Cell Game: A Captivity Thriller
My breath is coming in short sharp bursts now, the gravity of the situation bearing down on me like a ton of bricks, the water sloshes with increasing velocity around my bare chest as I crease my eyes shut in desperation. I open them again, nothing has changed, and I’m still here in the semi-darkness with no clue as to how I got here.
I fight the urge to scream, knowing that by giving in to panic I’ll only be dooming myself further, instead I try to calm myself by reassessing my surroundings. I’m standing in a small pool of water about one by one meters squared that goes up to my forearms, it’s lukewarm and every time I move the current sends a wet sound against the walls of the chamber, yet there is no echo.
The ceiling is low and lined with what I can only describe as rough tiling, like the kind you see on the sides of public swimming pools. There is just enough light to see but I can’t tell where it’s coming from, set into the wall in front of me just above the water is a small rectangular shutter made of metal. There’s a handle on the right side caked in rust and as much as I cringe at its touch and dread what could be on the other side I reach forward, droplets falling from my arm to disturb the dead silence, sliding the shutter open very slightly.
There’s not enough light to see what’s inside, a shiver cascades through my body as I pull the shutter all the way open. The long sharp creaking sound of metal scraping metal pierces my ears and I can’t help but gasp as a dull clunking sound signals that the shutter is now open. I freeze where I’m standing, my toes scrunching against the tiled flooring that gnaws at my flesh, I let out a sob of distress and a tear meets the water as I stare blankly, appalled at what met my sight.
A narrow vent, lined with the same tiling as the room, stretching beyond what the light would allow me to see. I tentatively reach into the vent, keeping my hand in the centre, away from the walls. My arm fills about a third of the crawlspace, I’m crying silently now, realising that there might not be enough room for me to fit inside and even if there was I had no guarantee it would lead out of here.
I press my fingertips to the bottom of the vent, rough tiles gripped back in a dark embrace. As the last chance of hope was about to be extinguished I slid my other arm inside my head came level with the space, I had to tilt it sideways and even then it just barely seemed to fit. I lifted my legs, planting my feet against the back side of the pool to push my way into the vent only to find that my heels bent over the side and onto level tiles. From the shock I slid back out of the vent and wheeled around, the increased level of sound was the only welcome thing to me so far.
I grip the edge with my fingers, feeling ahead until I realise that my arm’s length doesn’t meet the end of the chamber, I pull myself up into a sitting position and slide out of the water to find that there is enough room to sit. It’s cold and brutal but those feelings were almost comforting compared to everything else. My legs are shaking from the strain of standing up, I don’t know how long I’ve been here but my guess was that several hours have passed since I awoke.
The skin on my fingers is shrivelled, a canvas of wrinkles reminding me of the times I took baths as a child, I held onto this fond memory tightly now so as to dispel any chance of insanity. I look up to see that behind the pool, where I’m sitting now, there is a semi-circular platform with some large shape set into the middle of the back wall, I squint a little before my heart leaps, it was a door.
It looked like one of those large bank vault doors that you see in crime movies, a large bulkhead with a wheel in the middle to unlock it, no matter how unsettling it looked it was still a chance. I stood up, throwing myself at it, the cold hard steel meeting my bare shoulder, I grunt harshly as I wrestle with the contraption.
My hands slip constantly from the wheel and even when I can get a grip on it the thing won’t budge in either direction, jammed in place, locked. Moans of terror start to rise in my throat, long and sustained tones of panic, like I’m in the throes of a nightmare. Then screaming, agony in the torture of my mind as it unravelled and fell apart. Some time passes, I don’t know how much, I’m clutching my knees to my chest, curled up on the platform and sobbing into the tiles, the rough material biting at my face.
My throat is raw, I need something to soothe the pain, something more than memories. I slide a shaking hand over the pool, dipping it in and cupping some of the water to my mouth. The liquid burns its way down my throat, amplifying my helplessness, it’s undrinkable. I lie there for what I assume to be another two hours out of shock, eyeing the shutter every now and then out of spite.
Presently, I get up again into a sitting position, facing the door and it’s then that I notice the lights. Tiny coloured bulbs blinking on either side of the door, I hadn’t seen them before so I decided that they must have started while I was laying down. Now I’m standing again, wiping away the tears and replacing them with curiosity, there are four metallic boxes set into the walls, two on either side of the door level with its wheel.
Each box is identical, having five rows of lights, four on each row, with a small rectangular slot next to each light. The box on the far left has red bulbs, followed by yellow, with green and blue respectively on the right side of the door. I see now that some of the slots are filled by small magnetic keys. I slide one out from curiosity, it is light in my shrivelled hand, cold as the room and about five centimetres in length with a little grip at one end.
The light beside the slot from where I withdrew it came on, red. I take out another key, green and another, blue. I now hold a pile of the little keys in one hand, squinting at the chorus of lights, little specks of hope. I slot the red back in, the light goes off and the same for the other keys as I replace them in order. None of the other lights seem to work, just these four of each colour.
I try again, starting with green this time, nothing. Then starting at blue. Then yellow. I keep going, checking the combinations off in my head, time passes. There are times where impatience, or madness, get the better of me and I’m slotting keys in with random frustration. Thirst eats away at me, I calm myself with the deepest of breaths. I try again and again but to no avail. I find myself screaming silently again, dropping the keys down onto the tiles, one sinks soundlessly into the pool below.
I jump back in, the splash welcome now to my ears, a change from my cries of turmoil. I feel around with my toes, not wanted to surrender my entire body to the abyss, I grab it and lift my leg up to take the key in my hand again. The metal is moist against my fingers and no amount of rubbing at it succeeds in eliminating the damp. I look back toward the vent, knowing that should this fail my only option is to die just a little further away from the pool.
I’m shaking, uncontrollably, my organs bouncing around against my rib cage, I slot the red key in. I hear a faint spark, this time the light does not come on. I realise that the water has blown the circuit, I breathe, green, and buzz, out. Breath, blue, buzz, out. Breath, yellow, buzz, out. Light, just a sliver, from a crack in the door.