The room was dark except for the bleak glow from outdoors, sneaking in through the curtains. He knew the room quite well, but had never really observed his surroundings before, especially in this alien light. He had all the time in the world now to take it all in, as he lay waiting in the shadows.
10:09 PM. The clock ticked away on the wall, almost too loud for the absolute silence around it. He could see the faint outlines of the pictures on the wall, the smiling faces in them eerie and unsettling. The people in those pictures intended to be appreciated and adored in the warmth of daylight, not stared at this other-worldly bluish glow. He stared at them for lack of anything else to do with his time. Waiting was his primary objective at this point. Waiting for the right moment. And it was finally here.
He had settled himself into a state of complete relaxation. It was an important part of the wait. Perhaps the most important part. Now he had to practically summon his muscles to wakefulness, but without moving the tiniest bit. It took a while before his body was fully alert and ready to spring on command. The transformation was completely oblivious to his immediate surroundings. It was a valuable skill he had developed all by himself over several hundred nights of training.
The first step was the most dangerous part of the whole plan. The slightest miscalculation would certainly set him back by several valuable hours and possibly put the entire mission at risk. He could not afford to repeat that failure. Pretty soon he would be too old for these missions and he was fully aware of it. If his body didn’t give up first, his family would certainly see to it that he was no longer fit to do this. They never protested what he did, and they never really knew what really happened on the missions. But he could see it in their hearts that they weren’t completely on board with his night-time adventures.
10:23 PM. It was time to set things in motion. Still unmoving, he scanned the room one last time to visualize his escape. He almost had it down to a science – every single step, the angle of his foot-fall, the pressure on his feet. He had memorized the ‘creakiness’ of nearly every floorboard. With extreme caution, he began shifting from his position at a near-glacial pace. His environment was highly sensitive to the slightest change in pressure – something he learned from several failed attempts in the past. Every few seconds he would pause, observe with all his senses on high alert, recalibrate and start moving again. He began sweating from the effort, a new dangerous ingredient in this game.
When he finally broke his left arm free, he began looking for objects he could use to speed up his escape. A cushion! Not the ideal candidate for a switch-and-bait, but he could definitely work with it. After a few tense minutes, his legs were free as well. So far, so good. And now was the time to free his right arm, pinned down in the most impossible manner. This is where the cushion could come in useful. Over the next half hour, he carefully wedged his arm out while replacing it with the cushion. He knew it wouldn’t really compensate for the texture and density of his body, but if he was lucky he just might be able to make a break for it.
After what seemed like an eternity, he was physically free to move about. The next step was quite unlike the first – he had to be quicker than he ever was in his life. With feline skill, he dropped to the floor on all fours without making so much as a soft thud. Brilliant work! He was farther along than he ever got in the last few weeks, but he knew freedom has not been won yet. He slowly stood up, took a silent step towards the door and heard a loud crack.
DAMN! Was this a new floorboard, or one he missed before? How could he have, for all those past months? He waited for the inevitable shrill, painful sound of failure, but it never came. The clock ticked on incessantly. The night was still his, after all. He cautiously stepped towards the door, careful not to repeat his last mistake. Or any of his mistakes from the past few weeks. It was like a deadly version of a lab experiment with a mouse in a maze. The mouse would make it out this time. He owed it to himself.
The thought of liberty was too distracting to the task at hand. He forced himself to concentrate, carefully edged his way across the room and finally reached the door. He put his hand around the knob and turned around one last time before he left, to look at the only other occupant in the room. His captor.
The sweat on his skin cooled off rapidly, perhaps from the temperature outside, or from the rush of adrenaline. He felt lighter with each step as he made his way downstairs, still trying to avoid making a sound. He could now afford the luxury of carelessness. He had planted a bug in the room, and he held the listening device. He finally reached the place he was trying to find for weeks. And sitting there in plain sight was the disk. He smiled at how light it felt in his hand, and how he nearly broke his back trying to get a hold of it. Breathing freely now, he first got himself a drink of water, popped the disk into a player and turned on the listening device for his bug. Silence.
11:17 PM. He knew the mission was a failure even before it began: the listening device cracked to life just as the words “Batman: Arkham City” appeared on the screen. A shriek pierced through the night, paralyzing his body and mind. WAAAAHH!! He turned off the baby monitor, switched off his Xbox, and silently walked up the stairs with a bottle of milk. Not tonight, Batman.