In association with Nicola Morgan (and lots of others, I hope), I'd like to invite you to put your feet up, grab yourself a mug of coffee or tea, and help yourself to a cake (if you want one of my doughnuts you'll have to come and get them, I'm afraid, and there aren't many left).
Give yourself 15 minutes. You deserve it.
To help you pass the time, I've written a short story. I hope you like it. If you do (or even if you don't), please consider donating to Macmillan Cancer Relief - even just a couple of pounds will be welcomed, I'm sure.
(If you're reading this in North America, for "boot" read "trunk").
The attack came out of nowhere. No shouted warnings, no rush of feet pounding the ground, just a sudden darkness as the hessian sack was placed over my head, my arms were pulled roughly behind my back and I was marched, unceremoniously, down the path. My feeble attempts at resistance were quickly, and authoritatively, quelled.
I wasn’t taken far. I heard the chirp of a car being unlocked remotely and the tiniest of creaks as the door was opened. Except it wasn’t a door as I discovered when I was lifted off my feet and dumped into the boot. I had no time to catch my breath before the boot-lid was slammed down above me and the blackness became more complete.
My hands had been tied while I was walking and I managed to appreciate the skill of my captor in doing that so quickly. The binding wasn’t especially tight, though, and I felt confident that with a little work I would be able to remove the rope and, subsequently, the smelly sack from my head.
But then what? Why was I here? Where were they taking me? Was there enough air in here? I tried to be calm but I knew I was breathing too quickly, my heart pounding in my chest and I could feel the sweat on my brow and the palms of my hands.
The car had started and was driven slowly away, apparently trying to avoid acting suspiciously. I could hear no voices, but they may have been drowned by the music playing loudly. The bass echoed in the confined space in which I was trapped.
I felt every bump, every hole in the road. Even the cats-eyes caused the suspension to judder more than I’d ever realised; with no sprung seat beneath me I felt every jolt.
It was impossible to gauge what direction we were taking. I tried to work out which way we turned by the lean of the car, but after so many turnings I lost my bearings. We could have been travelling in a rough circle, or figure of eight, for all I knew.
With no idea how long I was likely to be trapped here, I tried to formulate some sort of escape plan. Clearly, so long as we were moving, the option of simply crying out for help was not viable. I would have to wait for the car to come to a stop.
In the meantime, I'd managed to free my hands and I removed the sack from my head – though it made little difference to what I could see. There was a small red glow from the taillights; if I concentrated I could just about see my hand in front of my face, but no more.
I felt around inside the boot, hoping to find a tool set or something that might help, but it seemed they had thought of that and I found nothing, no wrench, no wheel brace. Even the spare wheel was missing - they had clearly planned this carefully.
Then I remembered my phone. My trusty iPhone. Not only would I be able to call for help, but I’d be able to work out where I was, thanks to the mapping application. I reached into my trouser pocket and felt a huge wave of relief when my hand closed around the familiar cold metal of the casing.
I switched it on and waited for it to start up. Where is the phone application? Why can I not call any of the contacts? And why is my contact list suddenly so short?
The answer, when it occurred to me, was devastating. This was not my iPhone, instead I had picked up my daughter’s iPod. Identical in every way except… well, no phone application. The iPod had the same map application, but with no phone signal it had no way of knowing where I was. I searched, more in desperation than hope, for a wi-fi signal but there were none in range. The iPod was reduced to little more than a dim light in the blackness of my new prison.
I failed to keep track of time, resigned to being stuck here until such time as my captors deemed it necessary to stop. It could have been five minutes or five hours for all I knew. I even managed to doze for a time, the motion of the car and the darkness proving to be surprisingly soporific.
I was woken by the sensation of the car stopping, gently, no commotion, no screaming brakes. I heard the driver and passenger get out and slam their doors, and the chirp as the doors locked. With the music now silenced I could hear them talking outside the car, but their voices were low and I could not pick up any of the conversation. After a few moments their voices fell silent and I heard them walk away.
I listened carefully for any other sounds, but heard none. It was as if they had abandoned me in the middle of nowhere. There were no sounds of cars, no voices, no footsteps, just absolute silence. With the lights of the car switched off the boot was absolutely black, no light at all seeped in. The light on the iPod helped a little, but with nothing to see anyway it seemed a somewhat pointless exercise, and I felt I should save the battery in case I needed it for anything later.
I tried calling out and kicking my feet against the boot-lid, I made plenty of noise but there were no replies and in the end I just lay there in the silence, waiting for whatever destiny had in store for me, unable to understand how I could have found myself in this situation. I had never, to my knowledge, crossed anybody, never found myself in a fight, barely even raised my voice in anger. I was known to everybody for my even temper and unassuming manner. I had a large circle of friends and, I was sure, no enemies.
But a man doesn’t end up locked inside the boot of a car if he has no enemies. Perhaps it had been a case of mistaken identity, but that would be of no help if I wasn’t given any time to talk to them. I had visions of television programmes where the boot is opened and a gun fired with no questions being asked, the unfortunate victim being left in a pool of blood.
Unless… No, it couldn’t be that. Nobody knew about that. It was years ago; I’d left that life behind; I was no longer that person. I’d changed. The thought made my stomach churn and I felt the bile rise in my throat and felt short of breath as if the air really was running out. My skin prickled and my legs, already uncomfortable from the confinement, began to shake. This really could be the end, I could be that body laying in a pool of blood. If somebody had found out…
I resolved that this would not be my fate. Although cramped, the boot did allow me some space to move around. I found, with some effort, that I could lie on my back with my feet above me, pressed against the boot lid. It was uncomfortable to stay in that position, though, so instead I practiced moving into that position quickly, aware that I would only have a fraction of a second to use to my advantage – assuming I had sufficient warning of their arrival to actually act.
I needn’t have worried. Their approach was loud. They were clearly unconcerned about being heard, either by me or any casual passers-by, which only reinforced my belief that we were in some remote location, away from the risk of being seen by anybody. They were speaking more loudly now, loudly enough for me to determine that it was two men, but their footsteps once again made it impossible for me to understand anything but the occasional word. They even laughed at one point, at that seemed as if they were taunting me.
I positioned myself as planned, hoping that the one who opened the boot would do so directly in line with the lock, for that was where I planted my feet. I planned to kick out with all my strength as soon as the lid was opened, hoping to strike with both feet, preferably into his face or, at the very least, into his chest, sending him off balance.
That would be all I had in my favour: the element of surprise. I knew that the other man could have a weapon, and he could well discharge it before I had time to do anything else, so I counted on him being so surprised by the ferocity of my attack that I would gain valuable seconds, but it still depended on me being able to extract myself from the boot quickly, and I had serious doubts about my ability to do so, and cursed my lack of fitness and unwillingness to take any exercise.
Once again I heard the chirp of the doors being unlocked, and could hear that one of them was standing right in front of the boot. I braced myself, arms tensed, hands flat to the floor ready to put as much power as possible into the strike. I held my breath and waited.
The boot-lid sprang open and I was shocked by the amount of light that leaped in, but I ignored it and kicked out with both legs, using all my reserves of strength. I heard the satisfying yet sickening crack as my heel connected and saw his head thrown backwards, blood already pouring from his face and he staggered away.
I screamed in rage, ready to take on my other kidnapper, my own scream drowning out the shouts of the many, many people gathered around, the familiarity of their faces registering too slowly as I saw all their expressions change from happiness to shock and far too late heard their words as they died in the wind.
For Sylv, Derrick and Waveney (Eileen)