Jerking forward with a gut-wrenching start Neil put his hand on his chest and then relaxed as the front legs of his chair connected with the floor. That was close. He looked around and confusion set in. Where was he?
He couldn’t decide if it was a diner or a waiting room of some sort. The décor said dining room but there was no lunch counter and no waitresses. The clock on the wall said waiting room but…waiting for what?
He stood and glanced around. There were two other people in the room and both of them were looking at him intently. Mild embarrassment set in and he sat back down and tried to work out what was happening.
He had been…doing what? He couldn’t remember. How had he gotten here? More to the point where was he? Alarm began to build. Had he suffered a stroke? Who were these other people and why were they looking at him?
All at once they stood and walked over to the table he was sitting at sat down. No on seemed to want to speak first. It was the woman who finally did.
“Who are you?” She was looking at neither of them; rather she seemed to be talking to the opposite wall.
Neil took a punt. “My name is Neil Alton. Who are you?”
She turned her gaze on him and furrowed her brow. “Alice…Dover. Where are we?”
Neil shook his head. “I have no idea. I was hoping one of you might know.”
The other man put his hands over his ears for a moment and then looked at Neil.
“Is this some weird joke or something? How the hell did I get here?”
Alice took on a look of fright. “You don’t know either? Oh my…what’s going on here? I can’t remember…what…”
“Okay, look, my name is Mike Stillman and I live at 14 Park Street. I’m a mechanic. I have a wife and two children.”
He nodded his head with satisfaction and looked expectantly at the other two. Neither seemed to know what to say. Alice’s eyes were edged with tears. Neil was getting angry.
“I know who I am and where I live but I don’t see what that has to do with anything. I don’t know how I got here or why this is happening but I’m leaving.”
He stood up abruptly and looked around for a door. The room was not large, nor was it cluttered. It didn’t take long for dull horror to set in. There was no door on any of the four walls. There was no way out of the room. Neil dropped heavily back into his seat and stared at the clock on the wall. The second hand was not moving.
The other two began looking around as Neil sat staring into space. Both seemed to come to the same realization he had at the same time. Alice’s hand flew to her mouth and stifled a scream. Mike gripped the edges of the table and stared at Neil.
“What the hell is happening here?”
Neil barely registered the question but shook his head at last and mouthed the words ‘I don’t know’, shaking his head.
“This can’t be happening. I’m having a nightmare. That has to be it.” Alice folded her arms across herself and looked down at the table. “I just want to wake up now. Why can’t I wake up?”
Neil stood and walked to the nearest wall and ran his hand along it as he moved to the corner. He continued until he came back to the starting point. The others watched him in silence. He walked back to the table and sat down.
“Maybe we’re in Hell.”
Part 2 Tomorrow