It was March 16th, the day before Saint Patrick's day, and I was leaving a party I attended with my friends from college. It was only a few blocks from my house, but since it was still relatively early and my friends didn't want to leave yet, I decided to request an Uber instead of walking home, in the big city of Chicago, at night.
Having been using Uber for a couple years to get home from parties, I was confident in the choice I had made, thinking I was safe—so confident that I forgot to match the license plate number, car type, and photo of the driver to my app. It was the middle of Chicago, with street lights on every corner. Surely, someone had to have seen me get into this man's car, right?
He seemed like a friendly man, who was just trying to get extra cash as he took on the financial responsibility of his wife and three kids after she lost her job. We chatted forever before I realized he was going in the wrong direction, and that his GPS wasn't really telling him where to go anymore. I didn't even see him turn it off. I was unaware of my surroundings and, by this point, I was getting worried. I looked at my maps on my phone, and saw that we were going in the opposite direction of my off-campus apartment.
"Where are we going? Why are you going in the opposite direction?" I asked as he turned around to face me.
"Oh, no. There is a detour on the way to your apartment, so I wanted to make sure we went around it," he said.
"But you're literally an hour out of the way, and I'm about to have to pay for this extra amount of time. Please take me home."
He continued driving, this time without saying a word. His eyes grew cold; he looked like he was getting irritated. My heart started beating faster and faster as I was trying to get him to turn around. I started trying to open the doors. I had no clue where I was, but I was willing to jump out of a moving car to get away from him. The child safety locks were on. Great. I tried calling for 911, but where we were, I didn't get reception. I tried grabbing the wheel, but he punched me in the face, multiple times, and eventually, everything went black.
I'm not sure what happened next, but I woke up on a cold, damp basement floor. It was dark, and I could barely see anything. On my wrists were these large, heavy chains attached to a pole in the middle of the room. There was a bare mattress beside me with no sheet, that looked like it had to be at least 10 years old and never washed. It was so dirty and dingy, making me think I am not the only one he has done this to.
I kept wondering, Where am I? He said he has a wife and kids; does she know I'm down here? Was he even telling the truth about his family? Will I ever get out of here alive?
I should have just stayed home and studied. Would I have been safer if I had just walked home, instead of requesting an Uber? How was this man even an Uber driver? Was this his plan the entire time? To capture a young woman and hold her hostage?
He came into the room and without saying a word, set a tray of food and a glass of water down on the floor, and left again. I was so hungry. I'm not sure how long it had been, but it felt like I hadn't eaten in days. Did he drug me? I ate my food and sat back against the pole, just looking around, thinking of ways I could escape.
After what seemed like hours, he came back down, but this time, he started unbuckling his belt. I immediately knew what was going to happen, and started to cry. I remember he told me not to scream or he'd kill me. I just laid there, trying not to think about what was happening, tears streaming down my face. He laughed as if my pain was pleasure to him. When he was done, he just got up and left, without saying a word. I was left naked and terrified, but tried to go to sleep, just to get the thought of what happened out of my head.
Down there in that cold, dark basement, I tried to keep track of the days spent. I could have miscounted, but after 54 days, I remember him telling me the end was coming and I'd finally be free. I was ready to see my family and friends. Had they been looking for me? Did they give up after a couple of weeks? Would they be relieved to see me? Would they ever find out what happened to me, and who took me? I didn't know how else to feel but excited. Because for almost two months, I had been starved, tortured, and raped, every single day.
That's when my dreams came crashing down. He came in the basement and told me that our time together was over and that I'd be free that day. Not what I pictured "free," when he pulled out a knife and started cutting my arms and legs. I had already been tortured these last two months, but this felt different. The look in his eyes was different this time. He was enjoying this way too much, and I felt like I wasn't going to get out of this basement alive. Blood was dripping down to my fingertips, and drops were hitting the floor. I was crying out in pain, which is what he wanted—one last cry out in desperation for him to end what he was doing to me.
I turned around, heard a ringing, and then everything went black.
IF YOU LIKED THIS CHAPTER, SIGN UP BELOW TO GET NOTIFIED WHEN CHAPTER TWO COMES OUT.