Consciousness returned slowly and painfully. She opened her eyes, or at least thought she did, seeing nothing but complete and utter blackness. She wondered briefly if she was, in fact, dead. Despite the unnatural position of her limbs, blood burned through her veins, pulsing painfully in every bruise and confirming that death had not come for her, though she almost wished it had. Her agony was like a substantial, living thing, lending a magenta aura to the obsidian of her stifling prison.
The sticky, sweet smell of molasses thickened what little air there was, making it difficult to breathe, and only partially masking the pungency of blood, pain and fear. She fought for air, each breath a thousand shards of glass in her damaged throat. Her struggle caused the burlap feed sack in which she hung, cruelly suspended from the barn rafter, to twist and swing, back and forth. Each motion made the rope creak and groan, the sounds harsh and loud in the deep silence.
She knew with absolute certainty that if she didn’t escape, and soon, she wouldn’t live to see tomorrow, so she reached for the knife hidden in her boot, breathing through the pain that such movement brought. With a quick tug, the blade was free and she began slicing through the sack. Each slice brought cool air into her lungs, and with each breath she grew more clearheaded. Finally she was able to wiggle her feet and legs through the hole. She had just lowered herself to the floor when hinges squeal in protest as a door was opened.
Her heart began to pound and she looked around desperately for a way out. There! A window! Wrenching it open just as his heavy footsteps thundered toward her, she threw herself desperately toward the opening and into the unknown.
Sybil bolted upright, her nude body bathed in a cold sweat, taking great, gasping breaths. Silvery moonlight shined through her open bedroom window casting an eerie light on the tangled mess of blood-red sheets against pale, white skin. With a shiver, she shook off the sheets and reached for the small, leather-bound book on her nightstand, hopeful that journaling the all-too-real and increasingly distressing dreams would loosen the hold they were beginning to have on her waking life.
For several weeks, sleep had become something Sybil dreaded, knowing that she would awaken with a racing heart, feeling desperate and terrified, her sleep disturbed multiple times each night. Though the dreams themselves varied widely, the feelings they inspired were almost identical. Instead of waking refreshed and well rested, she awoke tense and exhausted, often unable to go back to sleep.
Sleep deprived and feeling anxious, Sybil grabbed her favorite robe and, wrapping herself in its warm and comforting softness, settled at her antique desk to recount her latest dream before the details faded.