Suspense Fiction Mystery

She woke to a high pitch ringing sound in her eardrums accompanied by a sharp pain digging at the back of her skull.  She rubbed her throbbing head while her muscles ached to sit herself up. After taking a moment to compose herself, she noticed she was sitting in complete darkness. Her heart started to pound followed soon by severe panic. Where am I? Why can’t I remember? Who am I?! These questions only gave her more anxiety. 

She began to hyperventilate as dizziness began to embrace her. Her head started to spin, forming tight knots in her stomach. The high pitch ring was getting louder now making her hands ball up into a fist. Her ivory white knuckles looked like they were on the verge of tearing through her skin. Right before darkness was about to consume her consciousness, she heard a familiar voice that pulled her back to reality.

“Mara, breathe!” the voice called to her.

Mara was confused. She didn’t know who this voice belonged to or where it even came from. Regardless, she closed her eyes and took a deep inhale, paused and then exhaled completely. Mara took a few more breaths and opened her eyes. She was still in complete darkness but at least her nerves were stable and the hyperventilating started to subside. The voice, was it real?

“Hello. Is anybody there?”  Mara hesitantly called out.

Only silence returned her call. 

She hollered out for several more minutes only to find out she was completely alone.

That voice sounded so real. Was I hearing things? It had a familiarity to it but i can’t remember who it belonged to. It called me… Mara. Is that my name? She began digging into her pockets for more clues or anything that might be useful. A small rectangle emerged from her pocket but there wasn’t enough light to visibly make out what it was. By touch she deduced it was some kind of card similar to a credit card or license. She stuffed it back in her jumpsuit pocket and figured she’ll focus on it later

Mara stood up and positioned her hands in front of her, feeling for anything in the vicinity.  She walked for several minutes grabbing at the walls and slowly inching her way around the room until eventually, her foot kicked an object that went rolling in the distance. She bent down on her knees and started searching for the mystery object. A few moments later she retrieved a cylinder with an oval head attached at one end. She immediately knew what it was and hurriedly turned the flashlight on. 

The light from the flashlight reflected off the metallic wall and into Mara’s eyes. She held up her other hand partially blocking the gleaming light, while straining to keep her eyes open. As her pupils adjusted to sight, she realized she was standing in the center of a relatively small room, not too dissimilar to a large walk-in closet. It looked to be made of mostly metal with just 2 doors opposite each other. On the ceiling was an unpowered fluorescent light.  Mara used the flashlight to check the walls for a switch, and found one on the wall closest to her.  She flipped it on but nothing happened. 

Mara started feeling hopelessness kick in once more and she knew she had to leave this room; the sooner the better. She looked towards the door nearest to the switch, then to the door furthest away. She had no idea where the doors led, and nor did she care. She just knew she wanted out from this metal box. 

She walked towards the door closest to her and inspected it. It was large and looked incredibly secure. Pressurized hinges were steadily holding it in place. Instead of a regular knob, what lay instead was a wheel. The type of wheel you would find on the helm of a submarine. Mara placed her hands on it at the 9 and 3 o'clock position ready to escape to freedom. Just as she was about to turn the wheel, she heard a whisper make its way into her ear.

“You’ll die if you do that.”

Mara jumped and frantically started bouncing her light across the room looking for the source of the sound. 

“Who’s there? Show yourself dammit!” Mara announced.

And Just like the last time, only silence answered back.

Mara turned back towards the door and placed a hand on the wheel. Her stomach began to turn and she began to feel incredibly uneasy holding the cold metal. She took her hand off and then raised her flashlight at the opposite door across the room. She made her way over and noticed this door seemed similar to the first but instead of a wheel for a handle, it had a lever. She placed both hands on and paused for a moment. 

She waited for the mysterious voice to say something, anything. She continued to wait for several more minutes before concluding that the voice she heard earlier must be a side effect from spending too much time in the darkness. She recalled information on how astronauts and cave divers experienced similar hallucinations by being isolated with minimal light. After concluding that the voices she was hearing were due to the psychological stress on her mind, she decided it was time to leave.

Mara grasped the door lever tightly and took a few breaths. Fuck it she thought to herself and pushed down with all her strength. As she pushed she noticed nothing was happening. The lever was left undisturbed exactly in the same position as it had been earlier. Mara kept pushing, tears started to flow down her cheeks as her efforts proved fruitless. 

As much as she tried, the door wasn’t giving an inch. Mara knew  it was pointless but she didn’t know what else to do so she continued hitting, slamming, and kicking the door until something did happen. The object from her pocket fell out and made a small ‘clack’ sound on the metal flooring. Mara searched the ground with her flashlight and saw the small rectangle near her feet. She bent down and picked it up.

A photo of a girl with green eyes and a warm smile, plastered to her face, greeted her. She had long hazel hair and brown freckles that stood out on the backdrop of her fair complexion. Above the picture read in bold lettering CSA. To the right of the picture had the name Mara Hopper written on it with a security clearance of level 10 scribed below. This is...me? Mara grabbed her hair and placed it juxtapose to the picture. She flipped the card over and saw there was a barcode in the back. She immediately knew this was her ticket out. 

With the flashlight in one hand and the ID card in the other, she started meticulously scanning the walls. She used her hands to feel for any bumps or odd edges and used the flashlight to visibly inspect every inch of the metallic surface. Eventually she made her way towards the middle of one of the walls and felt an irregular edge. She aimed her light at it and noticed it was less of an edge and more of a small handle; like that from a breaker box. She proceeded to use her index finger to push up on the small handle resulting in the panel sliding up automatically. 

Finally Mara felt like she was making progress. Her morale started to climb and her spirit became more resolute. She still had hope left in the tank. 

Behind the panel lay a small card size screen and next to it a smaller black oval the size of a grape. Mara put her ID card onto the face of the bigger screen and pressed her thumb against the other instinctually.  A green laser from the screens scanned up and down for a few seconds and then the door behind her started making a sound.

Mara walked up to the door and for the second time, grasped the handle and pushed down with unfaltering confidence. The door lever went downwards with the same motion and the door creaked open. She leaned her shoulder into the solid frame and pushed more until the door was completely open. 

With her flashlight she used it to gleam over her new surroundings. From the looks of it she concluded she entered a long chamber or corridor that had a small bend to it so she couldn’t make out how long it stretched or where it ended. Her only option was to walk, and so she did just that. 

Everything looked the same and all the lights were off just like in the room. She started to worry the more she thought about it. She looked down at the card in her hand hoping it would ease her worry . All she saw was an unfamiliar face staring back. 

As Mara lifted her head up to check how far she had walked, she saw something that brought immediate joy. A  circular window with a faint glow coming from it was in the distance. Ecstatically  she started sprinting toward it. Tears were starting to build in her eyes as she made her way down the hall. When she began to approach the window her face went from ecstatic joy, to now a look of absolute horror.

Through the window she saw pure darkness. A black void so heavy and thick,  it looked like oil was poured over the window. Thousands of distant white dots were sparkling on top the black canvas, conveying the thought of pure isolation, and utter damnation. 

“This can’t be happening! This can’t be fucking happening,” she repeated over and over again until everything went black.

Mara woke to a loud automated announcement pouring through the corridor siren.

“Attention, oxygen levels critical. Attention, oxygen levels critical. Please make way to the nearest escape pods located at the rear of the station on deck four."

The message was replayed on a continuous loop with the fluorescent lights now blinking a vibrant red.  Mara stood up and looked aimlessly at where the speaker was but didn’t see anything that resembled one. She then quickly realized where she was and looked back out the window. Still the black void greeted her openly. she grabbed her flashlight off the ground and started sprinting down the end of the corridor. 

Once she reached the end of the corridor another door blocked her path. She saw the same fingerprint and card reader and knew what to do. After being granted access through the door, she entered a large ball room with benches and trays scattered everywhere. Rotten food was still present on most of the trays. chairs and utensils looked like they were picked up and tossed around by a hurricane . The walls had chaotic looking writings and symbols sprawled on them with repeated words like; Dreamer and The Great Old One. It looked like complete chaos had engulfed this room not long ago. Mara became alert once more when the announcement started skipping words and began cutting in with static. 

“Plea….please make...make your way towards your deat...level four evacuation pods.” 

She ran towards the stairs located at the back of the cafeteria and made her way up towards the fourth floor. She ran all the way to the top, only stopping once she reached the top of the stairs. She bursted through the doors looking frantically for any resemblance of an escape pod. Unlike the earlier room, this hallway was in pristine condition. The color scheme was a very clean monotone white, too pure to be comfortable. The floors were immaculate like it was freshly mopped. Tables were perfectly spaced throughout with waiting chairs thoughtfully paired nearby. What the hell is going on?!

Mara noticed there were signs by each of the doors down the hall. She went up to the first sign which read Zen Garden. She continued on to the door across which read Specimen Examination. The more she continued, the more the signs became stranger; Transmutation Lab, Toxin Extractions, and parasite removal were just some of the few she passed. 

“Come on, come on! Escape pod, where is it?” 

She started to quicken her pace, skimming each door sign for the matching words. At the 2nd to last door she stopped and noticed this one was not the same monotone white like the others. Instead it was a dark purple, almost black in color. No sign was posted either and Mara felt like there was something very off about this door. Every fiber in her body told her not to open the door yet her body continued on autopilot with her mind as the prisoner. She pulled out her ID card and pressed it against the reader. Next she held out her thumb and paused for a brief moment and then continued. 

The green laser scanned the ID card and after a pause, a red flash came from the reader accompanied by an automated message.

“Access denied. Clearance level 11 required.” 

Mara swiped again but the same message repeated itself. Expressing a sigh of relief followed by slight disappointment. She continued on to the last door. 

As she made her way down the hall towards the final door, from a distance she was able to make out the words Emergency pods in bold lettering. She forcefully pushed open the door and prayed that there were still escape pods left. Once inside the room she was greeted by a large LED panel that displayed the number of pods available and the number of pods in use. To her surprise, the pods available read 100/100. All pods were still vacant and accessible. 

“That can’t be right. No ones left yet? How is that possible?”

She saw a row of numbers displayed on the screen ranging from 1-100. She pressed on the number 1 with her finger. Immediately the wall behind the door slid up into the ceiling and a tic-tac shaped  large metal capsule presented itself. The hatch on the capsule opened upwards displaying the interior. Hanging inside the center of the pod was a metallic thick heavy looking space suit. At the posterior, a single seat was bolted down with large straps hanging off of it.

Maya looked back at the room, and then back towards the pod while she quietly thought to herself; What am I doing? If I get in there I could be drifting in space for eternity. How am I supposed to even get help when I'm floating aimlessly now knowing where I'm at. What if no one finds me? What if no one even bothers looking!? All these questions ran through Maya’s mind as she contemplated boarding the capsule. Before she had a chance to react, a loud thundering boom shook through the station, forcing Maya to fall. 

“Get in the pod now!” a stern voice said through the intercom speakers.

Maya didn’t have time to question her sanity. She jumped into the pod and shut the hatch. The pressurized door began to seal itself. Quickly she slipped on the metal suit and helmet knowing exactly how to secure it. Once she was done, she grabbed the straps and pulled it over, fastening her in place. Mara raised her right hand and placed it on the lever handle next to her face. She looked forward and stared at her reflection on the glossy white shuttle door. 

What's the worst that could happen right? Everythings been great so far,” she laughed.

She twisted the handle and pulled hard on it without hesitation. Immediately the craft shot upwards forcing Maya against her seat. It felt like a rocket blasting out of the atmosphere. She felt nauseous but held whatever was in her stomach down. As the tic-tac shuttle continued shooting upwards Maya closed her eyes and images of people she didn’t recognise projected themselves onto the wall of her mind. The last image particularly stood out; a young girl in a blue sundress holding an astronaut figurine was playing in a grassy knoll surrounded by daffodils. She was laughing and running with her figurine through the tall grass until suddenly Mara opened her eyes.

The pod all of a sudden felt like it was free falling and then ‘splash.’ The capsule turned sideways making it so Maya was lying on her back. She had no idea what was happening, nor did she care at this point. She was tired and just wanted to rest. A loud ‘ding,’ sound followed by another automated message.

“Attention, pod has emerged safely. Initiating depressurization process. Please keep the stabilizer suit on till the process is 100% complete.” 

What in the actual fuck is happening right now?! Maya waited a few minutes till the voice announced it was okay to leave. She proceeded to unbuckle herself from the seat and removed her helmet. She carefully stood up and placed an ear against her reflection. She didn’t hear anything at first but after waiting a bit longer, a smile swept across her face.  

She swiftly grabbed the handle on the pod and pulled it as hard as she could. The pod hatch ejected off. Maya closed her eyes and climbed out onto the exterior. 

She was greeted with a strong breeze seasoned with salt from the ocean. She felt the warmth of the sun embrace her face followed by droplets of water from the crashing waves nearby. Birds kawed in the distance and wind whistled through the sky. Maya opened her eyes. She was home.

June 25, 2021 18:11

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