So… coming in just under the wire, my second entry to the Terribleminds Flash Fiction challenges, continuing a tale first posted by Clay Ashby. It’s entirely not as well thought out or revised as I would have liked, but with a phone call on Monday, my entire week off turned into an entire work week, so plans had to be adjusted accordingly. Anyway, here is the original story with my own continuation following.
My eyes opened with a metallic clatter. A single dim lamp reflected its yellow hue on the ceiling above. Instinctually I was able to sit up and balance myself on the table. At least I think it was instinct because I certainly don’t remember ever doing it before. My legs dangled over the edge and my feet didn’t quite touch the floor. The thought of lifting myself off the table and falling, even just that little bit, worried me, but I did it. My feet clanked on the rusty floor as I stumbled, trying to find my balance. With my feet spread wide I was able to stabilize, so I lifted my head to look around.
Large gears turned inside the walls, visible through crumbled sheets of wood and iron. My head began whistle, beginning at a high pitch and increasing until it was nearly impossible to hear. The sound was terrifying and at first quite annoying, but the mild vibration was soothing, and it seemed to help me keep my balance. I took my first step, a step that was a little too big, but my foot landed on the floor and held firm. The vibration inside my head was helping me. I was sure of it, so I took several more steps. No problem at all! The vibration in my head made it almost easy.
There was only one exit from the room, a dark hallway. I decided to go. I didn’t really have any other choice. Every step I took was loud. It made me uncomfortable, like I was being watched. I tried to step softly, but it was no use. Metal contacting metal simply could not be made quiet. The hallway continued on without ending and my deliberate steps made progress slow. The glow of lamps from the room behind me began to fade. With every step it faded more. I wasn’t sure how much further I could go, so I stopped, unsure if another step forward would be wise. I was able to turn my head all the way around and look at where I had come from, a faint yellow spot now. There didn’t seem to be any reason to return, except fear. The room was vacant and square, with nothing useful inside. My only option was to move onward into the darkness.
I took only one more step, no clank. Imagine if I had turned back at that moment. I was only one step away from a new type of ground, but I would have never known it. With my arms slowly flailing, in search of obstacles, I continued into the pitch black. Still no clank from my feet. The silence combined with the dark made me feel like I was walking into nothingness, but that eerie feeling was certainly better than the creepy clank from before. At least I felt hidden now.
When my face met a solid steel door I thought I had finally made it to the end. I leaned into it and pushed. The metal moaned from stress and a few rivets popped, but it gave way easily enough. Unfortunately this door, my supposed salvation, revealed almost certain doom.
The light outside the door was stark and blinding after the complete darkness of the corridor. But even after some time to adjust, it lost little of its brightness, illuminating a landscape profoundly different from the one I had first found myself in.
In front of me, a thick and strange jungle opened up, trees so tall I couldn’t make out their crowns, their bark covered with lichen and moss, some of which glowed with a dazzling fluorescence. The ground was moist grasses and mud, patches of impenetrable mist wafting between the tree trunks. I stood there, transfixed by the vast marvels unfolding before me, but the whirr in my head urged me on despite the fact that I had no way of knowing which dangers awaited me going forward. It seemed, however, that my feet had stood idle long enough and my first step outside was not happening entirely out of my own volition. The earthy ground sunk beneath my heavy steps as I picked my way forward into the forest, sometimes causing little puffs of acrid gas and steam to rise around my feet.
At first, I figured I was making good progress, the gaping hole of the steel door vanishing behind me among the vegetation. But the ground turned into a watery sludge under my feet and soon it became a squeaking effort to even move them out of the mire at all. By the time I had to admit that going further might not be at all advisable, I found myself in a rapidly expanding bog, spattered up to the armpits with little drops of mud and no trunks or roots anywhere near enough to grasp onto. With great trepidation, I realized that not only was it impossible to move my lower joints up and onward, but I was sinking into the ground and every tiny movement accelerated my decent.
Now, one might think that finding myself slowly being swallowed whole with no way to escape the quagmire would be enough to stall my breath with paralyzing fear. However, the understandable apprehension about the impending loss of life and limb faded into the background when, for that very reason, my mind finally became aware of a number of facts that had been there the whole time, but failed to puzzle me until now. The metallic clank of my feet on the ground, the turning of my head all the way around, the squeaking in my joints, the breath that should be wheezing in my lungs from the panic and that just remained a rigid, muted ticking sound. It all was thrown into stark contrast as I watched my steel fingers weave and grasp and slowly sink under the muddy surface with the feeling that all of this was very, very wrong. And so, instead of wondering what fate might await me once I was fully submerged, only one thought kept on rattling around, echoing in the empty chamber of my head.
What the hell has HAPPENED to me?