Book 1 Chapter 5
Here is the next installment. If I am posting these too slow for you, you can buy the entire manuscript as a pdf from me at http://garden.vagobond.com/purchase-the-hu-factor/
And I am archiving the chapters at http://vagobond.posterous.com Please share this, plus one it, and help me to find an agent and a publisher so that I can feel good about continuing the series…and feed my family while I do it. Who knows maybe Syfy will even make a series of it that survives longer than one season. As always…I strongly encourage you to give me feedback whether it is editing, plot holes, emotional response (cool, that sucks, I love that guy) or even “I love it” (and that last one is especially good for us writer types – it’s like crack – we can’t get enough of it)
Over the next couple of hours Ben, with little help from his new companion, put together a garbage cloth suit similar to his own for the man, searched the floor they were on, and found out very little about what had happened to them. Vlad was worse than useless. Ben tried to show him how to tear strips of cloth and braid them, but the Dominican would forget to tie one end, braid them too loosely, or just fall into a sort of trance, staring into space. Ben tried to talk with the man, but surprisingly, given their circumstances, found very little that Vlad was willing to talk about. One would have thought that Vlad would have been filled with questions, but Ben was starting to think that the man might be mentally damaged.
“Vlad, you’re Dominican?” Ben was trying to find out anything about his companion but not having much luck.
“Of course I’m Dominican. What else would I be? God that is a stupid question.” Vlad was back at the window. “I’ve never seen this part of Santa Domingo, have you?”
Ben was a little taken aback by his companions answer. Not just the violence of it, but the certainty Vlad seemed to have that they were still in the Dominican Republic. Ben had never been there, but he was pretty sure that it didn’t get as cold in the Caribbean as it was here, wherever here was. “Don’t you think it’s strange that it’s this cold?”
Vlad turned from the window. He was skinny and dark skinned. Probably in his mid thirties. His dark eyes were set back behind a hawkish nose that was a little too big for his face. He didn’t look like his new suit of garbage cloth clothes felt unfamiliar to him at all. “Well,” he answered, “The weather has been getting more and more strange all the time. Last year we got hit by seven hurricanes so I don’t see why we wouldn’t get hit by a cold snap. God must hate papayas and sugar because this cold weather is going to destroy all the crops. I don’t care though, this year I don’t have any crops to lose. Everything is already gone.”
Ben felt like he might finally be getting somewhere. “You’re a farmer Vlad? Where did you learn to speak so well? You don’t even have an accent. It’s pretty amazing.”
Vlad looked at him like he was stupid again. “Am I supposed to have an accent? A farmer’s accent maybe? What about you? Why don’t you have an accent? I don’t understand anything anymore. I’ve lost everything including my ability to understand what is going on.” With that, Vlad turned back to the window and gazed out to where the light was starting to fade.
Ben hadn’t been able to see the sun all day, but he looked out the window now and felt a moment of panic. He still didn’t know where he was. He didn’t know how cold it would get during the night. He didn’t know anything either. His explorations had revealed four more rooms that opened off of the dark hallway. Three rooms on each side. If they were like the rooms he and Vlad had woke up in, they had no bathrooms, no dividing walls inside. Simply six rooms that opened onto a central hallway. He hadn’t gone inside any of the other four, but he had found similar rubbish piles in each doorway. No doors, simply doorways with impassable piles of cloth and stone in front of them.
At the end of the hall, he had found a seventh door. This one did have a door in it. He had pushed on it, kicked it, and tried to get his hands on something so that he could open it, but all to no purpose. It wouldn’t budge. It could very well be the only way out, aside from the four story drop out the windows. He had tried to set Vlad to making rope so that they could scale out the windows, but Vlad had shown himself unwilling or unable to pursue the task.
“Hey Ben,” Vlad turned towards him again. “Do you think they are going to feed us? I’m starting to get hungry. Aren’t you?”
Ben felt his blood turn cold. “Who do you mean Vlad? Who would feed us?”
Vlad just stared at him again with a mixture of pity and disdain.
“Vlad, who would feed us? Do you know who the people that brought us here are? Vlad. You must tell me what you know.” Ben grabbed him by the shoulders and gripped him, probably too hard.
“The people who are holding us prisoner here Ben. The people who arrested us. The government. Your people Ben.”
And then it was like something that had been restraining Vlad had suddenly been cut loose. “Do you think I am some kind of idiot Ben? Do you think I don’t know why they put you here? I’ve already told them that I know nothing. I’ve given them the names of plenty of people that probably had nothing whatsoever to do with it. I may be a farmer and a peasant, but I am not a stupid man Ben. This may be a different kind of interrogation than anything I have ever experienced or heard of, but an interrogation it is. I am not a fool Ben. I don’t know exactly what this scenario is supposed to yield for you, but it certainly didn’t take me long to figure out what is going on. You bastards have already taken everything else from me, now you want to take away my sanity too? I refuse. I refuse to question my own view of reality. You might as well let them know that I am not going to go along with this, you can have them take me back to solitary confinement. They can put me back in the detention center. I don’t care. You can kill me, but there is nothing else that you can take from my living body.”
While he had spoke, it was as if Vlad had become larger. Something that had been missing from his eyes had returned and the look of despair that had characterized him for Ben was no longer there. Ben found himself backing up from the fierceness of Vlad’s verbal assault. His mind was trying to put together what Vlad was saying with what he had experienced. None of this made sense.
“Vlad. I don’t know how to convince you of anything. I’m completely lost and I have no idea what has happened to me or how I got here. I don’t know where we are and….”
Vlad turned his head and spit on the floor. “ I am so sick of hearing your lies Ben. I don’t know all the details, but I will tell you what happened. The water given to me in solitary was poisoned with a tranquilizer. When I was unconscious, I was moved to whatever hellish torture chamber we are now in. When I gained consciousness, they had you come find me and befriend me. Now you and I are supposed to bond together to escape. Along the way, I am supposed to learn to trust you and then to tell you all about my comrades and their plans. I am supposed to let you know who the leaders of the farmers and peasants are and who is organizing the revolt. I am supposed to bring you in on the conspiracy to overthrow the government. Well, I have news for you Ben. I was not lying when I said that I was acting alone. There is no conspiracy, there are no leaders, and you, my friend, can go to hell.”
Ben found himself feeling a strange mixture of anger, compassion, and curiosity. He tried to hold himself in check as he asked “What did you do Vlad?”
“What? You want to hear it again? A signed confession is not enough? Maybe you have more cameras hidden? Maybe you don’t believe me still? Phaw! Of course you don’t believe me. Fine. I will tell you again. I was a simple farmer with a simple life. I earned enough from my work to pay my taxes and keep my wife and three daughters from starving. We had just enough extra to send our oldest daughter to school. When the storms destroyed our crops and our home, they also killed our eldest daughter. When the government refused to help us to recover, I became angry. I decided to blow up the government offices. I made a bomb from the chemical fertilizer that the government gave me when I requested food. Later, when government troops began massacring our people in the shantytown we were living in outside of the city, I began to call on other people to resist the tyranny that had fallen upon us. I was pegged as a leader. I watched my wife and remaining daughters get raped and murdered in cold blood by the soldiers who came to arrest me. And I have been tortured and questioned by you people constantly ever since. I don’t know anything else. What more do you heartless monsters want?”
“Vlad, listen to me. All I want is to get out of this building before it becomes completely dark. I don’t blame you for not believing me, but I’m telling you the truth. I don’t know where we are, but I am almost positive we are not in the Dominican Republic. Listen, I was in my shop in Portland, Oregon getting ready to close for the night. The weather was very strange. Suddenly my building collapsed on me and the next thing I knew, I woke up here. I saw people pulling me from the wreckage, but I lost consciousness. That is all I know. Really.”
Ben took a breath and looked at Vlad. The man was breathing heavily and he had tears welling up in his eyes. He didn’t believe a word that Ben was saying. How could he? Ben decided to continue.
“I don’t care if you don’t trust me. I don’t care if you don’t want to stay with me. Look, there are six rooms on this floor like this one. I’ve called into them and it seems like you and me are the only people up here. There is a heavy door at the end of the hallway. I think it might lead to stairs. I’ve tried to break it down. I can’t do it alone. I need your help. Let’s just get downstairs and then you can go wherever you want. From what you’ve told me you have nothing to lose. I just want to get out of this building. Will you help me?”
Vlad just kept looking at him. Ben didn’t know what else to say. He looked back at Vlad. Daylight was fading and there was no telling how much longer it would last.
After what seemed forever, Vlad turned and walked towards the hallway.
“Show me this door you have found Ben.”