A TUGS Escape Room Challenge
A pickup truck parks in a mostly empty lot next to a large warehouse. The air is warm and humid on this summer evening. Five young men pile out of the vehicle. They enter an office like glass door of the warehouse.
Inside they’re greeted by a lifelike mannequin behind a kiosk in the middle of a sparse, concrete floored lobby. Above the kiosk a sign reads:
Another sign with an arrow directed them to a form that read as follows:
Congratulations! Your online application was approved, your admissions have been paid, and you’ve had the courage to show up! Remember, you can back out now or at any time using the instructed safe word or signal to quit. But quitters don’t win the prize money at the end, do they? Are you sure you’re brave enough, strong enough, and clever enough to survive?
If you wish to continue, we will ask you once more to answer the following questions on camera after stating your name and description on camera:
1) “I have read the list of medical issues online and I am physically and mentally fit for this experience.”
2) “While I will not be physically harmed, I understand that pain, discomfort, and being restrained will be involved.”
3) “I understand that extreme humiliation and degradation will be involved.”
After reading the forms, the boys cracked nervous jokes about what they got themselves in to but overall they were eager.
A tall figure appears, dressed in overalls and a hockey mask – like a cliché knockoff of Jason from Friday the 13th – using pantomime and cards to communicate. He holds up a large card with instructions and directs each boy to follow him one at a time.
One of the slenderer boys, with dark brown hair is picked first. He is the one who initially encouraged the rest of his friends to jump in to this eccentric challenge. He follows the tall, quiet figure down a long hallway. He’s ushered in to a small changing room with the door locked behind him. A mounted TV screen turns on reflecting his own image thanks to a video camera above it. Instructions on the screen also appear, telling him to state his name, age, something about himself, and that he agrees to the experience. Nervously, the boy begins as he looks in to the camera:
“Hi, I’m Derek. I’m 21. I don’t know what else to say but I’m chill, not always good following rules but I’m ready and willing. At least I think!”
Then another message on the screen tells him to remove his street clothes, keep his underwear on and put on the orange jumpsuit hanging on the wall.
Derek hesitates at first but shrugs and decides to comply. He strips out of his t-shirt, shorts and sneakers. Standing in his baby blue boxer briefs, he looks over his slim but fit 5’11” self on the screen. Then, as he reaches for the orange jumpsuit he expects to wear, the lights suddenly turn off. He’s grabbed by a mysterious person and a wet rag is placed over his face. Derek puts up a fight but the deep breathes he takes from the excitement only speed up the effects of a sharp, burning chemical smell gas that makes him dizzy. He passes out! The unknown figure pulls Derek’s limp body through a secret trap door at the bottom of one of the walls of the small room.
The next young man to go, thinner and smaller standing only at 5’8” but with similar tanned skin and brown hair to Derek, follows the stranger down the hallway and steps into the room. He complies with the instructions:
“I’m Mike. I’m 19. Derek’s’ brother. Hmmm, no super gay shit is all. I know muay thai and martial arts! Just sayin. Oh yea, I’m ready for this.”
After being tricked in to stripping down to his tighty whiteys, the skinny Mike is knocked out.
Next in line is the most physically impressive of the five boys, clearly an athlete, standing at 6’2” with jet black hair and intense blue eyes. Once in the small changing room, he gets right to it:
“Tyler. I play football. 21. I like a challenge. And I like to win, and always do. Let’s do this!”
Tyler isn’t shy and strips down to his plaid boxers. Then he’s grabbed from behind after the lights go out. Despite an impressive fight, he’s no match for the toxic liquid gas emanating from the wet rag.
Only two boys left waiting, the next one to go is another athletic looking young man though of a smaller frame than Tyler:
“I’m Adam. 20, so old enough for whatever this is ha hah. Not scared. And I like football. I play offense.”
When Adam strips down, the intense odor of his smelly socks and sneakers fills the small room. He takes note of this and smiles back at himself with pride. His friends can’t stand the stench of his rank feet. But very quickly Adam is brought unconscious by a more ominous smell after being attacked by the stranger.
Last of the bunch was skinniest kid in the group of average height but an exceptionally handsome young man. He happily strutted down the hallway, cracking jokes at the quiet, tall figure who led him to his unknown fate. Once inside the changing room, he immediately indented the smell in the air, Adam’s foot odor. “Gross!” Nick laughed to himself before continuing with the assignment and looking in to the camera / monitor:
“Nick. Pisces, I like long walks and puppies, an owning my friends in Call of Duty,” he laughed. “Oh yea, I’m 21. I’m ready.”
Nick stripped down to his underwear, a pair of blue stripped nylon boxer briefs. He admired himself in the camera a bit until he noticed something. He saw Adam’s pair of nasty, moist ankle socks on the floor. The normally would be white gym socks were a discolored grey and yellow. Typical of Adam. He picked them up with the tips of his fingers and attempted to throw them in the wastebasket in protest. That’s when the lights went out on him and he met the same fate as the others. Knocked out cold!
One by one, all of the five boys had been rendered unconscious by chloroform.
The boys slowly regain consciousness.
They’ve each been tied down to chairs, side by side. They’ve been stripped down to their underwear! All five boys have black, heavy duty neoprene harnesses over the heads. The three boys in the middle – Mike, Tyler, and Adam –have gag plugs and blindfolds affixed to their harness. Nick, on one end, has a gag but no blindfold. Derek, on the opposite end, has a blindfold with no gag.
The captured five are being held in an in a mostly empty room with a flat panel TV on a wall relaying instructions. Since only Nick can see of the group, he reads the monitor:
“Use the box cutter in the corner to free yourselves. You have one hour.”
Nick immediately sees the box cutter and tries to direct himself over to it. But he can’t! His chair, unlike the other boys, has been bolted to the concrete floor. How cruel! But what is crueller, he starts to take note of the gag in his mouth. It stinks. The taste of the material shoved inside and plugged up with a leather bit is very familiar. He realizes someone has stuffed Adam’s rank, disgusting socks in his mouth! He starts to groan and grunt through his gag.
The boys in the middle struggle and gasp in their bondage as Derek, merely blindfolded starts to ask what’s going on. He can hear his friends’ muzzled voices and quickly determines they’ve been gagged, unlike him.
Nick is trying to give signals to Derek, meanwhile, but several minutes of confusion and frustration go by as all the boys but Derek are grunting and gasping.
The poor boys struggle in their ropes, chair tied, for a good thirty minutes before Derek and Nick finally figure out the game, working as a unit. Nick will grunt once for “yes” and two for “no” when Derek asks a direct question.
“Am I supposed to do something?” Derek asks.
“Mph!” Nick grunts once.
After a series of mundane questions, Derek realizes he needs to be on the move. He knocks over his chair, and while still tied up to it, is slowly able to crawl. Using “Am I getting hotter, or colder,” etc. guidance, Derek is slowly making his way to what Nick can see. That box cutter.
With not even six minutes to spare, Derek makes it to the corner. He eventually feels the box cutter at the tips of his sweaty fingers tied behind the backing of the chair. He grabs them and begins to cut the ropes. While he wastes no time, he still doesn’t do it with fast speed, unaware for now that a timer display is above them on the TV screen showing only minutes left.
As Nick watches helplessly tied up in his bolted chair, Derek finally breaks free of the ropes around his wrists. He immediately removes the sweat soaked neoprene harness around his head and can now see for the first time.
Derek doesn’t see the time on the screen yet, distracted by the shocking visual of his four friends bound and gagged in chairs while stripped down to their underwear. An annoyed Nick with wide eyes faced at Derek, grunts and gasps, motioning over to the monitor behind Derek. After a painful extra minute of this exercise, Derek finally looks back to see the timer! The screen reads:
“2 minutes. 48 seconds…”
“Shit!” Derek yells and gets the rest of himself untied from the chair, racing over to Adam first. He unties his wrists which allows Adam to start freeing himself. “Hurry!” Derek shouts. “We have a time limit!”
Derek moves on to Mike and Tyler with similar strategy, untying their hands.
One minute to go! Adam is now completely free of his bonds. He and Derek help Mike and Tyler get free. To Nick’s maddening frustration, they seem to be ignoring him so he “mpphhhs” their way.
“Oh, sorry,” Adam says racing over to Nick, starting with his hands. “Oh, damn hah hah,” Adam can’t help but chuckle when he recognizes the special gag that Nick has been enduring all this time. “My socks!”
At 30 seconds, all the boys have broken free of their bondage except poor Nick. The other four are frantically assisting him but it probably makes matters worse in the confusion.
Suddenly, an alarm goes off after the timer counted down to zero. Nick was almost free but one of his ankles were still bound with rope to a leg of the chair. And he’s still gagged, mind you, with the rancid, putrid socks worn by Adam.
The TV screen now reads:
“Derek, Adam, Mike, and Tyler. Congratulations. But Nick, you’ve lost. And if one loses, you all lose.”
The groups of sweaty boys clad only in their underwear were disappointed, exhausted. Their torment isn’t over.
Suddenly the room goes dark and a strange gas is emitted. Once again, they get dizzy and lose consciousness. They’ve passed out. The torture is apparently just beginning.
What next is in store for this intense escape room challenge?
END OF CHAPTER ONE