The floor is cold and hard. I try lifting my head from the ground, but it’s too heavy and it feels like it’s stuck. Dull, throbbing pain presses at the back of my head, reminding me I have a beauty of a migraine coming on. My fingers involuntarily curl in response, touching razor-sharp pieces of things that are tiny and smooth.
The noise comes out like a whimper and immediately the voices in my head make fun of me for being such a wus. Poor, pathetic little Sophie. Poor me. Where’s William now? Where’s your love now?
Love. Is that what it was? So stupid. How could I be so stupid? It hurts to even think about it, but I can’t help but feel sorry for myself. After all, here I am; just me lying naked on a concrete floor with a killer headache. Better close my eyes, better just fall asleep and forget this day ever happened. Rewind. Reboot. End of story.
Fine, if that’s the way it’s going to be. I sit up (rather ungracefully), ignoring the sharp pains that shoot up my spine. By the time I cross my arms to give myself back some sense of propriety, I notice that glass slivers and strange, silver markings are covering the floor. Silver, like the color of jewelry or silver paint, swirled in letters and symbols are literally glowing all over the floor. The symbols pulse with urgency, almost vibrating.
My eyes drift, looking for something to wear. I find a pile of clothes folded neatly next to me, sitting on top of a pair of my shoes. I’m not sure where they came from, but I guess it doesn’t matter. This could be one, last kind gesture from William or one sick joke. Either way, getting out of here is my first priority. Then I’ll figure out what to do.
Once I stand up, I can see that the glass is only broken in a ring around me. Good. I manage to avoid it, and pull on a pair of jeans and a baggy shirt. That’s when I notice just how empty the room is: no washing machine, no desk, no pile of books. It’s as if the house I had lived in for almost five years never existed; it’s been reduced to a perfectly symmetrical room with only one way out. At least the staircase was still there, though I can’t help but wonder if it’s just there to torment me. Freedom.
Thunk, thunk, thunk.
A large ball of fur plops right in front of me with a loud thunk. At first, I think it might be Archimedes but it can’t be; the fat cat was an orange tabby not a grayish-blue fuzzball with no discernable facial features. All of a sudden, these huge eyes just pop out of its fur, filled with curiosity. The eyes are round and almost human, flecked with brilliantly-colored sparkles. After everything I’ve been through, should I be afraid of it? Should I run, cry, scream? Someone had to paint these symbols on the floor and I’m not sure that this thing is even capable of drawing intricate spirals and swirls. No, it’s oddly comforting that a strange alien creature is sitting right in front of me. I’m actually relieved to know that there are some things out there even weirder than me.
The fuzzball pushes on the ground in front of me, making that sound again. I reach out to touch it, and it contracts into a teeny, tiny hard ball.
“Hmm…” I can’t believe I’m talking to it, but at this point I have nothing left to lose; it bounces, hard with another thunk as if it’s trying to get my attention. “Guess I’ll call you ‘Thunk’ then. Do you want me to take you with me?”
Thunk rolls over to me and stretches into a long, caterpillar-thin line. “I’ll take that as a yes,” I tell it. Or maybe it’s a ‘him’?
“Guess the only other thing to do is get out of here, then.” It feels good to have someone—something—to talk to. Thunk slithers up my leg and into my cupped hands; he’s light—so incredibly light—it’s almost as if if I’m holding a cup of air. I put him in my shirt pocket and he forms into a small rectangle about the size of a pack of gum. I don’t even want to think about where (or how) his eyes are squishing into its fur. Right now, I got bigger things to think about like that set of stairs and where it leads.
“Get away from the door!” I hear a muffled voice shout. “This is the police. We know you’re locked down there.”
I scamper to a corner and crouch down, covering my ears.
The police must be trying to kick the door in; guess it was locked. Figures. I hear muffled shouts, counting “One, two, three.”
The door busts open. Three or four flashlights shine into the basement; the police officer slowly climb down the stairs, making their way over to me.
“Are you okay?” one of them asks me. “Is your name Serafina?”
“Yes!” I cry out, instinctively. My name is Sophie, but Serafina is close enough. I have to get out of this room. Carefully, I walk around the glowing, silver marks on the floor, ignoring what they might mean, and greet the officers. “Thank you, but how did you know I was here?”
“You’ll have to come with us, miss,” a tall, burly officer informs me, pulling a pair of handcuffs off his belt. “Please, put these on.” Behind him, two other officers stand there with their hands on their hips, like I’m some kind of criminal.
“Wait, what is this? What’s going on?” I can’t bring myself to mention William’s name. What did William do to me? Did he call the cops to pick me up?
“Please, miss. This is for your own protection,” he whispers. “Boss’ orders.”
“Who’s your boss?” I can feel Thunk in my pocket, weighing my shirt down. Maybe he gets heavier the angrier he gets? Maybe I should get angry. “Look, I don’t know what this is, but all of you seem very interested in a girl that was locked up in a basement.”
The officers looked at each other as if I had just told them the world was ending and I was going to save it.
“What?” I ask them. “Aren’t you going to do your job? You know, maybe take some pictures of the symbols on the floor or pick up the pieces of glass that has my blood all over it?”
Apparently I’m speaking a foreign language because not one of the officers respond to me directly.
“She’s worse off than she thought,” one of them mumbles. “Do we need to sedate her?”
I can feel Thunk vibrating in my pocket. Whoa. Yeah, he’s pissed and getting me riled up, too. Wonder what happens when he’s happy.
Yeah, I know from what I’ve read that these officers keep the peace but I’m not sure what kind of a threat I am. William kept me prisoner. Shouldn’t they be after him? I try to keep my voice low, but I can’t help but share my frustration with these police officers. “Sedate me? I’ve been kept prisoner by my now former fiancé and I have no idea where I am right now. I’d appreciate it if you told me what the hell was going on.”
The burly officer speaks up, introducing his team. “My name is Officer Michaelsen, the others are Hansen, Jacobs, and Tully. Jacobs and Tully here were kind enough to help us out. They’re local.” Michaelsen stops speaking and an uncomfortable pause passes between us. Local. I wonder what that means. I guess when you want answers sometimes you just have to be patient. That seems to be my whole problem: I didn’t ask William enough questions.
“Do you know where you are, Serafina?” Hansen asks me, her voice calming and gentle.
“Why are you calling me that? My name is Sophie Miller…” Then it dawns on me. Maybe my name is Serafina and William just lied to me the whole time we were together. Wouldn’t that just suck. I’m running out of options here, especially if they think I’m going crazy. “No, I guess I don’t know where I am. Are we near lots of people? A city?”
Jacobs puts an arm around my shoulder, comforting me. “Nowhere near any reputable city, girl. You’re outside Gary, Indiana.”
My face turns white; the name doesn’t even sound remotely familiar. Where did I live with William? What was the address?
“We’ve come to take you to Milwaukee. Looks like you have a guardian angel watching out for you,” Michaelsen cracks, trying to appeal to my non-existent sense of humor.
“Yeah, some angel.” I’m done asking questions for the time being because the more I ask? The less I know. “I’ll wear your handcuffs but please, don’t sedate me.” I remember what that was like, from The Stay.
“Agreed,” Michaelsen says as he cuffs me tight. “Just promise me one thing.”
“Anything.” This ought to be good. What did I have that anyone else needed?
“Don’t tell the captain about you seeing invisible symbols on the floor. She won’t find your sense of humor very funny.”
“Great, I can’t wait to meet her.” Right, so they can’t see the symbols and they don’t want me to tell their captain. Captain. Now there’s a word that I feel like I should actually pay attention to. A police captain might not be a bad person to have as my friend, right now. I may not have a home, anymore, but I am not going back to an asylum. I’d kill somebody first.
I don’t say much as we leave the room, but the thoughts in my head are running wild. As it turns out, the door leads to an old, rusty box.
“Where are we?” I can’t help but ask.
The officers don’t respond right away. Carefully and slowly, one of them explains that we’re in something called a “railyard.” The box we came out of is just one of hundreds. All unused train parts stacked one on top of the other. That’s right. I was in the ground beneath a pile of rusted boxcars. Literally. How did the officers ever find me? It’s not that I’m not grateful or anything, just…what really happened?
My dear, old friends self-loathing and self-doubt kick in. I try not to, but I can’t help but wonder what I did to cause all of this. Maybe there is no answer and maybe this isn’t about me, but seriously? I’d much rather believe that I did something wrong than to hear that none of this—the asylum, my relationship with William, my job, my life–ever happened.
Hansen and Michaelsen ask me if there’s anything I need; they say good-bye to the other two and we get into their car. It’s a black-and-white sedan with a huge star on the side that reads, “City of Milwaukee.” Here’s hoping the trip there will be pretty uneventful; as we leave the railyard my eyes are pretty much glued to the windows watching cars, trees and buildings pass me by.
The sights and sounds almost help me forget I’m sitting in the back of a black-and-white car with handcuffs around my wrists. If you’re ever in this position take it from me: shut your brain and your mouth off. It’s just not worth it to do anything but be as still as a statue. It’s really not.
As Hansen, Michaelsen and I continue on this stretch of highway, I’m a little sad that this is my first real trip. I’m not sure what will happen next, but I feel like I should wait things out before I start running. Who knows? Maybe seeing glowing silver stuff on the floor that no one else can see automatically earns me a ticket to the house o’ crazies. Heck, I could have imagined William was real because I was lonely.
Guess I’ll just have to wait and find out.