Written by Wayne Simmons — Kayley, a typical teenage goth girl, falls asleep peacefully in the back seat of the school bus, listening to tunes. But she wakes up in a real horror movie scenario. She is tied up in a dark subterranean cell, the prisoner of a stranger whose intentions are menacing.
How did she get there and what does the stranger want? Answers don’t come easy, but they are low priority compared to her desire to escape, as she lies naked on a bed restrained by ropes. When the lights come on, she makes out that she is in a basement room but she has no idea where she is. The stranger’s awkward, even shy manner is beyond creepy, but it soon gives way to a fierce anger and moral judgment of her goth lifestyle, tattoos and piercings. Days turn into weeks as he feeds her, empties her bedpan, and cleans her, all the while assuring her that he can ‘help’ her.
We learn more about Kayley during her solitary confinement. Hallucinatory nightmares and childhood memories tell of a boogeyman who raped her at her bedside on a regular basis when she lived in the countryside. She recalls her own act of murder in the family shed where a dark man took her by surprise and she lashed out with lethal force, thinking he was the boogeyman. While her father silently covers up the murder and disposes of the body in the fields, we are not quite sure what the father’s deal is or who the dark man was. Is there some connection to her present captor? As he calls her by name, he seems to know a lot about her. He even assumes her identity and communicates to her friends on her cellphone and via Facebook feeds.
As her fevered imagination begins to blur with present reality, Kayley herself is unsure what is real. A regular visit from one her girlfriends to give her advice about escaping doesn’t exactly help matters either. During a lucid moment in her stagnant prison Kayley finally learns how her captor intends to ‘help’ her. We also find out just what she is capable of herself. The Saw-set will give a hearty thumbs-up to the harrowing events which follow, and the bleak, vertiginous final segment will make you feel dirty just for reading.
Simmons’ compelling horror story is delivered with a constant, adrenalin-fueled dread. The harrowing finale will have you panting like you’re in a cage fight, and you’ll find yourself casting a wary glance at fellow commuters or workmates. A strong short story that begs for a sequel, pick up this novella for your long commute and you might just miss your stop.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars