Your Worst Enemy
Shannon had no idea which terrified her more: realising that she had no idea where she was or the corpse in the corner. Right now, it was roughly even.
Moments earlier, an alarm had hauled her to consciousness. There was so much going through her brain that she couldn’t make sense of it all right away. When she realised that she was lying on concrete, she scrambled to her feet, scanning the room around her. It was roughly square with a shallow roof. There was only a single flickering bulb in the centre of the room. Although it was only dim, she could see two pinpricks glinting in the corners. Eyes. Blood, too, a pool creeping into the small ring of light at the centre of the room.
It was a woman, roughly Shannon’s age, perhaps a little younger and slimmer, but similar height. From her body position – slumped against the wall, eyes staring, lips slightly parted – it was clear that she was dead. Like Shannon, she had long brown hair, which she wore in a ponytail. A few strands had come loose and were covering one side of her face. As Shannon brushed them aside, she grazed the woman’s cheek. Her body was cold, but the blood around her hadn’t fully dried, which led Shannon to presume she hadn’t been dead for long.
How had she died? The blood. There was so much of it. Had she done this to herself? Or, was she the victim of a terrible crime? After a deep breath to steady her nerves, Shannon checked the woman more closely. Her stomach clenched reflexively as she saw something jagged and bloody on the ground. It was a piece of mirror. The rest of it was glinting on the opposite side of the room. She also noticed the long slice running from the woman’s wrist to her elbow. The woman had taken her life.
Shannon’s mind raced. Why had the woman done this? Was she a prisoner? A small red light was blinking in the corner of the room. CCTV. Someone was watching. Why had someone let her do this? Was she a prisoner? If so, why? And why was Shannon there?
She thought. What was the last thing she remembered? She was at home. Her bedroom. Maybe. Had she fallen asleep? No, the phone call. Who? Why was she crying? Although it was her memory, she felt as though she was looking at in image through rippling water. Parts of it were clear, but the overall shape was distorted and confused.
The woman was clutching something in her hand. Uncertainly, Shannon tried to pull it free. The woman’s grip was still alarmingly strong, so strong that Shannon decided to check her pulse. There was no trace of a beat. After prising each of her fingers apart, Shannon pulled a small device from her grip. It was a cassette recorder with a tape inside. Most would probably have thought such an object to be nothing more than a relic, but Shannon had something similar at home, which she used as a journal. Ever since her teens, she’d recorded her thoughts at the end of every day. Perhaps this poor woman had done the same on the end of her final day.
After rewinding the tape for a few seconds, she pressed play and listened. Silence. It must have carried on recording after the woman had died, which made Shannon shudder. She rewound the tape further, but still nothing. Finally, she rewound the tape to the very beginning, and then, breathe held, she pressed play.
At first, there was nothing, but after a few seconds, she heard a voice. No, not a voice. Someone breathing, perhaps. To hear better, she pressed the speaker to her ear, plugging her other ear with a finger. Breathing. Shaky and erratic. Frightened. A few words, repeated. They were hard to make out. Her fear made her voice tremble. Then, a single word, all too clear.
The shock of hearing her name made her drop the recorder. It fell from her fingers, bouncing across the floor. She stood, paralysed, staring at the woman’s body. How did the woman know her? Had they met before? Gingerly, Shannon looked at the woman’s face. Although they looked similar, she wasn’t familiar. So, how did she know Shannon’s name? Wondering if the recording might answer some of the unanswered questions swarming inside her skull, she picked it up and listened again.
Although she was ready when she heard her name again, it was still unsettling. For perhaps a minute, the voice simply repeated her name, over and over. The terror in her voice was harrowing. Shannon tried not to think about what could have caused it. She said something else, but it was lost in a crackle. Shannon rewound the tape, but the crackle was still there, so she let it play, hoping the woman would repeat herself. The next words turned Shannon’s blood to ice.
“It’s not safe”
Panicking, she scoured the shadows that smothered the edges of the room. She was alone. Did a corpse count as company? She shook her head, driving such a morbid thought away. Clearly, someone had brought her here to suffer. Punishment? Sadistic thrills? Why? Who was it? No, none of that mattered. All that mattered was how she was going to escape. She wouldn’t let this sick bastard win. Somehow, she would find a way out.
Determination clarified her mind, and now, she could see the outline of a door in one of the walls. Leaving the recorder with the body, she went to investigate. There was no handle or key, just a small digital display beside it. It was blank but the moment Shannon touched it, a message appeared on the screen.
“Only she can set you free”
What sort of game was this? How could she help? If she could, why hadn’t she released herself? Was it a trick? Or a riddle? Slowly, Shannon approached the body. She was wearing a silk dress, beautiful but too revealing for Shannon, so it was unlikely that she was hiding a key. It seemed equally unlikely that she would be concealing something that could be used to breakdown the door. Perhaps she had a code, or some explanation about how to open the door.
It felt wrong to inspect a corpse so thoroughly, but she suppressed that feeling. After checking her arms and legs, she took a stabilising breath, and then wrapped her arms around the body to pull her forwards. There was nothing on her back. Short of stripping her down, she wasn’t sure where else to look. As she sat back on her heels, fighting rising dread, she was struck by an idea. Perhaps she was making it more complicated than it was. What if the woman was the key? The display beside the door was big enough to put a hand on the screen. Could it really be that simple?
With as much care as she could, Shannon dragged the woman across the room, trying to ignore the smeared trail of blood that followed them. As she’d slashed her left wrist, Shannon opted to press the woman’s right hand against the screen. To her amazement and profound relief, something moved inside the wall. She couldn’t contain a fit of laughter, which was somehow anxious and relieved all at once. The wall split, the door crawling open at a snail’s pace. It was barely more than a few inches when Shannon heard a voice behind her. It was the recording device. She hadn’t realised it was still playing.
“It’s not safe out there”