Sunday, March 2, 2014

TRAPPED Sunday Serial Part 13

Part Thirteen
A dog!

But not just any dog.
A giant, mutated-looking dog almost as big as a horse.

“Oh my gosh,” I gasp as the giant black Labrador halts in front of us, tongue hanging out of its mouth and tail wagging. “That thing is huge!”
Hey, boy.” Mrs. Kennedy scratches the dog's chin, and I could swear, the dog is laughing with glee. “Echo, meet Oliver. Oliver, Echo.”
Oliver turns his giant eyes at me and licks my face.
“Hey,” I say softly, even though I'm not the hugest fan of animals. Especially giant ones with canine teeth as long as my finger. “What's up, boy?”
He nuzzles me slightly with his head, and I just about melt. This one's special. “Awwww.”
“We're going to ride him!” Mrs. Kennedy announces triumphantly, patting the dog's backside.
“Won't it hurt him?” I've always thought the idea of riding animals was insanely cruel.
“Nah. He's a dog who was injected with a special superstrength serum from a top-secret lab in North Dakota. Oliver can run at twenty miles an hour for a hundred miles before stopping.” Mrs. Kennedy states this as if it's matter-of-fact, which it's not. In one deft motion, she's up on the back of the dog. Beforer I can protest, she hauls me up by the armpits, and suddenly I'm sitting on a hair-covered back.
Mrs. Kennedy slaps the dog lightly. Oliver gives a great bark that echoes down the tunnel we're in and starts running.
My backside starts sliding off of Oliver's soft coat, but just in time he purposely lifts his rump, and somehow I land in a heap on top of his neck, right in front of Mrs. Kennedy.
I look at her for affirmation that this actually happened, but she just laughs and claps Oliver again. “Giddyap, Oliver!” she calls, and all at once, I'm facing the wind.
My hair whooshes past my ears, and I can barely open my eyes, we're running so fast.
I'm not sure how long we're running, but by the time we halt, I'm closing my eyes.
“We're here.” Mrs. Kennedy's voice echoes hollowly through the tunnel.
She lowers me down onto the ground none-too-gently. A sharp pain jabs up through my leg, and I wince.
“C'mon. Oliver hates water.” She gestures to the shimmering pool of water in front of us that reaches on for infinity.
At the word swim, I let out a short yelp. “We have to swim?”
She shoots me a look. “Yes. You can't swim?”
“No.” My voice sounds tiny even to myself.
She rolls her eyes. “How did you get through the tunnel, then?”
Save me from humiliation. “Kenneth's back.”
Mrs. Kennedy just grins. “Really? You cracked down enough to piggyback him?”
“Yes.” I'm well aware I'm speaking through gritted teeth. “Can you piggyback me?”
“It's shallow water. Promise.” Mrs. Kennedy winks. “And besides, I'll teach you how to swim.”
What?” I ask. “No. Please no. I just want to get through this day alive. I'm going to, like, drown or something, Mrs. Kennedy.”
She just cracks her knuckles and dives into the water.
I get that sense of desperation as I lower myself into the water. “Mrs. Kennedy....”
“Suck it up, Echo.” Her voice is harsh and slightly amused. “Get into the water.”
Once again, I feel myself getting wet. “This isn't a good idea.” Whenever I go in water, I feel trapped. Like there's no way out.
“Can you hold your breath?” she asks.
“Of course.”
“Duck underwater and hold your breath for five seconds,” she orders.
“But--”
“Just do it.”
What happened to the fuzzy woman who made us pizza? Speaking of which, maybe I shouldn't have eaten that pepperoni...
I close my mouth and sink under the water.
Immediately, memories of the day I almost drowned hit me. No air. No air. Desperation.
I come up sputtering, my hair plastered against my forehead.
“Echo, that wasn't even for two seconds.”
“I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I can't do this.” I did it once before, but once is enough in a lifetime.
Mrs. Kennedy comes over. “Echo, you can do this.”
If only I had that much confidence in myself.
“No, I can't.” I have confidence in my lack of confidence. “Mrs. Kennedy, I almost drowned. Do you want me to undergo that trauma? Every time I go near water, I feel like I'm going to die.”
“Echo.” Her voice is serious. “How else are you going to defeat Amber Harttmin and her ruthless minions? How else are you going to save your family and everyone here?”
Dad. Mom. Courtni. “Fight on land.”
“Very funny.”
“I'm serious.”
“Echo, the only way you are going to triumph over Amber Talina Sharpina Harttmin is by triumphing over your fear of water.”
“I don't understand how drowning corresponds with defeating Amber.”
Mrs. Kennedy just shoots me a poised look as she glides into the water with strokes as easily as if she's walking through air. “Quite to the contrary, Echo. Water has everything to do with defeating Amber.”
Then she leaves me behind to pick my way through the sultry waters of the tunnel.
I use an hour of our precious time to walk through the water.
“Happy that you've just wasted an hour we could've used to do something more useful?” Mrs. Kennedy asks wryly, holding out a hand.
I get up on the ledge that she's standing on and look straight ahead.
In the distance, I can make out a figure topped by wet blond hair, tied to a metal chair that's bolted to the ground.
Kenneth chooses that moment to use the CommChip and us on the colony's movement. “Glad you faced your fears, Echo. Anyway, it seems like the two thousand men are surrounding the park. There's no way out. We're trapped.”
The word echoes through my brain. “We can't be trapped.”
“We are. Even if we asked them to stall for an hour, there's no way they're going to listen to us, not if Amber has a hand in it.”
My stomach dives. “Maybe they're men of their honor.”
I can hear all three snort in unison. “Fat chance,” Slick says. “So what do we do, Echo?”
I look straight ahead at the figure tied to the chair. Amber Talina Sharpina Harttmin's head is up and swiveling in our direction.
I can swear I see her smirk.
That impostor.
I stride forward, my footsteps taking on a refined, determined sound.

“There's only one thing we can do.”

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