The Rooms

I wrote this for a scholarship essay thing for UCSC, if only because the prompt was so ridiculous, I couldn’t resist. It went something like, write a coherent narrative containing these words they gave me. I chose  salt, genome, popcorn, catalyst, health, curry, backbone, and cell phone. I submitted a cut version because of the 500 word limit, but this is my uncut version. I’m sure it won’t matter if I post this here since the deadline (and results) are way overdue. – Obachuka.

I wandered through the dark room towards the sliver of weak light at the opposite end. With a splash, I stumbled into a knee-high pool in the strange room. The ice cold water sucked the heat from my legs, making me shiver. Soggy bits of popcorn floated on the surface, their charred smell still lingering in the air. Remnants of the last puzzle.

I made it to the faint light, which escaped from a crack in the wall. With a small push, light burst in. I squinted my eyes from the sudden transition to the light. I felt anxious. This was supposedly the last room.

A dark, mahogany table sat underneath a glaring, crystal chandelier. A man in a blood-red tuxedo and matching pants was seated at the table with his back to me. I cautiously stepped forward. The man slumped forwards onto the table. Horror gripped me. He was dead. I stopped and stared at the body. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I knew him.

A male voice cracked out of a speaker, “Having fun? Your puzzle this time: how did this man die? Solve this last one and you go free. Else, you die here too.”

A burning theater and now a corpse? “Why are you showing me these things?” I asked the voice – my unknown captor.

My captor laughed.  “Ah ah ah, yes or no questions only, remember?” My unknown captor replied. I could just imagine him, shaking his finger at me. “Besides, telling you that would ruin all the fun and suspense, wouldn’t it?”

I noticed something underneath the dead man’s head. Feeling squeamish but curious, I moved his head with as little contact as I could, but his ice cold face still sent shivers down my arm. I let go, and his head hit the table with a thump. A plate of curry revealed itself, with an indent in the shape of the man’s face.

Curry? Really? Well whatever. “Did this man die of poison?” I asked.

“Bzzzt! Wrong!” my captor replied gleefully.

I frowned and examined the body. A bulge in his fancy suit pocket attracted my attention. I deftly slipped my fingers inside, and felt something small and metallic. I pulled it out. It was a cell phone. My thoughts brightened with hope of rescue.

“Um, before you get any bright ideas, there’s no reception down there,” my captor said, destroying my hopes.

I felt dejected, but I flipped the phone open anyways. I looked through the man’s contacts, and names of famous and rich people scrolled down the phone’s screen. Eventually, I found a title that interested me: Chiropractor.

“Did this man, by any chance, suffer from back problems?” I asked.

“Why yes, yes he did. A serious spinal and backbone disease,” my captor replied.

“And he died from this…disease?”

“Yup. Poor dad, couldn’t escape the destiny written in his genomes.”

My captor’s statement caught my attention. Dad?
“Say, you don’t know this man here, do you?” I asked.

“Oh no, not at all.”

“Then why, did you call him, ‘dad?'”

My captor remained silent. I couldn’t tell what his reaction was to my statement either, since he shut off his microphone. But at least I know there was a reaction. That he didn’t want me to know about.

“I said no such thing,” my captor said.

“Bollocks! I heard you say just that,” I shouted, but I stopped myself before I angered my prisoner. “Ur, well what did you say?”

“Poor fellow, couldn’t escape the destiny written in his genes,” my captor said.

I furrowed my brows. My captor was sure a mysterious one. I don’t know how I got here in this wretched mansion, but my captor threw “fun puzzles” at me the entire way. I think he must know me somehow, but I couldn’t tell who he was from his voice. It was also really annoying to continuously refer to him as “my captor” but since I don’t know his name…

“Well anyways,” I said, stopping my own thoughts before they got out of hand. “By ‘written in his genes’ you mean he inherited the disease, correct? So he died of an inherited spinal disease.”

“Well, that is correct…but uh…what’s interesting is that, the disease shouldn’t have killed him for another twenty years.”

I groaned. I guess my captor wanted to extend the puzzle. I’ll play along, I suppose. I looked at the curry. Its brown color seemed old and washed, and the strong smell of curry was nearly undetectable.

“So…was there anything strange in this curry? It looks old,” I asked.

My captor laughed. “Well that’s because it is old. Several weeks, in fact.”

A wave of disgust swept through me. That body has been here for weeks? But it didn’t seem to be decaying…yet.

“But yeah,” my captor continued. “There’s a type of salt in the curry. Not the table salt, mind you, but an ionic compound.”

I thought for a moment, and came up with a stupid theory. “Am I right in guessing that this…um, salt? That this salt acted as a catalyst to this man’s spinal disease, speeding up his impending death?”

Static white noise blared through the hidden speaker for a while, then my captor announced, “Correct! You solved the last puzzle!”

I felt indignant. “Hey wait a moment. So I was right with my first guess! He was poisoned!”

“Well it depends on what you mean by poison…” my captor said meekly. “And what fun is a puzzle solved on the first try!”

I shook my fist angrily in the direction I thought the hidden speaker was. “And I don’t even think there’s such a thing as a ‘salt that speeds up inherited spinal disease.’ I mean, seriously?! What the hell?!”

Static boomed out of the speaker, much louder this time. “Do you want to get out of here alive or not?!” my captor shouted angrily. That shut me up.

“Well anyways,” my captor continued vehemently. “What I was going to say was, congratulations. As I promised: freedom.”

A portion of the wall to the right of me creaked, and a doorway slammed open. Freedom! Joy filled me, and I ran towards the door.

“But…” my captor began smugly. I immediately stopped. I didn’t like that tone of voice. What if it was a trap?

Seeing my response, presumably through a camera somewhere, my captor laughed. “Hahaha, oh no. No, there’s no traps, it’s definitely safe. But, wouldn’t you want to know what happened to Elizabeth?”

A mixture of shock, dread, curiosity, and disbelief all tore at me from different sides. Elizabeth? On the left wall, another door slammed open.

“If you want to find out the truth, then continue on through my rooms, ” my captor taunted.

My guts twisted. Freedom danced right in front of me. But, I had to know what happened to her. And about my captor. Who was he? Who was this dead man? How did he know me, and why am I here? I forced myself away from the door to freedom to the door to truth.

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2 thoughts on “The Rooms

  1. This is an excellent story, I just have one comment about the opening paragraph. Most of the sentences started with, “I verbed…”
    I stumbled, I kept, I dipped, I opened a door, I squinted, He claimed…

    I saw that this was only at the start of the essay. And, as I read more, I hoped that you would continue this story.

Feel free to reply. But I won't read cuz I'm shy. Unless it's haiku.

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