The Nightmare to Beat All Nightmares!

Rt'      Brad Strom was tired and a hotel sounded perfect.  Except for the fact that he was in Arizona en route from Phoenix to Kingman and the only thing around was mountains and desert.  Being still nearly two hours from his destination, the wearying business man was concerned that he might fall asleep at the wheel.  As a representative for Starpointe Copiers, the forty- two year old was accustomed to long and arduous trips where excitement was normally limited to the occasional fender-bender, or  wild displays of the weather, particularly some of the lightning storms he had driven through.  Fortunately Brad had never experienced a breakdown that resulted in him being stranded on a deserted highway, where his loneliness would surely give way to not only wasted time and boredom, but such imaginative thoughts that one could have while in such a position.  Up until two years ago, Chicago was his residence, and though his new home in the suburbs of Phoenix was certainly less busy than his former apartment just minutes from downtown, it was a far cry from this wasteland he was presently travelling.  Ever since he was lost in the woods as a kid, Brad had a respect...and even a fear,  of outdoor areas that were too isolated from places that provided at least the illusion of safety and security because others were present.  Ten years old at Starved Rock State Park, alone and scared, the three hours felt like three days.  Fortunately the Park Rangers found him well before the darkness had started, though just the thought of the possibility multiplied his fear tremendously at the time.  Small noises seemed like thunder cracks and led the boy's mind to fantasize that a bear or a wolf were on the prowl, considering him for their next meal.  Some may laugh, but after Brad received his first good job he started donating annually to the Illinois Parks and Recreation.  
      Not yet to the point of splashing his bottled water on his face as he did during some of these long stretches, Brad could not believe his eyes when he saw a sign for a motel.  He grimaced when upon more careful inspection, the advertisement was for a Comfort Suites 100 miles up the road.  He was wise enough to gas up at the last station about twenty miles back,  so that was not a problem, but the last few days was constant travelling with quick stops to give the sales pitch for the new Commercial Skye 201, the ultimate copier of the future, or so the pitch went.  No traffic in either direction for at least fifteen miles only added to the man's tiredness.  Exhausted, Brad was considering where he should pull off to get a few minutes of rest when he came upon a  Actually it was a four-way stop more than a town, there was no business district, no city hall, no Post Office.  But there was a gas station and a small no-name motel, believe it or not.  Brad eased his Chevy Cobalt up to the stop sign and stared at the building.  Definately not the Comfort Suites he was accustomed to, and not even at the level of a Super Eight, it did look overall clean.  In his desperation, Brad tried to ignore that the one-floor, about a dozen room motel, had only two cars out front and one of those looked like it was barely drivable.  Considering it might be better if he went on, the wearied traveller let out a large yawn.  He pulled in.
      Brad knew he was tired.  Staying at a lodging with no indoor corridors and certainly with no indoor pool was always a no-no, at least up until tonight.  But there would be no time in the morning for a trip to the pool or hot tub even if there was one.  With staying overnight he was afforded the time to rest but still had to leave by 7:00 AM.  Grabbing his one piece of luggage he used for these trips, Brad made his way into the lobby, which did NOT have a fireplace, free cookies and a complementary USA Today.  After a moment of waiting, which gave Brad the time to look more over the room, a man of about Brad's age approached the counter.  The age was about the only comparison that could be made between the two men.  The employee, or perhaps he was the owner, DID have on a tie and he WAS clean-shaven.  Of course the tie was so wrinkled the design was not discernible and the clean-shaven face was marred by bumps on the man's skin that gave him a, for lack of a better word, gross appearance.  Great. If a bat suddenly flies across the room, I am out of here.  "Can I help you?" Asked Bumps, more politely than Brad expected.  Just when he was thinking maybe this would not be so bad, the other man flashed a smile that would have been better left undone.  The few teeth in his mouth were not all evidenced by obvious decay, some were not terribly bad, it was the crookedness that gave him a strange appearance.  Brad smiled back, self-consciously and for no real reason, doing so with his mouth closed.  "Room for the night if possible," the business man stated.  Bumps looked over some paperwork on the counter, as if all the rooms were full and he was searching for one that was available.  When he smiled, Brad noticed the bumps jiggled on his face.  And yes, in a creepy way.  Six hours sleep and Brad would make sure he could make it to that Comfort Suites next time.  "Here you go, room 12, right outside, first door on the left."  "Great" Brad said, excited to just get in the room and in the bed.  Even the shower would wait until tomorrow.  The shower.  Can't wait to see that.  
Brad hesitated, waiting for the worker to tell him the price.  They locked eyes for a few seconds, still no response.  Brad broke the silence.  "How much for the night?"  Bumps smiled again.  Brad did not.  Please let me not die tonight.  The image of Bumps smiling was not what he had in mind for his last sight when he gave his last breath.  Bumps leaned closer and dropped the smile.  "No charge."  Brad gave a perplexing look.  "No charge?  you do not charge for your rooms?"  Another inch closer, this time releasing his, to say the least, unpleasan
 breath upon Brad, Bumps still did not smile.  "Renovatin' the rooms, no charge this week."  Brad was certainly not in the mood to argue and just gave in.  No matter, a free motel room was strange.  Bumps was strange.  This whole conversation seemed strange.  But Brad was tired.  He smiled, said thanks and taking the key and his bag, went to his room.

      The room was not as bad as expected, including even the shower.  Brad changed into his warm-ups and top for the night, the latter being a black t-shirt with a Bible verse that read, "With God All Things Are Possible."  Cracking open a little New Testament that the businessman carried everywhere, Brad began to read.  This habit was more of a conviction than anything else, that had formed within weeks of him becoming a Christian three years ago.  Everyday, no exceptions and for at least twenty minutes and usually more.  Exhausted, he disappeared into the restroom to take care of the normal before-bed necessities, but decided to wait on the shower until morning.  His prayer time was brief, which had been the norm lately unfortunately, though this time was due to his tiredness than lack of time.  Within a few minutes, Brad was asleep, his last thoughts were on reaching his destination tomorrow.  
     Click.  Brad awoke.  His eyes rested on the ceiling.  Was he dreaming or did he just hear a noise?  Seconds went by. Nothing.  His eyes closed.  Click.  He forced his eyes open, getting agitated at being awakened again.  Perhaps the window was open some and someone was doing something outside.  He was so tired he just assumed behind the stained curtains the windows were closed.  Better get up and close it so he could get back to sleep.  Wanting to blame his interrupted sleep on the person apparently outside, Brad put away his grumpy demeanor and realized that his nemesis could be a bird or a squirrel or some other animal.  The room was completely dark.  Brad intentionally turned off the bathroom light because there was an outside light shining in when he went to sleep.  Now however, there was no outside light and the room was pitch black.  Even the light on the alarm clock was dark.  He suddenly felt a little creepy.  Not good.  He started to sit up.  "Mr. Strom."  Brad  bounced off of the bed.  What!  Here he was worried about a noise outside and there was someone right in his room!  His mind flashed!  A weapon!  Was there anything in the room that he could use for a weapon?  Brad was knocked to the ground, tackled.  "You will be coming with us, Mister Strom, now calm down.  Any fighting you do will only tire you out."  Two men.  The voice, which was the same one he first heard, was above him and a few feet away.  Brad struggled, but to no avail.  " Buddy! Stop fussing or I will have to knock you over the head and drag you!"   This from the one who had tackled him and was now lifting the shocked businessman up as if he were a suit of clothes.  Whoever he was, this man was big...and strong! " What do you want, is this a robbery" asked Brad, speaking to the darkness.  Very eerie, why couldn't they at least turn the lights on.  An odor was suddenly noticeable.  Brad discerned it came from the monster that now held him in his grip.  The man's hand had to be the size of a gallon of milk.  The first man answered.  "This is no robbery Mr. Strom.  But you are our prisoner."  Brad's mind attempted to digest what he had just been told.  " Your out of your mind, whoever you are!  Let me go before I call the police!"  The second man snorted.  The first maintained the serious and calm demeanor he had had since he first spoke.  What he said was stated in such a serious and gripping tone that it was terrifying, for lack of a better word.  " Mr. Strom, you will never leave here. Never."  Fear gripped Brad.  What was this!  Some game!  Some sick persons idea of a practical joke!  He wrestled, or tried to, but to no avail.  It was then that everything went black.
     The lights were on now.  Apparently his attackers thought that he would be unconscious for longer than he was.  The two men were gathering up his belongings.  Monster, and what an appropriate description it was, was doing most of the gathering while the other was going through the luggage and paperwork. The behemoth seriously stood what looked like nearly seven feet tall.  And he was possibly the ugliest, most grotesque person the distraught businessman had ever seen.  Must be brothers with the lobby clerk.  Creepy and Monster.  Wow.  Where was Rod Serling?  The other man was quite a contrast, well-dressed and well-groomed.  And about a foot shorter than his partner in crime.  Brad scanned the room.  Then he prayed.  Not the shallow prayer that he occasionally offered when it was done more out of duty, but a heartfelt pleading for The Lord to help him.  Both men were towards the front of the room where the only door was.  Knowing his time was limited, Brad Strom, tired and not very energetic when it came to athletics and really no more than a boring salesman, did the unbelievable.  He stood quickly, grabbed his sneakers from the floor that he took off before falling asleep, and headed for the window at the back of the room.  His captors were caught off guard and looked just in time to see Brad crashing through the glass!  
     Caring more about getting away than where he got away to, the disheveled and distraught man did not even stop to put on his shoes until he reached a clearing about three yards away from the hotel.  Fortunately it was beginning to get light, meaning it was probably Surprised there was no sound from his persuers, Brad discerned that they must have went out the front door rather than take the exit he did, which allowed him not much, but some, extra time.  He had a feeling that every second counted.  Nikes on now, Brad noticed a building a few hundred yards distant.  It reminded the salesman of the chicken breeding structures he saw many times in his travels. Except from what he could tell, this building was about double the width, at least five times the length, and extremely run down.  Still quiet, Brad wondered if perhaps his dramatic and surprise escape did not scare away his attackers. Possibly the pair took off, concerned that their captive-to-be would stop a passing motorist and was on his way to the authorities.  A practical joke was ruled out for sure as evidenced by the rough treatment he received from Monster and Suit.  Still no sign of anyone, Brad took a breath and ran towards the huge elongated shack. 
     The door opened and he quietly slipped in.  No noise, the place was apparently abandoned.  The building was basically one very long corridor with dozens of doors on each side.  Brad tried many of the doors, all windowless, except the one that finally opened. He entered and instinctively hit the light switch, both surprised and relieved when the lights came on.  The room was basic, a bed, table and  chair.  One strange thing was that there was a toilet to one side, instead of being in a separate room.  There was no shower, but there was a sink next to the toilet.  A barracks perhaps?  A Boy Scout camp?  Brad heard a siren in the distance.  Perhaps somehow the police had been called, someone reporting the ruckus in his room.  If so, this nightmare would soon be over.  He still would have plenty of time to get to Kingman, though he had no interest in showering back at that creepy hotel.  Curious, the somewhat more settled salesman decided to investigate further.  Stepping out into the hallway, there was still no sign of life.  Inspection of the next few rooms revealed a uniformity to the first one.  All identical and all empty.  The next door had a window and as Brad looked up the hallway, it appeared that most, if not all, of the remaining doors had windows.  Peering through the window, all Brad could see was darkness.  Talk about ironic.  Trying the door he discovered it was locked.  Continuing down the corridor it seemed all the doors were.  Peering in another window, as if on cue, the lights came on simultaneously, apparently in every room as well as the hallway.  Brad could not believe his eyes.  The room held a person and this person gave all indications of being a prisoner!  He looked very disheveled, was wearing pair of dirty and worn overalls and had a beard growth that looked unplanned, evident by it being matted down and grimy.  The room itself was not that bad, exactly uniform to the unlocked rooms, except for the obvious signs of vacancy.  The man was just getting out of bed and went to the sink towards the sink.  What was going on here?  Is this what these creeps had planed for him?  Brad went to the next room and found the same, this one inhabited by a female.  As he went down the corridor, Brad was becoming more tense.  He had inspected over a dozen rooms and each held a person.  A prisoner.  He shuddered at the thoughts that came to him.  Especially the one that was of him being one of them that was captive.  Time to get out of this place.  Get help for these poor people.  And for his safety, which Brad guiltily realized was his main goal to leaving this insane place.  Ck 
     The horrified businessman, who should be just getting out of bed himself, doing his devotions and preparing to leave in his Cobalt, went back the way that he came.  Hopefully the police were e at the hotel investigating what happened and locking up those oddballs that attacked him.  Stepping back outside, it was now clearly daylight and as he made his way to and through the clearing, voices became audible.  Being quiet and careful, Brad made his way closer and saw a sherrif's car, the law enforcement officer talking with Monster and Suit.  Finally this strange incident would come to an end.  Relieved, he stepped out and began moving in their direction, just as the officer went back to his vehicle, while the two others entered the hotel.  Strange.  They must have talked their way out of their predicament.  If he was going to do this, he had to be careful.  He needed to get the attention of the sherrif's deputy without alerting the two men.  The car started and veered towards the exit,  the left turn signal flashing. Optimistic, Brad started running towards the woods that should be a shortcut to the highway.  If his timing was right, he could make it the short distance and be at the road just before the deputy came by.  Problem was he did not expect the big grotesque would-be-captor to see him and take pursuit.  He hit the section of trees and brush just as the officer turned in the expected direction.  Monster was getting closer and Brad thought he would have been at the highway by now.  More seconds passed, more running and more exhaustion.  After this harrowing incident was over, the businessman was determined to hit the gym and get I to shape.  Finally!  But Brad could not believe his eyes!  The police car was already passed him!  And by only seconds!   With no other opportunity and with the big man only about thirty feet behind him, Brad started towards down the highway in the direction of the car, screaming at the top of his lungs!  The thought of him not escaping this nightmare terrified him.  "Help!  He began waving his arms.  Anything to get the deputy's attention.  Monster was less than twenty feet behind him now.  " Help! Stop!"  Fifteen feet and the officer was getting more distant.  "Help!"  Close enough now Brad could hear the breathing of his pursuer.  The sherrif's car turned.  Brad was tackled.  Brad's fear worsened. A prisoner.  Locked in a one room cell for who knows how long?  "Let me go!" He screamed!  What kind of devils were these he was dealing with!   Big arms wrapped around him.  He was completely helpless.  His heart sank.  It was then that the discouraged and beaten man saw the law enforcement vehicle heading towards them.  He has turned around!  Monster loosened his grip.  The car screeched to a halt and the deputy got out, hand on his holster.  "What's the problem here boys?"  Brad was shaken up.  Badly.  "This man and another man tried to kidnap me!"  His words came quick.  "They attacked me in that hotel!  There are people locked up in a building in the woods!  He dusted off his now dirty clothes, to no avail of course.  "We have to help those people!"  The officer stepped closer.  Monster did not move.  " Now calm down Mr. Strom.  What is this about people being held prisoner?  And you being attacked at the Rest Stop Inn?  Do you have any proof of this?"  The deputy eyed Brad's attacker and took his hand away from the holster.  "How about we go inside and speak to Mr. Wagner and get this confusion cleared up?"  Brad held his hands out, palms out.  "No, I am not going back in there!"  Suddenly a thought struck him.  Actually, floored him.  "How did you know my name?"  The deputy whose name tag read Officer Thomas Jenkins" stepped closer.  Brad's terror was coming back.  The officer smiled.  "Now that you have entered our little resort Mr. Strom, you will only leave when we allow you.  Other than that, this just might be your home for the rest of your life."  The deputy winked just then, still maintaining his smile.  
"Look at it this way.  You won't have any bills."  Then he laughed.  Brad eyed the both of them.  " You are crazy!  You can't get way with this!  What is it you want?"  He was after all, a businessman and that side of him seemed to take over momentarily.  The officer glanced at Monster, then back at Brad.  "You'll find out soon enough."  He stepped closer to Brad, Monster doing the same.  Brad looked in all directions. It was evident there was no getting away.  His fear came back, this time increased.  A locked room.  No freedom.  How long would he be in this predicament.  What if he never escaped?  He shrieked loudly!  "This is madness!  Your all nuts!"  With no strategy, the scared businessman jumped towards the two men, as if miraculously they would be knocked down and he would be able to flee to safety.  Deputy Jenkin's swung the butt of his 38 pistol onto Brad's head, quieting him as he slipped into unconsciousness.  
      He awake in one of the rooms.  Feeling drugged, the imprisoned man stumbled out of bed.  His clothes were the same, but the pockets were empty.  They had his wallet, his ID, charge cards, everything.  The room was laid out the same as the others he saw and it was just as impersonal.  His mind wandered.  There had to be a reason for all this.  Identity theft?  Extortion?  Brad grimaced at the next thought he had.  Scientific experiments?  How glad he was that his parents did not allow him to watch horror movies when he was growing up.  However he did watch some crime shows and one thing he learn was that most people were after money or power.  Brad certainly had none of the latter as a common, boring and uninfluential salesman.