A Chapter by smkrwt



Eventually we get far enough away from the towns, deep enough into the country, that there are very few stops on the road now, whether for gas or any other service. I drive on, until at least midnight, before finding a small hotel offering rooms at $29 a night. I pull into the crumbling parking lot, and pay for the room and receive the key before going to get Gus out. The man behind the front desk had his small television turned onto a 24-hour news broadcast station. I am sure he has seen my picture, but this is the kind of place that lodges criminals that are on the run all the time, or at least all the time it has business. He seems too stupefied to care to report me anyway, and just stares at the mosaic of colors that scatter across the screen, content in his numb stupor.

I didn’t realized I hadn’t cuffed Gus properly into the car until about an hour after we had begun to drive again. Now, though, I unlock the cuffs deliberately from where I had forced them into place angrily, and take his arm, leading him forcefully to our room. I don’t blame him for what happened at the diner, but I won’t let him know that. Fear is better than respect--it demands more attention, more focus, and essentially more obedience. I make sure he keeps hiding his cuffed hands beneath his jacket until we are at the room. I open the door and turn on the light, shoving him across the threshold, but disguising the motion as one of help.

Gus stares wide-eyed around the room--the cheap, peeling wall paper, stingy decorations, and TV with a cracked screen. There are two single beds, and as soon as I’ve the door locked and the curtains secured, I walk him over to one of the beds and cuff him to the headboard. I throw the TV remote at him, and the Bible that I found in the bedside table drawer. Even horrible places like these house God’s presence. Maybe it will give him some consolation.

I pocket the key card and walk into the bathroom, closing the door tightly behind me. I quickly strip out of my clothes, throwing them into the sink and filling it with soap and water, content to let them soak and clean while I bathe.

The water that comes out"at best--luke warm, even as I crank the knob to its full extent. It’s enough though, and I use the small complimentary bottles of soap and shampoo to clean myself, scrubbing the scent of the institution from every pore of my skin. It hasn’t yet been twenty four hours since my escape, but already it feels as though a week has passed, a month, a year. It feels like I’ve been running forever, although the routine of escaping still has yet to become familiar to me.

When I’m done with my shower my clothes have dried a little bit, but I finish the rest of the drying off with a hair dryer anyway. My hair still has yet to see a brush, though the water has combed it through quite a bit. Hopefully it will be easier to deal with in the morning.

I step out of the bathroom, tendrils of steam coiling around my arms and legs, still clinging to any bare skin. Gus is sitting up in his bed.

“Do you mind?” he asks as I sit down on my own bed and flip through the phonebook, looking to see if there’s anything I can have delivered at this time of night.

“What?” I ask in return.

“Can I take a shower?”

I look up at him. There’s no window in the bathroom, but there is a vent large enough for any smart man to pry the grate off of and wriggle through. I look at his cuffs and think for a moment.

When I’ve made my decision, I drag him off of the bed into the bathroom. I click the empty cuff onto a support bar that has been welded to the tile walls, so he can’t escape. I close the curtain and sit down on top of the toilet lid, refusing to leave him alone.

“You can’t wait outside?” he asks from behind the floral fabric.

“No.” I respond flatly.

He carefully piles his discarded clothes in a pile next to the tub. “What, you don’t trust me?”

 I scoff, ignoring his jesting tone. “Not a chance,” I say quietly as he starts the water.

To be honest, I have no idea why I’m keeping him with me. He’s just making my journey more difficult--I have to remember to feed him, and keep him clean, and so on. So why did I insist on keeping him with me--alive? Collateral? Insurance that if they do catch up with me I have something to bargain with? He’s no more than a hostage, and I really don’t have the need for one--he isn’t helping me much. I could easily just leave him off on the side of the road a few miles before another town, with a few dollars and some food to make sure he doesn’t die. Or I could just off him right now and be done with him. Take the cash he’s given me and go. So why don’t I do that?

I sigh. Because I’m a better person than I let myself believe. I could kill the man if I have to, but the truth is that I really don’t want someone’s blood staining my hands for the rest of my life. That’s something I’d never be able to wash away. I’ve never killed anyone before--I’ve come severely close to, when someone intervened, but never have actually killed someone. And I have enough sins to atone for as it is.

The water stops, and I wonder just how long I have been dwelling in my thoughts. Gus’s arm protrudes from the shower, blindly searching for his shirt. He grabs the collar and quickly pulls it behind the curtain. I should get him some new clothes too. I don’t want it to be too obvious that I’m carrying around a hostage.

“If I ask to go to the bathroom, are you going to chain me to the toilet?” I hear his voice reach out from behind the curtain.

“That one you can figure out for yourself,” I tell him, standing up. As he pulls back the shower curtain, I unlock his cuffs and step back.

“You have a minute,” I say, and walk out.

He’s finished within the allotted sixty seconds, and even brings the cuffs out to me when he’s done. I take his wrist and lead him over to the bed, cuffing his hand back in place on the headboard.

“You think you could do the other one? I’m used to sleeping on this side.”

I look down at him for a moment, amazed that he’s asked me that. I consider saying yes for a moment, but quickly decide against it. If he feels comfortable asking me such a question, it’s not a good sign, and I can’t have him thinking I’ve gone soft.

But by the time I have my answer ready, I can see that he’s already detected it, a smirk on his face.

“You can sleep as you are,” I say, and turn to my bed. As I lay down I take out the gun and lay it on my stomach, so Gus can see. I hear him swallow before I turn out the light.

When I’m not having tranquilizers pumped into my bloodstream at a mile a minute, I am used to only getting four hours of sleep. When I wake up, it is just before dawn, and Gus is sleeping heavily on the other bed, lying on his back with his free arm thrown over his face.

The first thing I do is turn on the safety switch of the gun. Now that I’m awake, I want to make sure I think my decision through before shooting.

I quietly pad out of the room, taking the jacket Gus had been using to hide his hands, and donning it as I step outside. A light drizzle is frosting the ground, but I’m sure it’ll be over by the time the sun comes up.

When I enter the lobby, I am mildly surprised to find the man who had checked us in last night still sitting behind the desk and staring at the fuzzy TV screen.

“Excuse me,” I say, walking up to him. He looks at me with tired, bloodshot eyes, not saying a word.

“I was wondering if--”

“What can I do you for miss?” he asks in a slurred voice, his eyes still as dead as before.

I try to smile at him, forgiving his strange tic.

“Do you know any places I can buy good food? Not premium quality or anything--just something that might last a few days. Oh, and I’d like to know if there are any clothing shops around.”

“Eh, well, let’s see what we have here,” he says, shuffling a few papers around on his desk. He produces a thin magazine of nearby attractions, though the closest one that seems even remotely interesting is still a good fifty miles back.

He flips to the food section, dragging his finger down the page until he finds something satisfying. “Right here says there’s a super market not twenty miles north. Should be good to find you what you need.”

“And I just take the highway?”

“ ’Nless you can fly, don’t see how else you’d go.”

I smile at him, and feel the gun knock against my thigh in its pocket. “Thank you,” I say, and leave.

The supermarket is as decrepit and abandoned as the motel, with more than one of the neon letters out, or blinking and about to go out. I look at the letters and see a clock ticking away a countdown to doomsday. When the last neon letter falls out of light, the store will close, nothing ever needed from there anymore.

There’s a small gas station outside, and I fill up before going in. Today is going to be long, as I plan on making it to my destination by the afternoon, which means nonstop driving. I slip a bill into the receiver on the pump and wait for my receipt before going into the store.

To my surprise the store is well stocked, and I gather as many organic foods as I can--crackers, cereals, and fruits. There’s only one cashier--a middle aged, plump woman too preoccupied with brushing her nails to take notice of me. When she reads out the amount, I throw a bill down in front of her, quickly gathering the things and heading back out to the car.

The light rain has stopped. The drive back to the motel is peaceful, and I open the window, letting the moist atmosphere seep into the car, cooling everything down. It is still early spring, with the cold and warm fronts battling for dominance over the terrain.

I creep quietly back into the room, seeing that Gus has not moved and inch. I take out and apple and place it on the nightstand between the two beds, then fold his new clothes and place them on a chair near him. I lie back down on my bed on top of the covers, resting the gun on my stomach once more.

It is an hour before Gus wakes up, and I had been dozing most of the time anyway, which was good because it meant I was storing up the energy I would be using on the road today. I stand up quietly as he rolls on the bed, still half-asleep. He rubs his eyes, then looks up, and his features fall.

“Damn it,” he says, and I raise an eyebrow. He looks up, frightened for a moment, and I find his confusion rather amusing.

“What is it?” I ask, sounding slightly sardonic.

“I thought…” he looks around, blinking furiously as he become fully conscious. “Damn. I thought it was all just a dream.”

I smirk, then say, “Well, sorry to disappoint. Breakfast is ready.” I nod to the apple on the table. He looks like the sort of man who could eat an entire pig for breakfast, and then a cow for dinner, but the apple will do.

He grabs it with his free hand and begins to eat it, consuming it to the seedy core. He wipes the juice from his face with a tissue from the bedside table.

“So are we leaving then?” he asks.

“Mhm. Soon. After you get dressed.” I motion to the chair behind him, and his eyes widen slightly in surprise. He looks at me, then glances quickly at the cuff that still chains him to the bed.

I go over and unlock the metal from his wrist, backing away as he stands and goes to pick up his clothes. I step away to let him into the bathroom.

“Two minutes,” I tell him sternly, catching his eye and holding his stare solidly as he walks in. I had already taken care of everything I had needed to in there.

We check out, and head straight for the car, wasting no time. I click his cuffs to the door handle this time, allowing him a little more mobility. I’ve given him the perfect opportunity to reach over to me while I drive and hit or strangle me, but I don’t believe he will do it. He values his own life too much to try.

© 2011 smkrwt

Author's Note

be honest.

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Added on March 30, 2011
Last Updated on April 17, 2011
Tags: escape, asylum, prison, guard, ward, dystopia, city, car chase, theft, drive, convict, crime, hotels



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