He was tired, weak and many times he stumbled, nearly impaling himself on a jutting pole or jagged knick-knack from the mountain of garbage that littered the stairwell. Carl was crying again, choking sobs like raspy hiccups echoing from below. He seemed far away now, as Simon ascended the stairway to Heaven.
"You've murdered us all Simon! You have to come back!" Sally called from below, but he ignored her. He'd found a purpose in his climb, something to fight for.
He placed his hands ahead of himself and something came loose, tumbling down behind him and landing with a wet splash. That sound, it wasn't right. Indecision gripped him. Should he turn back and find out what was happening or should he carry on towards salvation? The decision was made for him as the rubbish suddenly lurched, knocking him backwards and hurling him down the stairs. As he tumbled a pole stabbed painfully in his spine and he collapsed at he bottom with a splash, groaning with pain in an inch of dirty water.
"Look at what your blasphemy has cost us Simon! You've brought down God's wrath upon us!" Sally screeched hoarsely.
Simon picked himself up slowly, trembling under his own weight. He was cold and wet and more than a little frightened and his small dark eyes darted around, looking for an explanation for what was happening. He saw Carl laying sideways in the water, tiny waves lapping against him as he begun to shiver uncontrollably. Simon waded over to him and picked him up, placing him on Sally's cot. He moved away but Sally gripped hold of his arm with more strength than he had ever given her credit for.
"Look at what you've done!"
Simon stared back into her eyes and tried to pull himself free of her grip. "It wasn't me! It was Him! It's always Him!"
"No! You never believed! Even when He loved you as he loved me! You never let him into your heart and so you drove him away! This is your fault! It's all your fault!"
"Let go of me!" Simon yelled, swinging his free arm back and landing a powerful backhander across Sally's face. She recoiled, stunned and her grip ceased.
"I can fix this." Simon muttered, his voice trembling. "I can save us."
Sally remained silent, her dark, empty stare saying more than words ever could. Looking around, Simon spotted the source of the water, the Hole was drowning them. The Hole provides. Simon thought. Even death. He tried to block it with some of the rubbish from the stairwell but the pieces were either too big or they just tore apart in his hands. His anger swelled as the water splashed him in the face and he tasted it in his mouth. It was clean, pure. Purer than anything they had ever had before. They'd drunk from the small toilet in the corner all this time, it being the only source of water and now they would drown in this clean, pure water from above. He hated Him, he hated Him with all his heart that he would mock them like this, even in death. He wanted to be sorry, to beg for forgiveness that the others might live but he just couldn't do it. He found himself whispering into the Hole and then found himself shouting, screaming at it with a strength he'd never realised he had.
"I hate you! I hate you! I HATE YOU! We aren't the monsters, you are! You're a murderer and a liar and I hate you!"
Both Sally and Carl were crying now, sobbing uncontrollably as the water rose slowly and Simon waded back over to them.
"You have to come with me. You have to climb!"
Sally batted his hand away as if it was a poisonous snake. "Go! Leave us! God might yet forgive you but I never will. I'll never go with you, never!"
"Don't be an idiot! You'll die!"
"If that's what He wants, I'll die! We both will!"
"No! If you want to die for that bastard, then fine, but not Carl!" Simon yelled as he reached to pull Carl away from her.
She screamed and clawed at him and Carl as he pulled. Carl cried out and they was a sickening snap as Simon fell back into the water, Carl in his arms, screaming, his arm hanging limp at an impossible angle.
Simon and Sally looked at each other in shock and then Sally burst into tears, panicked, hysterical sobs wracking her entire body. Simon swallowed down the hard knot in his throat, picked up Carl and turned his back on Sally. The stairwell awaited.
Rubbish and filth floated past him and he saw a cable bobbing gently on the surface. Plucking it out of the water he tied it around Carl's waist, securing the other end around his own. Carl was heavy on his back, but he strained with all his might to pull himself up the peak, the sound of running water and hysterical crying the soundtrack to his escape. As he made it halfway, the debris shifted under him and he almost fell back again but he managed to slide down on his belly, something sharp tearing painfully into his groin. He let out a hiss and continued.
It seemed like forever, but eventually he reached the top. He tried the handle of the door but it just came out in his hands. His blood ran cold and drained out of his face.
"No! No! NO!" He yelled, hammering at the door with his fist and the doorknob still in his hand.
The force loosened the debris some more and he slipped again but he caught himself on the wall and leaned forwards, regaining his balance. Wielding the doorknob, he stabbed at the door with it's dark metal axle, screaming in frustration.
* * * * *
"Home sweet home" Paul said to Claire as he turned the key in the lock and let themselves back in.
The carpet squelched under their feet.
"What the hell?" Paul exclaimed.
"Oh no! The tap!" Claire cried and dashed into the kitchen. The water was overflowing out of the garbage disposal and had pooled all along the kitchen floor, reaching out into the hall where the cardboard boxes containing all of their belongs were beginning to sag. She quickly turned the tap, flapped her arms around in a panic.
"Oh Paul! The boxes!"
"I'm on it!" Paul yelled, grabbing a box.
The cardboard sloughed away in his hands. "Awww crap, this is bad. Help me move this stuff into the lounge."
Together Claire and Paul frantically transferred the contents of the boxes into the lounge. Several of their books had been ruined and Paul's beloved XBox had been sat in the damp for some time. When the last of it was moved across Paul butted his forehead against the door frame in frustration.
"How did this happen?"
Claire swallowed hard. "I think it was my fault. I was trying to unblock the garbage disposal. When you surprised me with breakfast, I must have left it running."
Paul spun around. "So this is my fault?"
"No that's not what I meant." Claire said tiredly. She walked over and hugged Paul. "Damn it, why did this have to happen?"
"It doesn't matter." Paul sighed. "Where did you put the vacuum cleaner? Let's clean this mess up."
"It's under the stairs."
Paul squelched through the hall and open the under-stairs door. As he reached inside to pull out the battered red wet-vac he heard a noise, a muffled thumping sound.
"Hey Claire, do you hear this?"
Claire came through from the lounge and listened. "Hear what?"
Thump! Thump! Thump!
"Jesus! What is it?"
"I think it's coming from under the stairs."
Paul peered inside again but apart from the vacuum cleaner there was nothing, just the slanted ceiling of the little hideaway and the four plain walls. Suddenly, the wall facing the stairs cracked, chips of plaster flaking off as the crack raced along the wall, drawing the outline of a door in the plaster.
"Claire, call the police! I think someone's trapped in here!"
Claire quickly ran to the phone and dialled 999 while Paul heaved out the vacuum cleaner and tried to talk to whoever was on the other side.
"Hello? Can you hear me? If you can hear me then get back, I'm going to try and kick the door in!"
The thumping abated and so Paul climbed into the small space, bracing his back against the far wall and kicked at the plastered up door. It shook under the force but didn't budge. The plaster crumbled away showing a dark wood behind it.
"I'm gonna try again, stand back!" Paul yelled and kicked the door again.
This time, something gave, and his foot punched through the wood panelling of the door. He struggled, pulling it out and repositioned himself, crouching so he could peer through the hole. A small child's hand, smeared with red and brown reached through. The smell that followed was awful beyond belief and Paul recoiled, gagging. The sound of rasping hiccups and wheezing, wet sobbing would stay with him forever.