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Homegrown: Terror Rising in the Desert, 2nd of 4 Sample Chapters of a Novel by cam

Updated on June 12, 2016
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Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.


Blake lay on his back, unable to open his eyes. Whatever his abductors had injected him with had come on slowly, but in the end, it did its job well. Where was he? Wherever it was, it smelled worse than an outhouse. While he waited for the drug to wear off, he recalled what had just happened. The big guy, Barry, had used a taser on him and the gardeners had been called in to tie him up and put him in the bed of a pickup truck. Someone else was there he hadn’t seen before, possibly an Arab, and he was the person to whom everyone had deferred, even Barry.

Something touched his face. Wet and soft, it felt soothing, cooling.

“I think he’s waking up,” said a woman. The sounds of people moving closer made him concentrate to force his eyes open. When they did open, fear took his breath.

“I can’t see,” he said.

“Don’t worry. It’s completely dark in here. None of us can see,” said the woman. Her words were quick and efficient, a take-charge kind of voice.

“Who are you, and where are we?” Blake tried to get up, but decided he was much better off staying on the ground rather than falling onto it. “I know we’re in some kind of old mining town that’s been taken over by a gardening club. A few simple questions got me tased, drugged and thrown in here. How many of you are there? How did you get here?”

“I’m Jules,” said another woman, younger than the first. “Up until a week ago I was a barista in a coffee house in Portland, Oregon. I left work one evening and was grabbed right off the street. They threw me into a van and eventually brought me here.” Her voice had begun to quiver with emotion at the end.

“My story is pretty much the same as Jules’s,” said the first woman. “My name is Sarah Pasely, and I was a medical intern in San Diego until somebody grabbed me as I was walking to my car after covering the ER all night. It was early morning, still dark and a van pulled up beside me. Two men jumped out and threw me inside. I didn’t even have a chance to scream.”

“I’ve got no idea what these guys would want with me. My name’s Gary, and I’m a gamer, unemployed, living in my Mom’s basement, or at least I was until two weeks ago. Now I live in a root cellar with two beautiful women. It’s an upgrade, believe me. I rarely went out of the house, but one night I walked to the grocery store to get milk and donuts. Two guys jumped out of a van and used me as a punching bag for about half a minute. Then they put a hood over my head, tied me up and brought me here to meet some guy named Eryk. All of us met him before we were thrown into this dungeon.

“There is one more of us,” said Sarah. “His name….”

“My name is Lance, from Ohio.” The voice came from farther back in the darkness of the root cellar. “I was walking home from the bar one night, and suddenly lost any ability to stay on my feet. That wasn’t so unusual when I’d been drinking, but this time I couldn’t get up or even move. They had tased me just like they did you. That was just a week ago. After I spent some quality time with our friend, Eryk, they brought me here. Now I spend my time in this corner going through alcohol withdrawals, so please keep your voices down. My head hurts.”

Keys rattled on the other side of the door, and it was pushed inward. Light flooded the room causing everyone to shield their eyes. A man holding an automatic rifle was silhouetted in the doorway as he counted his prisoners.

“Where’s the other one?” he said.

“He’s in the back corner where the light can’t reach, said Sarah. “He’s sick, so leave him alone.”

Two women brushed by the guard carrying baskets that they set on the floor. All three left with no more talking, and the guard pulled the door shut and locked it.

“The Meals on Wheels people aren’t as friendly as they used to be,” said Blake, sniffing the aroma coming from the boxes.

“At least they feed us,” said Gary. “I wonder if they brought donuts this time like I asked.”

Sarah and Jules helped Blake to his feet. The meal was a vegan’s delight of vegetable soup.

“We have to eat quickly because they don’t wait long to come back for the boxes. They probably don’t want to give us time to dig our way out with the spoons.” Jules felt for Blake’s arm and handed him a bowl that was warm in his hands.

“At least I got a chance to get a good look at all of you as well as the room while the door was open.” Blake tasted his soup. “Not bad.”

They finished eating and had just repacked the boxes when they heard the keys jangling again. The same three people stepped inside. Blake glanced at the back of the room where Lance had been huddled. It was true. The light did not reach the corner.

“Let’s all sit down and tell everything we know about our captors and this town,” said Blake after the guard and the women had left. “Maybe we can figure out what This Eryk guy is up to. I think I saw him after they tased and drugged me. Lance, can you hear from back there?”

“I can hear every word you speak and every move you make all too well right now. Go ahead, I’ll take part the best I can from here.”

“We’ve already talked about some of this before you got here, Blake,” said Jules. “I think I can sum up what we went through when we first got here. We were taken to a room in the hotel on the main street where we met Eryk. I have to say, he is a very charming man. He ignored the fact that we had been kidnapped by his goons, and treated us like we were his guests. He offered each of us a drink….”

“Which I accepted,” said Lance.

“We all did,” said Sarah. “That’s how he drugged us with GHB, also known as ecstasy, at least that’s my professional opinion. After that we were injected with something else which probably was supposed to enhance the hypnosis.”

“Hypnosis?” said Blake.

“We think he’s hypnotizing everyone who is brought here,” said Jules. “But it didn’t work on any of us.”

“So he threw you all into this place until he decides what to do with you,” said Blake.

“I don’t think there is any question what he has in store for us,” said Sarah.

“One of these days, maybe any minute, somebody’s gonna open that door and mow us all down with an M16. No question in my mind,” said Gary. “Or maybe they’ll use an AK-103, or a G36, or an AUG, or….”

“We’ll be dead, no matter which one of your dream guns they use,” said Lance. “Eryk was willing to kidnap hundreds of people, and I assume he has a reason. I don’t think he’s going to take us all home and tell us not to say a word to anybody about what happened.”

“Did you say hundreds of people?” asked Blake.

“Yeah, he took me to one of the meetings they hold every evening near the bridge. I’m guessing there were three hundred hypnotized people there.”

“Any idea what he’s up to?” asked Blake. “Maybe he’s doing the same thing Jim Jones did in the late seventies in Jonestown, Guyana.

“I wasn’t even born yet in the late seventies,” said Jules, “But I’ve read a little about Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. Jones convinced those people to follow him. Eryk takes people by force and then gets control of their minds with drugs and hypnosis.”

“It’s like he doesn’t really want or need people to willingly follow him. He just needs a bunch of people for—something,” said Gary. “And it ain’t gardening, I’m sure of that.”

“That’s the main question isn’t it?” said Sarah. “What is the something?”

In the darkness and silence, each of the five prisoners pondered the question. They didn’t know the difference between day and night in the root cellar, but one by one, the captives fell asleep, accepting the hard fact that they were expendable pawns in the game being played by a man known to them only as Eryk.

One of the five was up, moving around the room. The others could hear the scooting of the person’s feet as they cautiously navigated through the darkness.

“If that’s you, Blake, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the far back corner on the right. There’s an old bale of straw that will come in handy. Just make sure you sprinkle some of the straw on top when you’re finished.”

“Thanks, Sarah, but I don’t need that yet. I’m examining these stone walls.”

“How can you examine them in the dark?” said Gary.

“By feeling them, using my finger tips to touch the mortar between the stones. We’ve got to find a way out of here. I’m not waiting around for the scenario with the M16 you described earlier to become reality.”

“You’ve described the problem well, Blake,” said Sarah. “Four walls of stone and mortar stand between us and freedom.”

“We’re below ground level, but the upper walls are likely above ground,” said Blake. “They’re probably covered with an earth berm all the way around.”

“What are you thinking, Blake,” said Sarah.

“When the door was open, and we could see, I noticed a pile of boards over here along the wall. I’m looking for something to use as a tool.”

“A tool for what?” said Gary.

“For prying and digging. A board with a big nail sticking out the end would be nice. Here’s one. It’s perfect.”

They heard Blake crossing the room to the back corner on the left. Scraping and tapping noises filled the room.

“Hey, easy there, fella,” said Lance. “Don’t forget the guy outside with the automatic rifle.”

“I’m going to try to work as quietly as I can to dig out one of these stones. The mortar is crumbling easily when I use the nail to pick at it. Maybe I can get a few of the stones out, then we could dig through the earth berm.”

“And how will you explain the pile of rocks to the guard next time he comes in?” said Lance.

“The back corner is always dark, remember?” said Blake.

“He’s right.” Sarah stood and crossed the room to where Blake was working. “It’s worth a try.”

Four of the prisoners worked as high up on the wall as their height would allow while one stood by the door, listening for the jangling of keys. Another meal was brought in, then another, and the prisoners kept working on the wall.

“Has anyone wondered why Eryk hasn’t killed us yet?” asked Blake.

“I can’t think of one way he benefits by leaving us alive,” said Lance. “In fact, he runs the risk of us escaping, which is exactly what we’re trying to do right now.”

“That’s why we’ve got to escape as soon as possible,” said Blake. “Pure luck is the only reason any of us is still breathing.”

“Sorry, but I have another scenario to paint for us,” said Gary. “So we finally get some stones loose, and we dig out the dirt and crawl through the hole to the outside. Assuming no one sees us climbing out and standing fully exposed in broad daylight, what’s our next move?”

“We run,” said Blake.

“Run where?” asked Sarah.

Blake stopped working and thought about the question. They had been lucky so far. Maybe luck would still be with them when they broke out of the root cellar.

“Into the desert,” said Blake. “We all run into the desert.

Links to Other Chapters


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