Monday, June 10, 2013

Writing Challenge with Author, Greg Smith!!

The Challenge:

In 3000 words or less, write a story about a baby that was stolen from a hospital. Who took the baby? Who are the parents and what do they do to get their child back?

The Result:
STOLEN MOMENTS

by Greg Smith
© Greg Smith 2013



The heavy veil of midnight stretched across the harbor, lights from the city center played hide and go seek among the undulating waves that lapped the shoreline. Overhead, the soft rumble of sporadic traffic washed down from the bridge connecting the city with slumbering suburbia. 

The zoo, a lingering reminder of days long gone, occupied a section of foreshore that swept down from a tree-lined ridge to the refurbished wharf that functioned as the lower entrance for visitors arriving by harbor ferries. The wharf was utilized exclusively by the state transport department and since, at this late hour, no maritime services were operating, it was curious that a medium sized craft should be tied up at the wharf. Even stranger were the black-garbed figures that alighted from the vessel. Without pause the six figures moved straight to the heavy wire fence and the padlocked gate.

City light glinted off metal as a large bolt cutter appeared. The snap of the padlock went unheard as the discordant sounds from the zoo’s tenants rumbled from the shadowed slopes overlooking the harbor.

The gate swung back and the group moved quickly to the pathway leading up to the zoo’s main building that housed administration and medical facilities. Hundreds of eyes followed the dark figures running quietly and purposefully along the path as it snaked its way towards the top of the ridge where suburbia nestled against the edge of the zoo property.

The night watchman was too preoccupied with a late night TV program to notice the shadows flit across one of the several security monitors then reappear on the screen that displayed the entrance to the zoo hospital. The guard swiveled in his chair to retrieve his coffee and shot a perfunctory glance at the monitor. The seemingly secure hospital entrance belied the fact that it had just been breached.

Inside the medical center several rooms led off the main arterial corridor that ran the length of the building. A few of the rooms functioned as offices while the remainder were examination rooms and operating theaters. The group of six sprinted the length of the corridor, passing empty rooms and the occasional lighted desk lamp. At the end of the corridor the group stopped. A small metal plate fixed at eye level to a door read SECURE AREA – NO ADMITTANCE WITHOUT ATTENDING GUARD.

Without hesitation, one of the six withdrew a key card and swiped it through the security lock. For the briefest moment nothing happened, then a small green light atop the lock winked at the group and they heard a soft metallic click. Silently they stepped into the room. A hand reached out and suddenly the room was awash with light.

The doorway stood in one corner of the large room. Wide workbenches, covered with medical equipment, lined the entire length of the walls leading from the door and two over-sized examination tables occupied the center of the room. The group moved slowly towards the large islands, all focus directed at the far corner that was sealed off from the rest of the room by thick steel bars that reached from floor to ceiling. The cell filled a goodly portion of the clinic and appeared extremely secure and for good reason judging by its current occupants.

Staring through the bars at the uninvited guests dressed head to toe in black were two huge albino silverback gorillas, one of which cradled a young albino baby gorilla. The only movement from within the cell came from the male’s deep yellow eyes as they narrowed. He regarded the strangers warily. He and his partner were quite used to the attending zoo staff dressed in their white lab coats; this group, however, was different and the smell emanating from it was that of fear, greed, and danger. The gorilla’s mind recalled his first encounter with Man. His eyes narrowed further, almost closed, and his gaze tracked from one black figure to the next.

“Get on with it,” a voice rasped.

Three of the group unslung rifles from their backs and loaded them with large tranquillizer darts. Ready, the three men stepped forward, raised their weapons and fired. Unfortunately for the male silverback these were marksmen and the darts passed cleanly between the steel bars and struck home. The gorilla was able to swat one of the projectiles from his body but the sedative from the other two overpowered him quickly and he slumped slowly onto his side with an angry grunt. Even as he felt his eyes flutter close, he heard the strangers’ weapons cough again and sensed rather than saw his partner slide to the floor.

A whimpering chatter came from the baby gorilla as its mother’s arms released their comforting hold and the baby found itself tumble to the cool hard floor. It brushed its knuckled hands over the mother’s face trying to rouse her but to no avail. Then, even as the cage door swung open, the baby scampered to its father but no amount of chatter or pummeling could stir the drugged mountainous gorilla.

Then everything went black.

The baby silverback didn’t struggle inside the heavy sack. Like most wild animals when they find themselves suddenly enveloped in darkness, instead of fighting they submit to the apparent safety and comfort of the strange nightfall. Even the slight jostling didn’t bother it.

The intruders secured the cage and quickly retraced their steps. Everything had gone according to plan, even smoother than expected. The group was half way along the corridor when a loud commotion stopped them in their tracks. All eyes turned. The racket was coming from the far end of the building; from the room they had just left. A tremendous howl pierced the air and office windows shook in their frames. Metal screamed in protest as it was twisted and bent.

“HOLY SHI—!”

A door—no, a whole section of wall exploded into the corridor and a cloud of dust billowed towards the transfixed group. The bundle inside the sack went still. The ever-efficient ventilation system sucked the dust from the corridor and there, in all his terrifying glory, stood the male silverback gorilla. 

The deep overhanging brows furrowed but did nothing to hide the murderous glint in his yellow eyes. His arms, like two monstrous pillars, rose from the floor to his powerful shoulders that almost spanned the corridor. The gorilla’s mighty chest gleamed a steely gray from the light spilling from the destroyed room and heaved slightly from the strenuous task of ripping the steel cell asunder.

The men expected the silverback to rise and pound its chest and possibly scream its defiance. They didn’t expect it to begin moving slowly towards without a sound. If anything, it made the approaching animal seem all the more terrifying. Hands began fumbling for weapons, and darts clattered to the floor from jittery fingers. The silverback kept advancing.

Finally a tranquillizer dart was rammed home and a rifle coughed. The men stared in amazement as the dart hurtled down the corridor only to be batted aside by the sweep of a brawny hand. Another rifle fired but its projectile met the same fate as its predecessor. And the silverback kept coming.

Panic and sheer terror seized the group and they turned as one in a run for the only door providing escape. In their mad rush the sack holding the baby gorilla was dropped and instantly forgotten. Upon reaching the stirring bundle, the silverback paused long enough to release his son from the tangle of cloth and, with a tap on his rump, sent him scampering back to his mother.

Then, knowing his baby was safe, the father gorilla returned to the task in hand.

The group had reached the door. The key card was needed for exiting the building as well as entering. In the frantic commotion to escape the card was dropped and trampled underfoot. A woeful moan went up as men dropped to their knees and hands began scrabbling around in the dark for the key.

A scream curdled the men’s blood as the silverback weighed into their group.

The weekend was uneventful; crowds of excited children and their smiling parents poured into the zoo, ogled and clamored at the array of animals, consumed copious amounts of fast food and pop, and departed almost as quickly as they had arrived, leaving overflowing waste bins as silent testimony of their visit.

Zoo staff assigned to the medical center arrived Monday morning to begin another week of studious work caring for the zoo tenants. Administrative personnel looked up from their cluttered desks as screams of shock and horror echoed across the zoo grounds.

From the horrific evidence that filled the center’s corridor from the entrance to the far end of the building and the destroyed examination room it was deduced that, sometime late the previous Friday night, a band of men had broken into the building to steal the baby albino silverback gorilla. To date it was the only one ever born in captivity and therefore could demand a huge price on the black market for exotic animals. Despite the use of tranquillizers, the group’s plan had gone awry when they must have miscalculated the correct dosage of drug needed to safely sedate the silverback gorillas.

Most surprising of all, as far as the zoo staff was concerned, was the fact that all three silverbacks were discovered sound asleep among the ruins of their cell. The animals, still regarded as being very wild, had shown no interest in taking advantage of the break in to make their escape from the zoo.

In an attempt to identify the would-be thieves the authorities handling the case were still trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together—so to speak.      



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