ELVIRA - A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE (Ongoing Story) (Updated - 17/07/11)
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KATE and SUSAN
Kate woke with a start. Her head hurt like a bitch and she was lying with it in someone's lap. Not usual. Then her eyes flew open in alarm as she felt a warm hand gently stroke her hair. Wait, she knew that touch!
She sat up, blinking.
“Mum, why are you here? What's going on?”
All around unfamiliar, worried faces were staring at her.
“Who are they? Why are they here?!”
Her eyes darted around an otherwise empty room.
No, scratch that, where is here?”
She scrabbled in her jeans pocket for her mobile. It wasn't there.
“Where's my phone? Mum, what's going on?”
Susan smiled distractedly at her, her eyes flicking over her head. Kate studied her mum closely, realising her attention was elsewhere. She looked OK, really, but she'd looked OK for a long time before they'd realised she wasn't.
'Mum' she repeated, 'are you listening?' She groaned.
'You're not going all spaced on me are you? Are you OK?'
Susan wasn't listening. That is she wasn't listening to her daughter. She was focusing on the introductions that were happening around the room.
There were ten of them, including herself and Kate. A middle aged couple called Anne and Steve, twins Matt and James and four others, another couple called Ellie and Mark and their 2 friends, Richard and Adam, all of them in their late teens or early twenties, like her daughter.
Other than that, none of them seemed to have anything in common. Expect not knowing where they were or how they came to be there.
'Mum' insisted her daughter, repeatedly, 'are you listening?' Susan started paying attention.
'I'm fine Kate. Really. I'm just trying to work out what's going on.'
She saw the relief flash across her daughters face and hugged her close.
'Honestly, I'm all better now, you know that. Please stop worrying. OK?'
'OK Mum, sorry. I know you're good.'
Kate hugged her back, briefly, as if she might break.
'I just worry, you know?'
Susan smiled. She knew.
She'd been a wreck for about a year after her husband died. It had been a hard time for both of them. But, another year on and things were much better. She was much better. During her dark days Kate had been stronger than she could have ever have imagined. No surprise then that their roles had been reversed. She'd been looking forward to the day she could show Kate she could stop worrying about her. Maybe that day had come.
She looked around the room again. She didn't waste any more time wondering why they were here. Why didn't matter to her. Neither did how, or where. Just deal with the now. They were here. How could they get out?
Kate had turned her attention back to what was being said. No-one knew anything. More to the point no-one was doing anything. She hated inactivity. She reached for her phone instinctively. Gone. But where? Maybe she'd dropped it. Probably on her was here. Or maybe it had been taken. But who by? She looked around the room again. How had they got in here anyway? She couldn't see a door. But they must have got in here somehow.
'Mum, listen. How did we get in here?' She stood up, thinking hard.
'There's got be a way out you know.' She looked at the others.
'We got in didn't we? And unless we were teleported in there's got to be a door or something.' She turned to the wall behind her, running her fingers across the smooth surface.
'We can't see it, but maybe we can feel it.'
If felt good when everyone got up to help. She felt even better when Tim actually found a way out.
Her mum grabbed hold of her hand, squeezing hard. 'We'll be out of her soon love, I know it.'
She smiled back nodding, 'I know we will mum.'
She looked round and found Adam looking her way. A little butterfly of attraction fluttered in her chest. She ignored it and raised an eyebrow.
He gave her an almost smile before he followed his friend out of the newly discovered doorway.
She ignored that too.
'Come on mum, let's check it out.'
Hand in hand they left the room, the gravity of attraction pulling her gently after the dark haired man she was definitely ignoring.
Susan watched with fascination. As they moved from the room to another empty room and then back again she noticed Kate's ignoring of Adam and how Adam wasn't sure whether she liked him; how Kate had yet to see it herself. Adam was certainly Kate's type. Tall, dark and handsome. He seemed at ease with himself and carried himself with a maturity that was beyond his years. She saw too how Ellie felt threatened by her daughter, even though Mark hadn't even registered with Kate. Ellie was transparent. She loved her boyfriend so everyone else must want him too. She was pretty, cynical and vulnerable. It was equally clear to Susan that Mark was totally besotted with her. She couldn't sense any artifice or pretence about him. Confident, funny, optimistic, the centre of attention whenever he could be, good looking. No surprise then that Ellie felt the way she did. The course of young love she thought. And then there was the 4th member of the group. Richard. Susan couldn't put her finger on it but there was something brittle about him. Needy, that was it. Needy and quietly resentful.
She watched him. Saw how his eyes jerked around the room. What was he looking for?
STEVE and ANNE
Steve had watched the young woman lying on the floor wake up and start talking with quiet amusement. She was so like his daughter. Permanently indignant and demanding. Creatures completely beyond his knowing. He'd like to know the answers to her questions though. This was all too strange. He smiled down at his wife as she caught his gaze. She look worried. He knew she was worried because she knew he was worried and that worried her. Twenty years of marriage would do that. Put you inside each others heads. His hand shook slightly as he stroked hers. He couldn't remember where they'd been or what they'd been doing before he woke up in this room with her sitting next to him and strangers on all sides. And neither could she. The room they were in looked like some sort of waiting room to him. Nasty yellow coloured walls. No furniture. Dull light. He didn't like it at all. And it didn't make sense. Why couldn't he remember how they'd got here?
'Steve?' His wife whispered. 'Steve, someone should do something, don't you think?'
He smiled and nodded. Anne had a habit of telling him what he thought, but he didn't mind. She was usually right.
He glanced up and caught the gaze of one of the boys sitting opposite. Young men, he silently corrected himself. They must all be about the same age as his daughter. The man nodded to him and Steve nodded back, but his words of introduction were swallowed as a sudden movement to his left caught his eye. Another young man was stumbling to his feet, pulling up another man, who was introduced as his twin brother, although the two of them didn't look at all alike.
His wife frowned at him.
'It's OK' he mouthed reassuringly, 'he's doing something.'
He listened with interest as the young man, James, started to speak, and he joined in with the rest of the group as they responded to his jerky comments by introducing themselves. Anne didn't want to speak, her shyness overwhelmed her; so he introduced them both. She was getting more withdrawn by the minute. Well it was hardly surprising considering how ill she was. In his mind his wife was a fragile bird who needed protecting and he was in full protective mode. So much so that he remained sitting with his wife even when the rest of the group got up to examine the walls of the room for a way out.
Anne squeezed his hand thankfully as the others moved around the room. She was so grateful that she had such a thoughtful husband. She didn't need to tell him how scared she was. He knew. This was a nightmare situation for her. She didn't cope well with strangers. And she was so tired. The illness exhausted her. She said a silent prayer that they would get out of this in one piece.
They sat quietly, just being with each other. When Matt discovered the moving wall the noise of it's movement made both of them jump.
As the group started to file through the exit, Steve helped Anne to her feet.
'Come on love, we'll soon have you out of here now' he soothed but he could feel the tension in the way she gripped his arm.
'Steve I don't like this'. She was shaking.
'Don't leave me on my own will you. Promise?'
'I promise love. Come on now, let's catch up with the others.'
It didn't take them long, as the group hadn't gone far. They were standing in another identical room, much larger than the first but with the same apparent lack of exits.
Anne looked at him. He smiled in what he hoped was an encouraging way.
'I'll just go and give them a hand shall I?' He nodded to the two brothers who were checking out the walls.
'They can manage Steve. Let's just wait shall we?'
'That's a good idea love. Let's wait here then shall we?'
Together they sat and watched as the search ended in failure. Steve could see disappointment in their faces. So could Anne. She closed her eyes.
'Back to where we started then everybody' said one of the others. 'Let's look for another way out of there.'
'We'll follow in a minute' said Steve. 'Anne just having a little rest'.
No-one seemed to take any notice although the dark haired man nodded he'd heard as he left.
They sat quietly together for a little while. He gently stroked his wife’s shoulder.
'Come on love, we don't want to get left behind do we?'
She opened her eyes and gave him a little smile.
'Help me up then' she said, 'I'm OK now.'
He stood up and smiled back at her, holding out his hand to help her up.
But he pulled her hand more sharply that he'd intended and the momentum jerked Anne up and forwards so suddenly that they both stumbled across the room. She let go of his hand in surprise, leaning against the wall in front of him. She laughed then, oh such a little laugh. But a laugh. He looked longingly at her and reached out. But something was wrong. The wall that Anne was leaning against started to dissolve. It happened so fast that she didn't even have time to move away. One minute there and laughing, the next her cells dissolving into the yellow dissolving into nothing. The floor went so quickly that Steve didn't even have time to shout, to run.
'Anne' he thought as he started to unravel, and then Steve and Anne and the room were gone, just as if they had never been.
MARK and ELLIE
Mark could not believe what was happening. It was like something out of a god damn movie or something. One minute asleep, next minute, right, next minute, bang, right in the middle of a room ripped straight out of The Cube. Great idea, rubbish film. Great idea if it's not happenin' to you. Or your bird. He had no idea why Ellie was here. Or Rich and his mate. Couldn't remember his name. Maybe they'd been out at a party. Maybe down the pub. Maybe something so bad had happened they'd had their memories wiped. Or maybe they'd been kidnapped.
'Ellie, oy, Ellie wake up bird.'
His girlfriend glared at him. 'I'm awake' she hissed, 'thanks for asking!' She tossed her hair, flicking the ends across his face on purpose.
She was awake which meant she wanted a smoke. And she didn't have any.
'Mark, you got any fags?'
'None. God, this is such a dump! D'you think any of this lot smoke?'
She looked round the room with contempt.
'No chance, look at 'em, definitely none smokers. None bloody anythingers by the look of it.'
'Ell shut up a minute. Look, this is serious. What's goin' on here? We could be in a bloody prison for all I know? But where's the screws then if it is?'
Ellie rolled her eyes at him. She knew what was coming next and Mark didn't disappoint.
'This could be a government holding cell or something. I mean, where was we before? Could be drugs in our drink. Could be anything!'
'Mark, get a grip. We're not in Spooks you know. We're just normal. Stuff like that don't happen to normal people.'
God, he was such an idiot. He was fun and all that but he watched too many films. Life wasn't like that. Ellie was a realist. She liked the mad, hectic stuff that Mark made happen, but she knew it was all pretend. All show. They were too nothing, no-one. Whatever was going on, them being there was a mistake, that much she knew. Even if Mark had done something really stupid what had all these other people been doing? Rich never did anything and he was here so it was definitely all a mistake.
'Spies! Brilliant Ell! Look, that couple over there. Russian undercover I bet!'
'Come on bird, get on board!! Gonna get a tab off Rich, come on!'
Ellie tried her best to stay frosty but failed. Mark was irrepressible.
'You go you bugger' she grinned back. 'And don't give away no government secrets or nothin'!'
'See, you know I'm right. Stick with me bird, I'll show you a good time anywhere!'
'Yeah right!' Ellie tossed her head again, a habit that said, see, I am beautiful. She caught the dark haired girl across the room looking at her and gave her a look. Just in case.
Then one of the brothers from across the room stood up and started talking. Mark listened for about 30 seconds.
'He's definitely a spy. What's he wanna know who we are for? I don't care who he is? Don't see me asking loads of questions do ya?' He rolled his lip.
'He's a plant see.' Cagney voice. 'He's trying to rumble us. But we won't give him nothing see. Nothin'!' He squinted at Ellie delighted to see her giggling again.
'Shut up you moron!!' she smiled at him, mocking and loving all at the same time.
'I'm trying to hear what they're saying. Rich, Rich! What did that girl say?'
'She said there must be a way out El. God I thought you women could multi task!' This from Mark, smug as you like.
'Yeah El,' laughed Rich but added, 'but in your defence, dealing with Mark is multi tasking!'
'Well yeah, course it is' said Ellie, feeling defensive, then to Mark 'and let's see you find a way out then, spy boy.'
Some time later, sat back in the same place Ellie was having a serious sense of humour failure.
'Well, that was a bloody waste of time wasn't it? Let's all go stand in another empty room with no way out. Rooms, no way out. Rubbish! God, Rich why haven't you got any fags?'
'Why haven't you then? He replied.
'Just give it a rest El, we all want to get out of here, don't take it out on me.'
She sighed. 'Sorry Rich, I'm being a bitch. Mark, come on, cheer me up, what's the plan now then?'
'No plan bird, sorry. Looks like we're wingin' it.'
They watched in silence as Tim and James and Richard started covering the walls again until sudden shout from the corridor made them all jump.
'That's Adam!' He ran across the room with Mark and Ellie close behind.
They found Adam staring at where only minutes before had been an open doorway. Now it was a solid wall.
'Mate, what's happened?' asked Mark.
'It's gone' said Adam.
'That room, gone.' He looked ill.
'Well, what does that mean?' asked Ellie. 'How can a room have gone?'
'I don't know' said Adam, 'but it has.' He swallowed hard. 'Steve and Anne were still in there. I was coming to make sure they were OK. But they're gone.'
'What d'you mean, gone?' said Ellie. 'Gone, like, dead gone, or just, gone, gone?'
'Wha'd'you think bird' asked Mark, 'they were in a room that's a wall. They're toast.'
'Mark, that's awful! Don't say it!'
'Ellie, it's the truth.' He turned to Adam. 'We've got to tell the others. We've got to find a way out of here now, like, right now.'
Richard was confused but coping. He had no recollection of events prior to waking up but was willing to bet that Mark had something to do with it. Their relationship was defined by moments like this. The trouble was that it was usually his job to get Mark out of whatever trouble he was in. This time he had no idea what was going on. He nodded at the old bloke across the room who was staring at him, projecting what he hoped was a confident and easy going demeanour. He felt anything but. Ellie and Mark were looking to him for reassurance as usual. He wasn't feeling particularly happy or confident but he hid it well. When you're the dependable one of the group that's what you did. It was time to come up with a plan. Like getting out of here. Where ever here was. Richard looked around the room again, joining in with Mark and Ellie but only listening with half an ear. Who could have been responsible for doing this without any of them remembering what had happened. And why? What was the point? Think Rich, think. Kidnapping? But what for and who by? Terrorists? There'd been some kind of attack maybe. He was pretty sure short term memory loss could be induced by shock or drugs. So what had happened? Were they all survivors of a gas attack? Unlikely. And the setting must be important. Why this room? It was odd. Almost unreal. Like a set waiting to be filled.
And then an idea occurred to him. It was so blindingly obvious that he was momentarily stunned.
Of course. It was the only possible explanation! God, what a relief! He jumped up when the group decided to look for a way out, eyes scanning the room for cameras. Obviously they'd be hidden. Obviously. But they'd be there for sure. His heart was pounding. His confidence back. What should he do? Tell Mark and Ellie? No, not yet. He didn't have any proof yet and he knew that the minute Mark sensed an audience he'd take over. It was the only thing that made sense. Reality TV was getting weirder all the time. Any minute now they'd find a clue or hear a voice coming out of the walls. He expected they'd all start remembering soon. It's got to a survival test thing. Getting out of the room is a test. Like the Crystal Maze meets Big Brother. He loved the Crystal Maze. Would he be a leader or a loser. Well, a leader obviously. And he'd got Mark to hand to take on any risky challenges. The more he thought about it the more sure he became. Oh, he knew how this went. Keep up front but don't be too in the frame for the first rounds. Let some of the others take the risks but be involved. Be supportive. Be right.
He made sure he was right next to Tim and James when they ran through through the exit they found. He made sure he looked around a lot, checking out his environment, making sure that wherever the cameras were they picked him out. The limelight was beckoning and Richard was hooked. He was sick of being the sensible one, now he was going to be be the successful one. He clapped supportively when they found a way into the the next room and made sure he talked to everyone as he helped search the walls. He showed just enough disappointment when they were forced to return to the first room, but not too much. When the room they had just discovered disappeared with 2 people still in it he really thought that the programme makers would reveal themselves. But they didn't. This was going to be tough.
And then, just as they had all got settled back in the first room all hell broke loose. The room started acting like a lift gone mad. He was shaken and elated. This must be costing a fortune. Which meant big money. ITV, maybe Sky. When the room finally stopped moving he saw how shaken up Adam looked. He knew he'd feel better if he knew what was going on. Maybe he should he tell him.
SUSAN and KATE
Kate had been disappointed they had had to go back to the first room, but was reassured that her mum was in full analysis mode. She had watched her weighing the group up, that tiny little smile in her eyes as she mentally unpacked them. Of course, Kate had been doing the same thing; but she wasn't always sure what she was seeing meant. Handy having a mum who was a head doctor! She turned to ask her a question but was interrupted by Adam shouting and Richard, Mark and Ellie running out of the room. Susan caught her eye
'Kate, what's the matter, do you know?'
She shook her head.
'No idea. I'll go and see shall I? Hang on.'
But she had only taken a couple of steps when they all ran back into the room. The look on her faces made her stomach tighten in fear. Whatever they had seen had been bad.
But there was no time to find out what they'd seen because the floor suddenly dropped away.
She stumbled and fell, her shoulder generously cushioned from the ground by the softness of her mum.
'Ow, mum, sorry!'
They grappled to right themselves against the wall but to no avail. On the far side of the room the initial jolt had knocked everyone to their knees. As Ellie tried to stand a violent shudder jerked her off her feet again and hurled her directly towards Susan and Kate. In the short seconds before she hit them Susan grabbed Kate by the shoulders and pushed her away as hard as she could. Ellie's shoulder slammed into the wall where Kate's head had been, the force of the impact jolting her forwards and onto her knees, just as the floor jerked upwards. This flung her backwards, her head hitting the wall with a thud. She slumped into Susan's lap, a dead weight.
Kate watched Ellie bounce off the wall like a rag doll before falling into Susan's lap, a dead weight. She was shocked but her mum looked so surprised it made her laugh out loud.
'No need to be so blunt about it mum, I can share your affections!' She nodded at the semi-conscious Ellie. 'Bit low having to knock her out though!'
'Oh, you're so funny' replied Susan, grinning back.
Minutes passed and the room didn't move.
'Kate, I think it's stopped. Get back over here and help me move her a bit, I can't feel my legs!'
Shushing each other guiltily like kids they carefully propped Ellie against the wall then Kate took a couple of steps back and left her mum too it. She'd picked up that Ellie didn't like her. Though in fairness she didn't appear to like anyone much expect her boyfriend. Maybe she was a bit insecure. Maybe she was a lot insecure thought Kate. Which must be horrible. So she watched her mum discretely deal with the tears and the almost imperceptible shaking. And she saw the way the other girl responded. She saw the look in her mums eye as Ellie started to sit up and she knew what to do. She used to do it for her mum when she was having a bad time. It always worked, made her smile. Stopped her thinking too much. Kate stepped back, took a breath and started to talk. Nonsense mainly, but she made sure that Ellie knew she was interested in Adam. That she wasn't interested in Mark. That she wasn't a threat. She kept on chatting until suddenly Ellie smiled at her. Bingo. She loved it when she got a smile!
There's hope, she thought.
Susan listened. Threat removed. All girls together, mum's great, let's go help find a way out.
Mark looked at Adam.
'Somethin's goin' on with his head isn't it?'
'Silly bastard,' said Mark.
'He's lost it. Post traumatic stress or egomania or something.'
He called Ellie over.
'Babe, he's loosin' it, you seen it?'
'I don't know what's goin' on but we aren't on the telly like he says that's for damn sure! Mark, I wanna get out of here, these TV's are alive or somethin', look at 'em glowin'!'
'Alright bird, I'll have a word with him. Hang on!'
Here goes nothin, thought Mark as he walked towards Rich; how to tactfully explain to Rich that he'd gone mad.
It didn't go well, the conversation ended with Rich storming away in a rage.
'Mate, he's definitely lost it' he said to Adam.
'He don't want to leave. You try tellin' him, 'cause he just blew me out!'
'Come on bird' he said to Ellie, 'let's split'
He looked at Kate, Susan, Tim and James who were standing near by.
'You lot game?' he asked.
Richard endured a short conversation with Mark who it quickly became disappointingly clear, didn't believe his theory. He wouldn't touch the screen to test it out for himself though. The cogs in Richards brain were moving faster and faster. When it came down to it sensible, logical men like him came good.
There was more talking in the group. They wanted to leave the room. Let them. He'd figure this out on his own. He mooched slowly after the others as they ambled back to the doorway, eyes darting from screen to screen. And then he saw it. Off to his left. Not just a faint glimmer of movement in this one. This one was almost alive, the underwater sea scape flashing, the shadow of the bottom of a boat bobbing at the top, the fish swirling all around. Shimmering. Shimmering. God this was clever.
He hurried closer, his hands trembling in excitement, stopping with stumbling steps before the screen, mesmerised.
'It's this one!' he shouted. 'I've found it!' He whirled round, triumphantly.
'It's this one!' he repeated. 'Come on, give it up, I'm right aren't I?'
Where were they? Didn't they get it?
'It's this one, the clue. It's moving, see. See!!'
He turned back to the screen and slapped both his hands down hard. The surface rippled and tingled against his skin. He pulled his hands back and brought them down again harder.
He heard Adams voice raised in alarm at the same time as he realised that his hands were stuck.
The strange tingling flashed up his arms with incredible speed, sparks flashing where skin met screen. He was being drawn in, falling in, being pulled into the water.
His triumph turned to terror in an instant. He tried to turn, to shout for help, but there wasn't time.
'Ad..' was all he could manage before he was pulled headlong into the sea.
He turned, arms flailing, all around was ocean. He looked up at the bottom of the boat. It was too far. His lungs were empty. He had to breathe...
© Elvira 2011