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Thriller Suspense Adventure

The door banged behind Sammuel as he entered the dark garage and walked to his car.

“Who does she think she is?” he said under his breath, his thick, grey mustache holding his words back.

As he approached the car — Rhonda — it unlocked its own door with a low click, sensing the proximity of its owner. The plastic smell of technology emanated from the insides of the car. Its slick navy blue reflected the streetlamps’ cold light showering inside through the garage door’s one-way mirror. The street was empty outside, a black canvas of nothingness covered the background beyond the other houses. The suburbs were asleep.

Sammuel entered the car and it gently closed the door for him with an anticlimactic click. He wanted to bang that door. He wanted to close it with such strength that even the bulletproof window would shatter to bits. He wanted to pound the dashboard and punch the screens. That snarky teenager! How could she be so arrogant, so full of herself, so questioning and annoying?

“I’m the mayor!” he banged on the dashboard in the place where the steering wheel would have been. “Disrespectful, rebellious little…” He puffed.

“Rhonda, on,” he ordered the car and pulled the seatbelt, waiting for the dashboard to come alive with bright lights and maps and numbers in perfectly round fonts in the ultra-high-definition screens.

It didn’t.

“Rhonda, turn on,” he said, annoyed.

Nothing happened.

He pushed the manual “on” button in the dashboard. He pushed again and again and punched the button and the stupid car wouldn’t turn on.

His chest moved up and down in heavy breaths, his fists closed over his lap. The empty streets beyond his garage door’s one-way mirror were calm and cold. The hard white light from the streetlamps rained down over age-old mailboxes and trash cans, casting long shadows on the neatly-trimmed grass.

“That’s just great,” he chuckled to himself. “Even the car has turned against me.”

He pushed the button on the door to leave the car and banged his head on the hard glass. The door was locked. Had he used his critical thinking, he would’ve realized pushing the button again and again — as he did — would be useless. But he didn’t want to think, he was angry out of his mind.

“Rhonda, open the door.”

He pushed the door with all his strength and it didn’t move.

“Open the damn door, Rhonda!”

He banged on the bulletproof glass with both fists and yelled, “Rhonda, open the fucking door! Open the door right now, you piece of garbage! Open the door!”

The door didn’t budge, indifferent to his enraged yelling. He screamed in anger and frustration and punched the ceiling. Outside the car, the night was still and silent.

His hand went to his pocket, but it was empty. He hadn’t grabbed his phone on his way to the garage.

Sammuel sighed. This was just perfect, wasn’t it? Ironic. He would have to beg for his teenage daughter to help him get out of the car. Just after having a discussion where she had called him old and out-of-touch, and he had said she was young and naïve.

He knocked on the car window and called for his daughter. “Alex!” But there was no response. “Alex! I need help!” The garage was still and dim and silent. “Hello? Alex! Can you hear me?” Of course she couldn’t. She was probably already on the computer, typing and hacking and coding, or whatever it was that she did all night.

He sighed a long and profound sigh. Then, he laughed, alone in his car.

“I swear, some days are just the worst. Everything goes against you.”

He sat back and tried to think of a solution, giving up on his anger. He didn’t even know where he was going to go in the first place. Why had he gone for the car? He didn’t have a plan. He was just going out, he supposed. Out to think, to breathe, to simply stay away from the heat and the pressure of that house. And he knew he would probably go to the pier. His mind always went there anyway.

He could remember the day he and Susan had sat there, fifteen years ago, watching the sunset. The day they had found it was a girl. She was going to be bright and gentle, they imagined. The sweetest girl alive. Shy and full of love and affection towards her parents. And of course, she would be strong like her mother, with the wits of her father. Just perfect.

As it had turned out, she was everything they had imagined. She could use some work on being affectionate and sweet, but she sure was bright and strong and quick-witted. And she gave him a hell of a hard time.

It would have been hard either way, he thought. Teenagers are supposed to give you trouble, apparently. But she was special. She saw the world out there in a way he couldn’t. She saw beyond the one-way mirrors, beyond the cold lights and the empty streets of the sleeping suburbs. She saw into people. But she didn’t understand how complex everything was.

What would people think of him if she was seen in the protests? And in such controversial times, with so much hate, so many threats. It wouldn’t be safe for her. People could try something to get to him. But she didn’t understand, and how could she? As much as he had tried to get into her mind, he couldn’t. Just like he couldn’t get out of his car now.

Sammuel read the shiny slogan on the dashboard. “Designed to protect you.” Right. By keeping him locked inside. Well, yes, sometimes keeping someone locked inside was the only option, but that was different. He was the mayor, and Alex was just a teenager. She didn’t understand the world out there.

At that moment, in the world out there, a car with tinted windows slowed to a halt and parked in front of his house. He squinted at the car but couldn’t see inside, he couldn’t even make out if there was someone inside it. The car stood parked there for a moment and, after a second, four people left with their heads covered in black masks. They were in dark clothes and walked swiftly through the lawn to the front door, leaving his field of vision. His heart sank and he forgot how to breathe.

“Rhonda, open the door,” he tried. He gasped for air, pushing the door with one hand and banging on the window with the other. “Rhonda, open the door! Open the door, now!”

He punched the window and pushed the “open door” button and the “on” button but nothing worked.

“Alex!” he screamed and banged on the window of the car. “Get out of the house! Get out of the house now! Alex!”

He couldn’t see anyone on the lawn. The car was parked there, still in the empty night, bathing in the bright light of the streetlamp. The world was a frozen frame, nothing moved.

“Rhonda, call 911.” Nothing happened inside the car. “Rhonda, call Alex! Call the house!”

Out there, a gun poked into sight in the one-way mirror. He gasped inside the car and shushed himself, instinctively disappearing into his seat, just his eye line above the dashboard. Then, the man holding the gun walked across the front of the garage door with swift steps, pointing the gun down. The man walked over the edge of the mirror and disappeared.

Inside the car, the mayor was quiet and breathless. “Alex,” he whispered. He poked at the touchscreens and pressed every button in that dashboard. He tried the other doors and they were all locked. He tried everything. Then, in the silence of the night, he heard the bang of a shot coming from inside the house.

Time stopped.

It didn’t seem real. He wasn’t here, no. He was sleeping, dreaming, his disembodied conscience traveling the universe and seeing all that could be but wasn’t. And this clearly wasn’t. It couldn’t be.

Then another shot. And another. And he was here, locked in that car.

He gasped back to life.

“Alex!” He punched the door until his knuckles were bleeding. He tilted his body to the side and kicked the glass with his heel. It was useless. He felt the sting of pain as if the bones in his foot were cracking but he didn’t care. “Rhonda, please let me out! Let me out!”

He banged and banged until he heard a faint mechanical noise. He stopped. It was a low, muffled, mechanical whir. Beyond the dashboard and the sleek navy blue, the garage door was slowly rolling open.

“No.”

Rhonda’s dashboard turned on and the engine came to life with a low humming. The bright white light from the screens filled the insides of the car, blinding him.

“Rhonda, open the door.”

The car ignored his orders. He pushed the buttons and they didn’t work. And, slowly, the car started moving.

“Rhonda? Rhonda, what are you doing?”

He looked on screens and the maps didn’t show any routes. The car rolled out of the garage and down the driveway, into the street. The turn signal clicked.

“Rhonda? Where the fuck are you going? Let me out of here!”

He banged once again against the door, his hands tired, his fingers bleeding. He was crying.

“Alex! No, no, no, no… Rhonda let me out,” he sobbed. “Please, let me out. Alex!”

The lights from the screens dimmed and the car speeded through the suburbs, away from his house, away from the shots, away from his daughter.

Hugging his legs, crumpled into a ball, he cried as the car turned corners and led him into the unknown. When he looked outside again, he was on a dark road, outside the city. He checked the map and noticed this was an old and solitary road that would maybe take him downtown, eventually.

“Where the hell are you taking me?”

His eyes drifted from the map to the other apps. He could text or call someone. He tapped the touchscreen and the apps didn’t open. He tried over and over with his bloody fingers, red drops peppering the screen. He wanted to call the police, to call Alex. He wanted to call a neighbor. Anyone. He wanted to call the car company and tell them their car was a piece of trash and he would sue them for their last nickel.

The taps on the indifferent phone icon became punches, and kicks soon joined. He cried and screamed and thrashed the dashboard until there was no light inside that fucking car. But still, Rhonda drove away, her headlights piercing the night in the lonely road ahead.

Sammuel rubbed the tears away. Why was this happening? Why him? Why now? He was in the middle of nowhere. Alone. And Alex! They had finally gotten to him. Then, from somewhere, a white light stabbed his eyes.

It was the rearview mirror. There was a car behind him.

He took a deep breath and tried to think. The car approached with blinding headlights. Maybe the other car could help make his car stop. He didn’t know how, but what else could he do at this point? He moved to the back seat and waved with desperate hands.

“Help,” he yelled.

As he waved, he heard a noise against the glass on the back. He lowered his hands and checked the place where the noise had come from. It was hard to see against the blinding white lights of the other car. There was a small crack in the glass. Then, there was another noise and another crack.

They were shooting.

The noises and the cracks started peppering the back window and he threw himself down on the back seat, covering his head. There were dozens, hundreds of noises against the back window. Rhonda swayed from side to side, making him slide on the back seat and hit his head against the door. The headlights danced on the ceiling of the car, the cracks on the glass leaving shadows of crooked lines, a dark web covering him, ensnaring him for death.

The back window finally gave in and exploded into the car, falling over him, a thick blanket made of glass. He screamed, his bloodied hands over his head. The bullets kept coming. Rhonda kept swaying and braking and speeding up. The white light flooded the insides of the car. He cried and screamed and covered his head, the glass blanket banging against his body as Rhonda jumped up and down in the road.

After one last sway, the light disappeared and the shots stopped and it was dark and cold and silent. He waited for a second, trying to believe his ears. The cold air of the outside was mixing with the air inside of the car as Rhonda sped through the night. He moved the glass and peeked over the seat, searching for the other car. But instead, he saw the river. That’s when he noticed where he was: a small, old and dangerous road by the river that would lead him to the pier. But he couldn’t find the other car. Had they fallen into the river?

After a few lonely minutes on the road, he climbed to the front seat, and the pier's distant orange lights showered on the dashboard. He took a deep breath and thought about his daughter. Alex! He had to get to a phone, knock on any house, ask for help. He considered jumping out through the back if Rhonda didn’t stop. But when they approached the pier, she got slower, calmer, gentler, until she finally came to a stop in an alley by the pier. The door unlocked with a subtle click and opened with an invitation to the darkness of the world outside.

Sammuel climbed out of the car with slow movements. The cold, fresh air of the river filled his lungs. The night embraced him, and he was finally out of the car. When he stepped, his heel screamed with pain. He limped toward the orange lights following a wall that cornered him against the river. He walked, uncertain, into the night, away from the sleek navy blue of Rhonda. When he got to the end of the wall he was almost running.

The wall ended and he stepped out of the darkness, dazed, drowning in the ocean of orange light. He tried to find his bearings and, out of nowhere, a bicycle came speeding towards him. The tires screeched and he covered his eyes.

“Dad!” the person on the bicycle said.

He looked. “Alex? Oh my god, Alex!” He inspected her from head to toe. “Are you ok?”

“Yes,” she said, “I’m fine.”

He hugged her into a desperate embrace. His heart racing in relief, his arms shaking. It was so good to feel her body against his.

“Dad, listen,” she said. “There were people in the house! I think they were after you.”

“I know!” He held her by the shoulders. “I saw everything. I was locked inside Rhonda, she wouldn’t let me out. Then she rolled out of the house and brought me here. And, oh my god, I was so afraid for you! I wanted to go and help you but she didn’t let me.”

“It’s ok,” Alex said. “I ran out of the house and I grabbed my bike and they shot at me. It was so scary! I called the cops and you, but you didn’t answer, so I came here. I thought you would’ve come here after our fight.”

She looked so brave and wise and he was so proud of her. He hugged her again. “I'm so sorry we fought. I just- I worry about you... God, I’m so glad you're safe. That fucking car wouldn’t let me out.”

“Well, that fucking car might have saved your life,” she said.

“That might be, but I’ll bike everywhere from now on.”

“Dad, don’t be silly.” She escaped his hug. “Maybe someone hacked it to protect you.”

She had a snarky smirk plastered to her face.

“Gosh,” she said, “you’re so naïve, so out-of-touch!

“I guess I am.”

February 22, 2021 01:23

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15 comments

Fjc Montenegro
01:25 Feb 22, 2021

This one was a surprise. I usually take at least three to four days to write a short story, but once I had a general idea, this one came out in one and a half days! On the other hand, it probably needs a good deal of editing. Help me Reedsy! :D

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A.Dot Ram
07:16 Feb 22, 2021

I figured this would be a good week for you. Interesting story. A few things, since it's so early--I got confused as to whether the car actually was a vacuum, like if there was the literal ability to suck the air out. I think you meant it as more of an emotional state where it was hard to breathe, right? By the middle of the story, I started to suspect that maybe Alex knew something was coming, and had hacked the car to keep her dad safe. I liked that there were things brewing in the background--"such polemic times." It would be interesting ...

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Fjc Montenegro
16:21 Feb 22, 2021

Oh my god, Alex hacked the car! Of course she did! That's such a great idea and it makes perfect sense. I'm at work (at home) right now but I'll definitely change the ending tonight. I don't want to be too explicit, though. I don't know how I'll do that. The vacuum thing is a nice feedback, I did want to use it as an emotional statement but I see how it can be taken literally. About the backstory, maybe there's a group of extremists and the mayor doesn't think they would go so far. But Alex knows stuff. So in the end, he is the one who is ...

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A.Dot Ram
17:33 Feb 22, 2021

I'm so glad that's helpful! I'll check back later this week.

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Amany Sayed
04:50 Feb 22, 2021

Hmmm. It's a story that makes you think. It's a classic storyline, of forcing one person to care about another when they realize how much they do. But you've put an un-classic twist. The whole story feels a little wordy though. Run-on sentences, extra details, things that could be deleted and the story wouldn't suffer. The ending's also a bit cliche but that's okay, cliche isn't always bad. "He hadn’t grabbed the phone on his way to the garage." < - - HIS phone maybe? Overall, I enjoyed it, but it was MISSING something. Backstory maybe? ...

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Fjc Montenegro
16:31 Feb 22, 2021

Nah, cliche is bad. Let's change it! :D Tonight I'm gonna do Anne's Idea. I agree with it being wordy. I wanted to be just a bit overdiscriptive to create the right tone but I might have gone overboard. I feel like the repetition where the character presses and presses and presses the button is fine, but the streetlamps' hard white light showering inside the sleek navy blue car through the one-way mirror garage door... That's too much. To tight this one up I wanted to apply the formula that says 2nd draft = 1st draft - 10%, but I didn't qu...

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Amany Sayed
16:42 Feb 22, 2021

Ah, just read her comment, that would definitely add some spice! Yeah! Sure, okay... "He waved and waved and heard..." waved and waved COULD have power, but you're overusing the repetition. "Then, in the silence of the night, he heard the bang of a shot. It had come from inside the house. At that moment, time stopped. It didn’t seem real, this wasn’t reality. He wasn’t here, locked inside his car, no. He was sleeping, he was dreaming, but also awake in the void of space, his disembodied conscience traveling the universe and seeing all tha...

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Fjc Montenegro
16:48 Feb 22, 2021

Oh, I see what you're talking about! I'll definitely take a look at those tonight. Thanks!!! :D

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Amany Sayed
16:51 Feb 22, 2021

Happy to help! ^_^

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Courtney C
06:49 Mar 02, 2021

Excellent storytelling and tension! This was really good

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Fjc Montenegro
23:47 Mar 04, 2021

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! :)

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K. Antonio
02:39 Mar 02, 2021

The moment the car locked him in with the gunman in the garage, I was basically at the edge of my seat. Great job at giving us a great deal of suspense!

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Fjc Montenegro
23:46 Mar 04, 2021

I'm glad the suspense worked for you! Thanks a lot for commenting.

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Zilla Babbitt
22:55 Feb 24, 2021

This was great! As someone who always railed against my parents not allowing me to watch PG-13 movies for a while, I really enjoyed the discussion about protection. Perspective changes as you get older. And as you get older and have kids your instincts about protecting them get stronger. Thanks for the read, this was really well done. Amany mentioned below that things seemed a little wordy, and I agree regarding the action-y scenes. Everything else was fine, but shorter sentences often help the reader visualize (heart rate up!) the scene. ...

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Fjc Montenegro
02:16 Feb 25, 2021

Hey Zilla! You're right, the shorter sentences for action scenes thing totally slipped my mind while I was writing this one *facepalm*. Even after doing Amany's edits and noticing the story improving, I didn't focus on the action scenes. And I was very conscious about this concept while writing the store scene in the post-apocalyptic story just a couple of weeks ago. Geesh. I don't know if I'll have time to a new edit on this one (good old life getting in the way), but if I get some time I'll definitely work on those longer sentences in the...

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