The first chapters of a dark novel.What do you think? Want more?
It was normally a quiet corner of English countryside, but not tonight. Chief Superintendent Boyd was shaken following his conversation with the Prime Minister. He sat on the edge of the patrol car passenger seat with the door wide open, his feet in the dirt at the side of the car. He put his hands to his face and tried to rub away some of the exhaustion that was threatening to overcome him. In twenty-six years of policing, he had never had to deal with anything of this magnitude before. Questions were going to be asked. Serious questions about how on Earth a massacre of this scale had been allowed to happen.
At the last count forty-two people were dead. Thirty-three at the facility, three civilians and six of his officers. More reports were coming in and the figure was rising rapidly.
The escapees had retreated into the woods. That was not good. They had proved to be vicious, animalistic adversaries and he could not risk sending more people in to be slaughtered in the darkness of the dense woodland.
The Prime Minister himself had ordered that he tread very carefully, he obviously knew more about the escapees than the Superintendent or he would not be sending in the military. His orders were now simple; watch, wait and report until the military arrive to stand down the police.
With a sigh, he picked up the radio and conveyed the orders to his men.
“This is Chief Superintendent Boyd,” he spoke authoritatively into the mouthpiece of the dashboard-mounted radio.
“All units, hold back, repeat, hold back. No one is to enter the woods. Just hold your positions, watch and report any activity at all, immediately.” He paused for a moment, releasing the speak button on the side of the radio and with a sigh, depressed it again and continued.
“I repeat, hold position and act as reconnaissance only, no heroics out there please.”
The Superintendent replaced the radio and stood up. With a shake of his head he turned and headed back into the melee of flashing blue lights and uniforms.
The police officer guarding the famous black door to number ten Downing Street had been busy this morning. A flurry of activity such as this was unusual in the early hours of the morning. It was the officer’s considered opinion that something big was happening. He knew the signs, he had seen them before, the days leading upto the invasion of Iraq had seen similar troubled faces disappearing into number ten in the dead of night and not reappearing again before his shift was over.
Somehow, this was different though. He sensed an almost palpable edginess in the air. He was sure he had noticed fear amongst the familiar parliamentarians that had bustled past him. Even the Deputy PM had not said a word. He looked ashen, with concern in his weary, heavily lined eyes. The Deputy Prime Minister was normally a quite jovial character who would always exchange pleasantries with the guard. It was nice; he made the guard feel a little less of a servant and a little more of a human being.
Inside, the atmosphere was tense.
Never had a government had to make such profoundly moral choices. Choices that each and every person involved knew would change the face of politics, Britain and the ideals of the free world forever. People were going to die. Innocent, civilian people. And this government was putting them to death.
Dan Burns gazed from the window of his miserable flat, gazed at the miserable people milling around on this miserable, overcast morning in this miserable town. That's all life seemed to be lately, miserable. He leaned forward a little more, straining for the better view that had always eluded him, his forehead pressing against the cold glass and his breath condensing on the pane until finally obscuring his vision.
This was the encouragement he needed to sit down and stop brooding over the events of the last few months; he would often stand quietly by the window, mentally abusing any passers by that he was familiar with. He was aware of the puerility of his undertaking of this pastime but did not really care because it helped him to cope. It was his only means of revenge toward the people of this petty, narrow-minded, cesspool of a town they called Oakleigh.
He was bitter. Bitter toward the town, the people, the whole damn lot of them, who needs them anyway? They're nothing but hypocrites and losers.
Dan was desperate not to end his days a loser and akin to so many of his townsfolk. He wanted out, needed to make something of his life, a fresh start. Yes that's it, a fresh start in a new place with a new job and new friends. This time he would get it right and make it. This time he would be able to sit back and be satisfied with his life. The whole thing would seem worthwhile, unlike his meaningless existence at present, that was the only thing he felt sure about, well, that and Polly.
He sometimes thought that Polly was the only thing that kept him going, and it was true. If it were not for Polly he really would have nothing left to live for. He certainly could not keep going purely for the sake of his mundane excuse for a career, that was for sure. It depressed him to think of all that time at college learning his trade being a waste. It used to be exciting; he used to cook with the enthusiasm and fervour of a hundred Keith Floyds but not any more. Who the hell wants to be a chef anyway? Certainly not Dan, not any more. At first it all seemed so glamorous and satisfying but he soon came to realise that he was no better than any one in any service industry. In Dan's opinion they were all downtrodden, sad individuals who could not make it in a meaningful career so had to settle for whatever they could get. Usually this would entail the mopping of enormous floors or the scrubbing of endless pans or, in his case, preparing meal after meal and for what? No thanks, a pittance of pay and a gradual decline into the depths of despair. Dan felt sure that any fool could do his job once the ropes were learnt without too much trouble. After all, there are only so many things that you can cook and his clientele were very particular which meant that there was never anything new to challenge the intellect that he knew he had. God, he needed a change.
The bang of the outside door and the thunder of footsteps on the stairs announced the arrival of Polly. He glanced at his watch, twenty past eleven. She's early home. He hurriedly got up and went over to the mirror, (feeling slightly foolish for his sudden attack of vanity), to check on his appearance. On deciding that he did not necessarily look as if he had spent the whole morning sulking and brooding, turned to greet her with a half manufactured smile.
"Hi!" came the cry as the front door closed behind her and she made her way through to the lounge, dropping her hessian bag to the floor and heading to Dan for the mandatory greeting of a hug and a kiss.
"How you feeling today then babes?" she asked with an expression that Dan could not quite place but for a moment thought it was suspicion. 'Maybe she thinks I'm faking it' he thought but did not part with any gesture or comment to let on his suspicions.
"You do seem to have that temperature still," she put in before he could answer as she gently held a palm against his forehead, immediately putting paid to Dan's over paranoid delusion.
"I'm okay, just a little under the weather that's all," he lied. The truth was he felt absolutely terrible but he had had one of those involuntary responses, where you just have to say that you are feeling okay when confronted with questions about your health, no matter how far from the truth this is in reality. Feeling slightly guilty now for suspecting the only person he could trust of not trusting him, he gently stroked her long, jet-black hair.
"Just a little under the weather," she retorted mockingly to his reply, "You've been 'just a little under the weather' for over a week now, I really think that you should see a doctor, you've obviously got more than the average cold." She was right of course but he just hadn't gotten around to it yet. Almost as if she had read his mind Polly carried on, "So I've made you an appointment for this afternoon, after work so that I can take you in the car. So don't try any excuses because you haven't got any, okay?"
"Okay," he replied, holding up his hands in a gesture of surrender. He gave her his best scolded child look and planted a kiss on her lips.
"Go and sit down, I'll put the kettle on," he said giving her a gentle pat on the backside and heading off in the direction of the kitchen.
He had to hand it to her; she always seemed to get what she wanted. Another thing that he almost envied was her happy-go-lucky nature. She never let life get her down, even in her work she seems to be quite happy. Dan thought that her job working on the reception at the local council must be even more mundane and monotonous than his job, but if it was, she never let it show.
A few minutes later he returned with two mugs of hot coffee and they both settled down on the sofa.
"Thanks darling!" came Polly's over enthusiastic outburst as he handed over her coffee, another of her little mannerisms, which amused Dan greatly.
"I only made a coffee." He chuckled as he took a sip. Polly always managed to lighten his mood almost instantly upon arrival, maybe that was partly why he loved her so much, she always managed to leave him smiling. Maybe it was because she could sense his unhappiness. Whatever it was Dan liked it.
He supposed that he had the local community to thank for he and Polly becoming so close. If it weren't for the fact that they had both become social outcasts, they would never have grown so close, of that he was sure and he took satisfaction from the fact that their respective groups of 'friends' on trying to make them miserable had actually brought them closer together.
Of course, he had to bear the brunt of the blame. It was his choice to leave Claire and set up home with Polly but he wasn't to know that Claire's popularity would make almost the whole town despise the new couple so much. Even people that they had considered close friends had shunned them, terrified of being shunned themselves.
Paul, who lived downstairs, was the latest in a long line of the couple’s enemies. They had known Paul separately prior to their affair and the subsequent move into the flat above him. Dan actually thought of Paul as a very good friend. But recently this ‘friend’ had become very close to Claire, so Dan could only assume that on witnessing the hurt he had caused her first hand, Paul had decided that Claire was far too good for such a scumbag in the first place. He really seemed to have fallen out with Dan in a big way for reasons that could only be speculated upon, but to hell with him too!
What Dan and Polly could not understand was that almost the whole populous still had not forgiven and forgotten after almost a year of it being out in the open. But by far the most frustrating part was that Claire actually spoke to Daniel now and was perfectly civil towards him. She was even civil towards Polly, which Dan found far more surprising.
But still the small town mentality could not forgive, so Dan had given up and pretty much decided that they should move on and make a fresh start somewhere new. Polly also showed enthusiasm for this course of action but something told him that she was a little scared of uprooting and a little more wary of new beginnings. She never communicated such feelings so he therefore had to take it that she was willing, after all she said she was and he felt sure that she would do it for him if nothing else.
After sharing idle chit chat about television for the coming evening and finishing their drinks Polly arose and clapping her hands in a decisive gesture said, "Right you," wagging her finger in his direction, "Go and get changed, I've got some stuff in the car for lunch, we're going out." Smiling, she leaned over and took his hand to haul him from his position on the sofa, groaning at his weight.
"Come on lazy boy, it's cleared up outside, lets go up to the lake for a picnic."
"A picnic! You're mad, it's freezing outside!" he complained.
" No it's not, and anyway, how would you know when you haven't left this flat for days?"
"I'm ill," he moaned.
"Fresh air will do you good," she retaliated.
"But...." Dan cut short his sentence realising that any attempt at the resistance was futile. Anyway he probably could do with some fresh air. He went through to the bedroom and changed from his tracksuit bottoms and T-shirt into jeans and a thick winter pullover with a roll neck. He grabbed a scarf on his way back to the lounge from the coat stand in the hallway. On his return he was greeted by a fit of the giggles, the cause of which he had completely missed, so he just stared at Polly blankly, awaiting an explanation for this bizarre behaviour.
"You look like you're ready for a trip to the North Pole!" Polly explained in between giggles.
"What!" he pleaded, "I have to keep warm, I'm ill."
"Yes but we're going to the lake for half an hour not to the Arctic Tundra for a month," she scoffed.
"Alright, alright, you win, I'll leave the scarf, okay?" he said as if he were making some huge sacrifice, of course this only served to elicit more giggles from Polly. After she had managed to calm herself down Polly decided that they had better leave before she had a relapse. Taking his hand and growling at him, she pulled him out of the lounge with a couple more sarcastic comments about Captain Scott and big wimps.
Most of the time at the lake during lunch, was spent by Dan complaining and informing Polly of his correctness regarding the temperature. This served to ignite a spark of worry within Polly because she was actually quite warm. She also felt a pang of fear but could not decide how it had originated and so kept the strange sensation to herself. She listened to Dan's whining and was suddenly overcome with affection for him. She couldn’t imagine life without him.
"Don't you just hate doctors' waiting rooms? I mean, you could catch something really horrible in one of these places," Dan shifted uneasily in his seat and looked at Polly for reassurance of some kind but none was forthcoming, instead all she did was make fun of him. Squeezing his hand, she gave a false gasp and in a truly awful impression of Marilyn Monroe whispered, "Gee Mr President, you mean like ... the lergie?" and chuckled at his disapproving look.
"OK come on, doctors aren't that bad, you should try a smear sometime then you'd have a reason to be apprehensive," she informed him.
"Who's apprehensive? I'm not apprehensive, what makes you say that?" countered Dan defensively.
"Now you're being defensive as well as apprehensive," she mocked.
"I am not in the least bit worried and I am not being defensive or..."
The crackling voice on the intercom rudely interrupted to summon Dan through to see Doctor Ali. His last words as he rose to leave the surgery waiting area were a mumbled curse of the type that is highly inappropriate for the surroundings. Polly felt a peculiar mix of both embarrassment and satisfaction at the proof of Daniel's nervousness.
On his return to the awaiting Polly, Dan described what had taken place inside the doctor's room.
"He thinks that I have some kind of viral infection and has told me that I have to have some blood tests and, get this, I have to produce samples of urine and FAECES! I mean honestly, he gave me this little bottle thing with a spoon inside. How the hell am I supposed to get my crap from A to B?"
"I suppose that you'll just have to use your imagination, won't you?" goaded Polly with a smirk.
By now they were out of the building and heading in the direction of the carpark where Polly's little Ford was waiting. Dan, who was preoccupied with the fact that 'sods law', had determined that they had to park in the furthest space away, was walking two steps behind his lover.
"So when do you have to go back for these blood tests then?" enquired Polly glancing over her shoulder and awaiting a response.
"Monday morning at nine," replied Dan.
Polly thought that he sounded a bit groggy so turned to him;
"Are you feeling okay Dan? You sound a little odd," she asked, her voice laced with concern.
"I'm alright," replied Dan, "but I'll be a lot better when I have had these tests...and find out...what's..." and with that he collapsed into a heap onto the carpark floor.
Polly stood gaping at first and then, finally coming to her senses, burst into a run in the direction of the surgery from which they had emerged just moments before. She returned seconds later accompanied by two doctors and a receptionist. Polly stood and watched, feeling helpless while the two medics tended to the man that she loved.
Dan opened his eyes and gazed at what he assumed to be the ceiling but his vision was blurred and he was having trouble focusing. Confusion overwhelmed him as he tried, in vain at first, to establish where on Earth he was and why he felt so bloody awful. Panic was the next phase, as he attempted to sit up but was abruptly prevented from doing so for reasons beyond his comprehension. He reasoned he should just lay back until his head and vision finally cleared allowing him to attempt to rationalise the whole situation.
Straps, that was it, he was strapped down. Panic threatened to engulf him once more as he tried to come to terms with waking up, after God only knows how long, strapped to a bed. He fought the rising panic, deciding that he was in a bad enough state of confusion and incomprehension without adding any more emotions to the volatile cocktail he was already experiencing.
After slowly counting to ten to ward off the threat of all encompassing panic he slowly raised his head and shoulders as far as he could in an attempt to assess the situation. Had he been kidnapped? No, on the basis of his surroundings he thought not. Dan was in a plain, square room, completely white in decor apart from a huge mirror that took up the entire wall on his left. For some strange reason this gave him an odd feeling of being watched. Dan was surrounded by monitors and medical apparatus serving purposes that he could only imagine. He was strapped down by thick leather straps, which were brown in colour with shiny brass buckles. There was one on each ankle and wrist and an extra large one across his chest. He also noticed wires attached to electrodes running from a few choice parts of his anatomy up to the surrounding monitors.
A tube also ran from his left arm up an inverted L shaped shiny metal frame to a clear plastic pouch of some sort of transparent solution. Taking all this in, Dan decided, in a flash of near genius, that he must be in hospital. But why? He struggled with his memory, trying to recall if a car had hit him, or if some other kind of unfortunate accident had befallen him, but to no avail. The last thing that Dan remembered was the lake, yes the lake, Polly, a picnic. What next? The doctor's surgery. That was it; he must have passed out. The last thing he remembered was heading towards Polly's car and then nothing, just blackness.
That was all very well but it still didn't explain the straps and multitude of bleeping marvels of technology that surrounded him.
Dan estimated that around ten minutes had passed before he observed any sign of company and when this finally happened it only served to renew his confusion and panic. The door had opened with a hydraulic hiss and his immediate thoughts were centred on the door's exaggerated thickness. It seemed, from the angle he was looking from, to be at least six inches in thickness and it was also obvious now, that the door was metallic in structure. A moment later a figure appeared and then another dressed in what he could only describe as bright orange spacesuits with headgear similar in shape to that of a beekeeper but with a plastic, instead of mesh, faceguard. The figures approached Dan's bed and leaned over him revealing the features were, on the whole, distinguishable through the plastic masks which protected them from God only knew what. This revelation immediately dispelled the crazy notion that Dan had been aboard some kind of spacecraft, hurtling through the cold and lonely vacuum of space, being experimented on by creatures that were something other than human. 'Thank God for small mercies!', thought Dan without even the slightest trace of humour.
"How are you feeling, Daniel?" asked the old man in what struck Dan as a kindly voice. He tended to one of the devices that was keeping track of the heartbeat of the patient.
"Groggy," came Dan's reply, "and very confused, what am I doing here?"
"My name is Professor Henry Lawrence and I have been tending to you, and this is Kate, she's your nurse," he gestured towards the young woman who raised a hand and said, "Hi Daniel, good to have you back with us."
"What happened to me? And what's with these?" asked Dan rattling the straps on his wrists.
"Well," replied the old man, "You were thrashing around a bit while you were out, we had to restrain you before you hurt yourself. You see, you have been suffering from some kind of virus, the likes of which we have never seen before and you are, at present, in quarantine. Kate and I are wearing these suites because, until we can prove otherwise, we must treat the virus as highly contagious." Turning to the nurse he requested, in an authoritative tone, that she unstrap their patient, which she set about doing surprisingly gracefully considering the cumbersome looking outfit that she had to wear.
The Professor turned back to Dan to continue his explanation.
"The virus appears to have affected your level of platelets. These are the clotting agents in your blood, so we couldn't have you thrashing around, in case you were to injure yourself and bleed to death now could we?" stated the Professor in what was a distinct tone of 'goodness me, don't you know anything you imbecile?' A sudden change of bedside manner, with which Dan was not entirely comfortable.
Dan stiffly sat up, relieved to be free of the restraints, with the aid of the woman called Kate. Stammering, trying to soak up this bombardment of information Dan blurted, "B but, w what, h how, I mean will I be alright?"
"You're over the worst, now relax, your looking as if you are going to be fine. You are a very lucky man Daniel, we almost lost you."
"Christ! That bad?" came Dan's shocked response.
"Oh yes, you are very lucky," confirmed the Professor.
With a sudden thought that struck him like a bolt of lightening Dan remembered Polly.
"Polly!" he exclaimed shifting on the bed in this new panic, "is she alright? She didn't catch it did she?"
"Polly is fine Daniel, now just relax," came the Professor's reply in a return to the reassuring tone of before. "She did contract the virus that you have but has not shown any outward signs like yourself, much to the confusion of our team. She's in quarantine in a room just down the corridor, you can see her later but for now you need to take it easy and rest. You've been through a lot and have been out for quite some considerable time.
"How long?" asked Dan simply.
"Four months," was the Professor's equally simple reply. TIME??
"Four months!" exclaimed Dan, "I've been unconscious for FOUR months?" he asked in disbelief.
"You certainly have. You slipped into a coma almost immediately and have been there ever since. It's only over the last few days that you have been showing any sign of movement at all and that was convulsive, hence the straps." The Professor explained this with a wave of his hand in the general direction of the straps, which had restrained Dan only minutes before. His mind boggled at the 'matter of factness' in the elderly doctor's voice.
'This guy sounds like it happens all the time' thought Dan in amazement.
"Now you must understand Daniel," continued the old man, "that your convalescence is going to be a long, slow process. You are going to need physiotherapy and a lot of it to get you mobile again. For now, DO NOT try to stand up, just rest and try to absorb everything that I've told you. Kate will bring you something to drink in a moment. I'll be back to check on you later." And with that the Professor turned to Kate, administered a few orders, turned and left with a nod in Dan's direction, the door hissing closed behind him.
Dan hadn't realised until a drink was mentioned that he was probably more thirsty now than he ever had been in his entire twenty-eight years. Twenty-nine! He was now twenty-nine and had missed his birthday!
A couple of hours later, Dan and Polly were reunited. They were told by Professor Lawrence that there was no problem in them sharing a room as they were both in quarantine for the same disorder and had spent so much time together anyway prior to their admittance to hospital, without any ill effects directly attributable to their close contact. This was a great relief to them both and they soon set about reacquainting themselves.
"God I've missed you Dan," sighed Polly embracing him and performing what Dan thought was as close to a 'bear hug' as he had ever experienced.
"It's weird for me," Dan mused, "because it seems like it was only yesterday that I saw you last. I'm having difficulty comprehending that I have been unconscious for four* months." Explained Dan as they released each other and shifted their positions on the edge of his bed to accommodate handholding.
"In a way, I think that you are actually quite lucky," Polly said without the trace of humour which Dan was looking for, "I mean, I think that I would rather have slept through it than spend most of it going up the wall from boredom and worry" added Polly in response to Dan's questioning look.
"I must have scared you half to death being in that condition" said Dan and without waiting for a reply continued, "did they let you see me while I was out?"
"Not for the first two weeks but after that I was allowed in for twenty minutes a day, so I have been able to make sure that you weren't up to no good with these nurses!" Polly answered with a warm smile and a gentle poke to his ribs.
"Huh! Chance would have been a fine thing, have you seen those suits that they wear? I never would have been able to get her out of it if I had been conscious and well enough to feel frisky!" retorted Dan grinning.
"It's a good thing too because I know what you're like with uniforms," she teased, "anyway, what do you think I had to wear when I left my room to visit yours? They didn't want our germs to be floating about did they?"
"You're the only girl for me now Polly Jacks, you should know that after all we've been through with Claire and everything and we still fought to be together."
"I know, I'm only teasing," she replied resuming their embrace with a sigh.
"Claire came to see you a few times you know," said Polly in a soft voice as she once more broke away and began to stroke his rather long and unkempt blonde hair which used to be in a neat short back and sides.
"Did she?" asked Dan, the surprise evident in his voice, "how come they let her in?"
"Well she is your wife Daniel, I suppose that was all she had to say," Polly replied in a scolding tone.
"No, no, I mean, how come she was allowed in here?" Dan clarified.
"Oh!" replied Polly understanding his meaning at last and then continued, "She wasn't, she had to go behind the screen the same as me, I had to wear the protective gear because I was carrying the virus but I still wasn't allowed right in." She explained.
"What screen?" asked Dan, confused.
"That one." She told him pointing to the huge mirror that took up a whole wall.
"Ah, now I get it, that's a two way mirror, right?" he asked suddenly feeling a little stupid. Polly's reply only served to encourage this feeling.
"Brilliant Holmes! Glad to see that you're getting your faculties back." She quipped.
"Alright, alright, so I'm stupid okay?" conceded Dan with a smile that hid his true feelings of being an imbecile.
"I'm only joking babes," she reassured him.
"How do you manage to make light of even the most dire situations Pol?" Enquired Dan with a disapproving look.
"Hey, I'm only pleased that you're on the mend, that's all, so I'm in the first good mood that I've been in for about four* months, if that's a crime, then I'm guilty, so shoot me if you have to," she retaliated raising her hands in a gesture of surrender.
"Sorry," said Dan miserably, lowering his head and giving her his tried and tested classic - the sulking child look.
"Oh, it's alright, you've been through a lot and so have I, so lets try to put it behind us, okay?"
"Okay. Look Pol, thanks for being here for me all this time, I know that it must have been awful for you," Dan said gripping her hand a little tighter and wishing that he hadn't upset her already. They had only been reunited for about ten minutes.
"That's alright babes, anyway, I didn't really have an awful lot of choice did I?" she smiled and cocked her head for a kiss. Dan obliged without arguing.
A couple more hours passed and Dan and Polly spent the time alone declaring undying love and gratitude to each other whilst feeling slightly uncomfortable at the thought that someone could be eavesdropping or even watching them from behind the mirror. At first they were reserved, but gradually came to think about the possible presence of prying eyes or ears or both behind the mirror less and less until finally becoming accustomed to it and no longer caring. They let themselves go and kissed passionately, almost letting things get completely out of hand before realising their place and position, only seconds before the hydraulic hiss of the door alerted them to the presence of a visitor. The visitor being the nurse, Kate, bearing two meals and some medication of some description in the form of tablets that were sitting in the bottom of bottle top sized clear plastic containers, which were obviously disposable.
"Hungry?" she more chirped than asked.
"I sure am," replied Polly, "how about you Dan?" she asked turning to face her lover. "Actually, yes I'm absolutely famished but I hadn't realised until now," said Dan. He noticed the flush of colour in Polly's cheeks and attributed it to their almost being caught in the middle of an almost obscene act. Somehow this filled him with a warmth of his own and he began to feel his own cheeks flush.
"Well, you certainly are recovering quickly all of a sudden aren't you Mr Daniel? One minute you are half dead and the next you are ravenously hungry and thirsty and have an awful lot more colour in your cheeks," declared the nurse in a tone containing just enough banter for them to notice that she knew full well what they had almost been up to. This managed to elicit a few more degrees of heat from each of them.
"What have we got?" asked Dan deciding that it was about time for a change of subject.
"We have a wonderful, liquidised meal for you Daniel and a pasta carbonara for you Polly," she grinned and moved over to them placing the large plastic tray down on the wheely table which stood idle beside Polly's newly installed bed.
"Liquidised!" exclaimed Dan with a tone of disgust by way of protest at this inhumane treatment.
"No complaints now Daniel, we have to wean you back onto solid food because your digestive system would not be able to handle it so soon after being out of action for so long." She informed Dan matter of factly.
"Oh," conceded Dan in a miserable voice. The nurse handed him his bowl of disgusting brown coloured liquid and he thanked her even though he didn't actually mean it. He watched as Polly's dinner was set before her and was overcome with jealousy over the delicious looking creamy pasta dish.
"What is this exactly?" asked Dan returning his attention to his delightful meal.
"Roast beef, roast potatoes, cabbage, carrots, Yorkshire pudding and gravy," she informed him with an enormous grin which Daniel found quite unnecessary, 'talk about rub it in!' he thought.
"Looks delicious," he said through gritted teeth, which made both the nurse and Polly chuckle.
"It looks worse than it tastes, believe me," reassured the nurse.
"It'll taste a whole lot better than these anyway," she said holding up one of the pill containers, rattling it and passing it to Dan then reaching for the other one for Polly. Dan then experienced a little more jealousy on discovering that he had four pills of various shapes, colours and sizes to take and Polly only had one small capsule which was red on one end and green on the other.
The nurse insisted on waiting until they had both taken their medication and begun eating before she would leave. They both watched as the thick metal door closed behind her large orange shape.
"I thought that she was nice at first, but now I think that she's evil incarnate," whispered Dan in fear of being heard and watching the door just in case she came bounding back in to accost him with a blunt instrument for insulting her.
"She's only doing her job," replied Polly with a mouthful of the wonderful looking pasta.
"I suppose, but this stuff is bloody awful!" He complained gesturing towards his bowl of mud coloured slop.
"You are always over critical of food, anyway, if it tastes that bad it must be good for you, right?" replied Polly.
"Hmm," was the only retort, his tone holding more than a hint of sarcasm for seasoning, which was more than could be said for his dinner.
They finished their meals and Dan was surprised to find that his bowl of 'slop' was actually very filling and he could not finish it all and so pushed aside his wheely table and lay down feeling very tired all of a sudden. The last thing he heard was Polly's voice explaining that the medication would make him very sleepy. He began to drift off to sleep, but somewhere in the place you go to when you are not asleep but not awake he found himself pondering over why he was so tired. He came to the conclusion that after such a long period of inactivity, any amount of consciousness would be tiring, he then succumbed to the very attractive idea of sleep and drifted off into the wondrous world where everything is real but everything is not.
Dan once again found himself wandering around the place that's not quite sleep but not quite awake and seemed to stay there for a while before managing to break through the surface like a diver resurfacing from the depths of the ocean. When this finally happened he found himself suddenly awake and had trouble finding his bearings at first. The room was only partially lit which, he assumed, meant that it was after nightfall and the lights had been dimmed to aid the patients in their quest for sleep. The place seemed deathly silent, apart from the gentle breathing coming from the bed to his right, where he remembered Polly was situated. He could make out her rough outline and thought he could see the gentle rise and fall of her chest beneath the bedding. Dan resigned himself to the idea of going back to sleep as there seemed nothing much else he could do in the middle of the night with Polly asleep and hardly any light to speak of. He closed his eyes once more and once again searched for the peace of sleep, which took him only moments to find.
The next few days were much the same as his first day of consciousness this year with occasional visits from Professor Lawrence or Kate to bring food or medication to them. They managed to fathom that they could not possibly find how long they would have to stay incarcerated. This was because Professor Lawrence didn't have a clue either, but the infection in their systems was now almost low enough to be considered safe, which meant that they would soon be transferred to a normal room without the precautions that they had become accustomed to. This had to be a good sign, and losing the people in suits would be great as they usually left them feeling like lepers.
After a week of promises of 'soon,' they were finally told that they would be moved to a different room tomorrow. This was wonderful news, a breakthrough, they were finally getting somewhere. It never happened.
"What the hell is going on!" Yelled Dan at the top of his voice, banging his hand against the impenetrable door and finally kicking out at in sheer frustration, not even noticing the pain to his shoeless foot.
He turned to Polly who was sitting on one of the beds waiting for him to end his latest tantrum.
"What is going on here Pol?" He asked, the frustration evident in his face. "Two days ago they said that they were going to move us the next day, we get one more meal and no-one's even been to check on us since!" He pushed the wheely table out of his way as he made his way across the room towards the mirror.
"Whatever it is, I'm sure that there is a good explanation and I really see no point in getting worked up and taking it out on me!" Polly yelled back at him.
With a sigh, Dan made his way over and sat down beside her on the edge of the bed.
"You're right, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have shouted at you like that," Dan apologised in a more calm and rational voice.
"We are going to have to get out of here you know?" said Dan, softly this time and covering Polly's hand with his, "It's Friday now and the last time we ate was Wednesday evening, the water is running out and we haven't seen or heard a soul. We can't just sit here and do nothing. I know I'm going stir crazy stuck in here, Christ it was bad enough before, but now!"
"But how are we supposed to get out if it comes to that?" asked Polly worriedly.
"I don't know yet, but one thing is for sure, it has already come to that. It might take us ages to get out so I think we should start now, Okay?" he replied.
"Can't we just wait a little longer?" she pleaded.
"No Pol, we can't. I have a bad feeling about all this and if we don't get out soon we'll die in here." Dan said standing his ground.
Polly resigned herself to this course of action but was still not sure. She was finally convinced when her stomach knotted from the hunger. "Okay, okay but how?" she said finally.
"Right. We've got to think. Door's no good. It would take a bulldozer to get through that bloody thing. No windows or skylights, which leaves us only one option. The mirror." With that Dan turned to look at Polly and they both turned to the mirror.
"Here, let's use this." Polly said getting up and going over to one of the wheely tables, "Well, come on then, help me!"
They took one side of the table each and raised it as high as they could and on the count of three they hurtled it towards the mirror. It seemed to hang in the air for an eternity, doing a complete somersault in mid air before crashing into the mirror... and bouncing straight back off again!
Polly and Dan had instinctively turned away to shield their faces and were stunned when they turned back to see the mirror still intact.
"Jesus!" Cried Dan, "It must be reinforced or something."
"What now?" asked Polly in complete disbelief.
"I haven't a clue," said Dan, shaking his head, then turned to Polly, "How about you, any ideas?" he asked at a bit of a loss.
"The bed, if we can somehow get the bars off the side of one of the beds, then maybe we can hammer our way through, what do you think?" she asked.
"Worth a try," He shrugged and they both set about their new objective. This proved more difficult than they had imagined. Undoing bolts without any tools is no easy thing to do and Dan was still very weak although he was making a good recovery.
"Here, try this," Polly handed Dan a belt and he set about one of the bolts using the buckle. After much cursing and swearing, he managed to remove one of the bolts.
Half an hour and seven bolts later Dan was holding his weapon. He sat down for a moment to get himself together after the battle with the bolts. Allowing him to summon up the energy to attempt to smash his way through the mirror.
Finally he stood and advised Polly to get down behind one of the beds. He took a sheet in both hands and tore it down the middle. He used one half of this to cover the top of his head and the other to cover his mouth and nose leaving a gap in the middle to enable him to see. This was an attempt to restrict the damage caused by flying glass.
Daniel took the rail in both hands and held it out in front of himself rather like and ancient knight in a jousting competition. After several deep breaths, and a count of three, he charged at the mirror, the rail meeting the glass almost dead centre and with tremendous force. Dan came to an abrupt halt as the mirror stayed fast, knocking the wind out of him, he bent double dropping the rail and going down on one knee. He would not let this beat him. He could not let them die in this place. This place he had grown to loathe so much.
With renewed energy, fuelled by fury Dan scooped up the rail and resumed the starting position for his joust against a very worthy opponent. Screaming this time he launched himself at the mirror. It did not give. Once more, he resumed his position and wailing like a man possessed, launched himself at the seemingly solid mirror. This time he felt something happen. He heard a crack and saw the mirror cobwebbing into thousands of little sections until it looked like an elaborate mosaic of a hospital room containing two desperate people. All it needed now was a couple of lighter whacks with his weapon and they would be through. Dan gladly obliged and soon there was no more than a cavity in the wall where the mirror had been. This led over a desk and into a dark little room with a couple of plain wooden chairs and several pieces of paper scattered about on the floor, no doubt due to the nature of Dan's entrance, but no sign of life.
"Come on," he called to Polly, "we're through."
"Anyone in there?" asked Polly as she made her way over to their new exit.
"No, not a soul." Said Dan as he hauled himself up onto the ledge.
"I can assure you, the subjects are being closely monitored at all times," bellowed the tall man at the group.
"And you can guarantee that can you?" snorted the fat, bald man who sat at the head of the table.
All heads in the dimly lit, smoke filled room turned to the tall man in anticipation of a thunderous retort. The atmosphere was thick and the room was stuffy.
After a long pause, the tall man slammed his fist onto the huge, beautifully crafted French oak table. The whole ensemble visibly tensed, nervous glances exchanged between the dozen or so shadowy figures.
"What do you people want of me?" came the response in a husky whisper, "It has gone beyond our control, all we can do is watch and wait."
"The area has been cleared for several miles, there is no immediate danger."
The fat man shifted uneasily, " What was the cover story?"
Calmer now, the tall man replied, "Poisonous gas".
"Think it will hold out?" asked the fat man.
"All we can do is hope,” sighed the tall man as his gaze drifted to the window of the elegant regency style room "We have little choice".