Day 6 Of My Captivity: I Have Thought Up A Bunch Of Band Names

The past several days since “Day 2” have all been very similar.

I wake up at some point and someone has left a cup of water and a bowl of what I have decided is luke-warm Quaker Oats instant oatmeal. One day it had little lines of syrup drizzled over the top in the shape of a smiley face.

I sit on my cot or the toilet for hours. I pass the time doing pushups and situps and stuff, drawing in the dust on the ground, and making shadow puppets (I can do the dog, the cat, the aligator, and I just got Abe Lincoln with a top hat). Mostly though, I think about what to blog.

Eventually they bring me into this room, which I have deemed The Blogging Chamber, where until today I have toiled away at the description of Day 2. I’m caught up on that now, and I can safely say the days have been mostly unremarkable ever since. Yesterday featured the only exception so far.

I was sitting on my cot when Runner Number 1 came by and jerked open my cage. “Get on up you baghead,” he taunted. Runner Number 2 was close behind. They crowded in and threw the familiar hood over my face again before I could speak–their typical course of action while leading me to the Blogging Chamber–before once again zip-tying my hands behind my back.

“Guys, really, you don’t have to put a bag over my head anymore,” I reasoned from within the head-sack. “I have seen your faces. I have seen this whole place. I have no idea where we are.

“What did we tell you, baghead?!” Runner 2 exclaimed. There was rustling, then my head was pressed and jerked about as they put another bag over the first bag, punishment for talking. Riotous laughter.

I was led down the hallway. But further than usual. Then up some stairs. What was going on? Clanging, the squeak of metal hinges, then–the sound of traffic? And oh my god fresh air! I could feel it, smell it, even through two head-bags!

This joy upon the realization that, after five days locked in a cell, I was once again being led outside disolved into fear. I was being taken outside–but I was still a captive. The change in routine was suddenly unwelcome. In the cage I already knew what to expect: I would shit in a little toilet, sleep on a little cot, and blog on a little Windows machine swearing under my breath at that sonofabitch purple gorilla in the corner of my screen. Now I was being led away. To where? For what purpose? Questions filled my mind as they led me out into the sun and then stuffed me into a car. More car doors closed around me and the vehicle sped away from wherever we had started.

We drove for several minutes. No one spoke, a silence I dared not break. It’s a funny thing that happens when your life is in danger. As your mind begins to explore the possibility that your captors are, in fact, taking you to your death, it’s not exactly fight-or-flight that you feel. It’s freeze. It’s maintain. It’s a sense that if you do nothing, everyone else will do the same. If you don’t move, don’t rock the boat, then things will remain in exactly the same state forever, and you will still be alive. It feels a lot like covering your eyes and believing no one else can see you; all the while you know the feeling is utterly irrational, but somehow it’s still the best plan you’ve got.

And so we drove. Twists and turns but very little slowing until finally, a heavy left turn. We were pulling in somewhere. In my mind I could see the empty lot we pulled into, in some forgotten industrial area where I would be removed, put to my knees, and later discovered with a bullet in my skull and not one but two bags over my head. The headline: Double-Baghead Discovered, Shot Dead At Old Saw Mill on page C-3. Bottom left corner. Next to a shoe sale ad. We slowed to a stop.

The car sat idling for a minute and my mind reeled. I almost spoke up, but then we lurched forward. Then we stopped. Another long sixty seconds… then we crept forward once again. I heard the whir of a power window going down.

May I take your order?

I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. “Are you guys getting fast food?!”

Something jabbed into my ribs. “Don’t. Say. A word,” the man next to me whispered. The driver placed an order for some chicken sandwiches as I sat there, incredulous. We pulled forward and my bagged face turned toward my backseat companion despite my only seeing the back of the two hoods over my eyes.

“Is that supposed to be a gun?” I asked.

The driver was paying for the food. “It is a gun.”

“That is your finger.” The driver got his order and we listened to a college radio movie critique show all the way back to the prison.

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Day 2 Of My Captivity: Part 2 – The Fuckup Collective

“Something… something… something…” Manila Folder man said in a well well well tone as he strolled into the room. From my seat I watched him walk around and stand on the other side of the table. He glanced about; I think he was realizing I had the only seat in the place.

“Something…” He dropped the folder on the table and locked eyes with me.

Something.

What. The hell, thought. This guy must suck at Mad Libs.

He casually flipped open the folder on the table. It wasn’t bulging with documents after all; it was practically empty. Inside was a small stack of paper: a printout of my twelve blog posts.

“You printed my blog?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes,” he replied. “We have been reading your posts for some time now. From the moment our computers detected your blog’s presence on the WordPress site, as a matter of fact.” He took a single cigarette out of his inside coat pocket and put it between his lips. He reached in again (for a lighter I suppose) but his hand returned empty. He tried the other pocket. Then he patted his thighs.

He looked at me again, then he took a long drag off of his unlit cigarette. “I’m going to level with you, John,” Manila Man sighed as he exhaled nothing. “We have stalked you for over a week. We know your every move, we’ve covered every base, we have brought you here at great expense and it is for but one reason…” He placed his hands behind his back and leaned forward. “Because you’re the best.

“You’re the best blogger America has to offer and now? Well, now you’re going to work for us.

“Phtffft,” I sputtered, “That’s insane. The best? What about The Sneeze? Defective YetiHyperbole and a Half for christsakes–”

His open hands flew down, palms slapping onto the table, “AMATEURS AND YOU KNOW IT!

The man’s face was close to mine, the look in his eyes severe. When he spoke again it was almost in a whisper. “I’m going to be very frank with you, blogger, because you don’t have much time.” Pause for dramatic effect. “You work for us now or you’re done.”

The door behind me opened. One of the two runners was standing behind it, smirking. He wasn’t in running gear any more, but he had kept the sweatband around his forehead. Manila Man stood upright and straightened his jacket. He flicked his brand new cigarette at me, it flew way over my head. “Think it over.”

“Think what over?” I called after him. I mean, seriously, what was he talking about? What did “You work for us now,” even mean? Was this some kind of sponsorship deal? “You didn’t give me anything to think about!” I yelled. He was already striding out of the room past the runner, who walked in, pulled out a hood and threw it over my face. He yanked me up by the arm.

I was led down a long, straight hallway. When we came to a stop the runner grabbed the hood and gave my back a shove, yanking the bag off my head as I tumbled forward into a tiny jail cell at the end of the hall. He slammed the barred door shut and gave it a tug to ensure it was locked. Then he chuckled at a joke no one else heard and wandered off.

Down the hall, I could still see the room they had taken me from. It was only about 100 feet away and the light was still on. My cell looked just a like a jail cell, except the bunk bed was a little cot with no sheet. There was a toilet and a sink and grey bricks and that’s it.

After a few hours in there of “thinking it over,” a big man came along and drug me out of my cell. The other runner was with him this time. He grinned an evil-henchman-grin and put a god damned bag over my head.

They led me to the other end of the hall and into the room I’m sitting in now. It’s tiny, about 6 foot square, with a long table and two lawn chairs along one wall. Upon the table sits one 1998 Compaq Presario.

Grey. Prominent floppy drive.

Internet Explorer 5.5.

Windows 98.

Access to everything except wordpress.com: disabled.

A torture device.

They shoved me into one of the lawn chairs and the big guy muttered “Get to blogging.” So here I am. If you are reading this, please help. Two days now they have drug me in here, left me to type for a few minutes, then drug me back to my cell. It took forever to finish this post. I haven’t seen Manila Man again yet, whom I suspect is the mastermind behind all this due to the fact that he wore a suit. I have no idea why they lock me up in a jail cell only to give me access to the internet on 15 year old PCs. I have no idea what they want from me at all.

I have been kidnapped by some kind of a Fuckup Collective.

Day 2 Of My Captivity

I’m sorry about the lack of a post yesterday. I can explain.

I have been kidnapped and placed in a prison.

They are allowing me to blog.

Yesterday I was walking to the bus via my usual route. It’s not uncommon to meet a fellow morning walker out with his dog on a leash or just an ipod and his thoughts. On this day, I was climbing the final hill before my bus stop and a couple of runners were jogging down the sidewalk, far ahead but coming toward me.

Now, as anyone who’s ever walked along a sidewalk knows, when two people walk past one another, having seen it coming for some distance, there’s a tiny span of time in which some form of greeting takes place. It may be a head nod, “good morning,” a gentle smile, or brief eye contact. It can even be supposedly nothing at all; you stare straight ahead or at the ground a few feet ahead of you and pretend like the person passing is of no consequence at all, like whatever dirty sidewalk or distant traffic sign you’re staring at has occupied your attention so completely there is no room left in your thoughts for this fellow human. Whatever the choice of greeting may be, something is shared between you for that moment. An echoed word, returned smile, a shared delusion that each of you is inconsequential when in reality you both are on one another’s mind and you’re only pretending together that it isn’t so.

Thus, I was preparing my greeting to these joggers as they approached. A little grinning tip of the head seemed about right. Their eyes were on me, too. Good, this wasn’t going to be one of those days where you say hi to a stranger and they walk by like they don’t have time for autographs.

Those runners were almost upon me, the corners of my mouth already curving toward a smile, when a little black sedan pulled up beside me.

I looked at the car and a then bag was over my head.

“Get in the fucking car, blogger!” Two sets of hands groped at my arms, pinned my hands behind my back and tied them with a plastic zip-tie. They pushed at my head and shoulders and back, pressing me into the seat. Car doors slammed, tires squeeled like we were fleeing a bank heist, and we were off.

“What the fuck is going on?!” I protested.

“Shut up, baghead, before we put another bag over your head.”

Another voice: “Yeah, and this one won’t be so COMFY. Huhuhuhahahahehe” Three voices had a huge fucking laugh over that.

doesn’t even make any sense,” I whispered to myself. But I decided not to tempt my fate any further.

We drove for just a few minutes before pulling over. From inside the stopped car I heard the clanging of metal before being taken out and led down a long set of steps. The air instantly became humid and cool, like someone had left the air conditioning on full blast for days. When the bag was finally yanked off, I was seated at a table in a tiny grey room made of cinder blocks with one heavy door slamming shut behind me. It was just like that scene in The Matrix when Neo meets Agent Smith.

I waited there, expecting someone to come in with a manila folder with my name on it, overflowing with papers documenting my sordid past: the perfect replica I made of my high school report card, intending to give away straight A’s the first time and then extort my fellow students once they realized they had to keep those first grades reflected in every subsequent report card. A picture of my sister, crying at the age of 21 over a plate of grapes she still can’t bring herself to eat because I told her the stem hole was where worms had crawled in when she was 5.

No one came.

I waited some more.

I waited for what felt like hours. I paced the walls, checking the room. I wish I could say more, but it was so boring. I thought My god, this sucks. How am I going to blog about this?

I had sat back down at the table and laid my head down to sleep when the door finally opened again. A man in a suit walked in carrying a manila folder.

[they’re telling me my time is up. i’ll post this and try to catch up later.]

Day 10: The Blog Bully

No Familiar Face today.

I was totally prepared to see him again, hand him his note, and be all “Dude you have no idea how creepy this was. I have a blog!” I imagined he’d be like “Oh man, that’s hilarious! Naw this was just a reminder to myself to stop blogging because you see I blog all the time and it’s ruining my marriage. I hope you blogged about it!” and just like that we’d be blog-buddies.

Or he might have told me it was a blogging chain letter. A big communal joke among internet writers, and now I was responsible for creating my own “stop blogging” papers and dropping them around public transit systems across town until someone else was sufficiently freaked out.

That would’ve been so awesome.

Instead, the guy is just gone. Coincidence is becoming a less likely explanation. But come on. Really? Some dude on the bus found out I have a blog?

And he’s reading it? Like right now?

Well if that absurd possibility is actually true: fuck you Familiar Face. I’m a blogger! I blog. I blog, for blogging is in my very soul, and I won’t be intimidated by the likes of some bus-riding blog bully. I’ll blog until the day I die and then I’ll blog from the grave motherfucker! Dead guy blog, yeah, that’s gonna be me! So do your worst. You’re gonna have to kidnap me if you wanna stop this blogger.

Of course, tomorrow he’ll be back on the bus and this post will be ridiculous. I can’t wait to be a part of that blogging chain letter gang.

PS: here are the sketches I did today while sort of quietly freaking out about this guy’s first absence in 10 days.

He got off the bus before I could do his jacket, so the pattern on it is very unrealistic.
Got off the bus before I could do any shading.

Day 9: My Final Post?

I’m just going to describe my day exactly as it unfolded.

I awoke at 6:15. I went through my usual routine. I made it to the bus stop on time, and as with every other time I’ve boarded my first morning bus, I walked past my friend The Familiar Face. I found a seat in the middle of the bus as I usually do. No one likes to sit in the middle of the bus next to the back door, so I almost always get a window seat to myself.

Not feeling inspired to sketch riders this morning, I tried to read a book instead but soon found myself nodding off. So I put away my book and dozed all the way to the transfer center, my head rhythmically beating the glass, and thus never quite fell into true sleep.

When I got off to transfer buses, this time I paid attention to the fact that my familiar friend had gotten off and was waiting at the stop with me. He has definitely switched buses, I decided. Our ride came and while I found a similar middle-of-the-bus seat, he stood at the front, gripping an overhead handle.

I was sitting next to another rider so I didn’t get to slip back off to sleep. A few times I caught the man at the front looking back at me, and rather than the typical, coincidental eye contact, his over-the-shoulder looks seemed purposeful. His stare lingered a bit too long–just long enough to make me question if he was actually looking at me or something behind me, something out the window above my head maybe.

Before we arrived at the end of the line, he reached out and pulled the stop request cable, and as the bus slowed he walked toward the back door. When the door opened, his arm swung down from the bar he was holding to steady himself and out of his hip pocket a piece of folded paper fell to the ground.

Finally, my chance to the be Good Samaritan on the Marta! I reached down immediately and picked it up proclaiming “Sir!” in a tone that would probably have been better suited for “Eureka!” or “Hey, twenty bucks!”

My friend stepped off the bus. “Sir you dropped this!” I yelled out at him, half lifting from my seat.

The door closed and he was gone. Before I could come up with a better way to get him his paper back, the bus had pulled away. I had failed. I settled back down, feeling the eyes of every other bus patron on me. Judging me.

Good Samaritan indeed. 
Look at this guy–couldn’t even get an old man his piece of paper back to him.
I bet that paper is important too.
Probably his dead wife’s last will and testament and now he’s gone and this asshole is just sitting there holding it.

A few stops later the invisible gaze of everyone around me had left my mind. I’ve seen this guy every day for over a week, I remembered. I’ll just give it back to him tomorrow. I opened the paper to see what document of his I had been entrusted with for the next 24 hours and this is what I saw:

Dude.

Day 8: A Not-So Alarming Awakening – or – A Familiar Face Follows

OK work week. I’m ready. I’m gonna get a good night’s sleep and when I wake uFUCK YOU ITS MONDAY MORNING BITCH

That’s pretty much how my day started, anyway.

I woke up, not to an alarm, but to that feeling of knowing you’re not waking up to the alarm.

There’s too much sun in the room, and some bird outside is way too damn happy for it to be 6 in the A.M.

It was 6:50. I had ten minutes. I scrambled out of bed, rinsed my hair in the shower (because, honestly, if I don’t wash my hair once a day I look like I styled it with vegetable oil), threw on yesterday’s clothes and somehow, miraculously, made it to the bus stop on time. I still have no idea what went wrong with the alarm I set. On we go.

I was pretty convinced that my almost-missed-the-bus scramble (which really should be the name of a Waffle House omelet) was destined to be the only interesting thing for me to write about today. That same old black dude was on the bus, sitting in the front as usual. I still haven’t recognized a single soul other than him, which seems really odd; you’d think more people would be taking the same bus at the same time every day. At the transfer station I switched buses, taking a seat toward the back, and as I sat down I noticed my friend the familiar bus rider was getting on my new bus!

I decided to sketch him, which proved really hard because he never sat still for very long, and would often look up directly at me. I think he recognizes me too.

It looks almost nothing like him. :( He was, at least, actually wearing a baseball cap.

I sat looking at this guy for probably a third of my ride trying to get this sketch of just his face right, so naturally I had a little time to think about the fact that he had switched buses. I figured he was going somewhere new today, and that his stop was on this bus’s route; it was a funny coincidence that he had followed me to my new bus today. Both buses end at the same station, so he’d be getting off before the end of the line.

But he didn’t. He rode this bus to the same destination as the other one: the Marta station we have both travelled to every morning for the past week.

I actually think this guy has switched buses for the same reason I did, to save time. And so now I have to wonder: did this guy see me take a different bus and follow me to it?

More as this dramatic bus-conspiracy develops.

Day 6: Easy Street

Today was my first day of not driving on a weekend. I didn’t have any big plans, so it was no hassle at all. When I did want to go somewhere, my special lady drove us. Life is good. I think we’ll go get some Starbucks now.

Day 6 down. Next!