We are the Living
Everything was dark and cold. He didn’t know how long it had been like that. He didn’t know where he was or why, the only thing that he was sure of was the cold and harsh reality. The darkness he had been plunged in. And then there was light and warmth and sounds. Everything came rushing back to him at once as he opened his eyes, all the feelings and sensations. Intense brightness, boiling warmth and deafening sound. He didn’t remember how long it had taken him to get used to this new environment but it had been almost as long as the darkness, or at least that was the impression he had had.
He blinked repeatedly trying to get used to the light, clenching his jaw as the deep rumble was making his whole body shake. He felt on the brink of madness as he was oppressed and confined between the loud rumbling inside him and the surrounding silence. An eternity seemed to pass in-between each second. Finally, as it receded, he understood that those booms he was hearing were the beats of his heart. It came to him as a single thought, crossing his mind, I’m alive. He felt so alive it didn’t seem real. But he could feel his heart beating in his chest, his ears still ringing and the pain slowly leaving his dilated pupils. At least I’m alive, he thought again.
He tried to focus on his surroundings and felt something cold and hard pressing against his body. It took him a few seconds to understand that is wasn’t something pressing against him, rather it was him that was lying on a hard surface. He opened his eyes once more and slowly tried to get up. He was still dizzy though and he almost fell down again, only barely managing to sit straight up thanks to the wall behind him. He blinked, trying to focus his sight. He instinctively looked for the sky for a moment before realizing that everything around him was white. A room?
As he paid closer attention to it, he noticed that it was indeed a room. One that would have had its place in a psychiatric hospital; it looked like an isolation room with walls covered in white foam, so that the patient wouldn’t hurt himself by hitting himself on the walls. Each and every wall was covered in it, almost all were identical except for the one in front of him. Fixed on it, at about three meters and a half above the ground -and yet, somehow a meter and a half below the ceiling- was a tv screen which seemed to be turned off. He struggled once more and managed to stand up with a little effort, carefully taking a few steps around the room. There seemed to be no doors, neither visible nor hidden, nothing except white foam-covered walls. As he tried to reach the opposite corner of the room he found himself falling face first on the floor once again, only managing to keep his balance thanks to the wall next to him. He heard a metallic cling as he did so and turned his head towards the origin of the sound. Something had pulled at his left ankle when he had tried to walk to the opposite corner. As he looked he saw a dark line going from his ankle to the wall behind him, linking the two. That is when he realized he was chained.
“What the fuck?”, he muttered as he pulled on the chain.
But no matter his efforts, it didn’t budge. It seemed solid and well fixed into the wall and to his ankle, which he slowly realized he couldn’t feel very well. What the hell is going? He didn’t understand anything. How had he gotten here? What was this room? Where was it? Why was he chained to the wall? But more importantly why couldn’t he remember anything before waking up? He had absolutely no idea how to even begin to answer any of these questions… He looked around him again and as he looked towards the ceiling he noticed the room was lit by a single neon light. He also noticed that there was a wide ventilation gap near the top, on the opposite wall, where the TV was. He sighed he tried pulling on the chain once again, getting no better result, before sighing and sitting down. He didn’t know where he was or why he was there. He couldn’t remember anything before waking up and there seemed to be no one around. He was trying his best to understand what was going on but so far it wasn’t going very well. To make matters worse his mind and his body felt slightly numb, it was as if he was still half asleep. Drugged maybe?, he thought before tugging at the chain again. It didn’t yield any more result however, it was tightly fixed to the wall and to his ankle. Also there didn’t seem to be a key anywhere around, not that he could see at least, so he couldn’t quite count on that. What would I do if there was one anyways? He thought. There’s no door to get out of here… Somehow it felt like he should be panicking right now but he couldn’t even muster the motivation to do even that…
He spent a few long minutes just like that, unmoving while thinking. He tried once more to tear off the chains or, new strategy, to pass his foot through the small ring but it was too tight. He would have to cut off his foot if he ever wanted to get out like this, just like in that horror movie… He had no wish to do that though. He sat back against the wall opposite to the television and sighed deeply, massaging his eyes and temples to make the sharp headache he had since waking up go away. As his mind was slowly getting clearer, this whole situation was starting to get on his nerves. Who was doing that to him? He had not even the faintest idea but it could only be someone, he couldn’t have stumbled in such a situation by pure coincidence. Or have decided to inflict that upon himself either. Not willingly at least. As he mentally reviewed the different possibilities, the screen suddenly turned on and displayed snow and white noise. He looked stood up, surprised by that sudden activity. He must have been too quick to move because he felt his head start to spin and if it was not for sitting down he might have fallen down again, perhaps even fainted. As the temporary dizziness faded away he looked up at the TV and saw that the snow had disappeared and in its place was the smiling face of a clown doll looking directly at him. He was about to ask what the fuck that was all about aloud when he was interrupted. The clown started speaking, its mouth didn’t move accordingly to what it said but it seemed very alive thanks to the strange, deformed voice coming out of the speakers.
‘Hello Zachary. Don’t worry, the dizziness is completely normal, it’s one of the aftereffects of transportation. Anyway, how are you?’ it asked. ‘I hope you do feel ready and in shape because your test is about to begin. You have been chosen Zachary. And this choice is not to be taken lightly,you have been deemed worthy, now you will have to prove yourself. But first, you must break the chains that hold you back. Spread your wings Zachary and take off. This is your first ordeal, but it does not mean it will be easy. Do hurry, or it will be too late. If you do not get out of here, your fate will be sealed…’ Then, as quickly as it had appeared, the doll face disappeared, leaving the screen black once again and the room silent before he had any time to react.
“Wait! What do you mean ‘test’? Who the fuck are you? Where am I? What’s going on?!” He yelled at the television as he finally realized what had just happened.
What the hell is going on?! He thought. What had the doll meant by him having been chosen? Or about that test or saying his fate would be sealed? The young man had no idea what that meant but he knew one thing, it couldn’t be good. Come on Zach, you have to figure out how to get out of here! As the thought crossed his mind he noticed something. He finally remembered something! Zach! My name is Zachary! I didn’t’ even know my name a few seconds ago, before the doll said it, but now I’m sure of it. My name is Zachary! It wasn’t simply because the clown had said it, it also felt natural in his mind. He looked around but there was still no sign of an exit. He had to get out before it was too late! What would happen if he didn’t? Would he… die? He preferred not thinking about it -and mostly not staying around to know- and looked at the chain going from his ankle to the wall. Then for the first time since he had regained consciousness he looked at himself. He was wearing a simple white T-shirt and black shorts. That wasn’t much and not very warm but strangely, despite the coolness of the room he didn’t feel cold at all. He understood why as he thought about it. The hole near the ceiling, it’s an air vent! He concentrated a bit and felt the slight shift in the air around him betraying the movements of hot air coming from the top of the room. That’s why I can breathe normally even if there are no doors or windows.
He felt slightly excited at the prospect of a way out. That means it’s coming from outside!, he thought with a small smile. If I could somehow reach it, I might be able to get out from here… He examined the chain carefully, trying to see if it could be broken, but to his great disappointment, it seemed brand new and not likely to break anytime soon, neither around his ankle, nor anywhere else. He crawled towards the spot where it was harnessed to the wall, not willing to get up yet, and studied it carefully. It was solidly attached to a thick ring built directly in the wall. It seemed to be around four meters long, perhaps a little longer. About the right length to reach the air vent if it had been a rope… Wait, he thought. Hadn’t the doll mentioned something about it? I think it said I had to break free of my chains to spread my wings. It didn’t mean break my chains literally did it? A cold sweat ran down his neck. Because I may not be that weak, I definitely cannot do that. He looked around once more, gazing upon the whole room, but saw nothing except the clear white walls. Zachary sat down next to the metal ring on the wall and sighed again. How long had he been unconscious? And most importantly why? He couldn’t understand anything. Was this some kind of elaborate prank? But then, if it was, who would ever pull this off? Was he dreaming? He pinched his arm to check but the pain and the reality of his situation hit him in the face. He was trapped in this room with no way out except an air vent too high to reach and a TV that was turned off. Great! He thought. This is just great! He sat back against the cool wall and closed his eyes, almost immediately falling in a deep slumber. He dreamt about clowns, deep voids and angels, only waking up a few hours later.
When he opened his eyes again he couldn’t tell how much time had passed, only that the room was still there and had not changed at all. Zachary looked up at the TV screen expectantly but it remained ever black. He stood up and walked towards it, careful not to move too quickly so as not to get dizzy or to trip over the chain again. He almost made it to the other end of the room, barely touching the opposite wall with his arm stretched. He tried to reach the TV screen but with no avail. He extended his legs, gaining a few centimeters and pulled as hard as he could without really injuring himself. This would him to get closer to the wall and to jump towards the screen. He hesitated for a second before deciding to try it out. His hand missed by a few centimeters.He landed back on the ground with ease, having anticipated the pullback from the chain on his ankle, before getting in position again once he made sure his head was okay. But this time, as he pulled on the chain, he heard a strange sound and felt it vibrate. He looked around, trying to understand where the sound could have come from but saw nothing. Once more he tried to jump but with no more luck than the first two times. He tried again and again, until he was almost breathless and his legs were hurting. His head was starting to spin and his legs were weak, he knew he had to rest a bit before anything else; he went back to his sitting spot and breathed deeply, trying to calm down; he felt his heartbeat slowly calming down. As he sat against the wall once more, determined to try again later, he felt something strange pushing on his back. He turned around and noticed the wall was not completely even around the metal ring that held the chain. As he looked closer he noticed a piece of the wall shaped in the form of a brick had started to stick out of the wall by a few millimeters, creating a square bulge.
Could I pull it out? He thought, finally understanding where the strange sound was coming from and realizing what this could mean. At least, if he managed to dislodge the piece of concrete he would be able to move around more freely but, more importantly, maybe even get out of there. He stood up slowly, still feeling a bit dizzy and started to pull on the chain, with all his strength. At first it didn’t seem to give any sign of movement but as he kept pulling he could feel the brick slip out a bit. This encouraged him to continue and he kept pulling as hard as he could, gradually feeling the pain in his hands. His arms started burning, they shook heavily under the effort but he kept pulling, the brick was now out by three centimeters. After what had seemed like ages he stopped to recover and catch his break. He sat down and looked at the brick, now it was out by about five centimeters. How much more? How long can it be?, he wondered as he breathed heavily, trying not to get discouraged. What if the brick was actually meters long and not just centimeters? He shook his head to get that depressing thought out of it. He counted his heart beats and after what must have been at least five hundred he stood up again, feeling a bit more rested.
He resumed the arduous task and pulled on the chain, this time he managed to take it out by another eight centimeters before collapsing again on the ground, with not enough strength in his arms to sit up straight. He had no idea how long the brick was or how thick the wall was but he hoped he had only a few centimeters left because he wouldn’t be able to pull it out more than that. He stayed like this, lying on the floor, arms and legs spread out, for a few long minutes. Then, having once more calmed and feeling the burning heat in his arms lessening a bit, up he stood up again and grabbed the chain. As the time passed he could see the rock sliding out from the wall, little by little, too slowly for his taste and he could feel the tension building inside him. He felt that if he went on like this for too long something in him would snap and he would never be able to get out of there. Out of frustration, believing it would never end, he gave three big pulls, letting out all the strength and the energy he had left. On the final one he fell backwards on the floor, something big and heavy following suite, missing his feet by barely a few centimeters. When he managed to lift his head he saw a gap in the wall where the brick should have been, instead it was lying at his feet on the floor. After a few seconds during which he stared blankly at it, he let out a lough. He felt he was going to choke almost choke himself as he was completely out of breath, but he didn’t care, he was happy to have finally managed to take out the stone that held his chain to the wall. He sighed and let his head fall back to the ground, then, slowly, everything went dark.
This is a story I started writing a few years back and that I feel inspired by recently.
Here is the first chapter, enjoy!