“Thank God that’s over,” Dan said to himself as he left the clinic through the sliding doors. It had been one of those days. He’d been caught in a traffic jam in the morning which made him late for the rest of his appointments for the day. This lead to a lot of abuse from some of his patients who’d had to wait nearly an hour over their scheduled time. Which in turn led to him working way past his normal hours, but at least it was over now and he could embark on the long drive home to his girlfriend Amy.
He knew she would have already finished work and would be waiting impatiently for him. He checked his texts and sure enough there were a series of messages from her, the last of which read, “I saved you some dinner, it’s in the fridge. I hope you like frog’s tongue xoxoxo.” He grinned to himself. Of course it was probably leftover roast from Sunday, but he would have eaten anything, even frog’s tongue at that moment. He was so damn hungry, the cafeteria lunches never sufficed.
He checked the time on his phone. 5:20. That meant he needed to be at the underground car park in five minutes, since it closed at 5:30. Which wasn’t really a problem, his office was fairly close to the car park, and he’d make it if he hurried. He sent a message back saying he had just finished and would be heading home soon. As he slipped his phone back into his pocket, he accidentally bumped into another man.
He hadn’t been looking and had unknowingly drifted into the other guy’s path. The man barely budged however. It felt like he had just walked into a wall. “Sorry,” said Dan. The man stopped and looked at him for a second, quickly mumbled something, and continued on his way. Though this was a brief encounter, there was something... sinister about the way the man had looked at him. It was far too unnerving for just a simple accidental bump.
He shrugged it off as just an exaggeration by his tired mind, which had already been finding it hard to think logically during the last hours of his shift let alone the last hours of the day. He continued to move through the crowd, which was gaining in size as time went on. It was almost becoming claustrophobic by the time he made it to the car park. He didn’t normally get out this late, and wasn’t used to being trapped inside the massive wall of human mass that was 5:30 on a Friday afternoon.
Quickening his pace, Dan managed to find a way through the crowd and make it to the door which led into the lobby of the car park. He pushed it open and escaped inside. Sighing with relief, the feel of claustrophobia leaving him for good, he paid for his ticket and pushed the button for a lift going up. He wondered what Hannah was doing, and prayed that he traffic wouldn’t be too bad so he could make it home at a reasonable hour.
Recently things hadn’t been going that well between them, silly little arguments that held no weight but still somehow seemed to drive them apart. He had actually planned on getting home earlier than normal, in order to give them a long time to have a relaxed discussion since the stress of the week had faded. But it was not to be. He sighed, and the automated sound of the lift broke him out of his thoughts. He entered the lift and pressed the button for B5, the lowest level of the car park.
As he felt the lift begin to descend, he rested his arm on the metal armrest which ran around the interior. Since he’d been late getting to work, and subsequently the car park, he had been denied his usually spot on one of the higher floors. So instead, he’d had to park on the lowest floor in the entire complex, which really wasn’t his cup of tea. It wasn’t like he was scared of the dark or anything, but he’d had a bad experience of being locked in the cellar of his own home.
He and his brother, Alex, would go down there regularly to play hide and seek as it was a fairly large cellar. Down in the darkness it was hard to see your own hand in front of your face, one of them would wait outside and count while the other found a place to hide. One particular time, while Dan was finding a place to hide, Alex noticed that their father was returning home from work early. In his excitement, he completely forgot about the game and as he ran off, hit the cellar door with the back of his foot. Unfortunately he didn’t notice, and, as the cellar door only opened from the outside, Dan was trapped.
As the lift doors opened to the dimly lit basement level and he began walking towards his car (which was the only one left on the level) he began to think about the feeling of being locked in the cellar. He remembered hearing the door shut, and the sudden dread and confusion that filled him. Both he and Alex knew that the door only opened from the outside, so why had he shut it?! Was he just trying to mess with him?
He had emerged from his hiding place under the old couch and stood up to come face to face with complete darkness. He had never experienced anything like it, the door to the cellar had always been left open when they played hide and seek, neither of them had ever dared to shut it. He began to felt uneasy, and then after he had climbed up the ladder and banged on the door to no answer, he panicked.
Screaming out and punching so hard that splinters made jagged cuts in his knuckles, he felt as if the air was unbreathable and his heart was going to burst out of his chest. And just when reality began to sink away from him he had felt the warm sensation of sunlight touching his face. Then he was out of the cellar and in his father’s arms, his tears being wiped away.
The memory still made him shiver even today. He shook his head as he unlocked his car and climbed in. He just wanted to get out of this car park basement as soon as possible and get home to Amy. He quickly reversed out, and began the ascent to the ground level. As he reached the ground level, he noticed something unnerving. It wasn’t any brighter up on the ground floor than it had been in the basement levels.
Maybe he was just being irrational, but it really was odd. He felt the same sinking feeling in his stomach when he had been trapped in the cellar by his brother. Sighing, he shook it off, the car park was almost ready to shut so they had probably turned off some lights already. In fact he laughed at it, there was no way he was getting locked in the car park, and he still had plenty of time...
Unfortunately as he rounded the final corner, he came face to face with a closed roller door and a road block. This didn’t make any sense. He checked his watch again. Still five minutes before the park should have closed. What was going on?
Unsure of what to do, he frantically looked around for anyone, or anything, that could help. This was ridiculous, he could actually see the time on a display near the billboard ads. It read 5:25, and next to it was a neon side which read, “We shut at 6 PM!” It just didn’t make any sense. Well, even if they had shut early there had to be people still around. He wound down his window and yelled, “Hey, anyone there? Can someone open the door please?”
This feeling unsettled him greatly, the sound of the cellar door snapping shut, the darkness imprisoning him in an inescapable vice.
“Anybody?! Can anyone hear me?!”
Still silence. Dan could hear his own shallow breathing, that’s how quiet the car park was. The sound from the outside was seemingly blocked by the steel-roller door. He wiped the cold sweat off of his forehead, and shakily pulled his head back into the car. There had to be a way out... the first thought that came to his head was trying to smash through the roller door with his car, but it looked too strong and to begin with he had to find a way through the road block as well. It couldn’t have shut down that long ago though, he had only walked in to the car park not five minutes ago, and the whole thing had been wide open then...
He decided to see if he could find anyone on the higher levels who might be able to help him. Keeping his panic at bay, he reversed back until he had space to turn around, and then began to drive up to the higher levels. As he drove he realized he was holding onto the wheel so tight his knuckles were turning white.
“This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening,” he tried to brand the idea into his brain. Still he saw no one. Higher and higher he went, desperately scanning the surroundings for a sign of life. But still, he saw no one. The dark cement walls and pillars seemed to close in further and further as he went higher and higher. Finally he reached the top level, and, upon seeing no one, panicked.
“Where the fuck is everybody?!?!” he screamed, without even bothering to open his window. He punched his steering wheel over and over again, the erratic beeps of the car horn fading into the great nothingness surrounding him. Tears welled up in his eyes as he tried to calm himself.
“This can’t be happening... this can’t be happening... This can't be happening!”
And then, in the cold silence of the car park, he began to sob. Any hope that this situation could be rectified faded and the feeling of doom overpowered him. The cellar door was now firmly shut, and he was trapped.
He had to focus.
For the first time since realizing he was locked in the car park, he forced himself to calm down. He slowly took deep breaths. It was irrational to think that this was the end of the world. Sure he was trapped in a car park which had for some reason, unknown to him, closed earlier than it should have, but that didn’t mean he was going to die or anything. Just like being trapped in the cellar, he would get out eventually. He would have to stay overnight and unfortunately not be able to make it home to Amy, which was definitely annoying but there appeared to be nothing he could do about it.
He took another deep breath, reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. He briefly considered calling emergency services to see if there was some way they could help him, but then realized that no police force is going to send an officer down to help out the, “idiot who got stuck in the car park.” So instead he called Amy, praying that she would pick up and be in a forgiving mood.
“Come on, come on,” he muttered. The ring tone repeated several times and then abruptly ceased. Amy’s voice came on the other side in the form of an automated message. “Hey there, you’ve reached Amy. Sorry I can’t come to the phone right now, leave a message after the thing!” He sighed. She must have been in the shower or something, surely if he left a message she would call him back soon.
“Hey babe, it’s me, I’m really sorry but somehow I’m trapped in the car park. I honestly don’t know what’s going on, I got there with enough time to get out before they closed but when I tried to leave it was all shut up for some reason, and no one was around... I know what you’re thinking, but anyway I’m really sorry, if I can find a way out of here I’ll let you know, if not I guess I’ll just have to sleep in my car and I’ll be home as soon as possible tomorrow morning. Again I’m so sorry, I really wanted to see you tonight so we could talk things over, I can’t believe this has happened. Call me back when you get this message, I love you.”
He ended the call and slipped his phone back into his pocket. He sat back in his chair and exhaled deeply. He guessed it would be worth checking to see if he could use the lift or the stairs to get down to an alternative exit. He turned his car back on, and as he did he glanced up into his rear view mirror and caught a glimpse of something.
He was standing behind his car, and from looking in the rear view mirror, it was as if he was looking directly at him. Dan quickly whipped his head back to look behind him. He was wearing a blue jumpsuit and a mask over his face. The mask looked like it was forged from hard steel, with jagged edges and sharp points. The mask covered his whole face, with dark eye holes and a vertical mouth hole which looked like a tiny chamber. Dan didn’t know what to do, he looked like a mad man but as far as he knew, this guy was the only other human being in the car park – his only hope for escape. He had no choice but to ask him for help. Dan wound down his window.
“Hello? Can you help me, I-"
Dan didn’t get to finished because he was interrupted by the crunching sound of his back window shattering. The man had an axe, and had just broken the back windshield. In an instant he had lunged into the car and was about to swing the axe into Dan's chest.
Dan screamed and violently reversed the car to the left, causing the man’s aim to be off by a fraction. The axe cut through the seat belt and Dan's shirt, barely missing his skin. The man was thrown off balance as this happened, slamming into the left side door. Dan could hear the man panting like an animal, readying itself for another attack. Dan couldn’t stop driving, he knew that, but he had to keep moving side to side or the man in the car would surely tear him to shreds. So he constantly swayed the car, his hands gripping the wheel like a cast away would hold onto a life saver.
Dan twisted and turned the car, as the man swung wildly with the axe. The first swing the man made connected just behind Dan's head, slicing off his head rest. Dan screamed and banked the car hard right, causing the man to lose his grip on the axe, dropping it under the passenger’s side seat.
“What do you want?!” Dan cried, on the brink of descending into madness. The man still didn’t say anything, but instead suddenly reached over and covered Dan's eyes with his hands.
Terror filled him. Darkness beckoned, he fell further and further down the pit. He fell farther away from Amy, her face disappearing into the nothingness. The cellar door wouldn’t open. He was hitting and hitting it, but no one was coming.
Not this time.
“No... no please!!!
He finally broke out of his daze, and slammed his foot down on the brake. The car shuddered violently and Dan felt the man rise over the top of him, allowing him to see again. The instant he opened his eyes, he saw the man impact the windscreen, and the glass shattering like it had been hit with a sledgehammer. Dan closed his eyes and shielded himself as best he could, but he still felt burning pain shooting up his arms and legs as shards of glass penetrated his clothing and sunk into his skin.
He slowly opened his eyes and surveyed the chaos. Luckily he hadn’t smashed into anything, he had managed to stop before reaching any of the cars parked in the reserved bay area. The man was not so lucky though, he had flown through the windshield and landed on top of a small car. It looked as if he was sunken in, like his impact was so great it had actually dented the top of the car. Ignoring the pain, Dan tried to gather his thoughts. He had to try and ring the police, but he couldn’t stay where he was. There was too great a chance that the man was still alive, whoever he was. But for some reason the car seemed to had stopped, maybe he had stalled it somehow. Keeping his eyes on the motionless body of the killer, Dan turned the key in the ignition.
“No, no, no...” he muttered fervently, turning the key again and again to no reaction from the engine. Finally he gave up, slamming his hands on the steering wheel in frustration. He then grasped the door handle, desperately pulling it and pushing the door open. He had to at least put some distance in between himself and the man. He put his leg out of the door but as soon as he put pressure on it pain shot right along his limb. He shuddered in pain, quickly bringing his leg back inside the vehicle.
His only option was to try and crawl. He desperately pushed the door further open, and then rested his hands on the ground, pulling himself forward. Blood leaked from the areas of his legs and arms that the glass had penetrated, but he gritted his teeth and pushed himself to continue. After distancing himself at least two meters away from the car and even further from the man, with his last ounce of strength, he pushed himself onto his back, groaning as he did so. He pulled out his phone, and unlocked it. There was a message from Amy there, and as much as it broke his heart, he couldn’t read it at the moment. He needed the police.
Frantically he dialed triple zero, his thumbprints lacing the screen with blood. The dial tone sounded for a few moments before an operated picked up.
“Hello, what is your emergency?” the operator said.
Dan swallowed, trying to regain composure.
“My name is Dan Lewis, I’m at the car park on 87th street, and I’m being attacked by a tall man with an axe, please you have to help me, I need the police right now!”
“OK Dan, you’re going to be ok, we’ve just sent a squad to your location. Now I just need you to relax and answer a few questions. Firstly, what is the current condition of the man? Are you being pursued by him now?”
“No, no he got into my car and attacked me... I... I was driving and managed to hold him off by swerving from side to side, but he covered my eyes... so I braked and he flew through the windshield and landed on a car... I think he may be unconscious but not dead, he hasn’t moved since it happened...”
“Ok, so what is your condition?”
“I can’t walk, I’ve been injured by glass from my windshield... How long is it gonna take for those guys to get here?”
“They should be there within half an hour, sir how far away are you from the person in question?”
“Not that far, I’m about...”
Dan trailed off. As he had turned his head in the direction of the car to look at where the man should have been, he instead came face to face with the man’s mask.
“Help me please!!!” Dan screamed into the phone, as the man wrenched it out of his hand and threw it away.
“What do you want from me?!” Dan cried. The man placed his hands on Dan's shoulders, lifting him up. Barely straining at all, the man threw Dan through the air. Dan landed back first on the windscreen of a family car. Dan grunted, immense pain shot up his back, like a hot knife sliding through his spinal cord. He twisted and contorted, unable to find any relief.
The man then walked back to where Dan's car was, and pulled the passenger side door open. He bent down to retrieve something. With a cold feeling of fear, Dan realized that the man must have been getting his axe. This was it then, he was helpless. There was no way he could escape if he couldn’t walk... he knew he needed to buy time till the police arrived, but that was close to impossible to do now. He just wished he could say goodbye to Amy in some way... he was almost starting to regret ringing the police instead of calling her. It had all worked out to naught now.
The man, now with axe in hand, slowly walked back to him, as if he was taking his time—savoring the moment of Dan's demise. Anger began to rise and conquer Dan’s fear of death.
“Do it already!” he screamed.
“Do what?” said the man as he reached Dan. Dan choked on his words, not expecting the man to actually speak. It had caught him off guard, and now he didn’t know what to say.
“Kill you? Do you think that would be an adequate punishment?” The man said, his voice was very deep and guttural, but something about it was familiar. The sound of it pulled at something in the depths of his memory... he just didn’t know what it was. And what did he mean by “adequate punishment” anyway?
“What... what are you talk-"
Dan was cut short by the man swinging his axe and driving it into Dan's left foot. Blood spurted out of the wound, the man holding the axe so that the blade stayed in. The pain was unbearable, Dan twisted and turned, screaming and shouting, but the man held fast to the end of the axe. He refused to let the pain end for Dan.
“Answer me!” he yelled, “Answer me or I leave it in!”
Dan choked back the tears now welling in his eyes.
“No!” he screamed, and the man paused, before pulling the axe clean out of Dan's leg. Dan shuddered violently, and his body began shaking from the agony. The tears were now flowing down his cheeks, though he still did not know what the man meant by “adequate punishment.” Punishment for what? Still, it was good that he appeared to be taking his time, no matter how painful it was. He needed to find a way to stall him; he had to ignore the pain.
“I’m glad you’ve finally come to your senses,” said the man, almost chuckling. He leered over Dan so they came face to face, those endless eye sockets disappearing into nothingness.
“You thought I’d never get out, didn’t you,” he said, his voice almost a whisper.
“I... I still don’t know... what you mean” said Dan, barely getting the words out.
The man laughed evilly, placing his hand on the top of Dan's hair and pulling it back, so that Dan's head lay flat on the bonnet of the car. He then pushed his foot down on top of Dan's injured left leg. Dan screamed and thrashed violently.
The man leaned in so that his mouth was right next to Dan's ear, and whispered, “You know, you know all about the cellar door...”
“I got locked in the cellar by my brother as a child!” Dan screamed.
“No you didn’t!” growled the man, grounding his foot further into the open wound, blood leaking out at an even faster pace.
“Tell me the truth, nothing more, nothing less,” said the man.
“I-I-” stammered Dan, his mind reeling. Sirens faintly echoed in the background, the police were arriving.
“Say it!” yelled the man, now holding his axe with both hands poised above Dan's head.
“I locked you in the cellar!” cried Dan, the pain overcoming his senses. He had finally fit all the pieces together. He had known his attacker all along. It was his brother, Alex. He and Alex were in fact conjoined twins, who had been removed from one another through an extensive surgical procedure. However, there was one slight twist. Their minds were never really separate. It had decreased over age, but they shared all of their earliest memories, which was why Dan recalled Alex being stuck in the cellar and took it as his own memory.
The reason Alex had been locked in the cellar was that he had not responded to the surgery well at all. While Dan had survived with barely any defects, Alex became hostile and developed an antisocial personality. He disobeyed his parents regularly and often tried to kill Dan. Their mother had pleaded to their father to take Alex to a hospital, but he had refused. Their father had never been quite well mentally either, though their mother had stuck with him because she loved him deeply.
Their father decided to imprison Alex in their cellar. To achieve this required a risky ploy, having Dan coax Alex into playing hide and seek with him. (They only did this when Alex was in a good mood.) It took a while but eventually Dan was able to convince him to come and play. When it was Alex’s turn to hide, Dan had climbed out of the cellar, and his dad had slammed the door shut tight, leaving his son to die. That was the last Dan had ever seen of Alex until tonight. Somehow he must have found a way to survive and eventually break out. And now, somehow, some way, he had found him in this car park.
“You took your time, are you that much of a coward?” said Alex.
“I never wanted to do it!” protested Dan. The sirens grew louder, he just had to hold him back for a few more moments. Alex appeared to be so wrapped up in their confrontation that he hadn’t noticed the sirens... or maybe he didn’t care.
“That’s your excuse? That's your excuse for making me live in that hell? There’s only so much air in that cellar, and there’s only so many insects you can eat...” he trailed off, his words already having made their full impact on Dan, who was rapidly losing color in his face.
“You can’t rid yourself of your sins, Daniel,” said Alex, raising the axe above his head.
“Sometimes you have to live with them.”
Alex swung the axe. Dan tried to avoid it, he lurched to the left as the axe came down, but the blade landed in the side of his neck. Blood began leaking into Dan's lungs, making it difficult to breath. He could vaguely hear Alex laughing.
“That felt so damn good, you just have no idea!” he shouted with joy.
“How about I do it again? I never liked the look of my face, so why should you?” he said, laughing.
Dan, barely able to speak, gritted his teeth.
“Did you know... that a... a poet... once said that out of all the... the combinations of words in the English language... cellar door was the most beautiful?” said Dan.
At that moment, a loud gunshot blasted through the car park. Alex’s head exploded as the bullet found its way through the flesh on the back of his head, and forced its way out through the metal mask. He dropped the axe, it landing with a loud clang! and then his head fell backwards, his knees bent so that he was in much the same position Dan was.
An officer appeared at Dan's side.
“We’re police, an ambulance should be here for you shortly. Is there any one we can contact for you?”
Dan coughed violently, blood leaking out of his neck and onto his shirt.
“Amy... I need... Amy.”
That was the last thing he said before everything went black.
The next day Dan awoke in a hospital bed. He felt as if he had been asleep for a year. Amazingly he could breath fine, though there was a little pain involved. It was at that moment that Amy’s face came into his view.
“Oh my God, you’re alive!” she said jubilantly, tears of happiness filling up in her ice blue eyes. She bent down, kissed him hard on the lips, and then embraced him passionately. Dan wrapped his arms around her, but at the same time a strong sadness overwhelmed him. He began to cry into her top, letting out all the emotions that had been trapped inside him since he had been locked in the car park.
“I’m so sorry... It’s all my fault” he wept.
“Shh, shh it’s not, ok? Let’s not talk about it for now,” she said calmly, in a way that made him feel good.
“I love you, so much,” he said.
“I love you too,” she said, kissing him once more. She finally let go of him and stood up.
“Ok, now, first matter of business is-"
But before she could finish she was interrupted by a beeping emanating from her pocket. She frowned, but ignored it.
“Anyway, as I was saying, first matter of business is, I’m allowed to tell you that recovery will take a while but you should eventually be able to breath without a machine. The bad news is that... you won’t have your foot any more. But you can get a prosthetic one! They were saying that they’re really easy to fit and stuff, you’ll just have to get used to it!” she said brightly.
“That sounds good to me... but you know I think we can discuss all that stuff soon, right now I’m so hungry, does this place have good food?” he said. Amy laughed.
“They sure do!” she said, “I’ll call a nurse and stuff and I’m sure we could get something.”
“Great,” said Dan.
Later on, after Dan had explained everything to Amy over lunch, she sat by his beside while he enjoyed some much needed sleep. She still couldn’t believe all that had happened, and that Dan had managed to live through it all. She had already known about the story of Alex, but it was still a shock to find out that he had managed to catch up with Dan. They had both assumed that he had died in that cellar.
While she flicked through a magazine, she remembered that she had never checked the text that she had received while talking to Dan. She pulled out her phone, and as she read the message, her blood ran cold. It was sent from Dan's phone, which the police force had been unable to recover at the crime scene.
“Hey baby, I can’t wait to see you tonight.”