Today's Reading


How Far Would He Make It?

Bob's eyes fluttered open. Someone had shouted.

It might have been him.

His head hurt. With effort, he traced the memory back. Derrick had hurt him. Derrick.

Was his skull broken? With a groan, Bob pushed himself up on one elbow. He was in a bed in a room he didn't recognize. He stared in horror at the stains obscuring the pillowcase's tiny faded blue flowers. Blood. His blood.

Gritting his teeth, he touched his scalp. The wound was about an inch long, just above his temple. He pressed his fingers on his crew cut, tacky with blood. The skin had been split, but the skull underneath seemed intact.

A surge of relief rolled over him, followed immediately by a pulse of anxiety. What if he'd just exposed the wound to new germs? What if that half-formed scab was the only thing protecting him from a nasty infection right next to his brain? Back in the Middle Ages, you might not die from the battlefield wound, but from the infection that followed.

His stomach roiled as he thought of something else. He'd shouted as he woke. What if Derrick came back and hurt him again?

Bob strained his ears, but heard nothing. After pushing himself to a sitting position, he looked around. He was in a small bedroom, about twelve by fourteen feet. The walls were yellow pine, dotted with brown knotholes. The door was closed. The fir floor was bare.
Bob still couldn't believe what had happened. Derrick snarling at him to get in the trunk. The Is that real? gun that now seemed likely to be. The sickening crunch against his skull as he felt his bones turn to jelly. The engulfing darkness.

Bob was trembling, and it wasn't just from the chilly air. Things were horribly wrong.

When he swung his legs over the edge of the bed, there was a metallic clatter. Clamped around his ankles, over his socks, was what looked like a pair of handcuffs connected with a chain. A six-foot-long plastic-coated cable had been threaded through the cuff around his right ankle. The other end was looped around the leg of a desk a few feet away. The desk, made of aluminum and plastic, looked incongruously modern in the otherwise rustic setting. Under the desk was a built-in treadmill.

Bob was still wearing the same clothes in which he'd been taken. The same clothes he always wore. A plain black T-shirt and blue jeans. But what about his scarf? A second of panic before his fingers found it, still around his neck. No coat. His old white Nikes were nowhere in sight. Without the blanket's warmth, the cold was already sinking into his marrow.

In front of the treadmill desk, the single window was framed by white curtains. Outside, an expanse of white snow and massive evergreens.

Derrick had told Bob about this cabin, tucked away in the forest. No landline. No Wi-Fi. Just electricity and running water—if a storm didn't take them out.

Even if Bob managed to free himself, how far would he make it without shoes? He had researched frostbite, and it wasn't pretty. While he wasn't a big walker, without toes it would be even harder.

Between the bed and the treadmill desk was a nightstand overflowing with provisions. A brown Pyrex bowl filled with apples, bananas, oranges, pears. A bag of baby carrots. Six plastic water bottles. A loaf of Dave's Killer Bread. A brick of Tillamook cheddar. But no knife to cut it with. No utensils at all.

Nothing Bob could use to free himself. To attack someone. Or hurt himself.

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