“One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi, five Mississippi. That’s the longest I’ve ever seen you do that, Jess. You should be a professional hand stander. I mean, nobody can stand on their hands longer than you,” said Becca in awe.
“Thanks, Becca. You have to be the bestest friend in the whole wide universe. Do you want to try a cartwheel? I can teach you how. All you have to do is lean over to the left like you have a side cramp… Yeah, that’s it… Then put your left hand and right hand down like this… That’s right then …”
Jess didn’t finish, because Becca’s voice was louder than her own. “Hey, Jess, do you hear that sound, the sound like someone’s footsteps?” Becca said. Her voice floated up from the ground like a swallow’s voice floats up from the trees.
“Becca, I hear it. What should we do?” In a quieter voice Jess said, “I’m scared.”
Could it have been just moments before when she broke her handstand record, and said that Becca was her “bestest” friend. No way. She must be dreaming.
“Becca, are you there?”
Jess didn’t hear a peep. Her heart beat faster; her hands sweat profusely and then a manly voice spoke from the shadows.
“Put the weapon down and nobody gets hurt.”
Jess’s mind raced as fast as a cheetah. She couldn’t be the one he was talking to. What weapon could she have?
“YOUNG LADY, I SAID PUT THE WEAPON DOWN!” His voice bounced off the walls and the chandelier rattled. It was then Jess realized she had taken her fork from the cake she was eating previously, and was holding it like a weapon. This obviously wasn’t a dream. A man who was as stout as a bear had taken her friend Becca and was going to take her too.
Jess put the fork down. The stout man inched out of the shadows. Someone from behind her gagged her and threw a bag over her head and everything went black. Jess vaguely remembered feeling herself bump into a confined space that seemed like a trunk and someone bump inside the trunk with her. She also remembered the sound of the motor like the sound of the construction site next to her house, but it was about ten o’clock and Jess fell asleep next to the passenger she hoped was Becca, not knowing where she was going or what was going to happen next.
Jess awoke the next morning sitting upright, gagged, and bound savagely. When Jess looked around, she saw that Becca was bound the same way and she was luckily also awake. Jess awkwardly hopped across the dirtied floor to where Becca was. Jess could see that Becca was terrified. A moment later the stout man arrived and said, “Don’t you dare leave this room. I have video cameras watching you, and if you leave, your family will be held captive.”
Jess thought of her little brother Joey, who had the cutest fingers, a pudgy face, and eyes as blue as the sky. She thought of her little sister Michelle, who had been born only months before, and she knew that she was not going to leave. Becca, who was an only child and who envied Jess’s abundance of siblings, knew that the stout man had obviously studied up on Jess and knew that Jess would do anything for them. Becca decided she would have to convince her friend that they had to escape. The stout man took off their gags and nimbly climbed the ladder out of the putrid smelling room where the children sat bound to their chairs.
“Jess, we have to get out of here. Don’t think about Joey or Michelle. Your parents watch them every minute of the day. They will be okay. But we have to figure out a way to get out.”
Jess thought about it for a moment and realized Becca was right; they had to get out. She quickly told Becca to use get her pocket knife keychain that she got for her birthday out of her pocket. Becca used it to cut the ropes. Then Jess asked Becca to untie her hands. The ropes fell to the floor easily, and they each quickly unbound their legs. They looked each other in the eyes and hurried up the ladder out of the horrible place. About halfway up the ladder, men started climbing down. Speedily the girls got inside the nearest vent. Inside, Jess and Becca crawled as fast as they could. Soon they got to the end and they broke out, tumbling down into a pool.
“Well done!” the stout man said. “You have qualified for the reality TV show ‘Endurance.’ My crew and I will look forward to your being there. Now would you like a ride home?