It’s inaccurate to say that I woke up so much as that I came to, abruptly, in an abyss entirely devoid of light. In a moment of hung-over fantasy I thought a person brushed my cheek lightly, but no; a liquid, the same temperature as my skin, rhythmically tapped my forehead and then rolled lazily down to pool by my neck. It was too thick to be water, and too dark to see, so I lifted my hand, only to have catch on some sort of restraint not even an inch from where I lay. The smell was familiar, though, oily, like ground meat about to turn. I licked my lips.
Yes… that was the iron tang I expected. Blood. It had to be blood, falling on me so casually from above. My arms were slick with it.
I sucked in a breath and pressed my arms to my side. By wriggling back and forth I could inch my way down what I now suspected was a slab, or table, that I’d been strapped to. But who had tied me up, and why? What did they want with me?
As I worked, I became aware of a droning noise, and exactly how humid it was. It wasn’t just the blood that I was slick with. The air felt heavy, not just with the darkness, but with some other feeling, a weight or pressure that I wasn’t used to. And from all around me there was a creaking or a groaning, like the walls themselves were being pulled down…
I don’t know how long it took to get free, since in the dark the only measure of time I had was my own heartbeat and the slow dripping of the liquid I was almost entirely convinced now was blood. I felt the sticky blood running down my back, but it just made me more determined to get free.
At last, several deep breaths later, I slid down, my shoulders finally passing through the restraint. I was free. I leaned forward instinctually, and a light clicked on, flooding the room. I threw my arm up to cover my eyes. It was too bright, so bright it felt like a bulb had burst in my head! I couldn’t see! But no further noise or light happened, and I finally, blinking, lowered my hand. I wasn’t sure what I expected to see, but as my eyes adjusted, I saw I was in… a metal room. It looked rather ordinary for a room, even an empty metal one. A large bolted door was in front of me with a huge metal wheel on it, like a lock from a battleship, or something like that. Thick layers of grey paint were peeling off of it. If not a battleship, a submarine? Had I been in the military?
To either side of me were tilted slabs, definitely body-sized and lined with leather straps, but they were empty. There wasn’t any reason for a battleship to have some kind of restraining or torture chamber, was there? The more I thought back, the more I realized how little I remembered about where I had been, and certainly nothing at all about where I was now.
Then I looked behind myself, and up. A steel grate covered the ceiling, low, near my head, and dangling over the restraining table I had woken up on was the naked body of a young man. He had somehow become caught between the grate and the ceiling, and crushed. His blood streaked the table, and his purpling, bruised face stared at me with one remaining eye. I stepped back and almost slipped on the blood, of course— I was coated in it too. I had to grab the table to steady myself, my thoughts tangled and racing so hard that I had to count to force myself to breathe normally.
No matter what, I had to get out of here. I had to get out of here alive. I unclenched my fists and stepped to the door. I didn’t want to look back or think about what was behind me as I placed my hands on the wheel. I braced myself and turned it— nothing. Ignoring my shaking hands, I wrenched it the other way, just to see, and it turned with a heavy groan. It must have been rusty. How long had I been on that operating table? I didn’t feel hungry, nor did I feel any pressing need to relieve myself…
I looked down at my body. Of course, I was naked too, just like the dead kid, barefoot, not even in underwear. I wasn’t really under the circumstances to be embarrassed, though. If anyone saw me this way they would just have to deal with it. If they didn’t try to kill me.
What did people tie people to tables like that for, anyway? Surgery? Organ harvesting? Suddenly paranoid, I ran my hands over my chest and stomach. I didn’t have any suspicious scars or sutures, either, which was good. No aches or pains. In fact, I thought I felt quite healthy, although I suppose I didn’t have anything to measure that state against. It just made the whole situation more strange.
I heaved against the door again, and it swung open, out into a dimly lit corridor. The walls were bolted together, and the entire complex made a kind of rasping, strained groan or drone, much louder than it had been inside the room. Annoys give me the distinct impression that the building was straining at the seams, under some sort of massive pressure which was going to crumple it like a tin can at any moment. Needless to say, this was almost as motivating as the sight of the unfortunate dead body had been.
Using the light streaming through the door behind me I carefully made my way down the corridor, steel cold against the soles of my bare feet, until it came to a T-intersection. A dead-end that only branched left and right. I couldn’t see down either branch. They were both completely dark. I stood there, baffled (although I had the sense to at least not stand in the middle of the way) until I remembered an old trick to navigate mazes and puzzles. If you stuck to the left wall and took left turns, you would have to eventually find the exit, or at least end up where you had started. I wasn’t sure where I’d learned it; something to do with lab rats, maybe? Well, I didn’t have anything else to go on, so my mind was made up. I turned the left corner, braced for whatever might come.
I made it only a few furtive steps in when there was an exhale out of the pitch darkness to my left and I froze up in an awkward position, hoping it was a vent or some kind of air filter. I waited for the noise to sound again. When it came, it sounded almost mechanically regular, but there was no doubt about it. That was the sound of another person breathing.
I held my own breath, but as seconds ticked by and I didn’t hear any footsteps or other sign of the person approaching, I slowly let it out, feeling like a fool. My eyes were adjusting to the dim light. This corridor was lined with shelves, and the shelves were packed with boxes, labels scrawled onto most of them. It seemed like they were tools or instruments, everything from electrical wiring to screwdrivers to plain tubs of what looked like oatmeal. Whoever this maniac was, it seemed like they were also a pack rat. I spotted a tube with glass on one end and snatched it up. Yes! It was a flashlight. A nice heavy-duty one.
I found the switch near the base and flicked it back and forth a few times, hoping. I had almost given it up for useless when it flickered to life, illuminating the yards of crap crammed onto the shelves, which were also steel, of course.
After a moment of contemplation on what else I could use, I pried a sawblade that I’d spotted shoved out from under the mildewed corner of one box. It was rusty and small and difficult to hold, but I felt better clutching two things that could nominally be considered weapons.
I turned around to check behind myself, and when my flashlight darted across a pale shape. I almost screamed. I didn’t, but I did gasp and step backwards, holding the flashlight against my body like it would protect me from the source of the breathing.
That pale shape, the source of the breathing, was a woman, as naked as I was, bolted to the wall.