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“I want five hundred thousand dollars, or you never see him alive again.”
    

The caller’s voice was altered, sounding more like a machine then a human. There was no way to distinguish the gender of the caller, or the age or race. All they had was the contact.
    

Adrianna finally had the opening scene for her novel, which she had spent months trying to perfect. Now, she had a definite starting point.    

     The clock on the bottom of her computer screen read 1:25am, and Adrianna had to be up at seven o’clock for her eight thirty class. She hated that class; history, but she was passing it, so that’s all that mattered in her mind. She didn’t want to stop writing, though, since she finally made some progress. With a sigh, she saved her work, shut her laptop down, and climbed into bed. She would just have to continue in the morning after class.
    While she slept, Adrianna had one of the worst, most vivid dreams she had ever had. She was being held captive somewhere; it was dark, and she smelled some sort of chemical. She couldn’t tell exactly what the chemical was, but it was making her stomach turn. Adrianna fought down the urge to vomit, bile rising in the back of her throat. The ground was cold and hard, as if she was on concrete. There were no sounds, except for the sound of her heart pounding in her chest and her lungs struggling to take in fresh air. She began to hear footsteps, but she wasn’t sure if they were friendly footsteps, or if they were harmful ones. Being afraid of the latter, she did the best she could to hold I any noise. She wanted to scream for her help, but her head kept telling her not to.
    Adrianna sat up in bed abruptly, crying out and knocking her clock and cell phone off of the bedside table to her left. It was 4:15 am. Her heart was pounding with fear, and it took her a few minutes to fully comprehend that it was only a bad dream, and that she didn’t appear to be in any immediate danger. She got up shakily from the bed, going into her small bathroom for a glass of water. After splashing water onto her face, she looked at her reflection in the mirror.

    “Jesus, you look like shit.” She tried to smile at her humor, only managing to make it look more like a grimace. Her heart had begun to slow down a little bit, but she still didn’t feel comfortable going back to sleep. She got back into bed, anxiously looking around the room. Nothing seemed disturbed, but the nightmare had really rattled her, so she had to triple check that everything was as it was supposed to be.     
    
    After being convinced that no one had broken in and was waiting to attack her, Adrianna sat down at her desk. The time was now 5:30 am, and she didn’t think she would be able to go back to sleep, so she decided to work on her story some more. She had gotten a few ideas from her nightmare; she thought they would fit perfectly into her plot.
    John and Stacey Lane stared at the phone in disbelief, vaguely aware of each other’s presence. There was no way they could come up with that much money, but they had to get their sixteen year old son, Isaiah, back. He was mildly autistic, and while almost normally functional, he did depend on his parents for some things. Also, he had a bright future, and much to look forward to in life. They could think of no reason why anyone would hold their son ransom; to their knowledge, neither they nor Isaiah had any enemies. Of course, they couldn’t be around him twenty four hours of the day, so they might be unaware of any danger. It was any parents’ worst nightmare, knowing they failed to protect their child, but to know that they might have been able to prevent it; that was a pain unlike any other.
    “John, what are we going to do? We don’t have that kind of money.” Stacey started to cry again, her hands shaking uncontrollably with fear.
    “We’ll figure something out, honey. Try to stay calm.” In reality, he had no idea what to do, but Stacey was already terrified; admitting that he was unable to protect his family wouldn’t help anyone right now.

    Adrianna stopped typing and looked at the clock. It was seven thirty, and her stomach was growling so much she was beginning to feel sick. She hadn’t eaten dinner the night before, and she was starving.  She had just enough time to get dressed and grab something for breakfast at the café near her class. After getting ready and heading to the café, Adrianna selected three croissants and sat down to eat. Fifteen minutes later, stomach comfortably full, she headed to her first class of the day. This was her favorite class; she was able to be whoever she wanted when she wrote. She had an A so far, and she really liked her professor. Today, they were going to be learning about a big project that they would be working on for the rest of the semester. Adrianna was excited, but also curious as to what was in store for her.
    “Today, class, you will begin working on a piece that you would like to have published; a novel, a short story, a novella; anything. There are some guidelines, however, that I have outlined for you.”

    The professor began passing around packets in which were the details, guidelines, and some suggestions for the project. Adrianna was dismayed when she saw that he would not allow them to use already started works; she would have to come up with something other than the novel she was already working on. This would be a challenge for her, but she loved to be challenged, so she was excited about it. She had a lot of planning to do; she wanted to get the best grade possible.

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