**WARNING: violence and gore. Reader discretion is advised.**
I heard the noise before I opened my eyes. The whirr of an engine raged on, but where was I going? Last I recalled, I was lying in bed listening to music when suddenly there was a loud crash downstairs. I rushed down to find my mother's lifeless body peeking out from behind the kitchen island. Just as I started to rush toward her, a dull pain coursed through my head. The world went black.
I finally gain the courage to open my eyes. I'm hidden under a scratchy blanket covered in burrs poking into my bare arms and legs. My hands are tied, so it's difficult to pull the blanket off my head. Once I finally manage to pull it free, I see that I'm in the trunk space of some SUV. I look around frantically, trying to find something sharp to cut the ties binding my hands. There's nothing.
A phone rings in the front and whoever is driving picks it up after the fourth ring. His voice is gruff and scary, but somehow familiar to me.
"What?" He says, answering the phone.
"I told you I'd take care of it! I'm on my way. Don't call me again or she might wake up," He says, hanging up the phone and tossing it into the passenger seat.
He doesn't know I'm awake. Good. That gives me time to think of some way to escape this nightmare. I start searching the trunk again, coming up short. There's nothing here that can be useful to me. I close my eyes, trying to steady my breathing and push down the anxiety threatening to cloud my mind. I run through my option, which are practically nothing, and decide the best way to break the rope is to bite through it. I set to work trying to chew through the rope but it's thick. I'm only able to pull a few strands free from the thread by the time the SUV comes to a stop.
The man gets out of the SUV and comes around to the back. He opens the trunk and sees me awake. He doesn't say anything, just grabs me by the arm and lifts me up. He's tall, has to be around 6 ft 5 at least. I stare at him, trying to memorize every detail of his face so that if, no, when I escape I can tell the sketch artist at a police precinct exactly who took me. He has scruff all over his cheeks as if he hasn't shaved in a few days. His hairline is receding but you wouldn't be able to tell from far away because he shaves his head nearly bald. He has dark eyes, angry like his voice. I can't shake the feeling that I've met this man before.
He throws me over his shoulder and starts walking toward some building. All I can see from this angle is the army green SUV parked on a dirt lot and some trees in the distance. We must've driven far because there aren't any trees like this in the city. We enter through a wooden door and the man drops me to the ground. I land hard on a pile of sand. The sand seems out of place in this shed. We're in the middle of the forest, why is there sand in here?
"Hello, Michelle. Thank you for joining us," a voice calls to me.
I look up to see Jamie. She's gives a curt wave and settles into a chair. Suddenly I remember where I've met Mr. Clean over there. He was Jamie's new "boyfriend" she introduced to me a few weeks ago. I told her I thought he didn't look like her type. She said I didn't know her well enough to judge. I laughed at that, but I guess she was right.
I met Jamie at a party about a year ago. I was bored, sitting on the couch not engaging with the drunk idiots and their weird mating rituals. I was dragged to this party by my then-boyfriend, who I dumped that night after finding him tangled up with another woman in the bathroom. Jamie sat down next to me, acting equally as bored. We spent the whole evening making fun of everyone around us and ended up becoming good friends. After that, she and I met almost weekly for a coffee. I thought I knew her, I thought we were friends.
"Jamie, what is this?" I ask, still trying to get my bearings.
"This? Let's call it an experiment," Jamie replied. "I have been planning this for a year, Michelle. Ever since the day I met you, I knew it'd end this way."
I watched as she stood and walked toward a table in the corner of the room. On the table was a knife, gun, lotion, and a flower crown made of periwinkle flowers. As I watched her move from item to item, gingerly picking each one up and examining it before placing it back down, I remembered something odd she had told me a few months earlier.
We were at a park drinking iced coffees and she was making a flower crown.
"Michelle, what's your favorite flower?" She had asked me.
"Sunflowers," I said, "What about you?"
"Periwinkle," She said.
We were both silent for a little bit. She, working away on her flower crown; I, looking out at the river before us.
"Did you know periwinkle's are often referred to as 'the flower of death'?" She said, "Back in the day people would twist their vines into crowns and put them on dead children or criminals being sentenced to death."
I stared at her, unsure where she was going with this little fun fact of hers.
"It's such a shame," she continued, "They're such beautiful flowers, but they have such a horrible name attached to them. I guess that's just the way things are sometimes. Even the most beautiful things in the world can be turned ugly just by being associated with something dark."
I didn't understand what she was rambling about, so I just forgot about it and moved on. Now, sitting here in this dark and dingy shed, I start to understand why she said that.
"What are you gonna do to me?" I ask, trying to sound tough but failing miserably.
"You? Michelle? I'm going to make you ugly, just like periwinkles. When people remember you, all they'll see is death and darkness. No more beautiful Michelle, prom queen, so quiet, yet so kind. So approachable even though she's the prettiest girl in the room." Her words sounded harsh. I don't understand why she's so angry at me. I never once gave off the impression that I thought I was the most beautiful. Heck, I didn't even acknowledge when other people said it. All I ever wanted was to fly under the radar. But I guess those days are over.
Jamie picked up the knife once more and started walking towards me. I tried to back away, but ran into the giant she claimed was her boyfriend. He picked me up and held me still while Jamie placed the blade against my face. I winced slightly, but kept eye contact with her the entire time. I refused to let her win. She thought she could hurt me by taking away my beauty, but she couldn't. I wouldn't let her.
She sliced the blade across my cheek. I felt warmth run down my face and neck, the open wound stinging. She took the blade to the other side and did the same thing. My adrenaline was kicking in, so I didn't feel it so much as see the blood dripping from her knife. She then took the knife to my chin and sliced off the end, causing pain to flare through my face. I whimpered, trying not to cry but starting to lose control. Once she was satisfied with my deformed face, she moved down to my chest. She dragged the knife through my skin, carving the letter "J" just below my collar bone. The pain became unbearable and I started to shake. Tears streamed from my eyes and a quiet sob left my lips. Jamie smiled, satisfied that she had finally broken me.
"You're hideous," she said.
She plunged the knife into my stomach. The sensation was unlike what I thought it would be. Maybe I was numb because she had already cut me so many times, but the stab didn't hurt nearly as bad as I thought it would. I let out a strained breath and her henchman released my arms. I stood there, staring at Jamie for what felt like an eternity. Then, the world started to blur and I collapsed to my knees. I watched, dazed, as Jamie walked to the table and picked up the periwinkle crown. She walked back towards me, placed the crown on my head, and sliced through my throat. The world went dark as my head hit the floor. I closed my eyes, like the closing of shades on a bright and sunny day. The life left my lungs, and I was no more.