“I think we should break up,” Violet said to Dave, ending the quiet back and forth bantering they found themselves in. Her words surprised her as much as they did Dave.
The room fell silent, aside from the soft four-note melody that played on hidden speakers. Not a soul dared to make a sound. No one moved. Time passed unnoticed.
“Welp, good luck ye mateys!” the host of the escape room said as he slipped out of the room, closed the door, and locked it in place; starting the countdown to sunrise.
Violet and Dave, Elliot and Tom, and Gabriella and Gabe were now locked in the escape room until either they could escape or sunrise came.
Dave didn’t know how he was going to get through the next few seconds let alone the next 12 hours.
No one spoke--Not even Gabriella who was prone to speaking out of turn, or at the very least, way too much.
The escape room was Tom’s idea. He and Elliot had come up with the idea month’s back during one of the poker nights they had hosted.
Elliot had found an advertisement in a newspaper for a pirate-themed escape room and due to his affinity for everything swashbuckle, decided for the group that their next date night outing was going to be at the ‘Escape: The Davy Jones Locker Heist’”.
They were the only couple in the group that were legally married, and they didn’t mind rubbing into the other faces. That wouldn’t be for long, however.
Gabriella and Gabe were engaged to be married and due to having their first baby. A boy. They liked their life simple, probably why they ended up together having basically the same name and all. There wasn’t much else to them. With them, you got what you saw, and you saw what you’d get.
And then there was Violet and Dave. The firecracker of the bunch. The unpredictable couple that you never knew where they stood with each other. One minute they could be barking hateful insults at each other because one of them had made a slightly inappropriate comment about the other’s mother, and the next, they’d be pressing their bodies into one another, hands roaming the bodies, and shoving tongues down throats asking, “Do you like that, hmmm? Do ya? Do ya?”
It was hard to not love them. Also, hard to love them. They are what you would call, an acquired taste. The others often joked, behind their backs of course, that it was completely bonkers that at one point in history the country would have stopped Tom and Elliot from marrying, but would have let these two get hitched with nothing but a signature on a page and a feeling in the heart--or possibly more accurate, the groin.
Tom cleared his throat, nudged Elliot. Elliot shot back a look at Tom. Tom tilted his head towards Violet and Dave who were frozen in a moment. A moment no one saw coming. A moment that if it could have been erased and shoved back into oblivion, they all would have gladly done so, with a smile on their faces.
“So,” Elliot said, breaking through the silence with the strongest voice he could muster. “looks like we’ve got a treasure to find, huh?” He walked over to the door that was held shut and locked. He held the lock in his hand. “Looks like we’re looking for a four number combo for this one.”
Dave’s eyes didn’t leave Violets, caught in a game of ‘no-you-look-away-first’. Did she really mean it?, he thought to himself.
Violet’s heart raced, pounded in her chest. She thought about the words she just spoke. Did I really mean it? She thought she did, but still, there was some part of her that didn’t believe it yet. Some part of her that still held onto what Dave and she had. Some part of her that still needed some convincing.
“Says here,” Tom said, holding a half sheet of laminated paper, “I’m Quartermaster, Barnuckle Petey, and I’m growing tired of the Captain’s obsession with finding Davy Jones’ treasures. I’m disgruntled and looking for a mutiny--Oh wait,” he pulls the page closer, examining it, “whoops, wasn’t supposed to say that part.”
Elliot lets out a sigh and throws his hand up to his forehead.
Violet shifted, uneasily, knowing that Dave’s eyes were trained on her and she wasn’t ready for any follow-ups. Not yet, at least.
“I’m Smitty Smith Smithereens, uh,” Gabe said, attempting to get into character, “and I’m the cook, Arrrgggggg…”
“Oh, honey, “ Gabriella said, placing her hand on Gabe’s back. She held back a full-faced grimace, and lifted her card and read, “I’m Anna, ‘The loose’ Canna’,” she paused, read the next line silently in her head. “Ew, gross.”
Gabe grabbed her card from her hand, read it, and laughed, “That’s disgusting!”
“Okay,” Elliot said, holding his hand to his hip. “Um, I’m Tough Gruff McStuff, the Sailing master, and I’m in charge of everything navigation-related.”
The group trained their eyes on Dave and Violet, hoping that the tension had eased enough to get them through at least the next few minutes, if not for the rest of their time locked together.
Dave moved, shifted on his feet as if he had just been released from a trance. He looked down at the card he held, and read, “I’m Captain Smack Narrow,” his voice was rinsed and drained of any and all enthusiasm, “ and I be runnin’ the ship.” He lifted his eyes and stared into Violet’s, daring her to read her card and pretend like nothing just happened between them.
“Mine says,” Violet looked down at her card, “That I’m the powder monkey.” She held out her hand as if expecting a handshake, “Name’s Donna Donko.” She flashed an apologetic smile to Dave. She bit her lip and waited for his reaction.
These next few hours were going to be as telling as the last 6 months were. She needed them to be. She needed to be sure of what they had or didn’t have. She needed this to tell her whether she meant what she said at the opening, or was she wrong to say it.
Dave turned to walk away, into the center of the room. “Let’s just get this over with.”
“Alright, I’ve got an idea,” Tom said, a forced smile perched on his face, “Let’s get into the spirit of this and we can from now on refer to each other with our character names. You know, really give in to the chance to escape for a little while.”
“What a great idea,” added Elliot--I mean, Tough Gruff McStuff said. “I’m in.”
“Sure,” responded Smitty Smith Smithereens who shrugged his shoulders seemingly just happy as ever to be included.
“Yeah, why not,” Said Anna ‘the Loose’ Canna.
“Aye,” Said Captain Smack Narrow.
“Aye,” repeated Donna Donko.
Captain Smack Narrow shot Donna Donko a glare that didn’t read very promising to Donna. The thing she wanted more than anything else was certainty. Certainty that she either was or wasn’t meant to be with him. Why it had to be during a stupid escape room date night, she couldn’t explain. She, however, knew that the chips had been tossed and there was nothing left but to watch where they landed. Whether that meant they stayed together or drifted apart, that was still left to tell.
“It’s settled then, now let’s get that booty,” Smitty said, grabbing Anna’s butt. She playfully swatted him away.
“Say’s here,” Barnuckle Petey said, focused on his half sheet, “That Elliot’s got the first clue--”
“Tough Gruff McStuff,” Corrected Tough Gruff McStuff.
“Aye,” responded Barnuckle Petey. “thar should be some hint on your card?”
“You know, if you really felt this way,” Captain Smack Narrow whispered aside to Donna Donko, “you should have told me earlier.”
“Well, I don’t know how I feel,” Donna Donko said. “How I really feel.”
Captain Smack Narrow pulled in a heavy breath, blew it out slowly. He walked over to where the rest of the crew conversed. “Here, Tough Gruff. Mine’s got a map on it. Says you’re the only one who can read it. Knock yourself out.”
Tough Gruff took the half sheet of paper and looked it over. “It’s a grid.” he said and shifted glances from his card to Smack Narrow’s card. “it says the item we seek for passage to the next room is in bok Q2. Which is riiiiiiight…” Tough Gruff’s glance drifted around the room before settling in the far left corner, “over there.”
On the ground in the corner Tough Gruff pointed was a large pile of rope. Anna ‘the Loose’ Canna went to the rope and began to pull at it and move lengths of it aside. She did this until a box wrapped in the rope appeared. The rope was tied in a knot around the box.
“It must be inside,” Anna offered. “Whatever it is.”
“Yeah, but that rope is a mess,” Donna said.
“That’s not the only thing that’s a mess,” Captain Smack Narrow said under his breath.
Donna pretended not to hear the comment and made her way to the box held shut by the knot. “This looks impossible.”
“What’d you say?” Smitty asked.
“Please, can we be grown up about this?”
Smack Narrow and Donna Donko held each other’s gaze. A bitter tension grew between them, fluxing and flowing, engulfing the entire atmosphere of the room drowning the playful spirit carefully crafted by the past few minutes of role-playing. Donna hurt inside. Her stomach churned as a realization began to manifest in her head. Maybe she did mean what she said...
“I knew it!” Smitty yelled, oblivious of the tension he just cut through. “It’s a double fisherman’s knot! Look, see?” He held out his card, pointed to a small note at the bottom about how the Quartermaster was also the master of knots. “I can untie it! Let me see it.”
Donna handed the box tied with the knot to Smitty and everyone gathered around to watch him untie it carefully referring back to the half sheet that had his information on it.
Smitty finished untying the knot and opened the box. Inside was a small hand whittled flute.
“What’s this for?” Smitty held the flute up.
“It’s a flute,” Anna offered.
“Right, but what are we supposed to do with it?” Barnuckle Petey asked.
“There’s numbers on the holes, look? One, two, three, four… it goes all the way to nine.”
“They must be a clue,” Tough Gruff said, moving in closer to inspect the numbers.
“Anyone know how to play?” Smitty asked, holding up the flute.
“Dave?” Violet said.
“Who’s ‘Dave’, Donna?” Barnuckle Petey asked.
“Right,” Donna said with a slight shake of her head. “Captain Smack…”
“Narrow,” Tough Gruff interjected. “Smack Narrow.”
Donna Donko held the flute out to Smack and waited for his response.
Smack Narrow eyed the flute. Looked Donna Donko up and then down. Then, with a reluctant reach, took the flute from Donna. Held it in his hands and inspected it. He held it to his mouth and blew. He moved his fingers covering and uncovering the holes creating a surprisingly striking melody.
“Nice,” Smitty called out.
“Beautiful sound,” Tough Gruff said, “but what are we supposed to do with it?”
“Maybe it’s for something in the next room?” Donna offered, “Like--”
“Quiet,” Captain Smack Narrow said.
“Excuse me?” Donna felt hot around the neck, was he really telling her to shut up?
The crew of ragtag pirates fell silent and listened at the instruction of Captain Smack Narrow. Donna, feeling rather small for thinking otherwise.
“What are we--”
“There? You hear it?” Captain Smack Narrow said, with a tinge of glee. A chipper vibrato in his voice. The same one that made Donna fall in love with him all those long, long months ago. “Again. Hear it? ‘Dun-Duun-Dun-Duuuun’. Same four notes.”
“Yeah,” Anna ‘the Loose’ Canna responded. “It’s all the same. It’s on loop. What notes are they?”
Smack Narrow held the flute to his mouth and began to play some notes. Making each sound, blowing a few times the same note to match it with the ones playing over the speakers. He did this over and over again until he recognized one of the notes.
“Four!” He called out, and Barnuckle Petey moved to the door, entered the first number, and shot a thumbs-up back to Smack Narrow.
“Keep going,” Anna insisted.
Smack Narrow played on until he found the second note. “Eight!”
Petey entered it and just like that they were halfway through the code.
A few minutes passed and the third note was deciphered. “Seven!” A few seconds and the last of the code was cracked, “Three!”
Petey entered the last number in the sequence and the padlock opened and fell from the latch.
“Alright!” Smitty exclaimed, throwing a fist into the air.
“Nicely done Da-- I mean Cap’n.” Tough Gruff tossed Smack Narrow a playful wink.
Petey pushed the door in and the crew watched as the door swung out into another room. One by one they poured through the doorway into the new room full of wonder of what to expect in the next stage of their journey.
“Where’s me booty?” Smitty called as he entered the room. His voice echoed off the large walls as the next room was substantially bigger than the last.
Just as Donna was about to walk into the next room, Captain Smack Narrow grabbed her arm, stopping her just shy of the threshold. “So what does this mean for us?” Smack asked, trying to look into Donna’s evading eyes.
Donna Donko hoped against hope that her heart had what it took to weather the storms the night would bring. “I don’t know,” She answered, searching for other words to express the inner turmoil she felt, tasted, and heard beating relentlessly against every organ in her body. “I-I don’t know.”
This would have been the same answer she would have given if you asked her what else the night had in store for them. Because, in all honesty, no one could have ever guessed what was to become of the night they spent in the escape room at ‘Escape: The Davy Jones Locker Heist’.