As the first light of dawn began to spread across the horizon, the sky transformed into a canvas of soft pastel shades. The initial blush of pale pink and lavender soon gave way to a fiery band of tangerine and apricot that stretched above the towering peaks of the Himalayas. Wisps of mist clung to the valleys below, veiling the emerald forests and terraced fields in an ethereal embrace.

Standing amidst this breathtaking display, she couldn’t help but feel a profound sense of belonging and peace. The beauty of the sunrise mirrored the newfound tranquility she had discovered in this remote Himalayan sanctuary, and in that moment, she knew she had finally found a place where her soul could truly rest.

Jena, filled her coffee cup again, and sat down by the window. A distant ringing of the phone sent her into a reverie. That fated day when she had gathered the courage to call 911.

Five Years Ago

“911. What’s your emergency?”

“He kidnapped me three years ago. Help before he returns.”

“Please stay on line. Okay, ma’am, we’re doing everything we can to help you. Can you describe your surroundings? Do you see anything that might help us identify your location?” the dispatcher asked calmly.

“I have opened the wooden door slightly so I can get some signal to talk. I am in an underground bunker. I know I am somewhere in the Blackforest but cannot say where. I can hear water dripping,” she replied with a hint of desperation in her voice. “My name is Jena. I know my parents must be looking for me. Please help before he returns.”

“Jena, thank you for providing more information. We’re here to help you. We’ve informed the police and they’re on their way,” the dispatcher reassured her.

“ Okay ma’am . Is he armed? Can you describe him.”

“He had a knife when he took me, but I haven’t seen it recently. He’s tall, with dark hair and a beard. He always wears a cap. His name is… his name is Mark,” Jena replied, her voice trembling.

“Jena, we’re here to support you. Can you provide more details about the kidnapper, Mark? Anything else that might help the police in their search?” the dispatcher inquired.

Jena’s voice trembled as she spoke, “Mark has a scar on his left cheek, just below his eye. He wears worn-out jeans and a black leather jacket. He… he has a tattoo on his right forearm, a snake wrapped around a dagger.”

The Police Headquarters 

“There’s a call from 911 about a girl that went missing three years ago.”

“Who?” This was Captain Perkins. 


Chief Browing’s voice boomed, “tell them to transfer the call to Captain Perkins and we’ll take it from here.”

Captain Perkins’, heart raced as memories of the case flooded back. Jena’s disappearance had haunted the town for years, with leads turning up empty and hopes dwindling.

Three years ago, Jena, a bright and talented young girl, disappeared without a trace. She was last seen walking home from school, leaving her parents devastated. Dr. Emily and Dr. David Carter, both accomplished doctors, were consumed by grief and desperation. They tirelessly supported the police investigation, pouring all their resources into finding their beloved daughter.

Captain Perkins recalled, “we scoured the area, interviewed witnesses, and reviewed surveillance footage, but it seemed like she vanished into thin air.”

Chief Browning had tried to reassure the Carters, “We’re doing everything we can to find Jena. We won’t rest until we have answers.”

As time passed, the town held vigils, and the Carters’ medical colleagues organized fundraisers to support the ongoing search. The community’s support was unwavering, a testament to Jena’s impact on those around her.

Months turned into years, and leads grew scarce. Dr. Emily Carter spoke to Captain Perkins with a heavy heart, “Captain, please, you have to find our daughter. She’s out there somewhere, and we can’t go on like this.”

Captain Perkins couldn’t believe it was Jena on the call. 

“Hello Jena. This is Captain Perkins. I am here to help you. Can you keep talking so we can locate you.”

“No no no… you don’t understand. Mark will be back any minute. I do not have time. If he knows I called you he will be very mad.”

“Has he hurt you Jena?”

“Yes, he says,” Jena hesitated, “that I am his bride, he wants to marry me when I turn sixteen, in another week. Please I don’t want to marry him. Help me.”

“Jena, do your parents know this man?”

“I can see him returning. I can’t talk anymore.”

The line went dead. 

“Contact her parents. Ask them if they know anyone who matches Mark’s description. In the meantime, also send an alert to all grocery and medical shops to inform the police if they see a man of this description. Send a search team to Blackforest area too,” Chief Browning’s instructions were absolutely clear. 

Dr. Emily and David Carter

Dr. Emily and David Carter, a compassionate and dedicated couple, were beloved pediatricians in Vermont. Their days were filled with healing and hope as they tirelessly cared for the young patients who came through their clinic. 

The Carters’ world turned upside down when they returned home one evening to find their daughter Jena missing. Panic and worry consumed them as they frantically searched every corner of their house and neighborhood, but there was no trace of her. Their hearts pounded with fear, and the weight of uncertainty hung heavily in the air. Summoning all their strength, they reached out to Captain Perkins, the local police officer.

Emily, her voice was almost choked, “Captain Perkins, it’s Jena, our daughter. She hasn’t returned from school. We’ve looked everywhere, and she’s nowhere to be found.”

 “I understand how worrying that must be, Dr. Carter. Let’s start by describing Jena. Can you tell me what she looks like?”

“Jena is thirteen and has these bright blue eyes that seem to sparkle with curiosity. Her hair, auburn and full of curls, falls just past her shoulders. And her smile, Captain, it’s like a ray of sunshine.”

 “I appreciate the details. And I’ve heard about your work at the clinic. Could you tell me a bit about that?”

David spoke, “We’re both pediatricians, and we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping children, especially those who are less fortunate.”

“We’ve spent countless hours at the clinic, working to save lives and improve the well-being of children in our community. It’s a calling that’s very dear to us,” Emily’s voice was heavy. 

Emily was anxious now, “We can’t imagine anyone who would want to harm us. Our focus has always been on saving lives and making a positive impact.”

“I understand your concerns. Rest assured, we’ll do everything we can to locate Jena. We’ll start investigating immediately and keep you informed every step of the way.”

In the dimly lit room, Jena’s parents sat huddled together on a couch, their faces etched with a mix of anxiety and dread. The news of their thirteen-year-old daughter’s kidnapping had shattered their world, leaving them in a state of emotional turmoil they could hardly comprehend.

Every tick of the clock echoed their heartbeats, a constant reminder of the passing time since Jena had gone missing. Fear clung to them like a suffocating fog, obscuring rational thoughts and replacing them with a gnawing sense of panic.

Torn between wanting to be strong for each other and crumbling under the weight of their own emotions, anger bubbled just beneath the surface. 

They clung to cherished memories, flipping through old photo albums and holding onto her belongings, seeking solace in the tangible remnants of her presence.

As the days turned into nights, hope ebbed and flowed like the tide. Each development in the search for Jena brought both glimmers of optimism and crushing disappointments.

In the midst of this rollercoaster of emotions, they found support from friends, family, and even strangers, a lifeline that kept them from drowning in the depths of despair. They held onto the belief that love and unity could conquer even the darkest of situations, clinging to the hope that their daughter’s resilience and their unwavering determination would eventually lead them to her safe return.

Back At The Police Headquarters

The Carters couldn’t believe what they just heard. “Jena is alive!”

They ran down to the precinct.

Chief Browning and Captain Perkins were waiting for them.

Chief Browning filled them in with the details. “We’ve received some information that indicates Jena might be alive. We’re working diligently to confirm her whereabouts. In the meantime, I need to gather some details from you. Can you walk me through the events around her disappearance three years ago?”

Struggling to hold back tears, David replied, “It was a typical day. Jena left for school, and when we returned home, she wasn’t there. We searched frantically but couldn’t find any trace of her.”

“Did you notice any unusual circumstances or interactions before she went missing?”

Emily tried thinking back. “No, nothing that stood out. It was just a regular day, and we couldn’t fathom why someone would take her.”

 “Understandable. Now, there’s something else I need to ask. In the course of our investigation, we’ve come across a potential lead involving a person named Mark. He has a distinctive tattoo on his forearm – a snake wrapped around a dagger. Do either of you know someone by that description?”

David was listening to this. “No, we’re not familiar with anyone named Mark, and we’ve never seen anyone with that tattoo.”

“We received a call from Jena saying that Mark is the person who kidnapped her, she described this tattoo and someone who wears leather jackets predominantly.”

Emily was crying now. “We just want our daughter back. It’s been three agonizing years, and we’ve held onto the hope that she’s out there somewhere.”

Searching the Blackforest

Amidst the towering trees of the dense forest, the police search party meticulously combed through the undergrowth, their flashlights piercing the darkness. Officer Johnson’s voice carried frustration as he called out, “Spread out, everyone! Keep your eyes peeled!”

Sergeant Martinez wiped sweat from his brow, muttering to himself, “This forest is like a maze. How could she have vanished without a trace?”

Officer Ramirez chimed in, frustration evident in her voice, “We’ve been at this for hours, and there’s no sign of her. This is a nightmare.”

Officer Collins sighed deeply, frustration etched on his face, “We can’t afford to give up, but it feels like we’re running in circles.”

As the search continued, Officer Thompson’s voice crackled over the radio, “No luck from my end either. It’s as if she’s been swallowed by the trees.”

Sergeant Martinez’s frustration grew as he replied, “Keep pushing, everyone. We have to find her.”

The canopy of the forest seemed to absorb their efforts, each step deeper into the woods increasing their sense of helplessness.

Officer Johnson’s voice cracked with disappointment, “We’re coming up on dawn, and we’re empty-handed. What if she’s hurt? We can’t just leave.”

Sergeant Martinez’s jaw tightened, frustration lacing his words, “I know, Johnson. We won’t stop until we’ve turned over every leaf, but right now, it feels like the forest is playing tricks on us.”

As the first light of morning broke through the trees, the search party’s exhaustion and frustration were palpable. The forest remained silent, holding its secrets tightly, leaving them with nothing but the ache of defeat.

On Jena’s Birthday

“We have hit a roadblock once again. It’s been six days since she called,” frustration was clear in Captain Perkins voice. “How can we not find his hideout even though we know he is hiding in this underground bunker in the forest,” he hit the table hard. 

“It’s 911, Jena is on the line.”

Captain Perkins jumped to get the call.

“I ran out. I ran out. Help, help me please. He has gone to buy me a wedding dress.” 

“Are you still in the forest? We are coming. Do not cut the call.”

A team of law enforcement officers, led by Captain Perkins, quickly mobilized and coordinated a search operation based on Jena’s call. As the police tracked Jena’s call, they carefully followed the coordinates that were being transmitted from her phone. They knew the forest was going to be dense and challenging to navigate. 

“Jena what can you see around you?”

“Just trees, lots of trees,” she was crying hysterically. 

“Please, try to be calm and look closely around you.”

Jena wiped her tears. This was the first time she had come out in three years. She tried to look around and saw huge boulders. “I can see huge boulders. There’s something written on them. I can’t read from here.”

“That’s very good Jena.”

Captain Perkins, speaking to Jena through the phone, felt a sense of relief hearing her description of the surroundings. Her mentioning the huge boulders with something written on them provided a potential clue for the officers to narrow down their search.

“Jena, those boulders might help us locate you more precisely. Can you describe the writing on them, even if you can’t read it?” Captain Perkins asked calmly, his voice steady and reassuring.

Jena squinted her eyes and focused on the boulders. “It’s like… some sort of symbols or drawings. I can’t make out what they mean,” she responded, her voice still shaky but with a hint of curiosity.

Captain Perkins relayed this information to his team and quickly consulted with one of the officers who was skilled in deciphering symbols and markings. As they worked together, they pieced together the potential significance of the boulders. They realized that these markings might serve as landmarks or identifiers in the dense forest, possibly leading them to Jena’s exact location.

With a renewed sense of purpose, the officers utilized the information to triangulate Jena’s position based on the boulders she had described. They examined their maps and navigational tools to determine the most likely path she had taken from the boulders. The officers in the field communicated their findings with Captain Perkins, who coordinated the search operation from the command center.

Slowly and meticulously, the officers fanned out in the direction indicated by the boulders, maintaining constant communication with each other. The urgency of the situation remained, but the discovery of the boulders and their potential meaning added a layer of focus to their efforts.

After a tense period of searching, an officer spotted the distinct boulders with the markings that Jena had described. They realized they were on the right track. As they ventured further along the path, they finally spotted Jena standing near another cluster of boulders, her eyes wide with a mix of fear and anticipation.

Captain Perkins approached Jena gently, his presence a reassuring anchor. “You’re safe now, Jena. We’ve found you,” he said with a warm smile, extending his hand towards her.

Overwhelmed by emotion, Jena embraced Captain Perkins tightly, tears streaming down her face. The officers surrounded her, providing support and a sense of security. The long-awaited rescue mission had come to a successful end, thanks to their perseverance, Jena’s courage, and the crucial details she had shared.

As they walked back through the forest, Captain Perkins couldn’t help but admire Jena’s strength. Her ability to overcome her fear and provide valuable information had been instrumental in her own rescue. The boulders, once symbols of isolation, had become symbols of hope and a new beginning.

Meeting her Parents 

Jena’s heart raced as she approached the clearing where her parents were waiting anxiously. Her steps were slow, a mix of trepidation and excitement coursing through her veins. The emotions that had been suppressed for three long years were now surging to the surface, creating a whirlwind of feelings within her.

As she emerged from the forest, her parents’ eyes locked onto her, and time seemed to stand still for a moment. Her mother’s eyes welled up with tears, and her father’s face contorted between shock and elation. The distance between them closed rapidly as they rushed towards each other, drawn together by an unbreakable bond.

Jena’s mother enveloped her in a tight embrace, her arms holding onto her daughter as if she would never let go. Tears streamed down their faces as they held onto each other, a flood of relief, joy, and grief mingling in that embrace. Her father joined in the hug, his strong arms encircling them both, completing the circle of their family.

Words were unnecessary in that moment; their emotions spoke volumes. Jena felt the warmth of her parents’ love surrounding her, erasing the cold memories of captivity. The weight of those years melted away as they held each other, their hearts beating in unison.

Amidst tears and smiles, they finally pulled back slightly to look at each other. Jena’s parents gently cupped her face, their eyes searching hers for reassurance that she was truly here, that the nightmare was over. Jena’s tearful smile was confirmation enough. The lines on their faces etched by worry began to soften, replaced by the contours of happiness.

“I’m so proud of you, Jena,” her father choked out, his voice thick with emotion. “You’re so strong.”

Jena’s mother kissed her forehead, her lips lingering as if imprinting the moment forever. “You’re our hero, sweetheart. We’ve missed you every single day.”

Overwhelmed by emotion, Jena found her voice. “I missed you both so much. I love you.”

“Happy Birthday darling.”

Their family hug tightened once more, as if trying to erase the years of separation. 

Arresting Mark

The police had sounded an alert to all bridal shops to catch Mark.

Acting swiftly upon the tip from the small, nondescript bridal shop, law enforcement officers quickly coordinated their efforts to apprehend Mark. The adrenaline in the air was palpable as officers from different units converged on the location.

The shop, nestled inconspicuously among other businesses, became the center of attention as officers discreetly surrounded the area, ensuring that no escape route was left unguarded. Undercover officers, dressed as customers or passersby, blended into the surroundings, their eyes peeled for any signs of movement.

Inside the bridal shop, Mark was blissfully unaware of the imminent danger closing in on him. As he continued his business transaction, the normalcy of the situation betrayed the gravity of his actions. Unbeknownst to him, a network of law enforcement personnel had orchestrated his downfall, and the seconds ticked away to his eventual capture.

Then, in an instant, the tranquility shattered. Uniformed officers entered the shop with an air of controlled urgency. Their badges glinted under the store’s soft lighting as they calmly approached Mark, who was taken aback by their presence. The tension in the room was palpable as customers and shop employees watched in shock and curiosity.

“Mark, you’re under arrest,” one of the officers declared in a firm, unwavering voice. Mark’s eyes widened as the gravity of the situation dawned on him. His escape from the consequences of his actions had come to an abrupt end.

Realizing that resistance was futile, Mark raised his hands in surrender, his expression a mix of resignation and desperation. He was promptly handcuffed, the metallic click serving as a stark reminder of his loss of freedom.

As he was escorted out of the shop by the officers, Mark’s gaze darted around, taking in the scene of his downfall. His once-calculated actions had crumbled under the weight of the law’s reach and the dedication of those who had relentlessly pursued justice.

The customers and shop employees watched in silence as Mark was led away, his presence a reminder of the darkness that could lurk beneath the seemingly ordinary. 

Jena’s statement 

Sitting in the small, sterile interview room at the police station, Jena took a deep breath before beginning her harrowing account. The officer across from her listened attentively, offering a reassuring nod as she spoke.

“I was kidnapped by Mark,” Jena began, her voice steady but tinged with the weight of her memories. “He was a delivery boy in our neighborhood. I knew him from seeing him around. I never thought he could do something like this.”

She continued, recounting the details of that fateful day. “It was a regular afternoon when he came to deliver a package. He said he had something important to show me in his van. Curious, I followed him. Before I knew it, he had locked the van’s doors and started driving.”

Jena’s voice quivered as she described the terrifying ride to the underground bunker. “He took me to this hidden place he had prepared in advance. It was like a nightmare. He had planned it for so long, he even had a bed, food, and water down there.”

Captain Perkin’s pen scratched against the paper as Jena continued, her voice heavy with emotion. “He told me he loved me. He said he was doing all of this because he cared about me. But it was a nightmare. He never let me go out. I was trapped underground, alone and terrified.”

Tears welled up in Jena’s eyes as she recalled the abuse she had suffered. “He would come down there and… and hurt me. Physically and emotionally. He’d tell me he was the only one who cared about me, that no one else would ever want me.”

Swallowing back her emotions, Jena went on, her voice stronger now. “But I knew I had to survive. I tricked him into thinking I had accepted his twisted love. I told him I was ready to marry him, to spend my life with him.”

Perkin leaned in, captivated by Jena’s words. “How did you manage to escape?”

Jena’s lips curved into a small, determined smile. “I gained his trust little by little. He eventually gave me a phone, thinking I was too scared to use it. And on the day he went to buy me a wedding dress, I convinced him not to lock the door. I told him I wanted to prepare for our ‘wedding’ by collecting wild flowers.”

With a mixture of pain and triumph in her eyes, Jena described that pivotal moment. “He left, and I knew it might be my only chance. I grabbed the phone he had given me and called 911. Then, I left the bunker and ran, as fast as I could.”

Jena’s voice quivered again as she concluded, “It’s been a long journey, but I’m so relieved to be here now, telling you all of this. I want justice for what he did to me and to make sure he can’t hurt anyone else.”

Mark’s confession 

In the dimly lit interrogation room, Mark sat across from the detective, his eyes avoiding direct contact, a mixture of defiance and resignation in his demeanor. The detective leaned forward, his tone steady but probing. “Mark, we need to hear your side of the story. Tell us what happened.”

Mark’s voice was low, tinged with an unsettling calmness. “I’ve liked Jena since I saw her riding her bike when she was just twelve. I couldn’t get her out of my mind.”

The detective’s brows furrowed, his interest piqued. “So you’re saying your feelings for her led you to… kidnap her?”

Mark’s gaze hardened as he continued. “I couldn’t wait anymore. I wanted her, and I knew I had to make her mine.”

The detective leaned back, incredulous. “And how did you plan all of this?”

Mark’s lips curled into an unsettling smile. “I prepared the underground bunker deep in the forest. I wanted a place where no one would find us. I grew wild grass on the door, making it blend in with the surroundings.”

The detective’s eyes narrowed. ”You deliberately made the entrance inconspicuous?”

Mark nodded, a glint of satisfaction in his eyes. “I knew I had to be careful. I would change my clothes before heading to the forest and make sure not to leave a scent behind. I’d leave my vehicle in town and take different routes to throw off anyone who might be watching.”

The detective’s tone was stern. “You put a lot of thought into this.”

Mark’s voice grew colder. “I had to. Jena was the only thing that mattered. I had to make her see that we were meant to be together.”

The detective’s incredulity gave way to disbelief. “You kidnapped her, kept her in that bunker against her will, and you don’t regret any of it?”

Mark’s gaze remained unflinching. “I’m not sorry for what I did. I did what I had to do to make her realize that she belonged with me.”

The detective leaned forward, his voice hardening. “Mark, do you understand the seriousness of your actions? You’ve caused irreparable harm to Jena.”

Mark’s eyes held a disturbing intensity. “I did what I did because I loved her. And I’m not going to apologize for that.”

As Mark’s confession unfolded, the chilling details of his obsession and calculated actions painted a disturbing picture. The detective’s conviction in seeking justice for Jena only grew stronger, a testament to the law’s commitment to protecting the innocent and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.

Healing Jena

Jena’s return home marked a significant step in her journey towards healing, but the scars left by her traumatic experience continued to haunt her in the form of nightmarish memories.

Her mother gently knocked on the door and entered, her concern evident in her eyes.

“Jena, honey, we’ve noticed that you’ve been struggling with the nightmares,” her mother said softly, taking a seat next to her on the bed.

Jena’s eyes welled up with tears. “I can’t stop thinking about it, Mom. Every time I close my eyes, I see his face, the bunker… everything.”

Her mother’s hand reached out to gently hold Jena’s. “It’s completely normal to feel this way after what you’ve been through. That’s why your father and I think it might be a good idea for you to talk to a professional, someone who can help you process your feelings and thoughts.”

Jena nodded, sniffling. “I guess… I just want these nightmares to stop.”

Her mother offered a comforting smile. “That’s why we’ve scheduled an appointment with a counselor. They specialize in helping people cope with trauma. It’s a safe space to talk about everything you’re feeling.”

Jena wiped her tears and nodded again. “Okay, Mom. I’ll give it a try.”

A few days later, Jena found herself sitting in a cozy office, facing a kind-looking counselor named Dr. Myers. The room felt inviting, and the soft lighting added a sense of comfort.

Jena took a deep breath, her fingers nervously fidgeting in her lap. “I’ve been having these nightmares… about what happened to me. It’s like I’m trapped all over again.”

Dr. Myers nodded empathetically. “Nightmares are common after a traumatic experience. They’re your mind’s way of processing what you’ve been through.”

Jena’s voice wavered as she continued, “I just want them to stop. I want to feel normal again.”

Over the following weeks, Jena attended counseling sessions with Dr. Myers. Their conversations delved into her fears, her anxieties, and the impact of her experience on her daily life. Through techniques like mindfulness, deep breathing, and talking through her emotions, Jena began to find a sense of control over her thoughts.

Dr. Myers offered a warm smile. “I’m suggesting that you consider going to a different environment, somewhere peaceful and far removed from the reminders of your trauma. It could help you gain a new perspective and provide you with the space you need to heal. There’s a Himalayan village known for its tranquility and spiritual atmosphere. It might be the perfect place for you to find solace and continue your healing process.”

As Jena settled into the serene Himalayan village, she found herself surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty and a sense of tranquility that she had longed for. 

In the midst of this serene environment, she met a Buddhist monk.

One morning, as the sun began to cast its gentle glow over the village, Jena found herself sitting across from him in a small meditation space. Their conversation had turned deep, and Jena hesitated before opening up.

“Sometimes, I feel like I’m too broken to ever really heal,” Jena admitted, her voice heavy with the weight of her emotions. “I’ve been through so much, and I wonder if any of these methods—meditation, mindfulness—can actually help.”

He looked at her with a kind understanding in his eyes. “It’s not uncommon to feel that way, especially after experiencing trauma. But healing isn’t about becoming perfect or erasing the past. It’s about finding acceptance within ourselves, even with our scars.”

Jena’s brow furrowed as she considered his words. “But what if the pain is too much? What if I can’t let go of what happened?

His calm demeanor remained unwavering. “Healing doesn’t mean forgetting or pretending the pain never existed. It means allowing ourselves to feel, to acknowledge our suffering without letting it define us. When we accept our pain, we can begin to heal.”

Jena sighed, her skepticism still lingering. “Maybe I’m cynical, but I really don’t think any of that stuff works for anyone who is truly broken.”

He smiled softly. “It’s natural to have doubts, especially when facing something as overwhelming as trauma. But healing is a journey, not a destination. It’s a series of small steps, each one taking us closer to a place of inner peace.”

“Start by being kind to yourself. Treat yourself with the same compassion you’d offer a friend. And remember, healing isn’t a linear path. There will be moments of doubt and darkness, but that doesn’t mean you’re not progressing.”

With a thoughtful nod, Jena absorbed his words. “So, it’s okay if I still have moments when the demons feel overwhelming?”

His smile was gentle. “Of course. Demons may come and go, but you have the power to learn from them and grow stronger. Serves us better to just keep barreling forward and hope the demons can’t keep up, so you might as well be who you are.”
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Deepika Bhatli Sharma
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