Publish Novellas 22 December 2021
EPISODE 3 – FIVES
Captives scramble to figure out significance of the number five and what is happening to their members in this exciting conclusion.
Retired Marine Corporal Andrew tries to take charge of the situation. “Let’s keep the same schedule tomorrow. After lunch, one representative from the women and one from men will knock three times on the door to the large room, acknowledging each other’s presence.
“Then they will open and meet in the middle. Those remaining on each end of that room will count to 1200 before opening the door to check on them. Any questions?”
Conveying less enthusiasm, everyone agrees with the corporal. The next afternoon, doors slam with a flash and tremor. After counting to 1200, the groups open the doors open and the pair is not there.
With eight of each gender remaining on either end, Andrew calls on more reinforcements. “Such a simple task cannot keep tripping us up. I am convinced that those missing have found a way out.
“The rest of us should also be able to escape. Tomorrow, let us send three from each of the two rooms. We will count to 120 before opening the two doors to the large room and checking on them.”
The next day, the building shakes violently after a total of six people push through the doors on each end that slam behind them. Opening the doors after two minutes, reveals they have all vanished.
There is no plan for the following day. The five men and five women each end go back to their two respective rooms, dumbfounded.
“It feels like we are behind the scenes of a Las Vegas magic show. People seem to be falling through trap doors,” Peter says.
Everyone has their dry granola cakes and nuts for supper. Later, they sleep through the night. When they awaken, five new women are on the empty mattresses within the men’s room. On the other end, five new males occupy the empty beds in the female’s quarters.
Of course everyone is anxious to learn who the new captives are, where they came from, how they got inside, and if they saw the others who vanished. The stories keep everyone up well into the night.
Addressing Marcus, the Marine says, “I appreciate you not saying, ‘I told you so,’ but it seems that we upset the original balance by moving all the women together.”
“There is nothing to rub in your face. I was just sharing observations. Whoever put us here wants five men and women in each room,” Marcus replies.
“And for us to stay out of the dark room.” Andrew adds.
Pam, one of the new women, who is blind, asks, “What is the dark room?”
Andrew explains, “In the bathroom is a door with a sign that says, ‘Don’t open.’ On the other side is a large dark room—not for developing camera film—it is literally a room with little light. On the opposite end is another room and toilet like ours here.”
“Oh, so there’s a large room between,” Pam replies.
“We need to determine if the disappearance of ten members from the room between is either good or bad. Have they discovered a repeatable means of escape, or certain death?” asks Andrew.
Marcus replies, “We can’t really say for sure.”
“Let me put it this way.” Corporal Andrew asks, “By a show of hands, how many would rather remain here indefinitely…? No one. Okay, all the women gather your blankets and bowls. We will walk to the other end of the building for you to bunk with five other women. All the men will sleep here.”
They open the second door from the bathroom and there is absolutely no illumination within the adjoining large room.
“Retreat and regroup!” shouts Andrew. Back in their sleeping quarters, he expresses concern. “Their is no visibility in there. We don’t know if the bulb blew out or if someone cut off the power. With the parameters changing, we can’t be certain of what to anticipate.”
Pam says, “Though accustomed to the darkness, I am trying to acquiesce to the more experienced ones. But your uncertainty has me wondering if we should just remain put.”
Still pondering the dilemma, Andrew shouts, “Reconnaissance!”
“Agreed,” says Marcus. “Let me go to the other side and report back.”
“Okay, count in your head to 300 after opening the door. It should take 30 to 60 seconds to walk straight to the other end of the room. If there is any problem at 120 seconds, double back,” advises Andrew.
“You got it, sir.”
Marcus ventures into the large dark room. While shuffling his feet with uncertainty, he bangs his shin on a bed frame. Jumping back up, he slips on a loose tile and calls out, “Who’s there?”
After no response, he continues but the prior quaking has shaken beds into the middle of the floor. He is at 120 seconds without any idea of the distance or what other obstacles might await him so he doubles back to report.
“You returned. That’s a good thing. What did you find?” asks Andrew.
“The large room is no longer empty. Someone or something—perhaps the tremors have strewn beds all over. I don’t know if more people are occupying them. Navigating around the furniture and the loose floor tiles is disorientating in the darkness. I somehow managed to backtrack within the allotted time.”
“Did you hear any breathing or gasps? Were there any aromas to suggests people are in there?” asks Andrew.
“None of that. No one responded when I called out. The obstacles forced me to change directions and lose track of the target. I was fortunate to get back to the bathroom door on this end,” Marcus reports.
Pointing out redness, Andrew asks, “Is that blood on your leg?”
“It looks like it. I banged my shin. Though, perhaps blood transferred from a mattress,” Marcus replies. “I’ll try to get a closer look at it.”
This raises concern by Evelyn, who reacts, “It sounds terrifying. There could be dead bodies on the beds.”
“Is it more terrifying than living in these conditions until we die? They are mattresses, not landmines,” says Andrew. “Timidity does not win battles. We will all go together for the swap. Hold someone’s hand to pick each other up if necessary. Proceed carefully and navigate around obstacles. Whoever gets to the door first can call out to orientate everyone else. The operation should take less than 15 minutes.”
As they all pile into the darkness, some slip over tiles and bump into beds. Individuals fall over each other and get up. Corporal Andrew makes it to the door and calls out so everyone can follow his voice.
One by one they enter the door—but they do not exit on the other side. They each return to their last location before transportation. They have recollections of the captivity but cannot make sense of its purpose.
Some wonder if they blacked out and had a bad dream. Family and friends ask where they have been. Truthful replies cause others to think they are experiencing psychosis. Peter is afraid to go into his garage again. Not knowing when, or if, future actions will return them into the dark abyss, others seek psychological counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Marcus grew accustomed to the granola, and now has it for breakfast each morning. After a week, he returns to work at his auto shop. With excess debt, his business was dropping off before the incident. He mostly restores cars that customers signed over to him because they could not afford repairs.
As a single man with no personal friends to speak of, Marcus misses the adventures of the mysterious group and the room between. At 5 o’clock, with his finger poised over the same trigger that launched him into darkness, he switches off the light.
What lessons do you gather from this story? In the same situation, how would prefer to be divided and why? What do you think happened after Marcus turned off the light switch? Who do you feel violated Evelyn?