The blank page, the shaking pen in my hand, the audience, they all steal my courage. I tap my foot twice, next, my pen on the desk. Tap, tap. Tap, tap. The slow beat continues until it morphs into a tune I quietly hum.
“Hurry it up, Hannah!” My kidnapper snarls the last word, his nose scrunching up like that of an angry dog. Tap, tap. Tap, tap.
My life wasn’t always like this—strapped down to a chair, writing away at a manuscript I don’t care to write. This is my life now and nothing will change that, well, except the end of the world. I know how it sounds, far off and in another lifetime, but I know otherwise.
The more I write for this scoundrel, the sooner the end of the world. Perhaps, that’s why writer’s block hits me so hard every time I sit behind this desk in front of the committee. The more I write, the sooner the end, but the longer I stall, the sooner my punishment.
Tap, tap. Tap— A stern hand latches on to the back of my chair and pulls me away from the desk. My equilibrium shifts and my feet leave the floor as he tilts my chair back on two legs. Uneasiness rises in my stomach. What is he planning to do to me? He can’t kill me, after all. His plan relies on my writing. Without me, he can say goodbye to world domination.
“Teenagers, rebellious as always.”
A whimper escapes my mouth as he thrusts the chair backward. I balance in the air for what feels like an eternity before the sickening lurch overtakes me and I slam into the concrete floor. Splintering wood is the last I see before the world evaporates into darkness.
I sit up, my hands shaking and my head throbbing unbearably. Darkness looms around me, so dark, I cannot make out the outlines of the room. I know where I am, the chamber of punishment. My kidnapper, Dr. Machinhof, always sends me here when I refuse to write or if my brain refuses to come up with ideas. He calls this room the chamber of brainstorming, but I think ‘chamber of punishment’ is a much better name. Solitary confinement in the chamber always lasts for a week with one meal a day and minimal water.
Months ago, I convinced myself I would escape from this terrible place, but since, I understand that will never happen. Freedom has been ripped away from me. It is the price to pay for the discovery I made all that time ago. Sometimes, I wish the pull of my curiosity that day hadn’t been so strong. If I had avoided the vat of glowing substance, maybe, my life would be normal.
Piercing light sears my eyes as a small slit at the bottom of the door opens and a tray of food hits the floor with a crash. I crawl over to the tray of slop as the patch of light vanishes and darkness steals my vision again. Feeling along the floor, I find the tray with my fingers and begin the harrowing task of eating in the dark.
My mind replays the day that changed it all. I walked into my science class after school with some questions for Mr. Jenkins about an assignment. I pushed open the door and walked into the teacherless room, my lucky pen clutched in one hand. Because of his absence, I turned to leave, but a vat of glowing substance caught my eye. Curiosity tugged on me, beckoning me to explore.
I examined the test tubes filled with odd substances. Next to them stood a vat of glowing neon yellow. I wondered what Mr. Jenkins was doing with them. Some odd experiment, of course, but what? A knock on the door jolted me around. In the process, I knocked over the glowing vat, spilling it all over myself along with my pen.
That’s how it all began. One moment, I was a normal teenage girl with big dreams to become a fantasy author, and the next, a freak with an odd ability. I thought my ability would help me accomplish my dream, but now, whenever I write with my special pen, odd things happen, world changing things. Whenever I write a story, it comes true. I don’t predict the future, I determine the future.
When Dr. Machinhof discovered my unique circumstance he ‘took me in’, at least, that’s what he told my parents. No one is searching for me or wondering where I am. My mom and dad thought this arrangement would work out great for me. They think Dr. Machinhof is helping me control my ability for the better. I would tell them differently if I could speak to them. I haven’t gotten the chance.
Many times, I remember sitting in the dark, hoping my parents would come to visit me or even call. If I could just tell them my situation, maybe things could change. I used to believe they would eventually, but now, I know, they never will.
The week drags on endlessly, all sense of time vanishing along with it. The time I have to brainstorm helps me more than I realized. I have a new plan, one that could save the world and expose Dr. Machinhof’s plan.
The cell door screeches open, light pouring into the room and burning my eyes. My kidnapper stands in the doorway.
“Are you ready to cooperate?”
I nod my head hesitantly. I can’t give him any hints about my plan. He grabs my arm roughly and half-drags me back to the desk in the center of the warehouse-like room. The empty chairs encircling the desk helps relieve the stress threatening to overtake my body.
“I’ve decided the committee is too much of a distraction. However, you have four days to complete the story.”
“What if I don’t have it finished by then?”
“If you don’t, let’s just say, you won’t ever see your family again and you’ll be to blame for their deaths.”
A new burning sensation pounds through my body. How can anyone be so cruel? Will he really kill my family if I don’t finish by the deadline? What if he finds out my plan? Maybe, I shouldn’t risk my family’s lives and just do what I’m told. No, I can’t let him take over the world either. I will follow through with my plan. I just have to be extra sneaky about it.
Sitting down in the new chair, I tap my pen twice against the desk and collect my thoughts. I raise my pen to the blank page and scribble furiously. It doesn’t have to be a long story, but it has to be complete. Dr. Machinhof was never specific about what he wanted. He told me to write a story where he ended up ruling the world. I will do exactly that, write a story about a criminal mastermind and his plot to take over the world. Of course, with every villain, there is always a hero.
In this story, I have to make the hero subtle and only truly act at the very end. Dr. Machinhof reads every page the moment I set it aside to begin the next. Subtlety is key to exposing him. The only way to beat him is by introducing the hero, letting the hero beat the villain, telling that Dr. Machinhof goes to jail, and mentioning that my family is safe—all on the last page. Pulling it off will be no small feat.
As I stare at the final blank page on day three of writing, sweat drips down my forehead. I hope Dr. Machinhof doesn’t notice. Lowering my pen to the last page, I begin, writing as small as possible. Once I say the words, ‘I’m done’, the string of events in my story will unfold and nothing will stop them, not even if I edit the story.
My pen flashes across the page in cursive arcs. My plan depends on Dr. Machinhof not paying attention to the last page. If he looks over and gets suspicious, all is lost. I have to finish writing the final page in the time he takes to read the previous one. Fortunately, he’s a slow reader, but my approximation of his reading speed, five minutes per handwritten page, isn’t enough time to wrap up a story.
I glance over at my kidnapper several types, my pen gliding across the page at a blinding speed. Two more paragraphs left, then, one sentence, then, one word.
“I’m done.” The words roll off my tongue, relief nearly knocking me out of my chair.
Dr. Machinhof snatches the paper from the desk and reads the last page. The farther he reads, the angrier his expression. I leap from the chair and run.
It doesn’t matter how hard Dr. Machinhof tries, his plan will not succeed. Freedom is so near, I can already see myself living a normal life again. No one will ever take advantage of me again. I will always carry my secret ability, but I’ll leave it at that—secret.
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Incredible ES!!!! Loved this story even more than the last one I read. I was absolutely hooked from the start. Perfect story line for the prompt. You held my attention, sentence by sentence, wondering how your character was going to escape. Your line, "Whenever I write a story, it comes true. I don’t predict the future, I determine the future." was the answer, which I didn't realize until the very end. You are a very talented writer and I always look forward to reading your work. Great job! Sue
Thank you so much! Your feedback means everything to me.