All For One or None At All
I don’t know where I am. Sounds tragic, right? Like some cliche? That’s exactly what I used to think, except now it’s happening to me.
The room is surprisingly warm. In fact, the temperature is almost above my comfort zone. I recognize the sticky feeling of sweat forming across my limbs, thickly coating my body with its own oils. The smell comforts me, reminds me of training and races. It’s also better than the smell of nothingness the room gives off.
Ah yes, this strange room made up of four horribly plain walls. An annoying light flickers above me, a soft mosquito-like buzz comes from it. There’s a hole in the wall that’s about the size of a baseball. On the wall opposite, a square tunnel with a pale stained window at its end. There’s nothing else here other than a locked door.
I hear shuffling beside me. By glancing in the hole earlier, I noticed there was another room similar to mine on the other side of the wall. I hadn’t seen anything but additional white walls, but maybe that shuffling was the sound of feet?
“Is there anyone there?” I speak. My voice is scratchy from dehydration.
I hear a gasp, then a girl’s voice responds, “I am.” She sounds bold and confident, the exact opposite of the way I’m feeling right now. “My name is Danielle. Who are you?”
“Samuel.” I feel the need to give her whatever she wants. “Can you look around? Is there anything in there?”
“Walls. A door. A rock.”
A rock. This makes me think of the window. “Do you see the hole in the wall between us? Will the rock fit through there?”
“Probably, why? You gonna break the door handle and leave me?”
I glance at my door. “There is no door handle. My door was made to lock from the outside.”
“Then why do you need the rock?”
“Just give it to me,” I sigh. There is some more shuffling, then the rock appears at the hole along with Danielle’s hand. She has long, tan fingers, charms hanging by a thin chain around her wrist and red painted nails. I snap out of my daze when I hear the rock clatter to the floor.
“What are you going to do?”
“You’ll hear it in a second.” I wind up my arm and launch the rock, down the tunnel and into the glass. I hit it dead on. I’m not the captain of the baseball team for no reason. I hear a click and the sound of straining pulleys.
Then Danielle shouts, “A secret door opened!”
I assume it wasn’t her cell door, the sound had come from the back corner. I hear footsteps and assume she has ran out. “Wait!” I cry, “Danielle, I’m still in here!”
Her face appears on the other side of the glass I broke. “Relax, knucklehead. I’m still here. There’s a key, but…” I felt my stomach lurch. “Sam, there’s a note too. It says if I set you free, the back door will shut.”
My heart pounds in my chest. I can already imagine her leaving me. Her face disappears from the window and I fall to my knees. Was this it? Was I going to die here?
Suddenly I hear footsteps in her room. Her cell door opens and the secret door shuts. I hear her sigh. While I feel relief I can tell she feels regret. I can hear a click then she opens my door. Danielle is stunning. Her emerald eyes are dazzling and stand out against her worn down jean shorts and faded navy blue shirt.
“Thanks,” I force myself to speak. “You could’ve run, but you came back.”
She smiles, but it seems slightly distant. “I couldn’t just leave you. Besides, if there’s a chance we can both get back… well, I don’t want you to leave your family alone. Now come on! There’s a hallway we need to go down.”
My feet move before I realize. As I exit the cell, the long, white hallway catches my attention. There are more cell doors each in groups of two like Danielle’s and mine. How many others had been here before us? How much more would be held here after us? How many escaped?
“What are you standing around for? We’ve gotta keep moving!” Danielle’s voice snaps me out of my thoughts. I follow her down the hallway. It opens to the right, but not the left, so we turn. I get the feeling we’re being herded and like I missed something in the other cells, but they are all empty.
A crackling sound escapes a rusty old speaker above us. Glancing around this section of the hallway, I notice the only things here are two doors and earlier mentioned speaker. A voice sounds, gruff and deep, “These doors open one at a time. They do not open from the inside. Choose one wisely.”
“The left,” Danielle speaks.
“Are you sure?” I ask. I get a glare in return. She pushes me towards the door. Reluctantly, I open it. There’s nothing but darkness inside. We both shuffle in, the door creaking shut behind us. I put out my hands and search for a light switch. Nothing.
“There’s an opening over her!” I hear Danielle shout. I stumble blindly towards her voice. There’s nothing except total darkness surrounding us. Eventually, I reach her and the opening. There’s room for one person at a time to crawl through.
“I’m leading,” I declare. I’ve had enough of her trying to boss me around. At the same time, I want to prove to her that she has no reason to regret saving me. She places her hand on my back and I can feel her shaking. Maybe she was afraid of the dark? Danielle lines up behind me and I crawl through. The cramped, claustrophobic-inducing space lasts only a couple seconds before opening up in a small area. I still can’t see anything, but I can feel three walls and another, much larger opening. I wait for Danielle’s hands to grasp my shoulders before leading her onward.
Every now and then we hit a wall and I have to turn. We wander around for several minutes before I finally realise we’re in a maze! A pitch black, gigantic maze. I don’t share this with Danielle. She is still shaking, and I don’t want to startle her more.
Gradually light returns to our surroundings. Once it is bright enough to see, I can feel Danielle’s hands squeeze my shoulders tightly then let go. I can tell she wants to take control of the situation again, but for my sake, I suppose she just doesn’t.
Finally, there is a glass door. To my surprise, it opens easily. We step out into a bright green area. There are trees, flowers, vines and more everywhere! This is only a cruel illusion of freedom, I realize, when I see a metal fence enclosing the area.
“What do we do now?” I ask, knowing Danielle has probably come up with a plan. I cross my fingers, hoping she comes to a better conclusion that I did.
“Climb,” She answers. I gulp, wishing there was another way. Heights are not my strong suit.
“Climb the fence or trees?” Yes, it does make a difference. Trees have several branches to break my fall, but if I fall off a fence it’s just one large drop to my death. This is why I play running sports. It is much easier to trust my own two feet than it is to trust gravity.
I catch Danielle rolling her eyes. “We’re going up the fence.”
“Great,” I try sounding brave. She leads me towards a clearing and starts up. I wait until she’s at the top before I begin my climb. I nearly fall when she puts her hand in front of my face.
“Need help?” She offers. I see Danielle has balanced herself at the top and I accept her help gratefully. After she pulls me up, she jumps down. I feel queasy, unable to fully comprehend that jumping from this height is the only way to go. I close my eyes and push off. Next thing I know, I’m falling. My foot hits the ground at a bad angle and cracks.
“Damn!” I cry as pain shoots up my leg.
“I think you broke it,” Danielle says. I feel her help me up.
“No kidding…” I manage back. I see her smile, but she hides it.
“Do you know where we are?” She asks.
I shrug. “Your guess is as good as mine. Let’s find- Agh!” Danielle stands up straighter and gives me more support. I gasp for a minute before I can bring myself to speak again. “Let’s find a street.”
She nods, understanding that speaking is difficult for me. We make our way through the woods and head for the sound of rushing cars.
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