So, here’s the thing, folks. I’m sick. Sick as a dog who has had the misfortune to suffer from a rather nasty ailment. I had to tell work twice today that I couldn’t make it in to cover someone’s shift, and another time to tell them I couldn’t make it in early tomorrow. Too sick. So I’m going to spend the rest of the night as I spent the day. In bed. But I did manage to bang out my requisite 2,000 words. I was somewhat inspired by events in my own life for this, and prompted by the daily prompt from WordPress. So, yeah, maybe I’ll finish this tomorrow. Maybe have some killer rats or something. I dunno. Let me know what you think. I’d like to know if my illness has affected my writing ability.
And, as always, Thanks
Writing Challenge Day 21 (Untitled Piece)
By, E. W. Morrow
Word Count: 2012
“Are you sure this is a good idea, Ben?” I asked asked as the other kids finished tying the rope in knots around my waist and in between my legs.
“L’k, w’re g’na—bah—gonna test it before we put you all the way down, don’t worry about it.” The beginning of his words were mumbled as he used his teeth to tighten the final knot. He gripped it with a thick, meaty hand and gave it a hard tug. The knot slipped a bit but didn’t come untied.
“So you’re sure its safe?” I asked for the fifth or sixth time that afternoon.
“We gave you a helmet, didn’t we?” This was from Trudy, who had opted to let the boys tie the knots while she kept lookout over the edge of the catwalk. The auditorium below was dark and silent, but there were numerous ways in. Trudy had positioned herself so that she could see most of them, or at least see a portion of the auditorium and stage that someone would have to cross to get from an entrance to the ladder up to the catwalk. It was unlikely that anyone standing among the rows of cheap wooden seats with the ratty, dusty cushions would be able to look up and see them, but all that would have to happen would be for someone to hear a string of whispers or a stifled curse and they’d be discovered.
“Why do I have to be the one to go?” I whined in the quietest voice possible.
“Because you’re lightest!” hissed Brian from somewhere between my legs. He’d been a boy scout up until high school, but that only gave me slightly more confidence in his knot tying abilities than my confidence in Ben’s. Brian had never exactly been top of his class, if you know what I mean.
“No I’m not,” I replied. “There’s no way I weigh more than Trudy.”
“Yeah, but I’m stronger than you!” Trudy sneered.
“No you’re no…OW!” I gasped as Trudy leaned over and punched me on the bicep.
“Shut up!” hissed Ben, thunking the side of my helmet.
“Told you,” Trudy whispered triumphantly.
“You didn’t have to use the knuckle.” I sighed.
In truth, Trudy probably was stronger than me. She was the only girl on the school’s wrestling squad and one of three that opted to take weights as a second gym class. I wasn’t exactly a featherweight, but most of my extracurricular activities had tended more towards the academic side of things.
“Alright,” Ben whispered. “We’re gonna lower you down about four or five feet and then pull you back up. Tell us if the knots are slipping or the hole get’s too small.”
“Okay, fine,” I said. “But if I don’t feel safe we stop, got it.”
“Fine, whatever,” said Trudy.
I climbed up over the catwalk railing and swung my legs out over the side. There was barely any gap between the metal walkway and the cinder blocks forming one wall of the triangular abyss in front of me. The auditorium had been built like all auditoriums: with special attention payed to the acoustic properties the space would possess. To that end the walls of the auditorium were angled toward the back. Every fifteen feet or so they would take and abrupt turn away from the center of the room. That meant that the room was square on the outside but jagged on the inside. This left a row of triangular spaces in between the two sections of wall. Each one was about twelve feet long and five or six feet wide at the widest. Each space was a tube that went down to the auditorium floor, roughly fifty feet below. We had seventy five feet of rope, but at least fifteen feet of that had been wrapped and tied around me.
For safety reasons, of course.
What few people knew was that the floor of the auditorium was not actually where the concrete tubes ended. They ended roughly five feet below that, beneath the sloping floor and the rows and rows of dusty, moth eaten chairs. There was a little maze of access tunnels down there so that maintenance crews could get to the building’s wiring. It takes a lot of wire to provide electricity to an auditorium, especially if it uses hundreds of high powered theatrical lights on a regular basis. The building didn’t do that anymore, but it had been built that way.
I felt the rope around my waist and thighs pull taught as Ben, Brian and Trudy braced themselves to take my weight. I bent at the knees and shuffled my feet out over the emptiness, grabbing on to the metal bar of the railing behind me for support. I sat on the cinder blocks and edged my way out over the ledge. My hands were now both on the rough, concrete to either side of me and I raised myself up to go that final distance. With my legs I pushed my self out even further, so I wouldn’t hit the lip of the hole on the way down.
And then I dropped. Only about half a foot as the extra give on the rope that had accumulated when I’d raised myself up got eaten up. I know I gasped, but I’m not sure if the others did as well. They inched me down the tube, slowly at first but then quicker as they found their stride, moving their hands in time so that they each had one hand on the rope at all times but still let it move. I got a bit over five feet down when I heard Ben whisper indistinctly above me. I dropped a few inches as they readjusted their feet and then they pulled me back up. Thirty, maybe forty-five seconds had probably passed, but it felt like longer.
“How was it?” Brian asked as I pulled myself back up onto the cinder blocks and planted myself there.
“It was dark,” I said. I didn’t want to tell them how claustrophobic it had made me. How loud my breathing had sounded or how far away the top had seemed.
“Think you’ll be alright going all the way down?” asked Ben. For a moment I actually considered telling him no, but I didn’t. People didn’t tell Ben no unless that was the answer he wanted.
“Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, I think so. But give me the flashlight.” Ben smiled and handed me the heavy, silver metal flashlight. I would have preferred something smaller, something lighter and easier to hold, but it was all we had. And besides, the amount of light it produced would be a godsend in the pit. Plus, something about the weight of it was comforting. Reassuring. Trudy would call it phallic, and maybe it was, but at least I was going into the cave with a club.
“’Kay,” Ben said as he cracked his knuckles expectantly, “remember, get down there and head towards the back of the auditorium. It should be two sections back, but there’s no telling how clear the passages are.”
“Why do we have to find it again?” I asked.
“Because, if we leave it down there then, one, they’re going to know we were here, and that’s trespassing, and two, I’ll kick your ass if you don’t.”
“Fine,” I grumbled. The others took their positions again and I felt the rope tighten once more. “But it’s your wallet, that’s all I’m sayin’.”
“Shut up!” Ben hissed. He put his size twelve shoe flat against my back and pushed me out over the hole. “And don’t come back til you’ve got it.”
The trip down was long, and tense. I had no idea how long it took. Ever since Ben dropped his wallet down one of the other shafts we’d all been a bit smarter about not bringing along possibly incriminating valuables to our urban exploration attempts. Things like phones. Or watches.
If only he’d dropped it down a shaft that hadn’t been boarded up, this would have been so much easier. As it was, Ben was lucky that the bottoms of the shafts were connected, and that Brian’s brother, Steve, was part of the renovation crew that would be rolling in here tomorrow to start work revitalizing “a historic landmark for the community”. I’d been all for telling Steve about the wallet and asking him to find it and return it before anyone else in the crew saw it. They were going to be knocking holes in walls anyway, it seemed like a cinch that it was the easiest route to take.
But Ben had resisted. How do we know Steve will be the one to find it, he’d said. We can always use that as a backup, he’d said. I can’t have another strike on my record, he’d said. It didn’t help that he’d been his usual, persuasive self, using logic and charisma to lead us into another crazy and dangerous situation.
My biggest fear was that I would get to the bottom of the shaft and not have enough rope to make it very far through the tunnels. Forgetting for a moment that I would be forced to untie myself to navigate the tunnels and then retie myself to safely ascend the shaft, but I would also no longer have a lifeline to the surface, a line that would stop me from getting lost. I would have to untie myself and then drag the rope behind me in one hand, hoping against hope that it would be sufficient to see me to my destination. We’d only talked about this after getting to the run down theater, though, and nobody had thought to bring any extra string, so it was decided that once I was down there I was on my own. La-dee-freakin-da.
The bottom of the shaft was covered in garbage. Decades of bored technicians and stressed interns in the catwalks above had been too busy, too lazy, or too clumsy NOT to dump their coffee cups, napkins, fast food bags and used tissues down the conveniently placed hole. There was even a folding chair, though a quick examination revealed it to have only three legs and one twisted, jagged stump. I gave the rope a few light tugs to signal to the others that I had reached the bottom. If they did like they were supposed to, they would move as close to the hole as they could, let as much of the remaining rope down the hole as they could, and then tie the rope off on the catwalk railing, resting until I shook the rope upon my return. I gave them a few minutes to get settled and then I saw someone, either Ben or Brian by the looks of it, wave an arm over the shaft entrance fifty-some feet above me. I was good to go.
I had to duck to fit into the small access tunnel which was less the four feet tall. I managed it at a crouch, and was intensely relieved. One thing I hadn’t expected, besides the pile of human refuse at the bottom of the shaft, was the amount of visible mouse droppings that littered the tunnel floors. I was glad I wouldn’t have to crawl along that face first, unless I lost my balance, of course, or the tunnel narrowed. I don’t dislike mice or rats, but I have an intense aversion to poop.
I made it five feet into the tunnel before the rope pulled taut. Unwilling to risk pulling on it to see if it had merely gotten stuck on something I retreated into the main shaft and began loosening the knots. It took me nearly ten minutes to undo the first two, but by then I could slip the rest of makeshift harness off over my hips and down my legs. I spent another five minutes trying to loosen the other knots before I gave up. I’d just have to make my way through the tunnels without it.
(End for today. Here’s the daily prompt link. Feel free to see what others said about it