Adrian woke with a splitting headache. He was lying with his face pressed against unfamiliar bedding and his eyes felt gritty. He began to lift one hand to rub at his eyes, but something stopped him. “What the hell is going on here?” he wondered aloud as he tried to yank his wrists apart.
“Adrian?” his sister Lily’s quavering voice came from across the room. “Are you there?”
“Yeah, Lil. Are you okay?”
“I think I’m tied up. I can’t move very well,” she responded.
“Me too. Hey Jess, you here?”
His best friend’s voice drifted up from the floor. “Yeah man?”
“You have a knife?”
“I don’t know. Let me try and check my pockets.”
“Will you three idiots please shut up so we can try and figure out where we are?” another female voice called.
“Who’s that?” Adrian demanded.
“I’m Moira,” was all she said.
“Yo! I gotta knife.” A figure rose up from the floor, already untied. “I’m Will,” he explained as he began to saw through Adrian’s bindings.
Adrian immediately ran over to check on his sister. Lily was crying, curled up on the bed as best as she could. She was wearing the tank top and shorts she had gone to sleep in the night before. “Adrian, where are we?”
“I don’t know, Lil.”
“I thought we weren’t supposed to leave until this morning! I thought Mom was going to take us to the airport! We didn’t get to say goodbye to her!”
“Seriously! Will you quit your whining?” Moira cut in.
Lily looked stricken. By now, Will had finished cutting everyone’s ropes and they were all moving to pick up their packs which lined one wall. “Lily, do you want to get dressed?” Jesse asked, holding out her bag.
“Okay,” she nodded.
“Then maybe we should let your brother get some clothes on!” Jesse laughed.
Adrian looked down at himself, suddenly realizing that he was clad only in boxers. “Damn it! I knew I should’ve worn pants last night!”
“I hope you remember to pack some!” Jesse joked.
“Shut up, Jess!” Adrian shoved him and then helped Lily stand. “Anyone have a problem with my sister getting ready first?” he asked.
“Just as long as she’s quick about it. There’s only one bathroom and five of us,” Moira said.
“So, I wonder where we are?” Jesse wondered as the bathroom door closed behind Lily.
Adrian rifled through his pack and dug out a pair of jeans. Pulling them on over his boxers, he headed for the window. When he pulled back the yellowing curtain, all he saw was a small parking lot and beyond that, unrecognizable buildings. “Well, there’s nothing out there that’s going to tell us anything. Maybe someone from the show will come by soon and explain why we were all abducted from our homes and tied up last night instead of flying out this morning like we were expecting.”
When Lily emerged, Moira and Will were fighting over who got to use the bathroom next. “I’m a girl! I should get to go next!” Moira demanded.
“But I’m about to piss my pants! Get outta my way!” Will pushed past her and slammed the door behind him.
“What an jerk! My boyfriend’s going to kick his ass when he finds out about this!”
“You have a boyfriend?” Lily asked tentatively.
“Yeah. What, is that surprising to you?”
“No. I was just going to say that it sucks you had to leave him behind.”
“Oh. Well, technically, I didn’t leave him behind. I’m from California. He lives in Ohio,” Moira explained.
“How did you meet?” Lily asked.
“Do you always ask so many questions?”
“Sorry! I was just trying to be nice.”
Will finally came out of the bathroom and Moira raced in before anyone else could beat her.
Jesse was the only one that remained in his sleeping attire. He wasn’t shy. He whipped off his pajama pants—almost taking his boxers with them—and pulled on some jeans. Moira came out of the bathroom in the middle of this process. “Oh gross. Couldn’t you have waited five minutes?”
Jesse just shrugged. “Doesn’t bother me. I don’t see why it should bother you. It’s not like I was naked. Besides, I was hanging around in only my boxers for a lot less time than Adrian!”
“Hey guys, what’s this?” Lily asked. She was standing by the lone bedside table.
“What is it?” Jesse asked, coming up behind her.
There was a remote control lying on the table with a note attached. Turn me on,was all it said.
Lily frowned and hit the “power” button. Everyone turned toward the TV.
At first there was just static, but finally a figure appeared. The man looked to be in his mid-forties. His hair was beginning to grey. He wore black-rimmed glasses.
He flashed the camera a big grin. “Hello my little criminal masterminds. Or maybe I should say not-so-masterminds, since you all managed to get caught. After all, isn’t that why you’re all here?” he laughed.
“Now, I’m sure you’re all wondering where you are, and how you got here. Unfortunately, this isn’t the time for explanations. This is the time to move. You will find a set of car keys on the table. Inside your car, you will find more supplies and instructions. That is, if you make it to your car. As soon as this video ends, you will have five minutes until the hunters come to find you. Good luck.” With that, the image faded and the television returned to static.
“Move!” Adrian demanded. He lunged for his pack and Lily’s while everyone else grabbed for theirs.
“What are the hunters?” Lily wanted to know. She was starting to look scared again.
Adrian grabbed her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. “Lily, I need you to be brave, okay? Can you do that for me?”
She nodded. “I guess so.”
They all ran out of the motel room and into the parking lot. “Crap! Did anyone grab the keys?” Adrian asked.
“Yeah, I got them,” Jesse told him.
“You always have my back, man.”
Jesse pressed a button on the key ring. A car beeped.
“Awww hell no!” Will exclaimed. “I ain’t gettin’ in that piece of crap!”
“We don’t have another choice, moron!” Moira reminded him. “Now get your butt in the car. I don’t know what these hunters do, but I’m not anxious to meet them.”
Jesse tossed the keys to Adrian. “You drive.”
“Anyone have a problem with that?” Adrian asked.
No one answered. Adrian pushed the button to pop the trunk and they all tossed their bags in and piled into the car.
“Now what?” Lily asked.
“Just drive!” Jesse said.
As soon as Adrian started the engine, the CD player came on. A voice came over the speakers. It was the same voice of the man on the TV.
“Well it seems like you made it to your car. Congratulations. In the glove box, you will find a debit card. Use it wisely. You will also notice that your car, such as it is, is equipped with a GPS system. If you turn it on, it will direct you to your next destination, the Snowy River Carnival. Good luck.”
Jesse was sitting shotgun. He opened the glove box and found the debit card. “Food?”
“Yeah, let’s see what we can find,” Adrian agreed.
Jesse turned on the GPS. “Well, at least now we know where we are.”
“Where?” Moira asked.
“Damn! That’s hella far from where I live!” Will said.
“Where are you from?” Lily asked.
“East Side San Ho!” he made a gesture with his hand.
“What?” Lily looked confused.
“What is that, a gang sign? I think he means San Jose, California,” Moira explained.
“How did you know that?”
“I’m from Santa Cruz. It’s right by San Jose.”
“We’re from California too,” Adrian offered as he pulled out of the parking lot.
“Oh yeah? Where?” Moira asked.
“Los Angeles,” Lily answered for him.
“All three of you?”
“Yep! Adrian’s my brother, and Jesse’s his best friend. He’s practically my brother too.”
“Well, they weren’t very original when they chose our team,” Moira said.
“What do you mean?” Jesse asked.
“We’re all from California.”
“So, Moira, Will, what did you guys do to land you on this show?” Adrian asked.
“Why don’t you tell us what you guys did first?” Moira asked.
“Fine. I stole a car, Jesse set something on fire, and Lil tried to steal a shirt. Happy?”
Moira rolled his eyes, which Adrian didn’t see. “Oh please. At least I did something worthwhile!”
“I tried to keep an evil company from torturing helpless animals.”
“What, are you a vegetarian?”
“Actually, I am. Someone has to speak for those with no voices. And why would I eat those I’m trying to speak for?”
“Oh jeeze. What about you, Will?” Adrian asked.
“I stabbed someone,” Will said shortly.
“You’re in a gang?” Lily asked incredulously.
“Was. Quit to come on this. I’m surprised they didn’t kill me.”
They all fell silent at this revelation.
“Hey, McDonald’s!” Lily exclaimed, pointing.
“Is that okay with everyone?” Adrian asked.
“I don’t eat fast food,” Moira informed them.
“Girl, I don’t think you gotta choice,” Will said.
“Fine, but there had better be options with no meat.”
“We’d better be careful with this card. The hunters might be able to use it to track us,” Jesse said.
“Good point. Let’s go in and see if there’s an ATM. Plus, it’s easier to look at the menu that way,” Adrian said.
He parked the car and they all climbed out. Ten minutes later, they all emerged, carrying bags and drinks.
“What do you think is going to happen when we get to this carnival?” Lily asked as they pulled back onto the road.
“I don’t know Lil,” Adrian told her. “I guess we’ll find out when we get there.”
TO BE CONTINUED . . .