Prologue and Part 1 | Part 2
Of all the universal truths within the grasp of human comprehension, the one that Henry Santos knew most intimately was this: waking up with a hangover was an absolute bitch. In his experience, hangovers felt like a conscious lobotomy, in which a particularly ungentle doctor drilled through his brain with a rusty implement while he sat there wide awake. As the tip penetrated his skull and twisted the tender gray matter underneath, the urge to vomit yesterday’s lunch and everything that followed afterwards inevitably overcame his ability to keep his mouth shut.
It wasn’t the hangovers that prompted Henry to check himself into rehab, however. It was the waking up next to strangers in unfamiliar rooms, the gashes from awkward stumbles on the sidewalks, and the unwinnable struggle to remember what happened the night before. It was the late nights and the painful mornings confronting Elena. It was the loss of friends and the transience of the relationships that followed.
Henry was a mess, and he knew he needed to get his life back in order.
As he waited for the blinding lights to stop dancing in front of his closed eyes, he attempted to reconcile the odd timing of this hangover. He had been clean for over six months now; he knew this because he was sure he celebrated this triumph a couple of nights ago. Why, all of a sudden, did he choose to fall off the wagon now? What happened?
Henry decided his head was clear enough to try sitting up. With a little effort, he managed to get his shoulders up long enough to realize he was lying naked on the floor. A host of sensations rushed through his barely-conscious mind: it was dark, his stomach hurt, he was dizzy, it was cold, his muscles ached, he was thirsty. He fought through the disorientation and struggled to get up on his feet.
He had no idea where he was. The only light in the room peeked in from tiny windows near the ceiling. A broken pipe nearby was leaking, the drips of water echoing through the darkness. The room itself was nearly bare, save for a small box tucked into one of the better-lit corners.
Henry shambled towards the box and opened it. Inside was a bundle of clothes he recognized as his own. There was a pair of shoes underneath it, cellphone, and a small note. There wasn’t enough light to read. Henry quickly got dressed and looked around for a light switch. He flicked it on as soon as he found it.
The floors, ceiling, and floor were painted entirely in black, save for a white door on the opposite end of the room. Henry took the phone from and dialed for the police, only to be denied by an error message that read “Sorry, that number is blocked from use.” He crossed the room and tried to exit, but the door was locked. He knocked on it. It was made of metal, and thick. Henry was trapped.
He walked back to the box and rummaged for the note. On it was an instruction: “Turn the laptop on.” Was he in some sort of sick game? Henry didn’t want to think of it any further. He flipped the monitor of the laptop up and hit the power button. The machine hummed lightly, then displayed a message in bold black letters: “We have your wife.”
Panicked, Henry reached for the cellphone and dialed the number at home. The number was blocked. He tried Elena’s phone. Blocked. The office, her studio, anything and any person who could somehow get Henry in touch with his wife was blocked.
“What the FUCK is going on???” he yelled out in exasperation. He composed himself, put the phone down, and told himself to focus. He needed to get to wherever Elena was. He needed to get out of this prison first.
Minutes later, another message flashed on the screen before him, along with a prompt to enter text.
“Which island in Florida was popularized by the song ‘Kokomo’ by the Beach Boys?”