Seb woke, his head throbbed, and he took a moment to orientate himself before lifting his head from the floor. Slowly, he scanned the room he was in; it was dimly lit with a chair in the far corner and the mattress he was lying on near a lightless window. Fear filled him as he tried to make sense of his surroundings. There was a door behind him, which was closed, and black paint pealed from the wood, leaving flakes scattered on the floor. It looked like an abandoned house you see in the movies. Seb’s heart skipped as he heard a clanking noise from inside the wall to his left. A moment later and the same could be heard from behind the door. Swallowing hard, Seb placed his foot down in the direction of the door. A second step and he was closer and could make out the individual lines of the flaking paint and the bare, sandy brown wood beneath. Tentatively, he placed his ear against the door. Silence soon replaced the sound of the paint crunching beneath his ear.
Black scales dropped to the floor as he pulled away. The room lay silent, its cold grey walls adorned with aged wallpaper that hung limply from the flaking plaster as though at any moment it would fall exposing whatever lay beneath, imposing a sense of solitude and confinement he had never before encountered. Seb rubbed his eyes and tried to recollect how he got here. The last thing he could remember was that he was out with his wife Simone and their daughter Ruby driving to get groceries. His breathing increased to shallow panting as he tried to slow his heart and collect his thoughts properly. In the far wall was a window, in an effort to distract himself, Seb walked the four paces to reach it in a hope of finding some recognisable landmarks or anything that would let him know where he was. Seb was a huge fan of geo location; he had amassed hundreds of hits from images and pictures his followers had sent him from his website. This was something he was confident in, and the prospect of having something to puzzle out gave him a little hope. When he looked out, all he saw was darkness; there was nothing but a deep blackness which felt increasingly oppressive the longer he stared into it.
“Hello?” Seb called, but the sound of his voice hit the blackness with a thud and disappeared, swallowed by the nothingness. He spun, suddenly filled with desperation. Where were his wife and daughter? Moving quickly from the window to the door, he pulled on the handle to open it, but it was stuck fast. The knob didn’t turn, so he thumped against the door with his fists. “Hello, is there anyone out there?” Again his voice found nothing but silence and was consumed. He took a step back and hammered his shoulder into the door, expecting it to give under his weight. Seb was over six feet tall and had been working out since he was at school to develop the type of physique which stopped the bullies bothering him, after all someone strong and muscular was a much more difficult task to intimidate than some of the punier kids around. He had honed his physical appearance before mastering the knowledge he needed to make his way in life. A master’s degree in applied mathematics followed several years of hard work and sacrifice. He wasn’t one for drinking and parties, he didn’t fit into the groups that made up his university, preference was given to study and the achievement of academic success that would pave the way for his hugely successful career in problem solving and advance thinking. His job took him around the world looking at problems created by society and industry, and he was then tasked with finding solutions, profitable ones, that could be applied by his employers to maximise the economic potential. He was hugely adept at finding that single piece of information that unlocked the problem and displayed it in its entirety, ready for his team to logically construct the plans for dealing with it and where investment could be sought for the solution they had created.
These problems ranged from logistical navigation of the seas for shipping to how best to structure shopping malls to best utilise traffic flow and footfall. These made his company millions. His team was a commodity that was hired out by the day for an inflated consultancy fee on the promise of economic return. All these skills and knowledge seemed distant as he again threw himself at the door. The façade of flaking paint giving the appearance of aged and weak wood was far from the reality he found.
Seb knew how to break through doors, but when his shoulder contacted the wood, there was a searing pain which shot through him as the door refused to budge or even creak. Stepping back, he kicked at it like a mule but again the door refused to accept his efforts and stood like concrete, not wood. Confusion filled his mind, and he felt the door with his hands. It felt like wood and looked old and rotten in places. It should break easily. Quickly he moved to the back of the room, intent on charging this door with all he had. As his back touched the wall a few paces back, he stopped to gather his breath and heard a drip, drip, drip from behind him, which caught his attention and he looked to see where it could be coming from.
The wall was much like the door; it looked old and was damp to the touch with crumbling grey plaster and torn wallpaper hanging from it. The room made no sense. It was rotten and yet as solid as reinforced steel. The dripping continued and Seb decided that given the damp in the wall the sound must be from a burst pipe. His attention returned to the door, and he again took a breath, readying him to crash through the wood and out of this room. He counted down from three in his mind, then charged, throwing himself at the door. There was a loud crack as bone broke and splintered. Pain filled him and he let out a feral scream as he collapsed down onto the floor.
Seb lay in a heap sobbing with pain and panic as he knew he had caused himself severe damage, but through the pain struggled to understand how a wooden and seemingly rotten door had withheld his onslaught. Frustrated, he slowly gathered his thoughts as his arm went numb and the pain became something he was able to deal with, so long as he didn’t move. Breathing heavily, he tried to take stock of his situation. Now was the time to use his intellect, not brawn. He was in a locked room alone and he didn’t remember how he got here or why he was being held. He had likely just broken his collarbone and potentially dislocated his shoulder. Tentatively he reached across with his left hand to touch his right shoulder, there was a cold wet feeling under him, and he was worried the bone had split the skin when it broke from the impact. As he gingerly felt his way up his right arm to his shoulder, the wetness increased and a brush of his finger against something sharp send waves of pain rushing through his body, and he knew his situation had just become a lot worse.
Seb took another deep breath and shouted, “HELP, somebody, anybody, please HELP ME!”
Again, the sound of his voice was lost in the silence. There was no sound other than his own whimpers and cries and the constant drip, drip, drip from the wall behind him seemed to be matching his own heartbeat. Seb began to shiver; he was losing a lot of blood from his compound fracture, and it was only a matter of time until he lost conciseness. Gradually he calmed his breathing and resolved himself to his fate. He was going to die here on the floor of a room somewhere and never see his family again.
After what felt like forever, Seb’s eyes grew heavy, and he succumbed to the darkness he could feel creeping around him.
Seb woke, his head throbbed, and he took a moment to orientate himself before lifting his head from the floor. Slowly, he scanned the room he was in; it was dimly lit with a chair in the far corner and the mattress he was lying on near a lightless window. Fear gripped him as he tried to orientate himself with his surroundings. There was a door behind him, which was closed, and black paint pealed from the wood, leaving flakes scattered on the floor. Looking down at the floor, he could see a pool of congealed blood. The sight set his heart racing as he began to panic.
“What is this room?” he wondered as he tried to take stock of the surroundings he found himself in. He took a deep breath and searched the room for clues. The pool of stale blood covering the floor like some kind of mat was something he didn’t want to consider, so ignored that for now.
Instinct told him that a hefty thump from his shoulder would likely shatter the rotten door that looked so inviting for him to attempt. The flaking paint and exposed wood beneath certainly looked ready to fall out of the frame regardless of any physical persuasion he inflicted upon it. He got to his feet and skirted around the sticky substance he was trying to pretend wasn’t there and realised that to properly hit the door with any kind of momentum he would have to run through this pool and in all likelihood, he would slip and crack his head on the ground. “Perhaps that’s what happened to the previous inhabitant?” he said as he took stock of the rest of the room.
The window looked like it could be somewhere he could gather information about his location, but he could see nothing but blackness outside, leaving him with little in the way of options. He returned to the mattress and closed his eyes. Around him, the sounds of dripping caught his attention. Slowly, he turned his head to better tell the direction the noise was emanating from. Then, once he had the direction, he opened his eyes to look at the wall the sound was coming from.
His mind raced as he tried to identify what this sound could be. The dripping seemed to be consistent, and could be from a pipe that had sprung a leak behind the wall. This was a distinct probability given the state of the room. Grey plaster clung to the walls, supporting limp aged wallpaper that looked as though it was ready to fall to the ground with the merest of blows from his lips. Moving slowly, he approached the wall, all the while listening for any change in the frequency or tone of the drip. As he pressed his ear to the damp wall, he could hear the distant sound of gushing water. Quickly, he began to claw at the plaster, pulling large sections away from the brick wall beneath. He placed his hands against the exposed brickwork, pleased to feel the same dampness in the mortar that had been the undoing of the plaster. He had a way out. All he needed to do was scrape away the cement holding the bricks in place and then follow the water to wherever it was leaving this place.
Minutes passed as Seb scraped and clawed at walls trying to free the bricks, but he couldn’t quite get enough purchase with his fingers to gouge out the material to make enough progress. Looking around him, he could see the light fitting was encased in a metal cage. The covering was made up of thin strips of metal that, if he could pry one off, would be the perfect tool for getting through the wall.
Standing under the light, Seb reached up to find he was just too short to reach the fitting. He jumped, grabbed the metal, then slipped as his fingers failed to hold his weight. Upon hitting the floor, he lost his footing in the pool of sticky blood. Bright lights filled his eyes as he gazed up at the light above him. He could make out that one of the straps had come free and was now hanging low enough for him to grab. As he moved his head, a wave of pain and nausea filled his body. His head felt like a ton weight with the effort of trying to lift it causing intense pain. Slowly, he moved his right hand towards the back of his head before recoiling at the warm, wet liquid he felt. “What have you done?” he asked as the lights slowly dimmed and consciousness was lost.
Seb woke, his head throbbed, and he took a moment to orientate himself before lifting his head from the floor. Slowly, he scanned the room he was in; it was dimly lit with a chair in the far corner and the mattress he was lying on near a lightless window. His insides roiled as the terror of his predicament took hold. All he could do was take stock of his surroundings in a bid to give himself something to do other than panic. Looking around, he could see there was a door behind him, which was closed, and black paint pealed from the wood, leaving flakes scattered on the floor. Looking down at the floor he could see a large pool of congealed blood. The sight set his heart racing as he panicked. Knowing he needed to find a solution, he looked for something else to focus on to calm himself. Near the wall he could see large chunks of plaster that had fallen, or maybe pulled, from the wall. The exposed brickwork also looked like someone had tried to scrape out the cement holding them in. Seb, rather than acknowledge the large pool of blood, investigated this wall. Perhaps he could continue the effort the rooms previous occupant had begun?
Seb felt the wall and could instantly see what the problem was. The wall was damp, but the mortar was not as easy to scrape away with fingers as it would initially seem. What he needed was a tool. He looked around and spotted the light fitting had a single metallic strap hanging from it. Clearly, this room was falling to pieces, but this could be something he could use. Being careful not to slip in the red blanket covering most of the floor, he reached up and took hold of the metallic strip. After a moment of wriggling and bending, it came away in his hand. Now he had a tool he needed to establish where to scrape. Clearly, the previous prisoner had started on this wall for a reason, so Seb felt he should look there first. As he approached, he heard a dripping sound coming from behind. “Ah, water pipes. These must lead down to a basement or draining system. Clever. I wonder what happened that made them stop digging?” Seb thought as he began scraping away the cement from around the central brick.
A few hours later and several bricks lay strewn across the room. After Seb had freed the first, he found the rest were much simpler to access and made good progress scraping out the material holding them in place. However, where he thought of finding a cavity behind the bricks, he found only a single pipe. Behind the pipe was a bundle of electrical cables that looked important. Placing the last brick down, Seb stood back and looked at the hole he had created. It was around two feet from top to bottom and a little more than that wide. The breeze block structure behind it looked considerably more solid, though the tool he had seemed like it would get through this too if he could avoid the cables as he needed to hammer into the blocks to gain leverage.
A thought came to him. He turned to the door and walked towards it. He thumped his fists against it hoping to attract someone’s attention, but the dull thumps took away the hope and his shoulders slumped as the realisation no one was coming to free him hit home. Then he looked at the cables. They looked like they probably controlled something. Not the lights as they were travelling horizontally across the wall where he would expect vertical if they were for the power to the lights. “Maybe if I damage a couple, then someone will come to investigate?” he asked himself. He had been scraping bricks for hours and his hands were sore from the effort. This could be a way of signalling the outside. After all, someone must have put him here. His mind raced as he considered how best to sabotage the wiring. In the end, he decided that a direct hit with the metal tool would be sufficient to, at the very least, unsheathe some of the cables and disrupt the signals travelling through them. He had assumed that horizontal cables were highly probable to be data cables for communications or computers, so the risk of a shock was low.
Decision made; he slammed the edge of the strip against the bundle of cables.
Seb woke, his head throbbed, and he took a moment to orientate himself before lifting his head from the floor. Slowly, he scanned the room he was in; it was dimly lit with a chair in the far corner and the mattress he was lying on near a lightless window. His chest pounded as his heart thumped against it, trying to escape. He took a deep breath. This was the only way to compose himself in the face of the pure horror he was faced with. The pounding slowed and Seb began to scan the room to discover anything that would explain where he was or why he was here. There was a door behind him, which was closed, and black paint pealed from the wood leaving flakes scattered on the floor. Looking down at the floor, he could see a large pool of congealed blood. The sight set his heart racing as he panicked, so he looked for something else to focus on. Spread across the floor were bricks and rubble. Looking at the significant hole in the wall, it didn’t take a genius to work out where they had come from. The hole had within it a single pipe and a thick bundle of what looked like cables fixed behind it, travelling horizontally across the wall. Behind the cable on the grey breeze block surface was a black stain that looked like a fire had charred the surface. “Must have been a short in those cables.” Seb thought as he purposefully ignored the carpet of red that filled most of the floor.
The room looked like a bomb had gone off. Rubble, blood, fire, flaking paint and plaster… Where was he? Why was he being held here?
A dripping noise caught his attention. He could tell it was coming from the exposed pipe but also felt that whatever it was probably caused the short in the cables, so stayed clear of that wall for fear of electrocuting himself. An urgency overwhelmed him. He needed to get out, but looking around, he couldn’t see anything that would facilitate this urge. The door looked ready to drop off its hinges so perhaps he could force it? He skirted around the blood and made his way to the door. A few moments later, he was panting after trying to yank the door from the frame without success. “Seems appearances are not what they seem in here.” He said as he once again took in the room and the debris lying around it. “Perhaps I could…” he picked up a discarded brick then launched it at the door. The thud was wholly unsatisfying, the door held, and the brick didn’t create a gaping hole where he could put his hand through as he had expected. “Bugger!” looking up at the light, he could see the metal structure enclosing it had been broken. A strap of metal was missing. “Perhaps its lying around here somewhere?” he asked himself as he began pushing rubble around with his feet.
“Mrs Martin, I am sorry to have to tell you this, but you husband is not responding to the treatment as expected. We had hoped that the swelling in his brain would have begun to reduce, and we would see signs of activity but after careful consideration and following the three crashes, he has had since he arrived, we think it is best to remove Seb from life support.”
Simone wilted, the weight of the situation too much to take in, and she began to sob. Her husband had been fighting to come back to her. She knew he had, but the last time it had taken nearly ten minutes of resuscitation to get his heart beating again. Perhaps they were right? “But I know he’s in there, doctor. I know my husband wants to live!” she argued.
“Mrs Martin, I think it is becoming more and more unlikely that Seb would live a normal life if, by some miracle, he came out of his coma. The quality of life he would have would be such that it would be almost impossible for him to look after himself and he would be in a vegetive state. This is not fair on him, or your family and it is strongly advised that we remove support to allow him to pass in comfort.” The doctor placed her hands on Simones and looked her in the eye. “We would prefer this is a decision we agree upon, but I want to stress that we have to consider the quality of life and probability of survival of our patient. We believe that this is the best course of action for Seb.”
“How can I tell our daughter?” Simone sobbed. “She needs to say goodbye. Can she do that?” she asked.
“Of course she can. We can make sure they set the room up so that all the nasty machinery is out of sight and we have consolers available to help you both through this difficult time.” The doctor stood. “I am truly sorry, Mrs Martin; we have tried everything to save Seb over the past month but I know this is the right decision to make, however painful it may be.” With that, she turned and left the room.
Two hours later and Simone held her daughter as they both cried. The chance to say goodbye had been a blessing as following the crash there was no guarantee he would survive the minutes ahead of him let alone a whole month. “Ruby, sweetheart, come with Grandma. Grandad has something for you and Mummy needs to talk with the doctors before we leave and you don’t need to be here for that.” Simone looked up and saw Seb’s mother in the doorway. Her red eyes and streaked makeup misplaced on her smiling face.
“Yeah, you go with Grandma. I will be down in a few minutes. I just want to ask a couple of questions before we leave.” Ruby, still sobbing, moved gingerly across the room, reaching out her hand towards her grandma while still holding on to her mother’s arm. “Let go love, it will be OK.” Simone said as tears continued to flow down her own face. As they reached the door, Seb’s mum looked back and gave a little nod before taking Ruby out of the room and away from the moment Simone had been dreading for the past hour.
Seb felt exhausted. He had thrown several bricks at the door, to no avail. Now he sat tired on the mattress, considering his options. It had been several hours, at least, since he had woken, yet he felt like he had not slept in a month. Leaning back against the wall, he took in a deep breath. “Maybe a few minutes to recover and then have a look at that cable. There must be something I can fiddle with to get some attention from somebody!” Suddenly Seb became aware that the dripping noise had stopped. He also noticed that light had begun to appear in the window. Buoyed by this, he tried to get up but found the strength had left his legs. As the window filled with the most welcoming light he had ever seen, the room dimmed. Seb looked up to see the light flicking off, then back on, quickly at first, then each break in the illumination lasted a little longer than the previous until the light went out completely. In that moment, he found that he no longer felt afraid, nor did he have the urge to do anything except let the light come in so it could take him entirely.
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