Chapter 1


It's impossible to describe exactly what oppression is and how it affects you. Many people have tried, but only those who have actually experienced that awful crushing force can understand it fully.

Oppression is humiliating. It feels as though you can't do anything, that there is a grand piano tied to your back that is keeping you down on the ground and you will never get it off. It's the constant fear griping at your mind as you wait for whatever nightmarish thing may happen next.

Oppression is what I felt everyday after my kidnapping. Every day, I would wake up and wonder what tortures I would have to endure, and I wondered where I was or why I was even there.

And oppression is what finally made me decide that I could no longer take being locked in a madwoman's basement.

That morning I woke up with hunger gnawing at the sides of my stomach with teeth as sharp as a shark's. The last time I took a single bite of food had to have been three days ago, maybe even more, and by now I was desperately hungry.

When Mimi came striding down the stairs with a warm, blueberry muffin in her hands, I could just taste it melting in my mouth. Even just a crumb would satisfy my craving, but I knew better than to ask. I just stared at it, wishing for the impossible.

"You want it don't you?" Mimi asked, approaching me with her usual smile, an unusual cross between malicious and sexy.

"Well, maybe," I replied, my voice shaking.

"Of course you do." She took a bite, but kept her eyes focused on me. "You could have it. In fact, you could have everything you had fourteen years ago if it wasn't for your goddamn wife."

"What did she do? Why is it her fault?" I tried to keep my voice down, but I was desperate to know what my wife did that was so horrible. Mimi always mentioned that it was her fault that I was here, yet I had no idea why. Jasmine never said anything about this woman, and after awhile I decided that it was some story that she had made up for effect.

"I'm surprised she never said anything." Mimi rolled her eyes. "Well, I'm off to do a bit of shopping. Now, let me remind you of the rules around here before I head off. Don't go upstairs, don't try to sneak out, don't make any loud noises that would attract anyone that might be passing by, and keep your hands off of everything in the house. Am I clear?"

"Yes, ma'am," I replied.

"You're sure now?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Good. And if I catch you, don't expect to see tomorrow."

"Yes, ma'am."

Mimi turned her back on me and hurried up the stairs. I watched as she left the basement, and then waited a few minutes to hear her car zoom away. Once I was certain that she was gone, I got off of the ground and rushed up the stairs to the door leading out of this Hell. I turned the knob ferociously, hoping by some miracle that Mimi had forgotten to lock the door. Of course, God still had yet to allow that miracle happen.

For the next half an hour, I frantically crawled about the floor, looking for something that could possibly act as a key to open up the door. As I rushed around, tears made my vision blurry, making it even more difficult to see what I was doing. I wasn't even sure what these tears were for. Maybe the joy of finally getting out of this prison, maybe the anxiety, or possibly the fear, but I still couldn't understand why these tears were flowing from eyes, even after I found a small pin on the ground.

My heart began pounding against my chest as I darted back up to the door and tried to unlock it by turning the pin in the lock. After a few tries, I finally heard a click.

The rush of emotion I felt at that exact moment is barely describable. In all the years I had been imprisoned, I never seriously thought about escaping. It always seemed like a wild fantasy out of an old storybook, yet suddenly it was as real as the 7 o'clock news. Just one simple decision had made the transition, and I hoped that it was a good one.

I stared at the doorknob for a second, marveling at the accomplishment, and wanting to run a victory lap like I did when I was little. Instead, I pocketed the pin, threw the door open, and cautiously entered the hallway that it lead to. After taking a look to my left and then to my right, I sauntered into the living room. My eyes shifted in every direction as I slowly made my way over to the door in the left corner. I stared at the keyhole, ready to unlock this door as well, but something suddenly held me back.

It had been years since I had set foot outside. As much as I wanted to run out the door and get away from this godforsaken place, there was still that fear of the unknown locked inside of me. I didn't know if I was still in Massachusetts or in another state, and I had no idea if Mimi's neighbors, if she had any, were in on this scheme as well. There could be someone outside with a gun or a piercing alarm that would go off. They were all farcical ideas, but at the moment they terrified me enough to turn me away from the door and let my improvised Plan B play out.

I rushed into Mimi's bedroom and took her phone and her phonebook from off of the windowsill. After thumbing through the book and deciding on a random number, I dialed it with trembling fingers. My breathing was frantic as I waited for the person on the other end to pick up, still wondering if it would have been a better idea to just call 911.

"Hello?" a man on the other end said.

"Hello, sir," I replied anxiously, tears streaming down my face.

"Who is this?"

"Colm MacConell. I know you've never heard of me, and you probably don't want to trust me, but you have to! I'm desperate! I'm so goddamn desperate!" By now I was screaming into the phone hysterically.

"What's the issue?" The man was still calm.

"Fourteen years ago I was kidnapped and . . ."

"And you want my money for ransom. Yeah, sure, bud."

"No, you have to listen to me! I don't want any money! I don't need it! I just want help! Let me explain!"

"This better not be a hoax."

"It isn't! I've been locked in a basement and just today I finally had the guts to unlock the door with a pin and get up here while the woman who keeps me here was out for a little bit. I went to the phone and dialed a random number in the phonebook just so I might be able to figure out where I am."

"Well, I'm in Woodland."

"What state?"


At least it wasn't too far from Massachusetts, but it was still far. "I must be somewhere around there. Sir. . ."


"Okay, Miles, if you could somehow help me. Track this call, get the police, something . . ."

"I hear your voice, you bastard!"

There was no mistaking it: it was Mimi screaming at me. I hadn't heard the car or even the door, but her voice was enough to make my body freeze and my mouth drop open in utter horror. "Shit!"

"What is it?" Miles asked, a pinch of concern entering his voice.

"It's her. It's Mimi. I have to hang up, I have to . . ."

"You son of a bitch!" I heard the footsteps coming. I prayed that she wouldn't be armed with that pistol of hers.

"Please, just somehow get some help, but I have to hang up. I can't. . ." As I slammed the phone back down on the receiver, Mimi's thin shadow hovered over me. The barrel of a pistol was leaning against my head.