RICHARD POWERS

RICHARD POWERS by Unknown

Book: RICHARD POWERS by Unknown Read Free Book Online
Authors: Unknown
to the steps. On the top one a tin plate sits covered with a steaming mass they can't possibly expect you to eat.
    It's some kind of evil game. See what the prisoner will put in his mouth, down there in the dark. The scent gags you. You remove your nose as far from the plate as the cramped quarters allow.
    After the rush of danger passes, fatigue slams you. Fear has run you a marathon. Only now do hormones give up pointlessly dousing your muscles. You need to sleep as you've never needed to sleep in your life. But you can't. The room is too small and hard to stretch out in. The pain of your first handling pounds you. The stink of the refuse they've tried to pass off as food keeps you from losing consciousness. Sleep would strip you of whatever feeble protection your mind now gives. Sheer stupidity: you want to be awake when they come to release you. Above all, you fear what dreams sleep might bring.
    The need to urinate grows unbearable. Banging on the trap and peeing in the corner seem equally humiliating, and you refuse to be humiliated. You try to ignore the swelling pressure on your bladder, to focus on making them open the trap. You'll make them break before you do.
    Enough time must now have passed for the school to notice your absence. You try to figure how many classes you've missed. Your docile flock will have told administration that their teacher has failed to show up. Surely, in such a city, in such a climate, someone will know to expect the worst. Someone will sound the alarm, raise a search party .. . Others have been taken before you. Others, with more powerful institutions lobbying for their release. Another thought to shove out of your mind. Still, your case is different. By now your kidnappers know they've made a mistake. You aren't what they thought you are. You're a schoolteacher. You have no secrets. None that would interest them, in any case. You'll be out in a matter of days, at the most.
    You pee in the corner. You try to break up the ground beforehand, with your fingernails. So the liquid can soak down.
    You fill the time by rehashing your abduction. You replay the car, the thugs, the questioning. You work up the details, make them more threatening or more comical in the recap. It's the most fantastic story that has ever happened, even without embroidering. But you'll wait awhile, after your release, before sending your mother even a sanitized account.
    Soon you'll need to defecate. If your bowels revolt before anyone comes, you'll be in deep shit. Another thing not to think about. Thoughts to avoid begin to crowd the already cramped quarters.
    Your mind mires and circles. Then a noise tears away the gauze. The ceiling above you explodes in banging. Someone shouts through the trap, "Cover you eyes. You no look. Cover eyes!"
    You fall to the floor, searching. Somewhere you've shed the oily rag they used to blindfold you. Discarded the scrap, thinking you'd never suffer it again. Now you scramble in the dark, to find it and cover your eyes before the hole opens.
    The rag slips on just in time for light to stream in under the folds. A voice you don't recognize commands you to climb up. "No talk," it adds. "No run."
    You crack your head on a rafter, searching for the lip of the steps. False light, the flash of the blow rips across your closed eyes. You bite down hard, to keep from shouting. As you ascend, you trip on the plate of food, scattering it.
    "Why you not eat?" the voice shouts. It holds a mania large enough to crush you.
    "Terrible," you say. "Bad food. No good."
    "No talk," he shouts, shoving you from behind.
    You come from your suffocating cocoon. The upstairs feels warm, light, clear. You're good for another few hours. You will endure whatever face-saving show these men need to enact. Then you'll ask to use the bathroom. To pull yourself together a little, clean up for your release.
    You flex, a gift from heaven. Behind you, you hear the puzzled crick of packing tape being ripped from its

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