“Please, don’t hurt her. I’ll do anything you want, just please let her go,” Sylvie begged.
“I believe you’ll do whatever I want whether I let your daughter go or not,” the man replied and pressed the knife harder against Sylvie’s neck.
Sylvie wanted to close her eyes, but she couldn’t. Her daughter was staring at her, and she refused to break eye contact. Sylvie knew the minute she did, her daughter would shatter. There was only so much an eight-year-old could handle, and Sylvie thought this was pushing the limit.
“It’ll be okay, baby,” Sylvie whispered to Claire.
The man laughed. “Don’t lie to the girl,” he said. “You know it’s not going to be okay.”
“Mommy.” Claire whimpered, the fear in her eyes almost more than Sylvie could stand.
“I’m here, baby. I love you.”
When her daughter whispered, “I love you too,” Sylvie broke.
She screamed, over and over, hoping someone would hear, even though the man had told her they were deep underground in the middle of nowhere. Sylvie didn’t believe anything he said, so thought it was worth a shot.
When the man slapped her and demanded, “Shut up, shut up!” Sylvie knew she was right, and instead of obeying, she screamed even louder.
“I told you to shut up,” he yelled over Sylvie’s cries for help. “Since you won’t do it voluntarily, I’ll do it for you,” he added before he hit Sylvie upside the head with something hard enough to knock her out.
Sylvie dreamed in fragmented images. She saw herself and Claire at the doctor’s office earlier that morning, Claire in tears from her exam. Sylvie had decided they both needed a treat so she told Claire they’d stop by the ice cream shop before heading home.
The last thing Sylvie saw after they walked into the alley between the doctor’s office and the smoke shop, and before they woke up in hell, was Claire’s delighted smile.
Sylvie twitched in sleep when she dreamed of coming to and seeing Claire bound and gagged. The terror she felt in that moment took her breath away, even in sleep.
Gasping for breath, Sylvie awoke.
“See,” Sylvie heard the man say, "I told you she’d wake up soon.”
Sylvie looked up and saw the man sitting with her daughter on the bed. He was holding Claire’s head to his chest, as if comforting her. Sylvie shook her own head and tried to comprehend what she was seeing.
“Unfortunately, your daughter has your lungs,” the man told her. “I didn’t want to knock her out. You wouldn’t believe how fragile children’s skulls are,” he added. “So I had to improvise.”
When he pulled Claire’s head away from his chest, and Sylvie saw the blood covering her daughter’s mouth and chin, she started to scream again.
The man pushed Claire’s lifeless body away and headed toward Sylvie, knife extended.
Sylvie fought, but with both hands tied behind her back and her legs bound there wasn’t much she could do.
“I hope you’re stronger than your daughter,” he said as he pulled Sylvie’s head back. “I’d hate to miss out on all my fun just because you two couldn’t keep your mouths shut.”