[edgtf_separator class_name=”” type=”full-width” position=”center” color=”” border_style=”dashed” width=”” thickness=”” top_margin=”” bottom_margin=””]

[edgtf_highlight background_color=”#be3938″ color=”#FFFFFF”]  “THE ARK”  [/edgtf_highlight]

[edgtf_separator class_name=”” type=”full-width” position=”center” color=”” border_style=”dashed” width=”” thickness=”” top_margin=”” bottom_margin=””]

[edgtf_separator class_name=”” type=”full-width” position=”center” color=”” border_style=”dashed” width=”” thickness=”” top_margin=”” bottom_margin=””]

[edgtf_highlight background_color=”#1c1c1c” color=”#FFFFFF”]  “CHAPTER I  [/edgtf_highlight]

[edgtf_highlight background_color=”#FFFFFF” color=”#be3938″]  “HELP WANTED”  [/edgtf_highlight]

As a woodworker, my mother said that I was a “Jack of all Tommys” – eager to make myself available for those in need of residential construction or repair. She had to watch Alzheimer’s riddle her husband away, and I was the only one there for her in the last few years of her life.

She called me that nickname, after I had finished working on her back patio – one that my father had promised to build right before he became too sick to do anything, let alone the magic that he was used to performing with his tools.

She only experienced that patio for six more months before she went home to Dad. I remember her telling me that I had the talent and gusto to be whatever I wanted to be, and to never let a challenge see my white flag.

Now I sit, in some sort of empty self-reflection, on the toilet with this morning’s newspaper in my hand. In bold, it laughed in my face:


I’m over a month behind on rent, two months behind on my car payment, and can’t secure a construction job to save my life. The last two contracts that my crew and I had went belly up because of foreclosures, and some of them have stopped answering my calls because of false promises.

I flipped the pages of the newspaper until I got to what I like to call “my last ditch effort” – the Help Wanted ads. It’s normally a lost cause, filled with nanny positions and underpaid gigs at fast food chains, but today
was a little different. Just as I was about to crumple up another 40 pages of black and white paper, an advertisement in the far corner caught my desperation:


All I could think about was waking up one morning to an eviction notice sitting pretty inside of my mailbox, so I quickly wiped my ass and rushed to the kitchen to grab my cell phone and call the number that was listed at the bottom of the inquiry. While staring at the phone, I wondered if I even still had a crew that was willing to take on a job with me.

You fuck this one up Tommy, and they’ll never forgive you.

Whether they were willing or not, my mother always told me to never resign to a challenge, no matter how absurd it might be on paper. Who knows? This could be the project that gets all of us out of debt, so we don’t have to worry about if we’re going to eat tomorrow or not.

I dialed the number and it continuously rang with no answer. With a big sigh of dead-end frustration, I ended the call and then sat down to gear up for another unpredictable day. As I sunk my head into my folded arms, my phone started to vibrate – and then the screen illuminated to show the same number that I just called.

I put my white flag away and answered.

[edgtf_separator type=”full-width” border_style=”dashed” color=”#ffffff” thickness=”4px”]

[edgtf_separator class_name=”” type=”full-width” position=”center” color=”” border_style=”dashed” width=”” thickness=”” top_margin=”” bottom_margin=””]

[edgtf_highlight background_color=”#1c1c1c” color=”#FFFFFF”]  “CHAPTER II  [/edgtf_highlight]

[edgtf_highlight background_color=”#FFFFFF” color=”#be3938″]  “THE CHALLENGE”  [/edgtf_highlight]


The response was automated.

“Are you up for a life-changing challenge? You see, I have this personal vision, and part of this vision is to erect a large wooden enclosure. For the sake of sparing you any details that are not your concern, consider this a playhouse. If you so choose to decide that you’re the right fit for this project of mine, press the number “1” on your dial pad. If you are at odds with the opportunity for any reason, please disconnect the call.”

It was a man with the most ominously low-toned voice I’ve ever heard – almost as if he was masking it for anonymity. I took a glance at the imaginative white flag, wondering why anyone would feel the need to make themselves anonymous when asking people to work for them – but I couldn’t let paranoia get the best of me this time.

I pressed “1” and there was an immediate presence of a man on the other line.

“Tommy McCreedy. It’s a pleasure to speak with you. You can call me Andy.”

The anonymous knows my name. Why? How? I chuckled through the discomfort.

“That’s a good one. How’d you know my name is Tommy?”

And then he let out a forceful laugh, clearly expecting me to ask this.

All part of the game, right Tommy boy?

“For as special as this project is to me, Tommy, it’d be a sure tragedy if I didn’t do some personal investigations of the local businesses that were expected to call this line. It didn’t hurt that you had that radio advertisement circulating the waves for a while there. The little one – she yours?”

The advertisement was won at an Elks Club gathering of local entrepreneurs. It was a pie-eating contest. If you ate the most pies, one of the prizes was getting lucrative airtime for your business. Abby, my eleven year-old daughter, loved being involved in my projects – when I still had custody of her. To celebrate graduating from elementary school, I let her do my promotional ad for my business on the radio.

I had forgotten about it, but I guess that’s what the bottle can do to you sometimes.

“Right, yes sir. That’s Abby, my daughter.”

“Be still my heart – and that slogan of yours. What is it again?”

“It’s all in your imagination, courtesy of my girl again.”

“Ahhh yes, imagination. It’s one of the most valuable things a human being can have and yet, we often let it slip away without ever standing up to the challenge to secure it. Maybe it’s time to strike the obligatory iron while it’s nice and hot, yes? For your daughter, at the very least.”

For Abby.

Needless to say, I accepted his offer.

“Thanks for the opportunity. I didn’t catch your name?”

“Andy. My name is Andy. You will receive a letter in your business’ PO box tomorrow with all of the details, as well as the coordinates of the build site.”

“Yes sir, and I’ll just need your contact information to send you over some paperwork related to to our involvement in the project.”

It almost seemed like I struck a nerve with the guy when I said that. When he responded, it was a far more serious tone than the rest of our conversation.

“No paperwork. No documentation. This is an agreement between two men. There is nothing more required beyond you following the instructions that you receive in order to accomplish the task at hand. Is this an issue?”

In all of my years of doing construction work, I’ve never had an offer like this. Upon inquiring further about the payday, and even the prize that he mentioned in the advertisement, he reiterated that everything would be included in the letter that I would receive.

Once the conversation had concluded, I was baffled. Moreover, I was unbearably suspicious. After I sat down at my kitchen table, I opened up the Contacts section of my phone and scrolled until I reached the folder of numbers for my co-workers. Sure, they’d hate me if this all turned out to be bullshit – but would they hate me more if I never told them to begin with?

[edgtf_separator type=”full-width” border_style=”dashed” color=”#ffffff” thickness=”4px”]

[edgtf_separator class_name=”” type=”full-width” position=”center” color=”” border_style=”dashed” width=”” thickness=”” top_margin=”” bottom_margin=””]

[edgtf_highlight background_color=”#1c1c1c” color=”#FFFFFF”]  “CHAPTER III  [/edgtf_highlight]

[edgtf_highlight background_color=”#FFFFFF” color=”#be3938″]  “THE DEADLINE”  [/edgtf_highlight]

As assured by that fellow named Andy, I received a package the following morning.

It contained a letter that looked like a dinner invitation from the renaissance period – with red. half-cursive lettering that emphatically welcomed me – and my mighty crew – to an adventure we won’t soon forget. It spoke of some of the details, and a few of them brought out the uncontrollably excitable child in me.

“You will build an 800-foot wooden enclosure, with my exterior and interior wishes in mind. Upon your arrival at the build site, all of the materials and equipment necessary for success will be available to you. Upon completion of the project, you and your crew will be rewarded with a $60,000 payday and a surprise that will change your life.”

And then there was this:

“For the sake of my time-sensitive purposes, the project must be done within 48 hours.”

That’s when I glanced at the other item that was in the package. It looked like a big watch, but missing its bands.

“I have included a digital timer that is preset to start counting down from forty-eight hours once you press the “Start” button. Do not put yourself at a disadvantage by curiously pushing the button before it’s time to do so. I will always be aware of your remaining time. In the event that you do not finish the project before the timer runs out, you will forfeit the money.”

If you were to ask Tommy of three months ago if a 48-hour deadline was realistic, I would have told you to go fuck yourself – not with the type of quality that I’ve promised to bring with Make Believe Construction. With my well devoid of water, there just wasn’t another option.

Rick, one of my established contractors, was on the fence.

“I know that the last few have turned to shit, Rick – I get that, but this could be something.”

“Or it could be more shit, Tommy!” He hollered over the phone. “Dude sounds like a fucking serial killer, if you ask me.”

He’s not entirely wrong, Tommy.

“Listen, I need you to trust me. Twelve years together doing this, Rick – I need that from you more than ever. I get it – no money upfront isn’t our jive, but the telephone isn’t technically ringing off the goddamn hook.”

It took an ungodly amount of persuasion, but Rick finally folded. Unbelievably, he was the only obstacle to overcome. The other two were far younger than Rick, by at least twenty years, and ready for action. They didn’t like the idea of waiting to be paid until the project was done, but I managed to sway them by offering additional bonuses on top of their divided pay.

In less than an hour’s worth of phone calls, I had my entire crew on board. Along with that, I had the coordinates and set up a carpool so that all of us could arrive at the location at the same time. We went over the note, the timer, packed pop-up tents as well as other essentials, and then off we were –

To an adventure that could turn all of our lives around post-haste.

My name is Tommy, and the housing market collapse can kiss my ass.

[edgtf_separator type=”full-width” border_style=”dashed” color=”#ffffff” thickness=”4px”]

[edgtf_separator class_name=”” type=”full-width” position=”center” color=”” border_style=”dashed” width=”” thickness=”” top_margin=”” bottom_margin=””]

[edgtf_highlight background_color=”#1c1c1c” color=”#FFFFFF”]  “CHAPTER IV  [/edgtf_highlight]

[edgtf_highlight background_color=”#FFFFFF” color=”#be3938″]  “GAME ON”  [/edgtf_highlight]

Of course, the coordinates took us to a place that we’ve never seen before. It was on the outskirts of town, off a dead, country dirt road. Eventually, the GPS told us that we had arrived. Rick looked outside the passenger window and shook his head.

“48 hours, eh?”

It was a flat piece of land surrounded by piles of materials and machines – some were familiar, some were not. At the forefront of the plot of land was a folding table with a blueprint on it, so we all gathered over to it and studied for a minute. Ken, one of the younger members of the crew, was the first to find the plans

“Tommy, what is this thing supposed to be? A prison Ark?”

I shrugged my shoulders with a laugh to try and break the tension, but he wasn’t wrong. Trap doors, slides, locking mechanisms that are typically in place for something that shouldn’t get out. Shelving upon shelving for… something.

“He never really told me.”

“But we’re building this motherfucker, Tommy, we should know.” Rick said abruptly. “No way this is done in 48 hours.”

Growing impatient, I let Rick’s comments slide off of my back and then placed the timer on the table. “48 hours is what we got.”

After the deepest breath of my life, I pushed the button on the timer.


All hungry for that life-changing payday, we managed to get the foundation set up, worked on the exterior walls and before you knew it, we were buzzing just like all of the state-of-the-art machines that surrounded us.


“Good work so far, fellas. We’ve put a dent in this guy. And apparently Rick, who looks like he’s going to die. Go rest old timer.”

“Fuck you” Rick snapped back with a grin. “You’re lucky my old ass made it this far.”

Rick lit up a smoke and started walking back to the car. The rest of us had a little bonfire, a cigar and a drink. We planned for a short rest, talked about the money and the surprise, until eventually we passed out.


I sat up to see that the fire was gone, and Kenny was still asleep. I looked at my watch and couldn’t believe it. Instead of the two hours, as planned, we crashed for eight hours. I groggily got to my feet and started shoving Kenny with my foot.

“Wake up, Kenny. We overslept.”

And that’s when a hand grabbed my shoulder. I quickly turned around to see Danny, and his expression was sheer terror and confusion.

“It’s Rick.. he’s gone.

“Gone? What do you mean he’s gone?”

“Not in the van, and I walked through the forest for over an hour. No sight of him.”

“Fuck. Is the van still here?”

“Yes – and his cigarettes, on the center console.”

We all knew that Rick didn’t go anywhere with his smokes. Wherever he was, he ran off in a hurry for some reason – but we couldn’t stop now. We were staring at a $60,000 payday and if Rick didn’t want to be a part of it, he didn’t have to be.


[edgtf_separator type=”full-width” border_style=”dashed” color=”#ffffff” thickness=”4px”]

[edgtf_separator class_name=”” type=”full-width” position=”center” color=”” border_style=”dashed” width=”” thickness=”” top_margin=”” bottom_margin=””]

[edgtf_highlight background_color=”#1c1c1c” color=”#FFFFFF”]  “CHAPTER V  [/edgtf_highlight]

[edgtf_highlight background_color=”#FFFFFF” color=”#be3938″]  “GAME OVER”  [/edgtf_highlight]

Having finished the entire exterior, we were now on the inside, specifically working on some of the strange electrical wiring. The three of us hadn’t spoken in hours, until Danny suddenly dropped the drill that he had in his hand and folded his arms.

“That’s it, I’m done. Fuck this.”

“Dan…” I pleaded. “We’re almost done, buddy. Don’t crack now.”

“Rick’s been gone for over ten hours now, Tommy. And this… thing we’re building… anybody want to share their opinions on what the fuck this is? You know what I think, Tommy?”

He started to walk over towards me.

“I think you got us into some serious shit and Rick paid the price for it. So you know what I’m gonna do? I’m taking the fucking van and finding him. Forget this.”

And just like that, he grabbed the van keys and left the build site.

That was more than 6 hours ago now.


As the timer buzzed again, Kenny and I were completely spent. The actual enclosure was done, but there were so many meticulous steps left on that goddamn blueprint. Not only that, we were now stranded several miles into the woods – and two of our guys had vanished from plain sight.

We should have been trying to finish, but neither of us could see straight anymore. Instead, we sat in corners opposite of one another, rolling a half-bottle of whiskey back and forth to each other.

“Well… we gave it our best shot right, Kenneth?”

I hopelessly laughed and took a swig, before rolling it back to him.

He nodded, and then rested his head against one of the walls and closed his eyes.

I gave it everything I had, Abby.

“Did you?”

I opened my eyes and immediately stared at the intercom system that Rick had installed right before he took his break and disappeared.

A voice was coming out of it. I started to get back to my feet.


“Mr. McCreedy. It looks as though you weren’t able to make the deadline. How unfortunate!”

Fuck this guy, Tommy. Give him a piece of your mind.

“You know what? Good. I’m glad I didn’t finish it because you know what? All of this is BULLSHIT. I had two of my friends disappear because of this nonsense project you’ve asked us to build, and you know what? You knew we weren’t going to finish this. It was impossible, goddamnit.”

And there it was – that god-awful laugh that I heard on the phone just two days prior to this nightmare.

“Yeah, you’re probably right about that part. You also had every right to decline the opportunity, but that money, Mr. McCreedy. You just couldn’t shake it – even after you lost all those friends that were just relying on you to come through – just once. Greed is pure evil.”

Wait, where’s Kenny?

I walked over to the intercom and pressed my lips against it. “Where is my crew?”

“You’re missing the best part. You won. It may not be finished, but I never expected it to be finished. I expected it to be tested. You passed the test and therefore, you will be rewarded with the surprise!”

Suddenly, behind me, a duffel bag comes down the strange wooden slide that was requested to be installed.

“Go have a look. Like I said – it’s life-changing.”

I walk over to it, get down on one knee, and unzip it in one, swift motion – only to be nearly suffocated by the wafting stench. I pull both sides of the bag apart, only to see dismembered parts of my friends – my coworkers, my crew.

“What the fuck is…”

I turned around only to see a tall, lanky man in front of the opened door, with a smile on his face and blood sprayed across his eyeglasses.

“If you just could’ve turned away from all that money, Tommy. They’d all still be here – by that bonfire that you made out of the materials I gave you.”

“I don’t care about the money anymore…” I started backing up, with my arms stretched out defensively. “I don’t care about anything. Just let me go home, Andy.”

“Home?” He cocked his head, and then took out a cell phone. “You are home. Home sweet home. Let’s have some fun now, shall we?”

I suddenly heard something mechanical beneath me, and that’s when I realized I was under a trap do—


The End.