Thank you Raimundoroks, Spaice and Tsarina Torment for reviewing! I just wanted a few more people to read before I put more chapters up, but I think I've got enough now


I wake up in a bed. Quite a comfortable bed, really. Maybe it was all a dream. I know it wasn't (my body still hurts like hell) but I'm reluctant to open my eyes and chase that last bit of hope away. Maybe Callum never died, and I didn't get beaten up and nearly killed by a gang of psychos on the trip to Furnace, the centre of the Earth. Maybe I never got arrested at all. I bathe in this fantasy for a few minutes, hoping to fall back to sleep and dream about it but then I hear voices.

"Has he woken up yet?" It's the rough tone of one of those guys. The huge ones, with the silver eyes. They were the ones who framed me. Why do they always dress in black suits?

"Not yet. Send a wheezer in to try and wake him up. If that doesn't work, I guess we'll just have to try surgery." Surgery? What are they talking about? I don't need surgery.

"It's a shame. He hasn't been here long enough. Otherwise he might have been a good specimen. He probably won't survive surgery yet." Specimen? What's going on?

"Oh well. We've got plenty more!" Laughter. Then I hear them leaving. I am about to open my eyes and sit up, but then I hear a sound that chills me to the bone. Wheezing breaths. I recognise them. Those creatures that were with the blacksuits that made them stab Callum. They didn't even speak, just pointed. If it was possible, they scared me even more than the blacksuits. So what are they going to do to me now? I lie perfectly still. It worked with the gang. I know it probably won't work with the wheezers, but it's worth a try. I hear the wheezing breaths come closer. I'm asleep. Go away.

It doesn't work. The breaths come closer. What are they going to do? I get my answer as pain shoots through my body, making me jerk backwards and gasp. My eyes open involuntarily and I see the wheezer standing next to me holding a cattle prod. It looks at me, pleased, and lets out a single, loud screech. What, so they use cattle prods to wake you up now? I thought I hated my alarm clock, but this is something else. I look around. I'm in some kind of hospital, with white curtains spreading in every direction so I can't see anyone else. I'm glad of that. Judging by what happened to me I'd imagine that not many of the people who come down here are in a pretty condition.

I hear another scream and shiver. That one didn't sound like a wheezer. It sounded distinctly human. But that must be my imagination. Suddenly, the curtains opposite me open and a blacksuit comes striding in.

"Recovered from our little misdemeanour, have we?" I nod, not sure what else to do. I mean, I'm not recovered, my body aches and I wish I was still unconscious but these guys are not to be argued with.

"Good. You'll need all your strength for the hole." I recover my voice somehow.

"The hole?" I croak like a frog. But at least he can make out what I'm saying. He grins, reminding me of Kevin. They both have that same, predatory look about them.

"Solitary confinement. Fighting, on your first day in Furnace! And you hadn't even arrived yet! Unacceptable." He shakes his head sarcastically.

"Solitary confinement? But... it wasn't my fault! They attacked me! I had to defend myself!" Good start. First I get beaten up, and now I'm being put in solitary confinement. I wonder how bad it will be, and what other horrors Furnace has in store for me.

"Are you arguing with me?" His voice has turned dangerous. I shake my head, remembering what happened the last time I argued with someone bigger than me.

"I'm not arguing, but I'm just saying, they attacked me. Was I just supposed to let them kill me?" Oh, damn you smart mouth. He looks really angry now.

"Listen you. You argue like that normally and you get the dogs set on you. Understand? Since you've only just woken up, I'll be lenient and give you another chance. But if you argue like that again, I'll add another day to your stay in solitary." I nearly point out that he had promised me two different punishments if I argue again, but then realise that that would count as arguing. And tempting as it was to point out his stupidity, I didn't particularly want to experience either of those punishments. So I nod dumbly.

"How long will I be in solitary for?" It's probably not a good idea to ask more questions, but I need to know.

"Two days. I wanted to give you three, but you're new to this place. Now shut up and get yourself out of bed." Wearily, I remove myself from my warm, cosy bed and allow myself to be escorted to "the hole".

"Is that it?" I can't see anything. Just a floor. My escort grins.

"Go look over there." Suspiciously, I walk towards where he's pointing and see a metal trapdoor set into the floor. My stomach turns backflips. It's just a hole in the ground. In total darkness.

"Welcome to your home for the next two days," he grins. I stare, gobsmacked at him. "Don't worry, the other guys are getting this too. Only they're getting three days so they'll have a nice grudge against you when they get out." Great. So now they'll hate me even more.

"I..." He scowls at me.

"Shut up and get in the hole." I can't move. I just stand there. I'm not scared of the dark, but I hear people can go mad if they're kept in total blackness for too long. I hope "too long" is more than two days. The blacksuit sighs.

"Fine, we'll do this the hard way." He whistles, and then I see the scariest sight I've ever seen. A massive, skinless dog lopes up to his side. It's huge. And worst of all, its teeth and claws are huge too. Maybe I'd better get in the hole after all.

"Go get him, boy!" The blacksuit grins, and the dog howls in delight before bounding towards me. That's enough for me. I try to open the trapdoor as fast as I can, all the while staring panicked at the dog. Please don't let it catch me, please don't let it catch me... but surely the blacksuits wouldn't let it catch me? I mean, the gang got punished for almost killing me. But then again, so did I... The damn trapdoor won't open! The blacksuit is laughing at me, at my terror. How can anyone laugh at this?

Finally, the trapdoor opens and I leap inside. The dog is nearly on me. I reach my arm up to slam the door shut but before I manage it, the creatures jaws fasten on my wrist. I gasp. Its teeth are even more painful than I'd imagined they would be. Beads of blood run down my arm as I cry out in pain.

"Let go!" I sob, smacking the dog again and again on the nose. It shakes its head around, tearing the skin and sending bolts of agony up my arm. Then, all of a sudden, I hear a whistle. The creature releases my arm and runs back to its blacksuit master. I stare up through the trapdoor, clutching my bleeding arm. He walks up to the trapdoor and sighs.

"I warned you. Here." He produces a bandage and hurls it into the hole next to me. I'm still shaking from the shock of what just happened. That was even worse than the gang. He sneers again.

"That's what happens here at Furnace if you disobey. We can do whatever the hell we want to you. Nobody cares about you anymore. You're lucky I decided to call it off. There have been occasions before when I just left them to get eaten." He starts to shut the trapdoor.

"Sweet dreams!" I watch the last glimmer of light disappear as he shuts the trapdoor. Then I'm left on my own in the complete darkness, with only my sobbing breaths for company.