By Nishi Serrano
By Nishi Serrano
If you missed The Bilge: Part One: Inside, click here:
Part Two: Outside
Useless, the word came through loud and clear over her fever. The blackness overwhelmingly profound, Sara could no longer remember if she was blind, or floating in an infinite void. How long had she been fighting a losing battle in her own slice of personal hell? She felt around through the puddles of water, finding nothing of worth. She imagined the grime of her captivity had crusted over her skin and created a carapace of metallic sludge and muck. If she could just relax, focus even, perhaps the darkness would lessen. It had happened a few times, and to her surprise, a faint blue glow ringed the inner sanctum of thick, barren walls and ancient pipes. Then he would appear. And take away what little comfort the illumination brought, and replace it with a cold, deceptive illusion.
A thousand times, maybe even millions, she crawled along the edges of the cell, looking for a sliver of hope—a crack, an old nail, anything to help her escape. Half way through her frantic examination of every nook and cranny, she lost track of her purpose. Thoughts of death intruded, and even those thoughts were far more welcoming than the dreams. But there were no pieces of jagged material lining the prison, nor any loose objects.
She pushed herself up the wall. What was she doing just a few minutes ago? It was important, she must focus! Breathe; relax… her breath sounded as ragged as torn paper, and as dry as seaweed on sand. The odd sound mesmerized her. A flicker of illumination appeared beyond the tip of her nose and began spreading. The light, though dimmer than a candle flame, gladdened her heart. It wasn’t much to get excited about, but it was there, real, promising her something ….
And then it was gone, she had reached too far and come to close. She turned and slammed her fists into the wall. She screamed and pounded for as long as her used up vocal cords would allow. From that wall she ran until she hit another, went down from the force, then picked herself back up again and started the hammering and screeching over again. If she could see her face, she knew it would be bloody, corpselike. After about the billionth time running into walls, she collapsed. A whimper escaped, because she knew what would come next, as the darkness closed in.
“Oh, honey,” said a voice from nearby. A hand wiped her forehead.
Sara struggled to open her eyes. Whatever supported her body was soft and comfortable; she wanted to stay there forever. But her eyes were stubborn, and when they came round to flip wide, her friend Mia sat next to her, concern crinkling her brow.
“Don’t try to move. You fell down a flight of stairs. The doctor says your fine though, thank the stars.”
The lights were bright in the hospital room, which must be where she is. And here with her, as ever, her only companion, Mia. “How,” she managed to croak.
“It happened at dinner. My, you caused quite a scene. He was with us you know, at dinner. And everything was going splendidly, until after. As we were leaving down the stairs to the balcony you passed right out, we couldn’t catch you. It was as if you hurled yourself down those stairs.”
“I wouldn’t …”
“Are you sure? I’ve become quite afraid for you lately. You’ve changed. He says something must be wrong. What is it Sara, you can tell me everything. We’ve never had any secrets.”
Closing her eyes again, Sara fought to understand what could be causing her headaches, and now, a total blackout. Before, after a lifetime of dreamless nights of sleep, she remembered a vague feeling of dread, but nothing like the knife point that seemed to be stuck in her gut now. It was as if those vacant dreams were coming to haunt her.
“I feel like I’m going crazy Mia. I can’t stay focused. Is he mad at me?”
Her friend huffed and sat back in the chair. “Let’s say he’s concerned. This isn’t supposed to be happening.”
“What isn’t supposed to be happening?” she tried to sit up in bed, loosening her heart monitor and setting off an alarm that was much too loud.
“Now look what you’ve done!” Mia shot up and fumbled to replace the wires and pad back into position.
A nurse breezed in shaking her head in consternation. “Miss, you’ve got to stay lying back. Didn’t your friend warn you?” The blond, emaciated nurse whisked the pads from Mia, and the cold, skeletal fingers found the place where her heart beat.
The last thing she wanted was for those awful hands to touch her again. She had to get out of this place, away from the creepy nurse, and her riddle speaking friend. “I really don’t need the monitor, do I?” Two faces glared in response. “Really, I feel fine. I need the toilet.”
Huffing, the nurse switched the monitor off. “Make sure to switch it back on after you’re finished. The bathrooms a few doors down on the left.” Her heels clicked like cloven hooves on the parquet floor as she exited.
“Mia, I’m ravenous. Do you mind finding me a bite, and maybe a soda, oh, and a book? Sounds like I’m going to be here awhile.”
“You’re going to be the death of me,” Mia said, and then left in search of Sara’s order.
She had to act fast. Jumping from the bed, and almost toppling from the sudden rush of blood, she grabbed the monitor pole to keep steady, and headed out the door and to the left. The corridor was empty but for a sad looking man pushing a walker, and a child slowly dragging a baby doll behind her. The doll’s painted smile, a sneer really, seemed to mock Sara’s plan of escape. She hurried inside the door marked ‘Bathroom’. Immediately she set about peeling off the pads. Underneath, the skin was raw. How long had she been out? She pushed the monitor aside and stepped to the mirror. Initially, she gasped and bolted backward. In the mirror she could swear his eyes stared back at her. She looked again and the furious blaze of eyes was no longer there. Did he know? Could he be watching her now? For some reason, she wasn’t surprised. Pulling herself together, she cracked open the door to find the way clear.
Sneaking along, Sara kept her head low, and her eyes vacillating back and forth, watching for her flight to be discovered. Turning a corner, Sara faltered at the length of the hall. It stretched farther than her sight could adjust to. She shook her head. The distance stayed the same. She hurried forward. At the first bend in the corridor, she turned. A panic descended when she realized there were no doors along her current route, and no way of getting out. To her relief, the little girl with the doll appeared around a bend at the end of the hallway. As she gained distance to the girl, she faltered. This wasn’t the little girl. Her fingers rubbed at her eyes. It had to be an illusion. Maybe the fall scrambled her brain. Instead of the girl dragging the doll behind her, the doll dragged the limp little girl. No, no, that couldn’t be right.
“Damnit,” Sara muttered. Ignoring her paranoia, she kept walking forward.
The doll kept walking too.
Sara noticed the trail of smeared blood following after the girl. Before, the doll’s face had been a sneer, but now the corners were turned down in an exaggerated frown.
Eighty paces away the doll stopped and cried. “I lost my friend.”
Sara halted. The voice sounded oddly like Mia’s. Shivers swept along her spine. Pivoting, she planned on heading back the way she came, but the way was blocked. There now grew a wall, where none had previously been. It was a strange wall. Pipes arranged themselves in a twisting effigy of a tall tree, metallic, and seeping water. And they moved. Snaking together, they formed a figure. She watched, rapt at the intertwining of clinking and scraping pipes. They drew together tighter and tighter, the form becoming more and more like that of a man, a very large and menacing man. She backed away and bumped into something soft. When she spun around, she instinctively shoved her hands forward. The doll squealed as its head toppled. Like a fragile egg, it hit the floor and cracked open spilling a thick, milky substance.
“Why are you killing me, Sara?” sobbed the broken doll.
“Shut up!” Sara cried, kicking the doll and the dead girl. Behind her the noise becomes deafening. Loud bursting pops of steam, rushing water, and the crunching of tearing metal forced Sara to cover her ears. The water swirled around her ankles. Not wanting to face the twisted man, Sara ran in the direction the doll had come from.
A cruel trick of fate found her. It was the corridor with the unfathomable vista. Not caring how long it would take her to reach the end, she raced on. A tidal wave of water knocked her feet out from under her. She tumbled along, swept by the water. It receded, leaving her soaked and befuddled against a wall. Still in the passageway, she heard the clanking and tramping of the metallic monster arrive. Rivulets of rust and water streaked the creature. Its eyes burned with a familiarity that plunged her into instant insanity. She leapt to her feet. As it stomped toward her, its footfalls rocked the corridor. Balancing as best she could, she stumbled onward.
She heard her voice crying no over and over again, even though her mouth stayed firmly shut. The pipe monster picked up steam, the endless echo of stampeding feet pitched the hallway like an out of control funhouse wobble-walk.
The last bit of air she gobbled came out in a whoosh as she hit the floor and slid back and forth. Battered by the hall, Sara clawed at the floor and walls to get into a crouch and tried to stand. It was useless. Doing her best to slide down the corridor, she gained little ground. In a few seconds the monster would crush her under its huge, jagged and gnarled feet. It would grind her into the floor in an agonizing death.
Rolling onto her back, Sara screamed as one massive foot rose above her. Slow as a blacktop roller it lowered. Her voice croaked as a bright light, the brightest she had ever encountered, erased all sight and sound of the beast and her doom. She blinked. The light did not disappear. Her arms went up to block the radiant glare.
“Guys, you aren’t going to believe this!” shouted a man’s voice. “There’s a woman inside here!” excited, curious chatter followed after the man’s exclamation.
Sara backed into a corner, confused, trying to make sense of the light and the commotion coming from it.
“Careful going down Boomer, don’t approach her until José joins you. She looks like she’s scared shitless.”
Additional beams of light played across the darker corners where the light couldn’t penetrate, landing directly on Sara. This was wrong, all wrong.
“Damn Captain, it smells like holy hell down here! I’ve never smelled anything like it.” The voice was very near Sara. She could see the outline of the man where he blocked the light.
“Don’t smell any worse than your ass-crack Boomer,” joined another voice and shadow next to the other.
The two men’s bulk gave Sara’s eyes time to adjust. She tried to warn them, but her voice was dried up and gone.
“I think she’s trying to say som’in,” the second figure—the one named José—said.
“You’re going to be all right Miss. We just need to get you out of here and to a proper medic,” the voice of Boomer said. “Do you understand? Is that okay?”
Sara’s head went from side to side, no … no, no, no, no, no.
“We don’t want any trouble. You’ve been hurt bad and need medical attention.” The two men came closer, the light strobing between their movements.
If this was another of her dreams, she wouldn’t be able to hang on. She felt weak, weaker than ever. This was the first time the dream had followed her into her prison. The only place she was safe, albeit a horrible place. What did it mean? It meant her time was up. He was coming for her, and anyone standing in his way would perish. Her hands went up to ward away the men. They grabbed her wrists and arms hauling her up. The light hit her full force. She remembered. Of course she did. There was a reason she was trapped inside. Why she could never get out. Her struggles were too feeble to affect any outcome. They meant to take her away, outside, in the world. A croak rasped from her lips as she tried to warn them again. More grabbing, the hands lifted her up and out of the round hole they somehow cut on the side. The fresh air hit her like a slap in the face. The light, the people, the ocean stretching forever, it was too much input, she started fading out. They put her on something soft; all the voices asked her questions at once.
In one last, gargantuan effort, Sara moaned, “He’s coming, you’re all dead.” The men around her looked perplexed. And then the bright lights of outside faded to black.
Are you scared yet? Part three will be coming soon!