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Rick awoke in a haze; his vision was too blurry to see anything clearly. As he tried to wipe his forehead he realized his hands were cuffed tightly to the back of some kind of wooden chair, from the feel of it the chair seemed to be made of teak or cherry-wood, but his mind was inching closer to the brink of death. He tried again to open his eyes, but he was struck with a blinding white light and was forced to close them again. He took in a deep breath and tried to make sense of his situation because that’s who Rick Hoffman was, a strategist. He had just been at a party, and not some college party, this was a ball. He strained to remember who was there; a deep vein began pulsing on his temple, either from thinking too hard or the sheer heat of the room. Now, at the ball there were two people whom he knew. The queen, she was there, but what was her name? He thought he should know, but the memory just wouldn’t come. The next person he knew was a close friend, he could remember his name, it was Steve. Fair brown hair, slim build, always dressed in those bright white suits that seemed to always one-up Rick’s own wardrobe of casual brown sports jackets and white shirts. But, that was about all he remembered of Steve, no last name, no profession, no relation, it was all just a blank spot.

Realizing that thinking was out of the question, Rick tried one last time to open his eyes. This time he wasn’t met with a blinding white light, no, instead he saw a dull yellow glow. He blinked a few more ties to produce tears and looked around; things slowly came into focus and Rick could take a long hard look at his surroundings for the first time, and now he knew why the room was so unbearably hot. There were no windows in the room; instead, he was enclosed in a quite small room with walls made of what looked like ancient stone. Each rock set at odd angles, having no real pattern of alignment or size. He shook his head, sweat already soaking hair that fell past his shoulders. Wait! What? Rick didn’t have long hair; he had a well-trimmed, nearly buzzed style. Just how long had he been in this prison? He hung his head down, not surprised that his clothing was ripped and tattered, or that his shoes were dirty and wearing holes through them. He laughed bleakly, almost giving up on figuring out what was happening. Hold on, he did want to give up, he had an irresistible urge to just close his eyes and go back to sleep. But why?

Well, Rick wasn’t left with much time to figure things out. There was a loud clang and he realized for the first time that opposite him hung a large iron door. It opened quite noisily, like the hinges were rusted. A common 2Fe + 2H2O + O2 -> 2Fe + 4OH reaction. Woah, where did that come from? Rick closed his eyes and threw himself into thought, but still couldn’t figure out how he knew that. He was abruptly

interrupted as he heard the footsteps of a large man in boots walked, or stumbled, Rick couldn’t tell, into the room. He was overweight, probably weighing 412 lbs, right handed, not married, and likes to do things the hard way whether it calls for it or not. A rough guess, but Rick had a strange feeling he was right. Dressed in a white cut-off shirt and loose jeans, both smeared with grease and sweat stains. Rick guessed it was form working down here in this dingy place, but he couldn’t be sure if it was all that dingy. In the man’s right hand he carried a silver briefcase, like the kind you would carry launch keys in or som- … Wait, Launch Keys? What are those? The man disregarded Rick’s puzzled look and set the briefcase down on a table Rick just now realized was directly to the right of him. With a quick snap he opened the case and produced a small syringe. It was filled with some kind of milky white liquid, probably benzodiazepine. This was something Rick remembered extremely well for some reason, benzodiazepine is a drug used for temporary memory loss; the drug was most commonly used in long and painful procedures that the patient didn’t want to remember.

The man, or Scar as Rick began to refer to him as due to the long scar extending from his lower chin to his collar bone, brought the needle up to eye level and flicked it a few times to remove any air bubbles. Next thing Rick knew Scar was moving towards him, needle poised and aimed for Rick’s arm. Rick quickly snapped from his groggy state as he began to panic, the stuffy room only added to his perspiration. Adrenaline began to course his veins and gave him a supercharged boost, stimulating both his mind and body. Rick began to think strategically and take in his surroundings at an increased rate. He was cuffed to a wooden chair that he could probably break, but would be too costly and a waste of time, he sat next to a steel table that he could probably lift, if he wasn’t cuffed to a chair. He wiggled his feet andThat’s it! His feet were free, for some reason Scar, who he assumed was the one who tied him up, had not bound his feet. He carefully waited for Scar to approach, each step sounded like thunder in his ears, the obese man seemed to crack the floor with each painfully slow step. The man really was moving slower, or was Rick’s brain processing things faster than his sensory extremities could give it information. Who knows? Who Cares? Rick just needed to wait until he was within range.

One final step and Scar came within Rick’s proximity, he launched up a foot in a quick snap kick. It seemed Scar was prepared for this attack, like it had happened before; and strangely enough, Rick had the same feeling. Scar jumped back and deflected his foot, easily, too easily. A quick recalculation and Rick decided to stand up still attached to the chair and ram Scar with the four legs, but to no avail. The chair was screwed into the ground, and Rick was running out of time. Scar moved forward and pushed the syringe towards Rick’s arm, and almost on instinct Rick bent his elbow, allowing the syringe to miss his precious veins. Rick pushed back and kicked at the front two legs of the chair with his heels, thank god for dry rot. The chair easily gave way and the wood splintered, not only smashing the front two legs, but the back two as well. He leaned back and propped the chair against the wall. Scar, turning red from annoyance, reared back to punch Rick, revealing a nasty entanglement of dark black armpit hair. Rick winced in disgust and quickly pulled up two knees to his chest, lashing the both out into the chest of the bigger man. However, Rick forgot to factor in how heavy Scar was and instead of knocking Scar out, it

sent a bone rattling shockwave through his legs. Scar thundered forward, his face white with rage, and lunged forward. Now, this was about the time Rick got the hang of his surroundings and became a bit more confident.

Rick tore the small chain of his cuffs through the rotting wood of the chair and spiraled sideways to the ground, this was a move Scar did not expect. Not able to stop his momentum the large man smashed into the wall with a resounding crack, Rick couldn’t tell if his mind was just processing the break of the chair or if Scar had split his skull. Either way Scar’s body remained lifeless and unmoving. Rick noticed his breathing had quickened as his body squeezed out its last bit of precious adrenaline. He moved quickly to Scar’s corpse and checked for a pulse, but there was not one to be found. He mustered a bit of strength and rolled the large man over and searched his body. He was hoping for a gun, or even a document with an exact explanation of what he was doing here, but all he found was a small black combat knife, an amber glass bottle of what looked like nitroglycerin pills, and a simple red and black Motorola. The ancient ones that looked like something from the late nineties. He quickly pocketed everything he found and slipped out the door, looking for an answer.


short Story inspired by the book 'The Last Jihad'

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