Survival of the fittest

Survival mode kicks in when nothing else will work. When rationalization and strength are no longer playing fair. Survival in dangerous situations can be boiled down to fight or flight. What happens when flight isn’t working out so well? When I have the character backed into a corner or hotel bathroom? It is in these moments I have to decide. Decide to let logic lead the scene or pepper a bit of panic in to make things more interesting. In time to flip the switch, Sasha didn’t go for the main door. In her flight mode, she took the easiest path. It happened to be backward and into a very unescapable room.

So what does happen when flight fails and the protagonist is trapped? Fight. Fighting is the only option. This is because giving up is not going to happen. I think if Sasha just curled up and resigned to the fate Baylor wishes to bestow, the readers would get mad at me, annoyed with Sasha and stop reading. After all, she doesn’t deserve to be read about right?  So I can honestly say I chose Sasha’s path, I made her go the wrong way. I did this because it’s interesting and it is likely what one would do when faced with mortal danger. Logic often fails in the face of fear. Sasha got to the bathroom before Baylor… barely.

Baylor’s fingers stopped the bathroom door as Sasha pushed hard to close it. Uninjured legs were her advantage and gave Sasha just enough to get the lead. Baylor howled as she pushed. He would be stronger. She needed advantage. She let up a fraction, doubled her force and pushed hard against the door. The fleshy crunch of his fingers made the bile rise in her throat as he bellowed. She let up again and he pulled his fingers out letting the door click closed. She pressed the lock button. He could open it, but not immediately. Would he shoot the door? Would the bullets come through? Every movie or show that ever had someone trapped behind a door with an armed assailant, played out in her head. Sasha didn’t know what to do and fear was taking over quickly.

“Don’t panic. Don’t panic.” She couldn’t manage more than a shaky whisper. As Baylor slammed his shoulder against the door. Glancing around, she spied the curtain rod. “Brace the door.” She yanked on it. It was screwed into the wall. Putting all her weight on it, she tried again and it gave. A few more pulls and it was free. Baylor was pounding on the door then stopped suddenly. She put the curtain rod on the floor and used her feet to wedge it against the door. Putting her back to the door, she put her feet on the front of the toilet and prepared to use her leg strength to keep him from opening the door. 

The rattle of something in the handle made her stomach clench. This was it. Either he was getting in or he wasn’t.

She readied herself glaring at the toilet. “Please be strong and hold.” The porcelain stayed silent denying her any reassurance. Taking shallow breaths, she looked around. Hairspray. There was a can of hairspray on the counter. Non-flammable but it would hurt the eyes. She took the chance to grab it. As she sat back bracing her feet against the toilet again the lock clicked and the door opened. The curtain rod held as Baylor pushed and cursed her.

Tears streamed as she tried to steady her shaking legs. “Come on Sasha.” She cried. “Don’t be the damned damsel now.” She rubbed her legs as he pushed on the door. A slight crack made her look down at the rod. It was bending. “No.” She begged. “No please don’t give out.”

The rod bent and the immediate pressure on her back made her scream in fear. Bracing her protesting legs, she heard the toilet creak. “No!” She had nothing else to brace against close enough. The nozzle of the gun poked through the increasing gap in the door. When Baylor fired, the deafening sound shut her screams and his grunting out from her mind.

This is it, he was getting in. She would die or worse, be maimed for life. She looked up at the barrel of the gun now pushed through. In movies someone brave would grab it. If she moved, he was in for sure. It was out of reach. When she looked around desperate, her breath caught. She could see his face in the reflection of the mirror. He could see her too. The raw fury was terrifying and sobering. His face was close. She could see his eyes as her ears rung. His hand was through and she pushed harder with her legs. The toilet shifted back, she expected water to start spraying everywhere. It didn’t. The door closed enough on his wrist to keep him from bending it and aiming at her directly.

“Stupid bitch!”

She could hear him again, the painful pressure on her back and legs caused whimpers to mix with her heavy breaths. “Do something, don’t give up.” Sasha glanced up at the gun. If she moved fast he might stumble into the room, maybe it would give her an advantage? Her stomach tightened as he made progress pushing the door again.

She moved slowly off the floor bracing herself against it. He moved it a fraction more. She was up enough to move, but which way. Away from the gun, might earn her a smack from the door. Towards it would be unexpected. Before she made up her mind, her body moved fast toward the gun and past it. The door crashed open and he stumbled into the room. Immediately she sprayed hairspray in his direction correcting her aim and finally hitting his eyes. Seconds, mere seconds.

The gun swung toward her and she launched her body at him shoving him with her shoulder, he hit the tiled floor yelling and rubbing his eyes and she ran. Blinded with fear and tears she ran from the bedroom out to the door.

It was as if the handle evaded her fingers, three shaky attempts finally paid off with the door opening. She fell into the hall against the opposite wall. Disoriented she ran aimlessly. Her feet pushed against the rough carpet as she skidded to a stop and pushed the bar on the fire escape door.

“Cal!” She screamed his name repeatedly while running down the stairs. With no clue what floor she was on she moved fast. “Cal!”

“Sasha!”

She heard him below her and nearly fell with desperation to get to him, to safety. “Cal!”

He rounded the stairs and she nearly collapsed. “Bayl.” She gulped. “Up. Gun.”

“I heard a shot.” He pulled out the radio the lead officer gave him and updated the other officers, as he looked her over for blood.

Baylor Crowen was in the hotel. It was surrounded by police and swat was organizing a sweep as they spoke. Cal’s concern was a terrified Sasha.

He picked her up and started down. “How many flights up?”

“I don’t know. I’m sorry.” She was beyond remembering even if she had counted.

“He’s above the thirty-second floor.” Cal informed the officers and listened to the radio chatter as he made his way down the stairwell. Sasha clung and cried as he descended the stairs uttering calming reassurances. He turned and opened the emergency exit with his back. The fresh air was too cold and she started shivering as Cal rushed toward a waiting ambulance. He set her down on the back as a paramedic wrapped a blanket around her as another started assessing her.

“No significant injuries.” The paramedic said then started asking her questions. What day it is, the year, her birthday. Then she started asking Sasha about any pain or injuries. The steady stream of questions calmed her mind and her hands shook less.

“I think I’m okay he didn’t get me.” She said sounding distant as they gave her oxygen and spoke soothingly and checked her vitals.

Cal was only ten feet away talking with three other officers in various types of uniform. One looked like the kind that stormed the buildings in drug raids. Sasha looked around at the chaos. Cop cars, ambulance, fire trucks and people everywhere. Hotel guests, staff, bystanders, officers, paramedics, firefighters and reporters.  Cal walked back toward Sasha who was now sipping bottled spring water that the paramedic gave her.

“She’s okay, shaken but not injured Detective. You’re a brave woman Sasha.” The paramedic smiled kindly and patted her shoulder. “She shouldn’t be alone.”

“I know the drill.” Cal smiled. “I’ll watch over her.”

“Bring her in if need be.”

“Will do.” Cal turned to Sasha. “Can you walk?”

She nodded, shrugged the blanket off and took his extended hand.

I bet she didn’t know she had it in her. She did because I wrote it that way. Surviving danger is exhausting and can have a multitude of after effects. Now I did not make her super-heroic that would be dumb. Sasha is resourceful, smart and determined. She is not a cop or trained in any martial art. She didn’t grab the gun or take Baylor down in a magnificent duel. Why? That’s simple; she’s not ready for that yet. She is just a woman with really bad luck these days. Maybe it’s time to turn all that around. Maybe.

My advice about surviving danger.
Stay within the characters parameters, but allow for growth and opportunity to advance. Nothing too crazy or unbelievable. It’s weird and lazy to give someone an ability in a story and declare it a miracle of the moment or call them a “natural” at something they’ve never ever done before. *Totally rolling my eyes ’cause that happens all the time.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Sensible sensation

Wisely Perpetrating Gullibility

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