I could say it was a day like any other day, but that would be a cliché and a lie. It was a day unlike any day I have ever had before and not one I would like to see again; ever. It started ordinarily enough, by the sound of the alarm clock beeping at me and pointing out noisily that it was 6 am, and that I should already be on my way to the shower. I climbed unsteadily out of bed, leaving the warm, still sleeping body of my wife, stepping over the warm, still sleeping body of my dog I headed to the bathroom. Standing there, allowing the water to cascade over me, helping me to wake up and warm up; I had no idea what the day had waiting for me. Not that anyone knows with any real certainty what awaits them but we all have expectations, desires, wants and needs. Some of us even have to-do lists, shopping lists, cleaning lists and even lists of lists; things which help us to plan our day and ensure we achieve all those expectations, desires, wants and needs. Standing there in that warm shower, on that cold morning, in the artificial light of the bathroom, in a house surrounded by the still dark new day outside, I have no idea what lay ahead for me. Even if I did I would have no idea how to stop it happening.
By the time I reached work I was awake, having driven the 20 mile journey. If asked, I could not remember the colour, make, shape or location of any other vehicle, any cyclist or pedestrian I passed on the journey, either crossing my path or travelling in my direction, but I arrived at work, as usual, as I had done for the past ten years, made myself my usual cup of hot coffee, took it to my usual desk, sat in my usual chair and logged onto my usual computer.
Then, my day changed in a moment. In an instant my old life was gone and a new life had begun in one simple instant.
I awoke before the alarm and the sun was streaming through the window, it was a lovely sunny day but something was wrong; I could feel it, sense it. I sat up and found myself in a small room, in a small bed, with a small window high up on the opposite wall. There was no alarm, no warm carpet under my feet; no warm still sleeping wife, no warm still sleeping dog. Just stone flags, cold stone flags and instead of a dusky pink, freshly painted bedroom door there was a cold steel faded and chipped blue painted door. And it was locked and I was in a prison cell. A cold steel toilet stood alone in the corner, no shower, no hot water flowing to wake and warm me; just cold uninviting steel and stone. Prison.
I climbed back into the now cold bed, into the blankets, coarse and rough, lay my head on the lumpy, hard pillow and tried to kick my mind into gear. Why am I here? My mind not working, not in gear. I looked down at myself and realised I was wearing pyjamas, something I haven’t done since I was 12 and that was over 30 years ago. I hated them then and I hate them now. I couldn’t work out where I was or what had led me to be here, alone, in this cold bed, in this cold room, in this cold prison.
As I lay back in the bed the small viewing window in the door slid back with a metallic click and as I turned around I heard the key turn in the lock and the door swung open into the cell. A guard stood inside with the key still in his hand. I looked at the key, then I looked at the guard; his smart uniform in stark contrast to the dingy cell I was now inhabiting. He wore a clean white shirt, so white it glowed around the edges of his crisp, clean, pressed, smart tunic. I was in dirty, crumpled pyjamas. He smiled at me and his teeth flashed brilliant white, as white as his shirt. So white I had to look away but I looked back when he spoke.
“Come on you, get dressed, you know you have your appointment at 11.00 and it’s gone 10.30 now. Look lively” he said through smiling white teeth and just stood there.
“What am I doing here?” I asked him.
“Just get dressed” he replied. “And get a bloody move on”
I looked at him, then at my pyjamas and then around the room. A grubby looking shirt and some blue denim jeans were piled in the corner, near the toilet. So I got out of the bed with the coarse and rough blankets and picked up the denims and placed them on the bed. I looked at the guard and he smiled again with those white teeth and turned around so his back was to me. I took off my grubby pyjamas and stood naked, then I pulled on the denim jeans and the crumpled denim shirt and put the grubby pyjamas into the cold bed with the coarse and rough blankets. There was a pair of scuffed and dirty work boots in the corner and I walked across the cold stone floor and picked them up. There were no socks but the boots were a perfect fit; and the jeans and the shirt were a perfect fit and the back of the guard’s tunic was perfectly pressed and his trousers were perfectly pressed and his hair was perfectly cut.
When the guard turned towards me, he held out a pair of shiny steel handcuffs and motioned for me to put up my hands; which I did. Click; they closed tight around my wrists. The cold steel bit my wrists, shiny cold steel handcuffs surrounding my wrists, keeping them together, restricting my freedom, like a cold steel prison cell.
“Come on” he said “Lets go” and I followed him, followed him down the narrow stone corridor, followed him up the cold steel steps, watching his clean shiny shoes stepping in front of me. Clean shiny shoes reached the cold steel landing, I reached the cold steel landing, following him across the cold steel landing. The guard stopped outside a dirty paint chipped door, I stopped outside a dirty stone chipped door. He knocked on the dirty paint chipped door. One, two, three, four knocks, loud knocks. Then a metallic click as the bolt was slid back on the inside of the dirty paint chipped door and the hinges creaked as the dirty paint chipped door swung inwards. The guard passed through into the room, I passed through into the room. the guard moved to the side and turned to reveal people in the room, people standing in a semi-circle. The guard moved me forward into the middle of the circle, eyes staring at me, all those eyes looking at me in another cold room with stone floor and stone walls but no window. I looked back at those eyes, I looked at the guard, I looked at the cold steel handcuffs biting into my wrists, I looked at the stone floor and I looked at the rope hanging next me, hanging close by my head and, at last my mind began to work, my brain slipped into gear and I remembered, I remembered why I was in that cold bed with the coarse rough blankets, in that cold prison cell, in that cold prison. No more warm still sleeping wife, no more warm still sleeping dog. Just two cold, lifeless bodies. Then I knew now why this was a day I never wanted to return; and for me it never would.
© Steve Cripwell 2012. All rights reserved