The snow-white plain of my monitor was broken only by my subject title in size eighteen font. I realised I had been staring at the screen for fully one hour, and had progressed no further than that. I decided I needed some caffeine to fuel my inspiration, so headed to the kitchen to put the kettle on.
One and a half cups of coffee later, after stubbing out my third cigarette, I had finally made some progress. I had in the last forty-five minutes managed to complete my name underneath the title. I had toyed with the idea of a blinking font, but dismissed it as too flashy.
What I needed right now was three thousand solid looking words, and I needed them by teatime tomorrow. What I had was a headache from staring at the screen for so long.
I decided that a nice walk in the fresh air might be just what I needed to clear my head, so I decided to go down to the shop to pick up some more coffee and cigarettes. I had to keep alert no matter what, my very life depended on it; or at the very least, my degree.
It was almost five pm by the time I got back from the shop, my headache was worse now than before, as it had started pelting down with rain the minute I’d gotten halfway there. Cold and irritable, I put the kettle on for another coffee as I changed into some dry clothes and towel dried my hair.
I now had slightly less than twenty-four hours in which to complete my essay, and so far, all I had was a title page. It was most definitely not looking promising, but that realisation only served to offer me the inspiration I was looking for. I sat down at my keyboard with a fresh pot of coffee, and before long was furiously tapping away at my keyboard.
Two and a half hours later, I sat rubbing my neck to massage some life back into it. I had several deep impressions on my forehead where it had been resting on the keyboard where I had dozed off. I had typed four hundred words before I had fallen asleep, then a subsequent sixteen pages of gibberish. I could almost have kicked myself, but first I needed to get myself something to eat and some more coffee, the other pot had gone cold sitting on my desk.
Sandwich and extra strong coffee to hand I stationed myself once more at my desk. I had added some more cushions to the seat; I would be sitting here for some time now, toilet breaks excepted. I thought it important to be comfortable, but I did not want to doze off again, so got up and opened a window to let in some fresh air.
Feeling much more comfortable, and hunger and thirst suitably slaked, I got back to the task in hand.
I would have to double my work output over the next few hours to get the bulk of my essay written before I went to bed.
It was ten pm the next time I took a break from my desk. I had been working solidly, and wanted to reward myself for completing the first one thousand words of my essay. With the first stage completed so early, I thought I deserved a bit of a treat, and there was a piece of cake in the larder that would be the perfect sugar boost.
The door to the larder was located just inside the kitchen. It had its own light, so I did not bother switching on the fluorescent tube, rather just flicked on the single bulb hanging from the ceiling.
The cake was on a shelf on the back wall, and I was just about to reach out for the cake when the light overhead went off. The bulb had blown. Not to worry though, I reached out to where the shelf should be, but instead of finding it, there seemed to be nothing but thin air. I took another step forward, shuffling in the blind dark; as I did, hands gripped each of my arms and pulled me sharply forward.
The larder suddenly seemed to be a lot bigger. The light had come back on and I seemed to be lying on a couch of some sort. I closed my eyes and opened them again. The light was a little hazy I could not see anything. And I was still wondering where the couch had come from.
I decided to close my eyes again, in the hope that when I opened them again, things would make a little more sense.
With my eyes closed, I fancied I could now hear voices, far off in this suddenly cavernous larder. The one furnished with a couch, and the subtle lighting. I wondered if I had drunk too much caffeine, and this was some sort of hallucination.
I decided to listen to the voices more closely, in case they knew what was going on. I had to strain to hear them, it felt like I had cotton in my ears or something, and the voices seemed to be attached to bodies that kept moving in and out of hearing.
Through my closed eyes, the light suddenly seemed to get a little brighter. I was about to open them again, when I heard several sets of footsteps headed my way. I decided to play dead for a little while longer for I had no idea who my mysterious audience might be. Or what.
“I see you are awake now.” It was not posed as a question; I fear my act had been rumbled. The voice had not sounded angry or two headed, yet I still did not care to open my eyes. If this was a hallucination, it was a damn good reason never to drink coffee again.
“Fear not Princess,” the voice sounded much softer now, there was a definite edge of kindness to it that I had not detected before. I must have misheard what the stranger had said though. I thought he had just called me ‘Princess’ of all things.
“We are here to take you home Princess, your people need you now. We are almost there, so you take this time to rest if you wish.” The voice tailed off, as the unseen strangers made their way out of the room.
I had to assume I was not in my larder any longer.
When I was satisfied that I was alone again, I took the opportunity to open my eyes once more. Though the lights were dimmed again, there was enough light to see by. From my current vantage point however, all I could actually see was the ceiling above me.
Unlike the wooden beamed ceiling of my larder, this one seemed to be a kind of steel grey colour, it was a lot higher than I expected and almost seemed to curve out of view.
I decided I was going to have to sit up if I wanted to check out my surroundings. That was not as easy as I had anticipated; my limbs seemed not to want to cooperate fully with my brain. It took me several attempts to lurch into an upright position.
When I was sitting up, I wished I had not bothered, my head almost split in two with a bolt of pain. What had those people done to me, I felt like I had been drugged. That would go a long way towards explaining many things. Like the conversation I had overheard for starters.
When I felt as though I could move without my head exploding, I did. I swung my legs onto an equally grey, tiled floor. Seconds after my rubber-like legs hit the floor, so did my knees, then I threw up all over the place. I think a lot of it was coffee, but there was a kind of chemical aftertaste to it too.
I figured now was as good a time as any to wake up, so pinched myself, thinking I would wake up in the larder, or better still at my keyboard like earlier on.
After a couple of good pinches, I realised I may well be awake already. Besides, I could not have dreamt the burning taste in the back of my throat.
Using my arms for extra leverage, I managed to get back up onto my feet again. Walking gingerly at first, in case my legs betrayed me again I made my way to the doorway.
The door-less arch opened out onto a lighted corridor. The walls were of the same dull grey as the room I had just left. I could see no sign of life in either direction, but decided I would head off to the left.
The corridor seemed to stretch off to an impossible distance, and as I followed it, I could not help but wonder still if I was dreaming. I turned a corner to find myself at a junction. As I debated which way to turn, I heard voices over to my right, so quickly ducked into the shadows of the arch ahead of me.
As the voices got nearer, I recognised one of them from earlier. They were going back to the room where they had left me. When they had passed me, I decided to follow at a safe distance. I knew I probably should not follow them, but unfortunately, the pull of my curiosity was too strong.
Even so, I let them get quite far ahead of me, and when a moment later I heard raised voices, I knew they had discovered the empty room.
I paused a moment, debating once more the merits of going on or running who knows where. A sudden hand on my shoulder startled me so much that I fainted.
When I came too, I was staring at a now familiar ceiling. I could sense there were others in the room with me, and this time I did not feign sleep.
Sitting up I turned to face a row of hooded figures. I say face; I could not make out one set of their features. My mind working overtime and my heart pumping furiously as one of them stepped closer to me.
The figure spoke as it approached, but I heard no words. I was too busy watching the hand reach up, up to the face, to sweep back the concealing hood.
I felt that now would be good time for me to faint again, but my body had different ideas. I remained upright, rooted to the spot as some horror was about to be unveiled in front of me.