Frank awoke from sleep so sound he couldn’t even begin to imagine anything at all. As his senses slowly came in to focus he realized he was lying on a very hard surface. The next thing that came to him was that he had a pounding headache.
Getting beyond the headache was difficult, but another body sensation was getting through just the same. He needed to take a leak, and badly at that. He managed to pull himself to a sitting position. As his hand touched the floor he felt a stickiness that made him queasy.
In addition, it was pitch black, wherever he was. For that matter, why in the hell didn’t he know? He had never woken up in an unfamiliar place before. He had a vague recollection of having gone out to a party somewhere, that would explain the headache, but where was he now? He managed to get to his feet with quite a bit of effort, only to find that was very unsteady on his feet.
Unable to see anything, he fished around in his pocket for his lighter. It didn’t help much, but enough to make out that he seemed to be in some sort of basement. How the hell had he gotten there? He couldn’t remember. He made his way to a wall and felt along it until he came to a flight of cement stairs. Thankful that he had found a way out he climbed them slowly, using the feeble light from the lighter to keep from tripping up. He got to the top and groped for a door handle, but couldn’t find one. He held the lighter closer, and to his horror discovered that what should have been a door was in fact a brick wall. The doorway had been sealed over.
A chill went down his spine, and for a moment he forgot all about his hangover. He dropped down heavily on a step and pondered his situation. There were two large pieces of wood propped against the bricks, as though holding up the wall. It made no sense at all. He tried not to consider the idea that he was trapped in this place, whatever it was, but the idea formed in his mind all the same, like a creeping nightmare that would not be denied.
What could he have done to cause someone to seal him into a basement? He vaguely remembered a story by Edgar Allen Poe wherein that very thing had happened. He tried desperately to remember what he had done. He went to a party. Yes, it was a co-workers party. She had invited him a week or so ago, and he had gone, and he had a good time. A little too good a time, apparently.
As he pondered his situation he realized that there was the smell of stale urine in the air. Reminded that he really needed to go, he made his way back down the stairs and groped his way to a corner and relieved himself. He moved a bit further and put his back against the wall and listened intently. Nothing, no sound at all. This was bad. He tried to get hold of himself and think things through, but his head was pounding.
He rubbed his eyes and gave himself a pep talk. He had to explore further, find out if there was another door. He groped his way along, not wanting to use his lighter too much because he hadn’t refilled it recently and he was afraid it would give out. He moved along the wall, trying to remember which direction he had come from. As he did so, he tripped on something on the floor and landed face down, banging his left knee on the concrete floor, sending waves of pain up his leg.
He sat up quickly and cursed a blue streak. This certainly wasn’t doing his hangover any good, but at least it was giving him other things to think about. He stood up and realized he had lost any sense of which direction he was facing. He got out his lighter, gave it a flick and inched forward cautiously. After a few hesitant steps he came to a wall and put the lighter away. He inched along the wall and realized, just as stepped into something wet and the smell of urine grew stronger that he had found his way back to where he had relieved himself. In other words, he was back to square one.
Despair was doing it’s best to overtake him now, and he put his hands over his eyes and tried to remain calm. That Edgar Allen Poe story keep insisting on staying at the front of his thoughts, and he did his best to hold the idea that he was just scared, that no one would want to seal him into a basement to starve to death. That thought reminded him that he hadn’t eaten for quite awhile and could really do with some food. He searched his pockets, but to no avail.
He mustered his will and began feeling his way along the wall again; stepping carefully to avoid whatever he had tripped over last time. This time when he reached the object he reached down and discovered it was large piece of wood like the ones propped against the wall at the top of the stairs. Well, at least he was making progress. He continued inching along the wall.
As he felt his way along he reached a seam in the wall. He got out his lighter and in the ever diminishing flame he could make out a hinge. He had found a door! He felt along it and realized it was metal. He felt a little further and came to a handle. Pushing down on it and leaning into the door he stumbled outside into bright daylight, which stabbed his eyes, causing him to close them and put his arm over his face. When he could bear the light he discovered he was at the steps of a basement door that led up to the sidewalk.
He staggered up the stairs and looked around. Ah yes. This was the neighborhood his co-worker lived in. Her apartment was a couple of blocks away. The night before began to come back to him and he remembered leaving and heading for the subway and needing to pee. There had been people around, but he had spotted this abandoned warehouse and had gone down the steps and through the door to relieve himself.
He couldn’t remember anything after that, but he surmised he must have blacked out in the basement. He had really tied one on, he remembered people telling him he should quit. As he made his way down the street to the subway home the wind blew a flyer against his chest and he pulled it off and looked at it.
It read: Do you have a problem with alcohol? We know what’s it’s like and we can help. Confidentiality assured. Call 555-2341.
He crumpled up the flyer and tossed it aside heading for the subway.