Red or Black

(a dream)

Which is negative, red or black? Had they actually asked him that?

The twine is already starting to cut off the circulation and feeling in his hands and so Stephen isn’t sure. He hasn’t been sure of anything, not since Prague.

I hope they didn’t grab her.

The dark olive uniformed men (who look and sound a hell of a lot more Korean than Russian by the way) are putting the finishing touches on Stephen’s “horseshoe.” At least that was what he thought it was when he first saw it. Even then of course he had been handcuffed. It was perhaps 15 yards by 6 yards and the very sight of it made his heart fill with dread.

I’m a patsy.

He sees now how he isn’t a terrible candidate. Holding a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, it would be easy to embellish his record to fabricate experience with nukes.

“Which is negative, red or black?” one of the masked men had demanded.

Is this a joke?

He thought it but didn’t say it. He had said almost nothing flippant, not once the kidney punches started. 

Of course, negative was black.

But there were too many questions.

Was that a detonator? What’s the endgame here? What the hell is going on? Where is she? Where am I? What do they want?

It was profoundly exhausting, all of it.

Stephen, still bound, is carried into the center of the horseshoe and unceremoniously tied to the crisscross chaos of cables there.

It had been colder on the dock, hadn’t it? Stephen wonders idly but briefly why the air is so much calmer. It’s because he doesn’t see the dome.

He had seen the fingernail clippers though and screamed as they removed his eyelids. They must really want him to see everything.

Then came the concrete. When it was over his torso and legs were totally encased.

But how did it dry so fast?

He remembers the early portions and they sound like something out of a bizarre dream. The dolls that they had been instructed in step-by-step detail to cut the feet from. WHY!? The video link they showed the dolls to. Who was on the other end? The Russian words they were told to say into the cameras.

But why dolls? And what the hell kind of material was that?

There had followed a bit of back and forth when he and the others (all of them gone now) had been brought before the carefully sprawled open electronics of the thing. Was it a detonator? A bomb? He didn’t know. The litany of questions. The interrogations. The occasional glimmer of hope – long since gone.

He thought he might get out of it okay but generally when folks bury you in a concrete within a giant horseshoe that sits on a steep diagonal ramp on a bitterly cold dock in Minsk? Was that the Caspian? The Adriatic? He didn’t know. He wasn’t even sure Minsk was on the coast for that matter. But he holds no more illusions about ‘getting out of this.’ Not now. Those ended hours ago.

Stephen looks up and sees the soldiers leaving his horseshoe. It’s all he can do to not cry for help, beg them to not leave. The concrete was kind of a final nail.

Then he sees two soldiers are wheeling a trolley in with something.

They pull away the cover. It’s the detonator or bomb or whatever the hell it is. They quickly attach it at Stephen’s feet.

They tape something into both his hands after cutting the binding twine (at least that was some relief).

Then they are gone.

He feels the horseshoe detach, begin its graceless, scraping slide down the ramp, then nothing but a sick feeling of being airborne. One, two, … almost three seconds to the black ocean’s surface.

He keeps trying to shut his eyelids; begins crying.

Where’s the water?

That’s when he deduces the clear glass or plastic dome surrounding his little vehicle.

He looks down at his hands, to the taped mess there.

In each hand is a button assembly, like something out of a very limited video game system maybe because each has only a single button!

What the hell?

Both controls had been sloppily painted – were still wet in fact; one red, one black.

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