Come Back


            The steel is cold against my face, hands, and feet because they are bare. I am lying on my right side, legs splayed. My left arm is in front on my face, the hand palm down. My right arm is behind my back, the hand on its side. My face is resting on the steel. I blink several times, to adjust to the dimly lit room. The wall in front of me is also steel. I tilt my head and confirm my suspicions that the ceiling is also steel.

Eventually I twist myself into a sitting position and two facts settle in. Firstly, the remaining three walls are also steel. Secondly, there are no windows or doors. The room is familiar to me, more familiar than who I am. Looking down I see I’m dressed in a loose fitting shirt, with elastic bands on the wrists and waist. The pants are of identical material with elastics at the ankles and hips. They are cream and soft. It is apparent to me that I am female. I reach to my head to find thick curly hair. Even with all this information, I still do not know who I am, or my purpose in my steel room.

My investigation of the room reveals there are small lights which jut out along the  edge of each wall in a square. There are 50 on each side I count, which means there are 1,200 in total. I discover that out of the 1,200 white lights there are two anomalies. One, is on the ceiling in a corner. It is black and it pulls out to reveal wires attached. I feel someone must be monitoring me. The second anomaly is a red bulb, on the bottom of my box. It does not move.

I know this because when I touch it for prolonged periods of time, I fall into a vision.

The hallway of the hotel feels as though it goes on forever due to my slightly drunken state. My black dress and high heels make me feel beautiful, it’s my birthday. I need to get my phone from the hotel room so I can take pictures of my friends and family on my special day. I’m aware there is someone with me in the brightly lit hotel hall and I feel uncomfortable. I don’t want that person there. The door to room refuses to open, as I struggle with the key card. I wish I’d accepted Rupert’s offer to come with me. All the while my mind protests the presence of the stranger.

At this point each time I pull my fingers off the bulb.


            Lying on the floor I consider my situation. I should feel discomfort but I do not. I do not feel hunger, or the need to relieve myself. 7 seconds could be 7 hours could be 7 weeks. As I stare at the ceiling I see something different. Little horizontal slits in the steel. They were not there on my first investigation. I stand up and while running my fingers along the slits, I notice my nails are stained with colour. When I push at the slits they move upwards in a diagonal motion revealing a window to outside.

A gentle breeze floats through my box and I remember how much I love fresh air. I can see trees and the blue sky through my small window slits. For a time I listen to the trees rustle in the breeze, feel the air on my skin, smell the potent sap, and I am content. I do not know how long I stand there, until my sensory experience is broken by a tiny bird landing on one of the metal slits which poke out into the world. They drop something into my box which I don’t immediately pick up. I am too enthralled by this exquisite little creature. The bird is brown with a cream chest dotted with darker specks. Its little black beak sings, and the small ruffled feathers on its head vibrate in the wind. It moves in the quick way unique to birds and my trance is broken when it flies off. I am saddened by the loss of my avian friend.

The bird had left me a key. It’s bronze with a round head and nothing engraved on it. It looks new, as though it’s freshly cut and never used. Once again I carefully investigate my box, lit more naturally now by the window, but find no key hole. I hold it in my palm, it becomes warm through heat conduction. Eventually it dawns on me what needs to be done. I placed the key in the tight waist band of my pants, and lay on my right side. I reach out my left hand, gently using my thumb, forefinger, and middle finger, I grasp the red bulb.

            The hallway of the hotel feels as though it goes on forever due to my slightly drunken state. My black dress and high heels make me feel beautiful, it’s my birthday. I need to get my phone from the hotel room so I can take pictures of my friends and family on my special day. I’m aware there is someone with me in the brightly lit hotel hall and I feel uncomfortable. I don’t want that person there. The door to room refuses to open, as I struggle with the key card. I wish I’d accepted Rupert’s offer to come with me. All the while my mind protests the presence of the stranger.

They wrestle the key card out of my hand and push me through the now open door. I am screaming for Rupert and stranger grabs me by the throat until I can barely breath. I pull at their hands, desperately trying to avoid their eyes. I feel pain in my head. They’ve hit me with something heavy. The hot blood flows down my head and my heart is pounding. The pain is deafening, I can think of nothing else. They force me onto the bed. The room is swimming, and the pain is excruciating, my vision blurs…


I heave with sobs. The fear pumps cortisol around my body, my stomach churns with a mixture of anger and shame. My face is wet from tears and sweat, my hands and feet are cold. I grab my hair to have something to hold onto. I scream and the sound is flat in my little steel box. I slam my right fist onto the ground, with a dull thud, and eventually the tears subside. When my vision clears and I can see once again, there is a steel handle in the middle of the floor. The kind of handle they have on doors for cellars or shelters. I scoot over the floor to investigate. There is now a vein of gaps in a rectangle around the handle and just underneath it, there is a keyhole. My breathing has regulated and my hands are quivering, but no longer from fear. I reach for the key in my waist band. Concentrating with all my might, pushing the vision from my mind, I slip the key into the lock. It fits perfectly and turns without resistance.

I open the small trap door to find a ladder which reaches down about 20 feet, and see a room below. While I can see some further steel around the ladder and on the floor of the room below, I can’t see much else from the perch in my box. I glance back to the red bulb, which is now white, glowing like the rest. I clamber down the ladder, my legs returning to normal after the shock. The rungs are cold on my hands and feet. Air from the window slowly blows through the short tunnel and into the room beneath. The ladder stops at the mouth, I use my arms until the last rung, then gently drop down onto the steel floor.

I stand surveying the room. It is huge compared to my box, around 3 times the size. It is filled with computers, storage units, and machines. Most of them are lifeless. They do not respond to any of my efforts to switch them on. Eventually I find a computer which does. I sit on a small office swivel chair the same grey as the walls. The computer wakes and requires a password, without hesitation I type:


            The background picture is a beautiful and familiar garden. There is only one folder labelled ‘messages’. I double-click it revealing 6 files labelled 1 – 6. I double click file 1. It opens a video of a man. He is wearing a deep blue shirt and pants, with a utility belt around his waist. His dark skin perfectly complements his lovely brown eyes. He smiles at me and says cheerfully, “Hi Laura!” My name is Laura. “My name is Laura?” I mumble. He grimaces into a sad smile as though he’s heard me, his eyes soften. I trust him, he is a friend. “I’m Rupert the repairman, and I’m trying to fix the machinery in here. I was hoping you could help me Laura, so I thought I’d send you some messages.”

I smile, glad that he did, realising how lonely I’d been in my box. Rupert’s familiar voice is music to me. “It’s just a theory of mine that I can fix the machinery here in the shelter by sending certain files to you to interpret.” I cocked my head to the right, not understanding him. “Don’t worry Laura, you’re the expert on what I need help with. You knew the password for this computer, which is one step ahead of me!” He smiled and it warms me. His handsome face is not only familiar, but beloved to me.

“Ok so file number 2 is a video like the rest. When you’re done, open file 3 and I’ll give you further instructions. See you soon, hopefully!” He winked and with a charming smile he clicked off. I breathed deeply, readied myself for the next message, and doubled clicked file 2. It was a news report in an art gallery. The pieces on the walls are colourful, modern interpretations of natural landscapes. Trees aren’t just green and brown, they are purple and red. The skies are a plethora of blues, oranges, and yellows. Flowers flourish on the canvases, the hyperrealism is entrancing. The reporter begins speaking. “This artist struggled for many years, her story is one of hard work and perseverance. A career 15 years in the making. Please tell me sir are you planning on purchasing one of these pieces?” The microphone was thrust under the mouth of none other than Rupert! “Absolutely, and I would love to meet the beautiful soul who created these pieces.” The reporter smiled, “well you’re in luck, we are here with the artist Laura Mockingbird. Laura, tell us what was like getting to this point in your career?”

I paused the video on the reporter and the woman who had just walked into frame. This was me, Laura Mockingbird. What a funny name. Long brown curly locks, startling blue eyes, slim frame, and a messy style. The smile on my face was one of pure joy. I pressed play and listened to my own voice. “That’s very kind of you sir, I would be happy to discuss any of my pieces with you.” I turn to the reporter, “it’s one of those journeys of enduring hope. Keep creating, just focus on the process not the end result. When it’s time, you’ll be found.” The reporter smiled signing off and sending the story back to the studio. The video ended here.

In a daze I doubled clicked file 3. Rupert’s lovely face appeared once more. “Hi Laura!” He proclaimed. “Whatever you’re doing keep at it, the machines are lighting up like fireworks. Have a look!” I turned to the room to see flashing lights of green, blue, and red. The machines hummed, grinded, and clicked. “Try the next file, we’ll have this problem licked before the end of working day. See you soon.” In a trance I dragged the mouse over to file 4 with some difficulty. Another video popped up, filmed on a camera phone. Me in a black dress, celebrating with friends and family in a restaurant. “That’s my mother,” my frazzled brain offered, as they applauded me. “I would like to thank you wonderfully supportive people, for being here on such a special birthday for me. My adventure as an artist has been arduous to say the least. I want to shower you all with my gratitude. Without your love, the well of my inspiration would have run dry. Here’s to you all.” The video ended with the clicking of champagne flutes, and myself and Rupert smiling madly at each other. My mind became increasingly foggy. It took me a painfully long time to open file 5.

“Hello Laura, we are doing fantastic,” Rupert’s emphasis on fantastic was encouraging. “Most of the machines are up and running again. We have one file to go, and hopefully we’ll see you soon. Be brave, you’re so strong.” The video ended with his sunny smile. I was more light-headed and detached which each video. All the same I dragged the mouse slowly to the 6th and final file. The video nearly floored me. It was me in a hospital bed. My Mother Daphne, was by my side, holding a hankie to her face, tears welling. My brother David stood by her waving at the camera, “we love you Laura, we want you to wake up more than anything!” My mother offered, “You’re such a strong woman Laura, you’ve always been, it’s time to wake up please.” She managed this between sobs.

The camera turned to Rupert’s lovely face, “hi Laura, It’s Rupert. We hope by playing videos of your wonderful life to you, you might want to wake up. We can’t stand the thought of beautiful talent like you going to waste in a deep sleep. I know we haven’t been together long, but I’m not ready to give up if you’re not.” My head swam with memories. Of my mother inspiring me while I learned to paint. Playing with my brother in the beautiful woods behind our home. Meeting Rupert at my first art exhibition. Our first few exciting dates. My birthday celebration. Being attacked in my hotel room. Rupert’s encouraging voice from my bedside. I closed my eyes.


When I opened them again, I was in a hospital bed. My mother’s elegant face was filled with joy as she clasped my hand. David was clapping and cheering, tears in his eyes. Rupert’s handsome face was alight. My new love for him came flooding back and I sobbed, “Rupert, how long was I gone?” He smiled brilliantly, “too long my love.”

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