Sarah awoke to the sound of rainfall, she hardly believed it at first, as rain hardly ever fell anymore, but the sound of it splashing against the ground was proof enough.
She sensed that she was lying down on a hard surface, she could feel hard gravel and tiny stones on her legs and hands, as well as a chilling breeze that seemed to gather around her, as if it was coming from everywhere in all directions.
Where the hell am I? God I feel terrible.
A horrible thought came to mind. She had thought she had awoken before, only to find herself in a weird place and then have something terrify before actually waking up in the real world. She held her breath to await the inevitable nightmare in front of her.
She stopped for a moment as she took in the feelings around her. It wasn’t the same as before, often when this happened she felt the unmistakeable feelings of being in a dream; disorientation, broken images, moving toward something as if something was pushing her. But, there was nothing like that here, just the usual sensations of the real world. The incessant chill, the stillness in the air, the complete or near perfect silence. It seemed strange to think of a dead and lonely world and be glad to be part of it. But, when faced with the unknown and meeting strange people that could be real, anything seemed better than that.
She blinked her eyes and steadily opened them. She saw that she was lying on some kind of concrete floor, thick with tiny loose stones and small pieces of newspaper. All around her were large thick concrete pillars that connected the level she was on and the upper level above her. Large gouges were embedded in the pillars, as if they had been struck with something heavy, strong looking steel poles were pulled out to the open air.
She looked closer at the details around her, it was difficult to see what with the shadows around her and suffering a hangover. She saw that she was surrounded by four concrete walls painted with a cool blue colour, a thin yellow line stretched all across the walls. Sarah saw two windows from where she was, they were covered with a thick dust, but she could tell that it was now night-time. She realised that she was inside a building in a construction sight. She spotted discarded tools like a cement mixer, drills and shovels. Why the hell would William bring me somewhere like this? Wouldn’t it be better if he broke into one of the countless houses in the city, or something?
She looked around for William and saw nothing of anybody. She wasn’t really afraid. She knew he wouldn’t just abandon her, he liked her, it was obvious. Besides, just in case he ever did, she was strong enough to face whatever came to her alone. Her head slowly moved to the right until she faced the blackened windows staring at her.
She started to feel a little afraid that it was night-time. She realised that all this time of staring it in the face while others hid was only due to her car, her beloved pink Cadillac. There, she was inside a large powerful machine, relatively safe from the lunatics that wandered the streets. Without her car around her, she was no different from the rest of the animals in the city.
She suddenly felt very dirty, and not from the dust and gravel that had hooked itself to her.
Her head hurt, she reached to her forehead with her hand. It wasn’t the same type of pain she had last time, not the same skull splitting inner pain that groped around like talons in her head, this was undoubtedly from the outside. It took her a moment to get her head round to thinking again, but she recognised the pain as one hell of a hangover. She also felt the dulling pain on the side of her face, it felt warm to the touch. Then, her last memory came to her. The memory of saying something to William, then falling backwards when he walked up to her. The fragment of a memory appeared in her mind of William’s fist striking her hard.
That son of a bitch. If I want to drink I’m gonna’ god damn drink when I want to. How the hell can he understand what this is like for me. So what if the asshole scientists are after us, it’ll be a release for me, anyway from all this shit.
She stood up, still feeling the pain of her hangover, but at least now it was beginning to settle. She walked a few paces forward, not really expecting to find anything, merely studying the immediate area. She found a small assortment of plastic chairs with steel legs. Dirt and gravel had long since started its destructive path of absorbing the legs as they slowly made their way up them. Great patches of dust and dirt had gathered on the seats, covering them almost completely. There were other tools here, as well as large steel platforms with large planks of wood, wood that had almost been ravaged by the destructive power of the plague.
It would have been strange to someone not from the world to see a construction site in this state, abandoned, the tools and objects used to build it simply being left here to rot. But, to Sarah and the survivors, this was how it should be always. Serving only as a home to those unwilling to live inside one of the many, many houses and apartments the city had to offer. It was comforting in a strange way to drive by one of these places every day and see nothing of human activity. It was yet another monument to what once was, another graveyard in the cold.
Sarah walked on a few paces and spotted three large metal drums with scraps of wood, paper and other assorted trash inside. Obviously, at one time or another, this would have served as the heat source to anyone living here. But, she could that the contents were not burned or singed in any way, except for one of them. The other two looked as if they were waiting for a flame to be introduced by them.
Sarah folded her arms and tensed her body, she looked round where she stood, not feeling completely confident about moving. She had the fear that someone could be here, someone other than William. After all, she had no idea what had happened to her since he hit in the jaw. He could have been taking her somewhere and one of the freaks roaming the city could have overpowered him and dragged her here. The question still remained about why William would bring her somewhere like this, and not hide from the scientists in one of the houses. Someone could have brought her here, he could have done anything to her while she was unconscious.
She looked underneath her and checked that her underwear was still in place and not ripped off. There was no obvious signs, her skirt was fine and not torn, her underwear was still where it should be. It looked as if nothing had happened to her, not yet, anyway.
She flinched and looked forward as she heard the sound of footsteps on gravel, footsteps coming towards her. She dove for cover behind the nearest concrete pillar and peered around. Just at the other side of the room, she could see a small flame emanating from whoever was there, the powerful little light shone on the wall, lighting it up brilliantly. The flame came closer, as did the footsteps. Sarah looked round for something to use as a weapon to hit the son of a bitch, she spotted a shovel just a few inches from her. She quickly took hold of it and took it behind the pillar with her, holding its handle tightly in her hands.
The footsteps came closer until she could see a silhouette, a medium sized figure with a long coat. The figure walked up to one of the un-torched drums and threw the small matchstick flame to the waiting trash. In matter of moments, the contents of the drum were burning wildly, flickering in the cold unforgiving air, revealing the features of the silhouetted figure as they held their hands up to the warm fire. Whoever it was didn’t seem to realise that Sarah was missing from where they’d left her.
Sarah raised the shovel up in the air, ready to strike whoever it was. She started to walk forward then stopped, her eyes focusing on the features of the figures face that were slowly brightening up. She released an imprisoned breath of air and relaxed, allowing the shovel to fall quietly to the floor as the unmistakeable features of William’s young pleasant face came into view.
Sarah breathed a sigh of relief, closing her eyes as the apprehension and anxiety ebbed away. William heard her as her feet scraped across the floor and suddenly flinched, instinctively covering his torso with his arms. He exhaled a sigh of relief when he saw her, his eyes open wide and staring at her. “I wish you’d tell me you were there instead of creeping up on me,” he said almost frantic. “What the hell are you hiding behind there for, anyway, its only me.”
Sarah closed her eyes for a second and smiled, she walked over to William and embraced him for a moment. William hadn’t the time to reciprocate and only managed a slight touch of her back on his palms before she broke away. Sarah looked at him for a few moments, taking in the delight of it being him and not some weird lunatic.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “But I just woke up in here alone and I couldn’t see you or anyone else here. I’ve seen so many of those freaks and lunatics roaming the streets outside, more than once they’ve tried to kidnap me or take my car.” The thought of her car being in the hands of psychos caused a quick feeling of emotion welling up inside her. She quickly suppressed it. “I had no memory of coming here, except for the bruise you gave me, and I logically assumed that one of those crazies had brought me here, after all, why would you bring me somewhere like this? There’s plenty of goddamn houses apartments in the place.”
William stood looking at her, the expression on his face one of pure confusion and completely lost for words. The awkward silence was broken only by the crackling of the fire as it burned away the rotted refuse.
William found the words he wanted and turned to look at the fire. “First of all, I’m sorry I hit you. But, you were pretty pissed, and I wanted to get the hell out of my apartment before the scientists got there and found us. You were stumbling about with a bottle in your hand, shouting at me, saying that you had the right to drink and I hadn’t the right to hit you. So, I had no choice but to hit you. I had to carry you out of the apartment, down the stairs and then find a car in the street to put you in the back seat.”
Sarah looked downward to the floor a little and lightly touched the spot where he hit her. She smiled a little. “Its okay,” she said. “I don’t blame you for hitting me, I would have done the same thing.”
William took hold of Sarah’s hands and pointed them flat next to the raging fire. Sarah shuddered as she felt the electric feeling of the heat pass through her body.
“Secondly,” William continued. “I brought you to this place, not because I preferred it to the houses, but because it was the first thing I saw as I drove. I was in a hurry to fill the gas tank, I wanted to get you somewhere before you woke up, and I didn’t want to be driving out onto the streets and suddenly run into that piece of shit, Oswald. I panicked, so, I saw this place and brought you here. I didn’t like to leave you alone, but I had to go back to the car and find a lighter, or something.
Sarah rubbed her hands together and looked down into the fire, seeing the eerie patterns and figures that appeared, dancing before her eyes like dancing spirits. It made her feel a little anxious to think of it like that, but she stared relentlessly, refusing to crawl away and hide from it like a coward. That wasn’t her way, face your fear and somehow subdue it, that was her philosophy.
She realised that William had finished talking and hastily responded. “Yeah, fine, don’t worry about it. I know it wasn’t your fault. To be honest, if these people are as relentless as you say they are, then I can’t really give of anywhere in the city that wouldn’t cast a light, shadow, or anything.”
William nodded and rubbed his warmed hands quickly across his body. “Well, hopefully,” he said. “We can hold out here for a short while, let us get our heads together and figure out what we have to do next. We’re on a high level, here, the highest floor I could find that didn’t have garbage or huge pieces of concrete everywhere. Hopefully, while we’re up here, no one can see the fire, and the stragglers on the streets will give us a good diversion for the time being. As for our future plans on how we’re gonna’ understand what’s happening to you, I have no idea. In that regard, we’re just groping around in the dark for an answer.”
Sarah felt afraid at his opinion on her condition, but at the same time relieved. She was glad that he didn’t try to sugar-coat it for her by adding lies, or lying completely that he had full confidence that he knew what was happening to her and not to worry. It was better to learn the truth now and not find out when its too late.
William watched the intricate patterns flickering in the fire, his eyes burning with greater intensity as he stared further and further, as though looking into the unknown and complex world of the fire as he groped around for the answers he sought. Sarah looked to her left toward the large window, obscured with dust and grit making it impossible to see through. The tiny space on the bottom of the window bore a couple of old polystyrene cups, a pencil and the shattered remnants of an old vodka bottle. It was somehow comforting to not be able to see through the window, allowing her to see the endless blanket of darkness that covered the city. This was she could imagine that it was daytime, the blanket of mist that gathered up everything in its path and the ceaseless grip of the cold, lastly looking up and seeing the perfect whiteness of the sky above.
A thought suddenly came to her as she thought of the night. She turned to William. “Hey, if its night time now, and no one has the guts to go out when its night, do you think the scientists will keep looking for us, or wait till the next day.”
William sighed deeply and hunched his shoulders. A hint of a smile was on his face, as though he wanted to believe her but was forced back by what he knew already. “Unfortunately, I don’t think so. Oswald is the one who’s leading them. He’s insane, make no mistake about that. He wants us on a plate in front of him, and he’ll lead those other poor bastards to hell if he decides that that’s the place to go looking for us. Oh, sure, they’ll be terrified of roaming the city looking for us, by now. But, they know what’ll happen to them if they go against him. I did, look at me, I’m lucky he only decided to lock me up in that store room. He must have been in a hurry.”
“But, what about the other scientists, they don’t seem as bad as he is, and the way you’re talking, they don’t really want to help Oswald in this. Can’t we somehow get one of them alone and ask them to stop. If they all drop out, it’ll just be Oswald against the rest of us.”
“I wish we could, but they’re too far gone. They’re slaves to their own instincts of being scientists, they wanna’ find the answers that Oswald’s looking for, only just not as crazy as he is.”
Sarah’s mind went blank, losing anything else that she could ask him about. With what he told her, it seemed like a hopeless situation. They had to combat the unknown, the mystery of mystery’s, and they had a gang of ruthless answer obsessed lunatics pursuing them. Yet, with all this gathering like a growing storm all around them both, Sarah knew the answer to it all, or hopefully, some answers that would put them on the right path.
Sarah looked at William for a long moment, scanning the features of his face, broken into worry and anxiety for himself and her, long chiselled its way into his face making stark lines of age. She wanted to tell him that he can go, leave her alone to face the music and he could get out. But, she knew that he’d never do that, not in a million years. He’d die for her before doing that. It was good to have someone do this for a change, to meet someone who had true feelings and hadn’t lost them to insanity or absolute fear.
She ceased warming her hands by the fire and allowed them to drop to her sides, her head was held up high, her expression one that screamed determination and inevitable victory. She cleared her throat and began to speak.
“We have to make further studies on E.V.P, we have to make more recordings of our own and somehow find out what the hell they’re talking about.”
William stared at Sarah, his eyes were open fully, the roar of the fire glowed brilliantly in the wetness of his iris, his mouth was open a little. “Are you insane,” he said quite calmly. “Don’t you know what the hell that Telephone thing did to you, plus all of the recordings and tape machines you took from me to experiment yourself. You’re waling right into the unknown here, its suicide.”
Sarah stood stock still, unfettered by what he had to say. “I have to,” she said. “After all, what is their left that we can do, just keep running forever, hoping they don’t find us? Because they won’t give up looking for us, not if they want me so bad. I know there’s something in those voices that are trying to tell me something, I don’t know what, but I just know there trying.”
William shook his head, confused as to why she didn’t see things his way. He grabbed her by the arms a little tightly. “I’ll tell you what I think we should do next. We should raid some of the houses and take whatever we find, clothes, canned food, anything and get the hell out of here. Escape into the country with the other small groups of survivors, find some country pad that hasn’t been occupied and just stay there. Those voices are of the dead, you hear me, the dead! They mean nothing to us now, we don’t know that they have information that we don’t, that’s a whole other world to us. This is the world of the living, what we are part of, and in this world, we try and survive as long as we can.”
Sarah watched in his frantic burst of words, tiny tears began to fall from her face, she did nothing to wipe them away or pretend they weren’t there. She’d be lying to herself if she didn’t think that his ideas sounded great. She would have moved to the countryside like the few others if she hadn’t been so determine to survive in the city. A great part of her wanted to abandon her own ideas and go with William, set up home somewhere else, the two of them and somehow find the food to survive. But, a small part of her with a loud voice told her to keep going, don’t run like the others, stay and face it, listen to her true nature.
Sarah looked at William with bloodshot eyes, her cheeks damp with tears. “My father is over there,” she told him in a whisper. “I know he’s there, I’ve heard him, I’ve felt him. He’s over there and he’s trying to help me. I have to find out what he’s trying to say to me. The only way I can is to ask him myself.”
She broke away from his grasp and walked toward the centre of the empty floor. She crossed her arms and stared at the crumbling empty wall in front of her. William continued to watch in repressed shock and disbelief.
“You don’t have to help me,” she said in a newly reinforced tone. “If you don’t want to help me in this, I won’t blame you. I won’t stop you if you want to go to the country and carry on there. Bu, I’m staying here. I’m going to find this whole thing out, I’ll go into the heart of all of this and uncover the truth to it all.
William paced the floor and shook his head, his mind swam with a thousand different thoughts of what to do. He didn’t want to go into this at all, he had left it all behind. He had escaped the insane conditioning that had befallen the rest of the scientists, and he wanted nothing more to do with that now, just to live as simple a life as anyone could in this world. But, despite every nerve and cell in his body screaming for him to run now, get out, he couldn’t and wouldn’t leave Sarah all alone to face this. He couldn’t throw her to the dogs and not join her there. But, then again, he was pretty strong, maybe not as strong as Sarah, but good enough. He could knock her out again, take the car and drive off into the country, find a spot of earth that hadn’t been contaminated by the plague and grow crops, worry about what Sarah would do to him later.
Yet, with all his sane ideas of escape and freedom, and no matter how much he tried to fight it and suppress it, the scientist, the fact searcher in him rose up to the surface, overwhelming his senses, telling him to search for the truth and uncover the hidden meaning.
No, I will not be like the rest of those assholes, I won’t ignore my feelings.
But, would it be such a bad idea to listen to the scientist in him, just this time. He had the knowledge and experience to help her in her crusade. He could help her with the technical side of it all, while she said what she had to say. He didn’t have to be like Oswald and the rest. They cared about nothing but the experiment, everything else meant nothing to them anymore. But, he did care about some things. He cared about himself, about his own life, but more importantly, he cared about Sarah and he would stick with her with this thing to the end.
William stood his ground and clenched his fists, the adrenaline and determination flooding through his system like a raging ocean. He turned round and looked at Sarah, She was still staring at the wall, sniffing back the mucus in her nose as she cried. He walked up to her and held her hands in his. He looked deep into her eyes and said: “Alright, I’ll do this with you. We’ll find your father, find out what he’s trying to say and stop these worthless bastards that are chasing us.”
Sarah smiled and wiped the tears from her face. She drew herself to her full height and tenuously gripped William’s hands. “Okay, then, lets get started.”