“10!” The computerised voice boomed across the halls.
She whimpered as she lurched to her feet. She wasn’t prepared. She was never prepared for the countdown. Her bare feet skidded along the cool hardwood floor as she raced to find a safe place to be when the countdown ran to zero.
“9!” The voice again, slightly lower in volume this time.
Her heart juddered in her chest. She had managed to find an area that wasn’t close to one of the speakers, which also meant that she was further away from the seemingly ubiquitous microphones. She carefully exhaled, trying to calm her pulse as she kept her pace.
She skidded around a corner and ran straight into a giant wardrobe that had been shoved into the centre of its room. Her knee banged painfully on the expensive, antique wood but she wouldn’t allow herself to cry out. If he heard her now he’d know her exact location and she would be finished before the countdown ended.
She hastily wiped silent tears from her face with a filthy backhand as she manoeuvred through another adjoining room and into one of the hidden stairwells in the walls of the ancient estate. She prayed she could get somewhere, anywhere within the main house because she was sure he was outside patrolling the grounds immediately before the countdown.
“6!” The voice boomed.
She groaned inwardly about having brought herself closer to a speaker and another microphone but she was far beyond lamenting about the fairness of his little “game”. Her stomach churned slightly at the mental image of what was to come if she didn’t make it – and the premise was simple. She had to run and hide while the automated voice counted down. She had literally only herself and her knowledge of having been held on the estate for the past ten years at her disposal… He, on the other hand, had tech, he had gadgets…. Cameras, microphones, night vision, motion sensors, pressure sensors – he had it all.
Virtually tossing herself down a flight of stairs she landed with a well-practiced thump at the bottom and immediately rolled back onto her feet. The lean diet he kept her on added to the daily exercise she gave herself prepared her for his “game”, kept her mind and her body agile, ready for the fight. A fight she was getting better and better at winning over the years.
She gasped – He’d changed the timing interval between the two announcements, making them closer together. This was an unwelcome new development and she momentarily fretted that it was because he was closing in on her.
She refused to allow herself to consider it, however, knowing that the “game” wasn’t over until the countdown was finished. She pushed on, rushing from room to room in the cellar, past old, redundant boilers and dusty chairs.
She was desperate to win the “game”. When she succeeded, he rewarded her by leaving her alone for the night. When he “won”… the reward he took for himself didn’t bear thinking about.
She’d numbed herself to it years ago while he was rewarding himself, but she hadn’t yet been broken enough not to fight during the game itself, she would never allow him to break her. So she ran and ran, praying that one day her father would set her free.