Thanks for the great comments last week on The Closer! I’m so glad you enjoyed the story!
This week’s challenge was tough! I decided to revist an older tale that had a cliffhanger ending. If you never read Details, you can check it out here… Details
This is the ongoing story of Sterling who gets visions of the future…
I did immortalize a few of my Blogophilia buddies in this one, but I hope they won’t mind! 🙂
Have a great week everyone!
The Great Escape – By Lisa Kessler
Tonight was the night.
Sterling’s stomach was tied in knots. He’d gone through the scenario of his vision countless times, but now that potential freedom was only hours away, his nerves were getting the best of him.
He’d been trapped below the world-renowned Thornton Science Center since that night on the pier. The night Karen betrayed him.
He woke up in another land he never knew existed, as a "gifted" resident in a subterranean laboratory. Once his bullet wound healed, he’d been forcibly medicated, pumped full of radioactive isotopes. They scanned him daily in hopes of deciphering which parts of his brain detected visions of the future. Dr. Thornton explained that he was "helping" Sterling to better understand the nature of the visions, thus controlling them.
But after two months of experiments and not even a glimpse of the outside world, Sterling knew the truth. He was a prisoner. And worse than that, he’d committed no crime. He was just different. Gifted.
But so was everyone here.
Dr. Thornton had abducted over a dozen people who demonstrated extraordinary abilities. They lived like a scene out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, spending the daylight hours between experiment sessions, in a large recreation area, and at night, after dinner, they were sequestered back into their rooms. The doors were always locked from the outside.
But tonight one door would remain open.
Sterling didn’t know how or why just yet, but his vision had been clear. Tyler’s door was going to be left unlocked.
Tyler was older than Sterling, with imposing tattoos on his forearms. His right was home to a realistic looking Grim Reaper, the left was painted with the visage of a woman forever shrieking in terror.
"She’s a banshee."
Sterling’s ice blue eyes shot up to Tyler’s face while his cheeks flushed with color. "Sorry. I didn’t mean to stare."
"No problem." Tyler shrugged and gripped his water cup. The movement made the reaper appear to turn his head. Sterling forced himself to look away again. The last thing he needed was to make Tyler angry with him.
"So why’d you choose a banshee?" Sterling cringed inwardly. God he was awful at small talk.
Tyler looked down at his tattoo and smiled a bit. "I guess you could say she’s a reminder."
"Reminder of what?"
Tyler stared him until Sterling finally broke eye contact. Tyler leaned in closer and whispered, "Of the first time I showed someone I could move objects with my mind."
Sterling tried not to react. The last thing he needed was to alert a nurse. Tyler could move things with his mind. Amazing. He knew everyone was being held here to study their "gifts", but he didn’t know each of their individual abilities. With some it was easier to guess than others. Leta, for example, could change a person’s brain chemistry with a single smile. Sterling only knew that because after he’d first realized he wouldn’t be able to go home, she came by every afternoon with a smile, and his depression lifted for a couple of days. Seeing her smile was like an anti-depressant without the side-effects.
He looked up at Tyler and whispered, "How long have you been here?"
"How do they keep you inside when you can…" Sterling scanned the area for nurses or lab technicians. "Do what you do?"
"I can only move what I can see. The locks are on the outsides of our doors."
Sterling whispered, "Your door won’t be locked tonight."
Tyler’s eyebrow shot up. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "What are you talking about?"
"I can see short periods of time from the future. And I know your door will be unlocked tonight."
"Don’t say anything else."
Tyler got up and walked away, leaving Sterling puzzled. He needed Tyler if he had any hope of escaping, but maybe Tyler wasn’t interested in leaving this place. Sterling had Dane and his parents on the outside. Had they given up searching for him by now? He didn’t know, but he wanted to see them again and let them know he was all right. But maybe Tyler was alone.
"You name’s Sterling, right?"
"Yeah." He stood up. Tyler was back, with another man. "You’re Michael, right?"
"DJ Myke to my friends." He offered his hand.
Sterling shook hands and smiled. "Were you a DJ before they brought you here?"
He chuckled, "More of an electrician."
"DJ Myke can manipulate magnetic fields and interfere with electronics." Tyler pointed up to the security cameras. "Right now they’re seeing a thirty second clip of us replaying over and over. They’ll figure it out eventually, but we should have a couple of minutes of privacy. Tell Myke here what you told me."
"Tyler’s door is gonna be unlocked tonight."
"Yeah, but I don’t know how or why. Just that it won’t get locked."
"If you can keep the cameras off us, I can get the doors open," Tyler said.
Sterling’s mind was racing. "I was unconscious when they brought me down here. I don’t know how to get out."
"Leave that to Ruggi over there." Myke pointed to a man with a ponytail tossing nerf darts. "Ruggi can pick up images from people’s minds. He’s got a floorplan of the whole building from the nurses’ memories. If we can get him out, he can guide us."
"We’ve gotta try to get everyone out," Sterling said. "We can’t leave them here."
Tyler shook his head. "We’ll never make it with a gang of twenty people, kid. But if we make it out, we can tell the media what’s gong on here. We’ll blow Dr. Thornton right out of the water."
Sterling nodded, but his heart sank. He’d seen what Dr. Thornton was capable of that night on the pier. He shot his own wife, and Sterling too in the process. He was a maniac and he wouldn’t allow his subjects to be taken from him. Not alive anyway.
"We’ll bring Leta and Andrea with us," Myke said. "We can send the authorities back for the rest of them."
"Why them?" Sterling asked. "I know Leta can cheer people up, but…"
"Oh that’s not all she can do." Tyler smiled. "That’s all that Dr. Thornton knows she can do. She could also give the nurses a mental shove to look the other way, or maybe even forget to be upset if they saw us pass by them on our way out."
Sterling’s eyes widened. "Really? So why hasn’t she just made Dr. Thornton let her go?"
"He knows the secret is her smile," Tyler explained. "He doesn’t look directly at her when he’s with her. She can’t connect with your mind unless she can make eye contact and smile."
DJ Myke added, "And Andrea has the Things to help us if we run into trouble."
"Things?" Sterling asked.
"Yep." Myke crossed his arms over his chest. "We’re not sure if they’re poltergeists or what, but there are two distinct entities that are always with her, ready to do her bidding."
"They can’t be that great if she’s still down here."
Tyler chuckled, "You’re a slow learner kid. The good doctor knows the Things have no physical bodies. They need earthly items to do any damage."
"So they keep her room empty?"
Myke grinned at Tyler, "I think the boy is catching on here."
Tyler nodded, "Yes her room is empty, and during experiments, the staff watches and documents their findings from behind a sheet of bullet-proof glass."
"The Things are that strong?"
"Depends on what objects are available for them to manipulate. A stapler can be deadly when it’s pummeling you from across the room."
"I can’t hold the cameras any longer," Myke whispered. Sterling noticed his face was covered in a sheen of perspiration, and he wondered if it was painful for Myke to manipulate electronics. Sterling’s visions were often painful, accompanied by crippling migraine headaches.
But there wasn’t time to ask.
Nurses swarmed the recreation area, approaching Myke from all directions.
"Michael you know the rules about the security cameras."
"It’s DJ Myke. I keep telling you."
"We’re revoking your rec room privileges. You’ll have to come with us back to your room."
"I need my boombox," Myke said, but they were already restraining him. "No! I need my boombox. Let me go."
"You know the penalty for breaking the rules, Michael."
"Boomie!" He screamed. "Boomie! I need Boomie!"
His voice echoed all the way down the hall. He was still screaming when we heard the door slam closed. A heavy deadbolt engaged and the struggle was over. They were all just lab rats here. Sterling’s jaw clenched. He looked over at Tyler.
"Everyone goes tonight."
He nodded in agreement. "I’ll tell the others. You should try to see if you can find anything else out about tonight."
"It doesn’t work like that," Sterling said. "I can’t just flick a switch and see the future."
"I’m only asking you to try."
The deadbolt turned, locking in place. Sterling wiped at his nose, and winced when he saw blood. He was trying too hard. His head felt like it was being crushed in a vice, and he still didn’t know anymore than he had earlier in the day.
Washing the blood away, he stared into the bathroom mirror. The nurse should’ve been close to Tyler’s door by now.
What if he was wrong? What if DJ Myke had gotten into trouble for nothing?
The screech of a fire alarm interrupted his personal doubts, sending his migraine into overdrive. Sterling winced, his knees buckling. He stumbled to his dresser, rummaging through for some earplugs. When the overhead lights started flashing, he brought his hand up to shield his eyes. His senses were so overloaded, he didn’t notice his door opening.
"Come on kid. Help me let everyone else out."
"Tyler. Your door was unlocked?"
"Yep. Just like you said. The fire alarm went off and I guess she left before she locked it."
"So all the staff on our floor is gone?"
"Yeah, we couldn’t have had better luck!"
A bloodcurdling scream came from down the hall. A girl named Teri came bolting out of her room the second opened her door.
"They’re leaving us!" She screamed. "I heard their thoughts. The building is on fire and Dr. Thornton told them to leave us."
"We’re not staying here." Sterling shook his head. "We’re getting out of here. Help us get the others. We need your help." He searched her eyes and waited until he saw her start to nod in agreement. "Good, now come on."
Tyler was already ahead with DJ Myke and Leta. Sterling and Teri raced to open doors until just over a dozen people were following Ruggi to the main doors. In their rush to evacuate, the nursing staff didn’t lock the main door to the lift.
Sterling pressed the button, but Ruggi stopped him. "We can’t use the elevator when the building is on fire. The cable could snap, or take us up to an inferno."
Ruggi pointed down the hall. "There should be access to the stairs over there." Everyone ran for the stairs. After they had circled up three flights, Ruggi stopped. "This is it." He felt the door and jerked his hand back. "It’s hot."
"We’ve gotta try," Sterling said. "We can’t just wait here. We’ll die."
"If we open that door, the fire could be right there waiting for us," Ruggi said.
Sterling looked from one face to another as he reached for the door handle. "I see visions of the future, and none of us are dying today."
The nods gradually grew to yells until they were all screaming, and he opened the door. A wall of heat engulfed him, singeing Sterling’s hair. He raised his arm up to protect his eyes and walked out into the inferno. There was no where else to go. Flames devoured the oxygen and licked at his skin. Smoke stung his nostrils and he fought the urge to stop and cough. A cubicle wall came crashing down, but instead of hitting him, it was tossed aside like an unwanted piece of garbage. Sterling turned back to see Andrea behind him, her Things, keeping their path clear. Ruggi pushed passed all of them, leading the way again through the maze of heat and smoke.
When they reached the side emergency exit, Sterling waited until everyone was out before he too stepped out of the building that had been their prison.
Tyler was covered in black soot, but he offered Sterling a thumbs up. Sterling smiled and started to laugh, but his lungs caught, and he coughed until he thought he was going to be sick. Once he could breath again, he rolled over to see DJ Myke grinning down at him. His eyes were ringed with black soot giving him the look of a smiling raccoon. Sterling couldn’t help but smile.
"You saved our lives tonight, kid," Myke said.
"Nah, Tyler was the one who had an unlocked door."
"I wasn’t talking about that. I was talking about your Braveheart speech back there. Not sure we would have opened that door if you hadn’t have told us we were going to live." He shook Sterling’s hand and winked. "I owe you one."
One by one the battered band of misfits said goodbye and disappeared into the darkness, careful to stay away from the flashing lights of the fire trucks and prying eyes of the laboratory security officers. Tyler was the last one left.
"Did you really have another vision?"
"No," Sterling replied.
Tyler laughed and coughed, and shook his head. "So you didn’t know we were all gonna make it. That was all bullshit back there?"
Sterling nodded and started to smile. "Yeah. I didn’t know how else to get everyone to moving again."
Tyler clapped his shoulder and smiled. "Don’t apologize kid. I started the fire."
Sterling’s eyes widened and before he knew he was going to do it, he slammed an uppercut into Tyler’s jaw, sending the man crashing down onto the ground.
"You idiot! You could have killed all of us."
He wiped blood from the corner of his mouth. "DJ Myke found out they injected all of us with microchips like they do stray dogs. He shorted his out, but he couldn’t juice them up enough in the rest of us to ruin them. The circuitry is sensitive to heat, so a fire was the only way to get everyone out without the good Doctor rounding us up again."
"Sorry." Sterling helped Tyler back up and shook his head. "Some Justice League we are."
"Let me tell you something." The fire reflected off his bloodied teeth. "You don’t have to be a superhero to save the day, kid."