A Novel By William Louison
Silence filled the empty corridors. The metal walls were cold and dark, and shadow was everywhere. The light fixtures in the ceiling were either not working, or just turned off. It was an edifice of placidity, eerily quiet, and creepily dark. The structure felt abandoned. But only for an instant, it seemed.
The entire atmosphere shifted as, from out of the dark serenity and chill, came the faint sound of breathing. Life was abroad somewhere within these mysterious walls. The strings that suspended the place in this deep void seemed to have been cut by the simple sound of human breathing.
Beyond the dark corridors there was a room where life was stirring.
He awoke to the sound of his own pounding heart, thumping tiredly inside his chest. It sounded so loud in the silence, like a giant drum beaten on in the dead of night. Instantly a rush of cold attacked his body and he shivered; the first sign of movement. A faint light was flickering in the far corner of the room he was in.
The man shook his head slowly and sat up. He looked around and saw three bodies lying about the floor. One by one, he saw the breath return to the sleeping bodies until they opened their eyes. Like him they all shuddered and slowly sat up. Another man groaned, while a woman shook her head, attempting to clear her vision. The third man looked around with a puzzled expression on his face, slowly being overtaken by fear. The man’s frail voice broke the near perfect silence. “I don’t remember…” he mumbled, his voice trailing off to be replaced by a groan.
The first man looked around again, his eyes adjusting better to the weak light. He saw confusion on the others’ faces. The woman brushed hair out of her eyes. “Where am….who are you?” The woman’s words seemed to echo the first man’s thoughts. He suddenly realized that he had no idea who these people were and why he was in this room with them. His memory, it appeared, had been blocked out. He tried to recall how he’d come to be in this room, but nothing answered his questions.
A shudder of fear jolted through him at that moment. Not only did he not know who these people were or why they were here, he did not know who he was. “I don’t-,” he started to say, but the second man cut him off.
“I don’t know any of you,” the second man said. “I don’t know any of you.”
The third man moved closer to the centre of the room. “I don’t even know who I am.”
“Neither do I,” the first man replied. “I don’t have a memory; nothing is there. I do not think I have a name.”
The woman sighed in frustration. “Good, because I thought I was going crazy.”
“Maybe it’s just some drug of some sort,” the second man suggested quickly, his thoughts and words becoming defensive and aggressive. “Maybe whatever caused us to get here caused the memory loss.”
The third man just looked more confused. “How can we know how we got here? We don’t know anything about drugs.”
“I am overwhelmed with questions,” the first man said. “I do not remember. Does anyone know where we are?”
The woman started to survey the room. “I don’t know anything right now.”
“Maybe we’re prisoners,” the second man said. “Or maybe we’re somebody’s science project.”
The third man grumbled, obviously annoyed. “I think we should not draw conclusions so quickly. We should be patient and wait until our memories return to us. Whatever happened, it affects all of us. The truth is somewhere within our minds. We just need to wait for us to remember it.”
“I don’t like not knowing who I am,” the first man said. “Or that I am surrounded by strangers.”
The woman started to walk around, getting a better look at just where they were. “I think we’re all in the same situation.”
“I think we should focus on finding someone else who can help us,” the third man said, also walking around now.
“How do I know that I can trust you?” the second man asked suspiciously. “Any of you? You could all be lying.”
The first man sighed. “As she pointed out, we’re in the same situation. We could choose not to trust each other but, having no memory, I think I have enough problems to deal with right now. Don’t you think so too?”
Before the second man could reply, the woman spoke. “Look,” she exclaimed enthusiastically as a large beam of light flooded the room. “Flashlights!”
“This will help with the light,” the third man said, hurrying over to her. The light from just one flashlight revealed a lot about the room they were in. It was not very big, with shelves and cupboards lining all but one of the walls. The empty wall housed what appeared to be ovens and stoves of sorts, along with a door. The shelves were filled with jars, cans and various food items. One cupboard turned out to be a fridge and a second was a freezer. The rest were filled with all sorts of cooking and eating utensils. The last cupboard the woman opened was a second door, leading off into a dark hallway.
“We’re in a kitchen,” the first man said.
“So it would seem,” the third man replied, turning on a second flashlight. The stainless steel equipment, flooring and walls helped to reflect the light. The other two men each accepted a flashlight. Towards the centre of the room were two sinks, both empty.
“Look,” the second man said holding his arms out. “We are all wearing similar, if not the same, clothes.” He was right. All four of them wore grey, almost military style uniforms, formal in appearance. Dress-like pants, not tight yet not loose, with a matching, long sleeved shirt and a folded down collar.
“Something is missing from mine,” the third man said, looking and feeling at a small spot on the left side of his chest where threads were ripped and a small corner of something remained. “A patch, it looks like.” He said. The corner that was still attached had two letters on it: capital ‘A’ and a little ‘d’.
The others looked at their uniforms and noticed similar tears in the threads of their shirts in a similar place. “I think we all had patches,” the woman said.
“Patches of identification,” the first man said, starting to put two and two together. “‘A’ and ‘d’ could be the beginning of your name.”
“Let’s call you Ad, for now,” the second man said. “And we should come up with ways of identifying ourselves as well. It would help in our trying to figure out all of this.”
Ad half smiled. “Let’s hope it gets us somewhere.” He was an older man, probably in his late forties. His skin was very pale, and his eyes were green. His hair was salt and pepper coloured, all though grey was more dominate.
The woman laughed to herself, a smile brightening up her face. “What is it?” the first man asked.
“I was thinking we could call me ‘Flash’ because I found the flashlights,” she explained. “Makes me sound like a tramp though, and I had to laugh at that.”
The second man didn’t seem to find it all that funny. “I think we need to try to be more serious. Not having my memory is starting to get to me.”
“Light,” the first man said, completely ignoring the second’s comment.
“What?” the woman asked.
The first man smiled. “Let’s just call you ‘Light’, for now.”
“Reasonable enough,” the woman said, the smile staying on her face. “I kind of like it anyway.” Light was a shorter woman, with long, dark brown hair and a button nose. She had a petite mouth and flashy eyes, dark and mysterious.
“What can we call you two?” Ad asked, now shining his flashlight on the first man. The light from the flashlight reflected off of something over the man’s eye. For the first time, the others saw that he was wearing glasses.
The first man reached up to touch his glasses. “Funny,” he said, “I never felt them on my face before.”
“How about ‘Lens’?” the woman asked, looking at him.
“Fine by me,” the first man said, his fingers still resting on the dark arms of his glasses. Lens was a younger man with sharp features and black hair. He also had brown eyes, and a bit of a five o’clock shadow on his face.
The three of them turned to last person not given a name. The second man tried to look happy, but his nervousness and fear was getting the best of him. His hands were quivering slightly and his knees were downright shaking. “We shouldn’t waste any more time on names and such. I really think we should try and figure out our situation.”
“That’s what we are doing,” Ad explained, using a voice filled with authority. “We’re just trying to do it as organized as we can.”
“Can we call you ‘Shake’?” Light asked delicately, not wanting to offend the man.
Just then, the tension seemed to be relieved and he started laughing. “You’re right,” he said, “organization is good. I will try to be calmer.” He turned to Light and smiled. “‘Shake’ it is, I guess.”
“Alright,” said Light, glad to get all of that sorted out.
Shake was a tall man, with a well built body to compliment his handsome face. He had blonde hair and blue eyes, which were distraught with nerves.
“Now that that is done,” Lens started saying, “what should we do now?”
Light pointed to the door she had mistaken for a cupboard before. “It appears as if we are not being held here against our will, so perhaps we should explore this complex and see if there are any others. Maybe they can help us.”
“But there are two doors,” Ad noted. “Which one do we take?”
Light sighed, wishing her head was not so clouded and distracted. “I wish I knew who I was…” she said quietly to herself.
“Do we split up?” asked Lens, looking back and forth between the two doors.
“I think it would be best if we stayed together,” Ad answered, “at least, for now.”
Shake nodded to show his agreement. “I think that is the best idea as well.”
Light also nodded. “All right, which way should we go?” She searched her head for some clue…anything to help them know where to go. She tried to find some lingering memory, but none came to her. This was getting scarier all the time.
Lens shined his flashlight at the door Light had already opened once. He pursed his lips before speaking. “We know that door just leads to a dark hallway. Maybe we should try the other one.”
“Alright,” Light said, making her way to the door opposite the one she’d already opened. Her hand found the handle and she pulled, finding only more darkness in the room beyond.
“Great,” Shake said, sighing. “Looks as if the power in this place is out.”
Ad motioned to the flickering light in the corner. “This one must be an emergency light, then.” His old face was studiously examining their surroundings.
Shake shuddered as he walked over to the door. “Are we still going through this one?”
“Might as well,” Light said, shrugging her shoulders. She looked a little uneasy, but felt a little comfort in knowing that the others must feel the same.
“Where are all the windows?” Shake grumbled, clutching tightly onto his flashlight and getting ready to go. No one noticed him grab a particularly vicious looking knife – hanging from a shelf – and slide it under his belt. His grey shirt covered it up completely.
“We must be underground, or something,” Lens said, suggesting what seemed like the most logical answer. “If we can find some stairs, maybe we can get out into daylight and some fresh air.” It was odd, to him at least, that there were no windows. He wondered if there was even a ventilation system. “It smells kind of stale in here.”
Ad was grabbing some extra flashlights and sliding them into several pouches that hung from his belt. They had clearly once been occupied with something else. He just wished he knew what, though. Perhaps those things could have been useful, whatever they were. “I think that we can rule out us being prisoners.”
“Why?” Light asked him as they were slowly walking to the door. Until power was back on and the lights were working, they were going to be moving quite slow.
One by one, the four of them slipped out of the kitchen. When the door pulled itself closed, the flickering light faded and all that remained were their four flashlights. Everything seemed to get much darker. The light the flashlights gave off was stretched out across a very large room.
“This looks like a dining room,” Light said, looking around. It was a large, square room, filled with evenly spaced tables of different sizes. Matching chairs were surrounding the tables and various pictures were hanging from the walls.
“Looks like it could be for whoever works in here,” Ad suggested.
The flooring had changed from the cold tiles of the kitchen, to a dark gray rug, soft and almost bouncy to walk on. The chairs looked fairly comfortable. Lens was leaning over a table, which looked like someone had left right in the middle of something. A half filled glass of what looked like water but smelled like alcohol was sitting in the center of the table. Beside the cup was a small stack of papers and a blue pen. The top paper had been marked up with various symbols and little doodles, and a few words.
“Here,” Lens called to the others, picking up the written on piece of paper. “What could this mean?” He held it up to show the others, and then read out the words he saw. “Everything is functioning normally…unsure…graphical analysis…inconclusive… intruder…” and that was everything the paper said.
“Looks like brainstorming or something,” Shake said, leaning in to see the paper clearer. “I don’t know what the drawings are for though.”
Lens shrugged. “It could be useful,” he said, folding it up and sliding it in a pocket. “We’ll keep it just in case.”
Ad sat down at the table. “You three should finish checking out this room.” He picked up the blue pen and grabbed a sheet of paper. “I’m going to start sketching out a map of this complex so we don’t get lost.”
“That’s a great idea,” Light said, smiling. “Now, let’s see if we can’t find anything useful in here.” She liked having something to do; something to look for and explore. It kept her mind off all the questions that attacked her conscience. However, every moment they spent searching was only a constant reminder to every moment they had been awake. Awake, unsure and without any memories, knowledge or recollection of who they are.
The room seemed plain enough. Except for the half filled cup with the stack of papers, it appeared pretty much unused. The pictures were elaborate and detailed. One was a huge painting half the size of the wall, depicting a bright red nebula surrounded by different coloured stars and cosmic dust. Another one she saw was a picture of a green field and large oak trees, during the season of autumn. A third was a vast body of water, with a dolphin jumping out and soaring through the air, its nose pointed down towards the wavy surface.
There was nothing unusual about the room, nor was there anything which gave clues as to what had happened to them and what was going on. Light admitted she was getting frustrated, but what honestly could she expect. As far as she knew, she could have amnesia and wake up like this every day. Maybe they’re locked up in a psych ward. Maybe they’re doctor’s assistants in a hospital. Maybe they’re chefs. Maybe they’re working in a large company and reside within this complex. It was frightening not knowing any of this, yet there was a certain thrill she got from wondering. She tried to let her imagination take the best of her, so she didn’t have to worry so much.
Lens and Shake also found the room to be plain. Just a regular, ordinary mess hall. Nothing stood out, and nothing provided any information. It was plain and simple, and exactly the opposite of what they were looking for. When their survey of the room was done, they gathered back at the table Ad was sitting at. He had drawn a fairly detailed map of the two rooms they’d already visited, trying to be as proportional in size as he could. He left room on the paper all around his drawing, so there would be lots to continue the map with.
Lens pointed out the double door he’d found on one of the walls. It was made almost entirely of glass, but only revealed another room or hallway, dark like the others. “Do we keep going this way, or try that other door in the kitchen?” he asked.
Ad looked down at his map. “We’re here. Let’s not back-track. We might as well go forward.”
“I hate all these shadows,” Shake said, his eyes and flashlight constantly poring through the darkness.
“Maybe we should set it as one of our goals to get the power back up,” Lens said, hoping to calm Shake just a little.
“Well,” Light said, shining her light at the glass double doors, “when we find someone, they should know what to do.”
“Provided there is anyone to find,” Ad injected, quite pessimistically. It couldn’t have been more than an hour they’d all been awake, but already, the situation was making them more panicked. The fact that they still had no memories was hauntingly frightful, and he harsh reality of their situation was becoming very evident.
Light sighed. “We should stay positive. We got in here, obviously, somehow…” her voice started to lose confidence, but she continued nonetheless, “so there must be a way out.”
Lens looked at the map Ad had drawn, a glimmer of hope growing inside of him. At least they were getting somewhere. Despite everything, progress was being made. Maybe they all just faced some terrible shock and their memories are repressed. Lens didn’t have all the answers; well he didn’t have any. But that only possessed him to want to find the answers. Perhaps if he poured everything into this, all the concentration he was wasting on internal conversations, some answers would come. If he tried, and worked hard, he might get some sort of reward. However, on top of all these thoughts, somewhere, in the back of his mind, he was hoping it was all just a dream; a horrifying, chilling nightmare. He wondered if the other three felt the same or not.
They all moved towards the door, staying close together. The closer they were, the brighter all the light seemed to be. It gave them some comfort. However, as the light got brighter and closer together, the shadows that were far away, or behind them, became darker and larger.
Shake’s breathing got shorter, but heavier, and he was becoming far more nervous then when they started. Light opened the glass door and they were met by a hallway running adjacent to the room. They had two options: left or right? After a quick debate, they decided on going right. Light and Lens led the way, with Ad and Shake following directly behind them.
It was a wide hallway, with the same steel walls as the other rooms. There was no rug like in the dining area, so their boots all rapped against the metal as they walked. They cleared the darkness in front of them with their flashlights, but it followed close behind where the light was not reaching. Unlike in the kitchen, they had not yet come across any emergency lights, or any lights of any kind. There were also no signs of technology or equipment of any sort, so they were still unawares as to the functions of this building. Was it a government operation? A factory? A business office? Was it for personal uses? Nothing hinted at any answers yet. If anything, the more they found, the more they became confused and the more questions they tried to ask themselves.
Not far done the hallway did they come across two doors; one on either side of the hallway. They stopped to investigate. Ad leaned his map against the wall and drew in the hallway they’d just walked down. He tapped the door on the right side of the hall. “If there’s a room here, I think it’s fair to guess that its back wall is shared by the kitchen.”
“Let’s find out,” Light said eagerly. She pushed open the door – which, as she discovered with all the other doors, could swing both ways – and led the way inside. She was met by tall shelves and racks of clothes.
Ad picked up a pair of gray pants. “They match what we are wearing,” he said, examining the clothes. There were several pairs of boots as well. Along one wall, Lens discovered, was a full shelf of little packets with two words written across it: ‘Emergency Ration’.
“Could this be military or something?” Lens asked, holding up the little packet.
Before anyone could answer, Shake froze and said, very quietly, “Uh, guys, look here.” The other three turned and watched Shake bring his flashlight’s beam to the ground. It ran down the walls and across the floor a little bit before illuminating a body. A woman was curled up on the floor. She was wearing the same gray clothes as the others. Her skin was pale, but her chest was moving ever so gently with her soundless breathing.
“Is she asleep?” Light asked, crouching down to take a closer look at the woman’s body. “She breathes.”
“She could be unconscious,” Ad put in, keeping a bit of a distance.
Lens started to shake the woman’s shoulder. “Either way it doesn’t matter,” he said as the woman started to stir. “She could help us. She might know what’s going on.”
The woman had blonde hair, and it fell down to her shoulders as she slowly sat up. She had a little cut under one eye, but the other half of her face was badly bruised and hosted a gnarled and deep gash along her jaw line. It was too dark for them to clearly see her eyes, or much of the detail in her face. Too much shadow fell across it.
The woman, leaning back and using her arms to hold herself up, stretched out her legs across the floor and yawned. She closed her eyes tightly, rubbed one of them and then opened them up again. Her face quickly twisted with confusion, as she was staring at three unfamiliar faces peering down at her. “Who are you?” she asked, her voice raspy and dry, and she sounded still half asleep. When she realized that she was no longer dreaming, the woman jumped a little. “What’s going on?”
“We were hoping you could tell us,” Lens said in all honesty.
The woman only became more confused. “Why have you brought me here?” She was hurriedly looking around and her breathing became quicker; she was panicking.
“We haven’t brought you anywhere,” Light tried to explain, as calmly as possible. “We just found you here, passed out on the floor.”
“Your name,” Ad interrupted quickly. “What is your name?”
The woman turned to look up at him, but the light from his flashlight was directly in her eyes so she turned her head back. “My what?” she asked, almost instinctively. “My…name…? I don’t seem to remember my name…” Her face grew more troubled and she sounded very concerned. “I can’t remember anything…”
Lens sighed. “Not you too,” he started saying, sounding disappointed.
“What happened?” the woman asked. She felt the cuts on her face. “Perhaps I just hit my head too hard. I don’t remember anything.”
Light was slowly shaking her head before the woman even finished speaking. “I’m afraid not. The same thing happened to us.” She paused for a moment, to see if she was getting through to the woman, who looked very preoccupied with worry. “We just woke up…in this place, or building, with no idea how we got here. We had no memories, no knowledge of who we were, and that has not come to us since.”
The woman stood up, her body feeling like it hadn’t moved in days. Considering all possibilities, it may very well not have. “I think I believe you,” she said. “I don’t have much choice, but still. If it happened to me, why not to you as well? It is possible.” She took a deep breath. “We wear the same uniform. Work? Military? Prisoners?”
Lens shook his head. “We don’t know yet.”
“Forgive me,” Light said as she reached out for the spot on the woman’s uniform, just above her left breast, where it looked like a patch had once been, but ripped off like theirs’ were. “Just wanted to see if you still had yours.”
The woman looked down and felt at a spot on her uniform just above her chest. “Am I missing something? Is that what the torn threads are for?”
“We think so,” Ad told her, looking over the contents of one of the shelves. It all just looked to be like emergency supplies and other survival needs. Breath masks, fire extinguishers, more rations, blankets, quilted jackets and much more. “We believe we all were wearing patches at one point.” He pointed to the torn corner that still remained on his chest. “We think they might’ve said what are names are.”
“Who would rip them off, though?” the woman sighed in frustration.
“As far as we know,” Shake replied, fidgeting with his flashlight to keep himself occupied, “we could have done it ourselves.”
The woman still looked confused. “So what are you going to do now?”
“We’re searching this place,” Light told her. “We’re hoping to find information, or even better, someone, who can help us. Fill us in.”
“Sounds reasonable enough,” the woman said, nodding. “I don’t suppose you’d let me come with you?”
Lens shook his head. “Of course,” he said, trying to smile. It looked forced, as he was, like the others, very stressed out. “You’re in just the same trouble as we are. Working together seems like the best thing to do.”
“I don’t suppose you know your names?” the woman asked.
They all shook their heads. “We came up with ones to use for now, thought,” Shake explained.
“I’m Ad,” Ad said, before returning to looking over the room.
“I’m Lens,” Lens said, thinking of what they could call this woman.
Light smiled. “They decided to call me Light.”
“Shake,” Shake said with a nod.
The woman smiled. “I bet there are reasons for those?” Her pursed lips unfurled into a smile. “What shall I be called, until we find out differently?”
Light pondered it for a moment, and then started throwing out suggestions. “Cut? Scar…no, Blonde, um…how about…” her voice trailed off as she tried to think of something.
“Do you have anything on you?” Ad asked firmly.
The woman checked her pockets and her belt, but they were empty, like everyone else’s had been. “Nothing.”
“Hey,” Lens suddenly shouted, more loudly than he had intended. He quieted his voice for when he spoke again. “You’re the fifth person to our little…group thing. How about ‘Five’?”
“I like it,” Light said instantly. “How about you?” she asked the woman.
“Five it is,” she said, nodding. The room fell silent for a moment. Five broke it. “This is really quite scary, isn’t it? Not knowing anything. I wonder what will happen to us.”
Ad, who was leaning against a bare wall and adding onto his map, was the one who replied. “We have to just do the best we can and try to figure things out. There must have been some accident in this place; I’m sure of it.”
“I think Ad’s right,” Shake replied. “How far away can help really be?” No one had an answer.
When Ad finished sketching out more of his map, he reached into a pouch of his belt and handed Five a flashlight. “You might want this,” he said.
Five took it and clicked it on. It brightened up the room even more. “Thanks,” she said.
“Look,” Shake said pointing to one of the walls, adjacent to the one with the door they came in. “There’s another door.”
The other four turned to look. “Shall we try this one?”
Ad nodded. “We might as well.” He glanced down at his map. “I wonder if that hallway wraps around this room and that’s where this door leads.”
“Let’s find out,” Lens said, the first to move closer to the door. He pushed it open, hoping to find some sort of light. He was once again let down as he stared into shadow. It looked like a hallway, similar to one they had just been in.
Ad walked up behind Lens, folding up his. “Look, it’s a hallway,” he said, stepping out into the dark corridor. He shined his light down the hall. “Up there, a little ways away, this hall meets another. I’ll be right back.” Before anyone could argue, Ad was walking down the hallway, towards the intersection. Rather than following the path straight, he took its turn and disappeared around the corner.
Lens stepped out into the hallway, unsure if he should follow. “What is he up to?” He asked himself quietly. Was Lens just getting suspicious? He certainly didn’t want to be. Maybe Ad is just curious. His train of thought was interrupted by the other door of the room opening.
“It does all connect to that first hall we were in,” Ad said as he walked into the room. “I thought it might.”
Five picked up a pack of emergency rations. “I wonder what these taste like; I’m incredibly hungry.” She was about to open one when Light stopped her.
“The four of us woke up in a kitchen,” she explained. “Why don’t we all go back there and grab something to eat. Maybe it will help clear our minds or something.” She looked around to see what the others thought.
Shake shrugged. “I wouldn’t mind eating something. Who knows when we last ate.”
Lens nodded. “Good point.”
“I think we should keep moving,” Ad said sternly. “We shouldn’t waste time.”
“Then you go on ahead and we’ll go eat,” Shake snapped back. “I don’t know about you, but I think I need my energy.”
Ad glared back at him. “All right, I will,” he shot back. “I’m the one with the map anyway.”
“Hold it,” Light said, stepping in between the two of them. “It’s in all of our best interests to stick together.”
“You don’t know my best interests,” Ad accused.
“Neither do you,” Light said, trying to keep her voice calm. “None of us know anything. We should work together. We need to work together.”
Ad grumbled, seeing her point. “All right then. Let’s make this quick.”
On their trip back to the kitchen, they explained to Five what had happened to them and what they were trying to do about it. She expressed enthusiasm in helping them, and proved to be rather optimistic and encouraging. Once back in the kitchen, they started to look for things to eat, while also trying to figure out how everything worked.
“I hope these all have independent power sources, otherwise we’re eating cold food,” Light said, standing in front of the stove. She turned quickly to sound of running water.
“The water works,” Five said by the sink. She filled up five glasses and then a large pitcher as well. She placed them on a tray. “And here’s some for all of us.”
Shake was grabbing down a can of something. He started to read the label when the room started to vibrate. “What’s that?” he asked, panic starting to fill his voice. “Could it be an earthquake?”
“I don’t know,” Lens replied quickly, backing away from the cupboards. The vibrating became more intense and things started to fall off the shelves. Five screamed as the tray with the pitcher and glasses fell off the counter. It exploded against the floor, sending water and glass flying everywhere.
Soon it became harder to walk and some of the appliances were moving away from the walls. “Let’s get out of here,” Light said, running towards the nearest door. It was the second door in the kitchen – not the one they had gone through which led to the mess hall. The entire structure rocked and she was jerked forward, falling into the hallway. Her head hit the hard, metal ground and everything went black. Again.
The shaking caused the man to awake with a start. He cried out as the world around him was tumbling, almost as if he was still dreaming. As quick as they arrived, the quakes leveled off before ceasing entirely. The man groaned as he looked around, but was met only by darkness. He tried to remember where he was, and, for a moment, he thought a picture came to his mind. Was it his room? His bed? But the picture was already just a distant memory, and what it actually looked like was gone.
He took a deep breath and then put his hand on the ground. He was on the ground. It was cold and metal. He shook his head and stretched out his legs and arms. He must have just fallen. He started to push himself up until he was standing completely, in the darkness. He wondered where the lights were and why they were not on.
As the final echoes of drowsiness left his body and his mind was clear, instant panic struck him. His breathing quickened and he didn’t want to believe it. “Who am I?” he asked to himself out loud. He had no memories, no knowledge of a name or even a life. He could not remember anything past his waking up on the cold floor. “I need to find out where I am,” he told himself, looking blindly through the room. It was so dark. He really had no idea what was going on.
He tried to be calm and look for a rational explanation to all of this, but he found none. His mind was going super speed and questions were throwing themselves at him. Fear filled his body as he felt angry and stressed at the same time. “What’s happening?” he was whispering to himself, perhaps just to keep his sanity. He had awoken to chaos and didn’t think there could be worse of a feeling. “Take a deep breath,” he told himself as he started to shake. “Maybe you’re still dreaming. Maybe you’re still…”
“Is there someone else here?” a frail voice called out from the darkness, interrupting the man’s thoughts.
The man felt instant spite. “What have you done to me?” he growled, peering through the darkness to look for the origin of the voice.
“I have done nothing,” the voice replied, whose gender could now be recognized as female. “I just woke up here. I don’t remember anything?”
The man started moving frantically about the room. “Where are you?” he shouted. “What’s your name?”
“I don’t remember,” the woman’s voice replied, sounding louder and closer. “Wait, stop!” she shouted. “I think I can see you!”
That’s when he saw her. He moved towards her shadowed form, looking helpless on the floor. “Where are we?” he demanded, crouching down to look at her. Despite their proximity, the complete darkness of the place made it nearly impossible to make out anything.
The woman shook her head and wished to herself that this man would not act so hostile. “I already told you – I don’t remember anything.”
The man sighed in annoyance and frustration. “Great,” he hissed sarcastically. “Then we’re in the same boat. I, too, have no remembrance of anything prior to my waking here, in this dark place.”
“I wonder where we are, and why we’re here,” she said. She turned her head to look around, but saw nothing. All she saw was shadows against darker shadows. “I think we should concentrate on finding a light source. Then maybe we can talk a little easier.”
“I agree,” the man said. He stood up and held his hand out. “Here, I think my hand is above you. Take hold of it.” For a few clumsy seconds, the woman’s hand was waving through the air, until she at last latched onto the man’s hand and he pulled her up.
On the way up, her foot hit something that felt like the leg of a table, or something of that sort, and she tripped forward, right into the man. The man was quick to catch his balance, and the woman as well. “Thank you,” she said, standing up and away from him. She refused to let go of his hand, however.
The man smiled, even though he knew the woman probably couldn’t see it. “I don’t suppose you remember your name?”
“No,” the woman said, worry in her voice. “I don’t remember anything. I feel so…I feel so strange.”
The man gripped her hand tighter. “I know what you mean. I don’t remember either.” He felt a shiver run up his spine. It was quite cold, wherever they were. “As long as I can trust you, and try to stay calm, perhaps we can look for light and some answers.”
“Yes,” the woman agreed. “That would be the best. Except, how do we know we don’t just wake up like this every day? Without memories, I mean.”
“We don’t,” the man said, “and that makes me uncomfortable enough. Even if we do wake up like this every day, I’d say it is day time, so I want some light.”
“Good point,” the woman said. “Then I wouldn’t be tripping over things.” The two of them felt their way around what their hands told them was a table – which would concur with what the woman felt when she tripped. They slowly edged their way across the metal flooring until running into a wall, which brought some comfort and stability. They walked along the wall, trying to find a light switch or something, and also, to get a feel for the size of the room. “You know what I find strange?” the woman said through the darkness.
The man could neither see her face nor her lips moving, but he felt her hand and heard her words. “What is that?” he asked, glad she was talking. It took his mind off not having any memories.
“I can remember names of things,” the woman started, “like table and wall, and what particular things look like. I might not have the word, but when I see it I just know what it’s called.” She sounded very concerned. “But when I try to think about my name, or uncover some memories, I find nothing. I can remember simple, mindless things, but nothing personal. It’s so scary.”
The man nodded. “I know exactly how you feel.” The woman wanted to reply, but she wasn’t sure what to say so she remained silent. It was the man who broke the silence with a question. “So, what should we call each other?”
“That is a good question,” the woman said. “I never thought of that. I guess we might need some means of identification, until we know our real names.”
“Yes,” the man said, “but what though?”
They were feeling their way down the wall when they came across a door. “Look,” the woman said, ironically enough. “Is that a door?”
The man slid his free hand down the door and found a handle. “Yes, I think it is.” He turned the handle and the door swung outwards. Both of them held their breath, hoping for light. They were led to false hopes. The door opened, and nothing changed. It was darkness meeting darkness. A cold draft escaped into the room and both of them shuddered together. The man reached out and pulled the door closed.
“I think we should try and find a light in this room,” he explained. “There has to be one.” They continued to scuttle around the room, clenching each other’s hand and practically hugging the wall.
“I’m beginning to lose my optimism,” the woman said, as her hand, no matter where she moved it, was just sliding across the same, cold metal walling. “I don’t like this room, and I’ve decided now that I don’t like the dark.”
The man could relate to her feelings. “It’s cold in here too,” he said. “Maybe the furnace is broken.”
“Maybe there is no furnace,” the woman said with a sigh. Panic was beginning to overtake her again. She tried to clear her mind and focus on finding some sort of light, but she was finding it difficult. She had only been awakened a short time now, and she already felt lost. She yearned to know who she is; even just her own name would be nice. “That’s it,” she said, her own excitement breaking apart her pessimism and worries – at least for the moment. “Can I call you ‘Chill’?”
The man laughed out loud, and he heard it echo back at him. The room’s ceiling must be fairly high. “That sounds just fine,” he said, still not sure how he would feel about being called ‘Chill’. At least he had a name now. “What can I call you then?”
Chill felt the woman’s hand move as she shrugged. “You pick something. I did come up with yours.”
Chill laughed again. “That is true,” he replied. “This is harder than I thought,” he admitted. “How did you come up with one so easily?” Just then, Chill tripped over something, almost like a bench of some sort, and toppled over to the ground, nearly tearing the woman down with him.
“Are you all right?” she said instantly, bending over to help him up. “Here, take my hand.”
Chill groaned from the floor, his head was spinning. He found her hand and, with the help from her, pushed himself up. “I’m so glad I’m with someone,” he said, trying to shake off his dizziness.
“Did you hit your head?” she asked, slowing running her hand around his skull. “I can feel a bump at the back here. Just some swelling and a bruise though.” She hesitated in the middle of speaking. “I don’t know why I know this, but I think there is no damage. You’ll be fine. It’s just a little bruise. Not a concussion.”
Chill reached around to touch the bump. It stung when his fingers touched it. “Just a bruise? All right doctor,” he said, making a joke. He cringed a little from the pain he was still feeling, and then nearly jumped in excitement. “Can I call you ‘Doctor’?”
The woman smiled. “I’m glad I’m with someone too,” she said. “Yes, I think ‘Doctor’ will be quite all right.”
“I wonder what I tripped over,” Chill said as he turned around and inched his way towards the object. It felt at first like a very short table, but he felt padding on top. “I think it is a bench,” he concluded.
Doctor was crouched down beside him, running both her hands all over the bench. “It definitely is,” she agreed. “It seems like a random spot for a bench. It’s not even completely against the wall.”
“It could have been moved when this whole place was shaking,” he said, trying to think of the best possible answer.
Doctor once again took his hand and they cautiously walked around the bench. “When was it shaking?” she asked him. “Was it the whole room?”
“That’s what woke me up,” Chill replied. “I could’ve sworn the whole world was shaking.” It reminded him of the chaos he had awoken to, and he did not like it. He squeezed Doctor’s hand tighter. It comforted him.
They slid down the wall together for a few more minutes until they reached a small square section that did not feel like the rest of the wall. “What’s this?” Chill asked, his hand sliding back and forth over the little panel. That’s what it felt like. It was about a square foot in area, and outlined with a groove that separated it from the rest of the wall.
“I think it comes off,” Doctor replied, feeling around. At last she found a latch, which she pulled on. The metal square slid from the wall and cluttered to the ground.
“Light,” Chill cried in excitement. Underneath the metal square, a little screen lit up. It barely gave off any light, but red text appeared on the screen. He read aloud what he saw: “‘Emergency safety zone. Power has been restricted.”
Doctor turned to look at Chill, her face outlined in red light. “What is that supposed to mean? Do you think it’s a breaker or something?”
Chill shrugged. “I think there’s a button underneath the screen here. It says emergency lights.” He reached down and put is thumb over top of it. “I wonder what it does.” He pressed down and held his breath for a moment, hoping the lights would turn on. What else did ‘emergency lights’ mean?
There was clunk sound from within the walls, and then what sounded like a fan starting and spinning really fast. A few seconds later though, the fan-sound slowed down to a halt. There was another clunk sound and then, suddenly, the entire room lit up, blinding the two of them.
The world around them had stopped shaking, becoming still once again. Five was standing with a hand pressed against her chest, eyes closed tight. When she opened them, she took a deep breath and then looked around. Metal utensils and cooking wares littered the grounds, but everyone else seemed fine.
They had all lost their flashlights, which had rolled across the floor. The room was still somewhat illuminated, just a little harder to see.
Lens was leaning against the wall by the door, Shake was lying down in the middle of the room, and Ad was uncurling himself from in front of a shelving unit. Five looked petrified. “What was that?”
“Who knows…”, Ad said, holding his head, which was pounding.
Shake started groaning from the floor as he clutched at his leg. “I think a heavy pot or something fell on me.”
Lens reached up and straightened the glasses on his face and then stepped away from the wall. “That felt like an earthquake or-” he stopped in the middle of his sentence, looking puzzled. “Where is Light?”
“I think she tried to get out of the kitchen by that door,” Five answered, bending over to grab a flashlight. She shined it at the door near Lens.
Lens nodded. “She must just be in the hallway.” He extended his arm and pushed the door open. Light from the hall slipped into the kitchen. “You all right out there, Light?” he asked. Instantly, he noticed something was wrong.
There was a single flashlight – Light’s – just lying on the metal floor of the hallway. Lens picked it up and shined it both ways down the hall, but saw no signs of the woman. “I don’t see her out here,” he said quickly, sounding worried and concerned.
Five was first to reach the door and stepped into the hallway with Lens. They both quickly checked down more of the hallway, and its intersections, but couldn’t find her. They ran back to the kitchen and, out of breath, told the others what happened.
“She can’t have gone far,” Ad said, his face still showing the painful effects of the quakes.
Shake was standing now, but leaning against the sink counter. He appeared to be favouring his left leg. “What are we going to do?”
Lens looked at him like he was crazy. “The only thing we can do,” he said, his voice rising in volume. “We have to go after her!”
Ad limped towards him. “I agree, but I think I need a moment to rest.”
Shake nodded. “Me too,” he said.
Lens shook his head. “I don’t want her to be alone, out there, in the dark. Must be terrifying for her.”
“What else can we do?” Five asked.
Lens thought for a moment. “Give me your map,” he said. “I’ll go after her, and add onto it in the process.”
“We shouldn’t split up,” Ad argued.
“I don’t want to leave her alone,” Lens replied, grave concern filling his voice.
“You yourself will only end up being alone as well,” Ad explained to him, hoping Lens would see how irrational he was being. Lens nodded and didn’t say anything. The others were quiet too, wondering where Light was at this moment. If she ran in fear, she could be anywhere. Without a flashlight, she’d have no idea of where to go.
Five finally spoke. “What if I go with you?” she said to Lens. “The two of us can go, and you two can stay here and wait for us to return.”
Lens’ face lit up. “I wouldn’t be alone then,” he noted.
“And you’d have a chance of helping Light,” Shake pointed out, not finding any arguments against that one, “without us bogging you down, either.”
“I still think we should all stay together,” Ad said with a long sigh. “However, under the circumstances, I’d have to agree.”
Lens nodded. He turned to Five. “Did you still want something to eat?”
She shook her head. “All that shaking upset my stomach. I don’t think I could handle food right now.”
“Then are you ready to go?” he asked. “We’ll need your map, Ad.”
“Yeah, I’m ready,” Five said, gripping her flashlight.
Ad reached into his belt and pulled out the map. He handed it over to Lens. “Try to find some answers when you’re out there.”
Lens nodded. “Yes, we will do our best.”
“Good luck,” Ad said, sounding tired. One hand was holding his back. “And don’t get lost.”
“We’ll be careful,” Five assured him, starting towards the door.
“Make sure you are,” Shake said by the sink.
Lens and Five nodded in unison, looked at each other for encouragement, and then turned to the door. Ad and Shake watched the two walk out of the room, and the door closed silently behind them.
She felt as if her whole body was being dragged across the cold floor. Unconsciousness still gnawed at her, yet this felt so real. She felt her clothes chafing against her skin as she was pulled down long, dark corridors. Her eyes were not yet open, and her mind not fully cleared, but she thought for sure some unknown force was moving her.
She felt a pulling on one of her legs, yet her body was too numb to be certain. She felt wind through her air, yet she felt drowsy and sleepy. Perhaps it was just a dream. She had never had a dream where she’d questioned whether she was awake or not before, though. There was something very strange about this situation.
Her eyelids felt heavy and she couldn’t open them. Her body felt useless and defected. She did not feel in control, yet she did not feel anything. When she had finally accepted it was a dream, her head bumped into a corner of two walls.
Light cried out in the darkness as her head hit the corner. In that same instant, her left leg was dropped to the floor and someone above her grunted. She forced her eyes opened but saw nothing. Her eyes had not yet adjusted. She tried to sit up and thought she saw a statue move.
As she was pushing herself up onto her legs, she heard the pounding of booted feet against the metal floor, echoing away from here. “Hey!” she cried out, stumbling forward in the darkness. Her legs were still weak and she moved slowly, not to mention uncoordinated. The sound of the footsteps kept getting farther away, but Light did not give in to discouragement.
She pushed herself, straining to keep up with the sound. She felt the cluttering of something ahead – perhaps a metal object dropping against the cold floor? In a few moments, she was nearly tripping over a cylindrical object. She hurriedly reached down and picked it up. A flashlight! She snapped on the light and shined it down the hallway. For just an instant, Light could’ve sworn she saw someone’s leg slipping around a corner up ahead.
The light allowed her to see, and gave her coordination. Her legs were not as numb so she bolted down the hallway. When she reached the corner, she shined her flashlight down the long hall it turned into, but saw nothing. “Come back,” she started shouting, fear bubbling up inside her as if her insides were boiling. She no longer heard any sound, not even the distant echo of footsteps.
Light started to panic. What was going on? Surely it couldn’t have been Lens or one of the others? She was so afraid, and even more confused than ever. She decided pursuit was useless and clutched the flashlight like it meant the difference between life and death. “Come back,” she screamed again, hearing her voice echo down the empty corridor. She felt violated and unsafe – attacked. Was someone trying to harm her? Capture her?
From the darkness behind her and around the corner Light heard the faint sound of footsteps, walking gently and not running. She froze in an instant and tried to listen. They were coming towards her, growing louder with each foot fall. She tried to stay calm, hoping the light would protect her.
She heard the footsteps grow so loud they seemed to pound into her skull, reverberating off the walls. They finally stopped, but were replaced by a heavy breathing. What should have been warm air from the breathing was really cold air blowing against the back of Light’s neck. She felt a shiver run through her, but she dared not move. Fear had convinced her to stay put, restricting her movements.
“What do you want with me?” she managed to get out, building up her courage. She took a deep breath and then spun around, but found nothing. Whoever was behind her had left, quietly and quickly, going unnoticed.
The panic and fear was now tearing at Light, and her stomach felt uneasy. She bent over to throw up, but a bony hand landed on her shoulder. She cried out, screaming so loud it hurt her own ears. In immediate response to the screaming, the hand retreated and loud footsteps sounded, trailing off away from Light.
She clutched at her head, dropping her flashlight to the floor. She fell down to the metal ground, her back against the wall. She buried her eyes into her knees and started crying. She didn’t know what to think anymore. Where was she? What was happening? Who was trying to attack her? Why could she remember nothing? Eventually her thoughts just faded away, drowned out by her own crying. She felt as if she was losing her mind, until she realized that already happened the moment she had awoken in this disturbing place. After all, without memories, what is there left of the mind?
She felt so alone and perplexed, with so many questions she wanted answers to. She wasn’t sure how long she had sat there crying, but it felt like hours. From far away, Light heard voices, but pushed it from her head. She didn’t want to hear anything or see anyone. Right now, she felt as if she was only safe if she was alone.
The voices grew louder, but Light denied that she heard them. She felt a flashlight beam shining upon her, but didn’t dare look up. Maybe they wouldn’t see her if she stayed still.
“Light,” a familiar voice called out from the down the corridor. “Light!”
Light recognized the voice and slowly raised her head, carefully peering between shaking fingers. Lens was running towards her. Tears were running down her face as she stood up to meet him. “Are you all right?” Lens asked her.
Light threw her arms around Lens and they stood, holding each other, for several minutes. “There’s someone else here,” Light whispered in Lens’ ear. “I’m so afraid.”
Lens released her and bent over to pick up her flashlight. He gave it to her and turned to Five. “Did you fill out our last route on the map?”
Five nodded. She was quiet because she didn’t know what to say. Light looked disturbed, and Five couldn’t tell if there was actually something wrong, or if it was all just stress from this horrible situation they were all in. Five felt pretty close to breaking down.
“There’s someone else here,” Light said again.
Lens nodded. “All right,” he said. “Let’s just go back to the others.” Five looked over the hand drawn map, and then started leading the way back to the kitchen. Lens turned to Light, who was walking quietly with a pale face. “What happened to you?”
Light cleared her throat and wiped her eyes. “I remember hitting my head, because the quakes caused me to fall,” she started to explain. “The next thing I remembered was when I started waking up. I could’ve sworn I was being dragged across the metal floor.” Fear overtook her expressions. “I hit my head on a corner, coming fully awake because of it. I started yelling, and suddenly I was no longer moving. I felt my foot drop to the ground and heard footsteps running away. I tried to follow, but the person was too fast.”
“That would explain how you got so far away,” Lens said, trying to think of all possibilities. However, with no idea of where they were or anything else, thinking of all the possibilities was hard, if not impossible.
“I don’t like this place,” Light told him.
“None of us do,” Lens replied, and he wasn’t lying. This place did scare him. This whole situation sent shivers up and down his back. “Ad and Shake have minor injuries,” he said. “As soon as they’re able, we’re going to get out of here.”
Light nodded in understanding. “I hope that is soon,” she said. “I think if I stay in this place too long I’m going to go crazy.”
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