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By Madeline Perez

I woke up tied to a chair. “Kinky,” I thought, but now wasn’t the time for that. As my hazy vision started to clear, I recognized the musty atmosphere of what could only be the electrical closet near the Underground Commons. I tugged at the rope that bound my wrists together behind me. Wouldn’t budge. I hadn’t encountered knot-tying this skilled since my altercations with the Boy Scouts of America. While wondering if those pocket-knife-wielding “outdoorsy types” were back for round two, I was alerted by a buzz and a click as the screen in front of me illuminated the darkness.

Overcome by a blinding white flash, I found myself bathed in the light of a Zoom call. Squinting, a familiar figure began to take shape. “Harvey…” I growled. As the man intent on destroying my very livelihood, I should’ve known a meeting like this was bound to happen. “Hello, Ms. Perez. Looking well, I see.” His balding head shone with malicious intent. “You’re looking bald, as usual,” I retorted. My fiery expression burned with the strength of ten thousand suns. “Why am I here?” Moments after I uttered the phrase the circumstances of my capture became obviously clear. “Where is she? What have you done to her!” I yelled, heart rate thumping louder than my own thoughts. She needed me to protect her, and I failed. I failed both of us. 

“Oh?” Stenger purred. “You couldn’t possibly be talking about the CIW DINING HALL!” The screen flashed as the building came into view. She looked as sad and decrepit as ever, and I loved her more than life itself. “Baby…” I muttered under my breath, eyes darting back and forth across the screen. I once again tugged at my rope restraints, to no avail. Slyly, I started to work on the knots. Getting out of here wouldn’t be an issue; this wasn’t the first time I’d had to deal with being tied up. 

The share screen option was canceled and I was once again held captive by Harvey’s gaze. “I don’t know if you’ve heard the recent news…” he made the smirking emoji face. “But this dining hall will close Friday, February 26th until further notice.” My heart bled. I hadn’t felt pain so intense since the Friendly’s staff publicly sang happy birthday to me. “But the CIW students… They’ll starve!” I looked at him pleadingly, “They’ll… they’ll die.” Harvey let out the loudest laugh I had heard all day. “You idiot, THAT WAS THE PLAN FROM THE BEGINNING!” “No…” My voice was almost a whisper, as weak and depressing as the dining hall food I once hated. “Yes!” Harvey Stenger roared, hearing my aside. “We must accommodate the sick and dying COVID students…for how else can we continue to take their money?” He chuckled heartily. “Ah…I love money,” he said, to no one in particular. “NO!” I shouted at such a volume that surprised him and me both. “As long as I’m still alive, I won’t let that happen,” He gave me a catlike grin. “That’s the problem.” 

Suddenly, 10 ninjas dropped from the ceiling. Were they there the whole time? But now wasn’t the time for critical thinking. Judging by the low effort put into keeping me bound to the chair, it was clear I was being underestimated. I gracefully slipped out of the restraints and jumped on top of the chair. I punched the ninjas three at a time. Though I couldn’t tell their gender, I kicked at their groins just in case. I dodged every attack and delivered knuckle sandwiches left and right. My swift and agile movements paralleled the cafeteria fight in Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man. I would be Peter Parker, of course. Before I knew it, 6 ninjas lay on the ground, groaning. The other four had turned back and were running in the opposite direction. Must’ve been Mountainview students…I smirked at the screen where Harvey watched, paralyzed. Within the next second, he quickly ended the Zoom call, but with that one look, I knew my message had been sent. 

Within the hour, I had found him. He was cowering in his walk-in closet, hugging his comically large bags of money. Pathetic. I stared down at him. He still couldn’t meet my eyes. “Ok, Ok,” he wept, scared shitless by my strong muscles. “I won’t do it.” I pulled his head up by his three remaining hairs and got close to his face, challenging him to look at me. “Won’t do what?” I thundered. “T-The CIW dining hall…” stuttered Harvey. “I won’t shut it down. You can still be served inedible food after buying painfully overpriced meal plans.” I got threateningly closer. “Promise?” He looked at me with frightened, teary eyes. “Pinky promise,” he choked. 

I walked back to the CIW dorming community as a hero. As is routine after every conquest, the girls began to swarm. “Oh, Madeline,” they swooned. “You were so strong and brave… however can we repay you?” I gave them a light chuckle, looking longingly at the CIW dining hall. “Sorry ladies, there’s only one girl for me.” As they dispersed disappointedly, I approached the doors of the dining hall. Placing a hand on the glass, I let out a sigh. “That’ll do pig.” I patted the door. “That’ll do.” I took one last look at the majesty of the old building, then turned and walked away, never to return. 

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