It was dark, still and silent when they woke up, one after another. The narrow space was damp and cold and the air was close and sultry. They could not see one another at all, just feel the surrounding shapes and hear the other voices in the impenetrable darkness. None of them could remember how they had gotten there.
“Where are we?”, one of them said. There was fear in the voice.
“I don’t know”, another replied – an angry one. “But when I get my fingers around the throat of whoever did this to us, I will–”
“Relax, handyman”, a similar voice interrupted. “I don’t think such a pointy attitude is going to help us right now.”
An older voice spoke up. It was obviously struggling to sound calm, but the strain in it could be clearly heard. “Don’t lose your heads”, it said. “What is the last thing you can remember? Perhaps if you put your stories together, you can deduce something about our situation.”
“I was at a party”, the first voice sobbed. “It was an after-party to a big gala, very fancy. I remember that someone spilled a glass of wine all over me, and then… And then I cannot remember a thing.”
Another voice sighed. “I was walking in the countryside”, it rasped, clearly worn with rough use. “I don’t know who did this, but I have my guesses. I was once in a war, you see, and I brought home both scars and the grudges of potential enemies. It might be one of them who–”
“What happened on your walk?”, the older voice interrupted.
The rough one, clearly annoyed, let out an irritated grunt. “So much for the praise of heroes”, it said. “But okay, let’s play this your way. I was walking, and suddenly I heard my partner screaming out in pain. I stopped, and then I saw the wound. Oh, it was a terrible sight. Nobody could survive that. And I felt hands grab me and pull me towards the ground and… Then it’s all dark for me too.”
“And you two?”, the old voice resumed. “What about you?”
“We were protecting our ward of course”, the angry one snapped.
“Yes, exactly”, the angry one’s companion replied before the other could continue speaking. “We were handed the task of guarding the young master from getting his hands into trouble.”
“Yeah, the little bugger is always poking around where he’s not supposed to. Ask me, I should know. In fact, getting between him and a roaring bonfire is the last thing I remember before waking up here”, the angry voice said.
“The same goes for me”, the less aggressive companion said. “I was there too, the fire was so hot – and then everything became dark suddenly. I really hope that the young master is alright.” A moment of silence. “And you yourself, old stranger? What happened to you?”
“Me? Oh, I have been here a long time. The quiet ones that share the darkness with us used to talk too at one point, but time has made them silent. I was here in the darkness before them all, before every single one of you. But I can still remember the golden time, long ago, when I was at the head of a major actor in the intelligence sector. Me and my partner blended in everywhere and no one suspected that my sophisticated looks were just a cover for our secret operation.”
“So… you were a spy?”, the sobbing voice whispered.
“In a way, yes.” The huffed up pride in the old voice was apparent. “But we were shot, you see. The bullet went straight through me and out on the other side, but my partner died instantly. Then everything is black until I woke up here, in even more darkness.”
They all fell into a heavy silence. The elder’s story had had them all moved in different ways – if not for any other reason, then because it had suddenly became very clear to them all that they might never escape this place, or even get to know what this place really was.
All around them in the darkness silent, unmoving shapes lay in terrible passivity, and they all realized yet another thing: that they would probably in time become silent and unmoving too.
Someone cried, another sighed. Two voiced plotted their escape, but their plans soon turned out to be futile and never resulted in anything. The old voice told some more stories from his exciting past life, but soon he, too, became silent again. In the end they all gave up and became silent and unmoving.
And they would never know why.
Some time later, in a much lighter, freer and airier place not far from there, a man swore as the zipper of his jacket got stuck halfway down. He tore at it for a couple of minutes before resolutely marching into the kitchen and grabbing a pair of scissors to get the jacket off.
He was just about to irritatedly squeeze the cut up jacket into the trash when he was interrupted by a voice from the doorway.
“Daniel, don’t throw that away”, Susan said. “It’s just a zipper, I can fix it when I have a minute over.”
“You always say that”, Daniel retorted. “And we both know that’s never going to happen.”
“Nonsense”, she replied and walked back into the living room. “Put it in the basement. I’ll get to it as soon as I can, I promise.”
Daniel just shook his head and walked down into the basement with the jacket, knowing that he would probably never retrieve it from down there ever again. And he stowed it away inside a large cardboard box marked “Susan’s projects”. It already contained, amongst other things, his old burnt children’s gloves, an odd military boot, Susan’s mother’s ruined party blouse and his own grandfather’s old, shot through fedora.
The box was damp and smelled faintly of mold, and Daniel though – not for the first time – that he should throw it all way. But as always he let the thought stay as such, put the lid back on and left the basement.
And as he turned the lights off and closed the door everything became dark, still and silent once more.
Chris Smedbakken, 2018-02-05
This story was written in response to a title writing prompt,