It’s been two days since they added the last girl. Eve arrived much as we all did, struggling, snarling, and full of fight. Like me, she survived her first beating. She’s quiet now. Recovering from her injuries. Now, she whimpers and cries, just like the rest of us.
Like Eve, I fought when they took me, and like her, I suffered. I cried.
I’m smarter now.
We all are.
While nobody knows where we are, or where we’re going, we are headed somewhere.
We’re fed, watered, and they remove the foul-smelling bucket of waste once a day. I think. Measuring time is difficult, but we know one thing. They want us alive when we get to wherever it is they’re taking us.
To monsters who wait…for us.
To the beginning of a living hell.
After Eve’s arrival, the metal floor of our prison vibrated. A low, persistent drone shook the shipping container. Sometime later, hours maybe—it’s hard to tell how much time passes in here—a soft up and down, side to side, rolling motion confirms our fears. We’re being shipped to the next destination in our descent into hell.
The days pass with the relentless march of time. We can’t stop it, slow it, or reverse it. Minutes last hours, hours last days, and the world no longer makes sense. With only suffocating darkness to pass the time, I lose more and more of my sanity with each passing day.
My fingers plait a tiny braid. I make one for each day, or at least I think the time between one opening of the shipping container and the next is one day. It’s when they feed us and water us like the animals we’ve become.
There are ten braids now.
A loud bang sounds, and I nearly jump out of my skin.
Men’s voices rumble outside.
I scurry back, not wanting them to touch me, to hurt me. Three girls got too close. They were dragged out. None returned. Thirteen of us remain, shadows of our former selves.
When the doors open, all we see is darkness. What little light there is from the moon filters down through stacked shipping containers, to cast shadows upon shadows. I prefer the formless blackness to the shifting shadows. They don’t open the door during the daytime. It’s always night.
A hand reaches in and removes the waste bucket. Footsteps recede while someone else places a large bowl of water just inside. We wait for the man with the bucket to return and toss it back inside. Covered in filth and grime, the bucket no longer bothers me.
When water comes, no one touches it. We fear what might be in it more than we fear dying of thirst.
We wait until the doors close. Until the metallic thunk of the locking lugs tells us we’re once again locked inside our stifling prison.
Only then do we move.
One girl finds the bowl in the blinding darkness.
One girl takes a sip.
And we wait.
If she doesn’t pass out from whatever drug they may have laced it with, we share the water. Small sips that do nothing to quench our thirst.
But it keeps us alive.
We survive together, thirteen girls bonded by a nightmare.
Each girl takes her turn to test the water.
Today, it’s my turn.
I lift my head from my knees and reach for the bowl. Dipping my finger into its contents, I croak out a scratchy, “W-water.” There is no food. Gnawing hunger claws at my belly, but it’s thirst that drives me.
Sighs sound all around me in the dismal darkness. It’s been too long without water. The only thing carrying me through, the only reason I hold onto hope, is that I believe we’re more valuable alive than dead. I know what fate awaits us. We all know. But it’s still better than death.
I take a long pull, swallowing water down a scratchy throat, which still hurts from all the screaming during my abduction. It feels as if I broke something inside because my voice is nothing but a breathy whisper now.
As the first girl, I’ll drink more than the rest. That way, the drug, if it’s there, will be more likely to take effect on me, thus saving the others. I scoot back against the wall and slide the bowl to Bree. She came the day after I arrived. Our fingers interlock as I tip my head back to wait.
If nothing happens, Bree will take a sip and pass it