I sat at the wooden table, glancing around the semi-crowded room. My head was cloudy and everything before that moment was a blur. But I recognized the two people across the table. Ellis stared at me, his brown skin and jet black hair contrasting his bright blue eyes. “Be patient,” he sneered, “Because you if you aren’t I have every reason to kill you.”
I gulped. I looked at the white package, wrapped in pink ribbons with a bow to match. It looked so feminine and harmless, yet Ellis was threatening to kill me. I wanted to question everything but my mind was too foggy to even know where to begin. And besides, being threatened by someone who looked intent to do so was more than enough to shut me up.
“Stop scaring him,” Emma spat, smacking him over the side of the head, “He won’t be able to spot Melinda if you’re scaring him half to death every five seconds.” I remembered her name, too. But, just like Ellis, I just knew them.
Ellis rolled his eyes. “Whatever,” He smacked her hand away and turned his attention back to me. “I swear, if you screw this up for us, I’ll-.” He suddenly shook and stood up. He pulled his phone out. “Yeah?” He barked into the phone. “Okay… Okay. Will do. Be right there.” Ellis looked down at Emma. “We need to go outside. Brent is dropping something off for us.”
“What about him?” Emma asked, motioning her gaze towards me.
Ellis leaned down and put his face close to mine. “If you so happen to leave… Well, I guess you can assume we’re going to kill you.” With that, he pulled Emma up from her chair and dragged her out the door.
He likes to say “kill” a lot, I thought to myself. Maybe sarcastic thoughts weren’t good at a time like this.
I sat, frightened and holding the package on my lap. How was I supposed to know who this Melinda was? What did she look like? What was in the box? Why did I have to get involved in this? I looked around at all the people around me, eating so casually, not aware of what danger I was in or what dangerous people had been in the same room as them. I guess I was in a diner. There were countless diners in the city, so this could have just been any of them. My mind seemed to freeze and burst into spasms in the midst of the fog filled inside it as I tried to find out what I had to do.
Why did I have to end up here?
Then I realized someone was standing next to me. It was a female, dressed in what looked like pink under armor with a black shirt and shorts to match her black hair and bright green eyes.
“I’m Melinda,” she said in a very delicate voice, “I think that package is for me?”
“Oh, uh…” I stuttered. “Yes, please take it.” I quickly lifted the package up and handed it to Melinda.
She quickly took the box from me. With a smile, she said her thanks and walked away as quickly as she came by the table. I watched her walk to the back of the diner and up the stairs that led to the living space above.
As soon as she disappeared, Ellis and Emma returned. Ellis scanned me and realized the package was gone. Before he could react, I told him Melinda had came and took the package.
“What color hair did she have?” He asked.
“Black,” I replied.
Ellis’s face turned multiple shades of red as I told him her hair color. “Melinda is blonde, not black haired…”
“Well you could have told me that!” I retorted.
Ellis let out a furious roar and smashed his fists down on the table. The entire diner suddenly went silent and turned their attention to Ellis.
Emma took control of the conversation. “Which way did she go?!”
I pointed up the stairs that the girl walked up. Emma and Ellis sprinted up the stairs. After seeing everyone in the diner staring at me, I decided to follow. As I burst up the stairs, Ellis and Emma’s footsteps echoed away and soon I was in a dark hallway all alone. The walls and floor were all wooden planks nailed together. I stood at the top of the staircase, looking back down to the diner below and heard nothing. There was a small light at the bottom but I didn’t dare turn back. What if Ellis and Emma hunted me down and found me? I would be skinned, possibly... Or whatever else Ellis could think of.
At the end of the dimly lit hallway that was before me, there was a door at the end. On the left and right there were more doors just as ominous to look at. I took a step and the boards under me creaked. Taking a deep breath as my gut started twisting inside my body, I told myself it was just the atmosphere and nothing more. Why did I feel so off center? Darkness or isolation never stopped me before. I proceeded to take equal, light steps down the hall. By the time I had reached the door at the end of the hall, I had a sour taste in my mouth.
I wrapped my hand around the cold door knob and slowly pulled the door open. “Ellis? Emma?” I called into the room. No answer. I opened the door all the way and stepped in. It was a bedroom. The only color was grey to match the cobwebs and dust littered over all of the objects in the room. The bed itself had a blanket of spiders everywhere. The blinds were torn and ragged, falling in front of a dusty window which could not be seen out of. Bookshelves were in corners and hanging over head, holding what seemed to be ancient books. They were smothered in dust and were possibly deteriorating.
In the far left corner of the room, though, was a mirror. While the mirror itself was dusty, something reflected off of it. It was something shiny. I walked over to the mirror and ran my hand down the side, feeling the basic outline of the mirror. “Nothing special,” I said to myself, “Just a mirror.” I used my sleeves to clean the dust off and got an oval, revealing the top half of my body.
On a second's notice, as soon as I took another deep breath, something grabbed me from behind and dragged me to the ground. As my back hit the ground I started to panic and thrashed about. Then I heard a voice hiss into my ear.
“Stop moving! They’ll hear you!”
I stopped as soon as I saw, to my surprise, “Melinda” holding me down. She was slowly moving towards the bed.
“You need to get under there. Now!” She ordered. Her voice sent a chill down my spine, but since I was in such an obscure position I didn't have much of a choice. She released her grip on me and I dove under the bed, turning around to see the floor. She dove in after me and lined herself with my body.
“Ellis and Emma are looking for me and if they find you they’ll just kill you after they’re done,” she told me.
“They said you weren’t Melinda. Where is the real one? And who are you?” I whispered.
She glanced at me, turning her head as far as possible under the bed, “I am Melinda. I wasn’t lying,” She rolled her eyes, “Look, do you have any idea what’s going on right now?”
“My head is foggy and I can't remember how I got here or why I’m here.”
“They drugged you. Typical…” She groaned and shifted a bit, giving me a little room. “You’ll probably remember this in a few hours when the drug wears off, but you’ve just been dragged into a so-called 'gang war'. Ellis and Emma’s gang started targeting my 'gang’s' members without any reason so we’ve been fighting ever since. We’re a bunch of Robin Hood like figures, helping people in need during these hard times.”
Melinda reached behind her and pulled the package out from behind the bed. “This was supposed to be a ‘treaty’ that we were in search for. It’s supposed to have a bunch of vaccines for diseases people can’t afford to treat, so we could really use it. It'd be a deliverance for all the sick people. But listen…” She shook the package lightly and it rustled like blocks or sticks of some sort. “These are explosives. If it were vaccines, the vials would be clicking or they wouldn’t make any sound from the packaging they were in. So they sent a message and I was sent to meet them here in this building with scary apartments in its upper floors. Can’t say I’m not creeped out…”
“And so let me guess,” I asked, “You colored your hair so Ellis and Emma wouldn’t notice you and you waited until a distraction came about to sneak out with the ‘vaccines’?”
“Exactly, “She had a smirk on her face, “It’s so simple but I’m glad they left when they did. I didn’t plan this out too well so I was doing everything on the spot.”
“But what do I have to do with this?” I asked, “Am I just drugged so much that I’m forgetting everything?”
“No,” she said with chuckle, “You’re just that innocent guy they picked off the street. And they knew cruelty is something we’re against, so you’re disposable to them. They could just pick off another person without any problem.”
“Oh just my luck…” I said rolling my eyes, “I just wanna-”
Melinda hushed me. The door opened and I could see from where I was the boots of Ellis and Emma, walking diligently in an attempt to not startle Melinda. Ellis was the first to speak.
“Every room is the same: nothing! The wench disappeared and so did that idiot we picked up!” He started moving towards the mirror and then turned towards the bookshelf. “Look at this crap: Beowulf? The Jungle? I could write a better book about how my left nostril is bigger than my right and make more sense than these two right here!”
Emma let out a light sigh. “You’re just too stupid to understand any of it, Ellis…”
“Hmph,” Ellis pouted, “I’ve read my share of books, don’t think I haven’t achieved anything.”
“Dr. Seuss isn’t an achievement.”
While the two of them bickered, I saw Melinda reach for the package and slowly slide it up into her hand. She pointed to her lips and began to form words. She mouthed to me: “On the count of three, we need to flip this bed over and I’m going throw the package at them. Alright?”
I gave her a thumps up. I then heard her, in an incredibly faint whisper, go “One…”
“I’m glad Brett drove guns over to us,” I heard Ellis say, “I wanted to pop a cap in that girl’s head. That guy, too. Nothing a pistol can’t fix!”
Oh, now they’re armed… Great… I thought. I finally noticed the sinking feeling in my stomach.
“The girl has to go,” Emma said, “The boy is too drugged to do anything at this point and he’ll be in shock and too afraid to say something.”
“He’s just annoying…” Ellis responded, “I don’t care, I’m just going to end up-”
On her count, we pushed the bed up, flipping it over and making a barricade between the two of them and us. I saw Emma’s surprised face for a moment before I cowered behind the bed. Melinda jumped up next to me and lobbed the package over the barrier, but as soon as I saw her let go of the package, I turned away. A gun shot or two followed and then an explosion ripped through the air. My ears instantly began to ring, but I only realized it after the floor of the room fell through.
I fell onto a wooden table, breaking my fall but injuring my hip as I hit the ground. Despite the ringing in my ears and my blurred vision, I could hear people screaming and their feet breaking into a mad dash out of the diner. I opened my eyes and I was seeing double of everything: broken furniture, shattered glass, broken tables. I admired Melinda so much for knowing that box had explosives in it.
I looked to my left and I saw Melinda had fared far worse than me. While I managed to land behind the barricade, she was thrown up against the wall, her arm bleeding from what I believed to be a gun shot, and several bruises and cuts visible on her face.
I got up to rush and help her, despite the pain from the new cuts I had just discovered and my impaired senses. I froze in mid run though as I heard the faint click of a gun. I turned my head and saw Ellis standing up, cut up and bloody all over, his left arm broken, but a gun in his right hand pointed right at me. He was panting franticly, his face maddened with disgust.
I saw to the left of him, Emma was dead. The explosion or the impact from the fall killed her. I didn’t have time to think of how she died, though. I had a gun pointed at me.
I was frozen with fear staring at Ellis. I didn’t know how I was going to get out of this or what I was going to do. My life nearly flashed before my eyes until I took my next breath.
Something fell from above us. A book hit Ellis directly on the head. We looked up at the hole in the ceiling Melinda had made and saw the book case tilting over the hole. Without a moment to react, the book case fell through the hole and landed directly on top of Ellis, spilling books out everywhere.
I sighed in relief and rushed over to Melinda. She was attempting to stand on her own while covering her wound.
“You need to get out of here,” She warned me, “You shouldn’t have been involved in this and you need to run.”
“No, you’re hurt! You saved my life, so I want to-”
“No!” She demanded, shoving me away with her good arm. “You need to not be involved in this! It’s not your problem, it’s mine! I have my way out of here, so you need yours!”
“Please, just let me help you out of here!”
Melinda pushed me farther away. I took a step towards her but her gaze caused me to freeze in place. “I still have one arm that can beat you to a bloody pulp. Don’t try and make me change my mind, just go!” She turned her gaze away from me.
I groaned, stressed and disturbed by the thought of leaving her here. I heard police sirens in the distance getting nearer and I clenched my fist. I broke into a sprint out of the building. The city street was crowded in a horde of people trying to stay away from the building. Even with the new cuts and bruises, I blended in with everyone and nobody asked any questions.