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This short story is a SF piece that I'm considering submitting to a magazine for publication. I know it needs a lot of work and I'm grateful beyond imagination to anyone willing to help me hone my skills as a writer. Thank you for reading and please enjoy!
J.J. Bukowski @ JFilman7@aol.com
Ralph sits on a sole chair in a dark and unfriendly room. His head hangs in silence, almost against his lap. Unable to break the tight bonds that wrap and coil around him, the man remains seated. Ralph is a scientist in his twenties with dark, short, brown hair and a slender frame. He wears coke bottle glasses, a red checkered shirt and blue-jeans. The bright light above him makes him squint as he opens his eyes. As Ralph blinks, he notices several other figures in the room, which appear dark and shapeless compared to the glow of the lamp hanging over his head. He shivers, not only from the damp cold, but from the hatred that looms in the air.
“I’m going to be strait with you,” says an ominous voice from the darkness. “You know what we want, and you know what will happen if we don’t find it.”
“I already told you,” Ralph answers as he lifts his head. “I don’t know where the laboratory is. They wiped my memory.” Ralph cannot keep from breathing quick out of fear. A bead of sweat runs across his face as he speaks. He is answered with laughter. Discomforted by this, Ralph swallows with great difficulty. Every noise in the room seems to echo endlessly on, indistinguishable from what new noises are made.
“We know how to handle your kind. You are no more than a coward.” A fist pelted from the darkness, striking Ralph's jaw with excessive force. Ralph said nothing, but stared directly at the concrete ground. Ralph was struck again, this time much harder.
Ralph lifted his head once again with great agony and spoke gruff note in his voice, “I told you, I have no memory of the lab.” He hung his head again.
“Well then, we have no more use for you.” The voice came closer. Ralph heard a pistol being drawn. He clenched, bracing himself for the blast when suddenly he awoke to the noise of a buzzer. He quickly slammed the snooze button on the alarm clock and sat up in the bed. It was about midday and the sun barely shone through the tattered curtains that hung over the single window.
“A dream? It was only a dream!” Ralph thought. Relieved, he wiped the sweat from his brow. It was only a dream, but the danger was real. He quickly got himself out of bed and began looking for his keys. His heart still raced from the nightmare. Uncontrollable thoughts revolved in his mind. “I’ve got to get to the lab,” he told himself as paced the floor. Ralph paused as he noticed something awkward. It was not a custom for him to sleep in his regular attire, yet he was fully dressed. Then as he pondered the situation he realized that he had never set his alarm. This wasn’t even his clock! As he looked around, it came to him that this wasn’t even his room, or his apartment! All these ideas plagued Ralph’s mind as he impatiently hunted for his keys.
The dingy hotel room seemed unfriendly to Ralph, either because of the mystery of how he arrived there or because of the smell of a thousand previous occupants. Not wanting to spend anymore time there, he quickened his pace. Having not found his keys on the nightstand or on the dresser, Ralph looked into the small, dark restroom. He switched on the light, it flickered die to the poor wiring of the hotel. He was greeted by a most unpleasant smell. He grasped his nostrils so as not to inhale the odor. Suddenly, Ralph curled and grasped his head in great pain. A migraine began in his sinuses and migrated throughout his body. He dropped to the floor. His breath was stolen by the agony. He panted and moaned trying to regain his wind. Slowly, the pain passed and Ralph returned to his search with renewed vigor. As he stood, he glanced beneath the sink. What he saw made him feel week and helpless. He wanted to faint, but knew that he couldn’t. He reached out and clasped his key in his hand, then wiped the blood from it. Now feeling quite sick and horrified, Ralph left the room as fast as his feet could carry him. He ran for the parking lot. Although Ralph had only been dreaming about the interrogation, his life was at stake.
Puzzled and stunned by the events of the day, Ralph arrived at the laboratory. He entered through the front and only door. The noises of the outside ceased as the door slammed behind him, shutting out the sun. The building was silent. Ralph spoke a command, and the laboratory’s fluorescent lights illuminated. The white walls glowed, making the laboratory very bright, even though there was not one window to the outside. To Ralph’s far right were several battered manikins. Behind them sat a table upon which were documents of test results. To his left, there was a shooting range and a few doors that lead to different rooms for specific experimentation. Directly in front, was a locked vault.
Nothing seemed to be out of place. All was as he and his team had left it the preceding day. Now was not the time for an error. The team was nearly finished with the experiments, and the product was almost prepared to be presented to the agency. Ralph opened the vault that contained their most recent specimen, a result of years of research and ingenuity. Nothing had been touched. The location of the lab remained a mystery to the enemy, or so he thought...
Ralph then felt a strange tingling in his nose. He reached for his pocket and pulled out a familiar handkerchief with the initials “RW” sewn in. He drew a deep breath and then, “OUCH!” Ralph cried. A weighty object struck the tissue. Once Ralph overcame the pain in his throbbing sinuses, he opened his eyes and saw, in his handkerchief, a blood stained computer chip. His pupils dilated, his pulse doubled and the feeling of security, which he had held for the last two moments, vanished. The enemy had tracked him. They had let him live only to discover the hiding place of the long kept secret. He had been captured! He had been interrogated! The enemy had placed the tracking device then left him in a hotel room with the sole purpose of following him directly to the laboratory. They would have no more use for him now. No longer could Ralph hide from evil as he had tried to do all his life. It was time for him to face his fears. He had no strength or skill in the area of battle, but perhaps he could use a different weapon. Ralph thought. Neurons fired faster than the rounds of an automatic rifle and in series like minutemen lined up in battle. Then, like a bolt of lightning, Ralph thought of an idea!
A gun cocked near the entrance of the laboratory to Ralph’s back. It echoed. They had come. He heard that same voice, the one he recognized from his dream or what had been the memory of reality. It began to laugh, deep, triumphant, evil.
“Thank you,” the voice said. “You have been of great service to us.” All thoughts stopped dead in Ralph’s mind. He swallowed painfully and turned slowly around to face his nemeses. Adrenaline pumped through his body, like water through a narrow pipeline. Again, sweat dripped from his face.
“I-I can’t let you pass.” The words dropped from Ralph’s mouth like water, absorbed into the air of the immense laboratory.
“What did you say?” Volleyed the man. Ralph continued to stare at the ground. He swallowed the lump that had built up in his throat in the past moment.
“I can’t let you pass!” Ralph replied sternly as he lifted his head to stare strait into his fear.
“Wrong answer” The man lifted the gun in his hand and fired. The bullet left the pistol and rendered Ralph helplessly to the ground. This time he was not dreaming. The bullet was real, the gun was real and the shot was real. The enemy stepped past Ralph’s limp body heading for the vault at the far side of the room. The large, heavy, metal door forbade them access, but quickly, they set to work. Without much difficulty, they soon had the door opened. The one who lead peered inside, there was nothing! The vault was empty!
“Halt!” said a demanding voice from behind them. The company of villains turned their attention from the bare vault.
“You’re already dead!”
Shots flew back and forth. Ralph fired with a gun used in the experiments. He stood, unharmed, eliminating the enemies to the last.
Ralph had defeated his fears and the enemy. He was finally able to confront what had stood before him. Rightly proud of his battle, Ralph later spoke to the director of his department and team. Bodies were lifted and carried out of the laboratory during their conversation.
“You handled the situation very well in our opinion having no combat training. We weren’t sure if you could survive once we knew what had happened to you.” Said Ralph's director as she led him outside. The cool fall breeze met them as they passed through the single door.
Relieved to see the sun again and to be alive, Ralph replied “Neither was I, but the product is undoubtedly trustworthy. I believe the agency is going to appreciate owning Magnetic Force Armor. The fuel cell powered electromagnet force field handles any metal with simplicity, diverting any shots.”
“I would have preferred a different final test, but it appears that you’ve given the product a run in the field of duty.”
Copyright © J.J. Bukowski 2006
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