(Afterward)103

I was taken out of the basement right away, of course, and taken to a hospital even before my parents were contacted. I was extremely dehydrated to the point they were concerned I would die. I had been in the basement for nearly three days.104

I couldn't walk or talk or think normally for nearly five days, almost twice as long as the time I had been in the hospital. No one could visit me except my parents, and I couldn't really communicate with them. They were very upset, of course- they seemed horrified by my appearance, and my mother cried constantly. Both seemed afraid to touch me, as though it might hurt me. Both repeated over and over how sorry they were and how much they loved me.105

When I was in more stable condition, the police came back and questioned me- but I was of very little help to them. I was told the details of what had happened to me, however. 106

I had just disappeared- no one had any clue where I was, or why I might have left. No one thought I would have run away, so the police were involved almost immediately. After about a day, my car was found on the side of a kind of backways road, where few cars passed by. It looked like I had pulled over- or someone had pulled me over- and then I had simply disappeared. No one is sure of what did happen exactly- I have not regained my memory about what occurred in regards to the scene of my kidnapping. But it is thought that I maybe was signaled by the thing to pull over- maybe he had a police car he had stolen or something, or maybe he acted like he was having trouble. When he walked to my car, he probably knocked me out with chloroform and drove away with me.107

They had found the name of the man who had taken me because of the fingerprints he had left on my door handle. His name was Orlando Paxton. He was a 36 year old man, rather large and ordinary-looking with a history or minor sexual crimes, particularly peeping Tom offenses. Scary… I guess I'm lucky he didn't touch me sexually, or at least while I was conscious.108

Trace evidence from his footprints at the kidnapping site had eventually led them to the abandoned, rather remote home in the mountain area, where he had kept me. He had apparently lived there at least sometimes- he had a bed and food and all the things a guy needs to survive, not that he had shared them with me.109

The police squad sent to arrest him and rescue me had broken down the front door, expecting to find him in there with me. They had fanned out, searched all the room, but Orlando Paxton (it was still hard not to think of him as a thing) had been gone. They had found me in the basement- the door unlocked from the outside. They're still looking for Paxton. They assured me they'd find him… but it hasn't happened yet.110

And now, it's been two weeks since I've been rescued from the basement… I just started school again, I'm trying to do everything I used to do- but it's hard. No one is sure how to treat me- they are careful with me, not mentioning what happened. They're trying to act like they did before, but I see in their eyes what they're thinking. They're trying to pretend nothing happened- but it did, and I can't forget that. I try to pretend to, act like I'm normal still- but it's so hard, when I'm not like I was before, and I know I never will be again…111

I'm afraid now, when I never was before… I can't sleep at night without my light on. I can't bear darkness, any darkness… the sound of creaking doors makes me freeze, paralyzed with fear. I sleep with a knife under my pillow, very close to my hand… because they never did catch Orlando Paxton, you know. Some day, I fear, I will wake up, and his face will be poised over mine… breathing in that same loud pant that I will never forget…112