They didn’t all wake up at once, and that made things dangerous later.

The chamber was cold, and that was what roused Horance “Harry” Johns from his slumber. A piercing chill suffused his wide frame, penetrated his thick flesh, and prickled his bones with icy fingers. His bare, shaved head throbbed in annoyance, and his throat felt so dry it hurt to swallow. At first, he thought that he had blacked out again, but then the last clear memory he had was of drifting off to the Weather Channel. It was a Wednesday night, so he wouldn’t have been drinking. Then he realized that he had to get to work and sat up. His body groaned in protest. His back was a rippling mat of needles from lying on the polished stone floor. Voices swam in his groggy awareness, and he saw that not only was he not on his garage floor, but he wasn’t alone.

“How should I know?” a woman’s voice asked from somewhere in the gloom. She sounded young and petulant.

“I just thought—” a man’s voice answered, almost as shrill as the woman’s.

“You thought? What? For all I know you’re the one who drugged me and brought me here, wherever here is!”

Drugged? Harry thought and scrubbed a meaty hand over the stubble that covered his head. It felt longer than it should have. “Hey!” he called out. “Who’s there?”

The arguing voices fell into silence, to the point where Harry could hear his blood throb in his hears as it pounded in time to his racing heart. He took a deep breath. “Hello? Where are we?” He felt a presence near him, and a face leaned in from the dim. It wasn’t an ugly face, by any stretch, but it displayed a cruelness that Harry recognized. He had seen it in the men that he served time with, when he did a stretch for armed robbery twenty years ago. It was the look of someone unafraid to do what needed to be done, and to see it mar the features of an otherwise attractive young woman was more than a little startling.

“Who the fuck are you?” the face asked.

“Harry,” he answered, overcome by the confidence of the woman’s question. “Harry Johns, ma’am.” He extended a hand in the dark.

The woman looked at the offering with a mix of amusement and disgust. “Harry Johns? Am I supposed to know you?” she asked.

“I don’t think so,” he replied, and a second face leaned in to join the first. The new one reminded Harry of a scientist from that one television series about time travel. A good series, one that they cancelled before he could find out if the heroes ever got back to their own time. That had pissed him off something fierce. There was a rumor that the original cast was getting together to crowdfund a return, but it had been a couple of years now and nothing had materialized.

“Sir? Harry, is it? Hello?” the scientist asked.

“He seems a little slow to me,” the woman said. “I don’t think he has anything to do with this.”

“Professor Green!” said Harry, with sudden excitement.

“What?” they asked in perfect unison.

“Professor Green. That was the name of the guy who sent those kids back in time on that show, ‘Phased’. You must’ve seen it.”

They both looked at him with blank stares, then the woman spoke. “What the hell does that have to do with anything?”

“Oh, probably nothing. It’s just who he reminds me of.” Harry shrugged.

“Great. I’m trapped in a dungeon with a half-witted TV junkie. That’s. Just. Great.” She emphasized every word with a spray of spittle that speckled Harry’s face.

“Now you just hold on one minute there, miss.” Harry struggled to his feet, his big body wanting nothing more than to stay on the floor. He felt like he’d been running for miles, and his legs quivered beneath him.

“Steady, son,” the man said. “You’re going to feel a little off for a while. Best to keep still.”

“And how do you know that?” the woman snapped.

“The same way you do,” he said, and Harry thought that he was standing a little straighter. Maybe now that there were two of them targeted by the woman’s offensive manner, he was gaining some confidence. “Or did you wake up in complete control of your faculties? I certainly didn’t, and if you did that would cast a lot of suspicion on you.”

“Me? How dare you!” She pointed a finger. “You were awake before me, and for all I know you’ve been having your way with the both of us.”

“I assure you that nothing could be further from the truth,” the man said.

“Who are you people?” Harry asked. “And where are we?”

2015.03.28 – 2023.10.19

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