Maddie saves Dr.Plumpocket...or is it the other way around?
|Prompt for Tournament 4 of "CLASH! " : Only two made it past the traps. They found Dr. Plumpocket in shivering distress, his children crying in the corner. The doctor stood up and blotted his face.
"Oh, thank heavens!" he exclaimed.
The two would-be rescuers eyed each other suspiciously again.
"Oh, don't worry. I've prizes for both of you, just come along, quick! We are all still in danger. You two must get me to the mechanism to shut down the house. I can't award any prizes until after that. Now, come along!"
Maddie, sure only that she wasn’t about to go a new way back said, “Right this way, sir, children.”
Apparently her partner had the same idea. “No, this way is safer.”
“No, MY way is safer.”
“Excuse me,” Dr. Plumpocket interrupted, “But actually, the safest way is through this other hallway. Don’t worry. I know all the traps. Just stay with me and don’t get either behind or ahead. Children, you each take their hands.”
A child latched onto Maddie’s hand. She felt sick and for the first time all day it wasn’t because of the house…at least not directly. She didn’t care much for children. More correctly, children usually didn’t care much for her. And with her palms being all sweaty, the child had already pulled his hand away and wiped it on his shirt. Maddie did the same. They clasped hands again. But she felt her palm becoming rehydrated immediately. She was embarrassed, but ignored it. Maybe the kid wouldn’t notice. He wiped his hand again.
Perhaps it’s just a nervous habit he has, she thought. Probably not.
She followed just behind Dr. Plumpocket, unchivalrously leaving the child off to the side. She noticed the other rescuer doing the same thing.
“My name’s Ben,” he whispered to her.
“Nice to meet you, Maddie.”
“Might I have that parasol?” Dr. Plumpocket asked.
“Of course.” She handed him the only thing that made her feel moderately secure. She wasn’t thrilled about it, but she didn’t feel could tell him to get his own. Looking down the hallway she saw blood splattered at the very beginning. She wondered what had happened and certainly didn’t relish going past that part.
“Mind if I get directly behind the goo d doctor?”
Ben’s voice was as unsure as Maddie felt. Surely he wasn’t as terrified as she was. She didn’t think over the request.
“Why not?” His voice got even higher.
She didn’t want to tell him that she was terrified and was only able to keep from screaming in sheer terror because she was wedged firmly between two human shields. She answered his question with a quote from her mother.
“Because I said so.”
“But that’s not fair.”
Hmm…this Ben character must be related to her brother somehow as that was a typical response of his…and Maddie’s, if she was being honest.
“If you two are finished arguing, we can carry on. But I need your undivided attention. I can guide us out since I designed all the traps, but I can’t do it alone.”
“Yes, sir,” Maddie responded. She smirked knowing she wasn’t going to lose her place of safety.
“Sorry, sir,” Ben sulked.
Dr. Plumpocket began walking toward the new hallway, then stopped.
“Don’t do anything I don’t tell you to do. We’ll be fine as long as you do what I say. That goes for you children as well.”
Maddie was grateful he was leading this part of the expedition. This was the safest she’d felt since she saw the first death.
“Now, let me think…”
Suddenly, Maddie felt less safe. Her stomach churned and threatened to finally give up that bile it had been saving. Just as suddenly she heard a retching sound from behind her, then a child saying exclaiming in disgust. She felt better knowing that if she threw up, at least she wouldn’t be first. Not to mention, apparently Ben wasn’t much braver than she was. She wasn’t sure if that was comforting or not.
“If you’re quite through, we have a bit of work to do here,” said their leader. “Now, at this point, don’t step on this row of tiles as they’ll give way.” He stepped over the first row as they entered the hallway.
Maddie followed suit and presumed Ben did as well since there wasn’t a scream of terror coming from behind her.
“Now, everyone crouch down as far as you can, but without touching the floor with any other body part.”
They followed orders.
Dr. Plumpocket looked back, “No, you’ll have to get lower than that,” speaking to Maddie.
Her height was a disadvantage. She rounded her shoulders and ducked her head further. Suddenly she lost her balance and her knee touched the floor and then her hand, in an effort to right herself. She let out a yelp which turned into a cry as flames shot out from the ceiling, singeing the top of her head. The putrid smell of burned hair was immediately discernable. The children began coughing and waving their hands in front of them to get fresh oxygen. It seemed Ben and Dr. Plumpocket were doing the same. She wasn’t sure whether she was more grateful to be alive or angry with them for their apparent lack of concern for her well-being.
“Well, never mind. You can touch the floor now if you need to.”
He stood up and straightened his rumpled, smelly clothes. Spending a so much time in them hadn’t done them any favors. She wondered if he would feel inspired to create clothes that could be worn for long periods of time without washing as a product of this experience. They continued on their treacherous journey with the one they were to rescue now rescuing them. Well, he knew the house better than anyone, so it only made sense.
Dr. Plumpocket stepped forward several feet then told everyone to stand perfectly still. He waved the parasol in front of him and then to their sides. The tiles began falling away from around them. Both Maddie and Ben let out a startled yelp. She noticed the children were still quiet by their sides. She also noticed that hers had a growing wet spot on his shirt from his repeatedly wiping her palm sweat on it. She didn’t comment.
“Motion activated,” he said. “Only where I’m standing is safe to move. It was a suggestion of the builder. I’d resisted it, but apparently he was right. I did come in handy one day.”
Beautiful brass tiles began sliding out from the walls to replace the others. As soon as they were in place, their guide proceeded.
“Okay,” this time everyone crawl on their bellies. And I do mean belly. This trap isn’t as forgiving as the last one.
Forgiving? She thought to herself. Her scalp still smarted and her hair still stunk.
He continued his explanation as he got down. “Sharpened metal sheets will come from the wall and slice you into 10 different pieces.”
Perhaps he was right. The other was a tad more forgiving. She crawled on her belly, following him. They managed to get through undetected by the house’s defenses.
“Now, at this stage, you’ll have to pick up the children and carry them, stepping exactly where I step.”
Maddie let out an audible groan. She didn’t mean to, but her terrified muscles could barely hold her own weight, let alone that of a little person as well. She kneeled down and her ward climbed onto her back. She managed to get up with minimal wobbling. Suddenly she felt a hand clamp down on her arm and she let out a shriek which in turn caused Ben to let out a shriek. The hand was his own as he struggled beneath the weight of his own child to bear. Apparently either he was weaker than he appeared, or his muscles were also protesting this adventure.
“If you all are quite calm, we can proceed. Remember, EXACTLY where I step.”
He began moving forward. Maddie watched him carefully, taking care to move exactly as he did. This carried them most of the rest of the way down the hall.
“Good. Only two traps left. Children, avert your eyes from the blood.”
Maddie averted her eyes as well and heard more retching from behind. She wanted until he was done before asking and getting permission to put the children down. The sound of him dry heaving made her own stomach want to practice as well, but thankfully, she was able to quell the urge, mostly because the sounds weren’t accompanied by a smell.
“Now we will have to move along the wall,” Dr. Plumpocket explained as he moved to the wall to his left. The rest of them followed suit. The child Maddie was in charge of got between his father and Maddie. Maddie was annoyed by this, but felt it in poor taste to pull the child behind her, especially when his father was sure to see. She let the incident go.
“Don’t step off of these tiles closest to the wall. Another failsafe suggested by my builder. I really should thank him after this. Sharped glass stakes will come from both the ceiling and floor and impale you. They’re quite beautiful, really, but equally deadly.”
Maddie found herself wishing she could see them and wondering how dangerous it would be if just a tiny bit of her shoe went over the edge of the tile. She thought better of it. She found there to be much more blood than she’d initially thought and she wondered, morbidly, what had happened to the body. She also found herself planning a drink for after this. Perhaps at that bar where all the airship pilots hung out. She didn’t normally have the funds to drink there, but after this, that shouldn’t be a problem. She continued sidestepping along the wall, keeping her mind on her the bar and imagining a handsome pilot she might meet there and picturing him in his leather helmet and white scarf, rather than allowing herself to see the blood sprayed around this part of the hallway.
“Just one last trap and we’ll be done with the hallway. Now, was it this hallway…no…let me think.”
Maddie was snapped back to reality by the good doctor’s ponderings. Her blood ran as cold as an ice box.
“I’m fairly sure we now need to jump…” he tapped the parasol in front of him. “No, my mistake, that’s another hall. Well, to be safe, jump over this row AND duck.” He did as he’d just instructed and landed safely on the other side. His son followed him as did Maddie, his daughter, and Ben.
The foyer has only traps that must be manually reset, so it’s safe here. The children begin to bolt for the door, followed by Maddie and Ben, both of whom proceed to pull the kids behind them in an effort to get out.
The doctor calls out, “But the porch resets automatically.”
Maddie had just reached for the door handle. “Whew! That was close. The kids almost got hurt.” She hoped she’d covered herself.
Dr. Plumpocket coughed and cleared his throat. “Um, yes. Now, let me see…” He stared at the wall beside the door. “Do you all mind averting your eyes? Safety measures, you know.”
Maddie was a bit annoyed, but did as she was asked. She looked at Ben. He looked just as haggard as she felt—and probably looked. She remembered her singed hair and tried to smooth it. It wasn’t going well. She could hear what she supposed was a secret panel shifting on the wall and heard the doctor pressing buttons which then emitted strange musical tones.
“There we go.”
The children took their cue from their father and went screaming out the door like banshees. Maddie felt like doing the same, but as it was safe now, she felt better able to walk calmly, though she made sure she was next out the door.
As they stood outside on the lawn, Maddie felt sick and leaned over to throw up as the doctor began discussing the reward. She didn’t hear what he was saying and at this point, she didn’t really care.
Word Count 1958