By: Ryann Kerekes

“This is boring – come with me.”

He stops in front of a rope suspended from the ceiling and motions for me to step forward. “Climb to the top.”

It’s at least thirty feet up. I grip the rope; it’s so thick my fingers can barely make it all the way around. I pull myself up and bring my feet up. I begin shimmying my way up the rope. Miraculously I’m doing it. My hands ache from my grip on the rope, and my muscles are tense, but slowly, slowly, I’m making my way up toward the ceiling. I can tell it’s not what he expected, and that pushes me forward.

When I reach the top, just to spite him, I stretch out and skim my fingers across the ceiling, then begin to slide down slowly so that I don’t get rope burn. Then I’m standing in front of him, out of breath, but proud of myself for the first time since I got here.

“Since you’re so good with ropes, let’s try something else.”

And suddenly I regret showing off, for climbing so high, for touching the ceiling. I follow him to the far corner of the room. He picks up a length of rope from a container in the corner. It’s about four feet long. He turns me around and takes my arms behind my back and begins tying the rope tightly around my wrists. Once he’s knotted the rope and tugged on it a few times to be sure it’s secure, he sets the timer on his watch. “Okay, get yourself free.”

I struggle with the ropes, thrashing my arms around, trying to pry my fingers underneath, but it’s no use. The look on Kane’s face is pure amusement. I swallow and calm myself. I stop thrashing long enough to think this through. My wrists are small, and that will work to my advantage.

I notice the rope seems to be tied in a figure eight, looping back around again, binding my wrists together. I pull until the left side is tight, causing the rope around my right hand to loosen just slightly. I pry my fingers under the rope to loosen it more, sliding my hand up. The rope around my left has gotten so tight, it’s cutting off my circulation, and my hand starts to go numb, but I don’t stop. After I get the rope over the biggest part of my fist, my right hand suddenly comes free, and then with a free hand, it’s easy to pull the rope off my left.

Kane’s grin fades when the rope drops to the ground behind me. “One minute thirty-four seconds,” he says, stopping the timer. “Let’s see what you’ll do when motivated. We’ll make it more interesting this time.” He pushes me towards the pool, bending to grab the rope.

We stand at the edge of the pool, my heart hammering in my chest. He turns me and begins to tie my wrists behind me again. I struggle against him, trying to pull my arms free. “You can’t – I can’t …”

He whips me around to face him and backhands me. The force of it stings, and I taste blood on my lip. I’ve never been hit before, and I’m more surprised than anything else. I swallow down the lump in my throat and stare defiantly up at him. I will not cry. I breathe through my nose, trying to stay calm. If I’m going into the water, I need to hold myself together.

He resumes tying my wrists, and I hold them apart as far as I dare without him noticing, giving myself more room to work. Once he tests the ropes, checking that they’re secure, I know I’m about to be shoved into the water. I take a few deep breaths, trying to clear my head. I feel his hands on my back and take one last gulp of air as he pushes me into the water.

I hit the water and instantly begin to sink, though I’m kicking my feet to stay afloat. My drenched clothes and the heavy rope are no match, and in a few seconds I’m on the bottom of the pool. The instant my feet hit the bottom I begin working at the ropes using the same strategy I did before to free myself. I know I can do it again. Except underneath the water, the rope seems to give differently, and my arms are exhausted from the weights and climbing.

The lack of air is already starting to become uncomfortable. I blow a stream of bubbles from my nose, preserving some of the air I have left in my lungs. My hands work faster, my fingers fumbling at the ropes. I know I’m not making any progress, and I begin to panic. I look up and see Kane’s blurry figure watching me from the edge of the pool. He waves at me.

The pain and anger push me to work faster. My fingers pry at the rope, twisting and pulling with all I have. I become disoriented and forget which hand I’m working to free. I release the last of the air I’ve been holding, and my lungs scream out for oxygen. I know I only have a few more seconds of consciousness and pull violently at the ropes, flailing my arms behind me. It only serves in making them tighter. My feet push up from the bottom as I try to swim for the surface, but without my arms, I’m like a rock and sink back down.