The corridor was darker than it had been when I had been led here by Sister Dixon earlier in the evening. The fluorescent tubes above had been switched off and the light replaced by a red hue from the little lights that hung above every steel door. And the thought of what creatures might be stirring behind those doors and locked away. The strangest notion that at any moment those red lights would turn to green and the mechanisms within each door would begin to unlock.
I turned my head from left to right and peered along the full length of the corridor. The black and white chequered tiles that had been washed to shades of red beneath the light. At the far end of the corridor my eyes came to settle once more upon the CCTV camera I had noticed on the way here with Sister Dixon. The red diode that blinked above. The lens like an eye and as black as night. And the thought returned of a guard sitting somewhere before an array of TV monitors. The guard shifting their weary gaze from one grey monitor to the next.
I studied the black-eyed lens and the lens studied me back.
And part of me believed that the guard was distracted and that I wouldn’t be seen.
And part of me believed that the guard at that very moment was leaning in towards the edge of their chair and studying the corridor where I remained hidden for now behind the steel door.
“Come on Mandy, you can’t stay here all day.” I told myself for encouragement, and my words barely heard and little louder than a whisper.
The sound of movement in the cell to the side of me. A scratching at the door. Sharp claws and extended talons. And the voice that was heard beneath the gap at the bottom of the door where the steel didn’t quite meet the tiled floor. The sibilant hiss beneath the gap at the bottom of the door. The smell of rotten eggs upon the air that lifted from the little gap as the creature called out to me.
“Hurry, run. The witch is having fun.”
I shook my head and the words with it. And still my gaze that remained fixed upon the lens of the CCTV camera. The little red light that flickered above it. My fingers that continued to grasp the edges of the steel door and the darkness of the cell that remained behind. The corridor that extended outwards on either side. The chequered squares that had been bleached to shades of red.
“What witch?” I asked, “What fun?”
The urgent grunts and blasts of air that carried through the gap at the bottom of the steel door that remained locked to the world.
“She’s having fun she’s on the run.” The voice said. The amusement to the words. The thought occurring to me that the creature that remained locked behind the other side of the steel door would like nothing more than to be having fun with the witch.
“You mean Sister Dixon?” I asked, my urgent breathing and my voice that remained barely louder than a mouse squeak. “What’s she doing tonight?” I asked. And my gaze that remained fixed upon the black-eyed lens. The thought that at any moment the guard would notice that a cell door had been opened on the corridor and would press a big red button to the side of his desk. The piercing alarm would cry out its warning and the fluorescent tubes would flicker back to life. And the sound of heavy boots racing in towards me.
“Tonight’s the night, the price is right.” The voice said.
And I realised I was bored of this conversation now. Real bored. And why the hell was I even listening to the demented limericks from the imbecile on the other side of the steel door. And so instead I placed a foot towards the chequered floor tile and my sneaker transformed from a dull grey in colour to blood red. I pushed myself through the threshold of the cell door so that the whole of my body hesitated briefly upon the corridor. The scarlet red chequered squares beneath my feet. I turned my face from left to right and wondered what my next move should be.
“I’m going now.” I said as I turned to my left in the direction where I had been led here the evening before by Sister Dixon. The hope that my key would work with all the doors in here and allow me to pass through and on towards the dormitory where I would find my friends sleeping. And I would warn them of the danger. And we would escape Deadwood tonight.
“Tonight’s the night, the price is right.” The voice repeated, and a sadness to the words now somehow, as though some great lethargy had overtaken the creature who remained locked on the other side of the door. And so, without conscious thought, I found myself moving towards the steel door and my leg bending at the knee as I lowered myself and brought my hands towards the blood coloured squares. The tiles that felt warm against my skin as I leaned in towards the little gap at the bottom of the steel door.
“Who are you?” I said, and my face that remained close to the bottom of the steel door and the darkness that resided there. “Why are you locked in there?” I asked again.
A drawn-out sigh that was heard from the other side and the egg-like stench that carried with it.
“I’ve been naughty.” The voice said. “Remember me, come see.”
And the words. And the creatures strange rattling voice. And something about it that registered in my mind somehow. A closet door that had remained closed for so long but was now beginning to slowly open. And the creature was my friend. I knew it in my heart. But for the life of me, I could not begin to understand how or where the two of us had ever met before. But the creatures voice so familiar to me now. So familiar.
“You have the key, come see.” The voice said. And I knew that the strange creature was asking to be released. But I shook my head.
“No.” I said, “Not yet.” I explained, pulling back cautiously from the gap at the bottom of the door and turning my face to the left. The corridor that continued towards the smallest of points in the distance before turning a corner. The chequered floor tiles moving off in the opposite direction.
I pressed down against the tiles with the palm of my hand and pushed down with my legs and lifted myself up so that my back was straight. I turned my head from side to side and heard the muscles creak within my neck. I opened my mouth and drew in a great gulp of air so that my chest expanded beneath my chin. My fingers that rolled over into tight little fists. The key that remained grasped firm within my palm and the sharp metal pinching against the flesh. And free of my chains at last. Free of the chains that had shackled and imprisoned me in here.
“I need to save my friends.” I said, as I placed a step away from the steel door and the sound of the protesting cries of the creature that remained hidden in there. But I wasn’t listening.
I placed another step forward and then another and another and before I knew what I was doing I was running as fast as my little legs could carry me along the corridor and towards the dormitory where my friends were sleeping.
“Tonight’s the night.” I heard myself repeat. And something off with my voice now. Something buckled and broken. “The price is right.”