I struggle to breathe in the frozen, gray air.
Sandy is holding my hand, gently encouraging
me to continue. We run and then walk for a long time before we stop and rest. I
am so cold, tired, and weak, I want to sleep, but Sandy will not allow me.
Sandy tells me to try not to think about the horrors
of the past two weeks, the
man grabbing me off my bicycle, tossing me into his van. Sandy tells me to think about my mom and my
knows I will see them again. I need to keep going.
carries me and tells me stories. Her stories are about little children
overcoming great adversity, becoming people who feel safe, simply because they
are who they are.
We are looking for a road. I want to stop and
rest again, but Sandy says no, he will
come after us as soon as he realizes we are gone.
Sandy helps me climb up a steep, slippery embankment
and then lifts me over a
snowbank plowed against the guardrail. She tells me that when a vehicle comes
up the road, we must jump up and down and wave our arms to get attention, to
When headlights finally approach, we hop around,
shout, and wave. The car
drapes her necklace around my neck, holds my cheeks in her hands, and kisses my
An older man approaches with an alarmed look on
his face. Sandy steps away.
The abduction was two decades ago, when I was
ten. I went to the
convenience store to get candy, and I ended up over a thousand miles away. The
police never caught the man who grabbed me. They never found Sandy, or any evidence of her. They say the
man who abducted me gave me the necklace, or I found it along the way.
I have discussed Sandy
with therapists. I tell them she was seventeen, had blonde hair, and was from California. They tell me
my mind created Sandy
to help me cope with extreme danger, calling it Third Man syndrome, or
bicameralism. I show them the necklace, and they try to identify the material.
My Grandma believes Sandy
was an angel. My mom says she was the best imaginary friend ever. A psychic
told me that Sandy
was the spirit of another victim. The woman who babysat me after school said Sandy sounded like the
teenager I wanted to become.
I can still see her smile and hear her gentle
voice saying, "You're
such a good girl!" I think about her every day, and I always wear her
It appears I live a normal life. I've had boyfriends,
hung out with
girlfriends, and joined bowling teams. My relationships seldom last long. They
intensify my longing for something I cannot identify.
up one day, and I cannot find the necklace. I
panic and rip the house apart, looking for it. I cry when I finally locate it.
I walk past a mirror, and I glimpse Sandy
looking out at me.
up my mind to go back to that forest. I
request vacation time, and I leave.
of days later, I drive along the road where
the elderly couple found me and locate the point where they believed they
picked me up. I know this is not the correct spot.
further until I feel a wave of relaxed
knowing, then I park the car and walk into the woods. I hear a stream and walk
toward it, then I see a group of boulders, and I know which way to head.
I am aware
of someone else being in the forest, near
me, shadowing me, but I feel safe, not because I am who I am, but because I
have a Glock 19.
for hours before I come to his cabin. I crouch
behind some blackberry bushes and study the thin smoke escaping the stovepipe.
I hear the door open, and I watch him step out. I remember the hair and
sneering facial expression.
and I empty the Glock into his chest and his
crotch as I walk closer to him. He sinks to the ground and rolls on his back. I
look down at his death face, and I feel complete as Sandy steps inside me, and
my lips move when Sandy
says, "You're such a good girl."
the necklace from my neck and watch it turn
back into ashes, dust, and tears in my hand.
Janet Hartwell lives near the Rocky
Mountains with her dog and cat. She enjoys reading short stories and flash
fiction, and was recently published in Shotgun
Honey. Janet is also an AFOL (adult fan of Lego) and occasionally travels
in an RV.