S’MA

You Know Not To Read This

Transcript:

ACT I

EFT O

Ten Years after the Spindle Attacks in Sunda.

The DEIst Organization for Man’s Enlightenment (DOME) reportedly claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Sunda is now in a state of peace.

The same is true for the country-continent of Satur, except for a building, divisive election rife with muck-slinging and policy-dodging looming over the horizon. The balance of liberty and security from Abhorrents fuels the discourse of the times. Soon the plutocracy will assume control -unless the proletariat can rise together against it. Fortuitous outcome unlikely.

— Bitpost from username AppellateFiber

S’MA

By blood, ascends, and by blood, betrayed;

By design, befriends, and in design, waylaid;

By force, offends, and with force, dismayed.

Three then fled, then three arrived;

None were dead, and none alive.

Adam hated seeing the electronic billboards that lined the sides of freeways abound. They would display, in ten-second increments, various advertisements aimed at their respective audiences.

Stupid, he thought, after seeing an ad for homeowner’s insurance involving a lizard with a dignified wardrobe. Most ads were as such, having little or nothing to do with the product or service they provided, merely vying for the attention of passers-by in any way they could. Another advertisement populates the billboard, reminding Adam that Satur’s national day of observance for the Spindle Attacks in Sunda, from ten Years prior, is tomorrow. Thanks for the reminder, thinks Adam, turning his head away; annoyed.

Despite all of Adam’s qualms with the billboards, he was rather thankful that they were so prominent along Highway 70 that he could dwell upon them to alleviate the stale silence he was sharing with his current occupation, an oil executive by the name of Lron Cruise.

Lron had been under fire by various pro-environment groups and threats from web trolls for a number of days following the half-a-billion-gallon spill from a faulty oil tankard owned by his company. Adam’s chief was gifted by Lron with a trip to stay at Meier’s Resort in tropical, beautiful Haik, Buyan in return for his best men to detail his police escort, and Adam thought Lron a coward for that reason, among others.

Adam turned to his mark, observing the strange little man staring into the floating, projected screen of his drone and fiddling with his Bit, the popular social media website that almost the entire world used in efforts to “keep up with family and friends”, but was more honestly used for stalking and “creeping” on former lovers.

“Is that a T series?” Adam asks of Lron, who does not even attempt to hear or notice that another person would dare try talking to him while he was operating his tiny device.

Adam sighs, turning and looking again out of the digital window at all the other cars sharing the roadway. He strokes the stubble of his whiskers beside his mouth, lost in thought.

He started trying to remember what it was like before drones. Basically the same as it was now, he decided. Except the damned things floated -hovered, really- over everyone’s shoulders and projected their colorful screens out in front of their faces at all times, as opposed to remaining in their hands or pockets or purses, like how mobiles used to be. He pondered, further, a time before any such thing. How disconnected everything must’ve been, and how much more personal everything would have to have been. Despite his nostalgic thoughts, he yearned for the attention of his own drone, locked away in his car at Mr. Cruise’s gargantuan home back in Brenwood, an affluent suburb twenty miles south of their destination, Stoma.

The car began accelerating as they approached the Stoma Gate Bridge granting passage into Stoma. Stoma Gate Bridge was a five-mile long beast that could support billions of tons of vehicles, in theory. However, Adam doubted the veracity of this claim, as they were merely conclusions drawn from the engineers’ calculations. He had nothing to back this nay-saying notion, it was just a skeptical feeling he often got when people would speak with an air of certitude about things they had not yet shown in practice. But many bridges had been made before Stoma Gate that still stood, and so Adam accepted that the bridge served its purpose.

The Island City of Stoma, in Aeckland Division, Satur was an expansive desert of cement and glass and steel. It covered as much ground as the land would allow before giving way to its natural, maritime borders. To forego the limit of buildable land, architects figured that, while they could not build outward, they could very well build upward. So up they built; Stoma was home to 35 of the world’s 100 tallest buildings, and nine of them could be found on the first ten spots of the list.

Adam and Lron this morning were making their way to the tallest skyscraper built by man: the Satellite Building in the heart of Stoma. It was named as such due to its towering height and proximity to Satellite G8. Satellite G8 hovered in the atmosphere directly above the building, and was floating in what was called a geosynchronous orbit, whereby a satellite would orbit Sil yet remain above a single, stationary point on the surface like an unwavering cloud.

The Satellite Building was tall and dark and ominous and beautifully constructed, impaling the grey cloud cover that swallowed Stoma’s skyline and dared to precipitate. They were headed there so that Lron could meet with his oil enterprise’s Crisis Action Committee and discuss their next moves in dealing with their oil tankard spill of late, some 40 miles off the southeastern coast of Satur. Adam was to be a “fly on the wall” at this meeting, and was laboriously instructed by his chief to sit quietly behind Lron and to not open his “DEI-damned mouth”.

Adam felt for his Revolver nervously and his stomach sank uneasily into the depths of his bowels as his eyes followed a peculiar man walking straight down the middle of the bridge. The seemingly fearless man, adorned in all black with matching trench coat and bowler cap, walked slowly forward with head down, his coattails whipping up and frothing about as the vehicles sped past, autonomously moving out of the way of the walking hazard just before striking him.

It was quite the display of the computational ability the Grid (the hundreds of geosynchronous satellites wirelessly connected in a network “cloud” orbiting over much of Sil’s livable land masses) was capable of, and the flow of cars and trucks fluidly adapted to his presence on the highway in an instant, and the effect could be seen for miles of traffic. The Grid shifted cars here and there like gears intertwined, yet without a single incident.

“He must be bloody suicidal,” Adam muttered, perking the ears of the silent Lron beside him.

“Good, hope he’s killed,” says a dispassionate Lron, who pushes his sunglasses up the knuckled bridge of his long, slender nose on his pale, gaunt face while taking in the sight on the other side of traffic.

“One less person in this world to get in my way,” adds Lron, in his girlish voice that resembled a man attempting to speak while his genitals were being flattened.

Adam moved his gaze back to the window so that Lron might not see his eyes roll in annoyance at the remark.

“Unidentified male, no drone records. Zero alerts to the Stoma Police. Possibly jamming the link,” the voice from the bud in Adam’s ear chimes in.

The voice, of course, belonged to his drone back in Brenwood. It was a construct of artificial intelligence and tapped into the Grid to keep Adam informed. Petey, a play on the abbreviation for Personal Drone, was standard police-issue, and Adam grew used to hearing it provide him with information about any and everything going on around his position using coordinates from the Grid. It was really just a beefed-up version of the operating software that came with Personal Drones, and a security clearance granted Adam information on almost anything he could want information about.

Although Adam was no longer a civilian, he still carried his civilian-Revolver. It was a Momauguin .44 with eight shots, the maximum allowable by law for a civilian. In Satur, it was considered an inalienable right to be able to own a firearm, but had been greatly amended about 30 Years ago so that now civilians may only have a single Revolver with up to an eight shot capacity.

It caused great uproar and many threats of violent uprisings, and, almost unilaterally, hardly any gun-owner turned in their now illicit hunting and assault rifles, shotguns, and other firearms, but did switch from carrying magazine-loaded sidearms to carrying Revolvers legally. The caliber of the Revolver did not matter, and all other firearms were banned and confiscated if found on your person. Although some assault weapons remained available on the black market, one would be hard-pressed to pin one down and make such a dangerous purchase.

The car took Adam and Lron to the front of Satellite Building and let them out, leaving for the nearest available parking garage, a ten minute drive away. The building’s doors slid open for the pair as they reached the height of the steps leading in, and a glowing, lime drone greeted them to take their coats. It also offered them coffee or biscuits, to which they both declined.

Lron’s slate-grey and white-dotted drone stayed quietly above his right shoulder, invisibly relaying his owner’s schedule to the welcome drone.

“Mr. Cruise and Mr. Ilsa, ten a.m. on Floor 212. This way, please, gentlemen,” said the lime-green drone in a polite voice, and led them to Saturian Petroleum’s private elevator across the enormous, bustling foyer, and Adam’s eyes instinctively darted about as he tried to assess threats and remember faces.

The elevator doors opened as the men walked across marbled floor toward it, and shut abruptly behind them. The greeting drone hummed away with Adam’s burgundy, double-breasted, wool pea coat and Lron’s obnoxious white-stripe and black overcoat stitched with soft qiviut as the elevator shut, and Adam couldn’t help but peer at his own reflection in the polished, mirrored doors.

Adam was pleased with the way he looked, yet he longed to decorate his strong, pale chin with a warm beard. But he desired not to look a sore thumb among corporate business-people for the role he was assuming, and thus kept his jaw bare.

His slanted, cobalt eyes passed from his neck-length, charcoal hair that he had tied tightly in a bun behind his head, to the small knot of his crocheted, black necktie resting against his broad chest. His chalkboard colored suit was tailored and fit him snugly, and the argyle-patterned grey stockings that covered his feet were shoved into recently polished, black derby-boots: the style that Adam had always worn. A lucky, silver watch with a black, denim strap -the only inheritance Adam received from his parents when he was orphaned as a young man- decorated his wrist and was self-winding so that he had not to worry about keeping fresh batteries.

He was no stranger to donning suits, and prided himself in keeping his tie-knots dimpled and taut. In pursuit of the ever-perfect tie, he often found himself critiquing the knots of others in a cynical fashion, as he found himself doing now to the hideous green wad that Lron wore and no doubt had his drone tie for him. A full-sized knot: outdated, large, and unbefitting of a skinny, little rodent like Lron. He should be tying the poor man’s knot, or something similarly asymmetrical and small, to attempt to widen out his angular frame.

The elevator bell rang, and Adam followed Lron out into an impressive lobby where they were each scanned in by an elegant, spherical drone that was colored the same muted blue that accented the conference floor’s décor. As the door opened, the pair of men walked into the ornate conference room, and found that they were earlier than the rest of the expected party.

“Ayn Hufford has just arrived. The other committee members will arrive in six minutes,” the digital voice in Adam’s ear, Petey, informed him, and Adam instinctively looked at his watch.

Lron’s drone lit up and blinked in the cyan blue light that indicated a message had been received, no doubt from someone about being late. Like sunlight beaming through a crack between drawn drapes, the drone projected out a small field of golden light at Lron’s command so that he could send a reply using an intangible keyboard.

“Wait outside for this conference,” spoke the squeaky Mr. Cruise. “Carmen Eaves is joining us, last-minute,” he explained, his voice almost at a falsetto, as opposed to his usual soprano, with nerves.

“Can’t have, er, you skulking around while we discuss company secrets,” he added, unnecessarily.

Adam wanted to disagree, arguing that it was in his orders to remain by Lron’s side, but he decided it was not worth the fuss.

Adjusting his tie, he cast in Lron’s direction an expressionless stare that did apparently not comfort the finicky Lron. Adam could almost hear the anxious gulp emanate from Lron’s toothpick-of-a-throat as he obliged his wish and stepped out of the room. He could not help but hope that the conference would go poorly and that someone would get heated enough to kill the small, arrogant man, doing the world a justice and putting an end to wasting Adam’s time. But he doubted colleagues would overly quarrel amid such a high-profile subject. Adam only worried that Lron himself might be the one to snap from the anxiety and murder his boss, Carmen.

“Carmen Eaves. Restricted,” relayed Petey.

In truth, Adam’s old civilian drone would be capable of trespassing into her files, he believed, and cover its tracks in the process. He had a friend, Saymour, show him how to jailbreak it, as it was called, to get into anything he could want. Surprisingly, despite how complicated the movies made hacking seem, it was pathetically easy to rig a drone up to do just that.

The hacker that built the program was username appellatefiber137, who took on the painstaking task of doing the code work. But, once they finished writing the program, it was easy for anyone to nab it from a certain corner of the dark web, as it was called –the part of the web that required a special operating system and browser to reach. And, to keep the downloads from being traced, Saymour connected to the internet from a virtual address that would show it was downloaded to random locations on Sil’s frozen hemisphere.

“The S.I.R. themselves couldn’t even trace this. Trust me, the guys making this shit are badass,” Saymour told him when asked about repercussions.

Adam wished he hadn’t ditched his civilian model for the precinct one that he was assigned. But it also made sense to him that an officer of the law should be kept within its bounds, so documenting drone-feeds was a necessary ordeal to keep the bad-eggs out of the force. This meant that even his civilian drone-feed would be recorded, and the modifications he made to it might cause undesired concern, so he had left it powered off at his home since he had been issued one.

Petey identified Ayn Hufford as she stepped out of the elevator. Adam kept his head down as she passed him in the lobby and was buzzed in by the pale blue drone that had greeted himself and Lron earlier. The voice in Adam’s ear informed him of the next two people to arrive in the lobby, Brice Tad and Lamlin Donnian, and he did not greet them nor did he make eye contact with either as they each entered the conference room.

“Failure to identify,” Petey said in his simulated voice moments after the pair close the door, and Adam calmly looked up as the elevator doors parted and allowed a short woman through.

Adam deduced that it was Carmen. He kept his gaze down as she passed, letting his eyes slip for a moment while she was buzzed through the conference door. He could not help but admire her waistline in the split-second glance he stole of her, and she reminded him of a proud lioness in the way she carried herself.

Adam sat down in one of the soft lobby armchairs, and furtively peered through the window at the woman who had been latest to the meeting. She did not shake any of their hands, but, rather, took a seat without hesitation at the head of the long, maple table.

The conference table was covered with a sheet of glass to preserve its top, while also serving as a screen onto which drones could project images or videos. Carmen flicked her head to the side to throw her cherry hair out of her thin, ivory face. Her nose was slightly askew, appearing to be from genetics and not injury, and her ears were noticeably small in proportion to the rest of her face.

Adam did not realize he had been staring until he met her wide, turquoise eyes through the glass wall of the conference room. In an attempt to pretend he was, in no way, leering, he immediately shot his gaze to a nearby wall.

But she had caught him. She says something to the periwinkle drone above her shoulder, and the transparent glass becomes an opaque white.

Creep, he thought, mentally kicking himself.

The conference must have not been going well, Adam guessed after checking his lucky watch, because it had been more than two hours since they had shuttered the windows. His ears perked up when the door opened and out walked Carmen. Adam made efforts to appear not to take any notice of her. He could not shake the feeling that he had seen her before, and wondered if he would see her again.

She left alone, and no one followed immediately behind her, except for a tetrahedral drone that resembled a pyramid with a triangular base. Inaudible and the size of a child’s fist, it was impressive, considering that most Personal Drones, even the state-of-the-art ones being mass-produced, had some sort of humming or whirring to them when they were floating. This led Adam to believe that it was custom built and astonishingly expensive. He could not make out any logos or markings on its shell, so he presumed that, whatever model it was, it certainly was not to be found on the market.

A quarter of an hour had passed when the conference windows became transparent and the door opened. Lron stepped out of the door with his usual scowl, looking at the floor with his drone fluttering over his right shoulder. It was amusing for Adam to watch as the door almost closed on the other two because Lron neglected to hold it for them. Adam stood up from his seat, hesitant to follow Lron out of the lobby and into the private elevator.

Not much was done for the rest of Adam’s shift. They met with a business partner for lunch, where Adam sat at an adjacent table. He would sooner sit in his death bed than spend one minute longer than absolutely necessary in Lron’s draining presence, and was happy that he had the table to himself. After lunch, Lron and escort went about Stoma and endured the more menial responsibilities of being an executive. Adam was bored well before Lron decided to call it a day, and the Bitcast he was listening to about the upcoming, divisive elections in Satur (Petey had recommended it based on his listening history) was beginning to get a tad preachy for Adam’s tastes.

“Would you like to stay for dinner?”

It felt strange for Adam to hear those words come from the little man he had grown to detest. In fact, Adam had to play back what he had just heard in his own mind a few times before it actually sunk in.

Although he was not a married man, Adam made sure that the wife he fabricated in order to decline the invitation was very near and dear to him. So near and dear that nay, he was not able join Lron for dinner. He mustn’t keep the misses waiting.

The look he received in return, however slight it was on the typically expressionless man’s face, made him feel as though he had been misread. Or perhaps, thought Adam, the squirrely, small man innocently sought friendly company -or anyone’s company, for that matter.

On the voyage home to Eastlake, a small suburb between Stoma and New Aeckland, Adam amused himself by imagining the lonely Lron weeping over his lobster and filet mignon, stopping to sip his glass of red and bite of his steak. Lane, Adam’s relief for the night, would be sitting in a corner, staring at the wall, and making a strained effort not to laugh.

Something was off when he turned into his neighborhood. He could feel it in the hairs on the back of his neck, and he could see it by the pair of unfamiliar black cars parked on the street.

“Wait, MoeMoe, stop,” said Adam, and his dinky, compact vehicle parked by a curb down the street from his house.

“Petey, take a look at these cars and tell me what you can.”

A clunky, black drone, resembling the outdated quadcopter models, rose from the seat and hovered, aiming its cameras and sensors at the vehicles in question.

“Cannot trace the vehicles; their sensors have been sabotaged,” Petey responded.

“Great,” said Adam, frowning and letting out a sigh. “MoeMoe, let’s go home. Petey, check with the department about any possible unmarked cars in my neighborhood. These people are supposed to be out of town,” said Adam.

As he stepped out of the car in his garage, Adam grabbed his jacket hanging on the backseat and scanned the rest of his street, but saw and heard nothing suspicious except for the unknown vehicles.

The scent of his small home was less rank than usual, but not to a degree that alarmed Adam. His mind was elsewhere, and the quietness of the home seemed almost quieter than usual -but he was just being paranoid. Lron inviting him to dinner was why everything just seemed abnormal.

Adam stepped into his kitchen and set his jacket down on the counter. He walked over to his fridge to see what he had despite knowing very well what was already in there.

Adam heard a car door shut, and an engine start. With hopes of seeing the driver of one of the unknown cars, he walked to the front window and peered through the shutters. Alas, just another neighbor.

The tile was overdue for a mop, and Adam’s steps rang throughout the tiny house’s bare walls as he ventured back into the kitchen.

Another car door shut, and another engine is started, catching Adam’s attention. He speed walked back to the window, and hurried the pace when the sound of a second door is opened and a second engine is started.

When Adam peered out of the window this time, sensations spread across the back of him that made his neck-hairs stand on end. One of the unmarked cars was backing into his driveway.

The trunk popped open.

He backed away from the window, going over a plan of escape in his head.

The sound of multiple windows shattering echoed through the house.

A plan doesn’t form in time, and six masked men circle defenseless Adam with assault rifles trained on his face before he could even pull out the concealed Revolver from his hip holster. One of the armed men bats him down on the floor with the end of his rifle, kicking him in the stomach viciously as he made contact with the tile.

Petey is hit with a jamming pellet and fell, crashing onto the floor, immobilized and taken off the Grid.

Adam felt a combat boot push his head against the floor while the intruders attempted to subdue him, and was rewarded for struggling against them with the toe of that boot meeting the better part of his nose, which broke on contact and dripped blood like a leaking tap onto the tile.

In his daze, Adam felt his arms violently tugged behind his back and heard one of the armed intruders speak.

“Bag ’em, we need to move.”

Adam, still recovering his wits from the kick to the face, tried to get a view of what was happening. His vision went dark as an opaque, black bag was tugged over his head and tightened around his throat.

He felt a needle enter his arm, and experienced a moment of pain before going limp. The shot rendered him unconscious just a few seconds later.

After resuming consciousness that was attributed to a falling sensation, Adam found that he was unable to move from restraint except for a slight wiggle as his wooden chair clapped against the concrete floor. The back of his head began growing a knot as soon as it made contact with the hard surface. The pain was sharp, and Adam was unable to see due to the black sack still obscuring his eyes.

Adam felt dried blood peel from his skin as the black bag was untied and torn off of his head. When he opened his eyes he saw the end of a tap hovering a few inches above his face. In the amount of time it took him to recognize it to be a water faucet, it had been turned on and began pouring water onto his face, making it impossible for Adam to see or breathe without liquid entering his eyes or lungs.

After 60 seconds or so, the water is cut off. Adam spits as he tries in vain to catch his breath. He is able to inhale just once before the water turns back on again, this time flowing much heavier than before and impossible to keep from draining into his nose, forcing him to swallow.

His head began feeling light from the lack of oxygen, and the water tickled painfully as it travelled unobstructed through his nasal passages into his throat. He grows desperate for air, and chokes on the water uncontrollably as he attempts to breathe.

The valve to the hose is closed, and Adam continued coughing. He manages to steal a few breaths before the hose resumed flowing. No amount of thrashing around would allow any more ability to breathe, and the absence of oxygen in Adam’s brain put him into a full panic. He tugged with his wrists at the zip-tie cuffs securing him to the chair, and he shook his legs in an attempt to get free from the restraints that tied them to the chair, screaming and shouting incoherent obscenities while he jostled about. The water stopped after another 60 seconds, and Adam choked and coughed in an attempt to clear his airways.

“What were you doing with this fancy, little, jailbroken drone of yours?” a male’s voice asks. Adam found that the voice sounded sharp and gruff.

Before Adam could muster a response, the tap unleashed its tormenting torrent onto his face, and the panicking feeling returned.

“What were you doing in Stoma?” the voice asked, and the water ceased flowing.

Adam spat some water up and cleared his throat.

“Drinking your water, and fucking your women!” Adam shouted, and was given the gift of a fierce boot-toe in the ribs for his answer.

The water resumed pouring onto his face, and Adam was barely able to hear the door close over his own splashing and struggling and kicking.

Adam recalled his training for becoming a marksman in the Saturian Armed Forces, and the “camp” of sorts that he had to attend to proceed into the ranks of the marksmen. And how, to prepare them for extreme situations where they may get captured by the enemy, they were starved and beaten and water-boarded and tortured. He remembered his best friend, and how he would holler and back-talk and encourage the torturers to do their worst, and how badass that made him think of Vinh. That was the reason why he was back-talking his captor, now. For his best friend, because that’s what Vinh would have done if he were still alive.

Adam had almost become a marksman, but on the 12th day of starvation and torture he was broken. He could smell the thing that broke him from his cell, and so could everyone else in the shack, before it even came through the door. They had beaten him like a dog and worse. And, like a dog, he was unable to turn down a hot slice of pepperoni pizza. He trembled and cried as he ate it shamefully; it was so satisfying. But he wept because he had given up. If he would have made it two more days -he later came to find out- then he would have been wearing an SM patch on his fatigues for Saturian Marksmen, and probably would have died right alongside Vinh fighting Abhorrents.

Adam was lying on his back in the chair that had been kicked down, and choked and coughed and spit and shouted in efforts to catch even the slightest breath. He was hardly successful, and was forced to choke down another mouthful of water. Some fluid went down the wrong tube, and Adam coughed pathetically to try to clear his airways.

Adam reflexively vomited after he inhaled even more water, and the smell of it encouraged him to puke a second time.

Two minutes had passed -an eternity under the spigot- until Adam heard the door open over the din of his coughing and struggling. The water stopped flowing.

Adam opened his eyes, squinting and blinking rapidly to clear them.

A knife was hanging blade-down out of a hand above Adam’s face.

“You’re a lonely bastard, you know that? I could kill you now, and there would be nobody to miss you-”

“You’re too pussy to do it, bitch!” spat Adam in retort.

The man let go of the knife, and Adam was surprised to see that the unknown man actually followed through with the threat. Adam turned his head away as much as he was physically able, and the long blade of the knife stuck into the chair right next to his ear, oscillating back and forth and emitting a quick, repetitive knock until it became still.

Adam heard the faucet rotate, and the water spilled unyieldingly onto him yet again. The faucet was turned even further until it could be turned no more, and the rapids flowing from the hose soaked Adam’s defenseless face. He angrily shook his head back and forth in an attempt to breathe but sliced his ear painfully on the knife beside his head. He stopped shaking, instead welcoming the flow, and made out the noise of the door closing. The lights were shut off this time.

I have to think my way through this.

Adam concluded that he had maybe another two minutes of this limited air before he passed out and drowned: an end that he cared not to see all the way through. He grunted as he used his entire body and strength to pull up with his arms and legs on the chair in an effort to “jump”, and moved an inch to the right, but was still at the mercy of the faucet. He tried again, but covered even less ground than he did in his initial attempt.

Adam cursed himself for wasting valuable oxygen and time with each failed movement. He tried to calm himself -quite the task when you can’t breathe clearly- before giving it another go.

A searing pain; he cut his ear again on the large knife during the third attempt at escaping the nightmare of the hose.

Push your feet to the left and your arms to the right to rotate out of the stream, next time. It is basic physics; every action is met with an equal, opposite reaction. You’ll never get out of the way in time by trying to move linearly.

Adam was unsure where the idea originated from; he was beginning to feel delirious.

He attempted to move in the way his thoughts suggested, and was marginally more successful in this new method. He turned his head and pursed his lips in an attempt to suck in some dry air but instead choked on the water that stormed his windpipe, as was the case each time he had tried to breathe.

As Adam coughed and choked he was able to shimmy his chair until free and clear of the hated water, and gasped air greedily until the panic left him completely. His ear was still bleeding from the two slashes he had self-inflicted by mistake, and his arms and legs were still hostage to the chair. Adam decided to turn and face the blade and attempt to pull it out with his teeth, lacerating his ear further as his head rotated over. He had to bear running the blade up his cheek, burning and bleeding from the sharp edge, until he was able to put his teeth firmly on the metal.

His teeth were not gripped on the knife firmly enough, however, and when he attempted to pull it out of the chair by twisting his neck the knife sliced open the corner of his mouth. He tried a second time, clamping onto the blade as hard as his jaw would clench, grimacing as his neck began to cramp. The second attempt was successful, and Adam spit the knife onto the floor beside him.

Adam went back to the same technique that he utilized to escape the hose, and hopped his chair until he could grasp the handle of the knife with his right hand. He struggled due to the limited motion that the zip-tie and chair-arm allowed of his wrists, but after a few minutes of patient sawing and a careless prick to the wrist he was able to free his right arm. The rest was easy, and soon enough Adam was stretching his sore legs and back and wondering where his lucky watch had gone.

He was in a rectangular room, and Adam had to follow along the wall to find the door in the dark, which, unsurprisingly, was locked shut. It was a solid door, and would not yield to the powerful kicks that Adam delivered to it, nor would the doorknob break or open. The blade of the knife was too wide to wedge in the crack between the door and the cement wall, so he would not be able to pry it open or circumvent the locking mechanism that kept it shut.

Suddenly, the lights turned on and Adam squints as his eyes are forced to adjust. He stands next to the door with his back against the wall, gripping his new knife firmly, as he waits for the door to open. Minutes -eternities- pass as he waits patiently, but the door was not opened for him.

He scanned the lit room, searching for an air duct or something that could pose as a makeshift exit, but was unable to find anything. Even the spigot’s line offered no escape and went straight through the concrete floor as if the cement had been poured after the water faucet had been installed.

In despair, Adam returned to the only door in the room and wiggled the doorknob. It was now unlocked. Adam’s head dropped, and he sighed heavily.

Who is toying with me? Where am I?

Adam stepped out of the door into a dimly lit, grey hallway that was a dead end at both sides and had two doors per each wall, including the one he had emerged from. Adam tried opening the two closest doors, but each was locked. The final door he tried opening was unlocked. He slowly opened it while brandishing the knife close to himself, hiding it behind his back. He dared to peer inside the unfamiliar room.

“Come in, have a seat. I hope you had a good shower,” said a voice, sharp and gruff.