The ground stopped shaking. It would do that every so often and unpredictability so. It started off as a tremor and everything would shift out of focus, almost like a camera or whenever I had a little bit too much to drink. Other times it came like torrents of waves, like the very ground had been pulled from right underneath my feet. Strangely enough, that was not the most frightening part. No, my fear was founded in the most unlikeliest of places. The stillness. At first I let myself be deceived by it and allowed myself to stand again, for waves do not rage on forever and there’s only enough sleep and painkillers you can take to sober yourself up, I told myself. But it’s frequent occurrence made me anticipate it, just like you would the very first cries of a newborn. Your ears waiting with baited breath for that guttural sound to let loose from those small lungs and declare to the world their presence. It was that wait, that long excruciating wait that was most unnerving.
If only it had ended there. Not only was the ground ever moving but the room itself in which I was trapped in possessed a type of kinetic energy, one that was directionless and where the walls would try to come together like the closing of a finished book. ‘Would this be the ending of me?’ I wondered to myself as burgeoning tears threatened to spill and cling to the stubble spattered across my chin. As the room tightened so did my throat, forbidding anything from so much as a quiver from escaping. Despite the pervading darkness that rolled in like clouds of perfume I close my eyes.
Everything is still again, and when I allow myself to open one eye I see the walls of this room, this confine, staring right at me, mocking me as it lies an inch away from brushing against my hairline. Then in one quick whoosh all four walls rush back to their place as if they’re done conspiring against me today and are giving me a chance to catch my breath. ‘How gracious of them,’ I think to myself as I keel over.
The only sound I can hear is my ragged breathing. My heart that would usually be pounding beyond incomprehensible measure lay dormant and was replaced by a dull throbbing, not quite a stubbing of the toe or a punch to the gut type of the pain, but the aftermath of it. The stubborn part of pain that clings like moss hidden in the deep crevices of myself.
My whole body curls inside itself. I wish for escape from this confine but I do not know how. In front of me are bars like prison cells and as I wrap my hands around them they sear like the metal has been forged from the inner depths of hell. Instinctually I let go of my hand and cradle it with the other as I place it close to my lips. Though I’m not bound by shackles the air is so palpable I feel it weighing me down. Is this some sort of purgatory? Despite my complete ignorance of this wretched place I was certain I wasn’t dead.
Just as I thought I couldn’t be gifted with anymore surprises there was a quick and hurried sound of approaching footsteps that slapped against the cold floor. I forced myself out of the hunched posture I was in and braced myself for whatever was about to come. Perhaps it was the Angel of Death here to transport me to my next destination. Where that was, I could not stomach to fathom.
Stood before me was not an angel though, not in the literal sense anyway. It was a girl. As I edged forward and allowed my eyes to adjust to the brightness that streamed from her torchlight I realised it wasn’t just any girl. It was her.
‘Sienna?’ I tried to say but my voice refused to speak.
The pool of hazel in her eyes were rimmed with a redness that screamed of insomnia and her brown hair that once cascaded down her back like a waterfall now like choppy waters that barely reached her shoulders. She looked small, contained. Like she was about to combust at any moment. She was trapped here too.
‘Sienna?’ I will myself to say again and this time her name comes out as a croak. Her eyes lock with mine and in them they hold a bitter sadness, something far deeper than indignation. I try to reach her through the metal bars but when my fingers brush her arm a flicker of intense heat rushes through me and as I see her wince I have no choice but to pull away.
For the longest time it is quiet and I wonder like me if this place has drained her voice as well as the will to live. But then she begins to speak and her voice is so cold that I forget the heat that seared my hand just moments ago. “You have no idea where we are, do you?”
I blink in surprise at her questioning. I shake my head, unsure of what to say. Was I supposed to know where I am? Seeing Sienna here does give it a sense of familiarity, as though I’ve been here before. But how could I have been?
“Don’t worry, you’re not the only unfortunate one here. We’ve all had to experience the trials” she speaks soberly, so matter of fact about everything. It’s almost jarring.
“W-what are you talking about? Where the hell are we?”
A ghost of a smile appears on her face, it’s a sad smile. One I’d see her plaster to stop tears from forming. It never worked really. “Don’t you get it? You brought yourself here. Heck, we all brought ourselves here. Down here to this fucking nightmare!” She’s filled with incandescent rage that’s only just rising to the surface, yet her voice is so weak, so brittle.
“Sienna,” I feel my own voice break as I say her name. “Why? Why are we here?”
With her eyes prickled with tears she looks at me, looks at me so intently as if it’s the last time she’ll ever see me. We can’t leave like this. Not again. “We all caused pain. Deep pain. So as consequence we’re here… Trapped inside the aftermath of the pain we inflicted.”
Then everything hits me like a gush of wind and I can feel a wisp of smoke seep into room and wrap itself around my throat. I can hear my voice tickling my ear, taunting me with all of my empty words. My gaze lands on Sienna’s sad eyes once more and the realisation dawns on me that she’s right. I and I alone brought myself here.
And it is her pain which I’m trapped in.