One Page Stories – Third Web

Not This Time

The van hadn’t gone very far; after the little boy had tumbled out and run off, it had taken nearly a full minute to get the girl back into the van, and another minute to careen out of the neighbourhood. By then, the boy’s screams had attracted more attention than the three men had wanted or anticipated, and they sped conspicuously when before they had tried to blend in with regular traffic.

Several minutes went by, and the driver of the van began to think they had gotten away; the girl was still struggling, but the other two men were holding her down – she couldn’t kick her way out again, and her mouth was still taped up. The driver started to relax.

But suddenly a police car appeared behind the van, and then another, and another. Their lights were flashing; their sirens wailed. The driver of the van panicked, flinging the van recklessly from one lane to the next, but the police cars kept pace. Soon six cars had surrounded the van and forced it to the side of the road.

The three men jumped out of the van and fled on foot, pursued by half a dozen police officers with guns drawn. The other officers cautiously approached the van, opening the back doors to find a girl tied up and wrapped in duct tape. “You’re okay!” they shouted, climbing in and kneeling down beside her. “You’re okay!” The girl looked scared and relieved at the same time; as soon as the tape was removed from her mouth, she croaked, “Where’s the little boy?”

One of the officers put a hand on her shoulder. “Jacob?” he said. “He’s how we found you. He’s okay.”

The girl slumped down and began to cry. “Thank God,” she sobbed. “Thank God.”

Two of the officers helped her down out of the van and led her to one of the squad cars. The officers left in the van began looking at piles of items collected in the corners amidst the tangle of ropes and blankets. There were articles of clothing, odds and ends of jewelry, and a few handbags. “Collect all these,” one officer said to another. “It looks like this girl and Jacob aren’t the first ones thrown into this van.”

“Look at this,” a third officer interjected, tipping up a wooden shadow box. “It’s a jersey,” she noted, angling the box so that the others could see inside it. “It’s been signed by Stan Lee.”

“There’s a receipt taped to it,” the first officer said. “It might tell us who owned that jersey.” He stepped out of the van. “Stop collecting,” he decided. “Let’s seal it up and take the whole van in for processing.”

The officer holding up the shadow box laid it gently back where she had found it. “I think Jacob and this girl are really lucky,” she commented as she climbed out of the van. “It looks like a lot of people didn’t get away.”

“Yeah,” the first officer said. He closed the doors to the van. “Yeah.” He went over to the car where the girl sat sobbing into her hands and shaking. She had saved little Jacob’s life, and could easily have lost her own. “But you’re safe,” the officer whispered to himself. He shook his head, and glanced back at the van. “You’re safe.” He wondered about the owners of all those items they had found, wondered how many of them were dead. “What the hell’s wrong with people?” he asked no one in particular, and got into the squad car.

The Thing I Like About …

Smallville: the one where the Bart Allen (the young Flash) is kidnapped by Lex Luthor.

Lex has, for whatever reason Lex has, kidnapped Bart and put him in a circular cage with an electric floor. If Bart can run fast enough, he can stay alive, but if he stops running as fast as he can, then the floor will be able to electrocute him.

Bart starts running. As fast as he can.

He runs for who knows how long, running so fast that he’s just a blur, running so long that sweat streams down his face, and he looks so tired. And he has no idea if anyone even knows he’s there, if anyone’s even looking for him. He doesn’t know if Clark Kent is on his way; he doesn’t know when Clark will arrive. But he knows he wants to live.

So he just keeps running.

I can’t even say how many times, and in how many ways, life feels like that circular cage, and we feel like Bart, just running as fast as we can for as long as we can, just to survive. Some days it doesn’t even feel worth it. We have no way of knowing when life will stop feeling like that, or even if the floor is really electrified, but we don’t want to find out the hard way by stopping and being killed. We don’t really know if anyone knows that we’re struggling, or if they care that we’re in trouble.

It just starts to feel easier to give up, to lay down and die – metaphorically or literally – to stop running before a rescue that might never get there.

But Clark knows about Bart. He cares about Bart. He’s looking for Bart. And he finds him, and saves him.

Is it about having faith in the Clark of our lives, having faith that people care about us and will help us? It is. But it’s about more.

It’s about running anyway, about having that faith in ourselves, about wanting our lives enough to keep living them. It’s about that kind of faith, and that kind of patience, and that kind of endurance – that if Clark doesn’t find Bart in time, then Bart will die trying to live.

That’s what it’s about … and what I try to remember when I feel like I’m stuck in that cage.