She opened her eyes. Forcing herself up from the hard, cold ground she had been lying on, she tried to make out her surroundings. It was dark and windy. The moon broke through the cloud cover and cast sombre shadows over the raw surfaces of the colossal moorland rock formations all around her. There was something vaguely familiar about the place, but her head was spinning and she had trouble focusing. What had happened to her? She was alone in the wilderness. How did she get here? The bitter wind tore at her hair and blouse, as she stood up on unsteady bare feet, her body stiff from the cold. She shivered and swayed, called out weakly “Hello?”, into dark emptiness. Then. A harsh breaking sound. Coming from a nearby thicket. Her heart began to race, making her feel dizzy. Something was coming towards her. Overcome by fear she backed away, blind to the deadly abyss opening up behind her…
* * *
Chapter 1: Kate
Kate was humming to the soft sounds of her favourite jazz compilation, concentrating on her reflection in the mirror whilst carefully straightening her long hair. She couldn’t believe that it was finally over, all her hard work – never-ending research, interviews, typing … now compiled into her second academic book, this time on a subject close to her heart. ‘Behavioral Influences Of Near-Death Experiences’ had taken over her life for nearly 12 months now. The only thing missing to make her work complete would have been a recording of her own experience – getting as close as possible to a point of no return. But, this had always been an impossible notion, which she had sadly dismissed in the end.
Tonight she was going to celebrate with Tim and make up for all the sacrifices she had endured, especially in the past 4 months. She glanced at the bright red digits of her alarm clock by the bed: 7 pm already. Better hurry. They were meeting at the pub in town at 7.30 pm. There was just enough time to put on her silk blouse and slip into her new black jeans. She turned off the music when the sound of a car horn could be heard outside her first-floor flat. This should be the taxi she ordered earlier on. Rushing to the window for confirmation, she waved to the driver and hastily pulled on her heels.
Just as she was grabbing her handbag, the phone began to ring. Damn, bad timing. She picked up the call on her way to the door and immediately regretted it: “Katie. Well, well.” Richard. What did he want? She thought she’d got rid of the creep. Her stupidity in agreeing to meet up with him recently, after chatting online for a while, was still giving her goosebumps. How wrong you could be about a person.
“I am a vet. I love animals”, he had claimed in his online profile. But on meeting him in person she’d quickly discovered that the only thing he really loved was talking about himself. “You just get me, Katie.” How she hated it when people called her Katie. “I have waited a long time for you.” He’d taken hold of her hand, willing her to look deeply into his eyes, which she avoided as best as she could. She’d been almost afraid that he’d pop down on one knee any minute and propose to her. How utterly deluded this man was.
He’d been telling her intimate details from his past. “I never knew my father and my mother left when I was 8 years old. I was raised by an aunt, who blamed me for all her failures.” Although he’d made out to be deeply affected by this, she just couldn’t feel sorry for him.
She’d had the uneasy suspicion that he was trying to manipulate her emotionally somehow. The candlelight, soft background music and subdued whispering coming from the other guests had totally clashed with the tension she’d felt in his presence. His unnatural intensity had actually really unnerved her. The alarm bells in her head had been ringing so loudly that she’d been almost afraid he might hear them.
Eventually, she’d said she needed to go to the Ladies and then just disappeared. At that point she’d no longer cared how rude this was – her raw survival instinct had kicked in.
Then, nuisance phone calls, e-mails saying he was worried about her, turning up on her doorstep uninvited – he’d become the textbook stalker.
A few days ago, at the end of her tether, she’d approached Tim, her ex and best friend, her anchor. “I need to do something about that Richard. He hasn’t done anything I could get him arrested for, but I need to find a way to get rid of him before he does. He’s starting to really scare me.” Being the problem-solving ace he always was, Tim hadn’t hesitated. “Ok, how about getting him to see us together? Show him you’ve got a man in your life to protect you. That should get him to back off.”
And thankfully, it’d seemed to have done the trick. She had not seen or heard from Richard since then. What a relief it had been, and now this phone call… “You’ll soon be getting what you deserve –” was the last thing she registered before she slammed down the handset. Christ, he had sounded really vicious, actually snarling at her…
The car horn sounded yet again. With her hands shaking she switched off the lights, locked her door and ran downstairs. Outside, she breathed in the cold, damp November air and rushed towards the silver-grey Skoda Estate. She slid onto the back seat. “City Centre please.” Leaning back she tried to compose herself…
Suddenly the driver turned towards her. In a split second, he had jammed something into her left leg. She felt a sharp prick. Crying out in pain, she tried to pull herself forward. She struggled for the door handle but everything became blurred. She was unconscious by the time the car pulled away from the curb and joined the busy Saturday evening traffic.
* * *
Chapter 2: Richard
Richard was steering the Skoda calmly through the glare of red and white lights. The traffic was as busy as expected. In fact, everything tonight was just as expected. He laughed out loud. He had got the better of her in the end. How easy it had been to fool her. Hacking into her phone, cancelling the actual taxi she had ordered and waiting in a taxi-lookalike rental car outside her front door, so simple.
His plan had been genius. His well-timed phone call had unsettled and rushed her. She didn’t even look at him when she got into the car; not that she would have recognized him behind the steering wheel – beard, specs, baseball cap – so different from the meticulously groomed fool she had made of him. She had totally humiliated him. This had not been part of his plan.
He was leaving the roundabout to turn onto the road leading away from the City Centre, towards the deserted countryside. His destination was the harsh wilderness of the moorland rocks a few miles away, the ideal location for what was going to be his redemption.
He took a quick glance at Kate’s unconscious, slumped figure on the back seat. The perfect dose of Tributame, a common horse tranquillizer, prepared for her in a syringe, was all it had taken to knock her out for the next hour at least. Her evident fitness had indicated that she was into some sort of training programme and he had been careful to get the dose just right.
He turned his attention back onto the road ahead and thought about meeting her for the first time. “Author – Psychological Concepts. Interested in meaningful distraction from the day-to-day tedium” had been her profile tag, when he’d found her online.
He’d immediately known that she was the one. A woman with her background would be a welcome challenge for him. After a few weeks of tediously friendly e-mail exchanges and getting hold of her full contact details he had taken the next step. “Would you like to go out sometime? Grab a bite to eat?”
He hadn’t been able to believe his luck when she’d agreed on the spot. “Sure, why not? Name the day.” What an excellent start. They’d met two days later at the best French restaurant in town. He’d been so sure that a woman like her would fall for a bit of luxury. “Nice place”, she’d said, her blue eyes sparkling and smiling seductively when the waiter had seated them at their candlelit table in the corner.
Her increasingly reserved manner during the course of the evening had not worried him at all. She’d wanted him to think that she was a sophisticated lady, playing it cool for as long as possible. He had come across her type before. And he had been feeling a great deal of tension coming from her, which he’d naturally interpreted as sexual chemistry. Chemistry, yes – just not the right kind. The bitch had just left him there. A sitting duck for the enjoyment of everyone else in the restaurant – their laughter and whispering were still ringing in his ears.
This humiliation had totally thrown him. And worse, had thoroughly messed up his carefully laid out plans.
His knuckles turned white as he gripped the steering wheel tightly, remembering what she had done next. His urgent messages, phone calls and visits to her flat to get her back on track had been totally ignored. He’d started following her. The familiar, irritatingly difficult to control bitterness had already been resurfacing, stronger than ever. Women, they were all the same. They couldn’t help themselves, cruel and selfish.
He thought of his worthless mother, his spiteful aunt, all the others – well, they had all deserved what they had got…. And then he’d seen her with another man. Total fury had flared up in him. Another obstacle.
He hadn’t been able to risk her slipping away from him. How he hated changing plans, absolutely detested it. All his usual arrangements had to be brought forward. Disappearing cleanly afterwards was always crucial. And he wouldn’t make an exception this time. He had handed in his notice at work, cancelled his rental contract and erased his online profile. All had been neatly tied up for his imminent departure.
The excitement started to build in him as the tyres finally made contact with the gravel in the deserted car park. He reversed the car into the same spot he had used earlier that day. He walked round to the passenger side and opened the back door. Still out like a light. He pulled off her shoes, dragged her towards him and slung her over his broad shoulders.
Although it was cold and eerie among the raw, bizarrely shaped boulders, he felt he belonged here. The trees moved in the wind, their branches coming together, applauding him. A sense of importance and pride came over him. The moon appeared from behind the clouds, eager to show him the way. He inhaled the invigorating smell of woodland and damp grass as he made his ascend through the forest. Reaching the top of the tallest boulder, he arrived at what was to be the perfect setting for the grand finale.
After lowering her petite frame onto the rough ground, he straightened up and breathed in the pure cold air of the clearing. It was good to be in full control, to know beyond doubt that now everything would come together just as it should be. Looking down on her helpless figure he smiled warmly.
Then he walked over to a nearby copse and settled down among the bushes. As he was waiting for her to regain consciousness, he started to reminisce about all the others.
His aunt had been his first project, although, as a 14-year old, he had been far too inexperienced and quite inept. Afterwards, they had put him in a home for mentally challenged teenagers, believing that her alcoholism and seemingly self-inflicted drowning in the bath had damaged him.
He’d already been quite a good liar then, a natural talent. And he had explored and perfected this talent over the years. Each of the others had taught him what to do better next time, how to get more enjoyment out of having total control over a life and most importantly over when and how to end it.
He’d moved around a lot, worked in different countries around the world, his profession making it easy for him. His life had been on an upward trend towards utter perfection until he had met this one – making things difficult for him, trying to escape his control.
Well, looking at her lying there with nothing but fast-moving heavy clouds sneering down at her and the cold ground beneath her slowly penetrating her body with icy fingers, who was the one in control now? He stifled a laugh and kept feasting on the image of her complete defeat.
She began to stir, sat up slowly. His heart started to hammer against his chest in anticipation. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. She looked around and her right hand moved to her head. She moaned.
She got up on unsteady bare feet. How confused and scared she would be now. Beautiful. Swaying and shivering, she called out. “Hello?” Her voice sounded so pathetic. Pure joy rushed through him, as he saw how the wind clawed at her as if grabbing her violently. Now. He had to act before the effects of the tranquillizer wore off.
He caught hold of the dead branch he had collected earlier on in the day and snapped it hard. Right on cue she jerked and started to back away. Just as planned. Her hair and clothes flapped wildly as she came closer and closer to the gorge behind her.
Her feet slipped. She disappeared. Richard rushed to the edge not to miss the glorious finale.
* * *
Chapter 3: The Point of No Return
Article from the Yorkshire Evening Post, 15th December 2015:
‘North Yorkshire Police have now concluded their investigation into the death of a locum veterinary surgeon with a verdict of suicide. His body was found on Sunday, November 22nd at the bottom of a gorge at the local beauty spot Brimham Rocks.
It was discovered during the investigation that he had well documented mental health issues. Although a suicide note was not found, his actions in the days preceding his death left no doubt that he had the intention to end his life.
Initially, there had been questions over a missing rental car, which was hired by him on Saturday. It was acknowledged, however, that the car must have been stolen from the car park at the National Trust Visitor Centre, as it was later found burnt out on wasteland close to the City Centre. At present, the car thieves are still at large.
The female rock climber who had found the body early that Sunday morning commented as follows. “It was a complete shock to my friend Tim and I to find a dead person at one of our preferred training grounds. I had only commenced rock climbing on that day after an absence of four months, in which the completion of my latest book had taken precedence.
I can only take a guess at the circumstances that caused this loss of life.
Human behaviour is astonishingly unpredictable in extreme situations. You really never know who you truly are until you have been at the point of no return.”
Caren is a UK-based B2B and B2C professional freelance writer. Using her expert knowledge, skills and personal experience in corporate and small business development, personal improvement and autism, she crafts content that makes people take action. Her work is found in retail publications, professional websites, on her writer’s platform StoryBlog and more. When she isn’t typing away on her keyboard, you can see her having her nose buried in a book or hiking up and down the steep hills of the Yorkshire countryside with her husband, son and daughter.
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