The smell from that terrible sack had been thick and impenetrable and wrapped her like a mummy in bandages. Then suddenly it was gone and one by one her senses slowly came back to her.
Smell: Musty, earthy smells. Wet dogs; damp hay; stables; just like the farmyard she’d visited with school the year before.
Feeling: The tightness of her bonds. A vibration from deep somewhere deep below her. A rocking, swaying movement.
Taste: the bitterness of bile. Dryness. She moved her parched tongue until saliva worked its way into her mouth once more then forced it through the sticky seal of her lips. Her mouth opened with a wet clack.
Sound: A metallic creak; something swinging on rusted hinges back and forth, back and forth. And beneath its rhythm the strangest combination of noises: whistling, rasping, clicking and whimpers; snorting, snuffling, the occasional whoop and squeak. Her befuddled brain tried to concentrate on one all-important thought: “David!” The other sounds around her fell silent and it took her a while to realise that it was her own voice which had spoken. Sally realised that she was awake.
Sight: Her eyes flicked open. Everything was dark.
She was lying on her side, her hands and feet bound tightly by a rough, fibery rope.
She felt that disgusting sack against her cheek on the floor next to her. The strange rocking movement must have dislodged it. With an effort, she managed to move back away from that stinking cloth. What had happened? It took her a few seconds to remember. Then it all came flooding back and Sally felt the flush of hot anger in her cheeks.
Some things you should know about Sally:
1. She was a very practical young girl and, lately, had got used to doing things for herself. This is why, whereas most people might have shouted for help at this point, she realised that the fact that her hands and legs were still bound meant that help was probably not near at hand and if she was to be free then she was going to have to do something herself.
2. It seemed as if this independence had formed a hard shell of anger around her (although we all know that such things have their roots in deeper matters). She was the sort of girl who would clench her fist and bite her lips in silence if something hurt her rather than cry out in pain. Sadly, she was angry in a way that a girl of her age should have no experience of.
3. This anger and independence had combined to give Sally strength in situations where other girls her age may have just given up in fear. It was a hard strength, not the sort that would make her many friends in life, but still it did have its time and place. And that was time was now and that place was here.
So gritting her teeth and using the anger inside of her to force her whole body to move, she twisted and groaned until she managed to manoeuvre herself into a sitting position and rest her back against a square, wooden post fixed into the floor behind her.
Once there, she looked around her again and began to realise that it wasn’t as dark as she had at first thought.
Shapes began to emerge from the shadows: two upright barrels in the near corner, an old unlit lantern slowly swinging on the cross beam above her head, a high wooden ceiling and one, two, three wooden walls. She followed the near wall with her eyes. And followed. And followed. And began to see that the room was very long. So long , in fact, that it receded off into shadow and the far wall could not be seen.
The long room, at first sight, seemed empty, punctuated only by the occasional post holding up the ceiling. Peering through the darkness at the walls nearest her, however, Sally saw that they were, in fact, lined with strong, thick wooden doors secured with heavy iron padlocks and that each door had a small, metal-barred opening at the top.
She twisted her neck to look behind her and could just about make out a short flight of steps leading up to a door set half–way up the wall. It was closed.
Sally turned her attention to her bound hands and feet. The bonds were strong and cut into her flesh tightly and the tips of her fingers were starting to tingle with the lack of blood supply. She struggled briefly with them but quickly realised that they had been tied expertly and she had no chance of removing them alone.
The bonds were quickly forgotten, though, as a sound suddenly emerged from the darkness. It was a very strange sound indeed and to Sally’s ears sounded like the scritch-scratch of a puppy’s claws on wood mixed up with the trundling clunking of a shopping trolley. And it was coming closer.
She turned her head from side to side trying to pinpoint where the noise was coming from. Was it behind her somewhere? But before she could twist her head to look behind again, she became aware of something even more worrying. The shadows in front of her appeared to be getting closer. They were moving!
And in the shadows there were tiny, red pinpricks of light. Four, five, no more, at least ten pairs of red eyes! All moving towards her!Suddenly, with no warning, there was a blast of hot breath onto the side of her face and a strangely, old-fashioned British voice whispered in her ear: “I do beg your pardon, madam, but try not to struggle and I promise we’ll make this as painless as possible.”