Demanding Ransom - By Megan Squires


Doesn’t this thing go any faster? Isn’t dad always talking about those 177 horses under the hood of this hand-me-down Honda? Feels more like a horse-drawn carriage and I’m pretty sure I’m starting to hold up traffic and will get pulled over for driving well under the speed limit, if cops actually even do that. The least this car could do is keep up with the flow of traffic. Is that too much to ask?

I ram the pedal all the way to the floorboards, anticipating the light to morph into green as I speed toward it, because it’s currently red. Like blood red. Come on, come on, turn already.

Green… Go.

I edge through the intersection, picking up the speed my white knuckled grip on the steering wheel begged for moments earlier. Stay green, stay green. The sedan rushes two more blocks; colored blurs of vehicles and pedestrians blend together at my periphery.

My phone buzzes in my lap again, but I leave it. It would rob me of those few precious seconds I just gained if I try to fumble for it and read the latest text. Plus, Dad’s always harping on me to stop texting while driving. I think now is as good a time as any to start listening to him. I probably should have listened to him earlier.

Two more miles. That’s it, not much further now.

We ran two miles last year for fitness testing in P.E., and while my thirteen minute, twenty-three second finish time seemed lightning fast then, it feels like this piece-of-junk tank is trailing even slower than my legs did. Honestly, I might get there sooner if I abandon the car and hoof it on foot. Come on. Let’s go!

Somehow, despite the less than ideal pace, I’ve fallen in sync with the lights, so for the next three I glide under their green glow. I should call him and tell him I’m on my way, but the no cell phone rule isn’t limited to just texting. He’d be furious if he heard my voice on the other end of the line, even under these circumstances. I know there’s a hands-free device planned for my stocking this Christmas, but that’s three months away. It would have been a nice going away present when I headed off to college a few weeks ago, but Dad is nothing if not a meticulous planner. But I’m sure he never could have planned for any of this.

I suck in a shallow breath, since it seems like that’s all I’m able to do right now. Tiny, little breaths. I had tried to drag in longer inhales, but they kept stopping short, like some tight ball in my chest was pushing down on my lungs and prohibited any more oxygen from entering into my system. I yank on the taut pull of the shoulder harness to loosen the constriction and clench my teeth together until it hurts.

One mile to go. Almost there.

The light up ahead is green—it has been from the moment it came into view—so I doubt it will do me the favor of holding that hue until I’m able to sneak under it. But it looks like it’s going to. If I needed to stop, I’d have to start pressing the break right about now. But it’s not even yellow. Nope, still bright green.

I gun it.


The warm sensation spills across my brow when I rotate my head to the side, and there’s a pillow of glass at my hair. It makes an awful, crunching sound like someone walking across bits of loose gravel. My eyes hold shut—from pain maybe? Because it’s not to avoid the sunlight. That started slipping out of the sky before I even got in the car back in Davis. No, it must be from pain. But I don’t feel pain. I don’t feel anything, actually. And I don’t hear anything. Or at least nothing intelligible. Anything I can hear sounds funneled; the distorted echo of someone talking through a toilet paper roll or those tin can phones Mikey and I used to play with as kids. I strain to make out clear voices, but I just hear the popping of glass—pop, pop, pop—as it gets closer to my ears.

“Ma’am, just a few more moments and they’ll have you outta there, okay?”

Ma’am? Who is he talking to? I’m only nineteen years old and that doesn’t qualify me for being called ma’am. I almost want to sneak a glance toward the passenger seat to see if my mother is in