Publish Novellas 15 December 2021
EPISODE 1 – TIMING
Less than a dozen people who find themselves in dark captivity among unusual circumstances explore methods of escape in this thrilling short story.
A group of ten unrelated captives are kept in a dim abandoned hospital room. Ten soiled twin-size beds with blankets are evenly spaced. On each is an empty Bento bowl. Three times a day, every individual can hold the bowl beneath a spout through the wall as dry granola cakes and nuts pour out.
A single 15-watt bulb in the ceiling barely illuminates their quarters. With no heating, the nights are cold and the days are cool. There is one door that leads to a primitive communal toilet room with a sink for hand washing and no mirror. The restroom has a second unlocked door with a “Do not enter” sign on it. Out of curiosity, each captive has peeked through the second door. So far, no one has stepped through.
Amid their own stench, the ten roommates now discuss what they saw, what might happen to them in the other room, and how they got into their current predicament.
Marcus tells the group, “The large room resembles a dark aircraft hanger. I just stood at the threshold waiting for my pupils to dilate. There is a faint impression of another door on the other end of the room. But the pathway is not clear.”
“Did you notice whether the handle on the other side of the second bathroom door unlocks?” asks Jacqueline.
“No, I didn’t. But we could prop it open with a bowl in case we need to run back,” Marcus replies.
Peter then asks, “What if the door on the other end of the room is locked?”
“Then we are no worse off,” says Marcus.
Jacqueline interjects, “For all we know, the large room could have infrared cameras to see if we disobey the sign. What if it is a room filled with armed gunmen?”
“These are valid objections,” Peter adds.
In frustration, Marcus asks, “What are the alternatives? We have been stuck in these nasty beds with no communication or explanation for about a week!”
“We shouldn’t forget how we got here,” reminds Marcus.
“Gathering up ten people into a truck at night suggests that our abductors have considerable power over us,” Mariana reasons.
Then Marcus asks, “Does anyone else remember a truck?”
“Mind-bending trip through surrealism”
One by one, they disagree with the account. Evelyn says, “I was walking backstage, five minutes from delivering a speech, but never made it to the lectern. I woke up here on a filthy mattress.”
Marcus says, “I was closing up my automobile repair shop at 5 o’clock. After turning off the last light, I woke up on variegated bedding that I can only hope is covered with rust stains.”
“The last thing I remember before here is driving my car into the garage attached to my house,” Peter interjects.
“So what do we have in common? Is anyone else from California…?” asks Marcus. “No one? And we all work at different companies…?”
“My name is Corporal Andrew, retired Marine.”
“I’m a post-graduate college student in North Carolina,” says Evelyn.
Rex confesses, “It’s a good thing my five-year parole ended in New York. Otherwise, I would be sent back to a place worse than this.”
“How is it that ten diverse people from ten different states end up in the same place on the same day?” Marcus asks rhetorically, since no one has an answer.
Evelyn interjects, “I can’t be the only one thinking it. Why are infant cribs between the beds? There is a, sometimes missing, filthy nudity magazine on the bathroom floor.
“On my third night here, I had to kick and scratch one of you perverts who put their hand on my inner thigh in the darkness. Is this how people become sex slaves or are they waiting for the men to molest us?” asks Evelyn.
“If prostitution was the purpose, it is more likely that only women would have been selected—though sex trafficking can include young men. This could be a test to see how far we decline into sexual depravity among squalor on our own.
“Anyone with a propensity to molest should remember that you could be harming your potential savior. Either way, this adds urgency to discovering what is on the other end of that room,” Marcus reasons.
“I don’t want anyone pawing on me over there. If anyone ventures beyond the room between, it should be a man.” Mariana adds, “If I open that door and see a room full of perverts, it would be all over for me.”
“Perhaps our Marine has an idea,” queries Marcus.
Corporal Andrew suggests in a commanding tone, “Okay, we have five men and five women with no idea what we may encounter on the other side of the door. Since the opposition has determined our number, it is unlikely that they selected enough of us to overpower them. They are so confident of their success that they didn’t even bind us.
“In a worst-case scenario, the room between is no man’s land. If opposing forces on the other end are monitoring it, they only need to turn on the lights. This would blind us and allow them to mow us down.
“The main concern is safe return after reconnaissance. Let’s assume there is no room surveillance and the door on the far end is unlocked. Without being cocky, I can breach it with hand-to-hand combat training.
“Just behind me, on the other side of the door, I would position two men who could provide backup support or pull me out if necessary. Station a fourth man at the door on the other end of the room to assess the outcome.”
“I see the logic. But consider, we have the potential of losing at least three of our five men in one operation. Are we all willing to take that risk?” asks Marcus.
Binna speaks up. “It is possible that this is a test to reduce our ranks to mostly women. But… I guess that is something our captors could have done when bringing us here.
“I think the Marine has a good strategy, with one exception. Let’s not assume that all women are helpless. I just received my Taekwondo Oh Dan designation. This is equivalent to a 5th degree black belt. Every week I train to fight multiple opponents. So I volunteer to have the Marine’s back during the breach.”
Marcus chimes in. “Things just got interesting. I can hold the door from the bathroom on this end and make a determination to assist or barricade based on the outcome.”
Maggie finally speaks up. “Well, I appreciate the bravery of the volunteers. As a female bodybuilder, I offer to make the breach with the Marine.”
“Trade positions with me,” says Binna. “The Marine and I are fighters. We need muscle to hold the door or provide Calvary.”
Andrew confirms, “That works for me. I breach and you enter, with me at your six.”
“When do you want to do this?” asks Marcus.
“Does it make a difference? We are always in darkness so we can’t tell the time,” Peter replies.
“But we’re fed through the spout three times per day. I estimate there are five-hour intervals between breakfast, lunch, and dinner—even if it’s always the same food,” reasons Marcus.
“That feeding spout could be on an automatic timer. But the food after the longest interval should signal morning. If the door on the other end of the large room leads outside, we have a better chance at making a run when we can see where we are going,” Andrew replies.
“It seems like we’re within the long interval now,” estimates Marcus. “Let’s get some sleep. Plan the breach after the next granola pour and everyone has had time to relieve themselves in the toilet.”
In the darkness, while everyone sleeps, someone Evelyn assumes is male sneaks into her bed. With one hand, he covers her mouth. With his other hand, he begins massaging her. In the darkness, others who are awake do not respond to moans, assuming someone is gratifying themself.
Imagining the filth of his hands and unable to identify the perpetrator, Evelyn finds her way to the bathroom and washes herself. Not trusting anyone, she then cowers in a corner. Without knowing who it was, she is afraid to tell anyone and wonders when it might occur again.