Monday, July 13, 2015

Cost of Freedom

Freedom. He blinked at the random thought. Must mean something to somebody. It was nothing, here in the dark, the bricks cold and hard against his back, underneath him. The darkness was all consuming, empty. Loneliness ate his faltering courage.

The lock rattled at the top of the stairs, sending his heart leaping into his throat. "Hello? Will you talk to me?"

He cringed at the pleading note in his voice, clamped his lips closed on the words desperate to tumble out. He swallowed hysterical laughter. He'd spent days, weeks—could be years—down there, without a word from another soul. Would he die down there with no one to know but his captor?

Tears fell hot on his face, startling him. He hadn't cried in a long time. When had that been? Oh, not a good memory. His son, tall enough to look him in the eye, said he hated him, snagged the keys and put the car around a telephone pole at seventy miles an hour. He should have hid the keys, the beer, his despair. Funny, he hadn't shed a tear since then.

But he wanted to feel the sun on his face! The wind kissing his cheeks. Fresh air filling his lungs. He stretched his arms and froze, ice shivering through him at the weight of chains on his wrists. He'd forgotten them, put from his mind the times he'd twisted and tugged until his wrists bled, to no avail. There was no loosening the chain from the iron ring fixed in the stone floor.

"Annie," he mourned in the dark. I'm sorry. She had warned him about hiking alone, but he could never resist a secluded trail, the crest of the next hill. He hadn't been aware of the man following him until the footstep behind him and the rock at the back of his head sending him into blackness and pain.

He leaned his head back on the bricks, sighed, desolate with the thought that darkness would be his last sight when he would give his life to see Annie's face one more time.

*  *  *

Tom gave another tug on the rusted padlock. "Wonder what's down there?"

"Here." Neil handed him a brick from the tumbled fireplace.

Tom looked at it, uncertain. "I don't want to knock the roof down on us."

They'd hiked farther than they should have, stumbling on the dilapidated old shack by accident, hidden in a grove of old oak trees by the river. It leaned heavily to one side and Tom would never have gone in if Neil hadn't teased him into it.

 "Just open the damned door. I want to see what's down there." Neil nudged him with an elbow. "Maybe there's a body down there."

"More likely an old wine cellar," Tom said hopefully. They'd grown up on horror stories of the serial killer in the area who used to chain his victims in basements, torturing them for days before gutting them. It was rumored he'd drowned while trying to avoid a police chase, leaving victims behind unaccounted for. But they were only stories, right?

A sudden, inexplicable panic seized Tom and he swung at the lock, the crash and clank loud in the quiet summer afternoon. Boards creaked overhead, but he didn't care. He needed to get the door open, right now. He swung again, bashing at the lock again and again, ignoring Neil's shout when something crashed to the floor behind them.

"Dammit, Tom, just stop!"

Tom shoved his friend away, swung one more time, the lock springing open with a snap. Dropping the crumbling stone, he wrenched the door outwards. A cold draft wafted up from the darkness, brushed against his face, heavy with despair, loneliness. And then joy! Overwhelming, wild, a spirit winging free from fetters that had weighed its soul forever.

"Dude, what is it? What did you see?" Neil shook his arm.

Tom looked at him, his friend's face made blurry by the tears filling his eyes. He shrugged helplessly. "I didn't see anything, only felt…"

"What? Man, tell me. You're scaring me. What did you feel?"

Neil's brown eyes had gone wide with concern, his grip on Tom's arm painful. Tom swallowed the hard lump in his throat. How to describe…

"It felt like freedom," he whispered, voice trembling with unbearable gladness.

Dianne is the author of paranormal/suspense, fantasy adventure, m/m romance, and anything else that comes to mind. Oh, and a floral designer, which is the perfect job for her. When not writing, she can express herself through the rich colors and textures of flowers and foliage.

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