Here is the next chapter of my interactive story, which has already been hailed by the New York Times as the “Next Great American Novel.” True story.
Click here for the other chapters.
Also, there’s a bit of profanity in this chapter. (As in, the F word was used twice and the S word was used once, and some other mild instances.) If this bothers you, know you are warned.
I kicked the van doors with no success. The doors themselves opened fine, but they were held together by a chain that was apparently unbreakable. I thought about all the movies and TV shows I’ve seen where someone was trapped in the trunk.
I wasn’t trapped in a trunk, but surely the two situations couldn’t be much different. Kick out the tail lights, I thought, remembering The Call. You were supposed to kick out the tail lights from inside the trunk and put your hand out and wave. But I didn’t see any tail lights. It was too dark to see anything; the van was windowless, and there was some type of wall blocking me from seeing the people in the front seats.
I found what I figured must have been the tail lights and kicked, destroying my heel but nothing else.
“HEY!” I heard someone shout from the front seats. “STOP BANGING ON THE DOOR!” He didn’t sound like the first guy I met, in the bathroom. For one thing he had a much deeper voice.
I knew I should have been quiet, but I was too pissed off to care. “WILL YOU LET ME OUT?”
“WELL FUCK YOU, THEN!” I continued kicking the door furiously. My teeth hurt from grinding them too much.
After the third kick or so the van stopped. Someone opened one of the doors in the front and walk towards the back doors, the ones holding me captive. As I heard him struggle with the chain I tried to stand up, my legs and back groaning with every movement.
When the doors opened I charged full force, my back awkwardly bent so to not bang my head on the ceiling. The guy saw me coming at him and immediately sidestepped to the left. The instant before I fell flat on the gravel, I got a good view of the street we were on. It was a quiet, empty looking street. Really familiar, but I couldn’t name it to save my life.
Not before kicking me in the stomach with enough force to decapitate a deer, he picked me up and shoved me into the back of the van. After a couple seconds the door shut behind me. I spent a while trying to get back to breathing properly, as the horrific ache in my stomach dulled out. In the last half hour, intense pain had just become a casual thing.
It was only when I decided to keep kicking on the door that I realized someone else was in there with me.
I startled, but he didn’t so much as flinch. He just stared me down, rarely blinking, devoid in any human expression. Flatout intimidating, that’s what he was; it didn’t help that he was built like a fucking NFL linebacker.
For what felt like the next hour or so, I was stuck in a van with this guy. Just like knowingly being on camera, it was impossible to act natural. First I tried to ignore him (impossible), after that I tried to talking to him (no response), and then I decided to stare him right back in his stupid face. It was my only way of rebellion, however small, that didn’t get me into more physical pain.
His expression didn’t change, at least at first. But after ten, maybe fifteen minutes of eye-raping each other, his face softened, just a tiny bit. I was probably imagining it.
During this time I managed to calm down. One does not simply drive into school grounds, kidnap, and leave without someone calling the cops. Someone probably read the license plate, and the cops would be able to track them down with ease. Of course, just because they knew who was driving the van doesn’t mean they knew where he was going, and that’s assuming they didn’t switch vehicles while I was unconscious.
The van stopped, and someone opened the doors in the front and closed it seconds later. The two started talking as the van started moving again.
“So, where’s Diesel?” I didn’t recognize this one. He had a louder, more high pitched voice; the type that could cut off anyone.
“Don’t say his name!” the driver snapped. I recognized that paranoid, psychotic voice as the guy I met in the bathroom. “Goddamnit, it’s like you want us to go to jail. Call everyone by the first letter of their name, okay?”
“Sorry, um… J. So where’s D?”
“Well there’s no point in using initials for him now, is there?” I heard the sound of what was clearly “J” hitting the other guy. The van swerved slightly as he did it. Afterwards, J explained, “He’s in the back with Wyatt’s twin.”
Despite the current conditions, I still managed to find myself annoyed by the way he referred to me. Wyatt’s twin. People rarely ever called me my actual name. They called me by my brother’s name, and when I explained who I was, they would only talk to me (if they continued talking to me, that is) about my brother. Do you know where I can find him? What’s he like? Can you tell him I need to buy some gum? My entire life I’d been defined as “Wyatt’s twin brother.” Nothing else.
While thinking this, I continued staring at Diesel. I may have been imagining it, but I think Diesel was starting to get a little bit uncomfortable. J and the loud kid continued to talk in the front.
“Wait, Wyatt has a twin?”
“So where’s Wyatt?
“No idea, but he had to have known what we’re going to do. Because there’s no way in hell his twin just happens to walk in at the same exact time. That’s just too big of a coincidence.”
“So what, do you think he’s in on it?”
“Of course he’s in on it. And I’ll beat the shit out of him until he admits it.” At this point I broke contact with Diesel. J’s complete certainty that I knew something and the sheer brutality of what he planned to do had thrown me off my game. I saw the traces of a smile on Diesel’s face, as if to brag, I won.
“I don’t know anything,” I said, barely a whisper. Surprisingly, Diesel answered.
“I know.” I studied him, wondering what his motive in all this was. He actually sounded somewhat friendly.
“So… you’re just going to let him basically torture me, knowing full well that I don’t know anything?” He just shrugged in reply.
Before I could so much as argue, the van stopped. The two of them walked out and unraveled the chains on the back doors, while Diesel continued to stare at me like I was his prey. The moment the doors opened Diesel grabbed my foot and dragged me out of the van, ignoring all my protests. The back of my head hit the ground first.
I tried to get a good look around to see where we were, but J. wasted no time in putting a blindfold over me. “Okay, 12:01. He’s late. Diesel, hold him down, and C, make sure no one walks by.” Diesel did what he was told, and with my handcuffs behind my back and the blindfold over my eyes, I knew I had absolutely zero chance of getting away.
I assumed getting interrogated was bad enough, but it was a million times worse while blindfolded. You had no idea when the hit was coming, and you didn’t know where. He could punch me in the face, kick me in the balls, in the shin, but I would have no way of knowing. Since saying, “I don’t know,” would just get him mad, I went with the best thing I could think of.
“He got called down to the principal’s office just before I went.”
“Why’d he get called down?”
“For selling gum, probably.” I flinched, expecting him to strike.
“So he sent you in his place?”
“No.” This time he did strike, kicking me hard in the shin. Diesel had to cover my mouth to muffle the scream.
“I’m going to ask you again,”
“I just had to go to the bathroom—”
“Did he send you in his place?” He asked this slowly, like I’d have to trouble understanding.
Stupidly, I responded with “No.” and braced myself for the inevitable pain that would follow. But instead, Diesel decided to speak up.
“I believe him,” he said, firmly, letting go of me. The park held its breath as I waited for J to respond.
“Why would you believe him?”
I could imagine him shrugging casually as he said, “I can just tell when someone’s lying, and when he’s not.”
It was silent for about five seconds, and I desperately wanted to see J’s face. For that five seconds I had no clue as to whether or not he would take Diesel’s word for it. I never got to find out.
“There’s a car coming!” shouted C., and before anyone could say anything I was shoved into the van again. The doors slammed shut behind me. I could do nothing but listening to the conversation. And to hope.
After what seemed like a couple minutes, I heard the doors open from the other car, and Wyatt’s usual idiotic voice.
“Hey, guys!” I wondered who drove him here, and why he wasn’t in school.
“A wizard is never late, nor is he early,” said Wyatt. “He arrives precisely when he means to. Oh, and I’m sorry James, but you’re fired. You simply can’t kidnap your boss’s twin brother. It’s just not professional—”
“DO YOU WANT YOUR TWIN BROTHER, OR NOT?” said J, or James, completely cutting Wyatt off. It made me a bit uneasy knowing that even Wyatt was afraid of him.
“Yeah, that was… one of the things I came here for,” he said, casually insulting me as he was so good at doing.
“WELL THEN SHUT UP, AND LISTEN TO ME.” After a couple of seconds of silence, James continued, no longer screaming, “You give us all the money and gum you have on you right now. And you swear to never sell gum, or participate in the gum selling business ever again. Basically, I’ll take your place, and control the business by myself.”
Silence followed. I tried to weigh the odds of which he would choose. Was his gum business more important to him than me? To most people, the answer would be no, but this was Wyatt, and like James, he certainly couldn’t be considered Most People.