The Best Laid Plans

Hotel room in North Korea

“Is he still out there?”

“What do you think? They’re always out there.” Jacob engaged the lock, walked back to the bed and sat down.

“So what do you want to do?” I asked.

He rested his elbows on his knees, clasped his hands and stared down at the bag. In one carefully lined space, no larger than an envelope, were eight 16GB memory cards jammed with unauthorized photos from our trip.

What had seemed so clever back in the states seemed like madness now. Our guides had been saying things. Strange things that meant nothing—each taken on its own. But added together it gave us the sense that even here, behind the closed door of our hotel room, we were being watched.

The backup plan of flushing the SD cards, crushing the spy cam, and discarding the fragments across the parking lot no longer seemed like an option.

150 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt or to submit your own, click here.

16 Comments

  1. You shouldn’t be a spy unless you know what you’re doing and are prepared to accept the consequences of taking such risks. At least my spy has a good shot at getting away, but then again, she’s a professional. Looks like these are tourists who thought they were clever. Good story.

  2. An absolute stunner of a story. What starts as a youthful lark could well wind up as a lifetime prison sentence, torture or even execution. This photograph is chilling, too. Well done.

    1. Awhile back I read a journalist’s account of being in North Korea with his teenage son, and how as the trip unfolded, he realized just the fact that he lied about his job had put himself and his son in tremendous jeopardy. They definitely don’t mess around there. Thanks for reading, so glad you liked the story!

  3. Exciting story you went right to the middle of the action (en medias res) so that was neat. I worry what they’ll be able to being locked in their hotel room with room with no escape and little ability to destroy the evidence. A continuation on this piece would also be exciting 🙂

    1. Mandibelle you are so kind. This story chills and excites me–makes me want to write more to see what happens. Thanks so much for reading.

  4. Dear Karen,

    I don’t know that there’s anywhere on earth that’s quite so chilling as North Korea. I could feel the tension in this simple scene. I agree with Josh, the picture itself is haunting. So stark and has me wondering who’s watching through the curtains or even the TV screen. Well done.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    1. Now your comment about the TV has me really worried. Thanks for reading!

  5. I can almost feel their impending panic – in over their heads in a country where they could simply disappear… great story!

    1. Glad you liked it! At this point they could completely panic or come up with a brilliant master plan. My fingers are crossed for the latter. Thanks for reading.

  6. A scary one, indeed. There are so many ways to go with this, none of which is any less scary. Great write.

    1. Thanks Jelli, thanks for reading!

  7. Their panic is plain to feel. There is no way out but down. I cannot help but wonder what they might blab in their defence during the interrogation…. Where you started the action as spot on. Great storytelling, Karen.

    1. Thanks for your kind words Kelvin!

  8. That is one chilling story. I’m not at all sure I’d want to read the continuation! You capture the sense of being trapped very well. At any moment there could be a pounding on the door…

    1. Thanks Penny! Thanks for reading and delighted to ‘see’ you 🙂

  9. That is interesting.
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