An Uninspired Kidnapping ~ fiction by Lucy Zhang

When I was kidnapped, I wore a denim jean jacket with a front button placket, point collar and two button-flap chest pockets—one for my phone, the other for a twenty-dollar bill. I figured one day the twenty dollars would be a useful bribe, or if I was feeling generous, a donation to the street musicians in the city. But twenty dollars wouldn’t save my life, nor would my inability to say no to anything or my ability to depersonalize from my body. My gaze was always trained elsewhere, at the clock tower or the German bakery or the smoke emitted from the factories up ahead.

I watched my body collapse into a leather suitcase. Humans don’t fit the rectangular form factor. No matter how condensed and space-efficient a fetal position can get, heads jut out and feet don’t fold inward. So you hack them off. My head fit snugly in the small space between my thighs and stomach and my feet got crammed between the suitcase’s wall and my back, and I could feel the metatarsal bones greeting my spine. I had travel companions, a comforting thought when the suitcase snapped shut with the sound of buckles locking in place.

My kidnapper lifted the suitcase. I wondered if my limbs would be sacrificed to some religion that demanded human blood in exchange for a mortgage for the three-million-dollar penthouse. You got the wrong body; no god would appreciate a lump of flesh that didn’t even warrant a Silver Alert. Not to put myself down too much, I thought my hands and feet were rather capable from wandering through streets and highways without proper lighting, snatching handfuls of mints from restaurants that left glass bowls of candy by the entrance. Maybe some gods liked that kind of work ethic in their sacrificial humans.

How disappointing, I thought as the suitcase got tossed into a river. Not a river encased by a thin layer of ice that would let out a spectacular crack when leather hit crystal, not a river guarded by an imposing tree that a kid would climb and discover the oddest thing in the water—a packaged dead body perhaps, not a river whose banks housed half-empty water bottles, five-month-old newspapers, orange and blue and yellow bits of plastic from who-knows-where. It was a “large natural stream of water flowing in a channel to the sea” kind of river; the type that didn’t take too much time or too little time before revealing a disfigured, water-bloated body to the fisherman and his son. That’d make the news for a day or two. No longer. No shorter.

The suitcase sank with a graceless plop. I didn’t remember the face of my kidnapper; I didn’t have a burning desire to identify anyone or point fingers and have it all turn political when really this was just an uninspired kidnapping. I doubted my name would even make the paper. Hi, I’d say from the bottom of a river or sea if I made it that far. I’m Jane Doe. I just wanted to know if someone took the twenty-dollar bill from my pocket. Hopefully the musicians. They deserved a good, warm meal.

Lucy Zhang is a writer masquerading around as a software engineer. She hails from Belle Mead, New Jersey, and currently writes from a poorly-lit apartment in California. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including MoonPark Review, The Rumpus, and Scoundrel Time. She can be found at or on Twitter @Dango_Ramen.

Show Lucy some love via PayPal at lucy.7a11(at)gmail(dot)com.