For the fourth time I’m going forth, on my quest to bring my forte to the fore, and I’ve decided to try a short story, so here goes…
The first thing he felt, as he came round from whatever they’d stuck him with on the bridge, was a heavy weight on his legs, pinning him down. He did a slow inventory of body parts and decided that he was more or less in one piece, but couldn’t move his legs or right arm. His outstretched left arm, he could move freely enough, albeit only a short distance before his fingers encountered something that felt like cheap carpet. It was dark, although he could see a flicking orange light, coming from somewhere above or behind him, it was difficult to tell, he was still badly disoriented and was having trouble making sense of where he was.
His right arm was pinned against his side, by whatever obstruction had immobilized his legs, so he explored as far as he could with his left hand; thumping the carpeted surface with his fist produced a hollow, vaguely metallic sound and he found a strap of some sort with a square metal buckle on the end.
Aha, trapped legs, seatbelt, cheap carpet; I’ve been in a car crash.
He was becoming more aware of his surroundings by the minute, as the fog in his brain cleared and now he realised he could smell petrol. More worryingly, he could smell something burning nearby, the acrid fumes of melting plastic making him cough and bringing tears to his eyes. Again he tried to move his legs, achieving nothing more than straining muscles and making red spots dance in front of his eyes, so he forced himself to calm down. Then he had a horrible thought and twisted awkwardly, reaching his free arm across his body, the restricted movement just allowing him to feel the hard lump of the thumb drive in his jacket pocket. He relaxed, at least they hadn’t found that yet.
Which was when he noticed that sound was coming back and it was then that it occurred to him; his world had been cloaked in silence since he’d awoken here and it was only now that his hearing was returning. He heard the unmistakable crackling of a fire behind him and a muffled voice was now audible from somewhere overhead.
“Hello, is anyone in there, are you ok? Hello, hello, can you hear me?”
He pounded once more on what he guessed must be the floor of the overturned vehicle, desperate to attract the attention of whoever was outside.
“I’m in here!”
He paused to listen for a second or two and hearing nothing, was about to begin yelling again when the voice of a child was suddenly, shockingly close to his right ear.
“It’s ok, I can see you now.”
He turned his head to the side, noticing for the first time a small triangular hole where the door frame was crushed, through which, by the wavering orange light of the flames he saw the wide-eyed face of a little girl. She gazed at him with her head on one side, frowning with an intensity he found slightly unnerving, so he smiled reassuringly and tried again.
“Hello, are your mummy and daddy here?”
The little girl, no older than ten years old, remained silent, looking him straight in the eye.
“You shouldn’t be near the fire, it’s dangerous, can you call your parents for me?”
“Are you going to die? You are, aren’t you?”
He was shocked at the causal way she asked the question, her voice was cold, detached. Then he realised she was probably in shock; maybe the vehicle he had been travelling in had collided with her parents’ car and they were laying injured somewhere like him.
“I need you to find another grown-up, I need help getting free from the car.”
“There’s only me.”
He looked at her face, she didn’t seem injured at all, but there was something..off..about the emotionless voice and quizzical stare.
“Do you have a phone?”
“No, there’s only me, there isn’t anyone else.”
She looked up, her face disappearing from his line of sight for a few seconds, then she turned back to him and inspected the gap in the door. She grabbed the edge of the window frame and gave it an experimental tug. The door moved a couple of inches with a groan of twisted metal but then stuck fast against the tarmac and refused to budge when she heaved on it the second time.
Suddenly there was a roaring WHUMP! noise from the rear of the vehicle and the orange glow instantly rose to a bright glare, illuminating the girl’s face as she stared into his eyes.
“I can’t save you, I’m sorry.”
He wrenched at his trapped legs in frustration, desperately twisting this way and that in a vain attempt to escape a fiery death, then the sound of the flames rose to a roar and he stopped struggling and made his final decision. Looking at the strangely calm little girl’s face, he reached into his jacket and removed the thumb drive and held it out to her.
“You must go now, the car is going to blow up, you must run away, you understand? Take this, take it, that’s right. Can you remember a name for me, just one name?”
“Yes, I have a very good memory.”
The girl’s face breaks into a broad smile, one of her top teeth is missing, he notices, as the flames bathe her in their unforgiving light, making her grin lopsided.
“Take this, it’s for a man called Fallon, Mike Fallon, he works for the government, can you remember that?”
A loud hissing noise starts to rise in volume behind him and he knows the tank is about to go, but now he feels unnaturally calm, resigned to his fate.
“You must go, now. Remember; Mike Fallon, ask a grown-up, maybe they can get policeman to help find him. Now, RUN!”
He lies back and closes his eyes, he’d done all he could do, he’d made peace with it and now he waited for the end without fear.
Something is…what the..?..how..?
He opened his eyes and gasped in shock.
He was lying on a hard metal table, topped with cheap carpet, the sort you might find in a car, perhaps. A wide metal plate was clamped across his legs and a strap held one arm tightly against his side. A chair was placed next to the bed, but other than that, the room was empty.
He heard a noise behind him and twisted his neck round, straining painfully to see who was there.
“Who’s there, where am I?”
“It’s only me, don’t you worry.”
He craned his neck still further and saw the little girl with the gap-toothed smile, opening a door in the room’s blank white wall. She held up the thumb drive and grinned again, but this time it didn’t look so sweet.
“Mike Fallon, you said? Thank you so much, I’m sure everyone will be very pleased, they were jolly keen to know who had been naughty.”
With that she stepped out of the room and closed the door.
In a darkened observation room next door, two men watched the bewildered agent in satisfaction as he struggled against his restraints. Then, as two large men dressed in black fatigues entered the room and approached the table, he started to shout and swear furiously and one of the watchers leant over and turned off the monitor.
“Very impressive, how did she manage it?”
“The girl’s a Sender, she can put pretty much anything in your head and make you believe it, we have had some exceptional results from her.”
“And him, what will he remember of all this?”
“Oh, you shouldn’t concern yourself with such things, sir Malcolm. Now, shall we have a spot of lunch?”