Here is my Short Story Word Challenge #4. This word was provided by my eldest daughter, faith. This image came up for the word, and then the story followed.
Nessie stood on the mountaintop. Her arms extended in gratitude to where she believed heaven existed. Only her faith brought her to this moment. If she hadn’t believed in the possibility of survival, she would still be tied up in that dark, musky room at the mercy of a madman. Nessie shuddered, thinking of those dire moments in her young life.
“I’m free!” Nessie shouted and twirled around, offering up her thankfulness.
Her voice echoed through the rocky canyons. There would be no response to her glee, as this was a journey she made alone. It was her time to shine and celebrate her strength.
Nessie settled down and meditated on the beauty. She bowed her head in thanks when she was done. Opening her backpack, she removed the turkey and avocado sandwich.
“Thanks, Mom. This is the best sandwich yet!” She smacked her lips together loudly.
Soon her meal concluded, and the pack became a backrest to watch the sun push the day away with its brilliant purple, pink, and red finale.
“Goodnight, sun, tomorrow you will rise again as I did.” Nessie shook her head and stood up. “Everyone thought I was crazy to come up here by myself, where it all happened. They don’t understand. I promised I would see the sunrise over this mountain if I survived. I prayed on that, and here I am honoring those words.”
Nessie unwound her sleeping bag in a spot that looked like it was made to sleep on. As the air chilled and the stars came out, she yanked on her coat and hat. Stargazing was her favorite thing to do as a child. Here she felt a part of the universe on the cliff where the man killed her fiancé, Steve, and held her hostage. The place where she had declared she would get married someday. It’s always been her favorite spot.
“No, that man didn’t ruin this beauty for me. He couldn’t.”
What that man didn’t know was this place was magical, and Steve hadn’t believed in it as she did. The push from the cliff had snapped Steve’s neck, but didn’t end his journey. His spirit stuck around long enough to help her after that insane man beat and locked her up. She knew Steve would come to her in that darkness. He’s held and comforted her. If not for Steve, she never would have seen the dropped key in the darkness.
“Thank you, Steve.”
The rest was her, though. Once she got out of her prison, she had to get past her tormentor.
Every step had pained her. That man had painfully amused himself with every part of her, but nothing had been broken, so she had done what she needed.
“I’m so grateful everyone thinks I got hurt trying to get to Steve. It’s for the best, though, especially for my dear parents. They will never have to suffer or know what I endured. Plus, I made sure it would never happen again.”
Nessie smiled and closed her eyes in the sleep of peace. She slept soundly until her phone alarm woke her up. Then she quietly ate her granola bar and drank water as the sun rose from the horizon. The sun’s beams weaved into the chilled mountain air and offered her the beautiful rays of light that painted a new day. She took picture after picture to remember this glorious moment. The battery was almost dead, so she shut her phone off.
After her morning duties, she packed up and offered a final bow to the beautiful landscape. Standing on the edge of her new life, she released Steve’s ashes over the precipice.
Then she headed back down the hill. When she entered the darkness of the tree canopy, she found the hidden path to a small log cabin. It was so off the beaten path no one even realized it was here, except her.
“Hi honey, I’m home.” She called out, smiling.
The place was cold. So, she warmed up the red plaid décor, with deer heads mounted on the walls, with a nice roaring fire.
She gathered food, a blanket, and opened the trap door under the bear rug by the hearth. Clicking on the flashlight that she tucked under her arm in her free hand where she grasped Steve’s unused handgun.
She shone the narrow beam of light on a man huddled in the corner between the toilet and sink. He was crying.
In a whiny voice, he held his hands together in prayer form. “Please help me. I’m dying.”
His act didn’t move her. “Not yet. Here are some supplies. Make them last a while. It’s hard to say when or if I can get back here again with the snow coming.”
He put his bearded face into his grimy hands. “I’m sorry I hurt you and your friend. I promise I’ll never do it again.”
Nessie smiled. “Oh, I know you won’t because you aren’t leaving this room.”
He looked up. His watery blue eyes still held that hardness she had seen when he hurt her. “I’ve never done that before. I was just drunk.”
She set the basket down out of his reach. “Good try, Larry. I found the graveyard out back and holes for Steve and me. We weren’t your first.”
“Please, just turn me in.” He eyed the basket, and a bit of drool ran down his chin.
She shone the light on his goodies. “I think this fits the crimes. Plus, it gives you some time to think about what you did. Maybe you’ll ask for that forgiveness you so desperately need. I’m doing you a favor in the long run.”
“You’re crazy.” His voice took on a hardness that indicated he didn’t want redemption.
Nessie sighed loudly and kicked the basket within his reach. “Maybe I am now, thanks to you. The love of my life that you took from me had brought me to this mountain to ask me to marry him. I have the ring right here next to my heart to remind me of my love and faith. It saved me. What will save you?”
“Please. You aren’t like me.” The chains rattled, but he had made no progress trying to pull them from the wall. She knew how well he’d installed them.
“No, I am not. I am doing good for this world right now. You’d better make your peace for all your sins.”
Nessie shut the trapdoor and locked it. Relief overwhelmed her as she sank into a dusty red chair. That night two weeks ago, she unlocked those chains with a dropped key. She prepared herself to fight him but had found the house empty, except for a tranquilizer gun the smug man left lying around. Still, she didn’t run. She waited for him to return. Unfortunately, he tried to fight her, so she shot him. After she dragged the sedated body to his prison, she used the same chains that had been on her and left him where he’d put so many before. She put a box of granola bars, raisins, and nuts by his unconscious body in that dark hole.
Her pain had been forgotten as she searched the house and surroundings. There were so many graves marked with numbers. Two empty holes that must have been meant for her and Steve. They would have been numbers 16 and 17. That’s when Steve appeared to her for the last time.
“I will always love you, Nessie. Would you do one more thing for me?” She nodded, so he continued. “Make sure he gets what he deserves, sweetheart.”
“I promise. I love you too and will miss you.”
Then he waved and faded away without another word. She had made the painful trek back down the mountain and decided not to tell anyone what really happened to her and Steve. Someday she’d alert the authorities anonymously so that those other families could find some closure, but she needed to find hers.
This time she was so much stronger inside this cabin and knew she needed to get rid of any evidence she’d been here. There were some gloves in his cleaning supplies and she scrubbed the cabin to her satisfaction. She removed her gloves and tucked them into her pocket.
“Good luck Larry. If you are meant to live, you will. If not, you have some things to pay for.”
She hoped he would be thankful for her kindness in leaving him supplies, but she doubted it. Someone like him wouldn’t recognize empathy because he never showed it to her with that belt. Then came the trip down the mountain again, leaving her greatest love and fear behind, but filled with the faith of the life she had yet to live.
NOTE: We are getting some much needed rain. Unfortunately, it’s coming all at once, but we are safe where we are. The storm is living up to its hype. Lots of power outages and only a matter of time for us. I will be responding when I can. Xo