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By Anna Garner
“We have to bring the other two out. It’s the only way.”
A long silence simmers out of the pause.
“Do you know how big of an explosion that would cause?” The man speaks vehemently.
“This is an emergency. With it loose in the wilderness like this, we must expect the worst.”
A clatter is heard, and a click, and then returns that never-ending silence.
The storm is violent enough to shake the earth, sending cracks of thunder boiling through the sky. The air is almost too damp to breathe, bearing a vibrant flavor, and the deafening roar of wind and rain echoes in from all angles, destroying any sense of direction.
It is difficult to hear anything over the dissonance, and difficult to concentrate on anything other than the howling winds; yet somehow, two voices can be heard calling into the blackness. Every second that goes by, they seem closer.
This little crevice is the safest place to be. The storm cannot fit inside, and perhaps the voices will not notice this dark hole in the hill.
Suddenly, thunder explodes again, and a scream is heard. “Just drop the cage! Let’s get out of here!”
There is a crash, and the voices disappear. All is still once more, but the creature can sense that it is no longer alone.
The storm falls still for a moment. Something scuffles into the cave, pauses, and rushes forth with startling force. Something furry collides with the creature, and, grunting, the furry thing dissipates into nothing. An unfamiliar sensation now fills the hiding creature’s body, and for the first time it can feel rocks cutting into its skin.
The creature blinks, staring at nothing, and approaches the front of the crevice. Pawing uncertainly at the ground, it takes a few steps, and then bounds clumsily out into the pouring rain.
Somehow it knows:
Only two left.
~ ~ ~
The voices come and go through the forest, babbling endlessly like a river, calling for something which exists only as a shadow. They are tense, determined, but most importantly, they are afraid. This much is apparent in their conversations:
“I want to get out of here before we release number four.”
“Agreed. Let’s sign off for the night.”
“Yes. And hope our traps work. I’m about ready to quit for good.”
The creature is starving. Unable to seek nourishment for itself, food becomes its weakness. As the night insects awaken for the fifth time since the thunderstorm, the creature realizes that this clawing in its stomach means it must find something edible.
Abandoning all caution, it arises from the highest branch, stretches its sore limbs, and scrambles to the forest floor.
Here, the katydid chorus is quieter. Dry leaves crunch underfoot, and the creature tries to eat them, when suddenly there’s a rustle and the creature freezes.
Something steps closer. Closer. The creature remains frozen. If it can’t see the enemy, perhaps the enemy can’t see it.
After a second, something squeals and darts towards the startled creature. As soon as the two make contact, the creatures feels as though it has been shocked.
When the electricity fades, the creature inhales--and a sweet, irresistible aroma enters its nose. All its thoughts slip away as the bait’s scent leads it directly to the men’s trap.
~ ~ ~ ~
Only one left.
“It’s been an adventure, men. And it’s been an honor doing it with you. This moment will mark history! When we walk through the fourth door and bind Number Five, our world will never be the same.”
“I’m as excited as you are. I can’t wait to ask my questions. But what if it doesn’t work?”
“My friend, that is an excellent question. But I can assure you: it will work. We will break through.”
The creature is afraid. The room is too warm, and the smell of sweat and fear mingles in the air. Everywhere the creature tries to walk, a wall obstructs its movement from the top, bottom, and sides.
“We have everything we need. I’m ready. Shall we go?”
The others clap. A moment later, the creature’s confinement jostles and continues to wobble until it jolts down on a hard surface. The wall behind it creaks open and a strong grip closes around its body. Before it can react, the creature is set down in a new cage, where it sits, frozen in anxiety.
“Bring out number five.”
Footsteps recede and return moments later with a hissing, spitting, yowling thing.
“Ah! Quick, open the cage!”
A door slams open, then closed, and claws close around the creature’s throat. As soon as they touch, a blinding light erupts in the creature’s once-dark eyes. It lets out a wail, and thunder rocks the earth. Glass shatters.
The light increases and abruptly dissipates.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The room is small, pristine, well-lit, and white, with a spotless tile floor and a steel table. Five men stand before a shattered glass chamber, mouths open in awe. Each one wears a dirty lab coat. Each one protects his eyes with sunglasses. Each one cannot believe his own eyes…
“It did work,” whispers someone.
You stare back at them in relative confusion, regarding your surroundings. It’s so quiet that all you can hear is the whir of an air conditioner kicking on.
“...Hello,” says one of the men, breaking out of his stupor. He steps forth and brushes a bit of dirt from his coat. Stuttering, he introduces himself. “H-hello. My name is Mr. Raconteur; it’s an honor to meet you. You...might be wondering why you’re here.”
He exhales. “My partners and I have a lot of questions for you. And it’s a long story! It all started one afternoon when we accidentally broke the fourth wall...We desperately wanted to meet you, you see, but first we had to had to find a way to get you here. After all, it takes five senses to immerse a reader in a story…”