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That Joke Isn’t Funny Any More – Chapter 9

That Joke Isn’t Funny Any More

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Chapter 9

At the start of the second helping of isolation Archie had started to count, to try and keep track of the time. “One, elephant, two, elephant, three, elephant.” It was only when he had counted to a thousand that Archie remembered that in order to fully count as one second in time he should have said hippopotamus. That didn’t help him anyhow. It was only one thousand seconds and what was that in real money? Fifteen minutes. Even if he had counted really slowly, it couldn’t have been more than twenty minutes.

Archie relaxed his shoulders and breathed out. He had to settle. He would be here a long time. Hopefully. Well, it was preferable to be here a long time than have some thug burst into the darkened room and blow his brains out over the dusty concrete before he knew what had happened. Knew what had happened to him, what had happened to his daughter.

“Christ.” Archie could feel a tear roll down his cheek. Where were those happy memories that he had held onto only moments before? He couldn’t hold onto one long enough before it escaped him and his mind wondered back to whatever was on the other side of the door. “I’ve got to do something.” He said it aloud only to convince himself.

What could he do but sit there? He was strapped down on a chair. He remembered the wood pressing into his back when the chair had tipped over earlier, and then it dawned on him. The weakest part of his prison was the chair. If he could break it, that would at least mean he could move around. What he would do after that was anybody’s guess. He rocked back on the chair, but in the dark it was difficult to guess how far he had to push before the momentum carried him over. Going forwards like the first time wouldn’t help. He pushed off using his heels again. He willed himself to tip, but it wasn’t quite enough and he landed hard on his heels in the darkness. A shooting pain ran up his left calf. He’d landed with his foot on something sharp.

With the shoe on it was difficult to tell much more than it hurt to land on it with his weight. Maybe he could use it later. He moved his foot to the left, so whatever the thing was it was positioned between his feet. He pulled himself forwards on the balls of his feet so that the chair was positioned on its front two legs.

He pulled in along breath as he psyched himself up. Archie grunted as he used all his available force to push himself back. He even exhaled as though the breath would be just enough to put him over the edge. He was worried that the momentum wouldn’t be enough to carry the chair over, as the base of the legs were sliding a little on the concrete dust, but at the last second Archie felt himself falling.

He felt pains in his back as he landed with all his weight on the chair. He heard something snap. Archie’s head snapped back and he made contact with the concrete. At that second he could have sworn that someone had heard him and switched on the strip lighting in the room, but it was just an explosion of stars in his eyes from the impact of his head. As Archie rolled he heard something creak and break. He hoped that it wouldn’t be his spine. He knew he wasn’t that fit, but even in his hazy state Archie knew his spine snapping wouldn’t sound like snapping wood.

Archie rolled to his left and what felt like a rather large splinter seem to embed itself into his shoulder blade. If this were TV, Archie could have used it to unpick the lock on his shackles. Sadly all it was useful for at the moment was a catalyst for crying. For which, it must be said it was very adept at. Archie rolled a little ore onto his side and he heard the splinter crack. The large part of it had fallen away but there was still the most painfully small part stuck in him.

Slowly Archie made his way to his feet and stretched as far as the legs shackles would allow. There was more pain than he had remembered. Nearly everything, no scratch that, everything hurt.

“Where are you?” Archie called to the sharp object he had nearly pierced his foot on. Not surprisingly, it didn’t answer. He tried again “C’mon kebab stick, where be ye?” The pirate affectation surprised even him. As far as he was aware, National Talk like a Pirate Day was a long way on the horizon. “Stop it Archie.” He commanded himself. If he wasn’t careful he’d soon let go of his mind and then he’d never be able to get to his daughter.

Archie swept his foot gingerly across the floor, coughing at the dust that was disturbed in the process. After seven tense passes along the floor, he had located the sharp object with the side of his foot. In the darkness he bent down and was able to clasp it in his fingers.  As he held it in his left hand, his whole arm began to shake. Was it relief? Anger? Sadness? All these emotions were bombarding him with increased speed. Archie shook his head to try and fight them off. Archie could feel the pulse rush through his bicep.

With his right hand he felt at the lock on the shackles. Disappointingly, it was still there. He’d half hoped that it would have come off and he could have just slipped off the bonds like Houdini. No such luck. What the hell was he going to do now? It had all been well and good while this whole escapade had been just theory. A sweet, simple theory that hadn’t actually been happening to him as long as he tried to pretend and shut it all out. Now, he was off the broken chair and had some sort of sharp object in his hand and locks that he had no idea of how to open.

He wasn’t GI Joe for God’s sake. He was a pharmacist. The most action he had seen was when Mrs Delveccio had insisted on staying in the store until her diabetes prescription had been filled despite the stockroom being empty. Archie had managed to placate her with some hard candy and had personally promised to deliver the refill on the script the following day. He had done, first thing the next morning, in fact. She hadn’t been pleased to see him, and he had been hit with the shaft of an umbrella for all his troubles, for reasons that still baffled him to his very day.

“Thank man,” Archie mumbled to himself, “think.” The best that Archie could come up with was to ram the sharp end into the lock mechanism and just wriggle it about and hoped that the lock broke before the object did. He doubted that shackles that his captors had no doubt painstakingly chosen to use were that flimsy but he really had no other choice, he couldn’t see anything in that room. Who knew when his captors would be back? This was his only shot. His daughter's only shot. If he wasn’t going to do it for himself, he’d damn well do it for her.

Archie felt his pulse quicken, like someone was using a jackhammer on his chest. If they had of been, he could have borrowed it for the locks. He chuckled at this thought in the dark as he tried to remain composed and focused on what he was about to do.

“Stay scientific.” He whispered to himself. “It’s all a science. That’s all it is.” Archie focused on his breathing, trying to slow his heart rate. He knew that if he made a mistake he may end up dropping the object and with the darkness he may ever find it again.

“In through the nose, and out through the mouth,” he repeated the words over and over until they lost all sense of meaning. “In through the nose, and out through the mouth.”

He relaxed his entire body as much as his bounds would allow him. And with a quick fluid motion put the sharp end of the object into the lock mechanism, just below his right wrist.

He moved the object back and forth and heard a loud clicking sound. He let out a sigh of relief and tried to move his right arm away, but there was no such luck. He could feel the beat of his heart skip more times than a well used Chipmunk Christmas album.

“No it can’t be.” He said to himself, the panic rising in his voice. “I heard you.” He was talking to the shackle now, as if reasoning with it would do any good. “Why won’t you do as you’re told?” Archie didn’t wait for an answer and removed the object from the lock mechanism.

Archie sighed.

The loud clicking sound echoed around the room again.

Archie cursed to himself. Of course, it wasn’t the locks on the shackles at all. It was the locks on the door. Someone was coming back for him.

In his panic, Archie nearly dropped the tool, but that the last minute regained his grip and stuffed it into the pocket of his pants. He hoped that it wouldn’t pierce his leg if he sat down.

The strip lighting began to flicker to life.

Archie hit the deck.

Waiting.

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