Bunker of Absolution (Excerpt)

by Rachel Fikes

Prologue-August 2011
Karen ArnoldThe acerbic stench of ammonia smacked her in the nose. She slowly opened her eyes to find that she was in a dimly lit room that resembled a small prison cell. As she lifted her head off the dirt, she moaned. She felt like she had been crushed by a convoy of HMMWVs. As she sat up, she assessed her wounds. Though she couldn’t see much—the only light in the room was an intermittent flicker that escaped from a grapefruit-sized hole in the wall; she felt everything. As her hand grazed over her body, she grimaced when it landed on her abdomen. The slight contact sent a jolt of electrical pain that detonated in her legs. Sucking in a shaky breath, her eyes searched the closet-sized room, hoping to find a weapon of some sort. It took her about ten seconds to realize that she was out of luck. Three quarters of the room was made of wood, with the back wall comprised of a clayish dirt substance. She was in a cave or a bunker of some sort. He was nowhere to be found. She tried to remember back to her POW training before she deployed. She was allowed to tell the captor her name, rank, service number, and date of birth. That was it.

She took in slow steady breaths, trying to keep herself from panicking. The worst thing she could do in a situation like this was to psych herself out. She had to keep her mind in a healthy state and remain optimistic.

She couldn’t help but be pissed at herself. If she’d been doing the right thing, this would’ve never happened. This was Karma for breaking the rules and now she was going to pay for her mistakes and die.

A deafening bellow from the hole yanked her from her thoughts. She crept under the hole, debating on whether or not she should look through it. She didn’t know if she could. What if it was too painful to take in? Pulling herself together was a chore in itself. She felt like a cardboard box that had been left out in the rain—soggy and flimsy. Her heart hammered against her chest as she peered through the hole. Her body went rigid and sweat trickled down her temple as she recognized the distinctive black curls. It was him. She stifled a sob as she saw two men hold him to the ground, while another back-handed him across the face. His nose made an awful crunching noise and blood gushed down his chin. Another man was yelling at him in Arabic. She couldn’t look anymore. She coiled up in the fetal position under the hole and covered her ears with her hands. She yearned to return to childhood when the boogey man would simply disappear by shutting her eyes and disappearing under her Little Mermaid comforter. If only reality was that easy…

July 2010
A stinging smack across the face ripped Rebekah out of her beach-induced coma. She shot up out of her lawn chair like she’d been jabbed with a cattle prod.

“What the hell?” she blurted out.

She squinted through the sharp rays of sunlight where her eyes came to focus on a tall sinewy figure that was sprinting towards her. She instinctively backed up and protectively grabbed her beach tote. She giggled at the absurdity of the situation. How exactly was she going to defend herself with a purse? While she was laughing at herself, a man who looked to be around 6’5” with dark olive skin came into view. As he approached, she noticed that his eyes were akin to the blue brilliance of the Caribbean Sea. The rich contrast of his tan skin and light eyes caught her off guard. She was a sucker for blue eyes. And she had never seen any like his before.

“I’m sorry ma’am.” He looked at her cheek and winced. “Damn, I nailed you good, with the Frisbee that is.”

She narrowed her eyes at him and placed her hand on her hip; giving the cue that she deserved more of an explanation.

“The wind must’ve caught it. That oversized baboon over there was supposed to catch it.”

She followed the direction he was pointing and saw a chocolate lab rolling around in the sand, playing with some sea shells that had washed onto the shore. Her face softened. She liked big dogs. She detested seeing men with those little rat-sized dogs that you saw celebrities carrying around in their purses. She fervently stuck to the motto that if a man couldn’t handle a real dog, chances were, he couldn’t handle a real woman.

“Blaming it on the dog, huh?” She grinned, rubbing her cheek. “It’s ok, just stings a little. What’s his name?”

“Wallace.” He cocked his head to the side and offered his hand. “And I’m Joe.”
She gave him a firm handshake. “Cute.”


“I was talking about Wallace,” she winked at him playfully. “It’s a very distinguished name for a dog.

“Yeah, a little too distinguished for someone who licks his own butt,” he laughed.

She grinned and shook her head.

“Nah, I’m really just a huge fan of Braveheart. You know….FREEDOM!” He yelled victoriously as his eyes lit up with animation.

“Oh I know. It’s one of my favorites,” she agreed.

“What’s your name? That is unless you want me to call you ma’am?” His eyes curiously searched her face for a response.

“It’s Rebekah, not ma’am. Do I look like a ma’am?”

A huge grin broke across Joe’s face. “You sure don’t. So Rebekah, can I get you a drink? Alcohol works wonders on Frisbee injuries.”

“Oh really?” She couldn’t help but return his grin. His smile was contagious.

“Yep, it’s a fact.”

She glanced at her watch, chewing on her lip. Her inner Charlotte York, the hopeless romantic, pleaded like a ravenous kid outside of a candy store, begging to be let in. But her inner Miranda Hobbes, the logical realist, wasn’t having it. She slammed the door in Charlotte’s face, tugging down the blinds. Lately, Charlotte’s advice hadn’t fared well with Rebekah, so she made the executive decision to err on the side of prudence.

“Thanks, but I was just leaving,” she said resolutely.

“Damn… Ok. Well, good to me you,” disappointment etched his voice.

“Same here. Have a good one.” She plastered on a faux smile and nodded, trying to ignore Charlotte’s pout session.

And with that, he smiled shyly and took off running after Wallace.

She gathered her beach belongings, desperately trying not to look back. Unable to help herself, she shot a glance in his direction. He was a revelation running on the beach. The wind was rustling his black curls as he played with his oversized dog. She let out a deep sigh and took one last look at the Adonis of a man. “Damn,” she whispered to herself, doubting she would ever see him again.

“It never would’ve worked out,” Joe told Wallace, who nuzzled up against him as if he understood. He chunked the Frisbee and the Lab bounded after it, catching the green disc in mid air. As Joe whistled, Wallace turned on his haunches, but instead of returning to his master, he raced across the beach after Rebekah.

“Wallace!” Joe shouted as he sprinted after the dog.

Rebekah turned around just in time for Wallace to drop the Frisbee at her feet. He sat down in front of her, excitedly wagging his tail and spritzing her legs with warm sand while his tongue hung out of his mouth.

“Whatcha doing, silly boy?” Rebekah smiled, rubbing him behind the ears, hitting his sweet spot. He rolled over with his right leg kicking out sporadically. She giggled. She wished she didn’t have to move so often; being lonely got old after awhile.

“Sorry again,” said Joe as he approached, out of breath.

“No need. He’s adorable.”

“He’s a trouble maker. Pretty sure he takes after me,” said Joe.

“Is that so?”

“He might have a weakness for pretty ladies too,” he winked.

“Another quality from you?”

“Maybe,” Joe smirked. “You sure you have to leave?” His eyebrows etched in hope.

Rebekah chewed on her lip. Oh, the hell with it, she thought. This was the last day of her vacation. She might as well enjoy it. Charlotte jumped up in joy, sticking her tongue out at Miranda.

“I guess one drink won’t hurt. Who makes the best dirty martinis?”

He grinned confidently. “That would be Bill’s Oyster Bar. Follow me.”

As she walked alongside the mystery man, she felt as if there was some type of magnetic pull drawing her towards him. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but there was something there. Wallace raced ahead, turning around ever so often to make sure they were still behind him.

“So what brings you to South Padre?” he asked.

“A much needed vacation. You?”

“Same. I’ve got a love-hate relationship with my job.”


“What do you do?”

Rebekah hesitated. She hated this question. People always freaked when they found out about her profession.

“Let’s make a deal?”

“Ok,” Joe looked confused.

“No work-talk. I came on vacation to get away from my job.”

“Deal,” he agreed.

When they reached the Tiki bar, the waiter showed them to a beachfront table that was pet friendly. It was a quaint place, definitely a mom and pop joint. Multi-colored lights bobbed from the patio, casting a saffron glow over their table. The place was popular; almost all the tables were full and the buzz of chatter and what she called “cruise music” was in the air. The waiter, a college kid who donned a blond shaggy haircut, pulled out the chair for Rebekah and handed her a menu.

“Hey guys, my name’s Tim. Can I start you with something to drink and maybe an appetizer?”

“Extra dirty vodka martini, 3 olives, please,” said Rebekah politely.

“Corona light and an order of your Oysters Rockefeller… oh, and a plate of salmon fillets,” he added.

“Alright, I’ll be right back,” said the waiter warmly as he collected the menus.

“Hungry?’ Rebekah inquired.

“The salmon’s for Wallace. He loves it here.”


“Possibly,” he agreed.

“And Oysters Rockefeller?” asked Rebekah, doubt laced her voice.

“You’ve never had it?”


“It’ll change your life.”

“I’ll try anything once,” smiled Rebekah as she effectively ignored Miranda, who was busy rolling her eyes.

“So, where’re you from?” she asked.

“San Antonio.”

“Mmm. Great Mexican food! I can’t stay there for more than a weekend; I’ll gain ten pounds.”

“It’s the best,” he agreed. “You from Texas?”

“A little German town called Fredericksburg. It’s close to Austin.”

“I’ve heard of it. Peach capital of Texas?”

“That’s right, and tourists.” She agreed.

It was a small world after all. She always got excited when she ran into a fellow Texan. Texans were a whole different breed. For example, when most Americans travel to foreign countries and are asked where they’re from, they answer the ‘United States’. Texans, however, would always answer with ‘Texas’ as if it was still its own country. Non-Texans didn’t understand this bond; it was definitely a Texas thing.

The waiter arrived with their order. Joe set the salmon down on the ground next to the table and called Wallace, who sprung into action immediately, gulping up the fillets in two bites.

“What’s your degree in?”Asked Rebekah as she took a sip of her martini; the taste of olive juice and dry vermouth hit the spot.

“Business. When I retire in a few years I plan on starting up a coffee shop.”

“That sounds cool. Everyone loves coffee. I secretly judge people who don’t.”

“Haha. Me too. It’s like saying you don’t like cheese or pizza.”

“That’s just un-American,” she agreed, giggling. “So what are you going to call your coffee shop?”

“I was thinking something along the lines of Breaking Grounds?”

“That’s clever.”

“Yeah, I’m going for an aviation theme.”

“Why’s that?” Her emerald eyes lit up with interest.

“I’ve just always had a fascination with things that can fly. I got my commercial pilot’s license while I was in college.”

“Talented, I see.” She was beyond impressed.

“Nah, I’m just a regular Joe,” he joked. “Ok, time for serious business.”

Rebekah raised an eyebrow.

“Oyster time,” he grinned.

As he reached across the table to give her an oyster, his hand softly brushed hers, lighting a spark that set her lower abdomen ablaze. Wowza! Charlotte crooned.

“You ok?” He eyed her curiously.

Damn. He caught me; she thought, turning a deep shade of crimson.

“Great,” she said, trying to play it off nonchalantly. Crinkling her nose, she hesitantly took the tepid shell in her hand, debating on the lady like approach of eating it. She watched as Joe took a spoon and scraped it out. She followed his lead and popped it in her mouth. The savory taste of parmesan cheese and spinach engrossed her tongue.

“And the verdict is?” he asked.

She swallowed it. “Life-changing.”

His eyes glimmered with humor.

“May I?” he asked as he leaned over. “You have something…right here.”
As he leaned in for what could have been a promising kiss, Wallace’s barking and whimpering caused the two to jump back.

“What’s wrong, boy?”

Wallace limped his way to the table. Joe jumped up in concern and Rebekah followed.

“Dude, I think he got stung by a jelly fish,” said the waiter. He pointed at the beach, where a large swarm of jellies had washed ashore.

“Can you call a cab?” Joe asked the waiter. He sat down next to Wallace and examined his leg. Wallace whined and leaned over, trying to lick the wound.

“No, boy. That won’t help,” he said softly. “Looks like Wallace and I are taking a trip to the vet clinic tonight,” he said regrettably.

“Anything I can do?” She leaned down and started petting Wallace, trying to comfort him.

“Leave me your number?” He asked sweetly.

She nodded her head in agreement. “I can come with you.”

“Nah, you don’t want to sit in the clinic all night. I’ll call you tomorrow?”

“There’s a cab waiting for you, sir,” said the waiter.

“Thanks,” replied Joe. “That was fast.” He picked up Wallace and started fishing for his wallet.

“I got it,” said Rebekah as she left a handful of cash on the table.

“I can’t let you do that,” argued Joe.

“You seriously going to argue with me while you’re holding a 120-pound animal?” she pointed out.

“Oh alright. That just means I pay for the next date?”

“Deal,” she smiled.

She walked him to the cab and closed the door behind him, waving as the cab drove off. She stood there, watching the yellow speck get smaller in the distance and then realized, with a sudden sinking sensation—she had completely forgotten to give him her number.

Category: Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student