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Homegrown: Terror Rising in the Desert, 3rd 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.


“This certainly puts a damper on our plans,” said Blake, under his breath. The five prisoners had been attempting to break out of the root cellar, but Barry and some guards had come and taken them to a second floor room of the hotel. Downstairs was the cafeteria where Blake had gotten water for the Ferrari the day before. At that time he was nearly being run out of town, but now he was a prisoner, waiting to have a private session with Eryk, the elusive master of Laughing Red River.

“If they put us back in the root cellar, I vote for digging out the second the door shuts behind the guard,” said Sarah.

One by one, guards took them away but never brought them back. Blake and Sarah were waiting their turns, apprehensive about the outcome. Where were the others? Dead? Back in the root cellar? Had Eryk’s efforts at hypnotizing them finally worked? They would find out soon enough.

“You’re Blake Marshall, the millionaire, right?” said Sarah.

“Guilty as charged,” said Blake.

“You have a way of staying in the public eye. Wing suit flying was your latest endeavor, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, I finally had my first flight earlier this summer with my friend, Jeb Corliss. We landed in Central Park.”

“If they put us back in the root cellar, do you really think we can dig our way out?”

“Actually, I’m sure we can. The mortar is old. The real question is what we will do after we get out.”

“You already said we would run into the desert.”

“I mean, what will we do after that? Do we try to get to a road or town? Do we simply hide and wait to see what happens? Or do we try to find out what Eryk is doing out here?”

“I have a feeling I know which of those you would choose.”

The guards returned, and Sarah was taken, leaving Blake alone in the hotel room. The one window had been filled in with bricks and mortar to prevent their escape, but he doubted he would get far even if he could climb out. He thought about his plan to help the others get away. Why didn’t he just set out on his own and attempt crossing the desert to a highway to catch a ride? He wasn’t seriously considering that suicide mission. His best guess was that twenty miles of desert lay between him and the closest, major road. He knew very little about the desert, and that alone was reason enough to find another way of dealing with their situation.

He wondered if Alice, his secretary back in New York City, had reported him missing. She was always nagging him to use tracking technology in his laptop, phone and the Ferrari’s computer so she would know where he was. But Blake wanted no part of it. He valued the privacy and independence he experienced during long driving trips, and he didn’t want it spoiled knowing that big sister was watching from her office P.C.

Blake had spent most of the day in the hotel room waiting. He was anxious to get back to the root cellar so they could proceed with their plans to escape, but his meeting with Eryk was important. He hoped to find some clue about the man’s plans out here in the desert. He had kidnapped hundreds of people, brought them all to this desert town and was using them to grow vegetables. But it made no sense. Why commit such horrendous crimes to do something as benign and completely legal as growing vegetables? The gardening was a coverup, of course, but for what?

Electric Shock Torture Equipment


The sound of a key sliding into a lock startled Blake back into the present, and he was on his feet, facing the door when Barry stepped inside.

“Mr. Marshall, it’s nice to see you on your feet again. The last time I saw you, you were lying face down in the gravel having a very unpleasant time.”

“It wasn’t so bad, Barry. You should let me use the taser on you sometime. You know, so you could be more understanding about what your victims are going through. I’d be more than happy to help out.”

“Ah, a sense of humor, even at a time like this. Eryk will be delighted. Actually, I have experienced the taser and your summary of it being ‘not so bad’ is pure bull shit. It was hell and you know it.” Barry pulled out a pair of zip tie handcuffs, and two guards with handguns drawn, stepped through the doorway. Blake allowed the restraints to be placed on his wrists, then exited the room with his three escorts. Actually, they left the building entirely. The sky was clear and the sun tortured everyone and everything that dared to test its resolve to burn the desert.

They walked to the opposite end of town from where Blake had driven in the day before. He was glad to learn more about the town and the general lay of the land. He paid special attention to the north and west with their escape in mind.

They came to a very large pole barn about two thirds of a football field in size and entered through a door in one end. Inside, a wall prevented him from seeing the whole interior of the building, but he heard the sound of human activity on the other side. Was this simply the storage barn for everything related to the gardens, or was there more going on here?

One of the guards knocked on a door, waited a few seconds, then opened it. The office was simple and utilitarian. Nothing adorned the walls or desk and the floor was bare concrete. A metal office desk and chair sat in front of a picture window that was centered in the wall. Blake looked at the desert landscape and some of the buildings of the town. He furrowed his brow at the unimpeded view of the root cellar and the wall through which they would be escaping.

The chair behind the desk faced the scene which could have come from an old western television show. The man in the chair stood and turned toward Blake, silhouetted against the bright desert sky.

“Of all the people who could have stumbled upon my little oasis in the desert, I have been honored with the arrival of Blake Marshall, one of the one hundred wealthiest individuals in the United States of America.”

Blake still couldn’t see the man well, but the accent was definitely Arabic. He remembered what Barry had told him when they were standing near the gardens. The plants here were from the Mid-East. This was supposedly an experiment with different varieties of plants grown in other arid places of the world. Believable? Sure, but not when taken in the larger context of what was going on here. With someone who didn’t know the big picture, the ruse would probably work.

“If you’re expecting to be paid ransom, forget it,” said Blake. “I’ve had that discussion with my family and staff. You will get nothing.”

“I do not want or need your money. I did not want you here in the first place and would rather you were not here now, but it is due to your own stubbornness that you are not on your way home.” Eryk stepped away from the window and Blake could see him clearly. “Now, you will likely die in this place. You have one last chance at surviving, and I suggest you take it while you have the opportunity.” Eryk walked to a metal cabinet hanging on the wall and opened it. He pulled out a bottle of Glenfiddich and set in on the desk along with two shot glasses.

“With or without,” said Blake.

“Pardon me?”

“I’ve already heard how you blend your single malt whiskey with ecstasy. I’ll pass.”

Eryk eyed Blake and smiled. “As you wish.” He returned the bottle to the cabinet. “We will proceed with more aggressive measures.”

Blake was grabbed by both arms from behind with such force that he was unable to even struggle. The door opened and a man rolled a chair into the room that was equipped with restraints for the torso, arms and legs. Barry was the person manhandling him, of course and he stuck Blake in the chair like a toddler being put into a highchair. A strap was fastened across his chest, and his arms and legs were immobilized. Barry moved aside, and Eryk approached, holding an electrical wire and electrodes in each hand. One wire was attached to his ankle and the other to his neck. They were going for the whole body treatment.

“What I want, Mr. Marshall, is your cooperation, your compliance. If I have it now, we can proceed without all of this torture business. All I want to do is hypnotize you and cause you to forget about this town. Then you can go on your way. What do you say?”

“I say you’re full of shit.”

Eryk held a box in his hand and showed Blake the dial that registered from one to ten.

“I’m sure you get the idea, don’t you?”

Blake’s body jerked and twisted with muscle spasms and pain. The next blast of electricity was stronger, and Blake felt himself on the verge of losing consciousness.

“Close your eyes,” said Eryk.

Blake held the Arab’s gaze without blinking.

“Close your eyes, Mr. Marshall.” Eryk’s voice was calm. “Yes, that’s it. I can’t make you do anything you truly don’t want to do. But I can make you willing to do anything to escape the pain. All you have to do is want what I want. Say it, Mr. Marshall, say I want what you want.

“I want you to go to hell,” said Blake.

The current surged higher than before, and Blake did lose consciousness this time. When he awoke, Eryk’s face was close to his own.

“Say it.” Eryk held up the electrodes and Blake flinched. “Say it.”

He felt someone roll up his sleeve, and the sting of a hypodermic needle. Time passed and Eryk appeared in his sight again. “Say it, Mr. Marshall, “I want what you want.”

In the fog of confusion, Blake felt his mouth moving and heard his own voice. “I want what you want.”

Blake was stumbling, falling, getting up, then being shoved until he landed on a familiar dirt floor. Bodies gathered round him, but this time they didn’t push or pull or shove him. They were gentle. These were his friends. He lay on the floor of the root cellar gathering his shattered courage.

“Lance, you were the first to go in to see Eryk. How are you doing now?” he asked, his voice barely audible.

“Better than you if a comparison helps,” said Lance.

“Then get to work on that wall. We’re breaking out of here as fast as we possibly can.”

As it turned out, Blake was the only one of the five who had turned down the drink.

“We all had the same exact idea going in,” said Sarah. “We had gone the ecstasy route before and came out in relatively decent shape, so why mess with a good thing? The outcome was the same. Eryk’s attempts to hypnotize us didn’t work, so he had us thrown back in here while he dealt with you.”

“It looks like we’re all immune to Eryk’s hypnosis techniques,” said Gary. “Even you, Blake.”

“I don’t know,” said Blake. “I think he almost had me. It was like he was right inside my head, talking to me. He wanted my absolute submission in exchange for not being electrocuted again. That’s what he wanted, and it’s what I wanted too. But something didn’t work or I’d be out in the gardens right now hoeing summer squash or in that pole barn doing who-knows-what.”

“We’ve got one of the rocks out of the wall,” said Jules. “Look, Blake.” Jules struggled to where Blake leaned against the far wall and dropped the large stone on the floor. “For the first time, I believe we really have a chance at getting out of here.”

With renewed enthusiasm, the four continued to work into the night. Only Blake held back, hoping to be strong enough when the time came to lead these people to safety.


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