Sunday, February 2, 2014

TRAPPED Sunday Serial Part Nine

Part Nine
I wake up sprawled on top of somebody else. The room is completely dark, and I have a killer headache that is only spurred on by the reek of gasoline.
Suddenly aware of sharp prickly jabs of pain sticking into my wrists and ankles, I attempt to get up and instead roll off the body into a wall.
Ouch. As I'm trying to sustain the dual pain, a door swings open, letting in light and momentarily blinding me.
“One's already woken up.” The voice is careless, flagrant, and I resist the urge to kick the black figure. “Should we wait?”
“Nah.” The other voice slices through the air, and a second black figure joins the one in the doorway. “Use the water.”
“Wait!” I try to say, but because I have a gag in my mouth, it comes out Wugaft!
“Aw, the kid's trying to talk.” The first carefree voice is mockingly sympathetic. The figure bends down and yanks at gag, almost ripping two teeth out in the process. I fight the urge to vomit as a terrible rawness fills my mouth.
“Say whatever you want.” The room floods with light, and I blink, blue and white dots pimpling my vision. “We're all friends here, right, Keagen?”
“Whatever you say, Jen.” The voice accompanies the sound of water splashing on the other person's face—Mr. Bored! Anxiously, I look at him as he blinks his eyes and moans.
Good. He's alive. Blinking in the sudden brightness, I observe our captors. The first voice belongs to a woman with long, gorgeous blond hair and bright, mean blue eyes. She's dressed in all white that somehow doesn't have a speck on it. Dangling my dirty gag by her fingers—her nails are also painted white—she cringes as a stream of saliva rolls off the piece of cloth. “Ew.” Her voice is so rough, it's almost masculine. “Keagen, the kid's got spit problems. You interrogate her. I'll get the boy. The boys are always easier for me to persuade.”
“No!” I screech.
Both Keagen and Jen laugh, and there's nothing pleasant in their laughter. “What, afraid the little kid you snagged is gonna cave?” Keagen asks. “Don't worry. We'll make sure of it.”
I resist the urge to bite the man as he hauls me up over his shoulder. “To the interrogation room we go.”
“Don't worry, darlin'.” Jen sounds carefree. “We'll leave your little boyfriend in one piece.”
My word, why do people naturally assume Mr. Bored and I are an item? Just because we're a boy and girl? That's plain old... I try to figure up a word to describe it. Itemist? A person who always assumes that a boy and girl together are dating? That's it.
You're all stinking itemists,” I yell out to her as she helps Mr. Bored up with unsportsmanlike chivalry. “Every one of you.”
Jen's response is a loud bout of laughter, as if I'd said something actually funny.
Keagen just chuckles as he carries me through dark hallways lit only by wall sconces. “What's your name?” he asks.
I'm silent.
He throws me into a room none-too-gently. It's bare except for two hard plastic chairs. “Your name, if you will.”
I grit my teeth. “Sandra.”
“Mmmhmmm.” He looks down at me. “Real name?”
“Echo.” I'm not telling him that my name is Emily, small piece of information that it is.
A snarl curls around his lips. “Have it your way, Echo.”
He plops me down on the chair and sits on the one across from me. “Why are you with Amber Talina Sharpina Harttmin, what are you doing, why are you doing it, and what do you plan to do?” He lights a cigarette.
I wrinkle my nose. “I only know the answer to the first three questions.”
“Tell me, then.” Keagen sits back in his chair and puffs his cigarette.
The smell of nicotine makes me want to throw up. I bend forward, trying to avoid the smoke. “Can you stop smoking?”
“Can you stop stalling?” He leans forward. “I don't have all day, you know.” Then he smiles evilly. “And I have other methods. This one is the preliminary round. Pure routine.”
I take a deep breath. “Fine. She recruited me, we're stopping a supposed conspiracy, and we're trying to save the world from the evils that you're supposedly imposing on it.” I like the sound of that. “Happy?”
Keagen just sits there.
“Can I ask a couple of questions? Like, is everything Amber said true? Why am I bungled up in this mess? Why do you want to spend all this money to trap people in some messed-up theme park?” I ask.
“I thought I was supposed to be the interrogator, not you, Echo.” He spits out his cigarette and crumples it under his dusty boot. “But I'll answer your questions because we usually do the second round of interrogation with the other interrogatee.”
I shiver. Great.
“Amber is entirely correct. Why you are bungled up in this mess, I'm not quite sure.” He eyes me, one bushy eyebrow raised. “And there's something we're searching for, other than everybody's money.” He pauses. “Happy?”
I guess if you give a general answer, you get a general answer. But I got more information than I gave.
This is all true, unless I'm lying.” Keagen lights another cigarette, and I recoil once more. “So it's up to you to decide if I'm lying or not.”
My patience is running out. “Whatever. What are you planning on doing with us?”
Keagen shrugs as he gets up, still puffing on his cigarette. “That's up to the level-two interrogators to decide. You and your boyfriend better please them, or else, Echo.”
“FOR THE LAST TIME, WE'RE NOT TOGETHER!” I shriek at him as he leaves the room. “YOU'RE SUCH AN ITEMIST!”
As soon as the door swings shut, however, my eyes roam around for something I can cut my bonds with. A rusty nail, maybe? Random saw lying around?
Nope. Nothing. The room is perfectly smooth, and the chairs are the only items in it.
I lean back, resigned to my fate—waiting to see what's next.
Just then, the door swings open, and Mr. Bored stumbles in. His hair is rumpled, and he has a bruise on one cheek, plus he's tied up, but he's alive. My body floods with relief as he hobbles to the chair and sits on it.
“Hello, Echo,” he says with a little smile. “How's life?”
My eyes automatically find their way to the sky. “Great, thanks.” My voice is dripping with sarcasm. “How's yours?”
“What are we doing in here?” he asks instead of stalling, looking around.
“It's classic interrogation method. They put the two prisoners in the room so they can learn information.” I lean back. “We'd better sit out the wait.”
We sit there for a minute in silence. I try to get comfortable in my chair, but it's kind of hard—I mean, when you're in an empty room, both hands and legs tied, and sitting on one of those hard structures that is torture in itself. Oh, and did I mention—you're stuck in the same room as a potential teenage idol who's in the same situation as you are?
“So,” Mr. Bored says, cheerfully, “what happened while I was out?”
“Nothing much. You know, the usual dark room, two people coming in. Some blond lady saying that the boys were always easiest to interrogate for her.” I snort. “Nothing out of the routine.”
I think he's trying hard not to laugh. The irony of everything is just crazy. “Oh, that sounds typical.”
Silence.
Why is it so awkward?
“What did she ask you?” I inquire curiously.
“The usual. What we're doing with Amber Talina Sharpina Harttmin, why are you doing it, what are you planning on doing. Why we're with her. Nothing out of the ordinary for interrogation,” he replies cheerfully. “I told her that we were recruited, that we were stopping a conspiracy, that we wanted to stop evil from spreading in the world. Oh, and that I didn't know the answer to the fourth question.”
That sounds eerily familiar to what I'd said. I shift uncomfortably in my seat, my cheeks burning with awkwardness.
“You realize, this is the first conversation we've had with each other where we're not biting each other's heads off.” His matter-of-fact statement hits me. “Why?”
I bite my lip. “Because we're tied up in chairs and have nothing to do.”
Mr. Bored smiles. “But why did you hate me in the first place?”
“Well put, Kenneth Pearson.” I shrug as well as I can with ropes tied around my arms. “Well, maybe it was the fact that you didn't believe us at first? You acted antagonistical to me? To us? Maybe it was the fact that you ordered a pizza with arugula and I-don't-know-what-all? Or maybe it was the fact that you are a teenage star, and I just happen to hate teenage stars.”
Lull in conversation. “Um, why do you hate teenage stars? Everybody loves us,” Mr. Bored says, sounding offended.
I close my eyes and lean back. “Everybody except me.”
“Really? And what makes you so important that you can judge us, Echo?”
“I'm not judging,” I say, although I know it's not true.
He laughs. “Nice one, Echo.”
“Because I hate doing what everybody else does.” And the truth pops out, I think dramatically, the back of the chair digging into my neck. Why are we having this conversation now? “I'm not like everybody else, Mr. Bored.”
He laughs wryly. “Yeah, you aren't, Emily.”
It takes me a second to register the fact that he's just called me Emily. And in that second, everything changes.
The door swings open and a tall man with a pinstriped suit and a handlebar mustache walks in. His hair is perfectly groomed, his white-blond mustache perfectly curled at the ends. He goes up to Kenneth and me. “Hello,” he says in a crisp accent and well-cultured voice. “I'm your level-two interrogator.”
“Here goes,” Kenneth says with a groan. “What do you want from us?”
“I want to know exactly what you are doing with my daughter.” The almost-musical voice has suddenly turned brittle, hard.
I blink, doing a double take. “What?”

“Yes, Emily Hudson.” The man smiles coldly, revealing even white teeth. “My daughter.” He takes a deep breath. “I'm Karl Harttmin, Amber Talina Sharpina's father. And you had better tell me what she's up to, or you're in for a huge treat.”

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