I just want to assert that the title of this fic is not literal. It's a metaphorical title for what's going on. If in five or so chapters, you need me to explain why, PM me. All chapter titles come from the song 'The Fatal Wound' by Switchfoot.
Chapter One: The Crisis
All around her was darkness. It was a suffocating blackness that filled her very soul with anguish. She shifted uncomfortably on the hard floor of the boat, adjusting herself into a more comfortable position. She had no idea how long she had been there, changing positions, no idea how long she had been without sight or the ability to speak. She had no idea of how long it had been since she last ate or drank anything, or the last time she had heard anything other than the quiet lapping of the Thames on the boat.
All she knew was that it had felt like years and that she no longer cared. She actually hoped now not to be found. Too long she had spent on this boat, and she had had no choice but to soil herself when the pressure in her abdomen became too great. If anyone found her now, she'd be weary and half-starved, covered in her own piss and shit. And she didn't want to be found like that.
She resented the men who had put her here, but firmly kept their faces out of her memory. Some things were better not to remember.
The lapping of the water on the boat had long ago driven her mad. She loathed the sound with a furious passion, angry at the fact that something that had she had once loved, she now couldn't stand. She hated that the gentle sound of the water proved second after second that she was still alive, and she wished that it would finally quiet.
Pain radiated suddenly through her shoulder, and she cursed silently. Another reminder of the non-life she was living. She knew that the bullet was still inside her shoulder. The men who had left her here hadn't dug it out. They had hoped it would kill her. But it was high, far too high to cause any major damage and instead embedded itself right next to her shoulder blade.
When the men had come back, they had been disappointed. They knew that there was a substantial chance that she would survive, and they had come armed with food and water.
She had tried to scream when they removed the gag.
They had beaten her senseless in reply.
They had then sat next to her, talking and laughing while she slowly regained consciousness, unable to realise when she opened her eyes because of the blackness from the blindfold.
They had made her make promises, and then she had gotten food.
But instead of fulfilling their promise, they had left her handcuffed to a pole on the lower deck of the barge, just like the first time they had left her. However, soon after they left that second time, she felt the boat moving.
That's when she realised. They weren't worried about her telling anyone. They were giving her a last meal. All her promises had been in vain.
What could have been hours, days or weeks later, she felt the boat scrape against sand as it hit the shore of the Thames. She knew that this would increase her chances of being found, but she did not care. She knew it could still be weeks before someone decided to look below decks.
For now the water still lapped persistently against the side still in water.
She sighed, leaning against the wall that she was handcuffed to. Her brain was growing hazy from the lack of food and water. She knew it was going to be over soon. She was certain that the wound in her shoulder was festering into a full blown infection, and if the lack of hydration didn't kill her first, the infection would.
And that was the only thought that would calm her. It was going to be over soon. Her miserable existence would be finished.
Suddenly, she was dreaming. She knew it was a dream because she could see. This was the only place that the blackness did not suffocate her. But it didn't matter, because she couldn't even escape the hell when she was dreaming. She could only dream about what had gotten her into this position, from the step out of the office to being handcuffed to this boat. She had no life before that step. She would have no life after the boat. She knew that now. Because when they found her, she would most likely be a pile of bones, the handcuffs hanging neatly where her hands had once been bound.
She saw herself promising the men again, hopeful that her life would be safe then. And then she watched the faceless men walk out, somehow able to see them in her dreams, although when it had actually occurred she had been blinded.
She relived the despair as the boat started to float on the river, sobbing uselessly against the pole to which her hands were cuffed. She couldn't even remove her blindfold or gag. The men had tied them too tightly around her head. It had been giving her a headache for God only knew how long.
The blackness suffocated her again, and she knew she was awake.
A drip of water fell on her face from above. She raised her head, letting her gag catch the water, listening as the rain pattered gently on the sides of the boat, accompanying the quiet slap of the current against the boat. The only time she was able to drink was when it rained, and even then, it was the smallest of mouthfuls of water that she was able to suck from the gag after it had made it from the top of the boat down to the lowest level. The tiny mouthfuls did nothing to quench the fiery thirst that had settled within her, making her mouth dry and her tongue swell and crack. It felt like she was constantly trying to swallow sandpaper.
She sighed as the drips stopped, lying her head against the side of the barge. Her thirst was nowhere near quenched, but she was used to that fact by now. She knew that it would never be quenched again.
The constant lick of the light waves continued.
Her anger grew, listening to the water. She had become so angry, but there was no one to take it out on. So it sat within her, like a dull fire, until it had changed her inside. If anyone found her, those that knew her before would no longer know her.
That is, if she knew anyone before. Her life had been broken into two very separate pieces. One was before she had walked out of that office, and the other started with that first step. She severely doubted that anyone from before was even looking for her. Why would they? She wasn't important to anyone. She never had been.
The thoughts had circled in her head for days, months, years it seemed while she had been kept hostage. If she was not dreaming, she was thinking and that was as torturous as listening to the water lap against the sides of her prison.
Again and again the loop repeated itself until she was once more dreaming. The dream repeated itself over and over until the blackness took over once more. She wanted to cry at the never ending cycle, but now, she could no longer find it within herself to care. She was on the edge of death now. She knew it. A few more hours in her prison and then the second piece of her life would be over and she'd be forgotten to the passage of time.
But for now, she was still alive. Her body was still clinging to the life she no longer desired. She cursed it silently, begging the god she didn't believe in for it all to stop. For those few hours she had left to be over once and for all, or if she must stay alive for those few more hours, to spend it in her dreams. Although her dreams were dark and terrifying, staying within those would be preferable than staying away in the never ending, suffocating, and heavy darkness that surrounded her. At least then, she wouldn't have to hear those damn waves against the boat.
She sighed miserably through her nose, wishing she could stand, but she no longer had the strength. She'd just fall down right away.
She set her head against the side of the boat instead, listening to the infuriating sound of water on metal.
But then, there was a sound she wasn't used to. Her ears, so used to the soft burble of the water on the boat, immediately heard the sound of footsteps. They crunched on the stones and sand, so harsh and foreign to the sounds her ears were accustomed to. She couldn't help it; she winced at the sound.
She jumped when one of the people outside the boat spoke.
"Don't see why it's our duty. Shouldn't River Police do this sort of crap?"
No one answered the voice, and he continued to rant angrily at whomever the unfortunate soul was that was with him.
And then she heard the sound that she never expected to hear. The sound of those footsteps from the beach getting onto the upper deck of the boat.
Her heart started racing. Was it possible? Had someone finally found her?
She panicked. She was not supposed to be found. She was supposed to end her life here on this miserable barge. She knew that she couldn't prevent them from finding her, but she could do her best to avoid it.
She rested her head against the wall, holding herself still and quieting her breathing so that even she could hardly hear it.
More footsteps joined the heavy ones up above her. She guessed that at least three people were on the boat above her. They walked around the upper deck, talking amongst each other. She took in none of their conversation. None of their words mattered to her. She was convinced that they would not, that they could not find her.
She was convinced of this until the footsteps started down the steps to go to the lowest deck, the one that she was imprisoned on.
The footsteps changed as the person stepped off the ladder onto the bottom of the boat. She heard him murmur to himself, and though she could probably make out the words, she didn't want to try.
"We need an ambulance," the man said, and she heard radio chatter in reply.
Police. Police had found her. She supposed if she tried, she would recognise the voice, but she didn't want to bother. She didn't want to be found.
"What's going on?" asked a second voice from up above her.
"I think I've found her," the man said, and footsteps started to approach.
"Bloody hell," a third man said.
She felt the gag fall from her dry mouth, tumbling onto her lap. She was more acutely aware than ever of the stench that she had caused, the shame that she had felt causing it.
The blindfold fell from her eyes, and she blinked. The only light was torchlight, but even that was bright. The torch was pointing away from her and she blinked, her eyes very slowly adjusting to the dim light.
The man was staring at her in disbelief, the blindfold still held in his hands. He stared at her in worry, his eyes glittering in the low light.
She stared at him, trying to learn his features.
The tiniest of smiles crossed her face wearily, barely able to be called a smile.
"I know your face," she tried to murmur, but no sound came out. She wanted to touch the man's face, but even if her arms hadn't have been handcuffed, she would not be able to move them.
He stared at her, almost looking scared. It was an emotion she had never seen him express before.
"Alex," he said quietly, his voice filled with concern. "Are you okay?"
She looked at him curiously, cocking her head to the side. She tried to speak again, and her voice sounded, so hoarse it was barely audible. "Who's Alex?" she asked the man.
And then she felt like she was falling, down, deep into the land of her dark, twisted, and miserable dreams.
There's an Ashes tribute vid on youtube to the song this fic is named after: just stick the normal youtube url before it.
Also, I'd apologise for the darkness but i love it too much..