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Eighteen year old Justin Hopkins ekes out a living writing freelance articles for magazines. When he receives an offer from his psychiatrist uncle to help write about ground-breaking research, Justin jumps at the chance. He travels to his Uncle Blake's isolated ranch with hopes of big-time publication.
There, however, he is held captive and worn down, physically and mentally, by Blake and his followers—all, as Blake professes, to make Justin as ‘ strong as possible,’ in body and mind. Can Justin survive the torment? Or will he succumb and join the others, even bring harm to someone else, now believing it will make them as ‘strong as possible?’
Rating: non-romance Adult Content
Page Count: 210
Word Count: 52166
Despite being in darkness, Justin sensed this room was smaller. It was as cold as the other one, with a pungent smell, like some kind of beer or liquid gone bad. Beyond bad. Justin cringed and plugged his nose, gathered his senses. His stomach, though sore from the beating, cried for food, anything to fill the void, including asparagus or cauliflower, foods he despised. Then again, at this point the offer of paper and cardboard would have had him running his tongue over his lips.
He opened his mouth to speak but clamped it shut as memories flooded of what had happened yesterday. Or several days ago? Last week? He groped, discerned this room was indeed smaller and also devoid of a view to the outside, walls feeling rough in spots. Justin guessed (hoped) it was night, too dark outside now to notice a window. The smell made him sick, it worse than a skunk’s scent. He lifted a foot and discovered where the smell originated as it invaded his nostrils, now stronger. The section by his groin was wet. He touched the spot and gagged, forced what rose to his mouth back down, and stood. His legs buckled, his side hitting steel. He examined the metal. Another bunk, this one harder and colder than the other. Justin crawled onto it, then jumped back as metal points and rods poked through cloth to his skin like barbed wire.
He touched it and then withdrew his hand. He cursed under his breath, fearful what would happen if he was heard. He ran his hands lightly across this slab in hopes of finding a place to sit. Points and rods poked his fingers at every inch.
Justin stepped away and goosefleshed. The hairs did not settle back down. The temperature in this room was close to freezing. He assumed it was night and got much colder up here after dark during these months. His stomach continued its plea.
“God, why is this happening?” he said to the ceiling. “What did I do, didn’t do, say or didn’t say?” Tomblike muteness was the response, causing Justin to shiver all the more. His teeth clicked out of control. He went back to things he’d done, the times he’d shoplifted groceries and auto parts to impress his friends. The times he’d teased others, or, on rare occasions, scolded his parents over the phone for their absence. Was this some kind of retribution? Religious he was not but believed God punished those who did not heed His word, the way He punished those of Sodom and Gomorrah and the people of Noah’s time. He had faith God had a reason for what He did, and as long as Justin believed in Him, God would give him what was best.
So what had he, Justin, done to earn his suffering? He got no answer, told himself to be patient. The world, after all, had taken six days to create. He contemplated escape scenarios, such as feigning sickness. Would that work? They’d beaten and then imprisoned him. What would they care if he was ill? Plus, his uncle’s psychiatry experience enabled him to detect most sicknesses. The man was quite able to recognize an act.
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