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CHAPTER 7: VISITORS
Cassette 4: 6 th January, Hotel Kyla, Middle of Nowhere, Finland
Oh my dear Nigel, what strange delusions we all had the day before yesterday! We have been stranded here for a week now, and it's doing us no good. You would think, wouldn't you, that after two people had apparently been killed by poisoned foods that we found, we would be careful with that little box of sweets that appeared at breakfast. Those sweets made me imagine that I was pulled into a cupboard by a cat. Ah, but enough of this. More important things happened yesterday.
Everything has changed. Everything is different. I panicked. It is all my fault.
The night before last I couldn't sleep. I wandered about. I wanted to walk further, so I put on my outdoor clothes and went into the vast and echoing, unheated corridors. But the echoes were real. There were footsteps in there. I thought they were following me. I tried to run, but the icy floors were slippery, and cold air is difficult to breathe. I puffed steam and blinded myself with it. My own feet seemed to make no noise, but the footsteps were clear and loud, and always behind me. I saw nothing moving, though the place is permanently lit.
I became trapped at the end of a corridor and panicked. There was a table there, with a vase, in front of the window. As I said before, you can't see out of those windows because of the frost, but it was night anyway, and the days are so short here. I tried to smash the window with the vase, which broke. Then I was thrashing at the glass with the table. It cracked a little. I listened. The steps seemed closer. Where were they? In the ceiling? It was a long corridor with no corners. It was empty. I thrashed some more. The inner pane broke through. I listened.
There was silence. Then a loud bang, like an explosion. After that I hardly knew what I was doing. I know that the outer pane of the window smashed through, and then there was a lot of noise and shouting and lights. The hole was knocked bigger from the outside and three men all wrapped against the cold burst in with snow falling off them, and grabbed me, and frogmarched me directly to my room (how did they know where?) and locked me in.
There was banging and stamping of many feet in the corridor all night. I heard Tracy cry out once. I thought I heard Stuart talking urgently, on and on, up and down the corridor. Then at some time in the small hours my door was unlocked and that same Stuart walked in, looking embarrassed. He was in a most peculiar uniform. Very smart with too much ammo, if you know what I mean. He rattled when he walked.
“Well I hope that lot makes you feel safe, Stuart,” I said. “Take me to your leader.”
“Oh, Masina. What a mess. What made you do that? You've spoilt everything.”
I waited. Either he was going to explain or he wasn't.
“Aren't you even a bit curious?”
I just sat there.
“Look I said I was sorry –“
The door knob rattled. He'd locked it. Why?
“OK, I'll explain anyway. Though I don't know all of it. You're an experiment. There, I've said it. Aren't you going to say anything?”
He shook me by the shoulders. I unfocused my eyes. I tried to be nowhere. It seemed that from the top of the wall I was watching this guy with loads of silver buttons and frogging shaking and slapping this woman in a bright pink dress and orange hair. Me? I guess so.
“Oh I give up. I'll come back later.”
And he left. Breakfast was shoved in on a tray, and the door locked again. Same with lunch. I heard Elizabeth scream through the wall, then she sobbed for a while, then silence. The snow made cracking and sliding noises on the roof as usual. I waited.
Then another guy came in. I won't bother to describe him. There are lots of them. They all look like heavies. After a while I stopped looking at their faces and just saw the uniforms, all the same. They all had the same message. Would I please try a sweet from a pretty little box, which they held out. They kept coming back with it. I heard them going into Elizabeth's room in the same way.
“No,” she would shout, and she called them names.
I didn't bother. Stuart came back eventually.
“Alright – what experiment? What is in those sweets? The same as before? That cat –“
“You just try one of these, darling, and I'll tell you all about it.”
Now it was he who said nothing. He lounged back in my armchair, his weapons and ammo scraping against each other.
“It's a wonder some of that doesn't go off. Do you know how to use it?”
He showed his teeth briefly then changed his mind. He was being patient. His famous bedside manner.
“I'm a nurse. I'll see that you're safe. Now listen. There's a war on. You hadn't even noticed, had you? You just play with your jewellery and make-up and do your hair all the time. Masina, are you listening to me? Look at me. I'm trying to tell you something.”
“Do I, Stuart? Are you sure I'm so shallow? Anyway, what war?”
“Oh god,” he said, and put his head in his hands.
“Look, Masina, this is part of an experimental station. To do with the war. Next door is –“
And then some other guys burst in and took him out. I could hear him blustering in the corridor. Another Mister Anonymous came in and held out those sweets again. Stuart's voice was rising. Poor Stuart. Maybe they would leave him alone if I took a sweet. I did and they did. Then I fell asleep.
I woke a little occasionally. Sometimes Stuart was there, his glasses steamed up. He looked upset. He talked but I was too sleepy to listen.
“Sleeping drug. Safest. You've got the best one.”
Whatever was that all about? I didn't care. I slept.
This morning I woke up and Elizabeth was shouting through the wall about escaping. I guess the whole hotel heard it. Escape to what, I wondered. So I guess this has been a set-up. Do I have to think in conspiracy-theory mode now? Quite honestly, Nyge, I can't be bothered. Anyway, if that were the case you would have to be in on it too. No, I can't be assed. I don't want to know.
I sat and looked at the vain and shallow, orange and pink woman in my dressing-table mirror. She smirked back. Shallow, eh? She knew a way out.
I looked at the floor for a while. Dirty down there. I looked at my dress. I changed into my jeans. Shame about the diamante bits down the side. I sighed. Oh well. I lifted a whole load of floor tiles. I never told you about that, did I? Well it wasn't interesting. The hole where I hide the cassettes is rather big, and there is a way through under the floor tiles and under the wall to the next room. I thought about rats and closed my mind to it. I crawled, and tried not to cough with the dust. Under the wall is a squeeze. Glad I'm tiny.
No, I didn't bother with Elizabeth's room. She would just shout about escaping. So that meant another crawl. I had never really bothered to check all the rooms out. Now who was in the next room?Oh, there's someone coming. I'll tell you the rest later, Nyge. Masina out.
Copyright © 2003 LS
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