A serialised novel
...He’s got his back to me and is scraping together my scribbles from the notebook and, I notice, pocketing the pencil like he doesn’t want to leave anything behind for Harry… I mean, this room is all I’ve known right?… Just scrape your stuff off the floor and you’re gone – done – that’s it – nothing left of you, farewell fella…”Don’t worry Shem. Everything’s going to be just fi…” I don’t notice his voice trailing off right away… It’s Harry. Shit. I mean it’s Harry! I didn’t see that one coming. Did O’Donnel?… Harry clears his throat. “Who the hell are you?” he asks in a voice he never used with me… So you’ve come for…our friend here, right?” … My head is full of a hundred and one things – all of which refuse to come out in plain sight so I can say them…. That does it. Something in that little picture in my tiny brain pulls it out. I’m outta here. I make for the door right between gloating Harry and silent O’Donnel.
As I make for the door I get a little peep outside right? A grey wall opposite with a yellowing light three-quarters up the wall and just to the right I catch an oblong of metal strip, which I’m guessing marks the first of the steps downstairs. That’s where I’m heading.
When the blow comes it takes me a second or two to work out which one of my warring companions did it. O.k, so ‘blow’ is a bit harsh. The push then. Better? Hey, I mean, how should I know? Have I been in lots of fights? I don’t think so. Least, I don’t remember any. Any at all. But that’s just me right? Mr. No Brain. Anyways, turns out it’s Harry, from the way I’m sent spinning towards O’Donnel. Harry’s punched, or pushed at my right arm and it feels dead already.
I see O’Donnel’s arm slide out now, all slow like, and he kinda stops me and guides me to his side in one move. Even now when I think about it I gotta admit it had to look kinda slick.
“You can’t let him out there!” Harry’s little round face is starting to flush and his little round eyes are getting kinda wild and staring at O’Donnel. Mr. O’Donnel’s sudden silence and stillness just seems to make Harry that much more agitated. “You can’t know what’ll happen if he gets out there O’Donnel! What? Were you just going to let him run out the fucking door? Jeez! What’s the matter with you people?”
O’Donnel says nothing for one big long moment. In the end his silence becomes a taunt. Shit, he might as well have walked up to Harry and slapped him full in the face!
“Oh, yeah, yeah, take the moral high ground with your high and mighty silence now, Mr. O’ who-the-fuck-do-you-think-you-are!” Harry’s little eyes squint at O’Donnel with a dark intensity that makes me shiver and his voice turns to a menacing low whisper. “If he gets out there I hope you’re ready to take the consequences O’Donnel. ‘Cause I’ll be coming for you and holding you personally responsible. Got it?”
What is this? I’m stood there listening to all this shit. I mean, what’s the matter with me? Huh? What did I do? What did I ever do to these guys? It’s freaking me out, I mean, what am I supposed to do with this shit? What am I? A fucking bomb or something? I move away from O’Donnel and start saying this out loud, I can’t help it. It all starts boiling up inside of me.
“Hey! Hello? Hell-ooo! Anyone remember me? Ha, Like, don’t ask me my name right, ’cause I don’t know it, right Harry? But I know yours – yeah, like it’s your real name. And you – Mr. O’ Wotsit, calling me ‘Shem’ and making all friendly with the nice lady waiting. Huh, yeah ‘you’re all waiting.‘ Nice. Well…just shut up. Right? Just do me a favour and just shut-the-fuck-up right? Like, have you any idea what you’re doing to my head with all this crap? I wake up right, and here I am. Just me. No idea how I get here or why but that’s o.k. I’m starting to figure out stuff right..and then…and then you two show up and suddenly I’m some dangerous killer or something right? From the way you’re talking…anyway, that’s not it. No that’s not it. Not really. What it is is…I can’t get out. Right? You won’t let me out of this room. I don’t know what you’re talking about most of the time. And I don’t care really…not really. I just want to be allowed out of this room. I want to…to find out. Find out who I am right?” So I start to ramble then like some sad old drunk shmuck right? ‘Cause all my anger’s spent and I still haven’t finished but I suddenly feel very tired of the whole thing. I don’t care if they won’t let me out. My arm hurts and I just want to sleep. “I don’t care who either of you are. I don’t care who you think I am. Who knows right? I will go with whoever will let me out. Right? Whoever. I just want out. I don’t want more talk. Just let me out…or just fuck off. Don’t stand there talking anymore. Gottit?”
Anyways, then it’s my turn to stand in silence, like the both of these two. Harry’s still squinting at O’Donnel, clenching and un-clenching his fists. I’d guess he’s trying to look menacing and from where I’m standing he’s doing just a fine job of that. O’Donnel is nodding to himself slowly and tapping his foot, cat-like again, against the floor. O’Donnel’s not looking at Harry or me though. For a moment I think neither of them have heard a word I’ve said. What? Am I invisible or something? Jeez. I open my mouth to check that I can hear my own voice and that seems to be what O’Donnel was waiting for. He looks up, straight at Harry.
“I’ll take you with me Shem. You will leave with me. Mr. Parks will stay here…”
“The hell I will!”
“…and I will try to explain what is happening to you. But we should be going.”
“Wait O’Donnel!” Harry’s voice turns a weird tone as O’Donnel stretches one arm out to the door and one out to me. “At least let me have his notebook.” His face contorts like he’s swallowing something unpleasant. “Please O’Donnel. Let me go back with that at least.”
O’Donnel flicks his fingers at me in a ‘come on’ gesture and I take a first step to go between them again but I’m keeping my eye on Harry. He’s looking all innocent and pleading at O’Donnel now. I can’t figure the change from Mr. Menacing. Did I miss something? Did someone cross some invisible line or flick a switch or some thing? When I’m level with them, from my left I see O’Donnel reach inside his jacket pocket for something. His other hand searches the door frame and there is a click. The door swings open and I freeze.
Like I say, don’t ask me right? How do I know this stuff? I can’t tell you. But I know it’s like one of those Westerns when the two guys are facing off, right? There’s a stillness in the room…no…between the two of them, that I could taste if I put out my tongue. I don’t know the names of any films and I couldn’t tell you what I’m expecting to happen. It’s weird. It’s like some half-dream. I’ve known it but I couldn’t have told you about it until it happened. Then it all comes flooding back. Anyways I know enough that I quick-step past them and kinda duck at the same time as I head for the door.
I don’t believe it! I’m out! I’m actually out! I look down at my feet. They’re stood on a faded green carpet, not bare wooden boards anymore. There’s a smell and a sounding around me that is subtle but so, so different from anything I’ve had in there. I’m actually not in the room! I straighten up and look up at the light on the wall. It’s grimy and has a collection of dead flies at the base. Turning to my right I see the stairwell.
I was right. The stairs are topped with metal strips but are the same utility worn green flooring as the hall. There are about six steps before they turn away to the left. Facing me is another grey wall inset with a small window showing me a square of the street below. I smile. “I’m out!”
“Go downstairs Shem and wait for me at the door.” O’Donnel’s voice almost makes me jump, he’s still so close. Ha, yeah, right. What a shmuck. I haven’t got past outside the door yet. As I turn to go down I look back through the now closing view of the room. I catch a flash of O’Donnel pulling something from his coat. It’s grey and barrel-like. Harry is backing toward the wall, talking fast.
“O’Donnel, just give me the paper and we won’t have to do this, that’ll be enough. You’ve won this one, o.k? Really, you don’t need to…” I can’t hear anymore as the door clicks shut. I mount the stairs and start down. A strange feeling flutters in my gut. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m out or because of what I think is about to happen to Harry. I reach the landing when I hear it. A sharp thud.
Like, it’s not a good sound right? Kinda final, if that makes sense. How do I know, like I say? But I know one of them is down. It could of been a gunshot or a fall. How should I know? But any fool could tell it wasn’t like an old lady tripping over. This is someone going down who wasn’t getting up again, right? And suddenly I don’t want to be so close to the room when they leave. Who? I don’t know, do I? Jeez. Could be Harry, could be O’Donnel. My money’s on O’Donnel but do I want to wait around and find out? Shit no.
I’m on the second landing when I hear a door open above me. I start jumping down the steps, two at a time. Can’t be far to the exit can it? How many more? Then the footsteps are coming down behind me. Fast.
Dear reader – do you have a suggestion for the next chapter? A suggestion for who just left the room? Will anyone come to the character’s aid? Perhaps a plot idea? Or maybe you just want to tell me to stop! Whatever, drop me a comment! You may find it used in the next chapter!
‘Til next time,
- The Room (rattledrum.wordpress.com)