A trunk lives in real darkness; the kind retired into the past with the advent of the light bulb. Tessa learned this as she lay in the back of a stranger’s car, arms tied behind her back, shoeless, blood running from a broken nose. “Now Tessa,” came her grandmother’s voice, “even in the darkest of times light will find a way.” Hysterical laughter erupted from Tessa’s body but it felt like she no longer belonged to that flesh and bone, she hovered somewhere above waiting for the link to deteriorate so she could float off to the next act of her soul.
“We didn’t raise no quitter Tessa Jean” her father chastised, “get to work.” He used that phrase so many times in her childhood that she thought of it above anything else when thinking of her father. He coached the high school football team and equated good coaching with great parenting. “Okay Dad,” she responded and forced herself to return to her hiccuping body.
She remembered a dateline story from a while back about a woman trapped in a trunk. The woman had saved herself by kicking out the taillights and dropping personal items to create a trail to follow. Seeing how Tessa’s hands were out of commission, she couldn’t implement the same strategy, but she could use it to come up with one of her own. Surely someone would think wiggling toes out the end of a car is something worth reporting to the authorities.
The woman in the story’s stature must have paled in comparison to ‘Tess the beanpole Johnson’ because Tessa couldn’t move without running into the wall of a trunk. She scooted herself up towards her head as much as possible, cranking her neck that her ear suctioned onto her shoulder. After a final breath to settle her heart, Tessa kicked where she assumed the taillights existed. Nothing happened. Blind and contorted Tessa tried to feel an indication of light. Time played it’s cruel game with her, slowing so that it felt like hours before she felt what she was looking for.
The light lay in the very corner of the trunk, at an angle that wouldn’t allow Tessa to use the full bottom of her foot. She would have to put the full force of her kick on her toes, but Dad raised no quitter. Tessa brought her legs backward and then tapped at the area as if she planned on hitting a cue ball and let the colors fly.
The tinkle of glass soothed her soul, trumping the pain that exploded from her toes. She pushed through the glass shards and started to wave her bleeding toes around as best she could. After many hours she began to dose, almost admitting defeat, assuming that they were traveling through some wooded area with minuscule traffic when she heard police sirens. She held her breath thinking of the two possible options: her captor would stop, unaware that his cargo hung out the back, or he would suspect something and start a police chase. As the car slowed, she allowed the breath to exit.
She couldn’t decide if screaming would help the situation. If she did the car might take off, and so she decided to wait and put faith in the officer that he had a plan. He walked up towards the car, the radio on his hip relaying information in a stream of numbers. “Hello Jonah,” she heard him say to her captor; the officer knew him. “Would you mind stepping out of the car, I have something to show you.” The door slam alerted her that he was now out of the vehicle, so she started to yell, “Please save me! I’m in here! Don’t trust him.”
When she ceased yelling everything went silent. It was if the other two people had disappeared. Then she heard a key sliding into the trunk, it turned, and her eyes revolted at the new flood of light. Above her stood her captor and a police officer, but something was wrong with the policeman, something off that she couldn’t put her finger on. “Now young lady,” began the officer, “we are saving you.” After a moment she realized what was off about the man, he was grinning and didn’t seem surprised to see a woman in the trunk of Jonah’s car. Before she could scream again, the officer reached in the trunk, a rag in his hand, and placed it over her mouth and nose. Her lights dimmed once again.