Fugitive From the Rubber Room
by L. R. Quilter
The scream terrorized him; a shrill, agonizing outpouring of grief and anger. Peter Grey stopped his headlong flight and rested his weary body. He had heard that horrendous scream on many an occasion and knew it came from his own throat.
He was exhausted; the shreds of his clothing soaked by the incessant downpour. It was November on the moors and visibility down to a few yards, yet his pursuers were almost upon him. He could hear the hounds: their baying was close and he knew he had little time before he was caught.
He glanced around wildly, seeking a place of concealment, and staggered to a nearby copse, where he tripped over a root and tumbled down a steep slope. His body slid into a black void, a tunnel without end.
How long he fell he had no idea, but he came to a shuddering halt and collapsed on a dry embankment beside a narrow stream. He felt safe. It was close to nightfall now, but all was peaceful, so he relaxed and fell into a deep sleep.
He awoke at dawn and noted that the rain and fog were gone. The silence around him seemed surreal. Only a slight sound of running water from the stream disturbed the air.
Peter suddenly gasped in horror. Was he going blind? Everything in the dim light of early day was black and white. Shades of grey greeted his astonished gaze. It reminded him of a charcoal drawing he had submitted for an exam. No! It seemed more like the Kansas farm scene that opened one of his favorite movies, the Wizard of Oz.
The terrain seemed strange without any vestige of color, Drab scenery, yet with stark contrast. As he stared a slight movement caught his attention.
“Peter, Peter, over here.”
It was Harry who called. They had said that Harry was dead, so how could he be here?
“Peter. We are across the stream.” It was Lucy, his darling sweetheart. “Come to us, Peter, please.”
His heart fluttered in excitement as he leaped across the narrow strip of lifeless water and plunged into the woods from where he had heard them.
Harry and Lucy stepped from the shadows of a gnarled oak tree and Peter saw they held each other’s hand. A twinge of jealousy grabbed him, but he restrained his desire to inflict punishment.
He had visited places similar to this before. Not once, but many times. With sudden clarity he remembered the joy he felt when his best friend and his only beloved had met him on these trips.
Then he clasped them tightly. “Harry, Lucy, thank God you’re safe.”
“You look thinner.” Lucy always noticed everything about him.
“It’s the food; not worth the effort to eat.”
Harry put in his two cents worth. “You must eat, Peter. Your visits are costing you dear. Keep up your strength and maybe you can stay here forever.”
The three of them drifted away from the stream. Peter glanced at Lucy. Black hair, black eyes, even the lipstick appeared black. Turning his attention to Harry, Peter studied the slim body. Handsome and youthful, the sight of his friend struck a responsive chord in Peter’s soul. What happened in the past he couldn’t remember. The couple he walked with showed no fear or anger, so why did the bad thoughts drift into his mind?
Lucy and Harry were the only two people he cared for, one as a lover, the other as best friend. Something caused him to feel anger and he wasn’t sure why. He had a vision of an axe descending on Harry’s skull, then a butcher knife that almost severed Lucy’s head.
He washed away the thoughts; why did he keep dreaming and thinking about events that never happened? He loved Harry like a brother and Lucy was his love. He could never harm either of them.
Trees began to move in the distance; Dull, lifeless grass moved like ocean waves. A storm was brewing. It hit with tremendous force, sweeping him off his feet. His futile efforts to stay with his companions failed miserably. There was no sight of Harry or Lucy. He screamed that awful scream again, because he knew he was being sucked back into the tunnel.
The gale force winds tore at his ragged clothes as he tried to prevent what was happening. No dice! He was hurled into the cave and shoved upward with tremendous velocity. Peter Grey knew the authorities would be waiting when he emerged from his other world. He hoped the hounds were leashed.
“Hello, Peter. A merry chase you’ve given us this time.” Williams, a burly medical attendant, snapped handcuffs behind Peter’s back while Harris, equal in size, said nothing as he applied leg irons. Two bloodhounds sniffed eagerly, ready to pounce at the slightest command.
“That’s six times you’ve managed to escape, but we catch you each time, so why do you bother?” Williams chortled as he hauled the recumbent form that was Peter to a standing position.
Harris finally added something to the conversation. “At least you’ll be dry and warm in your rubber room. We just can’t let you loose to slaughter more innocent victims, can we?”
Williams smiled at Peter, but his face was full of malice. “Cutting throats and burying axes in people’s skulls is not nice, Peter. Come along now, it’s time to play with your rubber ducky.”
Peter was led to a waiting van wondering why these two kept insisting he had killed people. Why worry, he would get away again and with luck, go back to that fantastic black and white world and rejoin his best friend and his girl.
He felt the slight prick as they injected him. His thoughts drifted away from the colorless world he had visited and he knew all traces would be erased from his memory when he awoke in the rubber room.
Copyright © 2006 by L. R. Quilter