A Late Departure
The week had been going perfectly. My family seemed like completely different people then they had been coming in. Like passing wind, I found that I forgot how they acted before we arrived. For the first time in my life, I was finally able to relax and not worry about making everyone happy. I was able to just worry about myself. I didn’t see Galton much, but when I did he always said I had made a lot of progress! I didn’t fully understand what that meant, but he’s the owner, I guess he’s trust-
I looked up, pulling myself out of my thoughts. Alexander was sprinting towards me. “Hey, Alex! What’s the problem?”
He stopped, his chest heaving up and down. “I um saw something I thought you would want to know about um. I was walking, right? I wanted to get some fresh air and I saw Galton and his assistant talking about how we were almost ready? I was interested so I continued on listening and um I couldn’t hear much but um from what I did… I think the spa is a cult.”
I paused, immediately shocked. Alexander has always spoken so confidently and he never got nervous. I trusted him, so if he was this shaken up about it, maybe it was time for our nice little vacation to end. We only had one more day left anyway.
“Okay. If you’re that worried, we’ll leave. You’ve never gotten anything wrong before. Get the family and tell them to pack up.”
He looked at me, tears threatening to fall out of his eyes. “Are you sure? We’ve been having such a good vacation, I don’t want to ruin it.”
“You’re more important to me than any spa,” I insisted, “Get everyone together. We’re leaving.”
He nodded and took off for the rooms. I followed him, walking fast, but still not being able to keep up. I let him speed up to give everyone some time to pack. Was he right? Was the spa really a cult? It seemed too outrageous, but he was the smart one in the family. I’d rather not take any chances. By the time I arrived at the rooms, almost everyone was packed. I quickly ran into my room and shoved all of my clothes into my bag. I took one last look at my room, admiring the simplicity of it, and shut the door.
“Mommy?” Marie quivered, “Why are we leaving?”
“Alexander didn’t feel safe anymore honey. Come on, let’s get out of here.”
We walked at a normal pace at first, but I couldn’t escape the feeling of nerves in the air, causing the hallways to feel much tighter as we walked on. As the tension started to build up, we began to walk faster and faster until we were all nearly running. Right as we were about to get to the door, Galton’s voice filled the hallway.
“Sorry, but I can’t let you leave.”
We didn’t even turn around. I threw open the front door and let out a sigh as I felt the warm air. However, I stopped right when I noticed that instead of seeing the entrance we first saw when we came in, we were staring at a huge desert.
“What happened to the entrance? Where’s the parking lot? Where’s the car? How do we get out of here?” Jim screamed.
Cassius ran his hand through his hair. “I don’t think the car is our biggest concern. Maybe we went out the wrong entrance… let’s head back inside and go around.”
Suddenly, we heard a gunshot go off inside. My heart was beating out of my chest. Diane looked at me. I looked at Jim.
“No time. We have to run.”
Dropping our bags, we took off. Adrenaline was rushing through me. I forced myself to push harder, run faster. My feet pounded against the sand as I tried not to trip. My lungs were burning, my legs straining from all the exertion. The wind was picking up, becoming so strong, too strong I couldn’t even look behind me to make sure my family was following behind me. My eyes began to blur. How much longer could I keep this up?
“Look!” I heard Alexander call out, “There’s a rock formation! Everyone hide behind it.”
All I could make out was a bunch of grey within an endless expanse of tan, but I listened. As I got closer and closer, I started to speed up. I couldn’t let Galton get me. All of a sudden, arms came out to grab me and pull me to the ground.
“It’s okay Claire,” Jim whispered, “You’re okay. You’re doing great.”
Shakily, I stood up. My breathing was rapid, but my vision began to clear. We were all here, even my parents. I gave a half-hearted smile, happy for at least one victory.
“What do we do?” Diane asked, terror evident in her voice, “We’re in the middle of a desert. How are we supposed to get out?”
My dad groaned, dropping to the ground. He struggled to get back up to his feet, but almost immediately fell over. I ran up beside him.
“Dad! You have to get up! Don’t give up on us… please,” I begged.
My mouth dropped open, I could feel the tears streaking down my face. “Dad, I can’t just leave you. Galton is going to catch up to us.”
“It’s okay.” he replied, “You were always too sweet for your own good. I can’t do it anymore… I don’t want to keep going. I’ve always been better sitting anyways.”
The roar of an engine shook me awake again.
“Go! Leave me!” my dad shouted, collapsing further onto the floor.
As the hum of the engine got closer, I knew we had to act. “Come on! We have to go!”
We sprinted on, but the thundering behind us got faster… got closer… and then stopped. We kept on running, getting farther away, but I could still hear the intercom blaring into my ears.
“Warren Morana is down, sir. What do you want us to do?”
It was Galton. “I’ll send the air drone after him. A little cathartic don’t you think?”
“Yes,” the soldier replied, “It is.”
Soon after, seven shots rippled through the wind. My heart ached. I knew my Dad was dead, but I couldn’t focus on anything except for running.
“Keep on going!” I yelled.
Suddenly, we were surrounded by camo trucks, sending huge amounts of sand into our faces. I whipped my head around, trying to find a way out, but I couldn’t. The soldiers began to climb out.
“We’re going to need you guys to stay calm,” one said, holding his hands up in a sort of warning.
“Calm?” Jim barked, “You expect for us to be calm! There is absolutely no reason to be calm. We’re surrounded by the military in the middle of a desert, trying to leave a spa, and you want me to be calm. YOU JUST KILLED MY FATHER-IN-LAW AND YOU EXPECT FOR ME TO BE-” He paused, closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and continued, “Sorry… sir, why do we matter so much?”
The soldier smirked. “You’re important, Mr. Morana. You don’t need to know the details.” He turned to look at me, “Now, you all have an important decision. Either come with us back to the spa or test your luck here and end up like poor Warren.”
Marie let out a sob.
“If you decide to come with us,” he continued, “we’ll even give you money.”
“Money?” my mom stammered, “How much money?”
The soldier laughed. “Enough to make Elon Musk cry… but, only if you come with us now.”
My mom looked back at us, then back at the soldiers. She closed her eyes, as if she was in an internal argument, and began to take slow steps forward until she was right next to the soldier.
“Mom!” Cassius screamed, “Please think about what you’re potentially going back to. You don’t need more money. We have to go!”
Before she could contemplate what he said, the soldier pulled out his gun, put it against the side of her head, and shot, the sound echoing through my body. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move. All I could do was watch my mom’s body crumpled onto the ground and began to dye the sand red. The soldier gave us a smug look and put his gun back into his holster.
“Sorry son,” he teased, “Your mom has always had money on her mind, but I’m sure you knew that.”
He turned to the soldier next to him, “Tell Galton that everything is going as planned. Fredrika is gone.” He looked at us. “You have fifteen minutes to run… Go.”