Thief in the Night

Thief in the Night

This is the first tale in what I envision to be a tapestry of short story tales from different perspectives, all describing the same cataclysmic event and the aftermath from each individual character’s perspective. We don’t really get a sense of what the entire picture of the story is until it gradually unfolds with each character’s unique perspective and observance of the environment around them during this chaotic time. This particular story is scary, like reality often is. It does not shy away from the harshness but embraces it along with the hope for a better tomorrow, even where hope does not appear to exist. This is the essence of humanity and the human spirit to thrive even under the most dire and bleak circumstances. By showing us at our worst, we see in ourselves our best. We also get some better insights into the fragile state of society as a whole and quickly everything can collapse into turmoil with a single push in that direction.


Crime / Suspense / Mystery / Thriller


T. J. Stone (United States)

A Thief in the Night
It was a quiet night; Nothing particularly special about it. In fact, before 11:13 p.m. it was very ordinary; nothing peculiar at all. It was the sort of ordinary I resented before for being too plain and boring. It was unadventurous…mundane. However, looking back now, it was the sort of boring I long for and wish desperately with every fiber of my being that I could go back to, but I can’t. No one can ever again. No, that night was a game changer. It was the night life as we knew it changed forever.
11:12 p.m. – (Dreaming in my bed, safe at home with my older brother and younger sister down the hall, and mom and dad across the way) I’m alone in this empty room that looks industrial like a big metal tank, and slowly a gas starts venting in from a pipe in the corner. The gas spreads quickly to fill the room as I cower in the furthest corner trying to hold my breath. The room has no windows and appears to be made of steel all around. I tried the one door at the far corner where the gas is emitting, but it’s no use. It won’t budge. I prepare for the unconsciousness to set in as I will soon pass out either from the gas or lack of oxygen. Just then, before I lose consciousness, the door opens, and 4 figures in total white body suits with gas masks and goggles on approach me. I’m terrified. I let out a brief but muted yell that allows the gas to overtake me, just as the figures reach me.
11:13 p.m. – (CRASH!!!) A loud noise downstairs startles and awakens me from my nightmare, but it seems I have awakened to a new living nightmare. I slowly get out of bed and make my way to my bedroom door. I hear the thunderous sound of an army of footsteps racing up the stairs and down the hall. I’m frozen in fear, thinking if I don’t move, somehow I will be safe. Before I can make it to the door, it bursts open, and there behind a cloud of smoke appear the men from my dreams, clad in their white suits and gas masks covering their faces. I yell out a scream, but one of the men covers my mouth with his hand and spins me around violently, catching me up in his strong grasp. I hear the screams of my parents and siblings in the adjacent rooms. Who are these people? What is happening?
Before I know it, we are being slung into the back of these large army-looking trucks. I see my parents in the distance being shoved into a different truck from my brother and sister and me. Everything goes black.
I awaken to the loud sound of the back of the truck opening up quickly. My older brother Johnny goes quickly for one of the men, striking him with his right fist, but the man still clad in the protective suit knocks him to the ground with the machine gun in his hands, splitting Johnny open just above his eye and knocking him out. My sister, Charlotte, screams a blood curdling scream that will haunt me for the rest of my days as she kneels down over Johnny, taking him up in her arms, balling like a baby. I stay leaning against the wall of the truck, until two men grab me up by my arms – machine guns in their other hands – and march me into this large prison like structure. The Outside Door has a few letters on it and nothing more “FEMA.” FEMA? What a strange name for such a place. I try to look over my shoulder back at my brother and sister who are being taken to another entrance. I squirm between the two large figures, but trying to get free is useless. I may as well be an ant to them.
We walk into a very dark hallway, at the end of which is an elevator. We go down, just us. I don’t see another soul yet. It seems like we are in the elevator forever before it opens up, and we get out into what appears to be a large corridor of rooms like a hospital, only the halls are crawling with what appear to be army or policemen all dressed in black. They take me to a room where they strip me down and hose me off for what feels like half an hour. When the process is over they give me this white hospital gown. My skin is red and burns from all the water and pressure. They take me into this room labeled Patient Z-294, which I assume is what they’re calling me, not my birth name, Jake, that identity that seems like a dream almost now.
That was the last time I ever saw my family or anyone other than these people for that matter. That was the last time I saw the light of day. I’ve been keeping track of time by the three meals of bread and water they give me each day and the weekly rounds of shots they force on me. It’s been 2 years, 3 months, and 13 days by my count, that is providing I haven’t lost any days due to the drugs they keep filling me with. I still don’t quite know who they are or what they are doing. It seems like I will never get out of this horrible dungeon of a place. It’s torture without the torture. My mind goes to crazy places. I’ve felt every kind of emotion and seen it through to its death until there is nothing now, nothing but nothingness. I hold on as tightly as I can to the memories of that boring life I wish could be reality again. Now, reality for me is unreal. I’m losing myself. I’m becoming Z-294. I am nowhere. I am no one, and I feel myself becoming nothing. Still, I cling to hope that the sun will one day rise again, and I will see it from outside of these hellish walls, in the soft green grass of home, together again with my family. I have to believe they are okay. I have to believe that is still a possibility…my destiny. I have to believe. My life depends on it.

Competition: June 2015 Pen Factor, Round 1



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