Oliver Brookes wasn’t the innocent man he appeared to be. Those that knew him thought him to be a polite and friendly man. They would say he kept himself to himself, but he always acknowledged his friends and neighbours, and although he was a naturally quiet man, if you got him talking he could chat for hours. Sally Cross was Oliver’s next door neighbour and if truth be told she was attracted to Oliver so would always try to find an excuse to talk to him. She had been a single mother for the past three years, and she desperately craved Male attention. The mundane conversations of the weather and bin day schedules had recently upgraded to flirting but Oliver had turned down all of her offers to come into her house for a brew which was not what she wanted at all but being a lady she would never be so forward. She did hope the day would soon come when she was invited into his home and if she was she may never see anything out of the ordinary but if she were to venture down into his basement, well that would be a different story.
One summer morning in 1995, while Oliver was chatting to Sally on his driveway on his way back from picking up the newspaper from the local newsagent, Julia Bailey awoke in his basement feeling confused. The first thing she noticed when she opened her eyes was that she couldn’t see a thing. It wasn’t just dark, she was in complete darkness. She knew she had opened her eyes but her brain hadn’t received any imagery from her optic nerve. She made peace with the fact that she couldn’t see and tried to figure out what was going on. She could tell straight away that she was not in her bedroom for a few reasons. Firstly, she was sitting upright on what felt like a cold and wet stone floor. Secondly, it felt like she was leaning against a post of some kind and her back ached from it. Thirdly, when she tried to move her hands she felt pain in her arms and heard a loud metal clink. She forced herself to do it again just to get a good listen to that sound again. The pain was worse, but she knew that would happen. She suspected that she was in handcuffs, and she thought that the metal clink may have been her handcuffs colliding with the post she was leaning against which she now believed to be a metal pipe of some kind. She was only fourteen, but she was a smart girl, she was right. She may have been incredibly strong-minded and disciplined for her age, but she was still absolutely terrified, and she was trying to hold it all in. She wanted to cry but forbade herself, a single rebellious tear fell from her eye.
Carmen Marlowe had been in the basement for a while, and she hadn’t been fed for several days and so when she heard the loud clink she assumed she was hallucinating. She stayed silent for a while but curiosity got the better of her.
“Hello?” Carmen Shouted.
Julia didn’t hear a thing, and so she didn’t respond. Maybe Carmen hadn’t shouted loud enough or maybe It was because Julia was so lost in her own thoughts. At this point Julia still believed she was alone and so was deep inside her own consciousness trying to think what her options were. Sight was out for the time being we had already covered that. She needed to rely on her other senses for now. Touch was out of the window, she was chained and couldn’t even reach the floor but what else did she have in her sensory arsenal? Smell? It was putrid, absolutely vile. What was that? There was a musty smell in the air, a damp kind of odour like mould but there was also a strong smell of vomit and there was something worse, something much worse. If she hadn’t already known she was in a bad place, she certainly got the picture now. The next sense that came to mind was Taste but Julia cringed at the thought of it. She doubted there would be anything to taste in there, and she had a feeling that if there was she wouldn’t want to taste it based on what her sense of smell had already discovered. Hearing was the only remaining sense. Julia knew this was her only chance. She cleared her mind and prepared herself to listen. Nothing. There was silence, total silence for a while at least until Julia heard a voice.
“I don’t know what’s real,” Carmen said to herself just loud enough for Julia to hear. By this point Carmen was even more convinced that she was hallucinating.
“Terror,” replied Julia.
“What are you on about?” Asked Carmen, still convinced she was hearing things.
“You said you don’t know what’s real, Terror is real. At least to me”.
“I am going insane.”
Julia ignored this. She wasn’t alone at least for the time being, and she didn’t know what could happen or who was responsible for her situation, they could turn up at any time. She needed more information. She needed answers.
“My name is Julia Bailey, I’m fourteen, and I am very scared. I am real, I am really here but I really need to know where here is. Please... where are we?”
Carmen listened and wasn’t sure what to believe, but she sighed and spoke anyway.
“I’m Carmen Marlowe and I think I’ve been here a long time. I’m not sure if I believe you are real. I don’t know what is real and what isn’t but I do know that this is not a good place. Bad things have happened here. The Angry Man will come back”.
Carmen was talking about Oliver Brookes, but she Didn’t know his name, she had never even seen him. To her, he was just “The Angry Man”.
“Who is The Angry Man?” Julia asked fearfully.
“He comes down here sometimes,” Carmen replied. “He isn’t very nice”.
“What else? Why do you call him The Angry Man?”
“I don’t know his name but he came down here once and got angry.”
“No, not at me,” Carmen said. “I heard a bang and then I heard him swear. Then there was a loud clatter. I think he was throwing things around.”
That really didn’t sound good to Julia at all. If anyone could see her they would see the terror in her eyes.
“Does he come down here often?” Julia asked.
“Only to feed me, you too now I suppose,” Carmen had accepted that Julia was real.
“How long have you been here?” Julia asked.
“A long time maybe,” Carmen seemed unsure. “Time has no meaning in the dark”.
Julia nodded. It was a depressing thing to say but there was truth in it.
The girls talked about many things over the next few days, sometimes about their situation and of The Angry Man but sometimes about girly things and about what they liked to do when they were at home. They had become fast friends.
“I don’t feel good,” Julia said. “How are you feeling?”
“I don’t feel,” Carmen said.
Julia waited, assuming it was an unfinished sentence, but it wasn’t.
“What do you mean? Julia eventually asked.
“I remember being hungry and tired and I remember the pain but it’s all gone now.”
“I’m not sure I understand, Carmen.”
“I don’t feel anything. I don’t feel hungry, I don’t feel cold and I don’t feel warm. I don’t feel sad and I don’t feel happy. I don’t feel anything and I don’t know why.”
Julia didn’t know what to say and so went back into her train of thought but it was interrupted when she heard footsteps in the distance, they were getting louder, they were moving closer.
“Yes Julia?” Carmen Replied. “Is everything OK?”
Julia noticed that Carmen’s voice seemed much clearer. Was she closer?
“I don’t know Carmen, I feel strange”.
“I think you’ll stop feeling things soon, Julia”.
Julia was certain of it now, Carmen was definitely much closer.
“Carmen? What’s going on?”
“Just stretching my legs” Carmen was even closer still.
“But how? The Chains?”.
“These chains hold me no more” Carmen whispered in Julia’s ear.
Julia needed time to think. This time she thought she had something figured out. It sounded crazy, but she thought her best friend might be dead. She hadn’t believed in ghosts previously but the pieces just seemed to fit. Like I said before, Julia was a smart girl but not as smart as she thought maybe because she was missing a big piece of the puzzle. Please bear with me while I fill in the blanks. It was true that both Julia and Carmen couldn’t see a thing but if Oliver was to come down there and switch on the lights they would see they weren’t the only girls down there, they would see all the bodies. All the missing girls who had never been found and possibly never would be. Most of which were only skeletal remains now. Had those lights gone on they would see all those unrecognisable bodies, but they would also see the bodies of two girls chained up at opposite ends of the basement. One would have been the body of Carmen Marlowe who had been dead for a few days and then there was the body of the other girl who had only been dead for a few hours, and if Julia had seen that body she would have realised that she was dead too.
No other girls ever came down to the basement and neither did Oliver but Julia and Carmen hardly even noticed. Julia’s feeling of being unwell passed, and she soon began to feel nothing at all just like Carmen. Little did she know that she was adjusting to being dead. Julia had forgotten her suspicions of Carmen being dead, her mind was wired differently now, sort of like a rerun in one of the old movie channels. Neither one of the girls realised they were dead, and they never would. Twenty Five years passed and Still they sat in the basement chatting, not wondering why they hadn’t been fed, not wondering where The Angry Man was and maybe that’s because of the way their minds worked now or maybe that’s because they still thought they had only been there for a few days. A young girl once told her friend that time has no meaning in the dark, the wisdom in her eyes was gone now but the truth of the statement rings true and probably always will.
They would never grow up, get jobs and get married, but they would never grow apart either. Sometimes friendship is stronger than that, sometimes friendship doesn’t just last a lifetime, it lasts longer.
Now I’m sure you are wondering about Oliver and why he never abducted any more girls and why he never returned to the basement and I would love to tell you and maybe I will but not today. That, my friends is another story altogether.