This week’s challenge at esthernewtonblog.wordpress.com is to build a story around one or more of the words grotto, hospital or isolation.
I came round and found myself to be alive and well, although in darkness and silence. Confused and a little frightened, my mind went beck to the lost moments I remembered.
I had been spending an evening in the gambling den at the back of a strip club. I had a lot to celebrate; I had just pushed through a deal that would add a few more millions to my bank balance. Admittedly, a few people; good people, but that means nothing these days; would be sent to the wall, and a few thousand people would turn up on Monday to find there was no job for them. Regrettable, but this is business, and you have to be ruthless to get on. Some of my deals had led to suicides, but these people were weak, and there’s no room in my world for weak people. I was doing rather well in the club, too. Blackjack, we were playing, and I was on a blisteringly strong run, up a couple of hundred thousand pounds on the night.
My mobile buzzed and vibrated. It was a text message from my wife. “Kayleigh just turned up,” it said. “Please explain!” My wife, Joanne, was meticulous about writing texts properly, tweets too. She hated abbreviations and sloppy grammar. Anyway, reading that message, telling me that my secret girlfriend had turned up at the house; the girlfriend I thought I had hidden from Joanne; obviously overloaded something, and I must have blacked out.
But where was I now, what am I supposed to do, and how did I get here? These were just a few of the questions in my head. Others included how much it would cost me to get out and whom should I pay. I decided to take control; it had worked for me all my life so far, and I saw no reason it wouldn’t work now.
“Okay, where the hell am I?” I asked.
A low, quiet voice responded, “Hmmm. Where the Hell? That’s a very appropriate question.”
The voice put me in mind of the menacingly calm voices that used to be attributed to gangsters with Italian accents, in old Chicago and New York.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I demanded.
“Where you are has no name. You may think of it as Hell; you may think of it as Nowhere. How you think of it doesn’t matter; what matters is what it is.”
“And what is it?”
“It is,” replied the enigmatic, disjointed voice.
This place; whatever, wherever it is; seemed totally isolated. The only sound was my voice. The other voice was inside my head; it came from no direction, and although very close, I felt no breath. There was no light, and I realised that I had no sensation. I wasn’t sitting, standing or laying on anything. I think I had worked it out.
“Okay, smart guy, I got you. This is one of those sensory deprivation chambers, isn’t it? Who are you working for and how much does he want to let me out?”
“This is not as you describe it. This is,” the voice said, emphasising the word ‘is’.
It began to dawn on me that I might be in trouble, big trouble. I’d never been in a situation I couldn’t buy or bribe my way out of.
“WHERE AM I?” I yelled.
The voice repeated, “Where you are has no name. You may think of it as Hell; you may think of it as Nowhere. How you think of it doesn’t matter; what matters is that it is.”
“I want to speak to my lawyer.”
“Your lawyer isn’t here.”
“Well, at least let me speak to my business partner.”
“Your business partner isn’t here.”
“Can I at least call my wife, please?” I asked, beginning to panic.
“Your wife isn’t here.”
“Oh my God,” I cried, sensing the seriousness of my situation.
“God isn’t here,” the voice said in even, placid tones, followed by an eternity of silence…