Loosely inspired by the literary genius of William Faulkner, this fic is first and foremost a glimpse into the human mind. It's not written in a conventional, organized manner because our thoughts themselves are not organized; they're jumbled and disoriented, and sometimes even nonsensical.
As a writer, I love to experiment. I hate sticking to one style and following rigid rules. Every project I do is an adventure. I see myself as an explorer.
Explore with me. ;)
I wake up.
Fuck, where am I? Why's it so fucking dark?
My head hurts. I feel weak and dazed, slouched over, my temple resting against a wall.
There's something on my face. What the—?
I touch it. Feels like an oxygen mask. My mouth is so dry. I swallow. Cough. I need water.
My hands, I think they're tied.
I place my wrists up to my cheek and feel rope. Yes, they're tied. But…why?
Where the fuck AM I? How did I get here?
I can't remember anything.
Why is it so fucking dark?
Feel around. Walls on both sides of me and a ceiling right above my head.
Oh my God...I'm in a BOX.
Okay, breathe. Breathe. You'll be okay. Calm down. Don't think about it. Don't think about it. Pretend you're somewhere else...
You're on the street. It's night. It's warm. You're sitting down, leaning against a building.
I yawn. I'm scared, yet I feel tired. How's that possible? How can you be terrified but at the same time want to sleep?
Am I dying?
I wake up again.
Don't know how long it's been but I'm still in the box, my hands still tied, my nose and mouth still covered by an oxygen mask.
I'm more awake. More alert.
My hip hurts from sitting in the slanted position I'm in. I shift. Pain spasms down my leg and I grunt. Then I cough. Jesus, I need a drink. I swallow. Cough again. I taste blood in my mouth.
I'm bleeding internally.
Shit, I need a doctor.
I'm fucking bleeding on the inside.
I wonder how badly.
Why can't I remember anything?
I bang my fist against my forehead.
Goddamnit, remember. Remember! What. The. Fuck. Happened?
I bang the side of my head against the wall. Thoughts parade through my head like boxcars on a train at high speeds in the night.
I'm in some sort of box…
I don't understand...
I'm going to die.
I'm going to DIE!
No. I'm not going to die.
You'll be okay. Just don't panic.
Think of Dad.
He'll probably beat the shit out of you when he finds you, but that's only because you worried him. That's only because he was scared.
And what if he doesn't find me?
What if I stay in here forever?
My heart races. My stomach flips. I start panting. I'm terrified. Tears pool my eyes.
How did I get here?
I say it out loud—"How did I get here?"—just so I can hear my own voice. It sounds scratched. Hoarse. But it manages to calm me. "Breathe," I remind myself. "Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale." I concentrate on just my breathing and thankfully that manages to calm me down.
But then I start thinking about death again, picturing my own rotting corpse inside this box, and the panic comes back.
So I hum some of my favorite childhood tunes. I feel like a baby doing it, but they soothe me.
At least, for a little while.
The tunes make me think of my childhood. Doing things with my parents, hanging out with friends—school, parties, dates, sports. My whole fucking life basically flashes before my eyes and I can't help but be pissed that it's going to end so goddamn early. Seventeen years old and about to die. Fuck that!
What'll happen to my parents?
They'll wonder where I went. I'll be on some missing person's list for God knows how long until the cops finally give up and everyone just accepts that I'm not coming back.
My eyes water again. My stomach tightens.
Don't think like that. Don't think like that, Daniel. Stay positive.
Your dad is GOING to find you. Sure, he's a hard ass, but he loves you. He won't stop until he finds you.
He won't stop.
He won't stop. He won't stop. He won't stop.
He'll find you.
Who am I kidding?
Hot tears. A sob edges up my throat.
Hope leaves me and I feel cold.
My hands tremble, my body tenses.
Then I hear noise. Faint rumbles and thumping from outside the box. I nearly jump out of my skin. Then I strain myself to listen. A minute or so later, there are voices. Human voices, shouting. My heartbeat speeds up. I am struck with a spark of hope.
I try to call out for help, but my words get caught in my throat and I choke. Coughing madly, I try again—"Help! Help! Can anyone hear me?"—but nothing happens.
The shouting dies down and becomes talking, which sounds like mere mumbles from inside the thick walls of the box.
I try to call out a third time. Nothing. No acknowledgement. Overcome with desperation, I begin pounding my fists against the side wall, hoping, praying, that someone will hear—that someone will take notice. Still, nothing.
I start to cry.
Not so much for myself, oddly enough, as for my parents and friends. They'll never know what happened to me—why I disappeared, how I died.
They may even think I ran away from them.
That thought alone makes me cry harder.
They'll never have closure.
They may even blame themselves for my disappearance.
Oh God, please don't let them do that. They're not the best parents in the world but they sure as fuck don't deserve to carry that kind of weight.
I feel like such a loser, dying like this.
But at the same time I'm pissed.
It's so not fucking fair. I'm only seventeen years old. Why should my life have to be stolen from me?
Wait, stolen. Why does that word ring a… oh, yeah…
I was arrested for petty theft. What I stole and why I stole it, I can't even begin to recall, but it doesn't matter (I'll probably remember here in a few minutes anyway). What I do remember, though, is the conversation me and my dad had afterwards…
"What is it with you, huh? You a tough guy cause you steal now?"
"Please save me the after-school special… Why are you such a cop twenty-four-seven?"
"It's called being a father."
"Trust me, you're better at being a cop." Pause. Contemplation. "I just think I should go back to Mom's early."
"What did you say?"
"What, did you not hear me?"
"No, I can't hear you. Say it again."
"I. Think. I. Should. Go. Back. To. Mom's. Early."
"Well then GO!"
He'd yelled it like he didn't care. But people don't react that way unless they do care. Unless they're hurt.
And I know I hurt him.
I did leave, though. It was on my way back that something happened.
Oh, what was it?
Why am I picturing a pig mask and a dark jacket?
Think, Daniel, think!
Shit, I give up.
No, wait… I think I remember something.
A burning man and a woman on her hands and knees, screaming in pain.
I almost laugh despite myself. Has to be something I saw on TV at some point. Of course I'd remember TV programs better than things that have actually happened. That's just my luck.
But one thing perplexes me.
The burning man is inside a furnace, and the woman is crawling on top of syringes.
And I don't remember watching anything like that on TV.
Also, it feels so real.
What do you ACTUALLY remember?
Something about an old house, and a tape player, and a giant red EXIT sign.
And hallways, and bright lights, and a hacksaw.
And screaming, and blood, and fear. A shitload of fear.
Ugh, this makes no sense!
This is ridiculous!
Frustrated, I lean back and breathe. Counting my breaths in threes to comfort myself.
There's something about patterns and monotone that lulls me. I can put myself to sleep simply by counting.
I don't know why, but I feel drained. Not sleepy, but like my head's been emptied. I count my breaths some more, feeling the sensation of warm carbon dioxide permeating the inside of my oxygen mask. I smell my own breath. Smells like blood.
All thoughts seem to vanish from me as I once again try to come to terms with the fact that I'm at the end of my rope. But then, like being smacked upside the head, I remember something…
I'm sitting in a cold room with my eyes closed, next to a woman.
I'm pretending I'm dead. Why, I can't remember.
There's a used hacksaw (that's where that came from!) next to my hip and I take comfort in knowing it's there.
I hear a door open, followed by stumbling feet, and my stomach clenches.
I tell myself to remain calm.
The woman's fingers are touching my throat.
"He's gone," she says.
"Doesn't matter," the man replies. "All I want is the number on the back of his neck. And then yours."
I feel the urge to vomit. I want to scream, and run. But I can't do either. I'm not supposed to. Any sudden movements and I'm dead.
But then…what do I do?
If I stay like this, will he leave us alone?
"You still don't know your own number," she tells him. "How are you gonna get it if I don't tell you?"
Shuffling. More stumbling feet…
And then screams. Bloodcurdling screams. Screams of agony.
The man approaches, bending down over the woman.
He's gonna hurt her. He's gonna kill her.
And I can't let him do that.
So I bolt up. And without thinking, I kick him in the leg.
As he's tumbling backwards, I pick up the hacksaw and slice him in the throat.
My blood runs cold.
No, I couldn't have…
But I did.
There's no way a memory like that is made up.
I killed a guy.
And then, like a chain reaction, other memories come…
We're stumbling through tunnels like drunks, her hand pushing me along, refusing to let me stop.
I feel weak. Half-dead. I want to lie down and breathe. But I know I can't. I have to keep going.
She slides open a huge door—a door that looks more like a wall—and turns on the lights.
I shield my eyes against the fluorescent glow, but see that we're inside…a bathroom.
Roomy, and brightly lit. A tub at the far end and a single toilet marked with a heart a few feet away. Bloodstains all over.
Two corpses—one sitting up, the other lying down.
A severed foot with a chain around the ankle.
The stench is overwhelming. Nothing I've ever smelled before. One whiff and I want to puke.
Can't, though. Too afraid. Too shocked.
I back against the wall and slide down into a sitting position. Blood shoots up my esophagus, spilling from my mouth. I wipe it away.
She sits down next to me. Together, we wait.
Who was she?
Why did I save her?
Did she mean something to me? Did I . . . love her?
She wasn't the only girl.
No. No, she wasn't. . .
She's blonde. Sitting in a corner. Looking like she's about ready to pass out…or worse.
I kneel down at her side. Gently shake her by the shoulder.
She lifts up her head, looks at me, and then tilts her head toward the ceiling as if she's about to utter a prayer.
"…I've still got so much to do…this can't be it."
"It's not," I say.
I wait for her reply but she doesn't give me one.
Or, maybe she does.
She reaches out and places her hand on top of mine.
She was nice.
I wonder where she is.
Oh, yeah… I remember now…
She falls forward, face-down, onto the floor. The woman with the short, cropped hair and the bandaged wrists—the woman from the tunnels! What was her name?—kneels next to her and slowly turns her over. A third woman who's ahead of us—one with long, wavy dark hair, dressed in a tank top and black pants—turns around.
"No, we can't stop."
I look at the blonde girl's face. Her nose is bleeding. She looks dazed. Stupefied.
The long-haired woman begins pacing nervously. "We've been here for two hours. If what that tape says is true than in one more hour, the front door will open."
"We're not going to make it that long!" the short-haired one shouts from the floor.
And the long-haired one retorts, "That's a real winning attitude."
"She knows what she's talking about," I say to her.
The short-haired one had played before.
I don't know how I know that but I do.
The long-haired one glares at me. "Oh, yeah?"
I don't reply. I hear the blonde speaking. Barely. Her voice just slightly above a whisper. "X marks the spot…X marks the spot."
She's pointing towards the wall.
A picture frame. With a giant X carved into the glass.
The long-haired woman removes it and turns it over. She finds a photo taped to the back. Holds it up and stares at it for a long moment in disbelief. On the back of it, I can see the words "Father & Son" printed in big, black letters.
I'm tempted to ask what the picture's of, but I don't have to.
"What are you doing with him?" she asks.
I take a step forward.
She turns the photo over so I can see it.
I snatch it from her and look at it. It's a picture of me and my dad, taken a year previously—right before the divorce.
"This is your father?" she questions.
"What, you know him?"
"Yeah, he's the guy who put me away! He set me up!"
I look at the picture, long and hard, trying desperately to hold back tears.
"Tell me that's not your father," the short-haired one pleads.
I look at her, wishing I could, but I'm unable to say anything.
And just like that, the blonde starts convulsing, blood and saliva and foam spewing from her mouth, her arms flopping as though she's a rag doll, her head bobbing back and forth. The short-haired woman holds her steady until she stops and her body goes limp.
She was so nice…and the last thing she learned before she died was that I'm the son of an asshole.
I can't watch. I turn my attention back to the long-haired woman, who's giving me a resentful look.
"I can't trust any of you," she finally says. "You two are on your own."
Then she staggers off, coughing.
And it's just me and the short-haired woman.
She's the only thing I have to draw comfort from.
"Now we know what we have in common," she states.
"Amanda,"—that's what her name was, Amanda!—"please, I didn't know."
There's shouting. "Hey, kid! Amanda! Where are you?"
It's the same man who'd been in the bathroom. I can tell by his voice. He sounds pissed.
The "kid" he is referring to is me.
I look at Amanda, scared. Wondering what we should do.
She says nothing, and walks away.
My chest heaves at the memory of it.
There's nothing like loneliness.
It's the worst terror of all.
I beg her, "Please don't leave me."
But she is gone.
And all I have left is the picture of me and my dad.
Damn. I fucked up.
No, I AM a fuckup. There's a difference.
I'm a fuckup because of who I am.
She had every right to leave me.
Every. Fucking. Right.
Hell, I would have left me too. And I probably would have laughed as I walked away.
Tears invade my eyes.
How can I hate myself yet feel so sorry for myself?
Why do I want to live yet feel like I shouldn't?
I shouldn't have asked her not to leave me.
I should have TOLD her to leave. That would have been nobler.
But I'm not noble, am I?
Heh, fuck no. I'm a coward.
A miserable fucking coward . . .
A pit of needles, glaring at me from inside a huge pit.
Someone has to go inside.
Xavier—the man from the bathroom! That's his name!—that's who's supposed to. But he thinks differently. "Someone's going in there," he says. He doesn't care who, so long as it's not him. Of course no one volunteers, so he has to choose.
He chooses Amanda.
She makes an attempt to run away, but he grabs her and holds her over the pit.
She screams and pleads.
My blood freezes in my veins. I want to attack Xavier, but all I'm capable of doing is watching as he throws her in.
She lands on her back, her body going rigid as sharp pinpoints of pain dart through her. Slowly, she turns herself around and forces herself onto her hands and knees.
So she was the woman I saw in the pit earlier! Guess it wasn't something I saw on TV after all.
I grimace as my mind relives the event.
"What the fuck's wrong with you?" I snap at Xavier. But he doesn't answer.
We all watch as she struggles to find—what was it? A key? Yes!—a key in the massive, syringe-filled pit. She digs around, screaming, shouting back at Xavier when he urges her to keep looking.
We only have a minute left. Before the safe locks and we lose the antidote.
"Someone's gotta help her," I say.
They all look at me like, "Be my guest."
"What the fuck, guys!"
The timer is ticking. Only a matter of seconds now.
Finally she finds it and tosses it over the edge of the pit.
Xavier snatches it and heads for the safe. While he does that, I go to help Amanda out of the pit.
He fumbles with it as the last remaining seconds we have fade and the safe locks. Securing the antidote, and any hope we have, inside.
It's over. Another antidote lost. Another person sentenced to death.
Perhaps even me.
And here I am, crouched next to Amanda on the floor, pulling needles out of her arms.
My head hurts. It feels like it's going to explode. Or implode. One or the other.
I don't want to remember anymore. I just want to rest.
There's still talking from outside the box. Two men by the sound of it. I can't tell what they're saying but I can faintly make out their voices.
That's funny. One of them kinda sounds like my dad.
I shake my head.
Just my imagination.
I start humming. Then coughing. Then humming again. Then coughing again.
More blood shoots up my esophagus.
Damn it, I need a drink.
And food. I'm starving. I don't even know when I last ate.
I'm going to die.
No use fooling myself. There's no way I'm going to survive this.
Someone had it out for me. I'm guessing the same person who put me inside that house.
I'm going to end up dead and rotten, cramped inside this little box, hands tied and oxygen mask on my face.
A sudden thought hits me.
Why did whoever put me here even give me an oxygen mask if they were trying to kill me?
Did they just want me to die slowly?
Am I being held hostage?
Is it possible that I'm supposed to…live?
Sparks of hope ignite my insides.
I almost cry with relief. Almost.
Another memory hits me…
Xavier's dead. The two hours are nearly up. Amanda and I are at the end of our rope.
She holds onto me from behind as that realization sinks in. Then says something that surprises me: "Wait here."
I look back at her, afraid she's going to abandon me again. "Where are you going?"
But she's already walking away. She's headed towards the bathtub, where the corpse that's sitting up is situated. I watch wordlessly as she reaches down into it and takes out…(my heart pounds)…a syringe.
She looks at me, a guilty expression on her face—as though she knows something I don't.
"Give me your arm," she says.
"Why?" I ask. My eyes go directly to the syringe. "What's in that thing?"
"It'll save you."
I'm going to puke.
"How did you know it was there?"
"It doesn't matter. Just give me your arm."
I think I might faint instead.
My eyes are drooping. My thoughts are jumbling.
I'm going, going, going…
"You set me up."
"I protected you."
I show her the side of my hand, where earlier I'd wiped blood from my mouth.
"You didn't do a very good job of it."
"You're still alive, aren't you?"
Yes, Amanda. I'm still alive.
That's the last thought that goes through my head before I lose consciousness.
When I wake up again, it's to the sound of metal clinking, followed by groaning.
The door to my box slides open and I'm greeted with a bright light shining in my face.
I squint against the glow, my tied hands drawn up in feeble defense.
Standing before me is a woman wearing what appears to be a bulletproof vest. There's a shocked look on her face. She's pointing a gun right at me.
It's too much to take in in one instant.
I start hyperventilating, my heartbeat reverberating in my ears, my mind devoid of any thoughts except...
I wish Amanda was here.