done with my cake and needed a drink so I grabbed the glass of milk and drunk it halfway down.
While Mr. Tillman continued to ramble off about his childhood, I began to feel lightheaded and everything became a blur. I blacked out and when I came, too Mr. Tillman was standing over me and we were no longer in the kitchen. When I looked around, it appeared that I was inside of a basement but it was not the basement Morgan and I spent out days playing in. I looked around noticing two twin size beds, a table with two chairs, a couch, a television, toilet and sink.
In a panic I began scooting backwards away from Mr. Tillman who continued to stand over me. Now realizing I had shackles on my feet, I yelled “Where am I.”
Mr. Tillman never said a word, he just placed his index finger over his mouth before tossing me a baby doll. I watched him turn and climb the stairs before closing the cellar door leaving me alone. I remember seeing a calendar on the wall. I went over and used the marker from the table and wrote the number one in the date June 12, 2001, the first date of my captivity.
The next few days I watched the news every night until I saw my face reported missing. I cried as I watched my mother plead for my safe return home. I also saw Mr. Tillman standing by her side consoling her.
A week later it was my birthday, Mr. Tillman brought another little girl down to the cellar. I watched him shackle her while she laid unconscious. He then stood over her patiently until she awakened in a panic. I continued to watch in silence as she reacted the same as I did. Like before, Mr. Tillman tossed her a baby doll before leaving both of us in the cellar. Having someone else down there eased the situation a little. Her name was Carolyn and she was ten years old.
For the next five years Mr. Tillman visited us daily. Once a week he brought my favorite chocolate cake from my mother’s bakery. He never said anything, just brought us food, water, books and checked to make sure we were not trying to break out.
Carolyn and I wondered why he was holding us captive but shortly after my sixteenth birthday our question was answered. I won’t go into detail but Mr. Tillman took something precious from the both of us and nine months later I gave birth to my son. I remember a lot of pain and blood as Mr. Tillman delivered my baby. A few days afterwards, Carolyn went into labor and gave birth to a baby girl. Mr. Tillman only allowed our babies stay with us for a couple of weeks before taking them.
Then things got really bad when Carolyn took ill. Mr. Tillman made frequent visits throughout the day, giving her different medications until one morning I awakened and found she died sometime in the middle of the night. I cried alone in that cellar wishing it were me that died as well. All we had was each other in that cellar, she was my sister and I will never forget her.
Later that day, Mr. Tillman came to find Carolyn was dead. He went, retrieved a large body bag, and placed her body inside of it. He then pulled the bag up the steps and out of the cellar. I remember wondering if he was going to bring someone else but he never did. Three months later Mr. Tillman impregnated me again and nine months later I gave birth to another baby boy. Just like to first time, Mr. Tillman let me keep the baby for a brief time before taking him. When I questioned where he had taken my babies he said. “Don’t worry about where they are, you just do your job and keep having them.”
Moving forward like clockwork three months after giving birth, Mr. Tillman came to get me pregnant again but this time he had a man with him. Mr. Tillman instructed me to lay down on the bed before giving the man permission to have his way with me. I remember Mr. Tillman sat back and watched. When finished they left me alone in the cellar crying. Nine months later I gave birth to a baby girl.
This went on every year, a different man every time. I prayed every night that one day that I would get out of this situation. Until then I continued to give birth every year with no complications and by the time I was 26 years old I had given birth to ten babies, four boys and six girls. Mr. Tillman complimented me when he came and retrieved my last baby a little girl. On this visit he had a woman with him and I noticed that he looked ill as he took the baby out of my arms. He handed her over to the woman and they went up the stairs. Before closing the door Mr. Tillman said, “Your job is done.”
I remember sitting back thinking about his words, would he kill me or set me free. In fear of me telling I already knew the answer to that and anticipated my days were numbered. Then weeks passed and no one came, at this point I concluded that Mr. Tillman was leaving me to starve to death. Coming to terms with my fate I began building up the courage to end things faster and commit suicide. I didn’t deserve to be alive. To think I was in this situation because I could not resist a slice of chocolate cake. My biggest mistake on the day I was taken was sitting down and eating that cake instead of going back home.
Then the night I was sure I would follow through with killing myself the cellar door opened. I laid in bed staring at the concreate wall expecting it to be Mr. Tillman. After several minutes passed I turned wondering why he had not made it over. Then I lost my breath when I saw Morgan’s father David standing with a shock look on his face.