Awaken

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Trial and Terror
Some things cannot be expained, but much worse are the unexplained things that also cannot be contained...

Submitted: July 24, 2015

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 24, 2015

A A A

A A A


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Awaken

By Adrian Hunt

Black… the colour was black. Or was it red? Yes, she could tell that there was red there too, but mostly black. And fog; don’t forget the fog.

* * *

More red this time, still mostly black though. A sound too, and though she couldn’t begin to hear it, she could sense that it was there. Still, there was the fog.

* * *

Her throat felt dry, and the air passing through her mouth and nostrils seemed wrong somehow - smelled strange too.

The colour was nearly always red now, but there were still some flickers of black and there was definitely a sound; she could hear it more fully since the black had shrunk away. ‘Wheesh!’ it went. What the hell was Wheesh? Had she heard it before? She strained for a memory, one that could put the Wheesh, the red and the black together.

A picture was forming. Not like the red and black - that was something real; it was something happening now, or at least it seemed to be – rather this picture was more distant and brought with it other things, a swell and crash either side of a whoosh; not a Wheesh. Maybe that didn’t matter though; maybe whoosh and Wheesh were something the same. With the sounds, there was a smell that she recognised; pungent, briny and not really a smell she liked, yet somehow it made her feel… happy.

Soon the red was overwhelmed again by the black, and the wheesh became distant, before everything faded out completely once more.

* * *

It was the sea… the picture was of the sea. She recognised it as the sandy-brown Devon coast, and it wasn’t just a picture, it was a memory. What was the name of the place – the place with the ‘Wheesh’? It was ‘Something Point’, she thought.

The Wheesh had returned and so had the red; the black being once again confined to brief, blinking moments. She tried to remember the picture again, hoping to make some sense of everything. She had been lying down, her eyes closed, watching the insides of her eyelids turn from black to red to black again as the world outside them lit up and then dimmed again. She remembered holding something – something soft, something safe that made her feel secure. She also thought it had had a name, in the same way that a person has a name; though she couldn’t remember what it was. Come to think of it, she didn’t think she could even remember her own name– and whatever the thing was, she wasn’t holding it now - her arms she could tell were lying still at her sides, limp and powerless.

She was remembering more about the picture now; it was a lighthouse - a lighthouse in Devon, and she’d been right at the top, laying around up there on a stack of beanbags and cushions, watching the coming and going of the enormous lamp through her closed eyelids as it rotated inside its mesh and glass enclosure.  Maybe that was what was happening now, causing the black and red that she could see. She could tell that her eyes were closed, so it was possible. Could she be back in the lighthouse?

She tried hard to think. It was all just so confusing.

The fog descended once more.

***

Charlie had only been driving his Toyota pickup for two years, though Max had been driving it for a good five before that. He always seemed to be late for everything - his appointments at the diabetes clinic, for example. Hell, he’d even been late for his own wedding all those years ago. Bless Margaret’s heart; she’d forgiven him in time – even stopped bringing it up in arguments eventually. Tonight though, Charlie was pushing the Toyota hard, because he knew that whatever things he could be late for, he could not – must not - be late for this.

Why had he done what he’d done in the first place? It was stupid, he knew, but he just couldn’t think of anything else. He couldn’t have asked for help – they’d have had a field day with her. There’d be tests and needles and shitty things like that. He wouldn’t do that to her. He couldn’t, no matter what.

The world passed by his window in a blur as he pressed down harder on the accelerator. He knew he was pushing his luck with the old pickup. Had Max sold him the 2.2 litre he might have been okay, but as it was, the 3.0 was fitted with a timing belt rather than with a chain.

Three miles from home, the belt failed.

***

Who was Macy? The name had come to her in her dream, one that had been chased away when the light had pierced through the fog once more; so that when both the fog and the dream were gone, they left only ‘Macy’ behind like an echo. The name hung on her lips, begging to be spoken out loud. She tried to form the ‘M’ with her mouth, but when she tried to speak she couldn’t get her parched vocal chords to give up any sound.

All at once, she felt the pressure around her nose and mouth, pressing a seal tightly around both. How could she still breathe?  

‘It’s a mask…’ she thought, as in her mind she traced the pressure from the tight straps pulled taught around the back of her head.

Moving her arms for the first time, she limply grappled around her mouth. Her flailing hand fell upon something near her chest and she tried to get a hold. Weak –she just felt so weak. Her powerless fingers curled a pathetic grip around a narrow, ribbed tube. She tugged at it weakly, but although the mask moved a little she just had no strength to pull it off completely.

All the while, the black flickered against the red faster and faster until both colours were coming and going in a blur. It seemed that the lighthouse lamp – if that’s what it was - was suddenly spinning at top speed.

Did lighthouses do that? She wondered if it was something to do with the fog that kept coming back – yes, maybe that was it. Do lighthouses spin faster to warn of fog? She knew that some had foghorns, so maybe they did that too?

The thought felt absurd in the circumstances. Why did she care? She was being suffocated for flip’s sake – or being forced to breathe, one or the other! She felt like thinking of a much worse word than ‘flip’ – the bad ‘F’ word even – but Macy never said the ‘F’ word. Once, when she was much smaller; she had said the ‘B’ word -‘bloody’, that is, not the really bad ‘B’ word - and she had had her favourite teddy bear taken away and had been sent away to her room.

A teddy bear – that’s what she’d been holding in the memory. Bertie Bear, she remembered. That seemed like not very long ago, and yet at the same time it seemed like years.

Reaching up again, she managed to hook a trembling finger underneath one of the straps above her ear, and with all of her strength – which wasn’t much - she pulled it to one side. Finally, the mask moved; blowing air against her cheek instead in gusts that fell in time with the ever-present wheesh.

Macy tried to open her eyes, and through the slightest of eyelash-fringed slits the red immediately turned to yellow. The yellow was bright – too bright – making her blink and flutter her eyelids in the glare. As she settled, she could at last make out the vague shapes around her.

The light seemed to be emanating from three circles bunched tightly together. Wherever she was, it wasn’t the lighthouse; she knew that now.

Where the hell am I? What’s going on?

Macy could feel her heart beating ever quicker in her chest and something big kept zipping past her face at an ever increasing speed. She couldn’t quite tell what it was - some huge, black object that she now understood had been causing the flicker of black against the red before, as it passed between her eyes and the lights. Now, it provided brief relief from the glaring yellow light. She twisted to see what it was - a TV maybe? As soon as she managed to track it, her own cuboidal moon orbiting her head; she lost it again. Finally she heard a deafening crash and the sound of metal being scattered. Whatever had been flying around her head was gone.

The fog was encroaching again on her field of vision until it almost blocked it out completely.

This time though, she pushed it away.

***

It felt like running in a dream, each leaden step seeming to do nothing to bring him any closer to home. He’d been fitter once; a runner back in college, but that was before the years had closed in and before the insulin had worked away at his metabolism and in turn, his waistline.

He should have just called the…

…well, who should he have called for something like this? The police? What good would that have done? The hospital had already failed his little girl - his sweet, precious granddaughter (though at fifteen, not so little anymore) - trying drug after drug to in an attempt to control her fits. Eventually, they had done, but they’d also put her in a zombie-like state that broke Charlie’s heart to see.

He shouldn’t have stopped giving the medicines to her though, he could see that now. That had been his big mistake. If he hadn’t done that, things might at least have stayed the same.

The tightening in Charlie’s throat could probably have been helped by his inhaler, but that was sitting in the glove box of the Toyota. He thought about stopping - hell, he needed to stop. He knew that he probably wouldn’t make it back anyway, at least not in time; but that didn’t matter. He had to try.

The alternative might be far, far worse.

***

What was CPAP? The acronym was printed on the machine on the bedside table; the machine that the mask had been attached to. It was still wheeshing.

The sweat that had beaded on Macy’s forehead had started to weave wet tracks down her face. Having managed to manoeuvre herself into a half-seated position, she now scoured the room that she found herself in.

It was the basement. Not just a basement – anyone could see that - this was her basement. She once had a playroom in here when she was younger, where she had spent hours with her toys; whiling away countless childhood hours. There was none of that here now, though. Now there was only the bed that she was laying on, the table and the machine. She could see that there had been a TV in the corner too, she could see the aerial hanging limply from the socket on the wall; but that was now lying in a broken mess amongst a pile of scattered screws and nuts; and a broken jar that once contained them. This was clearly the cause of the crashing sound earlier, though quite how the TV had come to be swinging rhythmically around her head she had no idea.

How long had she been in here? Why was the machine strapped to her face? It looked like something from a hospital – god knew she’d spent enough time in those. Her fits had been getting worse and worse, and so the medication had been getting stronger. Had she had another fit? Was that something to do with her being down here?

She rooted for a memory, any memory; anything to unravel the situation that she had found herself in.

Sunshine. A field bathed in the warm, yellow glow of the evening summertime. She could see it now in her mind. She remembered being excited, after months of being so tired all the time, it was good to be out. She remembered her Granddad being with her…

In an instant, everything came flooding back.

***

Tears now tracked down Charlie’s creased cheeks. Somehow the horror of the situation had brought his actions of the past few days into stark relief.

You could have killed her, for God’s sake!

How had it ended up like this? He was only trying to keep her safe. Safe from a world that wouldn’t understand; that would just want to use her, for experiments or what have you. He couldn’t have let her go through that.  

When he stopped her medication he’d expected her to get sick again. He didn’t really have a plan, he just hoped that somehow she would just be okay. Stupid, he knew. He’d been watching her every minute, waiting for the inevitable fits to return…

…but they never came.

Days turned into weeks and nothing happened, nothing bad anyway; so that when it did finally come, it came as a shock – and it didn’t come as a fit.

It had started small - a glass on the kitchen counter. He couldn’t quite remember what she’d become worked up about, but he thought it was something to do with her wanting to go back to school; something that of course she couldn’t do. They’d stared at each other in amazement when the glass had slid - seemingly of its own accord - from the counter and smashed on the floor. They’d both been standing on the other side of the room.

As the weeks went by the incidents became more frequent; and the objects larger. When she had toppled the huge, oak bookcase; Charlie had made a desperate decision. 

He wondered now whether she had woken up. He pictured her laying there, the CPAP mask pressed tightly around her face. He pictured the panicked look in her eyes – she would be so scared.

It was the only way. I had to make sure she could keep breathing.

He’d been using the CPAP machine himself for more than four years. He didn’t know how long he’d suffered from sleep apnoea – sufferers often don’t – but the relief he’d felt when he could finally enjoy a decent night’s sleep had been palpable. The last few days without it to help his airway through the night had been hell, but if he was honest it was the terrible worry more than breathing problems that had kept him awake.  

Charlie’s pace slowed to a limp, but he knew he wasn’t far from home now.

He only prayed, against all hope; that he would get there in time.

***

Why won’t it STOP?!

Macy’s world was in chaos now. The clattering sound of flying metallic debris almost completely drowning out her screams of utter panic.

“HELP! Someone please HELP ME!” She couldn’t remember how long she’d been screaming. She felt dizzy, the bolts and screws zipping by in orbit around her head making her feel sick. How could this be happening? Was it the fits?

She could remember most of what had happened now – the glass, the bookcase; it had all come flooding back.

What the hell did he do to me? Sedate me? What if the machine hadn’t worked?

As the questions swirled around faster and faster inside her head, so too did the orbiting chunks of metal around it.

He could have… he could have EFFING KILLED ME!

The red had returned, though it was something entirely different from the red she experienced earlier. It had descended like a haze that distorted her vision.

I could be FUCKING DEAD!

A high-pitched whining had grown inside her skull until it had become an ear-splitting screech, like fingernails on a chalkboard. The spinning ring of debris was glinting ominously in the now flashing ceiling light. Macy couldn’t think - couldn’t direct her thoughts. There was only rage. At that moment, the door opened.

The first bolt wasn’t fatal. It was flung out of its magnetic orbit and shot into Charlie’s right leg just above the knee. His cry of agony was cut short though, as the second chunk shot between his ribs and into his chest, collapsing his lung.

“Ma… Macy…” he wheezed, staggering against the door frame. Macy didn’t answer. Her convulsing body shuddered as the lights blinked and flickered, sparks raining down from the fitting. The ring of shrapnel had become more chaotic now too, bolts and scraps pinging all around the room. Charlie took another shot to the chest, knocking him off is feet completely.

The sparks smouldered on the bed linen, eventually kindling into small, dancing flames that quickly took hold. As her body became engulfed in the blistering heat, the flames licking at her skin, Macy began to scream again.

Gasping for his final breaths, Charlie lay horrified in the searing heat. As Macy’s screams subsided, fading out to a pitiful whimper; the remainder of the metallic halo fell to the floor with a crackle all around her. Finally, she fell silent.

In spite of the horror that he witnessed unfolding as he lay - painless now - waiting for the fire or the darkness to overwhelm him; Charlie could bring himself to register only one emotion…

…relief.

Finally, the flames claimed him too.

 

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