A steel door slammed shut behind him. Although he didn't hear it lock, he knew it had. Useless then to turn around and try opening it. Looking everywhere but towards the door, the man studied the chamber he had been incarcerated within. A small balcony, no larger than two or three people could stand on, was suspended over a deep pit some fifteen metres across. Over the hand rail, left or right, or indeed through the grid that floored the balcony, all he could see was a hazy grey.
A yellow, sourceless light illuminated a dome which capped the pit. There was a pressure, as though the haze pushed against the light, forcing it against the dome. He imagined that if it were punctured, the light would pour out, leaving the entire area grey. He shuddered at this thought, gripping the hand rail tighter.
Everywhere he looked there was raw metal; the dome plated over with rivetted steel, like great fish scales, or old armour he had once seen. The balcony was constructed from scaffolding, bolted into the wall behind, a scant handrail and a flimsy mesh between himself and the murk.
And there was the door.
It too was metal, it fitted snugly into the steel frame, almost seamless, with no handles or keyholes, at least not on this side. These things he knew, despite never having seen it.
The handrail was warm, not just where his hands had been, but all along its length. This had a meaning for him, but despite trying to think back, to walk his memories to the time before, he couldn't recall why. Neither, now he tried, could he remember much else. His name had gone, although he recalled having one, and it being important to him. He was a man, of that he was one hundred percent certain. He was also in trouble, a faceless, looming threat that overshadowed everything he did. That was why he was in here, he was hiding, cowering from whatever lay beyond the door.
The man relaxed slightly. He was inside a metal bunker, behind a sealed door, what could possibly hurt him in here? The balcony creaked, very slightly, as he moved his weight.
Illogically, the man tightened his grip on the handrail, as though by pressing the metal he could affect the tension in the anchoring bolts. For several minutes he stood very still, contemplating whether to make a dash for the door. But each time he made up his mind to move, the image of the door appeared in his mind, a vast slab of steel barred and shut against him, only him.
A sweat had broken out on the man's forehead, from fear or effort or just the closed in space, the man was unable to tell. Beads of salty moisture rolled down his face, to drip off his chin in a regular rhythm. He watched the stains spreading down his jacket, down his silk tie. There was no remorse, he wouldn't need either again.
The thought startled him, as though his sub-conscious had known it all along, and was just telling his waking mind. But that wasn't how he wanted it, surely? The back brain couldn't make decisions, only report what it knew, at least that's how he had always seen it.
Before he could set his thoughts to follow up a conclusion, a ripple of sound rose up from the pit. Snatches of bright music and distant laughter interwoven. A glance down revealed primary colours flashing up through the haze. The lights and music coalesced into three iridescent bubbles one metre across. Slowly, they arose, pushing back the grey with their joyous nature. As each bubble skimmed past him, he noticed each held a figure, a child looking around with theme park eyes, seeing things he couldn't see. They pointed, chattering endlessly, all talking, yet all listening, missing nothing.
In turn, the bubbles circled around under the dome, then descended back into the pit. He called out, let go with one hand, waved and shouted with all his might. Each looked at him in turn, and each smile faded, the lights dimming, the music slowing to a dirge. The bubbles burst, dropping the children, his children, screaming into the pit. Frantically he called out, though he didn't know their names, stretching out his hand in a useless attempt to grab them. They were gone. As final as that.
- Copyright Steve Dean