The Old Barn
Julie woke up in a world of hurt. The man had beaten her several times. She had bruises, bad ones, mostly on her arms and legs. Her spine felt like it had been stretched to the breaking point. And there was no way to describe how she felt in her lower regions. She felt pain from the inside out.
A couple of teeth were loose, and she had bitten the inside of her cheek more than once. Her lips were sore and cracked from days of dehydration.
But there was good news filtering into her brain. The ropes she had been tied with were looser now. Either she had lost enough weight or fluids, that she could now feel it was possible to slip out of the bindings. She had been left to die in this old barn, but now she was feeling the tiniest glimmer of hope.
She couldn't really remember how many days ago it had been since the man who smelled of rotten fruit had taken her. She had been on the road and had stopped to buy some apples at a seedy looking fruit stand on the side of the road.
Maybe she had been too tired to notice that the fruit stand was run by a neanderthal. She just wanted an apple or two and to be on her way. She stretched a bit after getting out of the car. And before she knew what was happening, the man had grabbed her and hit her in the face.
She was stunned but too shocked to resist being thrown into the back seat of her own car and being hog tied. It had happened so fast that she didn't even have time to process what was happening.
But now, here she was, vaguely aware that she was alone and now able to escape. She slipped one wrist out and was able to untie the knots slowly, acutely conscious of the danger she would still be in if the rotten man came back.
She heard no sounds. No rustling in the old hay, nothing.
She looked around for anything she could use for a weapon in case her tormentor returned. But there was a real lack of tools that normally occupy an old barn. And worst of all, there was no water, no food, and all she had on was what was left of the blouse she had been wearing several days ago.
Julie was weak and in pain, but she still had the will to live, so she got herself out of that old barn and started walking.
The train tracks
Julie walked all that evening and all through the night. By mid morning, she had come across the old train tracks by the side of a formidable mountain road.
She was near delirium and still could not find so much as an empty plastic bottle or scrap of trash with something resembling food in it. She knew that she needed to find water very soon or die trying.
She couldn't quite figure out which way to go. Should she go up toward the mountain, or down towards what might be a town.
Then she saw it. A water tower up the tracks a ways. That was the decision maker for sure. Either she found water, or she would die. She headed up the mountain hoping the tower still had some liquid in it.
As she passed by one of the empty train cars, she happened to notice an old jacket inside. It resembled the heavy duty jackets that fire fighters wore. And it looked gigantic to her. She could use it, if only she could reach it.
She was too weak to even climb up into the empty car on the low side of the tracks, but she managed to go under the car and get to the high side of the track and she found that she could just reach the jacket.
She put it on and felt immensely wealthy for a second having found something that might actually save her from the cold nights.
Again, she trudged up the incline hoping to get to the water tower and dreaming of the cold, refreshing water that must be there. It had to be there, it just had to be.
Julie dreamed of apples. Lots and lots of apples. So many apples that she could not stand. The apples were tripping her and she fell, over and over. In the shadows there was an evil man, hurting her, yelling at her, hitting her.
Julie had passed out on the track after stumbling on the ties. Every inch of her body screamed in agony. She felt like she was losing her mind.
But slowly, terrible inch by inch, she reached the water tower. She woke up in its shadow. Her head felt so terribly swollen and heavy. She tried very hard to look up and see if there was water in it, but all she could see were the rotted out bottom metal slats that had held the tower bottom together. Nothing. No water.
But she heard something. A soft gentle sound. It was right over the rise. What was it? She crawled and scraped her way over the mound of dirt, and wonder of wonders, the creek that had fed the water tower was still running! Lightly, since it was late summer and the snows had long ago melted. But water it was and she dragged her painful self over to it and drank.
Nothing in her entire life had ever tasted so good as the water in that spring. It was cold, but not icy. It was wetter than wet. It melted into her skin and soothed the bruises. It was life itself.
She slept again, but did not dream of the apples, or the rotten man who tended them.
When she awoke, she looked up upon the mountain, shrouded in mist, as lost as she was.
As soon as Julie could stand, she got up and began to try and get her bearings again. She would live now. She had water, but sure as hell, she would die without food. If she didn't eat in the next few days, she would not survive.
But the water was life, and she had hope now. If only she could find something to eat!
She saw the gravestones about 100 meters away from the stream. She walked over and read their stories.
The three markers appeared to be those of a family named Drumpheros. The mother had died in the early 1900s, the father passed on shortly after the woman, and in between was a smaller grave. Perhaps it was their child.
She couldn't grieve for these people. She didn't know who they were, even though their name sounded vaguely familiar. She only knew that nearby they, or their family, had planted a healthy apple tree! And wonder of wonders, there were apples ready for the picking!
If she had been a religious person, she would have fallen to her knees to praise the god of the universe for those apples, but she wasn't. She knew that the tree was a memorial to these lost and forgotten people of the graves. She nodded toward them and thanked their skeletons instead.
She wondered if there were another family member still living. Perhaps one selling these same apples in a roadside fruit stand.
The more she thought of this, the more her brain began to associate the Drumpheros with their evil, violent, child who had grown to adulthood. She pictured him in her mind. His visage coalesced into the man who had abducted her.
She would live now. She knew this to be a fact. She would find her way off of this secluded, lost mountain of doom. She would find the man who had so cruelly abused her body. And she would destroy him.
This story was inspired by the billbuc writing challenge, but is wholly the creation of L.A. Cargill and Austinstar© 2016.
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© 2016 Lela