Dreams tonight, vivid, lucid dreams. I'm on one of my nature walks, but this time my family are with me. Julie and the kids, all kitted out with rucksacks and thermal clothing. It's nice, even in my sleep I'm aware that normally they would show no interest in my hobby, but right now they seem to have smiles on their faces, a skip in their step. I appreciate this delusion in any case.
I let my kids go ahead, always in view but far enough to give them some freedom. Julie is staying by my side, holding my hand. We smile at each other. I turn back to keep up with Billy and Faye but they're gone, out of sight. Panicking now I bound forward, checking the bend in the path hoping to see them around the corner. They're not there, I turn back to Julie, already knowing what ill find, or not find as the case seems to be. I'm alone, my family are gone, and as my mind breaks down, the gravel and dirt beneath my feet mimics it. Boulders shifting and dislodging, dragging me to a drop at the edge of the woods, I don't even struggle, I ride it like a wave until my footing is lost and I tumble, head first. I take a pummelling from the ground as I roll for what seems to be minutes, my vision is a blur as the centrifugal force takes me. It takes me and breaks my head.
Still falling? How can that be? I'm awake and I know it; my eyes are open, I can feel them blinking. I'm breathing, forcibly so, not like my dreams, when I don't think I breath at all. I can smell… I can smell oil, grease, petrol. I'm not in my bed, I'm sure of it, and as I move my arm the other follows in suit. They are bound together, same as my legs and as my bed jolts me into the air I put it all together. I'm in a car boot. I've seen enough movies to know the signs, I can hear the tires rub the tarmac, the metal of the vehicle abrade itself and the engine growl.
Am I being kidnapped? As the movies go, I should be listening to the road, listening to the streets and remembering my journey as a blind man. Ready to describe the sounds to the police so that they can piece it all together. That is beneficial to survivors. What if I'm on my way to a premature death. What will it matter then.
This space is big, it must be a large car. I roll over and brush something soft. Its warm and organic and on further investigation I feel what seems to be a female breast. I pull away as any gentleman should. In a situation like this I am still so conscious of my gentilities. Panic suddenly, is it a corpse? Am I side by side with a cadaver? No, surely not, it was warm. But it is silent, why is it silent? I lean in to where I guess it's mouth would be and listen hard. Over the commotion of the road its hard to filter out a shallow breath, but I definitely hear air escaping it's lungs. Relief, what little relief can be had in this situation.
'Hello?' I whisper.
Nothing, I try again.
'Hello? Are you awake?' This time I speak out loud.
I wait and still nothing. Is she asleep? I was, but how could we sleep through this? Our kidnapper isn't the most considerate driver, either that or we are being driven across a rock-laden quarry. She must be drugged, I must have been drugged. I'm a light sleeper at the best of times, I would usually wake to the padded footsteps of my pet cat across a shag pile carpet.
Carefully I prod her, appropriately and in what seems to be her shoulder, I then grab it and shake her, no more than the car was already doing so, I open my mouth ready to shout when the engine halts and the tires brake in what sounds like gravel. I hold my breath and return to my side of the boot, and I'm not sure why but I feign sleep. Perhaps the coward in me doesn't want to confront whoever it is opening and slamming the car door. Heavy feet hit the gravel and the steps approach me. As they reach the boot, silence for a few seconds. Suddenly our tomb is opened and the cold night air hits my apparently naked body. A huge pair of hands exhume me with ease and the force opens my eyes to meet the strangers.
His eyes are glazed and wide, his mouth curled to show straining teeth and his face, scarred. Half burnt and blistered, horrifying to behold. Wanting to scream I bite my tongue and let him pull me to the ground. Truly a heft of a man he doesn't struggle to lift the woman out and over his shoulder, still unconscious she is also naked and I catch sight of the breasts I had inadvertently caressed in my confusion. The moonlight beamed off her body and no doubt mine too, the sky was clear and this suggested to me that we were far out of the overcast smog of town. The bullish man grabbed my entwined wrists and pulled me towards a mill of some kind, long abandoned, and as he did so he noticed my woken state. He gave me a look that chilled my bones to the point of brittle ice, and I was sure that a blow from this monster's dukes would shatter them into a million pieces. So being the coward that I am, I followed the tugs of his bicep as he led me like a dog into the building.
The building was truly abandoned. Dead. Wires, pipes and scrap metal piled all over and all dusted with ash and grime. This place hasn't been used in a long, long time. I felt glass and splinters underfoot but my fear outweighed the pain. The man opened a cellar door and rolled the woman down a slope, she flopped like boneless meat until she reach a dusty cobbled floor. He didn't toss me, he just gestured forward with menace and a complete lack of words, that suggested to me more danger than any spoken threat could have.
As I entered the slime-coated basement I wondered why he needed a place more secret, more desolate that the abandoned mill. Picking up the woman once more, her body now bruised and soot covered he pulled my wrists with some eagerness, a force that could have pulled my shoulders from their sockets.
One last door, and as it's wood bounced of his huge palm its hinges creaked with age. I realised at this moment that this was a one way trip. The room was dark and stale and along the furthest wall were what seemed to be coffins. Four of them in a row standing upright. It was at this point that I raised what little courage I had and begun to struggle, fruitlessly. My body was that of an academic, I'm the type of man that would argue mind over matter. Now as my exertions did little but entertain the beast, it would seem that my whole attitude to physical fitness was wrong. Right now at my end, my mind didn't matter.
He lifted me like I was made of paper, effortlessly by my arms and causing quite a lot of pain in doing so. I kicked with my stick thin legs aiming for what I hoped was his groin, but he was wearing a heavy leather overcoat, I could barely crease the material. Now helpless he walked towards a wall by the door and lifted my tied wrists over a mounted hook, then letting me drop, suspended in the air like a marionette.
I've never felt so pathetic, now watching the poor woman as she awoke. She screamed at the sight of our captor, making even him flinch. He gagged her with his hand and reached towards one of the coffins, which on closer inspection were not coffins at all. They were elaborate, stone sarcophaguses. Each decorated with hieroglyphics and ominous symbols. Where an oaf like this acquire such antiquities? The man couldn't quite reach it, so he moved his hand to her neck and heaved her to her feet, the gag was no longer needed as it seemed she could hardly open her windpipe to yell.
'Stop it! Leave her alone!' I yelled as I shook like a hooked fish.
He didn't respond, instead he shifted the sarcophagus's lid, inched it at some effort, and as it opened it inhaled the air and some dust. Now sliding the slab enough to allow some light in I could see what was inside; A corpse. Not nearly old enough to have been the first occupier. Its flesh still clung to the bones and dripped gore. It was a child, a young girl as far as I could tell, the long hair, now thin, still clinging to its skull. The man seemed saddened to see it, he turned away and swung the woman towards it. Chucking her into the casket like unwanted meat, she shrieked as her windpipe reformed but it was too late. Now with both arms the bulk sealed her up, slamming the cover over her and the child. I could still hear her screams, dampened and exhausted. After several minutes the sound stopped. Could she have run out of air? Doesn't seem likely. I found this lack of yelping more distressing her apparent suffering.
It seemed that now it was my turn, the look he gave me suggested as much. Knowing that he had time, he opened another sarcophagus while I hung helplessly. Inside was another body, a woman, and the way the man stoked its crisp face it was clear that she was once very important to him. She was burnt, down one side. The other side had rotted it's natural course but the burnt side seemed preserved like smoked jerky. His attention was now on me as he turned and strode across. Now free from the hook I was already missing it, he pulled me impatiently towards his beloved. As I got a closer look I spotted the maggots nestled in her cheek and exposed bowls, the socket of her eye decomposed enough to let her one good eye hang loosely. Her lips no longer there to cover her mouldering gums and teeth.
I fought with all my strength, tearing the skin from the soles of my feet as I tried to halt him, it was as useless as before, I was his plaything. He tossed me forward and I slapped the fetid cadaver, feeling it stick and string to my naked chest while trying to pull away. My mouth was open as my face met the corpses and for a moment I inhaled what seemed to be matter, foul, unclean matter. Before I could turn the lid slammed shut behind me, sealing me and my cellmate forever. At first the darkness was welcomed, I could no longer see the horror that was in front of me. But I could smell it; almonds and rancid meat. As I struggled I felt it's flesh and skin loosen and slide with mine. I threw up, the smell of my innards being more pleasant than the decomposed woman's. I must have passed out.
I awoke to darkness again, it seemed to be the trend of late. The smell made me aware, it wasn't a dream. It all happened, was happening. Whether I'd become accustomed I couldn't be sure, but the smell wasn't nearly as bad as it was. How long have I been in here? There was still air, there must be, because I was alive. Running the events that led to this, my inevitable, horrific end, over and over in my head, had made nothing any clearer.
I listened, listening being the only thing left for me to do. I could hear the man outside, pacing. Occasionally he let out a small sob, I couldn't understand, why this man would do this and then sob. What was his motive and who was I to spend eternity with in this tomb. I begun to feel numb, I wasn't sure if it was the cold of the night, I was naked after all. Maybe the blood had drained into my feet, I felt like I'd been standing for a lifetime, and I'll be damned if I'd prop my weakened self against the slime of the woman in front of me.
My thoughts drifted to my family, Julie and the kids. I became thankful that they wouldn't miss me, little comfort that my death would inconvenience no one.
'I'm sorry.' whispered a voice.
I hadn't heard another voice in a long time.
The whisper was close, so close it seemed to be in my head. It wasn't the thug outside, I could still hear him pacing, and this voice was feminine, the shallow whisper of a woman.
'I'm sorry that this had to happen.' The voice was weak, ethereal.
'Whose that?' I spoke, though I didn't feel my jaw move.
'Please forgive me.'
'Forgive who? Who are you?'
This time I was sure of it, my mouth wasn't moving at all.
'My husband loves me, loves us. To him this is right.' The otherworldly voice hissed.
The corpse, was the corpse speaking to me? I'm losing my mind, that's all. Understandably so in this extreme situation.
'He loves us so much. As we love him.'
'Are you… Dead?' I asked, knowing the question was a ridiculous one.
'We are dead, we are, we were.'
'The dead don't talk!' I exclaimed.
'Sometimes they do.' The voice explained. The whisper was certainly an eerie one.
'What is happening here? Why am I here?' I begun to weep.
'My husband loves me so much, he loves us all so much…' She spoke as if I wasn't there. 'He's a good man, an honest man, a loving man.'
That monster is not a good man, he is a murderer.
'What does he want with me?'
'He wants me… Not you.' The whisper became an aggravated hiss.
'Why am I here then?'
'My love worked hard for me, for us… He worked in London, but it wasn't enough. He worked with great men, scientists, archaeologists. He swept the great floors of the museum. He did this with such pride…'
'What are you talking about?' I cut in. She continued as if I wasn't there.
'…He worked and worked but it wasn't enough. He had to burn everything before it was taken away. How was my love to know that we were there?'
I stayed silent now. Let her speak, she wasn't listening to me anyway. As she spoke her voice became clearer. It became fuller.
'… He burned it all, and us with it. Oh how he cried, he tried to save us but it was too late…'
I couldn't move my arms, the blood had left them, I could no longer turn my head, the cold had frozen it stiff.
'…I held Rebecca and the twins in my arms as the fire took me. But I remember seeing him, coming for us… He is a hero.'
This entity was delusional, but then who was I to say this. Here I am speaking to a corpse.
'He is just doing what he thinks is right. The museum, full of such mysterious wonders. He found a way.' She spoke now with a human voice, a pleasant voice.
'That man, is a murderer. Can you not see this? Look at what he did to me, what he did to you!' I struggled for the words.
'He had no choice, he needed to burn it before we lost it… How was he to know we were there?'
She was beginning to make sense, unfathomably I could comprehend her and her riddles. Maybe it was the numbness.
'Thank you.' She said.
'For what? Thank you for what?'
Those two words panicked me. What did she mean? What was to happen? And why do I feel this way? My limbs were rigid and as I tried to move them I felt a twang, like something would snap if I tried any harder. My brain wasn't what it was and as my thoughts and memories left me all I had left was the woman and her sweet voice.
Perhaps I was chosen, perhaps this man knew I was alone in this world. Maybe the fact that my family were dead had something to do with it. This was a ceremony of sorts, maybe things had to be right, the right ingredients. Time was incomprehensible now. I could have been in this casket for centuries, my senses now dead what did it matter. Standing this way no longer bothered me, it seemed right.
After a lifetime I heard a noise, it was warped like I was underwater. The lid of the casket was opening and air was being sucked in. As the light edged in I realised that my eyes were open. It revealed the woman to me inch by inch; first her shoulder, creamy and flawless. Then her hair, long and golden. Her eye, mended and beautifully blue. He neck and collarbone sumptuous, and her mouth; grimaced. She was wincing at the sight of me.
She was not the fetid mess she once was. She was alive and full of life at that, but the expression she wore on her face made everything clear. Any living man would have felt a stir, having a beautiful woman brush up against their naked torso would send his blood coursing. But I had no blood to course. Her supple breasts now rested against my withered chest and I felt nothing.
Her face wore an expression of disgust, the disgust I no doubt wore when I first met her foulness. She sidled around me and into the relative warmth of the cellar. Turning me to face her as she did, moving me with such ease as if I weighed little. Placing me in her original resting place I watched through blurred eyes the beast of a man helping her out, like a delicate flower. They embraced and were met by three children, all naked and ecstatic.
I caught sight of my hands, shrivelled and black, before the doting father closed the casket one last time. Appreciating the last light I would ever see I stood and did nothing. Knowing that I would be standing here oblivious, for a very long time.