The steady rhythm of raindrops hitting the stone floor echoed hauntingly in the cramped, musty room. Solara heaved a shaky breath and squeezed her eyes tight. Her claustrophobia wasn’t severe, but being in here – was it days, weeks? – made it almost unbearable. A bitter chuckle escaped her mouth as she imagined the reaction of the world when she had gone missing. The headlines will be blaring with nonsense such as: FAMOUS TURKISH STAR SOLARA SARSILMAZ TAKING A BREAK? IS THE FAME TOO MUCH TOO HANDLE? BREAKING: OUR TURKISH SINGER BACKS DOWN IN FRONT OF HATE!
Solara scoffed. They were all vultures trying to find a sliver for her downfall. Is anyone even looking for her? She thought of her old father, running the bakery by himself. He was all she had. That thought alone made her heart ache. She rubbed the coarse rope that bound her hands against the floor in a desperate attempt to free herself. All alone in this dark room only made her see with clarity that fame and money was nothing. But she knew that already. She never let it get to her head.
A metal clang made Solara flinch and she snapped her head up.Her captor sneered down at her, a crazy glint in his eye.
“Feeling lonely? Don’t worry, there’s more of you that’s coming?” He spat by her feet.
“What do you mean “more of you”?” Solara demanded. “What do you want with me? Let me out, I don’t-” CLANG. Solara startled and pulled back at the harsh metallic sound piercing the air. The man hit his baton against the steel rods of her door. He let out a wicked cackle at her reaction and sauntered off, his laughter banging eerily against the stone walls. Hot tears prickled Solara’s eyelid. Never had she imagined her life to come to this state. Just a week ago, she felt on top of the world with winning her first ever Grammys and the bliss that followed put her in a drunken stupor that she let her guard down. Now is not the time for regret, Solara chastised herself. She scooted back to lean against the damp wall, weariness heavy on her bones. Slowly, her red-rimmed eyes slid shut as sleep pulled her into a dark abyss.
“STOP! STOP! ANIYO!” A frantic, fear-laced voice shouted, stirring Solara from her slumber. Prying her eyes opened, she was met with the sight of a young asian man struggling to push his way past two buff men. It was a hopeless cause because not a moment later, the men swung their fists at his gut and threw him into the cell with Solara. The man lay stunned on the ground for a moment, his breaths coming out in short gasps.
“Are you alright?” Solara asked hesitantly. The man started and turned to look at her. They both gasped at the same time. Solara’s eyes were wide as she saw Kim Tae-sung, or better known as K.T, the famous Korean R&B singer. The realization also showed in his eyes as he straightened up and pointed at her, his mouth agape.
“You! What are you in here for?” He asked with his heavily accented english. Solara shrugged in response.
“I don’t know why or how I got here. I woke up and suddenly I am in this room.” Solara examined Tae-sung carefully. His clothes were still clean and besides the small scrape in his hand, he looked in pretty well condition.
‘What about you? Do you remember how you got here?” She asked him. With a despairing look, he shook his head no and slumped back. Solara sighed. They both sat there in miserable silence.
“What do you think they want from us?” Solara asked, breaking the silence. She feared that if she stayed any longer in her thoughts, she would lose herself.
“You know,” Tae-sung started out, “everyone thought you needed time off or was on vacation the first week you were gone. I guess your company realized that wasn’t the case because the news that you are missing is trending worldwide right now.” Tae-sung explained. Solara bit her lip, her mind focused on what Tae-sung said earlier. She was right. They had thought she just got up and left everything and everyone. Solara prepared herself for this disappointment, but it still stung to know that despite her efforts to show the world her goodness, they still found a way to put her down. She sighed.
“Thank you Tae-sung,” she said sincerely as she looked at the male in front of her. He nodded. When he didn’t break eye contact, Solara awkwardly shifted. “What?”
“Are you okay? They didn’t do anything to you while you were here?” He asked, his brow furrowed. Solara shook her head.
“No, they just tried to scare me a bit,” Solara let out a humorless chuckle. “I just wanna know why we are here.” Tae-sing pursed his lips.
“I think I know why. The drug that they gave me, I don’t think it worked well for me. It was all so hazy but I remember. They said something about getting all these world artists under them or something. It was weird.” Tae-sung fiddled with his fingers, uneasiness clear in his dark-brown eyes.
“World artists?” Solara asked slowly. There was an itch at the back of her brain telling her that she might have an inkling of what was going on.
“Wait,” Solara uttered suddenly. She began to connect the dots and goosebumps formed on her skin as it dawned upon her. “One of the guys said he’s bringing more people like me. I didn’t know what he meant at first, but now-” Solara broke off, her heartbeat sounding loudly in her ears. “I know. He meant people like us. Singers. Celebrities.”
Tae-sung looked at her with wide eyes. “But what did we ever do?”
“‘I’ll answer that,” a deep voice sounded from behind them. Tae-sung and Solara both jumped. By the bars was a buff, tattooed man. A smirk was on his face as he regarded his prisoners with cold, calculating eyes. “You are the problem. It is your own fault you are here.” He stated.
“What do you mean our fault?” Solara retorted. She couldn’t believe her ears.
The man sneered. “You-you people think you are all that. Living on top of piles of money with no fear or care for anything. You don’t understand the struggles we have to go through. I want to make you feel that.”
Solara’s mouth dropped. “That;s why you took us?” She said incredulously. She felt numb all of a sudden. Her earlier fears, now confirmed by her captors. People saw her as nothing more than a rich icon. She shut her eyes, trying to dispel the flashback of her childhood. Of war, death, and blood-chilling fear. She was one of the lucky few to escape the airstrikes that destroyed her Syrian village alive. She was lucky her father was Turkish and helped her start a new life in Ankara. It was all luck she was alive. But it was all her hard work poured into lyrics and music that brought her here. Rage built up in her at the man’s words.
“Why us?” Tae-sung inputted, interrupting Solara’s steaming state. The man shrugged. “You guys seemed like the easiest target. You are young and didn’t have bodyguards or people with you.” Tae-sung shook his head in disbelief. Solara clenched her hands to keep them from trembling. What he said only fueled her anger.
“We are not bad people. We also had our own struggles but made it to the top.” Tae-sung whispered, voicing Solara’s similar thoughts. He looked at the man pleadingly, “Please. Just leave us alone.” The man threw his head back and chortled.
“Come on, you don”t expect me to believe that, do you?’ A psychotic look came into his eyes as he grabbed hold of the bars and looked down at them. “All my life, I envied you guys up there. It was so unfair that all the good things happened to people like you. And then there is us. My family lived in destitution. My parents both worked everyday till their bones would break just to make sure we could have meat on our dinner table.” He paused, the wild look in his eyes morphed into a furious one. “My brother looked up to one of you people. He was enamoured by your lifestyle and couldn’t help himself. When that person happened to pass by our city, my brother took his chance. And you know what that woman did?” The man suddenly banged the bars, his face red and a vein popped at his neck
Solara didn’t need to bet that this guy had anger issues.
“She trampled all over his hopes. She made him feel disgusted by himself. By his family. By his life!” He roared the last part. “When I came home from school, I didn’t expect to see the corpse of my brother lying on the sidewalk, his skull cracked open.” The man stepped back. “You people need to understand that you are not better than us.” He spit in front of them. “See you in a few days as I get things ready.” Tae-sung and Solara sat there, dumbfounded.
“He is not right in the head. He is taking out this anger on us.” Tae-sung shook his head.
“Yah! Come back here! What are you going to do with us?” Tae-sung held the bars and yelled after the man. His form stilled before turning around to meet Tae-sung’s eyes. The sight made his blood run cold. A dark look passed over his face and his lips curved evilly. “You will feel the pain my brother did in his last few moments.” With those bone-chilling words, he left them to stew in fear of their fate. Tae-sung sunk against the bars.
“I can’t believe this,” Solara murmured. She didn’t want to either. “This guy is seriously demented. His brother’s suicide is not our fault.” Solara heaved a breath. She had to get out of here. “Tae-sung! Snap out of that state, we need to figure out a way to get out.” Solara demanded. She won’t let her fear stop her from escaping. Besides, she didn’t escape war and terror to face it here.
“Think about it. A few days will give us time to find something, anything, to escape.” Solara mentioned. Tae-sung just stared back at her with hollow eyes. The sight made her bristle.
“For God’s sake don’t just sit there in despair. We are better than this!” She snapped at him. Tae-sung blinked, taken aback by Solara’s newfound determination. She also didn’t know where she found it, but she knew one thing. Solara was not going to sit again and watch her life fall to pieces around here. She learned her mistake.