A TOUCH OF DAWN Prologue and Chapter 1 on Eat Sleep Write

A Touch of Dawn - Prologue/Chapter 1 by Erica Sutherhome
posted December 18, 2013 by Adam Scull on Eat Sleep Write

She shivered in the cold, dank cellar.  She wore very little.  They had made sure of that.  It was a wonder she was still alive with the numerous assaults on both her body and mind.  But, she could hardly count herself lucky either.  It was only a matter of time before they finished her off.  What more could they want her for anyway?  What kind of man could desire an unwilling woman?  A sick one obviously.
            The room was so dark that she could see nothing.  She would not even know if rats were crawling around in there with her.  She had been in the darkness for so long that anytime a shaft of light came into the cellar, she was overcome with agony.  The light not only hurt her eyes, it burned her skin.  Distantly, she remembered how the sun was supposed to feel on her skin.  It was supposed to be warm, inviting, not scalding or horrifying.
            The only thing she couldn’t remember was her life before this place.  How long had she been here?  Who was she?  The only monikers her captors had given her were ‘girl’, ‘woman’ or ‘bitch’.  What was her name?  Did she have parents?  Siblings?  A kind of life?  She knew she should remember another life, but she couldn’t.  Was anyone waiting for her?  Expecting her?  Looking for her?
            She shook her head, unaware that moisture pooled in her eyes and poured down her cheeks.  If anyone had looked for her, she would have been found by now.  There was only this, this place and that was all.  She was alive.  She was only kept for one thing.  And she shuddered to remember it. 
            She wondered if the madness would ever end.  Would they kill her or, by some chance, let her go?  If she ever did get free, she knew she would see life differently.  As a gift.  But, that didn’t matter.  It was useless to hope. 
            She hugged her knees tight as she sat on the cold floor.  Her lashes swept down and she felt very weary.  Then the noises overhead faded, and for a time, she was at peace.


Chapter 1
She came to abruptly.  At first, she didn’t realize what it was.  There was a loud thump over head and then shouting.  Suddenly, there were gunshots and she huddled back into her corner, crying out.  What was happening?  What would happen to her?  Where they fighting each other?  Were they going to kill her?
            There was movement and muffled voices.  Then the hatch of the cellar was thrown back and light covered the room.  She screamed, covering her eyes.
            “Miss Johnson?” a man called from above.
            Frightened, she recoiled away, trying to catch her breath.  She heard steps coming towards her.  She knew what to do.  She knew that she had to treat this situation like anything else she’d had to endure.  She had to accept it distantly.  If she didn’t allow herself to feel it, it wouldn’t matter.  Her body might feel it, but nothing else.  She didn’t have to think about it.  Not until she was alone.  And if she separated herself from it, she couldn’t go crazy.
            “Miss Johnson?”
            His voice was gentle, but she knew better.  Her captors had used that tactic before.
            A hand touched her shoulder.  “Caitlyn?”
            She flinched, but her mind flashed on a memory.  Her sixteenth birthday when her parents had given her a gold necklace in the shape of a C.  C for Caitlyn.  Her life came back in short flashes.  Her high school graduation, that sorority she’d been a part of briefly in college, the office job she’d had as a reporter later on.  Her dream of making the front page, of seeing her name in print in a meaningful way. 
But, what about the rest of her life?  She couldn’t remember.  She felt empty, removed from that person.  She shook with the uncertainty of it. 
            “Caitlyn?” he asked again.  “It’s all right.  You can trust me.  I’m with the police.  My name is Jack.”
            “Jack?” She hadn’t realized she’d spoken aloud until his hand patted her gently.  She hadn’t realized she could form a sentence until now.  Her silence had been her weapon against those men.  Of course, that didn’t keep her from screaming or crying.
            “That’s right.  Jack Thomas.  But, we don’t need formalities, right?”
            She shook her head.  Then, she looked up to see his face and she was blinded again.  She cried out and scrambled away.
            “Caitlyn, what is it?  You’re safe now.  I promise.  It’s over.  Those men that took you?  They’re dead.  You can go home now.”
            Home.  It was a foreign word.  She couldn’t really remember her home or her family.  She just had a few memories, that was all.  She shivered.  Did they still want her after all that had happened?  How could they?  She was overused, a piece of trash to throw away.
            “Is that what you want, Caitlyn?  Do you want to go home?”
            “I want to leave,” she replied.  Back against the dark corner, she could open her eyes easily and see his shadowed figure. 
            “I can help you get out of here.  Would that be all right?”
            “Yes.”  Then she remembered the light.  “But, I can’t leave.”
            “Why not?  What is it?”
            She swallowed hard.  “I can’t,” she whispered. 
            “Just talk to me, Caitlyn.  Explain it to me.”
            She heard movement in the room above, as if the other men, the police, were shifting and restless.  She sighed.  “The light hurts my eyes.”  She heard an exhale.  He sounded relieved for some reason.
            “It’s all right.  I understand.  We can take care of that.”  His gaze moved over her body, and she had no idea why that should make her feel warm.  He cleared his throat, then turned away.  “Can we get some blankets down here?”
            Eventually, several blankets were handed down.  Then he stepped close to her, blocking out the light.  “I have to touch you to get you out of here, Caitlyn, but I won’t do it without your permission.  Will you let me?”
            She had been touched and violated enough to make her afraid of people for the rest of her natural life.  But, somehow, she knew she could trust him.  He was here to take her home.  He wouldn’t take advantage of her.  “Okay.”
            He wrapped the blankets around her from head to toe and then lifted her against his chest.  He handed her up through the cellar door.  She couldn’t see the light through the blanket, and she was grateful for that.  When she was set down and all she could hear was movement, she felt the old panic return.  “Jack?  Jack!”
            “It’s all right.  I’m here.  I’m going to take you to the hospital first.  You’ll have to be treated.  And then you can go home.  One step at a time, okay?”
            She forced a tight nod.  “Okay.”
            Instead of driving her, he held her close in his lap in the back of a vehicle on the way to the hospital.  The firm, but gentle grasp of his arms calmed her.
            At the hospital, her exam was invasive but the nurses were kind enough to provide a mask to cover her eyes because she just couldn’t stand the light.  And one nurse held her hand, whispering words of comfort, as the doctor pressed around her belly and checked for other bruises on her body. 
Then there was the examination that was below the waist.  She heard some kind of reassurance in the doctor’s tone, but it did not help the invasion.  Nothing could have kept the tears from coming then, it was so humiliating.  Finally, blood tests were run and an x-ray was done to be sure they hadn’t missed anything.
            She shuddered afterwards and another nurse led her into a shower stall, where she was allowed to bathe.  She could hardly bear her own touch, let alone a stranger’s hands.  The tears and humiliation came again.  This time, though, there was compassion to accompany her pain.