Riptide

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Chapter 42

The idea came to me in a flash as I recalled a scene from Charlie’s favorite movie where a detective used light to bring out a secret message from the victim of a kidnapping. I hesitated for a moment, wondering if my plan was insane or not. “Well,” I thought after a moment. “Insane’s all I got left,” I told myself as I set the piece of paper down on the cold concrete ground and bent over at an odd angle to shine the light onto it. I watched excitedly as slowly, numbers all along the edges of the paper in what would be the margin, should it be a lined piece of paper. I stared at the numbers cluelessly.

After a few moments, I sighed and grabbed the faded book which lied beside me thinking I would instead distract myself and hope an idea would come to me later, but my attention constantly turned back to the numbers. I tried to ignore them, but something inside me begged for my attention. I brushed this aside and kept reading. I came across a highlighted section and glanced absent-mindedly at the numbers on the page which laid dormant beside my hip. Something about one of the numbers seemed strange to me as if it was screaming at me about some incredibly simple answer. I rolled my eyes and turned back to the book. I glanced down at the page number, as I typically did when reading a book and felt my eyes bulge out of my skull as I finally saw what had been staring me in the eye for so long. The page number of the page with one of the highlighted sections was the same as the number which had caught my eye. I slapped my forehead with my palm and began frantically searching for more highlights and just as I had suspected, each of the page numbers matched with one of the numbers on the page. “Incredible,” I thought as I devised a system to quickly be able to tell what order the sections went in accordance with the list. There were seven numbers which matched up with the page numbers, so I bent each matched page seven times, folding it down completely for each according chronological paper number. This took me around an hour and a half to complete. I’m not sure why I put so much effort into my system, but I did. Maybe I was simply happy to have something to do, but I would later be glad I had put so much effort into my plan.

***

I climbed the latter, as he had asked me. I stood awkwardly for a moment as he searched for the cattle prod he had supposedly left lying about. I didn’t tell him that I had seen it on the other side of the lab because I needed him distracted. I thought about the letter and how I needed a way out of my handcuffs, so I waited until he had his back turned before quickly making my move on the small red button and its stationed power-supply. It was the one he had used so many times to supply a direct stream of pain into my system, and ironically, it was also the last piece I needed for my device which would hopefully overcharge my handcuffs. I quickly grabbed it and shoved the beautiful piece of poetic justice into the front pocket of the jeans I had made such a big deal about getting because of their abnormally large pockets when shopping with Chloe what felt like a lifetime ago. I did this just a moment before the newly bushy-bearded agent turned around with the cattle prod he had been searching for. He smiled at me smugly and I acted like nothing had happened, the way I had practiced the day before. I glared at him and sat down angrily, the way I had done so many times before it now felt natural. He sat down in the chair in front of me and smiled patronizingly. He held up the cattle prod to mess with me but I was unchanged. I had become accustomed to the pain it brought. I now knew what to expect and when to expect it. “Wait,” I said in a monotone voice. “Before you get on with your attempts at torture,” I said, despite the clear possibility of receiving a burst from the cattle prod. “I have a question for you.” He sighed but seemed too curious to pass up the opportunity to take the false hope he had given, as he often did as an apparent attempt to send me deeper into my despair. I laughed internally at the thought of sinking any lower than I was now but shook this away and asked the question I had wanted to ask from the first day. “What’s your name?” I asked calmly.

He looked at me with great shock as he stumbled to find the correct words. “Why do you need to know?” he demanded.

I shrugged. “Because, no matter how much I want you to die a slow and painful death,” I said innocently. “You’re still, quite unfortunately, one of two people who talk to me.”

He raised his eyebrow in suspicion as he studied me. “I’m John Popov,” he said with a hint of what I was left to guess was his native accent.

I nodded. “How long have you been American, John?” At this, he stared down at me despite being my exact height and raised the cattle prod. I sighed and prepared. He dug the cattle prod into my leg, making it bleed before sending the shock through my veins. This, I was not ready for. I had learned the patterns of being stabbed slightly, but piercing the skin, this was a new level. I clenched my fists and took deep breaths to bring myself through the pain, trying not to think of the number of infectious bacteria which had just been transferred into my body through that rusty cattle prod. “Well that was excessive,” I said once the pain had gone from an instantaneous jolt of electric stabbing pain, down to a dull throbbing sting. It may have been worse than anything he had done before, but it still hurt less than the very first time he had hurt me.

He laughed. “An umnik such as yourself apparently never learns.”

“Next question,” I said defiantly. “What in the world is an umnik?”

He studied me for a moment as if deciding whether or not I knew what I was doing. I knew, I simply didn’t care. He could do what he wanted to try to get information out of me but I was not going to be broken by a few “owies,” as I referred to them when I was young. I gave him a look as if to say, “do your worst, I won’t be here much longer,” and so he did. He did his very worst and I must hand it to him, I came close to giving up, but it was the thought of Zuri which kept me going. She had been here longer than I. She had faced this man with more resilience and spunk than I had ever seen. I would not be beaten. I would stay strong. I would stay strong for Zuri. For Chloe, for my parents, for Charlie, and for Peter. I would stay strong because it was my last hope to see them again. I would stay strong for my city, which was no longer under anyone’s protection and I would stay strong because I knew that in a few days, I would free myself from this prison, along with anyone else who is locked up here, I would be the light in their long and endless tunnel of darkness and I would allow them to be free after however long they have been denied the right to live. I would stay strong because I needed to live, to fight this place so that no one else must feel this pain.

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