Paul’s eyes snapped open abruptly. Where was he? He sat up and looked around. He appeared to be in a small room, sitting on the edge of a bunk bed. The rest of the room seemed entirely unremarkable (yet somehow strangely familiar) except for a suspicious-looking black briefcase on the bed next to him. Reaching out to open it, Paul’s stomach dropped. On his wrist was a bulky bracelet with the number 5, bright blue, digital style. He gulped, poking it apprehensively. What on earth was going on?
The briefcase caught Paul’s eye again and he hesitantly opened it. He pulled out a sheaf of papers, neatly stapled together. A quick read-through revealed that it was the emails he had exchanged with that person from the leadership conference. A bright blue sticky note fluttered down into his lap. Picking it up, he read it with growing anxiety and a strange sense of curiosity.
We took care of everything.
“Wh-what?” Paul muttered, glancing again at the bracelet on his wrist. “What is this? What’s going on?” The bracelet caught his eye again and things fell into place with a rather loud mental thunk. The bracelet… the ship… the mysterious emails… “No… no… no… This is not- This is 999!”
Paul sprinted over to the door and began banging on it frantically. “Help! Help!”
After about five minutes of this, he decided that it was probably useless and began to look around the room again. A device on the wall next to the door (a gray box with a lever on the right side) gave him an all-too-uncomfortable sense of déjà vu. He poked it gingerly, only to discover that it wasn’t functioning.
Frowning, Paul turned back to the briefcase. Another blue post-it note was stuck prominently on the top and he wondered how in the world he had missed that. It read:
I trust that you are familiar with this device, Mr. Franzen.
However, it is broken.
Two key cards are required to fix it.
One is found in a place that’s never cleaned.
The other is in a place without a seam.
SEEK A WAY OUT
“That doesn’t even rhyme!” Paul muttered, trying to curb his growing uneasiness as he crumpled up the note and throwing it on the ground. He then began to search the room.
30 Minutes Later…
“Ew…” Paul squealed in disgust, holding up the drain stopper (which was rather dirty) from the small sink in the bathroom. He tentatively poked his finger down the drain, wrinkling his nose. Nothing. In a fit of anger, Paul chucked the drain stopper out of the bathroom. It hit the round window with a sharp clink and there was a small cracking noise.
Paul’s eyes widened. “Oh no.”
The window began to crack, little spiderwebs spreading over the glass. Then, all of the sudden, the center of the window shattered and a small stream of water began pouring in. The rest of the window looked like it might go at any minute.
Paul began to search more frantically, dropping to his knees and sweeping his hand underneath the desk and the dresser. Finally, his fingers closed around something underneath the bed. He gave a triumphant laugh as he held up a wet blue key card with the number 6 on it.
“Here’s one!” Paul stuck it in his pocket, feeling very proud of himself despite his now-wet knees. “Now where was the other one?” His fingers fumbled with the blue sticky note. It gently fell into the water, causing serene ripples to form as it became waterlogged and sank below the surface. “Aw, no. What did it say? Seam, seam, something about a seam…”
Paul ransacked all the fabric in the room (literally ripping it apart) before realizing that it said ‘no seam.’ He turned around, splashing in the now-ankle-deep water littered with strips of fabric before his eyes found the briefcase itself. He grabbed it, noting that the inside was attached only by strong metal staples. “Yes!” Paul’s fingernails scrabbled at the fabric, eventually ripping it and finding another key card (this one bearing the number 2) attached to the inside. He splashed toward the door quickly, almost falling as the water was now up to his knees. The device’s front panel opened without a sound and what Paul saw was nothing short of horrifying. A 3X3 square, completely blank except for one number in the center, and six other glowing key cards (1, 3, 4, 7, 8, and 9) were securely fastened inside the device. Another note was attached to key card #1.
You know what to do next, Mr. Franzen.
Fix the device or this room will become your watery tomb.
A brief description of magic squares followed, which Paul did not read. He deliberated for a moment over whether to actually try and solve the puzzle, then he shook his head and began shoving in key cards.
30 Minutes Later…
Paul was practically crying as he continued to shove numbers in the magic square. “Why? Why did you give me the number puzzle?” he sobbed, beginning to remove the numbers once more. “Wait…” He noticed that a row and column added up to the same number. “Yes!” He began adding in his head, trying to ignore the fact that the water was getting higher.
Finally, he slid the last card into the square. There was the sound of something powering on as the hatch closed.
“Okay… Let’s do this.” Paul grabbed the lever and pulled, and the small red light on the device turned blue. He hesitantly pulled the doorknob down and the door opened with a soft click.
Right outside, there was another blue scrap of paper bearing only a few words. Paul just had time to read them and take a deep, shuddering breath before the water washed out of the room and around his feet, obliterating the words forever.
YOU FOUND IT.
For more of Diana’s fanfiction, check out her FanFiction.net page here