Victoria and Brad met by accident. She had been working on his mother’s political campaign. Hyped up over the historical event, Victoria worked day and night.
It was during a train ride through the Midwest when Brad came into the dining car. It was past midnight, and Victoria, relaxing after a long day with a nightcap, noticed him walking to the bar. The handsome, single, Harvard graduate, who majored in Economics, winked at her.
“Long day?” he asked.
“It was but so worth it. Did you hear your mother’s speech today in Tulsa?” Victoria asked.
“I caught a little of it on the plane. I hear the crowd went crazy.”
“They did. I feel confident your mom may win this.” Victoria was beaming.
“I’m Brad, her oldest,” he introduced himself.
“I’m Victoria, her campaign manager.”
Their eyes made contact and lasted a minute too long.
“Mind if I join you?” he asked.
Victoria didn’t need to say another word. Brad sat down next to her.
The rest is history, as they say. Brad and Victoria spent the rest of the campaign together and fell in love. Their romance was a whirlwind. In less than a year, they were engaged. Six months later, they were married. Six months after they were married, her new mother-in-law lost the election over a nasty rumor. It was shocking to everyone, especially Victoria. The somberness in the Slater household was unbearable.
Brad and Victoria were an odd couple. It wasn’t clear to anyone what the commonalities were, but it seemed to work. Underestimating her worth, as many women in Victoria’s shoes, she was infatuated with her husband. Whatever he wanted, she provided, both in bed and out of bed. Once, during an argument, he told her she was easily replaceable. She believed it and from then on, avoided making him angry. If she didn’t agree with him, she kept her mouth shut, like a dutiful wife.
When Victoria found out they were expecting a baby, she waited to tell Brad. They never really discussed starting a family, and she was fearful of how he would react to the news. When she told Brad, she was pleasantly surprised by his reaction. Overjoyed, Victoria hoped it would be a new beginning for them.
* * * *
As Victoria lay strapped to the four-poster bed with candle holding, hooded figures chanting around her, she suspected Brad’s happiness about the news wasn’t because he was to be a father. This new beginning wasn’t the one she had dreamed of or was it? Maybe Brad wasn’t a part of this. Was he also chained up somewhere in this God-forsaken house, unable to reach her? Had they killed him? Sent his parents a ransom note? Her mind was racing with all types of crazy thoughts.
One thing she knew for sure, she needed to keep a clear, level head if she were to escape these lunatics. The lull of the chants seemed to calm her, though she couldn’t make out what language they were speaking. She decided to play along with them. Let them think I’m with them like I do Brad whenever he’s in one of his rages. Breathing deep, she remembered her yoga instructor teaching her about breathing exercises.
As quickly as the chanting had begun, it suddenly stopped. Victoria could hear the wood crackling in the fireplace. “Who are you, people? What do you want with me? Where’s my husband?” She cried out in the silent room.
A bright flash of light blinded her for a second. All she could see was the color green from the flash. Blinking furiously to regain her sight, she heard a thunderous roar. The ceiling lifted away. The wind was howling. Though it was raining, she remained dry. An air bubble was protecting her. Objects were swirling around as if looking up into a tornado, reminding her of the Wizard of Oz. The noise was unbearable. Every muscle in Victoria’s body contracted to cause her to let out a guttural scream.
* * * *
Victoria? Was someone calling her name?
Can she hear me? A female voice said, though not recognizable.
Victoria wasn’t sure how much time had passed. Her joints were stiff from being kept in one position. She heard the whispering again.
“Not since your last visit.”
Who were these people? Why can’t I reach out to them? Am I dead? Why can’t I move? Victoria wondered.
She heard a beeping sound.
“Does this mean she can hear us?” The unfamiliar female voice whispered.
“Possibly. But we really don’t know much about what humans hear or feel when they’re in this state,” said the male voice.
I can hear you, screamed Victoria but only in her head.
“Look,” the female voice said, “The eye movement quickened. She must be able to hear us.” The beeping rapidly increased.
Frustrated, Victoria gave up trying to get their attention. Her last happy memory was driving down the road on a romantic getaway with her husband, celebrating their pregnancy. Pregnancy? I’m pregnant. My baby. What will happen to it if I can’t get out of here? They did this to me. The chanting. Oh, God, help me, please. Victoria pleaded in her mind.
* * * *
Realizing the humming noise had halted, Victoria had no idea how much time had passed. Not bothering to open her eyes, she realized her wrists had been unstrapped. Her eyelids were stuck together. Once she was able to open her eyes, she looked around the room without lifting her head. She was disoriented and fumbled to sit up.
How did I get here? She thought to herself. “Brad?” she yelled out.
Looking down, she was naked. Shivering, she reached for the sheets to cover herself. Realizing she was back in their room, Victoria had no idea how long she had been there. She needed to find a phone. But who would she call?
When Victoria swung her legs over the bed and tried to stand, she was unstable. Her head was pounding. Thankfully, the wet clothes, dry from the heat of the fireplace, were on the floor. Had she been dreaming again? Could it be this house? Maybe it wasn’t Brad who had planned this charade. Was she hallucinating? Hurriedly, Victoria dressed.
She tiptoed across the room toward the door, turning the doorknob. The door slowly opened. Peeking out into the dimly lit hallway, she looked down. Seeing the wall to wall carpeting splayed out down the long hall, Victoria could hear music playing and the low hum of conversation. The smell of food wafted upstairs mixed with fragrant flowers, invading her nostrils, making Victoria’s stomach growl.
Making her way to the stairwell, she stopped at the first door on the left. The intensity of emotions flooded through her body as she reached for the doorknob. Victoria had to know what was behind this door. The door was locked. Breathing a sigh of relief, she slowly made her way down the stone staircase. When she reached the bottom step, she peered around the corner into the large living room.
Spotting Brad at the bar, Victoria hesitated. She could break out or go over to where Brad was sitting at the bar. What if all this was a dream she made up in her head? Maybe, it was hormones? He’d say she was overreacting. Not wanting to see the cloaked people again, she headed toward the front door. The woman at the desk looked up from her paperwork.
“Ma’am, can I help you with something?”
“No, thank you, I just forgot something in the car. I’ll be right back.” Victoria opened the front door and walked out of the house. As she stood on the small landing, she took a deep breath. It had stopped raining, but it was windy outside. I’m free from the house, and no one tried to stop me. She raced down the steps looking for their car. Once she found their SUV, she pushed in the code, and the door opened. She still needed the key to get the car started and remembered they had a hidden one in the wheel well.
She raced around the car as the wind whipped through her hair, checking all four wheels. She heard someone call her name. It was Brad. It was dark in the parking lot, and she could only make out a shadowy figure approaching her.
“Stay back,” she yelled.
* * * *
“Victoria, wake up. Wake up. You’re talking in your sleep again,” Brad whispered as he shook her shoulder.
Opening her eyes, she had to adjust to the darkness of the room. Where was she? Victoria’s body was clammy, and her heart was beating fast.
“Who were you yelling at in your dream?” he asked. Victoria could tell he had been sleeping from the rasp in his voice.
Propping herself up on one elbow, she saw the four silhouettes of her dogs lying on the floor around their bed. Breathing a sigh of relief, Victoria told Brad to go back to sleep.
Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she glanced at the clock on her nightstand. 3:33 am.
Tiptoeing past the dogs, Victoria headed downstairs. Approaching the refrigerator door, she hesitated before opening it. Victoria’s dream was still vivid in her head. So, all of these events never happened? It was all a nightmare? Was she pregnant, or was that just in her dream too?
What could possibly have caused her to start having these horrible nightmares?
As she opened the refrigerator door, she noticed a new carton of milk. Picking up the container, a small amount of residue was left on the glass shelf where it had been placed. Turning the carton upside down, she saw a small puncture the size of a pinprick on the bottom.
These nightmares all made sense now. Brad had been drugging her milk. They had never discussed starting a family. Brad thought she was to blame for the loss of his mother’s campaign.
Finding his briefcase, she rummaged through it. In a side pocket, she found a needle and a vial. Searching further, she noticed the lining on the case was torn. Inside the lining was an envelope. Opening the envelope, there was the reason for Brad’s deception; a million-dollar life insurance policy.
The signs were there in the dream. Brad had been compassionate, reassuring Victoria is wasn’t her fault his mother lost the election. Brad had been pretending to be happy with the news of her pregnancy.
Victoria stayed up to plan Brad’s demise.
The following morning, Brad was surprised when he came downstairs to find breakfast on the table with coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice.
“I know I haven’t been myself lately, and I thought you’d enjoy a nice breakfast before meeting the guys for your golf game,” she said with a smile. Brad sat down at the table.
“Didn’t sleep well, I take it?” he asked her as he buttered his toast.
“No, I don’t understand why I’m having nightmares. The dreams are so vivid too. It’s as if I’m really experiencing them, a dream within a dream. Know what I mean?”
“I’m afraid not, I can never remember my dreams,” Brad said as he took a sip of his black coffee. Victoria could see Brad was enjoying every bite as he smothered his pancakes in maple syrup.
Taking another sip of orange juice, Brad faltered, trying to put the glass down on the table. The flute tumbled over. Dropping his fork, Brad looked over at Victoria. As he fell face-first into his plate, Victoria said, “RIP my love, Karma’s a bitch.”
Picking up the phone, she dialed 911 to report her husband had a heart attack.