Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: TRAVELER (01/28/16)
- TITLE: Reluctant Passenger
By Donna Powers
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In my dream, I was running across a meadow, on a sunny afternoon. I heard birds singing and a stream, in the distance. In my dream, I was free.
I woke up when the man next to me stuck his gun into my side. His breath was bad; a combination of strong coffee and cigarette smoke. He said, “Listen. We’re stopping in a minute, to get gas. I’ll let you out; to use the facilities. You can also get some snacks. Don’t try anything foolish while you’re in there.” He emphasized his meaning by jabbing me again, with his gun.
I was in a car with two men. They were holding me for ransom. They wanted money from my Dad. They’d grabbed me this afternoon, as I walked home from school. It was usually safe to walk home alone. It hadn’t been safe, today. They’d blindfolded me during the trip, so all I knew was:I had been riding for about an hour.
When we pulled into the truck stop, the man took off the blindfold. The lights were painfully bright. The driver spoke. “I’m going get gas. My partner will go with you. Don’t make him angry. We’ll contact your father once we get to our destination. When your father pays us, you’ll be released. Just do as you were told; get your snacks and get back in the car.”
He didn’t have to convince me. I’d seen the gun, and it looked real. Both men had really cold-looking eyes. I didn’t doubt they’d hurt me if they had to. They’d never explained why they’d chosen my Dad, or where they were taking me.
I used the bathroom in the bright glare of the truck stop. I knew Gun Guy was right outside. Though I was hungry and thirsty, my fear had made me sick, and I wasn’t sure if I could eat. But I also didn’t know how long it would be; until they fed me or gave me something to drink. Gun Guy watched warily as I walked into the store. It was like he was daring me to make a wrong move. I only wanted to go home, and end this nightmare. But what could I do?
Slowly, an idea formed. It might not work, but it was worth a chance. I thought carefully as I chose two snacks, an ice cream and a soda. As I walked up to the counter, I stared intently at the clerk. I tried to make her look at me. I said a mental prayer as I laid my choices on the counter; one at a time: four items, left to right. Would she understand? Would she do something?
Her name tag said, “Becky.” She looked like she was about Mom’s age. She had a “Mom” look to her, and I hoped she’d somehow understand the message I was trying to send, with my eyes. She seemed to look intently at my choices, and hope floated up above my nausea, for a moment. But she only smiled, and said to Gun Guy, “Looks like your boy’s got a sweet tooth, Mister.”
Gun Guy was close; right in back of me. I felt his gun on my back, and again smelled his disgusting breath. He answered, “Yes, he enjoys sweets,” and gave her a phony smile.
She smiled and rang up the stuff and stuck it in a bag. I turned, hopelessly, and trudged out the door to go back to my nightmare. It had been no use. I’d go with these men and pray my Dad would pay. Then, I’d pray they kept their promise and let me go. I’d tried my best, but now I could only trust God to get me out of this.
As they walked out, Becky thought about that man, that boy, and the way the boy had placed those snacks so precisely, on the counter:
H - E - L - P.
Becky thought that boy hadn’t looked anything like that man, and the boy had had an imploring look in his eyes. She hadn’t said anything while they were here – just in case. Maybe she’d been watching too much Law and Order, but it was worth a phone call. She thought of the outside security camera and hoped it had caught the license plate of the car.
Becky picked up the phone, and dialed 911.
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