I wake up with a splitting headache. I feel sick and feverish, dizzy even. My eyelids are heavy and it takes a great effort for me to open my eyes. Above me, all I see is a wide expanse of blue. I amlying on my back, staring up at the sky. The ground is rocking… I don’t understand why. I wonder if I’m ill and hallucinating. I feel around me, I seem to be lying on planks of wood. That’s when Irealise. I’m on a boat. I sit up and look around frantically. I’m in a little wooden rowing boat out at sea. Which sea, I have no idea. In the distance, through a faint mist, I can see land. At leastI’m not too far out.
I glance at my watch, it is nearly 9 AM. I peer at the inside of the boat. Next to me is a little box. I open it. It contains a cheap mobile phone and an old tattered map. Ilook more closely at the map and see a hand-drawn red cross just off the south-coast of England. I know where I am; I used to come on holiday here with my family when I was a kid.
I don’tremember anything from the past 10 hours. My last memory is of the previous night: I remember being at my local pub chatting to the barman whilst downing a good couple of pints. Somebody must havedrugged me.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, the mobile rings, a jaunty tune that does nothing to improve my mood. I pick up.
“So how do you like your new location? Does it bring back memories?”says the voice, teasing me. I don’t recognize it, it’s disguised, but it does have an air of familiarity about it. “I’ll get straight to the point. You’ve got until precisely eleven minutes past eleven,that’s just over two hours, to get to your grandparents’ old holiday cottage in the woods. Make sure you get there on time. Because if you don’t… Well. Lift up your jacket.” I do as the menacing voicetells me, and what I find makes me gasp. Attached to my belt is a bomb. “If at 11.11 AM you’re not at the house, I’ll know. And that’ll be it. The end. And don’t try running to the police or...
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