Chapter 3

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When I woke up the next morning for the briefest of seconds, I thought that I lay in my bed. Unfortunately, the thought only lasted until I opened my eyes. Then all the memories came flooding back. Sitting up in the strange bed, I stretched myself completely awake, yet all the while, I managed not to get out of the incredibly comfortable bed. As I lay in that large and plush bed, I tried to let the comfort wash the distress from my mind. While it gave me a momentary relief, the stress from the previous day clung to me with the ferocity of a starving lion stalking an antelope. When I looked around the room and saw nothing, I felt like laying back down and going back to sleep. I should have known better than to let myself hope that Alexis would be standing over me when I woke up. That childish thought spun in my mind as I stretched my limbs.

But I knew nothing would have gotten accomplished if I went back to sleep, so I rubbed the last remnants of sleep out of my eyes. Then I swam to the edge of the bed and threw my legs over its side. Looking over the vast edge, it looked like I stood upon the edge of the Grand Canyon, and the urge to remain in bed flared up once more. But after I managed to stretch the feeling back into my body, I slapped my hands over my face and sighed. I struggled out of the small bedroom, and when I walked into the main room, I saw a silver tray resting on the table. The sight of the brilliantly gleaming metal in the practical room roused me to alertness like a giant cup of coffee.

I strode over to it and ran my fingers across the smooth metal top. My weary nature took hold, and I looked over the small room. When I didn't find anything else out of place, I rushed towards the kitchenette and cracked the door to peek inside. But again I saw nothing out of place. Walking back towards the tray, I wondered when Alexis came into the panic room. The platter signaled his visit, but I wondered why he didn't wake me up. Reaching for the lid's handle, my hand trembled slightly. Closing my eyes, I forced myself to grip the handle, and after a moment's pause lifted it. Instantly the amazing aromas wafted up assaulting my nose.

While the tray's lid still felt warm, the scrambled eggs looked a little worse from the wait. Placing the cover on the table, I lifted one of the strips of bacon and shoved it into my mouth. As I chewed the piece, I sat down on the chair and poked at one of the pancakes. They were rapidly cooling as well. Despite the lukewarm temperature of the food, the piece of bacon tasted like ambrosia to my empty stomach. And I lifted the small container of syrup and covered the pancakes with the sweet liquid. Lifting the knife and fork, I thought about how much better the meal would have been warm. But the rumbling of my stomach demanded that I stopped thinking about that so that I could devour the food.

As I washed the remnants of the meal down with a sip of water from the glass on the tray, I remembered that the kitchenette had a microwave. Stomping my foot on the floor, I vowed to myself to remember it for my next meal, though I didn't know when that meal would be. Based on Alexis's previous comments, he intended for me to learn a couple of what he considered essential virtues. Learning those skills implied time, which indicated that he would continue providing food to keep me from starving. But preventing me from starving did not mean that the meals would be regular. Slumping into my chair, I chastised myself for wasting time with idiotic thoughts.

As my full stomach ached, I ruefully shook my head when I remembered about the empty refrigerator in the kitchenette. I should have saved a portion of my meal for later instead of wolfing everything down. Again I didn't know when my next meal would be sent to me. Thumping my fist on the table, I made another vow to save a portion of each meal going forward. Lifting the small plastic bottle of water, I slowly twisted the top off. Dropping the lid onto the tray, I took a long pull from the bottle. As I put the bottle back on the table, I noticed something sticking out from under the plate. I lifted the paper and examined the folded sheet.

Read Me first, Francis.

I found the piece of tape sealing the letter closed, and I tore it off. Unfolding the paper, I read through Alexis's note.

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