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The World Isn't Cruel. The People Who Live in it Are.

by iriisblooms


Author's Note: this is a story I wrote for a writing camp. it's split up into the sections of the prompts that I had to use, so it's a bit scattered all over the place, but enjoy!

————————————————–

Alice sat in front of the sheriff's desk, tears forming in her eyes.

“H-here's her picture, Mr. Dawson,” Alice said, handing a picture of her best friend to the sheriff, her hand shaking. It had been two days since she had had any contact with her best friend, Lisa. Lisa hadn't answered any of Alice's calls nor returned her texts. Lisa's parents had frantically called Alice when they couldn't find her after she went out partying, so Alice had called, texted, voice mailed, and searched everywhere for her. Finally, she set up an appointment with Sheriff Dawson to have him help find Lisa.



Sheriff Dawson took the picture, scanned it for a second, and put it in a file on his desk. Turning back to Alice, he gave her a nod.



“We're going to do everything in our power to find her, miss. Please don't worry, we'll find her and return her safe and sound soon,” he said. Alice nodded and left the office, thanking Sheriff Dawson as she did.

————————————————–

Ring, ring.



Alice groans, her eyes puffy from crying. She rubs her eyes and grabs her phone, yawning and still tired. She'd been up most of the night crying. But as soon as she saw who was calling, all of her tiredness vanished. She tapped to accept the call and put her phone to her ear.



“Sheriff Dawson, hi, good morning, what is it?” Alice questioned.



“We have some news about Lisa's disappearance we wanted to share with you, if that's alright?” the Sheriff's voice filled Alice's ear. Alice's throat suddenly felt very dry and she reached for a half empty can of Redoa- red soda, the best kind of soda in the world. She'd only discovered Redoa because of Lisa. They'd both been shopping at the mall and Lisa had laid her eyes on a poster of a guy drinking Redoa. And this guy was hot. His hair was so nice. So Lisa had hunted down this guy and now they were dating. It was a secret relationship, since Redoa was said to be the “single person's go to soda”. That was how it got famous and popular, after all. That one slogan made millions- no, billions- no, trillions.



“Y-yeah. Go ahead,” Alice swallowed nervously, tipped the can to her lips, and downed the rest of the Redoa in her can. She gasped for a breath of air after finishing and chucked the can across her room. Thankfully, it was empty and didn't spill on her rug.



“We searched her room, and on her bed, we found some things,” the sheriff starts. “Her bed was nicely made- which her parents say is unusual?”



“Yes, that is… she never makes her bed. She calls it a waste of time,” Alice smiles sadly. Sheriff Dawson chuckles quietly before returning to a solemn mood to deliver the news.



“On her bed was a single rose. And…” Sheriff Dawson sucked in a breath.



“And…?” Alice trailed off, holding her breath.



“And there was a can. A full can. Of a soda. Uh, Redoa,” he finished.



Alice felt like the wind had been knocked out of her. Her mouth quavered, unable to produce any words.



“Uh- o-okay, officer. I-I mean sheriff. Thanks for the information. I-I have to go now. Bye,” Alice finished quickly and hung up the phone.

————————————————–

Ping!



Alice's phone lit up with a message. She rubbed her wet, teary eyes. Grabbing her phone, she used her face ID to unlock it and scrolled up, clicking on the app and then the conversation. It was a text from Sheriff Dawson.



She sniffled. It'd been a few hours since she'd received his call. In that time, Alice had showered, taken a nap, and then woke up and cried. And then her phone had lit up with a message.



Brushing away her tears and the snot that had crusted on her nose, she fixed her eyes on the words of the text.



'Update on Lisa's case: the Redoa can had fingerprints on it and was traced back to Mr. Charles Bithmoth. We know he's involved with the Redoa company, but don't know how. Do you know if he's involved with Lisa in any way?' the text said. Alice clutched her mouth and dropped her phone, gasping. Charles Bithmoth. That was Lisa's boyfriend. The one in the ads. The one Lisa had tracked down. Alice felt like she had been punched in the chest. She took a staggering step back, falling onto her bed, tears starting to pool down her face and falling down onto her bed, wetting the purple comforter.



The thing was, Lisa made a lot of money from her secret relationship with Charles. Although it was secret, the Redoa company leaked to the press that one of its models was dating a very hot supermodel. They had paid Lisa to allow them to say that, and had kept paying her ever since. Lisa was genuinely in love with Charles. She did everything for him. She lent him money that she made because of the thing Redoa had said. She'd bought him very expensive gifts. She'd done so much out of love for him. But Charles, on the other hand. He was only in it for the money. No matter how many times Alice had told Lisa that, she never believed her.



Ping!



Another message. A message from an unknown number.



Clicking on it, it took her to the conversation. And it said something bad.



'I have Lisa. I'll give her back if you bring me all of her money and Charles in the next 24 hours. Meet me at 12843 Reso Ave. Neu, South Dakota.'



And then the clock began ticking.

————————————————–

Alice's heart dropped as her eyes scanned the text. So many thoughts started to circle in her head, screaming to get out. So… it wasn't Charles who had kidnapped Lisa? Then who was it? Biting her lip and standing up, Alice began to pace her bedroom. Should she tell Sheriff Dawson? Yes… but did she want to? No. Was she able to solve this mystery herself? Hopefully she would be. Wait wait wait. Woah woah woah. Was she actually thinking of solving this mystery? This kidnapping? She groaned and clutched her head. Maybe this was too sensitive a topic for her to investigate on. But why should she get in the way of the police officers and real detectives who could actually solve this?



She pulled at her hair. What was she supposed to do? She wanted to save Lisa… but it all seemed very suspicious. How was she supposed to know where Lisa kept her money? And especially where Charles was? Biting her lip she stood up tall, doing what one might call a superhero pose. She'd made up her mind. She would do whatever it took to find her best friend.



Shaking, Alice grabbed her phone and unlocked it, going to the chat with the unknown number. Her fingers shook as she typed out a message.



'fine, but idk where lisa keeps her money, and idk where charles is'



She didn't have to wait long for a reply.



'She keeps her money under her mattress. Charles, on the other hand is in'



And the text cut off there. Alice's phone blacked out and she shrieked before quickly covering her mouth with her hand.



“No no no!” she whispered. “Please turn on. Please! What is Charles in? I have to know- I have to!”



But there was no response from the phone.

————————————————–

Alice groaned and chucked her phone across the room.



“No! No no no!” she yells. But then her phone lights up.



Ping!



She lets out a short yell of fury before dragging her feet across her room and going to pick up her phone. She didn't want to know what her phone wanted now, but part of her really wanted to know. Was it the mysterious unknown number? Who could it be? Was it Sheriff Dawson?



Picking up her phone and unlocking it, and wouldn't you know it, it was the unknown number! Groaning and rolling her eyes, she read the text.



'Never mind about Charles. I've found him. But bring me the money or you, Lisa, and your family will never see the light of day again. You have 24 hours. Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock.'



Alice froze, her blood turning to ice. Uh oh. She grabbed her bag, shoved some food in it, grabbed her phone and car keys, ran out the door, blowing quick kisses to her parents. She ran to her car and threw herself in it, throwing her bag on the passenger seat. Starting the car, she drove.



While she drove, she started to think. Lisa had been out partying. Alice had left a party early. Lisa had kept partying. What if Alice had never left? What if she'd stayed? Would Lisa still have gotten kidnapped if Alice was there? Tears formed in Alice's already puffy eyes. Where is Lisa? Is she okay? Is she alive? Is she at that address that the unknown number gave her? Is she alive? Where is Lisa? Had Lisa had too much to drink without Alice being there to watch and monitor her intake? Tears fell down her face and rolled into her lap. Is she okay? Where is she?



Is she alive?

————————————————–

Alice pulls up at Lisa's house, but there's police tape on the front door. She chokes and makes the quick decision to drive around to the back door. Quickly, she goes into the house and sneaks up to Lisa's bedroom, which seems as though it's been ransacked and then put together again. She knew that the police officers did this, but it still teared her up thinking about it. Shaking it off, she slowly crossed the room to the bed and reached under the mattress, grabbing the stack of money. She pulls it out and looks at it. It's definitely more than Lisa makes from her regular job and Redoa paying her off… hmm…. She shakes her head.



Alice walks out of the house and climbs back in her car, driving an hour to some random place in the middle of South Dakota. The whole time she was glancing at the time. Tick tock. She still had 22 hours… yet that seemed like not nearly enough time.



Tick tock.



Tick tock.



Tick tock.



She pulled up outside an old warehouse and stepped out of her car, the money in hand. A door opened into the warehouse and she went inside. Alice squinted as her eyes adjusted to the dark, but the first thing she saw was Lisa and Charles tied up back to back, their mouths stuffed with an old cloth.



A dark figure wearing a suit walks down a set of metal stairs to meet Alice.



“I'm Joey. And you must be Alice,” he said as his face slid into a sliver of light. “You might think I'm bad, but in all honesty, it's your friend and mine who are the bad ones. They've been stealing from me.” Joey fidgeted with the cuff of his jacket. “You see, my friend, Charles, said he'd always be loyal to me. And he hasn't been. He's been sick of doing the things I ask of him. And Lisa has joined him on his little mission to bankrupt me.” He shrugged. “It hasn't worked, since you have the money and are bringing it to me right now.”



As if compelled by his words, Alice stepped towards him, handing him the stack of cash.



“Now let Lisa and Charles go,” she said through gritted teeth.



“Um, no. Boys, come out now,” Charles said, smirking. “See you later- if you make it out alive, that is.”



Alice's eyes darted around. Three… no, five… no… ten? More than that even! So many tall, strong men- security guards, maybe?- came out of the shadows and… and… and… Alice fought. With rage in her eyes, she fought her way up to where Lisa and Charles were tied. And before she knew it, she was there, panting. She ripped the binds that tied Lisa and Charles. The couple got up and looked at Alice, terrified yet happy. Alice nodded to them, and then the door.



“Come on. The police will be waiting outside.”

————————————————–

The trio- Alice, Lisa, and Charles- stepped out into the daylight. The warehouse was surrounded by police cars; Joey and his bodyguards were already in them.



“And we're sure they're here to help us?” Charles asked, a single, perfect eyebrow arched. Alice nodded. Charles had a right to be annoyed, but Alice was still a bit annoyed at his questioning. But before she could say anything, Sheriff Dawson strutted up to Alice.



“Thanks for reporting this to us, Alice. We're glad to have this guy under custody now, whoever he may be,” he said.



“Oh, of course. Happy to help, sheriff.”



Alice, Lisa, and Charles drive back to their town in silence. It's an awkward drive. Both Lisa and Charles are in the backseat, Alice driving, and the few times she looks back, the couple is either hugging, holding hands, or talking in hushed voices. Their wrists are red and bruised from being tied up for who knew how long. Finally, after what seemed like ever, but, in reality, was only an hour, Alice pulled up to Lisa's house.



“Well. Here you are. Um, Charles, do you need a ride somewhere, or-” Alice started to say but was cut off.



“No, but thank you, though. I'll be getting out here,” Charles said, getting out of the car first and holding his hand out to Lisa. She took it and stepped out, giving a final glance at Alice before getting out all the way. Alice drove home by herself. When she got home, she collapsed on her bed and slept. But it wasn't long before her phone lit up and a notification came.



Ping!



Alice groaned and lifted her phone, unlocking it and looking at the text.



'quick check the news!' was all Lisa's text said.



Alice rolled her eyes. She got no thank you for saving her best friend from danger. She got nothing except more demands. But reluctantly, she opened the news app on her phone. And Joey's face was plastered all over it, along with Sheriff Dawson's. She smiled. It was probably good news, right?



She was wrong.



Dawson was working for Joey… wait. What? They had robbed a bank together. Killed the president. They had taken over the whole United States of America. In just two hours. This was impossible, yet they had done it.



This was all Alice's fault. Right? It had to be. What was Alice ever going to do?



Hope was lost.

————————————————–

The first thing Alice wanted to do was drive to the police station. But she changed her mind. If sheriff Dawson was working for Joey, who was to say that the police officers weren't too? So instead she turned on her TV. But all that was on TV was the assassination of the president and the takeover of the country. Joey had been planning this for a very long time, apparently. And it hadn't even started with him. It'd all been his parents' idea. A few days later, Lisa texted Alice because Charles had discovered that the money he had stolen for Lisa had been money to pay off news companies to make it seem like Joey came to power on purpose. So many questions are still unanswered and never will be. But what are you to do when the world is this cruel?



And yet the world isn't cruel.



The people who live in it are.


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22 Reviews

Points: 14
Reviews: 22

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Wed Apr 05, 2023 1:47 pm
Razor wrote a review...



WOOOOOOOOOOW. This is a very good story. There are so many twists and turns, and you really capture the essence of being the parent of a missing child well. I love how you have the title at the end, it really hits home. Honestly, there is nothing I can find bad about this story.

The plot is awesome. Having a missing child is hard for a parent, and you perfectly captured this. This story was a rollercoaster ride all the way, with twists, turns, and so many bumps.

This is A+ material. I encourage you to visit this link (https://internationalwriterscollective. ... e-stories/) to find a magazine to submit this too. I truly believe you could get this story published in one. A magazine may say no to accepting your story. That is okay. Just keep trying, don't beat yourself up. If you do not know how to submit a story, visit this link (https://writersdigestshop.com/pages/the ... ion%20book.) Also be sure to check submission and story guidelines for the magazine before you submit.

Final Thoughts: Keep Writing. This story is awesome, maybe write a sequel. f you don't want to, that's okay. Just keep writing, no matter what anyone thinks of your writing.

(You may have to copy and paste the links into a search engine, do not include the parentheses)




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41 Reviews

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Reviews: 41

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Fri Mar 31, 2023 4:12 am
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HalfheartedAmateur wrote a review...



Title: The World Isn't Cruel. The People Who Live in it Are.
I am immensely curious as to what the multitude of prompts inspired you to write this incredibly jaw-dropping and gasp-worthy short story. Your title is so captivating and captured my attention and probably others immediately because the claim in your title that you're making is such an impactful and influential one. I also saw that you retied that title in with the last two sentences of this short story which is such a power move and ends the short story with such emphasis which I love and am passionately obsessing over. The statement you are making within the two sentences themselves is - I believe - the truth to an extent and I could write an entire thesis research paper on this on that perspective and mindset. The story itself relating to the title is understandable and I can see where you were coming from in general.

Commentaries/Interpretations:
The plot twists, the up and downs, the rollerocaster of emotions, the lack of and the intensity of feelings, the eye-raising reveals, the interesting choice of actuality, the fast-paced action, the time skips, the confusion but digestible storyline, and everything else in between are all factors/aspects that had me hooked on this short story.

Overall:
Keep writing. Keep exploring. Keep searching. Keep going.
You're a solid writer. This short story kept me reading until the end despite the confusing spots and abrupt/sudden moments where there is no explanation or detail to be told. I like this short story and the ending sentences really make it pop as well as the capturing title. Lovely job.





You flare, you flicker, you fade... And in the end, all your tomorrows become yesterdays.
— Megatron (Lost Light, by Roberts, Lawrence, Lafuente)