Me and about a dozen other people were being held prisoner by a grizzly ex-military hillbilly in a big old southern farmhouse on a hill in the middle of nowhere. This hillbilly enjoyed the occasional bit of amaeturish torture, but mostly he just liked mocking us and holding us in annoyed and frightened suspense. He had lots of guns and knives, an apparently endless supply of tiny dead-end rooms, and the uncanny ability to be looming outside your door at all times.
We the imprisoned conspired endlessly against him. He actually made this quite easy for us; it seemed to bring him great pleasure to keep us perpetually on the verge of escape. Early on he actually gave me free roam of the grounds, having deprived me of anything I could use as a weapon, because he knew I wouldn’t try to run away without rescuing the others. As I walked around the house, I was continually astonished at his audacity, at how loosely guarded everything was. All the windows were wide open, with only flimsy screens to keep us in. The screams of his victims filtered out into the air, and probably carried for miles.
I couldn’t really blame him for his laxity, however–as I myself was having a surprisingly good time trying to thwart him. At one point, I actually awoke from what could easily be considered a nightmare–but was enjoying myself so thoroughly that I had to go back to find out how it would end.
On two occasions, I fought our captor hand to hand. In the first, I wrested an assault rifle from his hands and stabbed him in the back with the bayonet. It had almost no effect, and before I could get to the trigger he grabbed the muzzle and forced it away. Then both he and I reached with our free hands for the little silver-plated pistols he carried on his belt, and ended up pointing them at each other’s heads. He taunted me, daring me to pull the trigger. I hesitated, then jerked my head away and fired. Nothing happened. The bastard had carried them in unloaded, just so he could trick me into going for them!
“I just don’t understand it,” I said. “I’m bigger than you, and younger! I should be able to beat you!” Of course by this time I had figured out that he was combat-trained, but this was the usual bent of our conversations–like Bilbo in the dragon’s lair, I fanned his ego every chance I got, trying to make him get careless. I scarcely needed to. At one point he deliberately left a three-inch folding knife on the windowsill in my room, just to taunt me. What could I do with it, when a five-inch bayonet rammed between his shoulder-blades didn’t even slow him down?
My cell was a narrow third story cul-de-sac with only half a door that opened onto a five-foot wide hole in the floor, through which poured an impossibly slow indoor waterfall. I rapidly discovered that by leaping into the stream, I could transport myself down into a bedroom two floors below where three women and one man were being held. With these I held many a hasty conversation on the possibility of our escape. We determined it would be too dangerous to break a window, as some of us might get out, but we would certainly attract the bastard’s attention and in all likelyhood get gunned down. We couldn’t get through the screens without a tool of some kind, and these were all in the bastard’s possession. So all we could do was bide our time and look for an opening.
Opportunity arose one day when the old bastard, having finally decided we were too much to handle by himself, left the house to gather reinforcements, in the form of another ferrety little ex-military man and a ravenous black attack pig with rubber bunny ears tied to its snout. He was not without a sense of greusome humor, our jailor.
As soon as he left, I got out of my room, leapt across the chasm, and went looking for my brown satchel, which I had had with me when we were captured (though I couldn’t for the life of me recall when that had been, or what the circumstances). I found it just as his old pickup was pulling up the long, dirt drive, and before fleeing back to my room had the time to reach blindly inside and grab the first two round, hard objects that came to my hand: an ancient pineapple grenade and a Cadbury Creme Egg.
In my room, I regrouped, and considered my options. He certainly knew I had these things, and given his habitual clairvoyance, chances are he would realize I had gotten out. But what was I going to do? Blow up the house with me in it?
I heard him coming up the stairs, with his crony at his heels and the pig snuffling ravenously on its leash. I stood behind the door and braced myself, with the same flippant abandon with which I had earlier pulled the trigger of a pistol while he pointed another at my head.
The door opened. Crack! went the sharp seam of the grenade against his temple. He went down. I hit him again, as hard as I could. He was out cold. I shouted to the others on my floor: “He’s down! Come on, we’ve got to go!” They appeared from their rooms just as I did: two men, wild-eyed and desperate. The crony and the pig were nowhere in sight, but at the bottom of the stairs, I glimpsed a foreign object: a small white box full of wires and tubing. A tiny red light winked on and off. Then there was a pop, and white vapor began to hiss out into the hallway. A bomb! Not only had he anticipated his own defeat, he had prepared for it with a fucking chemical weapon!
“Poison gas!” I screamed. “Get out! Get out!” It was too late now. There was no way we could save anybody but ourselves.
I took a breath and hammered down the stairs, past the bomb and out into the atrium at the back of the house. I was trying not to breathe, but still I could smell the smoke–acrid and burning in my nostrils. I smashed headlong through a window, splintering the wooden slats and getting who knows how much shattered glass stuck in my arms and face. I sucked in a breath. The other two were right behind me–and behind them, the crony and the pig stood in the ruins of the atrium, grunting and calmly loading a shotgun.
I looked at the grenade still clutched in my hand, and the Cadbury Egg in the other. “Now or never,” I thought, then: “Mmm, Cadbury Egg!” I was saving that for my reward.
I depressed the lever, pulled the pin, and counted to three. A tiny spurt of flame burst from the grenade. Was that supposed to happen? Too late now. I reared back and tossed it. My stomach wrenched as I realized the armed grenade was still in my hand.
The crony lowered his shotgun, and we all ducked. Boom!
I threw it again. Swish! went my arm through the air. There was another little spurt of flame. No good. We all ought to be dead, I thought. I dropped the Cadbury Egg, peeled the grenade free from my palm with two fingers, noticing some white sticky stuff left behind as I did so, and fumbled it onto the atrium floor. The bastard had sabotaged my grenade!
We ran, stumbling down the hill into the brush. We threw ourselves to the ground, and turned to look back. Smoke billowed placidly from the open windows, swallowing the shapes of the pig and the crony. There was no explosion. Like I had figured: the grenade was a dud. Stupid Army/Navy store!
The three of us looked at each other. “Gentlemen,” I said, “I think we should consider the possibility that he is still alive.”
Hours late, it had dawned on me. This was all part of the game.
The pig and the crony emerged from the haze, snout to the ground and shotgun held at the ready, advancing steadily down the hill.
I woke to daylight.