The Caged

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
A strange dream spins a man into a nightmare of events...is it all in his mind?

Submitted: November 11, 2016

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Submitted: November 11, 2016

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Part 1.

Ever have one of those dreams where everything is so vivid that it's hard to accept it isn't real? They usually happen early in the morning for me; but they don't happen often. Not like this. There's still a part of me that is still back there...in the dream. I can't shake the uneasy feeling I had when I woke up. I still feel it now as a write. The dream begins...

This neighborhood is NOT my neighborhood. I’m sure of that. However, in the dream, it feels like home. I'm not sure where I'm going, but I kiss my wife and begin walking down the sidewalk to what seems to be a street festival or block party of some kind. I can feel fall in the air and much of the decorations were the classic black and orange themes associated with this time of year. There's even a slight chill. I think at first about going back for a light coat, but I decide it actually feels good. It's a welcome change to the 90 degree days we had over the summer. The sound of children laughing fills the streets and local families have even set up booths to sell drinks, cotton candy, and baked goods. It's pristine like a Norman Rockwell painting and I soak it in.  

I come up on a small parade of decorated cars and trucks driving by.... the little neighborhood's idea of a Halloween Parade, I guess. It's moving slow and there is music playing somewhere just out sight. I can’t' tell what it is, but it's festive and seems to suit the gathering well. I walk alongside the little caravan and realize that one of the trucks in the parade wasn't decorated. It has a big drop cloth over something in the back and there is a lot of noise coming from beneath the old stained cloth. Something is rattling around back there, for sure, but with the noise of the party it's hard to make out what exactly it is. To me, it sounds like a cage of some kind sliding back and forth in the bed...metal on metal. I think that maybe they have their dogs with them and have covered the cage to keep them from seeing the people on the street; after all nothing would spoil the fun like a couple of dogs barking at every person that walked by. But, I love dogs and the truck is moving steadily with the other vehicles at a snail's pace...so I lift the cloth to take a peak.  

What I see stops me cold. It's a child...in a cage. He's bound and his mouth is muffled; this kid is in trouble. I don't know who he is. But just as I know this neighborhood feels like home; I know this child is important to me. Once the momentary disbelief abates, I move to walk around the truck to confront the driver. But just as I do the other cars in the parade make a left turn and the driver, free from the group, accelerates out of the neighborhood. I make it a point to remember; it was a maroon dodge truck maybe 10 to 15 years old. I'm pretty far from my house at this point and I have mistakenly left my cell phone sitting on the table in the den. I look around at the other folks on the street; surely someone else has seen what I have. No one else seems to notice. 

I start running. I run with everything I have to try and keep the truck in sight but my energy is fading fast. I'm not 20 years old anymore and I am feeling every year as I try to push forward. But I keep on; I have to. Thanks to a few red lights and the other traffic, I'm able to just barely keep the vehicle in sight as we move through a small town. But I'm losing ground with each passing second. Suddenly, I'm passed by a much faster runner.... he’s dressed like a professional runner and moving fast. I call out to him with as much breath as I have left.

"Please, wait! The red truck up there...it...it has a kidnapped child in the back....you're so much faster than me. Can you...can you help me keep it in site?"

"Are you serious? That one?" He points at the red dodge.

Breathless, I reply "yes, that's it. There's boy tied up in the bed...I...I saw him."

He looks at me like I'm crazy. Maybe I am. But there must be something in the urgency in my voice because he simply shakes his head and takes off in the direction of the truck I'm trying so hard to keep up with.

I follow, of course; just at a much slower pace. I haven't gone much father when I see the runner standing on the corner up ahead. It seems the red dodge has pulled in to get gas at a local gas station. I thank him and ask for his help once more to try and free the child. Of course, he's hesitant at first.

 "Look," he says, "this had better not be some kind of prank." 

After I assure him it is not, he reluctantly agrees and together we move across the lot and prepare to pull the cover off the cage and confront the driver who had gone inside the station. Together, we pull open the tailgate and move to lift the old cloth from the cage.  

"Stop! Get out of there!" the driver yells from the door of the convenience store. 

But it's too late; we've pulled the cloth half free from the cage. The driver's screams do not deter us, but it does catch the attention of another man getting gas a couple of stalls down. He looks at us and then seems to grasp the urgency of the situation quickly, even without the full story, and moves to grab the driver. The driver's fast and ducks around the side of the building with the other man close on his heels. But in a just a short time, the other gas station patron comes around the corner and informs us that the driver jumped the fence and is gone. Together, the three of us return our attention to removing the drop cloth to free the child. 

No. It's not possible. It can't be the wrong truck. It is. Instead of the boy I know, the boy I can't help but feel connected to, there was a dirty little girl bound in the cage along with two small dogs. Each crying in turn to be free. What was going on? Was this a trafficking ring of some kind? In this small town...in my neighborhood? And where was MY truck carrying MY little boy! Panicked, I begin searching everywhere for any sign of the driver; he knows where the other truck is and I am going to make him tell me. But he's gone. I've lost him too. 

 I regroup with the other two men and the young girl holding the dogs. She's a mess. Her dress used to be white at one time, but now it is tattered and dirty. I guess she put up a good fight; good for her. Still crying, but begins telling us how she had been at the party in my neighborhood trying to convince her Mom to buy her some cotton candy when she got turned around and separated. She could hear her Mom calling for her, but someone had pulled her behind the line of portal bathrooms and covered her mouth. She doesn't remember anything else except being in that cage with the dogs. She's terrified and we do our best to console her. But, hell, I'm terrified. What is going on?

The other driver says that he has called the local police so the plan is to wait. I don't like it, but what else can I do at this point. At least they will put out a bulletin and then surely the red dodge truck will be found quickly. But, still, my heart is heavy. How did we lose the other truck? Who was that boy and why do I feel so connected to him? I have to find answers; I have to find that truck.

Thirty minutes pass. If I've checked at my watch once, I've checked it a hundred times. What was keeping the local PD...I mean, we had a kidnapping on our hands and time was the most critical piece of the puzzle. At least that is what they say on TV. My wife loves those "real crime" shows so I've seen enough to know that the longer a child is gone, the worse their chances are of being found. That's when I notice them. They are sitting at the top of the hill just pass the gas station.  Three cars with police style light bars on top. I don't recognize the markings on the side, but they are clearly members of law enforcement. They just seem to be sitting there...watching. This is crazy. So I ask the two gentleman to wait with the child while I go to speak with the officers at the top of the hill. I know the local cops will surely be there soon, but I want to get a head start on tracking the other truck. Everything seems to be moving too slow. So I begin to hike up the hill to where the other police cruisers were sitting.  
An older officer in plain clothes meets me about a third of the way down the hill. 

"I can't help you," he states in way that would not allow argument. "Turn around."

I was stunned.

"What? Why?" I pleaded. "You're supposed to help...it's your job, right?" I'm unable to hold back the anger in my voice.

"Sorry, son. We're not even supposed to be here." With that, he just turns around and starts walking back to his car. Over his shoulder, he softly says "but, if I were you, I'd go check on the girl..."

I look down the hill to see my running friend on the ground holding his head. The other driver, the girl, and dogs are not anywhere to be seen. The other man must have been meeting the truck at the station. That's how he so conveniently got a way. Then it sinks in; I've been waiting for police officers that were never calls. The boy, the truck, and now the girl.... I’ve now lost them all. 

I help the runner to his feet and ask him what happened. He doesn't know and honestly, he doesn't seem to want anything to do with me anymore. I can't blame him, I guess. He simply gathers up his phone and water bottle and begin running again along the road where I'd first asked him for help. 

"Wait! I need to use your phone to call the police!"

He doesn't even look back. He's gone. What do I do now?

I walk to the convenience store and slump down along the wall; I begin to cry. I've not cried in years.  I'm literally at a loss as to what I need to do...or what I even can do from here. That's when she appears. I feel just the slightest tug on my shirt and I turn to see a small girl standing beside me. She's dressed in what looks like a night shirt with big blond curls and even bigger blue eyes. Like the little boy, she's not someone I recognize but she is clearly someone I know and care about. She extends her little arms to me as if to say "hug me". I need that. We hug for what seems like hours. This is surreal. The strangeness of it all hits me and I pull back from her.

"What should I do?" I ask. 

"Call them."

"Who? Call who?" I ask.

"They will always help you when you need them"

With that, she was gone.

Was she even there?

And who is "they"?  

I have to find that child.

 

 


© Copyright 2017 Mac Buckner. All rights reserved.

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