Archive for September, 2012

Excerpt 131


The man driving asked where she was going and if she was all right. He wanted to know if he should call someone.  Ala shook her head, placing her phone in one of the cup holders.  The man handed her a cord, which was part of a phone charger that was plugged into his cigarette lighter. She plugged it into her phone and waited for the green light on top to go on, to indicate that it was working.  She then leaned back in the seat and fell asleep.  She dreamt of the fire, making her believe she was still locked in the room and dying from the black smoke.  She saw the man who burned alive, wearing a suit and holding an infant.

When she woke up it was morning, and the man driving the car had not murdered her..  She was tempted to pull down the passenger mirror, but did not want to have a panic attack in front of this stranger.  The blanket made her itch, but she remembered the holes in her underwear and did not want to expose herself by adjusting it. She held up her phone, which was now fully charged.  There were forty three missed calls and twelve voicemails.  She knew that if she started listening to them, she would break down in tears.

She wondered why the man had picked her up if he wasn’t going to try to harass or abuse her.  It would be a long time before she would be able to trust anyone again, and had she not been so exhausted and frightened that she would be captured, she would never have gotten into a stranger’s car. At the time, it seemed the safer of two very dangerous options.

“Why did you stop?” She whispered.

“You looked like you needed help,” the man said, brushing his bangs out of his eyes.  She noticed his upper teeth jutted out and there was a crescent shaped scare under his lower lip.

“How long have I been asleep?” She asked.

“About fours hours,” he said. His voice was steady and he did not seem alarmed at all by her condition.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to drop you off in the nearest town with a bus station, and then finish my delivery.”

“I don’t have any money,” she said.

“I’ll take care of a ticket for you,” he said.  She wanted to insist that wasn’t necessary, but there was no other way to pay for a bus ride. She thought of asking to be taken to a hospital, but felt fine. “What happened to you?” He said timidly.

“I was kidnapped by some men. They locked me in a room and stuck needles in me.”

“Are you serious?” He said, looking over at her.  She suddenly felt ashamed for not having makeup on and nodded. ‘Well, don’t you think you should report them, go to the police?”

“No,” she said. “I just want to go home. I don’t want to cause more trouble.” He was kind enough to pick her up and was willing to help. She wanted him to believe she had a home so that he wouldn’t worry about her once he dropped her off.  She did not want to incriminate him by informing him of what she would eventually do to those men.

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Excerpt 130


There was shouting in the man’s language that sounded closer as Ala scooted along the wall.  She knew that the other man had come in, but was unsure if he was alone, and did not want to move quickly and draw attention to herself.  She skimmed the floor with her eyes until she spotted her phone.  It was the only possession, besides her frayed underwear, that had not burned in the fire.  She crawled toward it slowly as the man stood at the edge of the fire.

“Drei! Drei!” He yelled, which Ala assumed was the man’s name who was burning alive.  She wondered why the man didn’t run out and get water or something to try to swat the fire out with.  Her joints froze up and nausea seized her as she thought about having to move without making a sound with the state her body was in.

Slowly, she shimmied to the phone under the cloud of smoke and picked it up.  She had never been so happy to be able to hold something that belonged to her in her hands.  She had taken everything and every person in her life for granted.  And she could be killed in this room without ever showing her appreciation and without anyone knowing what had happened to her.

She shook her head, trying to focus and snaked her way past the fire and to the large heavy door the man had left open. The light outside of the door made her dizzy. She pushed herself onto her feet and slammed the door shut. It clicked and she imagined the man banging from the inside but could not hear anything through the metal.

There were pendant lamps lining the long hallway and she noticed, as she took her first step, that the floor was heated.  She turned left and stepped lightly, terrified that Bruno would be waiting for her.  It was amazing that there was no fire alarm or smoke detector going off, that a room existed where terrible things could be done and no one had to find out about them.

She grabbed for the wall and leaned against it, craving water, forcing herself to stay upright.  She had to find the door. At the end of the hallway was a steep staircase with a door at the top.  She clutched the railing and raised herself up. After three steps, she got down on her knees and crawled instead. The air began to smell sweeter as she reached the top.

The door was unlocked and as her shaking hand turned the knob, she braced herself for an attack. But no one was there. She was in a living room. There were sofas and books and a fireplace.  There was art on the walls and area rugs. It was a beautiful house without any distinguishable décor to indicate that criminals lived in it.  No one seemed to be home.  She crept through, wanting desperately to look for photographs, but knowing that she had little time to successfully escape.

After wrapping herself in a blanket she pulled from the back of the couch, she wandered until finding the foyer and looked on the side table for keys in case the bronze plated front door was locked.  There weren’t any to be found, so she took a deep breath and pulled the door open.  The outside air hit her face and she cried, feeling free.  A high-pitched tone rang through her ears.  She had tripped an alarm.

She ran outside and stubbed her toe on a large garden stone.  She got back up and continued down a steep hill where at the bottom, she could see a small road.  The moon and the grass and the hum of the bugs forced there presence into her awareness, making her tired. She forced herself to look ahead and not to turn back to the house.  If someone were chasing her, knowing would only slow her down.

Something sharp plunged into her foot and she cried out before covering her mouth with her hands.  Her own sound frightened her.  She located the thorn in the bottom of her foot and yanked in out.  With her calculations, she should have been captured by now.  She turned around and faced the house. It looked the same as the houses she had seen through the window on the other side of the mountain.  She became angry, wondering if she had imagined the entire episode.

A car’s headlights filled up the road and she dashed down, waving her arms in the air and screaming for help.  The car stopped and without hesitation, she opened the passenger door and let herself in.

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Excerpt 129


She had climbed a rock wall several times during high school, but had never attempted an actual mountain.  Also, this facade had no cracks or indentations to tuck fingers or toes into.  There was nothing to push off of, or provide a resting spot or leverage.  It was just a flat wall. If she had a rope or a sheet, she could have scaled the wall down. Although, there was nothing in the room to tie the rope around, so she would still be stranded.  The only safe way out was the door. And even if she could get out that way, she had no idea who was waiting on the other side.

The fire continued to crackle, the smoke coming off ashy and black.  Her lungs would soon be overwhelmed and unable to cope with the poison filling them.  The man’s body was a lot of ammunition and would take a long time to burn off completely. The thought of throwing the body through the window crossed Ala’s mind.  Surely, someone who lived in one of the twinkling houses would notice a large fireball tumbling down the mountain. However, since the body was engulfed, there was no way to lift it without her burning herself.

Also, throwing the man down the mountain would for sure qualify as first degree manslaughter. While Ala believed she was responsible for taking this man’s life, it had been an accident.  She had built the fire because she had wanted to sound an alarm to make someone come open the door. She did not intend for him to burn to death, and at this point, to possibly be killing herself as well. If she ever did make it out and somehow Bruno, or the other accomplice, came forward and pressed charges, at least this really had been unplanned. This would also mean a judge would have to overlook the kidnapping and assault on Ala in the first place.

She should have removed the man’s wallet to try to find out about his identity. Was he a citizen? Where was he from?  He could have a wife and children. He could be someone entirely different to the rest of the world than she had known. This job could have been a small part of his life. Even though his profession was unsavory and he appeared to be a dangerous human being, doing one thing differently could have saved his life.  He could have avoided the fire and spared himself.

Her head pounded harder. Even though she feared falling asleep, she lowered herself to the ground. Why hadn’t Bruno just taken her from Emmanuel’s house? And how had he known she would be running on the beach that morning? If he had been following here for awhile, Danno could be in danger as well.

She could no longer see through the smoke, but her stomach contracted as she heard the weighted door click and then swing open.

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Excerpt 128


The smoke was building up.  Ala hurried to the huge window and saw the tiny lights on the houses tucked into the mountains.  People were home and still awake.  Someone would be terrified of the position she was put in and of her story, and would have no choice but to help her.  Although she was dehydrating and hateful, she knew there were good people within reach.

The man rolled on the ground, but the fire continued to spread over his body.  She walked as far back across from the window as possible.  She shook out her feet, one at a time, and ran as fast as she could. When reaching the glass she threw herself against it.  The severity of cold shocked her and she fell to the ground.  She got back up and drew her leg up, bent her knee and kicked the window as hard as she should.

Pain rang through her bare foot. She knew that if she had a shoe on, she would probably be able to break through.  She looked at the pile, now a heap of fused, smoldering rubber and cloth. The screaming had stopped, and to her horror, Ala saw that the man had rolled into the larger fire and was now burning to death.  She ran over and reached around him, trying to drag him out.

The smell of his body burning invaded her nostrils and she had to let go once her panties had a hole burned into them from a rogue spark. She crawled over to the phone, the only item she had not burned, picked it up and hit the glass.  It shattered. She hit harder and it cracked.  She stuck her nose through the opening and coughed, trying to suck in fresh air. Being careful not to cut herself, she stuck her head further out and looked down.  The window was flush with the mountain and it was a straight shot down the smooth rock wall.

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Excerpt 127


No alarm went off. Nor did anyone come to the door.  The fire burned on, eating her shoe, with no sign of its hunger being satisfied.  She coughed, pressed her chin against her chest and squeezed her eyes shut. She felt like there was smoke trapped under her eyelids and had to open them, only to let more smoke in, making them itch.

She decided she would need her hands free in order to control the fire, or to simply keep from dying from smoke inhalation.  She walked closer to the flames and turned her back to them.  Squatting down, she lowered her wrists just above the flames, trying to singe the rope.  Her skin burned, as she tried to keep her balance and not fall backwards into the fire.

She moved her wrists apart and then together rapidly, trying to snap the weakened rope.  She coughed and tears dripped from her eyes, which slowly seemed to shrivel up from the smoke. She saw the man rise and stagger closer to the fire.

“Stop. Don’t do that,” she said, before remembering that he did not speak English.  Surely, his sense of touch would indicate that it was hot, therefore dangerous, but he continued forward until his foot landed in the flames.

She ran over and tried to push him out of the way with her shoulder.  He was very strong and would not budge.  She leaned into him and pushed harder until he stumbled away.  She looked down to see that his shoe had caught on fire.  He must not have realized it yet, because he remained quiet.  Ala bent once again with her wrists over the fire and continued to work the rope.

The man began to scream. He jumped around the room as his trousers lit up. She smelled what she could only imagine to be burning skin and flesh. She pulled apart as hard as she could and the rope fell off.  The skin on her arms was numb and she could not bring herself to look at them.  She immediately tackled the man to the ground, trying to snuff out the fire with her bare legs.  The man struggled with her, thinking she was trying to hurt him.  The flames engulfed his shirt and she had to keep from getting more burns.

He hit himself on the chest and continued to scream.  Ala laid on her stomach as low to the ground as possible, and looked around the room to see what else she could use to put the fire out.  She knew she had used everything she had to fuel it.  And now it wasn’t stopping and no one was coming.

 

 

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Excerpt 126


She knelt down and picked up the cardboard cover with her teeth, being careful not to moisten the matched. Ala had always been afraid of fire.  She refused to sit anywhere near her parent’s fireplace or any fire pits their friend’s had in their backyards.  When she was very young, her father left the grill on after removing hamburgers for a party they were hosting.  Ala had always wanted to help him cook on it and was always told she could not.  She lifted the lid and watched the coals infused with orange and blue flames change colors.  It was wondrous to her, something beautiful she had never seen and she reached in to touch it.  She lost feeling in three of her fingers and had to visit the emergency room.

There was no other option. She would have to create smoke and hope that it would reach an alarm.  She went to the pile of her hair and kicked it into a pile.  She dropped the matches and sat down next to them.  Without any visibility, the grabbed the booklet with one hand and brought two fingers over from her other hand to rip a match out.  She then laid the match on the ground and scooted onto her stomach.  The saliva on her tongue adhered to the match, but she soon realized that she would not be able to strike it without the tip bending. She slid it further into her mouth until her teeth hit just above where the tip began.

She kept her eyes wide open and speedily dragged the match over the rough cement. She heard the whisper crack and knew it was light.  She dropped it on the pile of hair.  While pungent, very little smoke floated up out of the flames.  The man must have smelled it because he whimpered and clutched his knees tightly against his chest.

It took five seconds for the fire to burn out, leaving a black smear on the concrete.  Discouraged, Ala walked over to the door.  It looked sealed, but she could see light through roughly one half inch of space at the bottom.  Smoke could seep through if there was enough of it.

She kicked her shoes, clothes and purse into a heap close to the door.  She then feared not being able to get out of the room at all if there was a fire barrier in place, and kicked everything to the center of the room.  Sweat dripped down her chest.  She began to feel faintish again from the lack of food, water and sleep on top of the high level of energy it took to move things back and forth without her hands.

When the pile was ready, she once again, sat on the ground, ripped out a match, turned on her stomach and positioned her head just so.  She struck the tip against the ground and tossed it toward the only possessions she had with her.  Her shorts caught on fire and then her bag. The flames were stronger and larger this time.  Smoke billowed up to the ceiling and the man began to cough.  She tried to hold her breath, as she could not use her hands to shield her airways from the smoke.  The fire roared, now being fueled by the whole pile. It was much more powerful than she expected.  She stepped back, watching the smoke make its way out of the crevice between the door and floor.

“Where are they?” She said.  “Come on.”

 

 

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Excerpt 125


The man clutched his face and grumbled out a stream of words Ala could not understand.  The rhythm and inflection sounded like he was praying. He could’ve been praying for his eyesight or his mother. Ala ignored him and reached for her bag.

She bent forward to stick her face inside and, using her mouth, pulled out her phone and whipped it to the ground. It was dark and did not have any battery life left.  She bit down the power button anyway, squinting to see even the faintest signal line on the dusty screen.  Frustrated, she used her teeth to grasp the bottom of her purse and sat back on her heels, letting everything inside fall to the floor.  The adrenaline through as the blood rushed from her head, forcing her to stop to catch her breath.  She leaned forward again and used her nose to comb through all of the items. There had to be something that could help her get out of the room.

There were several tubes of lipstick, all smoothed bodied with round caps.  There were tissues, mints and loose change. She also found a matchbook from Flynn’s and her compact mirror with a peacock on the cover that Abigail had given her for Christmas one year. She stared at everything, trying to force and idea.  They would be back soon.

The skin on her wrists stung from the scratches the rope made.  She tries to pull her wrists apart, and after, the rope felt even tighter. The man was now crying. She could tell he was scared to move because he didn’t know what she would do to him.

“Think. Think. They’re coming,” she said.  The mirror was easily the heaviest item.  Fortunately, the clasp had been broken last summer after falling from her pocket, so she was able to open it with her teeth.  The only way to break the glass seemed to be to bite it, and this scared her, so she carried it in her mouth back to where her shoes had been removed. She dropped it to the floor and forced herself to her feet.

Cold sweat sprouted up on her back as she forced herself to balance while shoving one foot back into her shoe.  It was still damp from her sweat and the water Bruno threw on her, but she was able to wiggle her heel all the way in.  She raised her foot and crashed it down on the mirror.  Her knees ached as she did this ten times.  On the eleventh stomping, she heard a crack.

She carefully got down on her knees and saw her face warped in the broken glass.  Her lips looked blue and she barely recognized her hair, slicked with grease and knotty in the angular cut the man gave her.  The bones in her neck stuck out and her eyes were very dark and feral.

She struggled to sit on her bottom with the mirror behind her.  The glass was loose in the frame, but she could not see what her hands were doing. She felt sticky warm blood and kept prodding around until she felt a sizable piece to reach for.  She jostled the mirror back and forth and finally flipped it over, hearing the delicate shards fall to the floor.  She located the largest sliver of glass and tried to grip it. It wasn’t possible to grip it and feel where to cut the rope.

The glass plunged into one of her wrists and she stomped her foot, stifling a scream.  It was apparent that she would not be able to free her hands with the glass.  She got back up on her feet and wobbled over back to the pile of purse contents.  She looked over each item again, saying out loud, “What could I use this for?” to make sure there wasn’t an obvious solution she was missing.

She read “Flynn’s” again on the shiny blue cardboard and it hit her. People either want to get out, or they want to stay in and need to be forced out.  There would have to be a fire.

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