When I woke up with my eyes taped shut and wrists bound, I almost screamed. A voice in my head, one that sounded just like my famous father the senator, suggested it would be better if my kidnappers thought I was still knocked out than hear me whining like a little bitch. So, just like always when Dad went on a rant, I kept my mouth shut.
After a few minutes of nearly ripping out my eyebrows, I’d managed to peel back the tape from my eyes. The view didn’t improve. Thin slivers of light slid through the small cracks in the car trunk door, but that was all there was to see. It smelled damp and moldy. Every noise, from the steady thrum of the engine to the quick thump of potholes, sounded as though it was magnified through speakers.
I noticed a small glowing lever and remembered all trunks have a safety release inside them. Before I could reach for it, there was a high-pitched whine, like a firecracker being launched. A loud roar rippled through the trunk as the car dovetailed before coming to a screeching halt.
With the car stopped, I could hear my kidnappers. The first voice sounded familiar. “The hell happened?!”
The second voice sounded older, like its owner smoked a pack a day. “Goddam meteor fell out of the sky.”
“Are you serious?”
“If you’d been awake, you’d have seen it too.”
“You go shot-for-shot with a senator’s kid and see how you feel,” answered the younger voice. “Think he woke up?”
That’s when I remembered. I’d been in a club; a hot guy bought me a drink.
“The stuff you slipped him is supposed to be strong. Suppose we oughta check, though.”
If I saw their faces, I was dead. I just managed to place the tape back over my eyes and play possum before the trunk clicked open. Someone poked my leg and laughed. The trunk slammed shut. “Little fag was so wasted; bet you didn’t need to mickey him. C’mon, let’s get this heap on the road.”
I heard footsteps toward the front of the car.
“Check out that meteor,” the younger guy said. “It’s glowing.”
“Probably radioactive or some shit.”
When the younger guy spoke again, he sounded half asleep. “Brad, look at it. It’s so beautiful.”
“What the hell?” the second voice growled. “Jace, put that shit down.”
“Jesus, Brad. I dropped it, OK?”
“Clean off your hands.”
“Fuck’s sake. Here. Do I pass inspection?”
“Just help me push the damn car.”
The car jolted over the gravel shoulder and moments later was accelerating down the highway. I rolled the tape back down from my eyes and began to gnaw on the zip tie around my wrists like it was the tastiest steak in the world. I felt a small crunch and searing pain as I cracked a tooth. I heard Mom’s voice whisper it was okay; I could rest if I wanted. Dad muttered if I didn’t stop crying, he’d give me something to cry about.
The car radio blared to life. Jace or Brad must’ve had twitchy fingers because they didn’t stay on any station for long.
“…asked to stay indoors…”
“…NASA claims the meteors…”
“…president’s statement…appeal for calm…”
“…interstellar parasite…cautions not to…protective eyewear…lightwaves attract…leads to immediate loss of control…even brief contact…”
One by one, every radio channel switched to the emergency broadcast system bleep. The car slowly rolled to a stop.
“How are you feeling, Jace?”
“Fine,” Jace said. “I touched that glowing shit for like a second.”
Silence, and then Brad asked, “Are you sure?”
Jace didn’t answer. The car door opened and someone stumbled out. After a few seconds, I heard hacking, vomiting, and then—
“Oh my god. Ohmygod! Ooohhmmmmmmmmm.”
“What’s wrong?” Brad shouted.
“I’m fine. Ohhhmmmm. I’m OK. Ohhhhmmm.”
“Why are you making that noise?”
“They’re whispering in my head. Ohmmm.”
“Let me see your eyes.”
I listened in horrified fascination as Jace’s voice degenerated into a moan.
“Get back, Jace, get the fuck back!”
A body fell to the ground. Brad was sobbing now. For a second, I almost felt bad for him. “Oh God! I’m sorry Jace! I’m so fucking sorry!”
He cried for a long time. There was another click, followed by a—
—and another body fell to the ground.
I reached for the trunk’s glowing release lever and hesitated. Far off, I could hear more moans. They were growing louder. In my head, I heard Dad calling me a wimp, a sinner, a queer, shouting I better not ruin the next election for him. I heard Mom whisper that getting out was a bad idea; I should stay in here where it’s safe. Once I opened the trunk, it would confirm all this was real. Out there was a world of meteors and monsters. In here, in the dark, I could pretend it was all a nightmare.
I rolled the duct tape back over my eyes and hugged my knees. Immediately, I began to feel better. Mom’s voice encouraged me, told me it was better to stay hidden than risk being hurt. In the dark, in this little world, I was safe. I was used to hiding in closets, after all. I want to leave, and I probably will eventually, but I’m so scared.
I’ll stay here just a little while longer.
Patrick lives in Seattle where he eats far too much sushi. He’s had fiction published in dozens of markets, including Galaxy’s Edge, Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores, Zombies Need Brains, Flame Tree Publishing, Abyss & Apex, New Myths, and The Drabblecast. He was one of the finalists for the Baen Fantasy Award in 2018. Patrick is a member of SFWA, Codex, and the Dreamcrashers.
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