The Kidnapping


The Kidnapping

Chapter 3

That night, the boys bunked together on the floor of Herbert’s room on the third story, which if you remember from the last book was steepled like a tower. The storm howled outside and beat against the rickety wooden walls. Lightning flashed her violent eyes through the window and filled the room with hot, white light. A brief, ominous glow shimmered on each of the boy’s faces, followed by a rich, deep darkness and haze. Each sudden blast left the boys blinking away red drooping splotches falling down the insides of their eyelids.

“Do you think the girls are alright?” Herbert whispered.

“Why wouldn’t they be?” Aaron asked. 

“Because of Professor Wolfgang.”

“He’s up to no good,” Aaron replied. “But Marian is smart. She’ll lock the door like us.”

“What are we gonna do?” 

“Sleep, hopefully.” Aaron was short in response, but not because he was irritated with Herbert. Rather, Aaron didn’t enjoy thinking about things he couldn’t control. He took responsibility for Herbert, and at the moment, butterflies were filling his stomach. 

“I meant in the morning,” Herbert said.

“I know.” Aaron heaved and flung his head to the other side of the pillow. 

Herbert was silent. He turned on his side and stared into the darkness under his drawer. 

Aaron sighed. The storm whistled and whined. The window flashed and Aaron saw the back of Herbert’s head. A low rumble hovered in the sky, and for a moment, the house shook.

“One time, I was playing this video-game,” Aaron said matter-of-factly, mustering up his voice to sound unconcerned. “I kept getting to the final boss level in World Eight-Four. But every time, I died right at the end. I played that level a hundred times in one day trying to get it right, but no matter what, I kept dying.”

Herbert turned on his back and looked at Aaron’s black silhouette. 

“Finally, I went to sleep,” Aaron continued. “And I had a dream about that level. I got through the maze, the water-world, the flying-fish, and face-to-face with the Boss. I ran at him just like before, but this time I jumped a moment sooner and got through the flying axes and over his head. Then he died, and I saved the princess. When I woke up, I knew it would work. I turned on the video-game and beat it in one try.”

Lightning flashed her eyes through the window again, and the boys could see each other’s faces again. 

“Maybe all we need to do is get some sleep,” Aaron said. “And we’ll know how to beat the Boss in the morning.” 

Herbert smiled. “Goodnight, Aaron.” 

“Night, Herbert.”


Herbert opened his eyes. The sky outside was still dark. The storm had left, but the room still felt heavy and threatening. Herbert swore a strange noise had woken him. His eyes scanned the room, but nothing made sense in the twilight. His shoulder blade stung and his hand was numb. He pulled the arm free from under his body and blanket and shook it gingerly. 

Tap. Tap. Tap.

His head jerked toward the door. Something scurried at its base. He thought he saw a light shimmer through the bottom for a moment. 

Tap. Tap. Tap, came the noise again.

“Aaron?” Herbert whispered, but Aaron was fast asleep. 

He closed his eyes and pulled the blanket over his face. His little arms shook and his heart held still. He thought about strange creatures crawling on the ground, trying to squeeze under his door. When he slept alone, the open closet ofttimes became a hiding place for monsters and evil creatures. His hung clothing looked like the tentacles of a horrific bogeyman. The light dancing off the toy cars were menacing eyes watching him. Even the fan sounded awfully like the breath of a Minotaur. Tonight, the monster was outside the door, scratching to get in and pressing against his sanity. 

But none of that makes sense, he told himself. It must be a tree scratching the siding in the wind. A raccoon running along the rooftop. Aaron was with him. Monsters weren’t real. 

His heartbeat came back. The tapping faded. 


Some time later, Aaron slapped his hands on the ground and shot up from his laying position on the floor. He squatted on his knees next to Herbert’s sleeping body. The sound of music was in the air. A pleasant, still melody, but it sent a creepy chill down his spine. The storm had brewed again, and thunder rumbled in the darkness. 

Aaron relaxed a bit, sat on his haunches, and listened to the music. It floated in the air, and though it was quiet and seemingly from a great distance, it enveloped him. The sound tightened his chest. 

It reminded him of his mother on the worst day of his life. Pain and tears had filled her eyes. From the front porch, the two of them had watched the officers take his father away. She had screamed and grabbed hold of him. He was only five at the time. Since that day, he had scoffed when people described things as “heartbreaking”. Others wished they knew what a broken heart felt like. He wished he forgot. He had never seen his father again. 

“Is that music?” Herbert sat up next to him.

“More concerning—” Aaron whispered back. “It’s voices.”

Herbert clenched his jaw, glared at the door frame, and wondered if it were possible to make his ear hear better. After a moment, he made out a low mutter. There were two of them. Little murmurs from somewhere in the shadows of the house on the other side of the door. Then a sharp, raspy voice, like chains dragging across sand, and underneath it all, the tap-tap-tapping from earlier. 

“Who are they?” Herbert asked. 

Shh,” Aaron ordered. He crouched to the floor and crept out of his blanket toward the door. 

“—No, it isn’t…” said one of the deep murmurs. “I already looked there.” Aaron thought the voice sounded like the Professor. 

“I didn’t ask for your opinion.” The raspy voice was perturbed. “We will only work in sureties, and that means doing what is necessary.” Pause. “Do you understand what this means?” 

“I do,” said the other deep murmur, and Aaron thought it sounded even more familiar. 

Aaron leaned closer to make sure of who it could be, but the floor board creaked underneath. 

Tap. Tap. Tap. The sound was sharp, quick and alerting. It was just on the other side of the frame. 

The voices abruptly hushed, and the first murmur muttered something angry and incomprehensible. Aaron looked back at Herbert. He was wide-eyed and panicked. The tapping had stopped, but something scurried away from the door like chattering teeth. Aaron crawled to his spot next to Herbert, and the boys attempted to fall asleep again.


Aaron dreamed he was canoeing in a strange wooden boat, at the back behind Marian, Herbert and another boy he couldn’t recognize. They were alone in a deep, shimmering black cave. Bats swooped down from their dens and darted past them toward an enormous hole in the cave’s ceiling, leading to the outside sky. Light tunneled through it, forming a massive beam of orange and brown. 

The water sparkled in the orange-brown light, and Aaron guessed it was hundreds of feet deep. He looked all around at the bizarre rock formations and wondered where to find the exit, while also suspecting that they were lost and it was all Marian’s fault. Then, suddenly, Marian stood in the center of the boat and dove at Herbert. She was on top of him, flailing her arms and beating him senseless. Herbert screamed for Aaron’s help. She tied a rope around his hands and ankles. Herbert screamed again. 

Aaron!” 

Aaron’s eyes shot open. Two large shadows were scuffling in the dark next to him and dragging something from the spot Herbert slept at. One was tall and stiff; the other was short and round. Herbert’s little body was in their hands, writhing and wriggling, bound at the wrist and feet. The short and round figure shoved a sock down his open mouth. 

“Herbert!” Aaron cried and hit the tall, stiff shadow carrying Herbert’s flailing body. The large shadow reciprocated with its backhand. 

Aaron stumbled across the room into Herbert’s dresser, dropped to his knees, and gasped for air. He picked himself up, clenching his jaw and weeping in rage. The two figures walked toward the door. Herbert’s body thrashed and kicked in their arms. 

Aaron rushed again and dropped his shoulder like a linebacker. He aimed for the short figure this time and hit it square against the chin and collarbone. It doubled over and cried out in pain. Aaron shoved his fist into its face. He felt spit and blood on his knuckles. 

The stocky shadow grabbed at Aaron’s shoulders. It was his height, but much stronger than him. The silhouette of an arm raised in the air, and Aaron closed his eyes to prepare for the impact. A fist pounded into his temple, and the world became blurry and sideways. He couldn’t breathe, and gravity was slowly dropping him to the ground like a falling leaf. He hit it hard, gasped for breath, and dabbed his face disconcertedly. 

The stocky figure reached down for him again, but Aaron came to and jumped to his feet. The back of his head hit the shadow in the face. He leaped on the chest and dug his fingernails into its back. He felt something floppy and wet against his cheek and bit into it. It was the shadow’s ear. He ripped a chunk of flesh off and the little shadow screamed in horror. 

Aaron bounced off the shadow and spit the chunk of ear onto the ground. The stocky shadow was screaming and on the ground, writhing. Aaron smirked, but in the scuffle, he lost track of the tall, stiff shadow. A heavy fist hit him in the back of the head and he fell to the ground. The world spun, and he lost consciousness. 



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