The Clockwork Of A Writer's Mind

The Underground  - Preface & Chapter 1


Preface

Staggering to my feet, I loaded my gun and aimed it into the darkness. I would not be killed without a decent fight. I knew my enemy was watching, waiting to strike at any given moment, but I was ready.

The warehouse was completely silent. I glanced over my shoulder. There was no one to watch my back now. I called out, challenging my adversary to step forward and face me. No response. Maybe it was a good sign? After ten months of pain and suffering, was the battle finally over? Had I won?

I managed to summon a little hope, daring to believe I would live to see another day. But the fleeting optimism quickly died away when I felt the cold metal of a gun barrel pressing into the back of my neck.

Chapter 1

Ten months earlier.  August 11th

My memories, like scars, fade with time. But they will remain; reminders of past mistakes. One such memory is all consuming, constantly playing out in my mind when I'm awake, and haunting me as I sleep. It is even more unbearable when I'm asleep, because I cannot control its influence. It seeps into my subconscious, manipulating my dreams.

I still wonder how one day could change my life so dramatically. There are things I lost on that day that I will never regain.

A sister, for instance.

On July 7th, 2005, at 8:50 am, a Thursday morning, my life took an unexpected turn. It is over three years ago, but the memory is crystal clear. I'd called in sick for work to attend an audition near Aldgate. And, against my parents’ wishes, I had taken my fifteen-year-old sister Amy with me. I had arranged for her to skip school. I would get terribly nervous at auditions, so I'd bring Amy along for moral support. She didn't really care about my music that much, she just loved the idea of getting out of class.

The two of us caught a bus into London, aiming to take the Underground from Kings Cross. We bought our tickets, bickering like any brother and sister, and waited for our train.

As we stood at the platform, I prodded my ear buds deep into my ears, listening to my compositions. I had loaded over fifty original tracks onto my iPod, and had no idea which one to perform at the audition.

Just before the train arrived at the station, Amy said the last words I would ever hear her utter. Elbowing me in the rib cage, she scolded, "Turn down the music, I can hear it from a bloody mile away!"

I obeyed her request and lowered the volume a few notches.

The train stopped, opened its doors, and instantly released a swarm of people. Amy and I forced our way inside, and for a moment I lost her, the strangers blocking my view. Looking over a man's shoulder, I spotted her standing near the front. Amy glanced in my direction, then rolled her eyes and looked away. She was avoiding me; evidently it was 'uncool' to be seen with her big brother.

I daydreamed as the train pulled away from the station. I was crammed right up against one of the windows, but it didn't bother me. I closed my eyes and focused on my own soothing music. Almost a decade ago, I had started learning the acoustic guitar and I now played brilliantly, but my real love was with the piano. I'd only started playing four years ago, but it was my life. Although I worked as a stationery salesperson, all my passion went into my music. It was my reason to live.

When I opened my eyes, more people had squeezed into the already jam-packed carriage. I continued to daydream, unaware what fate lay just around the corner. As I scrolled through songs on my iPod I heard an ear-bursting explosion.

Instantly, darkness descended on the train carriage. A thick cloud of smoke quickly filled it, and I felt a warm, sticky liquid trickling down my forehead and cheeks. I tried to call out to Amy, but the smoke was choking me. My head started spinning, my legs throbbing. I thought I was dying.

This is where my dream ends. I always wake to my own panic-stricken screams.

                                                                                           ***


When I awoke, my heart was beating rapidly and the familiar cold sweat had completely drenched my shirt. My entire body quaked with emotion.

 I lay in complete darkness, part of my brain jumping to the conclusion that I was still on the train. I tried to move but I was wrapped up in something. I broke down into my usual tears as I tried to free my body.

My thrashing and whimpering in the bed sheets had woken Sophie. She flicked on the bedside lamp and a flash of light burst into the room. I could see again. I wasn't on the train. I was safe.

"Jordan, it's alright. You're OK," she cooed as she grabbed my trembling hand.

My heart rate began to slow as the tears burned in my eyes. Even though I was alert and awake, I could still hear the echoing screams inside my head.

 The screams rarely stop.

"It's OK. You're safe," Sophie whispered.

"I ju-just d-dreamt—," I croaked, but I couldn't get the words out.

"I know, I know. Just be quiet now. It's all over."

Sophie let go of my hand and pulled me closer to her body, murmuring reassuring words in my ear. But I wasn't listening; I was just concentrating on my breathing. As I felt the air returning to my lungs, the tears disappeared and normality was restored.

I glanced at the bedside table, checking the time. 4:07 AM. The sun wouldn't be up for a few more hours.  The image of Amy lingered in my mind. I could see exactly as she looked before she died. She had her jet-black hair in a neat ponytail and holey jeans and a dreadful, skimpy singlet. Despite being a typical teenage girl filled with adolescent angst, Amy smiled a lot. She had a brilliant smile, and the boys at school adored her.

The thoughts of Amy fuelled my anxiety, and it sparked up once more. Sophie held me tighter and continued to reassure me, before turning out the light. I wished she hadn't, but I kept my mouth shut. After a while, my convulsions stopped, and my heart was no longer exploding from my chest. I closed my eyes and I felt Sophie's warm arms holding me in a secure lock.

Yet, I couldn't fall asleep. The raw fear never leaves me.


                                                                                 (C) Copyright J.Dennis, 2009