Only blackness.

The void envelops me, whisks me away from the events of the last half hour. I sleep, or lose consciousness, I don’t know. It feels like I’m still awake; I can feel the side-to-side rocking motion of the van as it takes corners. My ears still hear talking, distant and muddled, but I can’t make out the words.

We travel for a long time. I have no idea how long. It could be hours; it could be mere minutes. Everything is a blur. I’m in pain and I’m wet, chilled to the bone.

When I fully regain consciousness, there’s no pretending I’m still out cold. I throw up onto the bare metal flooring of the van, my stomach fiercely rejecting everything inside it. My head is killing me. I want to cry, but I can’t. I simply don’t have the energy.

“Fucking stinks back here,” a male voices complains. “Open the window, asshole.”

There are more comments about the smell I’ve created by puking. I feel like informing them that they shouldn’t hit people so hard over the back of the head if they don’t want to deal with the side effects of concussion, but my tongue feels fat and swollen and I can’t breathe properly.

Fuck.

What the fuck am I going to do?

This is the part where I think about who’s going to be looking for me. Mom will have called Dad to see where we are, and he won’t have answered because he’s in the OR. She’ll maybe have called Sloane, but my sister will be out with her friends, celebrating another day’s survival as an intern. Mom can’t have called Matt, my boyfriend, because she doesn’t even know he exists. None of my family do. Too many questions. Does he go to church? What is he studying? Where is he from? What are his prospects? Is he being respectful?

The answers—doesn’t go to church; not studying anything; from Mount Rainier; no real prospects; and hell no, most definitely not being respectful—would not go down well. So, long story short, my family will have no clue where I am, and neither will Matt.

I throw up again, and this time it’s not from the concussion. It’s from the overwhelming sense of dread cycling through me, feeding on itself, growing by the second. There’s one question playing on repeat inside my head, and I’m too much of a coward to face it yet. It’s there if I stop thinking even for a second, though:

Are they going to rape you?

Are they going to rape you?

Are they going to rape you?

I’m more afraid of this than I am of dying. I’m more afraid of something I have only thus far shared with two people in the whole world being forcefully taken from me than I am of losing my life. If I die, I’ll just be dead. If they do unspeakable, horrific things to me, I will relive that experience every time I open my eyes each morning. Every time I close my eyes at night.

“Left up here, brother. Not far now,” a gruff voice says.

The van’s suspension is shot to hell. My head bangs painfully against the floor as the vehicle swerves and leaves the road, turning onto what must be a dirt track. Someone snickers, and I get the impression it’s at my expense. I’m sure to evil bastards like these, a skinny girl, hands bound behind her back and lying in a pool of her own vomit, is a highly entertaining sight.

I try not to think about how vulnerable I am. I try not to think about what’s going to happen when the van’s engine stops spluttering and we reach wherever we’re going. All I can concentrate on is my breathing, trying to keep it even. I’m dangerously close to hyperventilating, and I don’t want to pass out again, which is what will happen if I let my panic take hold of me.

I breathe in. I breathe out. I breathe in. I breathe out.

“She’s got some great tits,” a different male voice says. I haven’t heard this guy speak before, and I’m shocked—he has no accent. He sounds like he’s from Seattle, though I know whoever he is, he must have some Mexican heritage. Each and every one of my captors appeared to be Hispanic. I barely register that they’re talking about my chest until a hand suddenly grabs hold of one of my breasts. I try to open my eyes at this stage—being manhandled wins out over my splitting headache—but I can’t see anything. They’ve blindfolded me. I kick out with my legs and manage to shove myself away, out of the reach of wandering hands. It still feels like the hand’s there, though, squeezing and kneading my breast; my skin is crawling, prickling with the intensity of my disgust. Matt’s never touched me like that before. Whenever he’s touched me, it’s been to bring me pleasure. Whoever just grabbed hold of me did so for their own pleasure, a fact painfully clear by the way they pinched and rolled my skin.

“What the fuck you two doing back there?” Raphael demands. I know his voice. He sounds suspicious, but then I’ve yet to hear Raphael sound anything but. “Don’t touch that girl, motherfuckers. You heard me lay claim, right? I’ll cut out your fucking tongues if you so much as look at her.”

Two disappointed grunts follow after that.

Someone in the front cranks up the radio to obnoxious levels, and the sound of Taylor Swift’s, We Are Never Getting Back Together blasts from the rear speakers. My head must be right next to one of those speakers, because it feels like it’s on the brink of explosion. I used to like the song, but now? Not so much. The situation descends into outright weirdness when someone in the van, I can’t tell who, begins to sing along. Enthusiastically.

My body is singing in pain. My shoulders are throbbing from the discomfort of having my wrists bound tightly behind my back. Thankfully my hands themselves have gone numb from lack of blood supply, so at least I’m now being spared that particular agony.