When I woke up, it was darker than I’ve ever known.
My head was pounding viciously and there was something very badly wrong with my left wrist. I blinked a couple of times hoping to clear the blackness. Nothing doing.
I pushed myself upwards, crying out a little at the pain in my wrist. My voice was crackly and hollow. The surface beneath my palms was cold, clammy, and just a little bit gritty. I ran them along the floor, looking for an obstruction. Nothing.
Fighting the panic rising in my chest, I crawled along the floor, patting my hands against it, inch by grinding inch. Just when I thought that I was going to be shuffling along forever, I met a wall.
I made my way around the edge gradually. When my hand fell upon something my heart stopped.
The object was long, thin, plastic. I ran my fingers over it. The side was lightly ridged and there was a raised rubber nubbin towards the end, where it flared out. Hardly daring to believe, I pressed the button. A thin watery beam of light flickered across the room.
I could have wept. Instead, I stood up and moved the torch slowly around the room.
The room was square and featureless. At the opposite end was a door. I cast the beam upwards. No light fitting. In the corner was an old sink. I crossed the room quickly and turned the taps. The pipes emitted a terrible gurgle, echoing like a poltergeist, but the sink remained dry.
I ran over to the door. It was solid, steel, and the metal seemed to absorb the sound of my hands beating against them. I tried shouting, and then I pressed my ear to the cold surface. I could hear nothing.
Tears threatened again, much stronger. I ignored them and went round the room carefully. There really was nothing.
I sat down in the corner furthest away from the door and, much against my wishes turned off the torch. I might need that light.
Why was it in here? In a room with nothing, what were the odds that there would be a working torch? I didn’t like to think about that.
A sudden loud clang echoed from the door. I hadn’t heard footsteps but someone was at the door, pulling back what sounded like bolts. I knew I should hide behind the door, but my limbs were paralysed. All I could do was wait for the door to open.
The door swung open. There was very little light behind the dark featureless figure that stood there.
‘Are you there?’
The voice was soft, intimate, confiding. It was all I could do to keep myself from responding.
‘Still asleep? Oh well, I’ll come back later.’
I couldn’t stop a squawk.
‘Ah,’ he said. I could hear the smile in his voice.
He took a step into the room.
‘I’m not going to hurt you. Do you remember what happened?’
I didn’t say anything. I didn’t remember anything, but I didn’t want to tell him that.
‘There’s been a terrible accident,’ he said.
In spite of every instinct, I found myself leaning forward.
‘Don’t you remember?’ he said, shuddering. ‘God, it’s just so awful. A bomb of some kind. Not even nuclear. Worse than nuclear. Everything is fucked. You were next to me, when it happened. You got blown into me. It was chaos. Everyone was dead, or coughing, coughing up blood. I just grabbed you and ran. I brought you here and I’ve just been fetching some supplies. How are you feeling? I left a torch in here for you somewhere…’
‘I found it,’ I said.
‘Good! How are you?’
I pause. Nothing really hurts. I’m not coughing either. ‘Ok, I think.’
‘Great. I just need to get some last things. I’ll be back soon.’
‘I’ll come too.’ I scrambled to my feet.
‘No, you stay here.’
‘Not on my own, please…’ But the door slammed, and he was gone.