Don’t roll your eyes at me. It’s not like I could have known beforehand.
Okay, let me back up a little. My name is Emma Collins, and I just began working toward my masters in engineering. All those jokes online about there being no girls here weren’t understatements—there are literally classes with twenty people in it and I’m the only one who doesn’t have something hanging between their legs.
You’d think that would make dating easy, but I was only there to get my degree and get out. I wasn’t about to get bogged down in a relationship. I didn’t even want to have a fling with anyone in my class, because as soon as word got out that I’m looking to hook up—and yeah, I’d like to think people would brag about being with me—I’d have to start beating them off with a stick.
But you can’t expect a girl to study all day and night and not have a little fun, can you? I tried Tinder just so people would flirt with me and I could brutally reject them and feel good about myself. Harmless fun, right?
Last night I swiped a sweet-looking guy who went to my University, wasn’t an engineer (thank God), and shared my undying passion for Rick and Morty. He made me laugh, or at least snort air, and when he asked to get a drink, I couldn’t think of any reason not to. The pub was close, so worse comes to worse I would at least get a free drink out of it and could still be home early. He texted to say he’d be a little late, but he was already there when I arrived.
Same dude as the photo—that’s a relief—he was even wearing the same clothes. Either he just setup his account today, or he wore the stuff from his photo so I’d recognize him. Either way, it didn’t bother me as long as he wasn’t some fedora-tipped whale.
And damn was he charming. We just clicked on everything—both big Ramones fans, read Stephen King, watched the same shows, hated the same politicians (looking at you, blonde hairpiece). It was like this guy was specifically designed just to be perfect for me. I guess I should have taken that as the warning sign. One free drink turned into four, and I don’t know whether he asked me to come home with him, or I just jumped in his car and let him figure it out, but we were headed back to his place when I got a weird text:
So sorry I’m late. Where are you? It was from the guy I met on Tinder. But that was impossible. I was in his car right now. I figured it was just a bad connection which stopped it from coming through earlier, so I decided to text back so he could read it later and laugh.
You missed your chance. I went home with your twin brother. Well I thought it was funny, anyway. Until he texted back again.
Haha, I don’t have a twin brother. Are you still at the pub? I looked between the phone and the driver. The car was dark, but it wasn’t dark when I met him in the pub. He was the EXACT same person from the photos. The guy was pulling into his driveway now. He put his hand on my leg and smiled at me. I should have asked questions right there. I should have just got out of the car and run home.
I should have done anything except what I ACTUALLY did, which was kiss him. We went inside together and it was dark, but when he pushed me up against a wall, I didn’t fight it. Not until the handcuffs clicked over my wrists.
Okay so we don’t have ALL the same interests, but I was cool. I could roll with it. I strained against the restraints to kiss him again, and that’s when he put the gag over my mouth. Now this was getting too much. I tried to pull away, but he forced me to the ground. There was a trapdoor leading down to a basement, and he let go of me to open it. I was able to roll over and look at him, but it wasn’t the same person who had stood next to me a moment ago.
His back was hunched, and he was moving with rapid lurching movements. His eyes were hollow like he hadn’t slept in days, and his mouth was a thin bloodless line. That couldn’t have been the same mouth I’d just kissed. I tried to scream, but the gag muffled most of it. I tried to kick, but he just took it and shoved me through the trap door. I rolled down a ladder and hit the concrete ground HARD. Like I could feel my bones rattling and blood in my mouth hard. Then the light above me disappeared. Was he just going to leave me here?
But he hadn’t left me. He was on my side of the door, climbing down the ladder toward me. “Just play dead. Don’t answer it!”
I don’t know which was more frightening: the fact that I’ve been kidnapped, or the fact that I wasn’t the only one. I was too focused on myself at first to notice, but as the creature descended the ladder toward me, I saw them huddled against the wall.
One woman was wearing a torn business suit; her face was two pools of blood where her eyes used to be.
One college girl my age; her hands sealed tight in constant prayer from a nail which pierced them together.
One little boy—this one couldn’t be more than 12—sitting against the wall with his knees pulled up to cover his face.
“Don’t even make a sound. Whatever you do, don’t reply to him,” the professional woman said.
I nodded my head to show recognition and lay still where I had fallen. It was hard to control my breathing while I heard his feet approach. What would he do if he thought I was dead? It couldn’t be worse than what he’d already done to the living girls, right?
“Th-thump. Th-thump. Th-THUMP,” the voice above me drawled. It was still my date’s voice. “I can hear your heart singing for me.”
How does someone even know how to react in this situation? I tried to think of every crime show about psychopaths I had ever seen. What did the victims usually do to escape? But they didn’t escape most of the time, did they? That’s why the psychopaths became famous. Because there were, so many who didn’t escape. I bit my tongue to keep myself from screaming.
“Look at me when I’m talking to you,” the voice continued, but it was deeper now. Was he continuing to change? Was it still a man, or something else standing over me now? I couldn’t help myself. He already knew I was alive, and I had to look.
I pulled myself up to my knees and stared into his face. He still looked like my date, although I wish he hadn’t, but something wasn’t right. It was like seeing a photograph of someone, only the photo is fifty years old taken on an antique camera. Those eyes were still kind, even though they looked wearier now, and I could remember what the smile looked like on his tightly pressed mouth.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked. The college-girl groaned. Their strategy didn’t work for them, so why would I just surrender to the torture? If there was a way out, I was going to find it. And if there wasn’t… well at least I’ll have tried.
“But I’m not doing this,” my date replied. “You’re the one who came home with me.” “You did something to those people,” I said. I couldn’t even look at them. I couldn’t admit to myself that I was going to end up like that.
“On my life, they did it to themselves,” my date said, crossing his heart. He sat down next to me, and I backed away to the wall.
“You’re lying. You did it to them, but you’re not going to do it to me. I won’t let you.”
“Look, I’ll prove it,” he said. “You’re free to go anytime you want.”
This was a trick, right? He wasn’t going to let me just walk out of here. Not after everything he’s done—everything I’ve seen. What was the point? Or maybe he really was insane, and I would be passing on my one chance to ever get out.
“What about them? Can they leave?” I asked.
“No, you’re the only one.” He smiled. Creepy-ass smile. If I do ever get out of here, first thing I do is give Tinder a 1 star rating.
“Why? What’s so special about me?”
“We matched up because we’re alike. You’re going to bring me more people, and when you leave, you’re going to return with more people to play with.”