Short Story | ‘Milk Cartons’ by Martin Hooijmans, Illustration by Lars de Ruyter
Tim sat down in his comfortable chair, allowing himself to slip into a focused state of mind. He could smell the faint odor of long gone cigarettes and hear the soft prayers from the devout lady living upstairs. Eyes half shut, he held up the milk carton, and stared back at the picture of a little blond girl with a long pony tail. ‘MISSING’ was printed in bold letters on top.
The longer Tim stared at the picture, the more the room around him began to fade. The cigarettes were replaced by the smell of a heavy cologne and the prayers were replaced by the sound of a hair brush. Slowly but surely, Tim sank into darkness. He closed his eyes.
“I’m so glad you’re with me now.”
Tim woke up to a choking feeling of fear, something he quickly discarded. It was normal for him to experience the recipient’s emotions.
He looked down at a dirty pink dress, and examined the small, fragile hands that lay on his lap. Her lap. Temporarily his. He became aware of the man behind him, brushing long blond hair. Despite the tenderness he exercised, it hurt. A lot.
“All mine, all mine,” the man whispered, then broke out in a fit of mad chuckling.
Tim scanned his features from the corner of his eyes. Slim, mousy, unguarded. It wouldn’t be difficult.
With all the force a young girl’s arms could summon, Tim drove his elbow right into the kidnapper’s nose, spraying blood everywhere and toppling him over.
He screamed as Tim got up and, on short legs, dashed up a flight of stairs to the freedom that lay beyond. Trying the door revealed an unexpected, very undesired problem. It was locked. Tim whirled on the spot, right in time to deliver a swift kick to the kidnapper’s crotch, sending him tumbling down the staircase. His landing on the concrete floor produced a loud crack as his left arm’s bone snapped in two. More screaming erupted from his ruined face, but he nonetheless stumbled back to his feet, functioning arm torn between grasping its counterpart or the nose.
Tim calmly walked down the steps, careful to keep a safe distance. “Where is the key,” he demanded. It always felt odd to hear a child’s voice come from ‘his’ mouth.
“You can’t have it,” the man sobbed. “You’re mine.”
Tim grabbed a wrench from a nearby workbench and stepped forward. “Last chance,” he said.
The kidnapper screamed again. Scurrying into the farthest corner he could find, he took out a set of keys and threw it at his newfound nemesis, who caught it with ease, ran up the stairs, locked the door and walked to the phone, dialing the police. “Hello, I have been kidnapped. I don’t know where I am, but you can trace the call. Thank you.”
The trip back always felt like smashing into a brick wall. The comfort of the chair helped with that. Instinctively, Tim grabbed for his remote and turned on the television. The news was already headlining.
Police cars pulled up to a suburban house, sirens blaring, young uniformed men getting out and sizing up the place. Moments later, the front door opened and a young girl with long blond hair walked out. She looked very confused, clutching the crumpled post-it that Tim had left her.
It had told her to stay put, but go outside the moment she heard the police. She had no recollection whatsoever of the last minutes.
Her elbow hurt like hell, though.
Illustration by: Lars de Ruyter