Escape By D.I. Jolly
Henry sat alone in the little coffee shop, smoking his cigarette, sipping his coffee and listening to the thoughts of the people around him. He hadn’t always been able to hear thoughts but as he got older it had developed and now was second nature. He knew which were his and which were other peoples and if the music was loud enough he couldn’t hear either which helped keep him sane. But most of the time he enjoyed it in the same way people liked ‘people watching’. He particularly liked the type of place that would attract first dates or meetups from online dating, and hear the honest opinions of each other.
“Oh my God he’s dressed exactly the same as in his picture; does that mean these are literally his only nice clothes?”
“What if I forget what she looks like and end up having coffee with a total stranger?”
“I hope that’s her, no it can’t be she’s a redhead.”
“That’s the fourth time he’s mentioned his mother in… 15 minutes.”
“Why am I still telling this story about my father from when I was five, I hate this story, why won’t I shut up?”
“Yes, I can see you look at the waitresses bum, every, single time.”
Henry enjoyed moments like that for the humour but really his favourites are when two people meet for the first time and their minds go blank, and his mind fills with a general feeling of warmth. Those are the ones who always walk out holding hands, talking about where to go next. A few hours passed as he watched couple after couple come and go, some towards a future, some towards a happy ending and some to run screaming in opposite directions. In very bored moments he’d make bets with staff about which way a date would go and get endless free cups of coffee.
After one too many cups he decided it was time to take himself home, for an afternoon of not working, almost being tempted to go into the bar in the front of his apartment building but then not, last minute. As he walked through the front gate a strange feeling swept over him. If a happiness was warm, this was cold. Henry took a deep breath and pushed it out of his mind, telling himself it wasn’t his business and headed up the stairs towards his door. But the feeling persisted and by the time he got to his apartment, he knew he wasn’t going to be able to ignore it any longer. He turned on his heels and pushed out his senses, trying to find the root of the feeling. Slowly he started walking back downstairs and ended up heading into the building basement. Before long he found himself standing in front of a large padlocked iron door, with no doubt that the feeling was coming from within. He put his hands gently on the door and pushed as much effort into listening as he could, hoping to get some indication as to what he would find on the outside, but all he could feel was that same cold sense of dread. On one hand, it made him feel nauseous, but on the other, told him that there was only one person in the room. With renewed vigour, he ran to his one basement store room, grabbed a hammer and headed back to assault the padlock. The lock broke on the third blow and the door quietly swung open. Henry fumbled for a light switch in the darkroom and switch the lights on only to immediately turn them off again. He closed his eyes and tried to force out the image of blood splatted walls and rusty medical equipment. He reached for his phone and used its torch to guide him to the back wall where a man lay chained. The man looked up in horror as he saw a light approach and it made Henry pause.
“My name is Henry Cards, I’m here to help get you out of here.”
The man flapped his mouth open but couldn’t find the strength to form actual words. Which didn’t stop Henry from hearing him think;
“My name is Marcus, please help me.”
With hammer in hand, Henry managed to break one of the chain links and helped Marcus to his feet before leading him out of the room. As they got to the door Marcus hesitated again and Henry got a sudden blinding flash of memory, of a Tinder date gone horribly wrong, and saw the face of a woman he recognised from his building.
“Look man, let’s just get out of here and to my apartment, then we can call the police and an ambulance.”
Marcus looked at him, nodded and the two of them made their escape.
By the time the police arrived the woman’s apartment was empty and, unknown to the two men, the more interesting items in the basement were also missing.