The Box

BY : Mamacita
Category: > Die/Kyo
Dragon prints: 463
Disclaimer: i don't know Donald Trump (and I don't really want to). This story is fiction and I'm not making any money from writing it.

The day was scorching hot. The wind blowing in the open door of the helicopter smelled like dust and hot asphalt. The sun beat down mercilessly on the small airstrip, heat waves bouncing off the tarmac between the helicopter and the black SUV that waited a few feet away. A small, faded blue pickup sat beside and slightly behind it, windows rolled up and engine running, no doubt to keep the AC on. There was a small white logo on the door that bore the almost illegible words Soldadura Vasquez, Vasquez Welding. An anonymous mustachioed face, made even more impersonal by a pair of dark aviator sunglasses, watched from the driver’s seat.

The tone of the helicopter’s engine changed, slowed, as it touched down gently on the baking tarmac. Two men stepped out, and the first one looked down at his feet in disbelief. Holy shit, he thought, it feels like I’m standing on a hot burner! They were informally dressed in white polo shirts and khaki trousers, and even that felt like too much; but the President insisted that a certain level of decorum be observed at all times. He did not consider shorts, even for his employees, to be commensurate with the dignity due his position.

The President wore an expensive charcoal-gray suit. It was inappropriate in this heat and he was sweating profusely, but he stubbornly refused to take off his jacket, feeling it would diminish the effect of his importance.

One of the Secret Service agents turned to help the President, tall and somewhat portly, out of the chopper but he was impatiently waved aside. His partner’s eyes roved continually around the area but there wasn’t much to see, no buildings or services at this remote airstrip, just a narrow dirt road that wound off into the desert to the northeast and southwest, bisected by the strip of tarmac.

When the President stepped onto the ground he ducked instinctively, although there was really no need since the rotors were safely above even his height, and he walked in an awkward, exaggerated half-crouch toward the waiting SUV, affording the pickup little more than a disinterested glance.

The driver’s door of the sedan opened as they approached. A woman got out and walked around to open the rear passenger-side door, staring impassively ahead while she waited. She wore the same white polo shirt and khaki trousers as her male counterparts, although they looked infinitely better on her lush, long-legged figure. The President ogled her blatantly and gave her a lewd wink before ducking into the interior of the car. The female agent, for whom this was not a novel experience, closed the door behind him and rolled her eyes as she walked back to her door.

The two male agents glanced around the airstrip for a moment longer and Thompson, the one poised to enter the back seat next to the President, rapped his knuckles on the roof. “Nice and quiet,” he said. “Looks like we managed to avoid the press.” He nodded at the pickup and received a brief wave of acknowledgement in return.

Mitchell, his partner, nodded. “Let’s get this show on the road.” He slid into the shotgun seat and fastened his seat belt. “Ready when you are, Mace.”

The woman nodded and shifted into drive, and as the sedan rolled gently onto the dirt road they could hear the clatter of the helicopter’s engine as it rose back into the air and gained altitude, then banked sharply and accelerated back in the direction from which they’d come.

The President’s mouth fell open in astonishment. “What the—where the fuck is he going?” he asked, craning his neck to watch as the retreating helicopter rapidly became a mere speck in the distance. He grabbed the door handle as if to get out and flag down the departing pilot, but Thompson put a restraining hand on his arm.

“Mr. President, sir, he’s heading back to the main airfield,” he said calmly. “He’d be fried to a crisp if he sat out here on the tarmac the whole time we were gone. He’ll be back to pick us up when it’s time, don’t you worry.”

“Oh.” Mollified, the President sat back and peered out the window. “Jesus, we’re really out in the middle of nowhere, huh? Bumfuck, Egypt!” He laughed at the feeble joke. “So this is where we’re doing it, building the wall? There aren’t even any houses out here.”

“That’s true, sir,” Mitchell said, half-turning in his seat so the President could hear him. He’d never been a good listener to begin with and lately the man’s hearing seemed to be failing. Just one of the many signs that he was aging, but with him it was anything but a graceful process. Some people just couldn’t bear to acknowledge the truth that stared them in the face in their bathroom mirror every morning, and Mitchell supposed it was probably even harder when your wife was twenty years younger than you and drop-dead gorgeous.

“Not much out here but snakes and jackrabbits,” Mitchell continued cheerfully. “But although you can’t see it from here the nearest city is only about twenty miles north. The contractor felt it would be a good idea to start construction here and spread out in two teams, one going east and the other going west. That way they’ll finish in half the time they would if they started at one end and went clear to the other.” This was off the cuff and blatantly ridiculolus, but the President habitually tossed out questions and then only half-listened or ignored the answers completely and Mitchell didn’t think he needed a lengthy explanation as to why today’s event was taking place where it was. The reason would become clear soon enough.

The President slewed around in his seat to look out the back window and saw the blue pickup following close behind. “Is that Despardo’s rep?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” Thompson said.

“Pretty crappy-looking vehicle,” the President commented offhandedly. “For what we’re paying the guy you’d think he could get a decent truck, a whole fleet of ‘em, even.”

Mitchell’s glance bounced off Thompson’s and the latter shrugged. “Out here you take what you can get,” he said casually.

“I noticed the company name on the door was in Spanish,” the President pushed. “I hope Despardo’s not hiring a bunch of Mexicans to build my wall—that’d be pretty ironic, huh?” He chuckled. “Man, it’s boring out here. How much farther is it?”

Macy glanced at him coolly in the rear-view mirror. “We’re almost there, sir.” Sure enough, they were turning off the more well-traveled dirt road onto an even rougher track leading to an area that from the look of it had been churned up by heavy equipment as it was full of ruts and tread marks, although the machines themselves were nowhere to be seen.

“Where the hell is everybody?” the President asked testily, eyeing the deserted area grumpily. “No press, no construction workers—what the hell?”

“Mr. Despardo thought it would be safer for you, Mr. President,” Thompson said smoothly. “Considering how heightened public feeling still is about the whole wall issue.”

“Bunch of morons,” the President said dismissively, to which Mitchell responded mentally, And you’re their king. “Well, let’s take a quick look if we have to and then get the hell out of here.”

The sedan pulled as smoothly as possible to a stop in the rutted dirt. “Nice driving, Macy,” Thompson said pointedly, but the President, not in a mood to dispense with unnecessary thanks, just grunted and yanked his door open. The pickup raced up beside them and did a quick-stop, causing a drift of powder-fine dust to drift forward and coat the President’s dark suit. Coughing, he stumbled after Macy toward a shiny object up ahead that sharply reflected the midday sun. Thompson and Mitchell glanced at Vasquez, who was gathering equipment from his truck bed.

“You need any help?” Mitchell asked, and Vasquez shook his head.

There was no one else in sight and no high vantage points from which danger could come, nothing but the sound of the endless wind blowing across the desert—no external source of danger to the President that they could see—so they went after Macy with Vasquez following.

The President had stopped next to the shiny stainless steel structure and examined it. It was basically an open box roughly five feet long, a little under three feet tall, and roughly twenty inches across, with its base sunk into the ground. Leaning up against it on the far side was a heavy stainless slab.

“What the hell is this?” the President demanded. “A box? Where’s my wall?”

“This is the start of it, sir,” Mitchell said. “Despardo thought it would be a nice gesture to make the beginning of the wall into a kind of monument.”

“Oh! A monument, you say?” The President looked thoughtful and ran his hand across the smooth steel. “Not a bad idea: a monument to our great country.” He looked up at Mitchell. “Is it supposed to be a time capsule or something? I mean, why a box? Any why stainless steel? The whole wall’s not going to be made of that, is it? That’d cost a fortune.”

This part could be tricky. Mitchell nodded eagerly, pleased to go with the explanation the President had provided. “You got it, sir. It’s kind of a time capsule, that’s it exactly. And the whole wall won’t be built of stainless steel, just the monument at the center of it. Stainless resists weathering better than just about anything else, so it seemed like the right choice.”

“And, what, the lid will be fastened on somehow, I suppose?” the President said, indicating the slab.

“Right. It’ll be welded on,” Mitchell said, glancing at Valdez, who nodded and held up his welding torch which, the President now noticed, was attached to a couple of tanks fastened to a handtruck that he must have wheeled over from his pickup.

“Welded, huh? Won’t that be kind of hard to open later?” the President asked. “And what’s going into it? I mean, Paco there looks like he’s ready to weld the lid on any minute now but we didn’t bring anything to put inside.”

Valdez stood impassively as the President insulted him, but his mouth under the thick mustache was set in a grim line.

“Not true, Mr. President,” Thompson said jovially. “We did bring something to put in it.”

The President turned and was shocked to see that Thompson had drawn his sidearm and was pointing it at him. His jaw dropped and he whipped his head around to look at the others. All three agents had drawn their weapons and all three were pointed directly at him: Macy’s at his forehead, Thompson’s at his heart, and Mitchell’s aimed considerably lower, around knee level.

“What the—“ he breathed, more shaken than he could ever remember being. He gathered his bravado around him like a cloak and drew himself up. “What the fuck are you people doing? You do remember who I am, right?” He took a step toward Macy and she calmly sighted down her pistol, stopping him in his tracks. He held up his hands placatingly. “Whoa, now, let’s not get excited. I don’t know wh—”

“Shut up!” Macy hissed, and the President was so surprised that his mouth closed with an audible snap. “Just shut your filthy mouth and get in the box.”

“Get—what?” he said, his voice rising comically at the end. He put his hands down. “I don’t know what the fuck you’re up to, but I am not getting in any box.” He glared at her. “And you, little lady, you are off my security team as of this minute. I’ll make damn sure of that.” He stabbed an accusing forefinger at her. “In fact, I’ll make sure you never work again. Hell, when I get through with you even the Mexicans won’t hire you to clean their toilets!”

Macy’s lip curled. “Do you know you spit when you talk? I’d watch that if I were you. You’re going to need every drop of moisture you can conjure up, asshole. Get. In. The. Box.” She pointed with her pistol and took a step closer to him.

He backed away, still blustering. This time he appealed to Mitchell. “Come on, Mitchell—Gary. You’re not gonna let her do this, are you, Gary? I’m the President, man! You can’t just stick me in a box out in the desert and not have anyone ask questions. I’m a very important person! You’ll be shot for treason!”

“Oh, I doubt that,” Mitchell said. He didn’t sound overly concerned. “Although since you brought it up I should make it clear that all of us are willing to take that chance, if that’s how things should work out. But I’m pretty sure they won’t.”

“What, you don’t think anyone will notice when you go back without me?” the President drawled sarcastically, knowing he had him with that one.

“Go back where?” Thompson asked. “No one saw us leave, remember? We sneaked you out the back of the hangar. We’re not in Marine One, remember, we took a private chopper here. You know, Mr. President, you really shouldn’t go off without your security detail all the time. Everyone knows that about you and, well…I just don’t think they’ll be all that surprised to hear you’ve done it once again. And you know, down here right on the Mexican border, well…anything can happen. Sir.”

“Well, but—” The President floundered, incredulous that anyone would think they could get away with kidnapping and murdering the leader of a country. “But—the rest of the Secret Service! They know you were assigned to me today. You can’t expect the entire Secret Service to go along with—whatever this is you’re doing.” He waved a hand at the box.

“Get in the fucking box.” Macy’s voice was sharp.

“Don’t worry about the rest of the Secret Service,” Thompson said. “Let’s just say we weren’t the actual ones who came up with this idea. The whole thing was done very democratically, you’ll be pleased to hear. We just drew the short straws so we got stuck with today’s detail.”

“What? What? Drew the—you mean—all of them know?” the President whispered.

“Know, hell! Like I said, it wasn’t even our idea,” Mitchell corroborated, motioning among the three of them. “Of course they all know. This was planned very carefully, believe me. The official story will be that you just took off on your own once again, without saying anything to your security detail, and no one knows where you went. Of course there will be an investigation, but since you just took it upon yourself to disappear….” He shrugged.

“But—that’s preposterous,” the President blustered, backing away from Macy, who kept advancing on him. “The—the pilot! He’ll be coming back for us! What’s he going to say when you show up without me?” He took another step back and the heel of his dress shoe hit the side of the box, making a hollow gong-like sound.

“The pilot? You mean Valdez’s brother?” Mitchell said, and he and Valdez shared an unpleasant little smile. “Oh, I don’t think he’ll be telling anybody anything. Did you know he crossed the border about three years ago? Runs his own helicopter company now and everything. Doesn’t have very friendly feelings toward you, I have to say.”

“No more of this,” Macy said, and she shifted her aim slightly. “Get in the damn box or I’ll shoot you. I think the shoulder would probably do it,” she continued, her tone dispassionate as if she was holding a conversation with him about something of little importance instead of where she planned to shoot him, for god’s sake.

“Macy, now, come on, sweetheart,” he began, and she backhanded him with her pistol.

“Don’t you sweetheart me,” she growled. 

The President stared at her, his jaw hanging slack with disbelief. “You…you hit me,” he said wonderingly, and his hand went up to his cheek and came away with blood on it from where the skin over his cheekbone had split.

“Get in the box, pussy-grabber,” she taunted. “This is the last time I’ll tell you. You guys don’t object to me shooting him, do you? Just a little?”

“Nope,” Thompson said laconically.

“Go for it,” Mitchell said cheerfully, and he sounded like he actually hoped she would.

The President looked down, and on legs that felt like they’d suddenly turned into overcooked noodles he stepped gingerly into the box—first one leg, then very slowly, as if he was hoping they would change their minds and say it had all been a joke, the other, until he was standing on the dirt inside the box.

“Fine, there you go,” he said. “I’m in the box. Happy?” He bent and put a hand on the edge and started to get out again, but the three agents instantly stepped closer and he paused warily.

“Stay where you are,” Thompson said, and the President straightened back up. “Lie down.”

The President swallowed hard. “L-lie down?” His voice came out as barely a squeak. He seemed unable to muster the level of bravado needed to bluster his way through. “Come on, now, guys, don’t you think this has gone far enough?” He smiled weakly, but there was no answering smile from the trio of agents. He recovered enough to inject sarcasm into his voice when he asked, “So, what, I lie down and you shoot me?”

“You lie down or we shoot you,” Thompson corrected.

“But why?” He was stalling for time now; they’d gone this far, they probably could manage to shoot him and no one would ever know, so really, what did he have to lose?

“Think of it as being for the greater good of your country,” Mitchell suggested.

“A necessary evil,” Thompson added.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Macy said thoughtfully. “Necessary, yes, but evil? Naw.”

“True,” Thompson murmured.

They didn’t seem to be paying much attention to him at the moment, so the President slyly began to lift his leg out of the box, but in an instant all three agents’ attention was focused, laser-like, back on him, and now there was no humor in their eyes.

“I think you’re gonna have to shoot him, Mace,” Thompson said sadly. “He’s just gonna try to run otherwise. If you get him in the knee he won’t be able to, and most of the blood should go in the box.”

“You think?” Carefully she lowered her weapon until the President was quite sure it was aimed precisely at his left kneecap. He’d seen (and for some reason had been unreasonably aroused by) her shooting scores and knew just how accurate she was likely to be.

“No, don’t!” he said hastily, and he clumsily lowered himself to the ground. “Jesus, there’s hardly room to sit in here, guys.”

Thompson peered into the box, noting that the President’s rather well-padded hips were indeed somewhat snugly enclosed by the sides of the box. “Hmm, you’re right,” he said. “Maybe you should have walked the golf course instead of riding around in a cart all those times, huh?” He made a rolling motion with his hands. “Maybe if you lie on your side.”

“Oh come on,” the President said. “I’m in the box like you wanted, I’m sitting down like you—”

“He said lie down,” Macy repeated. “And he meant lie down.” She kept her pistol trained on him, her hand unwavering.

With a put-upon sigh the President tried to lie back, but the box was easily a foot shorter than he was. “I can’t, see? Too short.”

“It’ll do,” Macy said. “Or you can try it on your side, like Thompson said. I don’t really care. Either way you’d better get your head down or this is going to hurt.”

Going to hurt? Startled, he turned his head and looked to his left, where Valdez suddenly loomed over him, lugging one end of the slab that had been resting against the box. Mitchell carried the other end. Their intention was clear, but the President still couldn’t accept that it was really going to happen.

“No,” he said stubbornly. “You can’t do this. I’m the President of the United States. I’m the leader of the free world, for god’s sake!”

“I don’t think God had anything to do with that, if you really want to know,” Macy said. She smiled. “Hmm, I don’t think I’ll shoot you in the shoulder after all.”

His shoulders sagged in relief…until he realized that she was now aiming at his crotch. He covered himself protectively with his hands and she laughed. “You think a bullet can’t go through your hands?” To Mitchell she said, “Boy, he really is thick, isn’t he?”

“And not just through the hips,” Mitchell agreed. “Let’s get a move on—this thing weighs a ton.”

“Head down, Mr. President,” Macy sang, and he knew he had the choice of being entombed with his privates intact or blown to shreds but he was still going to be stuck in the box, so he finally ducked down and Valdez and Mitchell dropped the lid on the box with an almighty clang.

“Can’t I shoot him anyway, just for the fun of it?” he heard Macy ask, and he froze. He could still see her through a gap where the lid was sitting on the top of the box at an angle.

“No, but throw this in there, will you? I almost forgot we brought it,” Thompson said, and the President heard something slosh. He held his breath. Were they going to dump gasoline in there, set him on fire? Of course, if the lid was airtight (and wasn’t that just a bizarre thing to find comforting) any flames would probably die fairly quickly, but…they’d still be flames. He shuddered at the thought. At this point they’d gone so far past the point of no return he wouldn’t have put anything past them.

Someone shoved the lid over just enough for Macy to drop a plastic gallon jug inside. It looked vaguely orange in the instant he got a glimpse of it. The jug landed on his shins and he grimaced in pain, then realized he could feel welcome coolness through his pant legs. Well, that was a good sign, right? If they were giving him water they must not intend to actually kill him. If that was the plan, why would they bother?

Macy snickered. “Orange Julius for an orange clown.” They shoved on the lid again and suddenly it was utterly dark inside the box. There was a slight grating noise as the lid was adjusted, then silence.

Orange Julius? Was that what it was? Orange clown? he thought, offended. He couldn’t believe the utter lack of respect shown by these people who had sworn to protect him—with their own lives, if need be—and instead were, were…he didn’t want to think the words. There still might be a chance, albeit a slim one, that they were just playing some twisted joke on him. Maybe he had been a little crude with Macy…now and then. Well, okay, most of the time. He could admit he hadn’t been all that professional around her. Or with the other women who were assigned to his security detail, but damn it, what did they expect when they hired women who could easily be models straight out of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition? He was only human, wasn’t he, and all man at that. So what if he looked his fill? That’s why God had put women on the planet, wasn’t it, for the benefit of men?

It wasn’t as if he’d done anything to them. Well, not really. Nothing they hadn’t wanted him to do, anyway. And what woman wouldn’t want the President of the freakin’ U.S. of A., a billionaire to boot, to grab her pussy and show her a good time? Bunch of uptight bitches. Probably dykes, the lot of them. Yeah, that was it. The Secret Service probably wouldn’t hire them unless they were lesbians. Although…he thought of the time he’d caught Macy and Mitchell in the back stairwell down the hall from his office when he was heading down to the kitchen to find his wife. They’d been locked in a passionate clinch and had been extremely red-faced and apologetic at being caught in such an lack of professionalism, even thought they’d just gone off-duty for the evening and were on their own time. So maybe the female agents weren’t all gay. Well, so what? He’d never touched Macy, never given her any reason to address him with such loathing.

His thoughts were a muddy swirl of anger, fear, and self-righteous indignation that threatened to choke him. It wasn’t until a drop of sweat rolled down his neck—and then another, and another—that he realized it was getting hotter. (At first he thought it was an insect and nearly dislocated his shoulder trying to get his arm up to where he could slap at it.) The air he was breathing was stuffy, and the smell of his own sweat overpowered the dry, dusty scent of the desert. He reached down toward his feet and tried to hook a finger around the handle of the plastic jug, which didn’t feel nearly as cool as it had a minute ago, but he couldn’t quite reach it. He couldn’t fully sit up, nor could he lift his legs far enough to make the jug roll down to his torso. Frustrated, he grunted and cursed as he tried to find a way to get to it. Finally he was able to contort himself enough so his head was bent along the underside of the lid with one shoulder turned so he could reach his arm out in front of him. Ah, there—he could feel the smooth plastic side. He jiggled his legs a little to make it scoot closer and finally managed to hook it with a finger.

As he was twisting his neck around in an effort to return to his uncomfortable former position he heard a loud clank as something hard hit the top of the box, like someone had put something down on it. A moment later there was a faint hissing noise and more clanking, then the hissing noise ramped up. He moved faster, trying to get his head in a position from which he could see the lid, and saw a bright spot form along one of the sides. It moved slowly down the box, always a bright point moving ahead and the metal behind it fading from a hot orange back into darkness. He squinted and looked closer, and then he realized what he was seeing. It was a weld line—Valdez was welding the lid on.

“My god,” he murmured. “They’re really doing it! Bastards! You bastards!” he screamed, no longer worried about a few measly bullets when things had so clearly moved beyond that point. “You can’t do this! You can’t do this to me!” He listened, panting, his heart racing madly, but there was no sound from the outside, just the hiss of the welding torch. He watched, unable to look away as the bright point progressed around the end of the box, then started up the other side. The welding had, not unexpectedly, added considerably to the heat inside the box. It was nearly unbearable now, and he was starkly aware that although the temperature inside the box would probably cool down some at night, the welcome relief of the cool night air would never be his since it had no way to get in. He was certain that Valdez was doing a thorough job; he’d never leave the slightest chance of escape and it wasn’t in their best interest to let the President live long enough to attract the attention of any passing construction worker or illegal alien who might come to his rescue.

When the welding torch turned and started across the end of the box above his head the President shrieked hoarsely and tried to duck down further still, but there was only so far he could go. In a panic he abandoned the jug and tried to turn onto his side, but he couldn’t bend his legs very much and had to lie with his torso awkwardly bent up and his neck bent down and hope for the best. It got his hair a few inches away from the retina-searing orange-hot steel, but that was as good as it got. He held the position as long as he could even after the hiss of the torch stopped, relaxing finally because his neck and waist ached and he could no longer hold himself like that.

It was entirely possible that some of the drops of moisture running down his face now were tears. He whimpered softly, then, unaware that they could still hear him, drummed his heels against the end of the box and screamed and cursed until nothing came out of his throat at all—no sound, not even spit. Then he fell silent and wondered if they’d left.

It surprised him no end to suddenly hear Mitchell’s voice right beside his head, talking to him through the steel. His voice was faint but the President could hear him clearly.

“Better save your energy, old man,” Mitchell said. “There’s no one out here to hear you except the rattlesnakes and buzzards.”

Rattlesnakes! Now there was a horrible thought. Although sealed in his box he was probably safe…unless…did rattlesnakes burrow in the dirt? Could they get into the box that way? How deep were the sides of the box sunk in the ground, anyway? (A question he would ponder later as he tried to think of ways to escape his steel prison, but it always ended up with him realizing that even if he could somehow manage to turn over on his stomach and dig away some dirt with his bare hands—not an easy task as it seemed to be quite hard, even here where the construction crew must have been digging—where would he put the displaced dirt? It wasn’t like he could lift the lid and drop it outside the box.)

“He actually thinks they’re building the wall,” Macy said, laughing. “How deluded can one man get?”

“That was pretty quick thinking when he asked why there wasn’t any construction stuff around,” Mitchell said. He raised his voice and imitated Thompson in a sarcastic falsetto: “Mr. Despardo felt it would be best for your safety, Mr. President.”

The President gnashed his teeth in impotent, embarrassed fury.

“Well,” Thompson said, “that box’ll certainly make a nice bench for some illegal immigrant to rest on as they make their way north.”

“Oh, oh!” Macy was laughing harder now. “Don’t you love it—an endless parade of women sitting on his face! He should like that, the fucking pervert.”

“Come on,” said a heavily-accented voice. “Tomas is on his way back. We should go.”

“Nice job on the welding, Enrico,” Mitchell said. “That went faster than I expected. You’re sure it will hold?” He sounded further away, and the President realized they were walking back to the vehicles.

“It will hold,” Valdez assured him. “For a thousand years or more.”

“I think that ought to be just about long enough,” Macy said, sounding satisfied, and then came the muffled clunk of car doors closing.

An engine started up, then a louder one that must be the truck. The President heard Thompson shout, “Hasta la vista, asshole!” Then the engine sounds grew fainter and fainter until it was silent once again except for the sound of his own breathing.

“Well, fuck.”

He lay there awkwardly, fuming, then remembered the jug. It would be difficult to drink because he couldn’t bend his legs far enough so he could extend his neck fully and had to crook his head over one shoulder or the other. Nevertheless, it was so hot that he craved relief in the form of anything cool, so he unscrewed the lid of the bottle. It occurred to him suddenly to check out the contents instead of just chugging them down willy-nilly and trusting that the contents were indeed drinkable, so he gave a tentative sniff, then a deeper one when nothing ghastly assailed his nostrils. To his pleased surprise he smelled what did indeed seem to be orange juice overlaid with something sweet—apparently the Orange Julius Macy had said it was. He maneuvered the bottle until he could touch his lips to the opening, but in the proces he spilled a good cup or more of the juice. It ran in a cold, sticky stream down over his neck and chest, soaking into his formerly white shirt and the lining of his jacket.

“Shit!” He tried again, more carefully this time, and finally found a combination of body-lift and neck-bend that would allow him to actually get the liquid into his mouth. He drank thirstily, as rapidly as the angle would allow, but after a moment he realized he was going through the stuff way too quickly; it would never last at this rate, he had to slow down. He gave the jug an experimental shake and could tell there was only about half of it left.

“Better save some for later,” he said aloud, and he screwed the cap back on and set the jug down next to him. He wasn’t sure how long the contents would remain unspoiled in the heat, but he was determined to try to wait a while before drinking any more. He figured it might last him until part way through the next day, if he was careful, since the box would probably—it must—cool down during the night.

He lay there, his thirst temporarily sated, and treated himself to an orgy of imagined gory scenes in which he exacted vengeance upon the three agents for their perfidy. Torture was too good for them, he thought. His imagination ran riot, picturing the screams they would utter, the agony they would feel, as Mitchell and Thompson’s balls, say, were cut from their bodies—with a rusty razor blade, oh yes, that was a nice touch—and then they were tied to anthills and their wounds coated with honey, and after that they would be made to clasp onto tall greased poles with sharpened spikes below that they slowly, inexorably slipped down and impaled themselves on, screaming for mercy every inch of the way….

He awoke with a start some time later, needing to pee. He wouldn’t have thought there was enough moisture left in his body to need to after all that sweating, but then he remembered the Orange Julius.

“Shit.”

Actually, he kind of needed to do that, too. So here was a quandary for you: there was a bottle he could use to pee into, but it was stlll half full of Orange Julius. (What he would do about the other side of that particular bodily-need coin he had no idea…or, well, he did, but he preferred not to think about it until he absolutely had to.) Should he drink the rest of the orange juice all in one go so he could pee in the bottle? The only alternatives were to dump it out and waste it or pee in the orange juice, so did he really have a choice? It occurred to him that he could drink the orange juice now, pee in the bottle, and then later, when he needed to drink again, he could…he would have to….

But he really, really didn’t want to go there yet. He was a great believer in “later.” Maybe something would happen before that and he wouldn’t have to make the decision to do…that. (He was also pretty good at self-deception.)

Reluctant and eager at the same time, he contorted himself once again into the position that worked for drinking and guzzled the juice until it was gone. It was considerably warmer the second time around, probably warmer than what one would normally consider room temperature, and he wondered uneasily how long he’d been asleep, how long the juice had been sitting there stewing in the heat. Well, it was too late now—done was done. If it was going to make him sick there wasn’t much he could do about it.

Now to attend to his other need, the urgency of which had built until he was quite frantic. Since it was too awkward to put both hands down to his crotch to properly unfasten his fly—his neck already ached from being in the drinking position for so long and his shoulders were too wide to be able to maneuver both arms in front of him at the same time—he shifted a little so he could reach down with his left hand and undo the buttons. He cursed volubly, wondering why the hell he’d thought buttons classier than a zipper. His hands were sweating along with the rest of him, and by the time he managed to get enough buttons undone to get himself free of his fly he was already starting to dribble, unable to hold it in any longer. There was no time to wrestle the jug back down to his crotch, much less ensure in the darkness that his dick was aimed directly at the opening, so he moved his feet as far apart as he could and let fly, resigned to his fate. He listened to the stream bouncing off the end of the box, grimly aware that it was spattering his shoes and trousers, and as the flow slowed to a stop the last of it disappeared into the bunched fabric of his combed-silk boxers and summer-weight wool trousers.

He grasped his dick with the intention of stuffing it back into his pants, but the warmth of his hand was soothing and he moved it back and forth a couple of times, lazily, letting his mind wander…

…to Macy. How he’d have loved to see that body of hers uncovered. She was so classy, so fucking elegant. Those legs that went on forever…tits a man would die for…a mouth so plump and juicy and pink even without lipstick, which she never seemed to wear. His hand continued to move, almost unconsciously, as he imagined the things he could do to her, things his wife would never know about. Or—and there was a thought to boggle even the most jaded mind—things he could do with Macy and his wife at the same time! His hand moved faster, his grip grew firmer, as he performed acts in his imagination that in reality he could only ever dream of, even with his wife who, contrary to appearances, was actually rather strait-laced. Knowing there was no one to hear him, he made all the noise he wanted to, a litany of curses and endearments and commands pouring unfettered from his lips until he let out a roar and came with a series of gut-wrenching jerks…

…onto the underside of the box lid. Moments later he was cursing yet again as the result of his little foray into self-gratification dripped down onto him, inexorably finding its way into every wrinkle and buttonhole in its path, not to mention his once-lovely silk tie.

He lay there panting, suddenly aware that not only had he peed out a hell of a lot of liquid without saving any of it but had followed that up by indulging in the folly of expelling still more liquid following his bout of fantasy.

“Well, shit.”

It was a sentiment he was to express frequently over the brief remainder of his life.

Well, at least there was the half-jug he’d just finished drinking; he could still recycle that if he had to. And he knew he would have to, if he didn’t want to die. Or didn’t want to die as soon, anyway, because as much as he was unable to look it directly in the face he knew he couldn’t last long out here like this.

“Gotta be practical,” he murmured, and then he giggled at the ridiculousness of it all. “How many times,” he said, sounding almost inebriated, “how many times can a man recycle his own pee until he poisons himself with it? And how about vomit? Cuz you know—you know—” he pointed an emphatic finger at the darkness— “if I hafta drink m’ own pee I’m gonna puke it all up again.” He lay there for a while contemplating that unpleasant thought.

“Now, where was I?” It was so hot he couldn’t concentrate. Maybe he should go back to sleep until night fell and it cooled off. He put his hand against the side of the box but it still felt warm to the touch. Not hot any longer, just warm. He drifted into an uneasy sleep surrounded by the scent of urine, sweat, and sex, and dreamed of fountains in the shape of clowns that spouted Orange Julius.

He awoke with a start to the same Stygian darkness and wondered how long he’d been asleep. He’d quit wearing a watch years before because everyone else had his day planned for him down to the nth degree and there was no need for him to keep track of the time. And everyone knew he was wealthy so there was no need to make a display of it. Besides, the watchbands pulled annoyingly on his arm hairs. He was a rather hairy man.

He felt somewhat refreshed and suspected he had slept through the night since he no longer felt sleepy. He had a raging thirst and had to pee again, but at least he wasn’t sleepy. He thought about what he needed to do and decided he’d better at least try to do the jug thing. He discovered his sleep hadn’t refreshed him as much as he’d thought, though, because merely transfering the empty jug from up by his armpit down to his crotch left him virtually exhausted. He lay there for a minute, debating the merits of attempting to get his dick aimed into the jug versus just letting the chips fall where they may (he had to chuckle; chips—that was a good one really, considering), but noted in a detached way that his instinct for self-preservation must be stronger than his inclination to be lazy, and he managed to get everything lined up correctly this time—one-handed, too, it wasn’t easy—before he let go.

The feeling of relief didn’t last long, however. When it came time to pull out of the opening of the jug he realized he would have to tilt the jug or risk bending his dick uncomfortably because he’d shoved it in there as far as he could just to make damn sure it went in. And he wasn’t about to injure the Little Mister, hell no. So, very carefully, he tilted the bottom of the jug up just the littlest bit. Unfortunately his hand was sweaty and the sudden surge of liquid toward the top caused the jug to up-end. His dick fell out of the opening and all the carefully hoarded urine deluged the front of his trousers with a pungent flood of morning pee.

For a moment he just hunched there in disbelief. No. No!

“That did not just happen,” he whispered to himself. But the clammy discomfort of his clothing and the renewed reek of pee in his extremely close quarters said otherwise. In a fit of rage he flung the jug toward the end of the box, but it only bounced off his slightly raised knees and rebounded onto his chest. He lay there half-panting, half-sobbing, and dimly registered that it was getting harder to breathe.

He tried to calm himself and pay attention. He breathed in and out as normally as possible, and sure enough it was harder than it had been before his little nap. He put a hand against the south side of the box and it was warm to the touch, but so far only mildly.

He heard a soft thump beside his head and froze, but he didn’t hear it again. He contorted his arms upward to feel around his neck and shoulders, but there was nothing there. Relieved, he imagined what might be lying right next to him on the outside of his stainless steel tomb. A rattlesnake enjoying the morning sun reflecting off the box? A jackrabbit jumping atop this strange object in its territory to see what it was? He’d certainly prefer to think it was the latter than the former. He’d never been a big fan of snakes, and he still wondered if they burrowed underground. What if they did, and he suddenly found himself sharing quarters with a grumpy rattler? It really didn’t bear thinking about, so he tried not to.

He was bored but not particularly sleepy; he felt a pecular lassitude but he supposed that was to be expected, as dehydrated and oxygen-deprived as he was.

Suddenly he heard another thump and this time there were voices with it. Spanish—they were speaking in Spanish. Illegals! He’d never been so glad to see (hear) anyone, even speaking in a foreign language.

“Hey!” he cried, thumping the sides of the box with his feet and fists. “Hey, help! Um, helpo! Help, por favor!” It was probably the first time in his life he regretted not learning a useful foreign language, one that was spoken by many people in his own country.

His cry was answered by a shriek from above followed by panicked babbling in a feminine voice. She sounded young. “O dios! Un fantasma del desierto! Hector, Hector!” He heard a child’s voice, presumably asking what was wrong, then the sound of frightened sobbing and the pounding of running footsteps—running away from the box.

“No! Come back!” the President croaked, his voice still hoarse from raging at the departing agents the previous day. “Come back…please come back.” He broke into noisy sobs of self-pity mixed with desperation. “Don’t leave me here.” He wailed and cried until his head ached, but eventually he gave up. They were probably peasants, uneducated and superstitious, and he’d frightened them off.

He needed to find a more comfortable position to lie in. At one point he tried bringing his knees over his torso so his legs could bend double, but he wasn’t flexible enough and all it got him was a hell of a charley-horse. By the time it finally subsided his eyes were swollen and achy and dry from crying (goodbye to still more fluids, although that never occurred to him) and he was exhausted. He resorted to the still-uncomfortable but at least familiar position lying on his side with his shoulder and head leaning against the end of the box. His eyes were hot and itchy but rubbing them made it feel like they were full of sand—which for all he knew they might be—so he finally just closed them and dozed fitfully for a while.

He faded in and out of consciousness for most of that day, and by evening he was delirious with thirst. Every breath was an agony and his chest ached from the lack of oxygen.

“You know,” he slurred, speaking to someone he thought he could feel sitting down by his feet, “you can last three days without water. Three days. Oxygen…you can’t…you need oxygen, though. Pretty sure. Mmm.” He thought the boy sitting at his feet was named Hector. Hector—where had he heard that? Was that right? Wasn’t it…Macy? Mitchell? He couldn’t seem to focus his mind on it. The concept of Hector ducked and dodged at the edge of his consciousness; it was like trying to pick up a ball bearing covered in oil, you just couldn’t do it.

“’S okay,” he whispered. “You go to sleep. I’ll be right here.” He drifted off once more.

*****

When a week had passed Despardo’s crew returned, but the President never knew it. They spent three days hauling fill dirt up from a construction site belonging to one of the boss’s brothers further down in Chihuahua and dumping it atop the metal box until it formed a small, low mesa. They tamped it down firmly, driving their bulldozers over and over the mound until it was well packed, then Despardo had them erect a series of benches at the bottom of it, facing north, to provide a resting place for those who passed that way in their travels, always keeping their eyes to the north, looking toward their goal.

North, to freedom.
 



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