Chapter Nine: Much More

Blind confusion. She felt heavy, like a boulder. She struggled to move, but ropes had her restrained. A thick, suffocating fog was encasing her brain, blinding reality. She tried to cry out, but nothing sounded because her voice wasn't working. She was sure her vocal chords were pulled out. Her body was hot, she felt that, and tangled in the ropes. The fog suffocating her brain was slowly clearing, as if the only escape for it was a pin sized hole. She became aware of her skin, itchy as if it was dirty, drenched in sweat. And then the pain. The pain brought the fog back a little stronger, which made her struggle against the ropes. The more the fogged cleared, the more pain her brain could process. She hurt in so many places, but she wasn't even sure where precisely she was hurting at times. But the more she processed, the harder she seemed to struggle, which made the ropes dig in deeper. Her flesh would soon rip from her body, but she had to escape.

She could suddenly take in sound, the sound of her struggling. The creak of what sounded like a bed. She opened her heavy eyes to see blinding white light, so she closed them again. Confusion was killing her. She felt herself suffocating in it. She pulled more on the ropes tied around her. Soon, her body was able to move more, and she was returning to her normal weight. By the time she felt she could sit up, she could see a room, but her vision was fuzzy. She sat up, in her nightgown. Her nightgown? She felt the ropes that were still restraining her legs. Sheets. Her sheets. She was home.

Home? She sat there and waited until she could see. She was in her room. She felt groggy and rubbed her eyes. She still felt heavy, but she was at least functional now. She got up and looked in the mirror. She looked pale and thinner than she could remember being, but otherwise the same. She looked at the clock only to see that it was nearly noon. This puzzled her completely. Between the wisps of fog and the pain, the confusion was overwhelming.

She got dressed and went downstairs to find Harold. He was making lunch for two. When he saw her, he smiled. "I was going to wake you up for lunch, but it looks like you managed to sleep enough." Malissa tried to laugh, but then she realized it would take too much effort.

"I don't remember how I got home." As she said it, she saw that her car was outside. She shook her head. She remembered passing out, but not driving home.

"All I know is that I stayed up until one, and you still weren't home."

Malissa frowned. She remembered the time everyone left, which had to be about eight that evening. Malissa felt queasy but she wasn't sure why. Maybe she needed food. She sat down and waited until lunch was ready. Harold was a good cook. Today, he had made homemade chicken noodle soup and wonderful bread. It was perfect on Malissa's upset stomach. It was one of the first times she had this much interaction on her own with Harold. He looked concerned, and for a moment, Malissa felt connected to him.

They ate in silence until, Malissa was sure, Harold couldn't hold in the burning curiosity. "Looks like you had a rough night," said Harold, cautiously. "What do you remember?"

Malissa hesitated. She decided to lie. "I remember needing to lie down." The more she thought about it, the more worried she became. What happened in the hours she was out when she wasn't home? She felt her lunch churning in her stomach. "Maybe I'll remember more later," she said, but she knew she wouldn't. She just needed to get away from Harold. She took up dishes and cleaned them, then went back up to her room. She was panicking as she curled up on her bed. The idea of missing hours of her life terrified her, especially because the last thing she could remember was being with Mitch. She was entering full-blown hysterics when her phone rang. She was almost too afraid to answer when she saw that it was Morgan, so she answered.

"Morgan?"

"Malissa! Yes, this is her. I've been so worried. I've only called about fifty times since I woke up this morning, and you haven't answered a single call. What on earth happened to you? You didn't show up for work."

Malissa tried to choke down the panic. Her heart was racing at a frightening speed. She had totally forgotten she had work, and she had missed so much already. "I can't talk now. I'll come in for work, even if it is only for a few minutes." They hung up and Malissa got ready for work. She managed to get there by half past one. She'd be able to put in a few hours. Morgan looked at Malissa and she seemed to pick up on the panic buried in her chest. She took this as a sign not to ask questions. Not yet. And so, the two worked silently throughout the day until, hours later, everyone had left except the two of them. It was 7:45 and Malissa was already exhausted. But she had to talk to Morgan. This fear was like poison, venom, lodging into the depths of her body.

Morgan met Malissa and pulled her into a seat. She had a maternal look this time, pure worry in her eyes. "Tell me what happened."

Malissa didn't understand it, but her fear pushed tears out of her eyes. Malissa was scared to say it out loud, making it real. But she did it anyway, telling Morgan about everything, starting at how she started getting tired as she was talking to the group of friends. The further into the story Malissa got, the more fear seemed to show in Morgan's eyes. She didn't speak her fears, but she could feel Morgan fearing them too. She finished the story and started crying with a fear that overpowered her inner strength. But without really needing to, Malissa asked, "What do you think happened to me, Morgan?"

Morgan pulled Malissa into her arms, holding her. Malissa had never felt this type of protection. After her family died, her mother never held Malissa more than for just a simple hug. And she couldn't remember he sisters ever holding her like this. It made Malissa cry more, unable to handle her feelings. The closest she had to a mother and a sister, all inside one of her best friends. Malissa wanted to stay safe like this. Morgan was one of the only people she could depend on, and who knew how to help. She knew that whatever happened last night, it was nothing good, and fear overwhelmed her.

But soon, they both went home. Malissa felt better, having told Morgan. But nothing seemed to take away the fear. The worry. The curiosity. What had happened? Malissa wasn't sure she'd ever find out. Exhausted, she got into bed and sank into a rough night of nightmares.

Nightmares. That was an understatement. A horrible replay of the previous night. The blind fear. The smile on Mitch's face. Waking up, feeling trapped. The emotions of the day. Everything. Even the memories of Mitch's beatings. They spiraled down until Malissa was even dreaming about the day each of her family members died, and the horrible way her mother reacted to it.

Nothing was more horrible than that night of supposed sleep. Of the fear. Of the bad feelings. But she was so exhausted, she couldn't wake herself from it all. She merely thrashed around, pushing away things only harming her in her sleep. It was a long night, and not the first one she'd have.