My family loves to travel. We've been around the world and back again more times than I can remember. Nothing's ever stopped us. Maybe we should have just been happy at home. It was going to be our third trip to Paris. The first two had gone well enough, but that was before the attacks. I was nervous, but my parents told me it was going to be fine. We had just gotten off the plane, and were leaving the airport. A man was waiting for us, with one of those signs, to take us to a limo. He claimed that an old friend had sent him. We had many friends in France, and so this wasn't impossible, but it seemed unlikely. At the time, we were tired and sore from an international flight, and so we went along with it.
He was nice enough. He spoke English with a heavy Middle Eastern accent, and when pressed, told us that he was born in Pakistan. He told us about his life growing up there, and it sounded not too different from our own, albeit one interrupted by occasional gunfire and bombings. None of us thought it strange that we were passing by increasingly decrepit buildings. Not one of us thought to ask where we were headed or which friend had sent him. God, it seems impossible as I write this that that's so, but it is. We arrived soon enough at a small building near the center of town. It was dirty, rundown, and altogether not what any of us were expecting. By the time any of us thought to start asking questions, the doors were locked, and a gun had appeared in the man's hand. He tossed us blindfolds, and screamed for us to put them on. We did. He also screamed for us to be quiet. That we didn't quite manage.
He marched us into the building and down a flight of stairs. I lost track of the twists and turns of our route after a while, and knew that if and when the blindfold came off, I would have no hope of retracing my steps. It was quite a while before we stopped, and only after passing through seven doors. We were shoved across a threshold, and over a sharp drop. We lay in a heap as the sound of screeching metal informed us the door had been closed behind us.
We took our blindfolds off, but were surprised to find that the room we were in had no lighting. It was pure darkness.
Suddenly, a spotlight appeared in the center of the room, blinding us. When our eyes cleared, we were able to see that the spotlight illuminated a single, red brick. The man's voice issued through the darkness, sounding amplified, probably by a loudspeaker system.
“Only one of you is going to be left standing in that room You have ten minutes, otherwise none of you will"
At first we didn't understand. Then we wished we didn't. The brick's purpose became chillingly clear.
My mother, my father, and my little sister stood next to me in perfect silence. None of us moved a muscle. Then, my sister and I sprung into action at the same time. But I was faster. My hands closed around the brick an instant before she reached it. I skipped back, holding it over my head. My ragged breath painted the chill air before me. My family stood together, huddled in the corner, their hands raised in surrender.
I stood there for a solid five minutes, tears streaming down my face. I didn't move until the loudspeaker crackled back to life.
“Ten, nine...” it began.
My face covered in tears, I charged across the room...
The man kept his promise, I was the last one standing in that room. And now, three years later, I'm still there.