by Jeff Baker

What more can a man ask for than a bike ride on a crisp autumn morning?

D I S C U S S I O N  F O R U M  |  R E T U R N  T O  S T  O N L I N E



A thin circle of blue light below broke through the utter darkness surrounding Chad as consciousness returned in ragged bursts. His fingers probed the cut on his forehead. It had finally stopped bleeding. His head ached tremendously but he didn't think he had a concussion.

His hands explored the curved, cold walls that encased him, searching for an exit. A couple inches of movement hampered his search on all sides except above his head. He dared not move quickly, for sudden movement swayed his prison. The air was thin and his breathing labored.

"That bastard," Chad muttered.

He sighed after taking a deep breath of air tainted by old diesel fuel.

"Why'd I have to be the one the blob hit?"

* * *

A crisp New England breeze brought the musty smell of fall to Chad's nose as he mounted the ten-speed in his gravel driveway. His wife stood next to him in her tan, rumpled chemise, shivering slightly, auburn hair fluttering in the breeze.

"Please, Chad, don't go, " said Jenny, her eyes puffy from crying. Absently, her hands caressed the slight bulge in her abdomen. "We need you."

"I'm sorry you fought with your mother again, but what do you want me to do about it?" Damn emotional woman, Chad thought. I always ride my bike in the mornings. Always. A little argument between Jenny and her mother wasn't going to change his routine.

"I'll be back soon, I promise. Now go back inside and try to relax."

With a backward wave, he pulled out of the driveway and pedaled down the narrow country road. Soon, only the sound of his tires running over fallen leaves and clicking gears interrupted his thoughts as he enjoyed his daily ten-kilometer ride.

Ancient red oaks flashed by on both sides, their remaining leaves a deep, rich red. Wisps of sandy brown hair peeked through his helmet. It's going to be a great day, he thought. My tenure finally granted. God knows it took them forever.

"Yes!" he shouted, punching both arms into the air, steering by momentum as the sun stabbed through the forest in dazzling columns.

Chad was getting into the rhythm of his ride five or six kilometers out when he heard the sounds of an approaching vehicle. He pulled over to the side as far as he could but there wasn't much room. The forest grew close to the road this far out.

The rumbling grew louder too quickly. Chad glanced in his handlebar-mounted mirror and saw a dark colored pickup rapidly approaching. A foreboding feeling made him shudder. The truck drove erratically, slowing down then speeding up, driving from side to side.

The pickup slid alongside Chad. He managed to get a quick look at the driver. The driver appeared to be in a stupor and didn't notice Chad on his bike.

"Hey! Watch where you're driving, jerk!" yelled Chad.

The pickup slowed down, allowing Chad to pass, then pulled up behind the bike, weaving back and forth.

Chad could either steer into the woods and risk collision with the trees or allow the truck to hit him. He chose the woods.

Before he angled off, the pickup sped up and veered straight towards him. He had only a moment to react before the front end of the truck slammed into his back tire.

The force of the collision flung Chad and his bike into the trees.

* * *

Consciousness reluctantly returned to Chad. A wave of nausea passed before his head cleared. One eye felt sealed shut by something, probably blood. Motes of dust gently floated within shafts of sunlight that peeked through the sides of a door in front of him. Even before he felt the tight ropes that bound him firmly to a chair, the smell hit him.

The stench of death. An overpowering, thick smell that gagged him.

Gradually his eye grew accustomed to the dark. An old rake, a rusty lawnmower, and a broken shovel were to his right. Next to the door, he could make out shelving that contained various containers and what looked like old cans of paint. He could make out several large cardboard boxes off to his left. Printed on one side he could partially make out "weather." Straining as far as he could to behind him, he barely made out the outline of another door.

The last thing he remembered was a truck running him off the road and into some trees. Trying to ignore the pain, he strained to see if the ropes gave at all.

The door before him suddenly opened, blinding him. Blinking back tears in his one open eye, he saw a tall figure framed in the sunlight. The door quickly closed. The stranger took a few steps and with a tug clicked on a single light bulb dangling overhead.

"Th-thirsty?" said a young, overweight figure scratching at an ample belly that protruded from below a dirty, white T-shirt two sizes too small.

"What's going on? What happened? Why am I tied up?" asked Chad.

"Y-you had a l-l-little accident. It w-wasn't my f-fault. I wasn't f-feeling too well."

He couldn't stand excuses from his wife, and he certainly wasn't going to take any from a teenage punk. "Untie me right now," said Chad.

The large figure ambled over to a dusty workbench and leaned against it, brushing aside a stray lock of lank, sweaty, chestnut hair.

"Wish I c-could, I really d-do but—"

Chad rasped, "Sure you can. Just untie me and—"

"—b-but you've put me in a b-bit of a—"

"—let me go you son of a—"

"S-shut up!" bellowed the sweating teenager, springing forward with surprising speed. Lagoon-blue eyes, one eyelid twitching, riveted Chad in place. "Shut up," he said in a softer voice.

Stepping back, he leaned against the workbench and watched Chad. "Y-you see, you pr-present me with a bit of a pro-problem. I've g-got a DWI and I c-can't get another. If I let you go, you'd g-go straight to the p-police."

"You're damn straight about that!" said Chad.

"You know, for a per-perfesser, yer not too bright."

"How'd you know I teach? Have you been following me?"

The large man shook his head. "Y-yer wallet."

"Look, just let me go. You can keep the wallet."

His abductor continued as if he hadn't heard a word. "My dad'd kill m-me if I g-got into trouble a-again. I dropped outta s-school my l-last year. I c-can't do nothin' much 'cept weld and no-nobody'd hire me. My d-dad would n-never let me op-operate on animals l-like he does but I t-try in my own l-little hospital. He said he'd p-pack me off to mil-military school if I screwed up a-a-again. See? I c-can't let you go."

Anger boiled within Chad like a furious hornet's nest. Between parched lips he said, "You little man! How dare you keep me here. I'm a respected man at Boston College. You cannot get away with this. I'll make sure the police put you away for the rest of your life. Now let me go!" Chad tried to shout. Fresh blood coursed down his forehead, across his bruised face.

His captor sadly shook his head.

Chad yelled as loud as he could in his weakened state. "Help! Someone help me!"

"S-s-stop that!"


The large man lurched at Chad but didn't hit him. Chad continued yelling. His captor turned and hurried out the door, making sure to lock it from the outside. For a minute, Chad continued to yell, but his injuries quickly tired him. His head slumped forward as he rested. A dull pounding hammered in his head.

Several more minutes passed before he heard the door unlocking. The blob, as he thought of his tormentor, came back carrying a syringe and a glass vial. He deftly filled the syringe. Chad could barely make out the word Telazol across the bottle.

"I-I'm sorry, but I don't h-have a c-choice," said the blob.

"No, please no." Unnoticed by either, Chad's bladder let loose.

His pleas trailed off as the needle slid inexpertly into his arm. Chad struggled as much as he could, but he was tightly bound to the chair. The drug burned hotly as it entered his arm. Darkness slowly descended.

* * *

A small ribbon of saliva trickled down Chad's chin as he awoke. The muscles of his face and neck twitched slightly. "Preston, I told you not to be late to my class again!" he mumbled. His eyelids fluttered wildly for a few seconds.

Then the smell abruptly brought him back with a jolt. The stench of death was overpowering and he started gagging. Bile lurched upwards in waves and dribbled down his chin. After a few moments his head cleared and his retching stopped, though the smell continued to pull at him.

"G-good morning," said the blob from somewhere behind him.

"Water," Chad managed with a whisper.

He looked around as best he could. He wasn't in the same room anymore. Directly in front of him, he noticed three old fifty-five gallon drums sitting next to a dull red tractor. A large quantity of metallic-gray material trailed strands of thin rope draped over the front of the tractor. Three long cylindrical tanks lay on the dusty concrete floor.

The blob shuffled around his side and stood in front of Chad. "Open yer m-mouth."

A steady stream of water shot into Chad's mouth from a sports water bottle. He greedily drank as much as he could before the bottle emptied.

The blob wore some sort of full-length thick apron, a pull-down mask made of a dark plastic, and a set of thick gloves.

"I g-gotta get back to w-work. Not m-much time left." The blob disappeared behind Chad taking a barrel with him. A loud hissing noise followed several scraping sounds.

As Chad's eye adjusted to the dim light, he noticed something he hadn't before: the source of the grisly smell.

A long table rested against the wall to his left. Staked down and brutally sliced open were the bodies of several small animals. He saw cats, a couple of squirrels, and what looked like a doe, their internal organs haphazardly scooped out and left to rot next to their bodies. The severity of his situation finally hit him. He'd never really been scared before in his life, but he was bone-scared now.

The hissing stopped. The blob reappeared and smiled as he saw what occupied Chad's attention.

"D-do you like my little h-hospital?"

Fighting back more retching, Chad replied, "You're sick."

"My d-dad m-makes lots of m-money fixin' up animals. O-one day I-I'll show m-my d-dad that I c-can do the same th-thing." The blob gathered up the gray material and dragged it behind Chad.

"Please let me go. I promise I won't tell anyone. I don't even know where I am. Just let me go."

A long moment passed before Chad heard the rustling of the material and ropes.

"I knew I'd g-get myself in t-trouble one day. I've b-been planning what to d-do when the t-time came. I've already d-dumped yer bike in the lake. Everything's almost re-ready. I don't w-want to do this, b-but I have to."

A deep weariness overcame Chad. Oh Jenny, what am I going to do? What are you going to do? I've treated you so poorly, he thought. If he didn't make it back, she'd think he ran out on her like her family always told her he would.

"If you won't do it for me, then do it for my wife. She'll think I left her," said Chad.

The blob grew silent. Chad thought that maybe he'd penetrated the psycho's head. The blob walked in front of Chad and leaned against the tractor.

A soft sigh escaped his lips. "I-I'm really sorry, but I c-can't let you go."

Anger started to rise in Chad's throat, but he forced it down. "Look, I understand, really I do. But my God, you don't understand! My wife's pregnant. She can't raise a child by herself," he pleaded. "Please let me go."

The blob closed his eyes and hung his chin on his chest. His breathing came raggedly. He lifted his head and looked straight at Chad. Tears slowly flowed down his grime-covered face. He sadly shook his head and walked over to the table.

He came back with another filled syringe.

"I-I have to d-do this."

"No!" Chad cried. Shaking so violently that he tipped over his chair this time, Chad fell to the floor. His fall was broken by a large mound of cloth behind him. With a quickness that betrayed his size, the blob knelt down and stuck Chad with the needle again.

Before losing consciousness again, Chad could hear a different hissing sound; perhaps the sound of a tire or balloon being inflated.

* * *

Encased in his metal prison, Chad figured out what the blob had done. It was insidious. There was an intelligent mind buried under that grotesque exterior.

He could only guess from what he'd seen, but it all made sense. The blob must have taken three fifty-five gallon drums, cut the top and bottom off one and then welded all three together. He'd tied a large number of weather balloons to the top drum and inflated them with helium. Sky-blue light peeking through the edges at the bottom revealed a hinged floor.

His prison drifted high in the sky, probably floating miles above the landscape. Chad knew it would be only a matter of time before the bottom dropped open beneath him.

A slow, primal scream built deep within his chest, searching for escape.




Copyright © 2008 Jeff Baker

A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R:

Jeff Baker: I've previously had technical articles published in FoxTalk magazine, FoxPro Advisor magazine, SQL Server magazine, and in an article collection book "Exploring Foxpro Volume II".

I live in Arlington, Texas and by day I'm a web developer. My other hobbies include making chain mail jewelry, learning to fly RC planes, and building models through casting.

--  O N L I N E  |  F O R U M  |  P R I N T --