3:30 am


"Geez, sorry dude," Jenna says to Steve, "I was doing math and trying to figure out how to get us out of this. Guess I'm bad at this sort of thing. Confrontation always makes me waffle. Seriously though, is there a signal on that phone? The voices in the numbers and patterns are trying to tell me who can help us. I don't like it, but if they're right...he'll do it. He'll help."

A stinging in the back of my mind. "Why didn't YOU think of that before?" I think (she questions?).

"I'm..sorry. I..." I laugh, harsh and bitter, "I'm not used to this. What'd you ask? Oh, the phone." I fish it out of my pocket and turn the screen on. There's a signal. All the way down here? That doesn't... I hand the phone to Jenna. "Well, I hope you're right. We could really use some help."

I can't help but think about how stupid this is as I take the phone from Steve. Really really stupid. Catastrophically stupid. My hands shake as I take it and look it over, trying to figure it out in the way that people do when they use someone elses cell phone. "*Are you sure about this*", I ask inside my head.

The number of apps on the phone, the number of lines on Steve's face, the seconds it takes for the drip of sweat to run down my back under the windbreaker, the number of times my breath catches as I inhale just there. F*#k...it was spelling out his phone number.

"This is probably really stupid. Steve, I'm sorry if this gets you killed. I hope this phone does international calls."

I call my exhusband, Jack, while putting the last of my candy in my mouth save for one piece...a long gummie worm that I hand to Steve.

It doesn't even ring. It goes straight to voicemail. His phone must be turned off. I rattle of the message as quickly as possible before I can change my mind.

"J-Jack? It it's Jenna. I'm in some kind of trouble please don't be mad but you're the only person I can think of to help me I don't know why either because you're still in London probably but something tells me that you're the one I should call, if you get this, please call me back at....damn Jack I don't know the number to this phone! Steve?! Do you know Eddie's number?! Jack you have to help me somehow. I got lost in the subway tunnels. The train stopped. There's people after me Jack! People with guns! I'm locked in some kind of warehouse or something underground and we're sealing up a door with bricks! I don't know what to do Jack..."

The voicemail times out. I look at Steve with a tear in my eye.

"How do I look up the number on one of these?"

I take the candy Jenna offers and look it over. This has been in her pocket? I had it to someone else when Jenna isn't looking and wait for her to finish the call.

"Here, hand it to me," I try not to notice her crying.

I take the phone back, having really no clue as to how to look up a number on it. I never had one. I don't even have a cell phone. Never had anybody to call, really.

I begin pressing buttons, getting a feel for the thing. It doesn't take long for me to find a menu and go from there, after a number of wrong selections, to a phone number.

I hand the phone back to Jenna. "I think he'll prolly have caller id on his phone..."

The cinder blocks are all stacked in the doorway, and the rest of your small group is getting restless.

It appears you can pretty much head in any direction from here, except the way you came. The most well-lit areas appear to be right alongside the walls.

"His phone's turned off though! He won't see the number! Knowing him, he'll figure it out somehow...if he hasn't pushed them all away, he has people he can call. You know...'people'...like when someone says, 'I know a guy...'. Well...Jack knows most of those guys. For some *he's* that guy. Nevermind...sorry I'm rambling about this."

I put the iPhone in the front pocket of my windbreaker, dig for another piece of candy then realize it's all gone. I pull out a couple sets of keys and find one that has a little maglite flashlight on it. I turn it on and look around the room.

I wonder why we haven't called the cops yet. A bit of pattern here, a few things to count there...the Voice is telling me "911" but it fills me with a sense of dread. Probably not a good idea for some reason.

"Should we go this way?" I ask Steve, counting on him to provide leadership. I was never a leader, never a follower...I just kinda go my own way. That's when I remember why I have all these keys; I was the designated driver at the rave tonight. I was in charge of everyone elses keys. I hope they made it home okay, because I don't remember driving any of them.

"Yeah...let's go this way..." I say when I notice the look on Steve's face. He was agonizing over this for some reason, even though everyone seemed to be looking to him. I head along the nearest wall, using the flashlight to make the path of illumination a little wider as I walk along.

The room seems to stretch on farther than it should, and you wonder if the few supports you see here and there are adequately holding up the weight of the stone and earth above you. It feels oppressive. Nevertheless, you feel a cool breeze from above, and before long you see light.

You also hear voices, and they're not in your head.

I hang back as we travel, content to let Jenna lead the way. The woman in my head mocks me quietly. But I killed Eddie, and even she can't deny that. Besides, she carries a weight too. So we both lapse into silence.

Then the voices. I don't know why, but I move forward, silently, carefully, motioning to the group to stay back. I've seen way too much weird shit to trust this. I attempt to get close enough to hear them without being noticed.

"Did you hear something, Jack?"

"I don't think so. Mind playing tricks on you again, Ted?"

"I'm sure I heard something. There's only two of us down here, and I heard voices."

"Maybe they were in your head."

"Yeah right. Listen, stay here. I'm going to go check it out. Do a sweep of the perimeter."

"Oh, sure. Leave me here for another hour. See if I'm here when you get back."


I immediately turn off the flashlight and skip step into the shadows outside of the lights along the wall. I crouch down and pray to God that the iPhone doesn't ring or something. I want to pee my pants but instead I hold my breath and try to be invisible. I don't know why...but...the patterns around me are telling me it's the wisest course of action.

I wait to see who the voices belong to, crouched there in the darkness thinking invisible thoughts.

One of the men walks along the perimeter of the wall, sweeping his flashlight back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. You can see the pattern, and you can clearly see that one of the forths is going to pin you to the floor like a deer.

He's missed me.

In a decision I don't give myself time to think about I come behind him, grab him and pin him in my arms with one hand clamped firmly over his mouth.

Just as I was about to give up, I see Steve grab the gaurd from behind. I think to myself "What would Jack do?" and I rush forward. I grab his flashlight out of the air as it's about to clatter to the floor, and snatch his radio off his belt. I heft the flashlight in my hand to measure its weight, then swing the end of it hard into the gaurds stomach, folding him over and almost screwing up what Steve's trying to accomplish.

The next swing brings it down hard on the back of the gaurds head. I turn his flashlight off, crouch back into the darkness, and turn the radio volume down...but not off.

"*Something like that, I suppose*" I answer my own question.

The guard goes limp. There appears to be no indication that anyone's noticed anything, and the radio stays silent.

Crumpled on the floor, you can see he's wearing a uniform, and carrying two guns and an extendable baton, plus the flashlight.

His nametag says "Ted Forrey."

Now that your eyes have semi-adjusted to the light down here, you can barely see that there's a faint light up and around a corner, where Ted came from. Where, if the conversation you heard earlier is correct, you might locate "Jack."

Jenna notices that the code under the guard's name is 01160157

His security clearance is 6F.

His radio frequency is 78.111

Feeling safer now, I slip back over to the guard and take one gun...handing the other and the baton to Steve. I check his pockets and belt for keys, adding them my collection in my windbreker if there are any.

"Steve," I whisper through my teeth, "back here in the shadows. Help me with this guy"

I pull the guard, with Steve's help, back into the darkness and whisper in his ear.

"You're gonna hate me for sayin this...but we have to leave the others behind for now. Don't ask me how I know, but the answer's all around us. If you listen close you can probably hear the Voice too. It's in the patterns, the numbers...at least mine is. And it's telling me to slip off into the dark. Let the guard find the others for now. Maybe...maybe me can come back and find them after we find Jack. He can get us out of this. But if we stay with them we're going to die here...trust me. The numbers are never wrong. They always add up."

The serial number on the side of the gun, the engraving on the side of the flashlight, the number of people waiting back there in the light like scared sheep following us to...where? It was basically screaming at me now...death. My own, Steves, theirs, others that I don't know yet...all of us. Down here in the darkness. Alone.

"Seriously Steve..." I whisper as I put my left iPod headphone in to partially subdue the Voice. The dubstep is harsh and grating and syncopated and the patterns stop screaming about my death, at least for now, "...let's use them to get away."

The pleading look on my face even used to work on Jack. My puppy dog eyes were some of the best.

"Please?" a tear slips from my right eye.

The woman in my head panics. "Leave the group!" she yells, "It isn't safe! I'm not going to die again!"

I tighten my eyes against the pain and try to focus. What should I do? Precious seconds tick by as I agonize, replaying over and over again the story of a little boy, a headstrong mother, and a weak father, a life that never amounted to anything. How can I leave them behind? How can I do that when they trusted me? But everything in me is screaming, to leave, to hide, to get out at all costs. There must be some middle way, something I haven't yet thought of...

I steady myself and grip the pistol. Maybe I'm staring death in the eye, maybe I'm giving the finger to fate ("we all know how that turns out") but I've got to try.

I step from the shadows, gun raised, and shoot Jack.
Once, twice, three times.

I dial Jack again on the iPhone, that having been his phone number spelled out all over the guards badge, radio, etc.

Jenna dials Jack. The phone rings once, twice, three times. Then he picks up.



"Who is this? Is someone there?"

Off in the distance, shadows lengthen, and Jack steps out from behind the corner, as if confused, perhaps hearing an echo on the line. The same echo you hear, faintly.

And as the guard steps from around the corner, three shots ring out. Two spark off the wall, but one catches the guard in the chest, right on his nametag, shattering it into pieces as the bullet continues on its way. He slumps to the floor, and drops the phone, which shatters on the hard floor.

Jenna's phone goes dead.

"What the f*#k?" I whisper under my breath and run for where he fell.

Jack would never work in a place like this. Of course...who knows how far he's fallen since we last talked...he was hitting the bottle harder than ever last time I talked to some of our mutual friends on Facebook. It's the main reason I stopped talking to them, too much familiar ground.

I hadn't realized it, but while thinking all that I had run over to where he fell. I drop to one knee at his side and roll him over onto his back. He was old looking. Not just "I've been on the sauce" old looking, but honestly genuinely older than she remembered. Their was more gray than not in his hair, and he had grown a beard...that mostly grey too.

Oddly enough there was no blood.

"Jack!" I yell, shaking him a bit, "Jack you bastard don't die I need you!"

He coughs, groans, then coughs again. Sitting up slowly he feels his chest where the bullet hit him.

"The vest maybe?" he mumbles as he fumbles at his shirt buttons, "nope...."

He fishes the pocket flask I bought him on our first aniversary from his breast pocket, under where his badge used to be, and turns it over in his hand to reveal a single small slug stuck in the steel.

"Steve!" I yell, turning to where he had stood, "you just shot my husband!"

"Ex-husband," Jack corrects me quietly. His accent used to sound so smug...now it just sounds tired.

Needless to say, I'm shocked.

"You...you know this guy? I was protecting the group! I...what the hell's going on?"

"What the hell *is* going on Jack?" I ask. Strange how one's attitude changes so quickly when they realize someone isn't dieing.

"It's not my place to say...besides it might all turn out differently this time," Jack tells us, "You weren't here before Jenna, and this guy didn't shoot me...so it's already been changed somewhere...when...along the line."

He strips his guard shirt off and undoes the velcro on one of the bullet proof vest's shoulders. Seeing he isn't bleeding he does it back up, but leaves the uniform shirt on the floor where it fell. Noticing that the bullet didn't pierce the steel flask, he pops the bullet out and hands it to me then takes a small swig off the bottle.

"Who's got the bag?" Jack asks us.

"Bag? What bag?"

"The bag with the money...we need that bag. And where's Eddie?"

I shrug, defeated. I almost screwed something up, and I don't even know what. "He's gone. Wait. How do you know Eddie?"

"Gone?" Jack asks Steve, "Gone where? You don't mean he's...dead, do you?"

"He left through the door we bricked up, to stop the men with the guns that were coming," I reply, "didn't you get my message?"

"Message?" he asks.

I repeat to him the basics of what it said. He looks very confused while I do so.

"But that was years ago...it didn't make any sense at the time..." he mumbles under his breath. He takes another swig off the flask, "We have to get out of here...now. Ted's the one that does the call ins and if I do it they'll know something is up. We can get out just back here, around this corner. It leads to the examination and purification area."

"Purifi..." I begin as I follow him in the direction he's walking.

"Don't ask," Jack cuts me off, "You won't like it. It's enough to say that the only reason I took this job was to help these (he waves his hand towards Steve and the others) get out of here. We have to go up..."

"My dream brought me here somehow Jack...you remember the Egypt dream?", he nods, "Steve...do you have weird dreams too?"

The lights in the immense chamber begin to turn on in rows, each row an immense thunderclap. The wave of light begins across the chamber, and is sweeping towards you.

"Run," me and Jack say at the same time.

And we do. Into the darkness that remains, heading the direction Jack pointed out a moment ago.

You run, taking Jack's lead. The three of you. You dimly realize there are others back there, others from the subway, but there's no time for helping people along. It's everyone for themselves. You pile through the doorway, and Jack shuts the door after the three of you are through.

"Wait, what about the other--"

And as if in answer to the question, you hear shouts, and gunfire, from the other side of the door. Warning shots, you hope.

"That won't last very long," says Jack. "Sorry about..." He trails off, and doesn't need to continue.

"Anyway, we have to go through here. The equipment's disabled, so we can go right through. I think."

I retreat into myself at the sounds of gunfire. I tried. Goddammit I tried. And, like Eddie, they're gone. "I'll back your play," I hear Eddie's voice in my head. What a magnificent play that was. It seems no matter what I do it screws things up.

I say in my head, "Dammit, Eddie, I should've stayed behind. You seemed to know what you were doing. I'm just lost. You should've led the group. F*ck."

"Steve?" I ask, seeing the look on his face, not being able to read it, but knowing that it's not good, "We couldn't help them. I was saying that just before you shot Jack. It's either they die or we all die. Weird beans man...that's what my dream is always about. When I try to save the other women that are with me in the dream I end up dieing too."

"The dream again?" Jack asks.

"The dream *still*," I answer, "Hey, why do you look so...so *old* Jack? What happened to you?"

I try to hide the shock in my voice when I ask him, but it comes through plain as day.

"What year do you think it is?" Jack asks me.

"What? It's 2010, right? Steve?"

I come back to consciousness, shaking my head. "Um...yeah, 2010. I'm pretty sure. That's the last of what I can remember. And..."

I trail off, back into myself.

They're gone. I'm useless. Shit.

Jack nods.

"Then we're all here. At least for now..."

He trails off, as if struggling to remember something. Squints his eyes, shuts them, shakes something off.

Grabs Jenna roughly by the wrist.

"We have to go," he says. "Quickly, before they get through."

Jack rushes through several rooms, then through another, large, a long black ramp leading up into darkness. He moves past this, down a hallway, and into a closet. Cramped, but you manage to fit in all together.

"Sec..." he says, fumbling for something. Finally, a flare of light. Flashlight. Sweeping, looking.

"I know it's here somewhere," says Jack. "I heard it fall, earlier."

He swings the flashlight around, and there in the corner, you catch sight of a small keyring. Maybe a half dozen, mostly door, one obviously larger than the others. The key to a car?

"There," says Jack. "Grab those. We're getting out of here."

"Steve, you've got to take them. I don't want to get them mixed up with all of these," I say as I shake the front of my windbreaker.

"Steve? What's wrong?" I ask.

"Snap out of it mate," Jack says to him, "I won't be able to stick with you for long and Jenna's not even supposed to be here. Pull yourself together."

Jack hands his pocket flask to Steve.

"Where are we going Jack? Is there a way out of here?" I ask him.

"There's a garage, close by. The keys are to one of the cars. I'm not sure which one - you'll have to try them all. Then you two can drive up and out of here. Ditch the car, then foot it. Get away. I'll... I'll stay behind and open the garage door. Make sure they don't come after. I'll think of something. Some story."

I take a long drink from the flask. Haven't touched alcohol in a long time. But I need something to blot it out, and so focus on the burn that I used to love so much. Better. I can focus. I grab the keys.

"What are the other five to?" I ask. The woman in my head shudders at the mention of the number. "5 5 5 5 5 5..." she mumbles, trailing off.

"No idea," says Jack. "Places in here. No time to explore. You stay, you die."

He opens the door a crack, peers out.

"Looks clear. You two better bolt while you can."

I turn to him. "Thanks. What did you mean about how Jenna's not 'supposed' to be here?"

"She wasn't here. I don't know why she is now...maybe the dream? I don't know mate...but I do know that you have to run now."

"Thanks Jack," I say as I take Steve by the arm. I know I shouldn't, but I kiss him on his bearded cheek as Steve and I run out into the hall leading to the parking garage.

As I run, I don't even bother to keep low...I run as fast as I can down the hallway, waiting for the numbers in my head ot line up and do something important.

They do...they all add up together to point me down the hall past what look like dentists operating rooms and surgical suites, around the corner to the left through what seems like a break room, and down a short flight of stairs. I push open the fire door and it slams inot a guard standing in the garage smoking a cigarette. With shaky hands I point the gun his way, but it looks like I'm going to be too slow. He's already got his gun out of it's holster.

It seems as if you've got no time, but things seem to... slow down.

The numbers in your head grow louder, and your vision seems to be replaced with ones and zeroes, calculations and diagrams, velocities and durations. You can clearly see the way the guard is moving, the amount of time it will take him to draw, aim and fire, and the only opportunity you will have to stop that event from happening.

It's just math, and it's beautiful.

On autopilot, you act, stepping in and... doing something, you're not sure what. It's all about certain angles, forces applied at the right time. Somehow Pi figures in, you're not sure how.

When your vision clears, what must be only a second later, you're standing over the guard, his gun in your hand. He lies on the ground, neck broken.

You have no idea how you did that, but it felt... right.

You look up. There is a camera watching you. You can almost hear it smile.

Time to move, and keep moving.

I run.

"Steve! Hit the alarm thingy! To make it beep!"

I watch as Jenna executes a complicated martial arts maneuver, perfect for her size vs. his size and the weapons in both hands. By the end of it, one gun is in her windbreaker, the other in her hand, and his body all over the stairs. Then she moves. I never would've thought she could move with such grace, but the evidence is all over the stairs and there's no denying it. Why do these people keep me around? I feel like the sidekick in all the old movies when the main character does everything and I'm just the damsel in distress waiting to be rescued.

Jenna doesn't give me time to reminisce on all those old movies and how the sidekick always eats a bullet, however. The alarm thingy? To the car? I search the keyring and find that it does have a beeper. How does she notice these things?

"She listens," the woman in my head says. "You don't listen you end up dead."

I ignore her and press the button.

Nothing happens. The car must be out of range.

It is a fairly big garage.

I run through the garage, waiting for the numbers to line up. The amount of time I've been awake, the number of times I've had the dream, how many times I've thought about Jack since I last saw him a few years ago. It flows through my head, burning a string of digits into my mental space. I glance down and to the left, spotting a license plate that matches.

"Over here Steve! It's this one!" I yell. No time for stealth now.

I stand by the passenger side door, waiting for Steve.

"I don't drive," I say almost apologetically, "...epilepsy. It freaks me out."

The door we came through to enter the garage bursts open and two more guards come rushing in, guns drawn. I level the handgun their way and fire off three shots without aiming. None of them hit the guards, but one takes out the fire alarm pull station. All at once the sprinklers come on, the emergency lights double the illumination in the garage, and I can hear the garage doors opening somewhere above us as the alarm blares like a bomb alert. Alarm strobes flash in all the corners.

The other two bullets skip off the cement and cause the guards to roll for cover behind some vehicles.

The number start flying through my head bright and hot, screaming past and almost obscuring my vision.

"Aw crap, not now," I mumble.

I can feel my left eye twitching, and something wet is running down my face from my right nostril as I bite my lip and lean against the car. I fumble the headphones out of my ears and look at Steve pleadingly. I can't tell through my failing vision if he's got the car open or not.

I follow the numbers and fire three more seemingly random shots off where they tell me to put them, but I can feel the cement coming up to meet my face before I can tell if they've hit anything important. I try to shake my medic alert bracelet out from under the cuff of my windbreaker, more out of habit than anything else, but by then I don't have much control over what my bodies doing.

The last thought that runs through my head is, "just get me in the car", and I try to force it outwards to Steve.

I rush behind Jenna as she finds the car (how in the hell..? "you need to listen..."), press the button, followed sure enough by a "beep beep" as the car unlocks, and then stand in shock as it all goes to hell. I hear the doors burst open behind me and before I can even turn around Jenna's got her gun up and has squeezed off three shots. I turn in time to see the glass shatter on the pull station and the alarm go off, to see the water come cascading down and the guards scramble for cover. I turn back, thinking about whether handguns still work when wet, and watch in shock as Jenna seems to convulse, clutch the car, blood seeping out of her nose, and then fall.

And it's up to me.

"Jenna!" I cry and rush to her side. She's out. Shit shit shit shit I can hear the guards moving. I spring up, using the car as cover and pray as I level my gun. "Fire," the woman says, "It'll work." I do so. And, God be praised, it works. One guard seems to take one, I don't know where and fall out of my vision. The other ducks. "More are coming. Be quick."

I pull the door open, grab Jenna, stuff her in the front seat, head down, protected as much as possible, and close the door just as a bullet flies by my head and shatters the window. I turn, arms flailing, gun swinging wildly over the space.

"2 o'clock," she says, and my gun hand stops precisely, my finger squeezing off one shot. A spray of blood splatters the ceiling as the bullet rips open the guards throat, knocking him back. "More, more, more," she says. I rush to the other side, get the door open, hearing guns go off and bullets whiz by. I slide in (the seat, the mirrors are perfect) and start the car, shifting into drive and gunning it, turning left going for the closest exit. I race past a hundred forms, rushing all about and burst into the sunlight, almost blinding myself and losing everything in one stupid moment. I turn right onto the street, trying to keep track of a hundred things at once. Do I have any pursuers? What's the name of the street? What's the city look like? Do I recognize it? And how does Jenna look?

The sunlight blinds you for a moment, and for the briefest of seconds you can't help but think, "how is there sunlight? Isn't it only about 4 am?"