The Morning After – Short Story

Timothy McCulloch woke up to the worst pain he had ever experienced. His head felt like it had been cleaved in two. He didn’t recognise the ceiling he was staring at, or the walls he could see by shifting his vision a little. If he moved any further othe pain was too much to bear. He couldn’t remember much of the night before, he left home and went to the pub to meet a few people from work, that led to a few drinks and then nothing. Maybe a walk home. Maybe he hooked up and this is someone else’s bedroom. Not that the ceiling looked very bedroomy. There was something sterile about it. The lights were too bright for it to be a bedroom. It almost looked like a hospital room. What else happened? Was he in some kind of accident? That must have been it, to explain the excruciating pain he felt whenever he moved his head, even slightly. A moment later Timothy drifted back off to sleep.

He awoke again and tried to move around again, finding his head could stand a little more movement. There was a new pain when he moved to much though, it wasn’t as intense as the pain in his head, it almost felt like he was pulling his hair out. He twisted his head, trying to test how far he could move without bowing to the pain. It wasn’t very far. Slowly he peeled his head off the floor, instantly cradling it in his hands as he sat up. His hair was matted with a slight dampness, turning and ignoring the pain shift he saw that his head had been lying in a puddle of dried blood, which still had strands of his hair sticking out.

“Jesus,” he said, while a white chill shot through his body. “What the hell happened?”

His heart was beating fast and the pain faded as his eyes dart back and forth trying to take in his new surroundings. The room was not very large. The walls were all white, with no marks at all. There were no windows at all, but a door one side. There was little else on the floor in the room, other than his puddle of blood and another man, unconscious on the other side of the room. There was also a row of sealed bottles of water near the door. Timothy got up, his head protesting in everyway that it could. Ignoring the other man, he went over to the door, twisted the handle with no success. Banging on the door.

“Hey,” he said. Even speaking caused pain. He lent against the door and breathed heavily, trying to recount the steps that led to the room.

“Hey,” he repeated a little louder.

There was no response. He pulled his hand back and knocked on the door. Pain pulsed through him and he winced, not that it helped.

“Hello?” he said, nearly shouting. “Let us out. It’s not funny. Let us the fuck out you fucking fucks. You’re going to regret this, if you don’t let me out right now.”

Timothy stopped once his voice started to crack and his throat had become painfully dry. His head echoed with a thudding pain and he turned around and looked at the rest of the room, his head pounding in rhythm with his heart.

“What the fuck,” he said to himself. “Why did this happen to me?”

He scooped up one of the bottles of water and walked over to the far wall. He slumped down and sat on the floor. His head was pounding, eyesight pulsing. His lips were cracked and dry. Lifting up the bottle, he made sure there was a factory seal on the bottle. Just checking to make sure it wasn’t laced with something, not that he could be picky at the moment. He twisted off the lid, the little indents digging into his palms. Not something he would normally notice, but his body was in overdrive and at that moment every sense working harder than it ever had. Adrenaline racing through his body with each beat of his heart. He took a large gulp of the water, swirled it around his mouth, swallowed and then downed the rest of the bottle. He looked towards the other person, wondering if he was dead. What the hell happened last night?

He was out, it was after work. That’s right, he thought. Emma and Chris invited him out for a quick drink. It was Friday, why not, he thought. They weren’t out long were they. No, they had a couple and then started to head home. Tim left his car at work, knowing he would need to pick it up in the morning. It was the only way to be sure that he wouldn’t get behind the wheel after drinking. What happened after leaving The Old Bear? That was the key, but Tim just couldn’t remember. He said goodbye to Chris and Emma, and then started walking, didn’t he? Or did he go back in and call a taxi? It was so unclear and he couldn’t remember, probably something to do with the pounding headache. What the hell happened. No, he didn’t go back in, he remembers walking down the street. It was oddly cold for August, but that was probably down to how hot it had been the week before. So bloody hot, he hadn’t slept properly all week. He had a sore throat for most of it, thought he was coming down with a cold in the middle of a heatwave. None of that matters though, Tim thought. Someone called his name, didn’t they? Yes, they did and then he turned. They were asking for a fag, but Tim didn’t smoke, hadn’t in a few years. So how did they know his name? Who were they? He must have known them, but who doesn’t know he didn’t smoke anymore? Not anyone close then, maybe someone he worked with a few years back. Who knows? It was probably nothing.

Before Tim could get a grip on the previous night, the other person in the room shifted slightly, groaning. He was laying on his front, his head turned away towards the door. For a split-second Tim felt a pang of guilt over not checking he was alright straight away, but that quickly dissipated when he realised the other guy would have done the same, if the situation was reversed. This was the first moment that the other guy had shown signs of life, so as far as Tim was concern, this was his first chance to actually help him.

“Hey,” Tim said, walking over to the other guy and crouching down to inspect his body.
There wasn’t any blood in his hair, although his hair was slimy with grease. The man grunted again and churned on the floor. Tim helped him up to a sitting position and leant over to grab another bottle, leaving four more. Without checking for tampering again, he twisted of the lid and held it out to his captive partner.

“Here,” Tim said. “Have something to drink, it’ll help.”

The other man, who could barely keep his eyes open and was propped up on one arm, took the bottle clumsily. A little water spilt out and fell onto the man’s trousers leaving a little dark spot.

“Thanks,” he said with a hoarse voice. “Where are we?”

“Fuck knows,” Tim said standing up and letting go of the man. “I just woke up here a moment ago. I don’t remember exactly what happened before. I’ll tell you something though, these fucks have the wrong man. I can tell you that for nothing. Whatever it is that they want, it ain’t me. I don’t have money and I haven’t done anything to anyone.”

There was a silence hanging in the air, which was only accompanied by the buzz of the light from the ceiling. The other man interrupted it by swallowing a large gulp of the water. He breathed heavily after he pulled the bottle away from his mouth. Jesus, Tim thought, that man can make a racket while he drinks and to top it off, he barely touched the water. How the fuck did he make so much noise from drinking so little.

“So what about you?” Tim said. “You got any idea where we are, or why?”

“None, I don’t know what happened last night. I was just going out to see my daughter. Coming home I mean. I saw her after work and was coming home. That’s all I remember. Actually, someone asked me if I had a light. I remember that. He didn’t believe me that I didn’t smoke.”

“Something similar happened to me,” Tim said, walking back to his spot and half-finished water. “Some guy called me and asked for a fag. I didn’t have one. Haven’t smoked in years. The little fucker must have smacked me over the head or something. It still hurts. Ripped a bunch of hair out when I woke up as well. I’m Tim by the way. Timothy McCulloch.”

“Nice to meet you Tim, I’m Dave, David Brooks. And to answer your earlier question, I don’t have a clue why we are here. I haven’t done anything to hurt anyone. I don’t think I’m worth kidnapping for money either. It must be something else.”

“Great, something random. It’s a weekend, so no one is going to miss me until Monday morning at the earliest.”

“I just saw my daughter, and she won’t miss me for a little while. I’m on holiday from work too. It’s going to be a while before
someone knows we’re missing.”

“God damn it. Why the hell did this have to happen to me?” Tim shouted, launching his bottle cap at the far wall. It bounced off with a ping.

“Nothing comes to mind? You haven’t done anything at all that someone might hate you for?” Dave asked.

“No. What the hell are you getting at? I haven’t done anything at all, to anyone. What are you trying to say? That I asked for this? That I’m some kind of sicko?”

“No, nothing like that. I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on here.”

Dave stood up, placing his closed bottle on the floor and walked over to the door. There was a little lock underneath the handle.
He pulled at the handle a few times, nothing. It wouldn’t budge.

“Don’t you think I tried that?” Tim asked. “We’re stuck in here.”

“Do you reckon we could break down the door?”

“I doubt it. It looks strong as hell, and I don’t think anyone would bother locking us up if we could break out so easily.”

“Yeah I suppose. We’ve got to do something though.”

“Yeah? Like what? You able to phase through walls?”

Tim didn’t wait for a reply, he jumped up into a squat and started rummaging through his pockets. A crumpled-up receipt, a pen, some coins and his wallet, which had been emptied. No phone though.
“Dave, you got a phone on you?”

Dave checked his pockets, but no luck. Just some lint that fell to the floor as he rubbed his fingers together.

“Nope, nothing on me at all,” Dave said.

“Great. What hell do we do now?”

“Wait, I imagine. Whoever did this doesn’t want us dead. They want us alive for something, so we just wait and eventually they will make their intentions clear.”

“That might be a little too long though. Jesus Christ. Why did this have to happen to me?”

“You don’t have a single enemy or something you did to anyone who would hate you?”

“No, why are you accusing me of something? What about you? What did you do?”

“Come on, let’s not turn on each other. There’s no point doing that. I’m just trying to figure out why we are here. There has to be
a reason. It can’t be random can it?”

“I don’t fucking know. Alright. I don’t remember what happened last night. I just woke up here.”
Tim picked up his empty bottle of water and played with it between his hands.

“You know, I think I did something once,” said Dave.

Tim didn’t say anything and just carried on playing with the bottle. His eyes didn’t look up while Dave carried on speaking.

“Yeah, it was a few years ago,” Dave continued. “It was after a night out; it was back when my daughter was still living at home. I’d had a few, probably a couple more than I should have and still thought I could drive for some reason, nearly hit someone. Didn’t kill anyone, but nearly did. It’s weighed me down for a while you know. You ever done anything like that?”

Tim carried on playing with his bottle, spinning it between his palms on the floor, between his outstretched legs. Dave couldn’t tell if he had even heard a word of what he had said. Wasn’t sure if that was down to the head injury or he was just ignoring him. Dave sat down, slumped across the room, opposite Tim, near the bottles of water.

“No,” Tim said finally. “I don’t drink and drive. If I did, then they wouldn’t have caught me last night. I walked home. I always do. Not worth the risk.”

Each word stunned Dave, almost as if Tim was blaming him for them both being here. Dave picked up his almost full bottle and squeezed it as hard as he could between his palms. The bottle bulged, but the lid didn’t back down. He breathed heavily, closed his eyes and hung his head low. Timothy didn’t notice.

Instead, Tim pulled one of his knees up to his chest and with a scream he launched his bottle at the far wall, near Dave’s head. He was aiming for the door and missed.

“God damn it,” Tim shouted. “What the fuck is going on?”

“You honestly don’t have a clue?” Dave asked.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“You don’t have a clue or you don’t want to say?”

“What are you getting at?”

Dave slowly got to his feet and stood opposite Tim, who was still sitting on the floor, head hung low and squeezing the bottle.
The little creaks of plastic under pressure the only noise breaking the silence between them.

“I’m going to assume that you just don’t want to admit it.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Listen to me, I’m no more in the know here than you are. Whatever sickos did this, choose us both at random, not because of some drink driving thing you did, or whatever the hell you think I’ve done.”

“It isn’t random.”

“Just shut up and stay calm.”

“I am calm. And it isn’t random.”

“What are you accusing me of?”

“You would know if you weren’t so full of yourself. You know, I was going to try and coax it out of you, get you to admit it and see if you felt any guilt. I’m pretty sure you don’t.”

“What are you trying to say?” Tim shouted.

Tim stayed on the floor, head down. He had stopped squeezing the bottle and was instead holding it loosely.

“You killed her. Five years ago. I know it was you.”

“What are you talking about, look you have the wrong guy. Just let me out and we can forget this ever happened.”

“No. I know it was you. You killed her. You were drinking and you hit her and she died. You turned the corner, skipped a light
and drove straight into her. The police couldn’t find you, somehow. I don’t know if that’s your luck or their crappy work. Maybe both. But I know it was you. One of the detectives told me something. They said, they believed it was in a specific pub. The Old
Bear. They told me that there was a blind spot on the cameras that day. Some kid had knocked it down and you could have stumbled out and got in a car without anyone noticing. The cameras didn’t see where the car came from and couldn’t see the corner at all. It’s a lie that people spread around willingly. That we are on camera at all times. We’re not. Not all of the time. Not at that corner. Not the moment you hit. That was luck that you managed to get in the car and not be seen. That there were no witnesses and your car stayed intact so there was nothing left at the scene. Just blind fucking luck.”

“Look, I’m really sorry to hear about your daughter, ok. I had nothing to do with it. I can promise you that. I’ve never hit anyone. I don’t drink drive.”

“No, not anymore. Not for the last five years. That detective told me that it was probably someone who drinks in The Old Bear. That was the lead they were following. They even gave me a list of people that had been in the pub that night. It wasn’t a busy night and the bartender knows his regulars. I have that list upstairs on my desk. For the last half of a decade I have crossed people off one by one. They didn’t drive, they live on the opposite side of town. One by one there was one reason or another that crossed them off the list. You’re the only one who remains. I know it was you. Most times, when you’ve had too much to drink, you actually walk over to your car and put your key in the door. Sometimes you even get in. But you never start the engine. You always get back out and walk. I can see you think about it on your face when you make that decision. I’ve noticed that you’ve started leaving your car at work or home. You even walk down the street she was hit on. Sometimes you stop there as well. I even saw you sit on the curb once and just look at the spot she died on. Why would you do these things if you didn’t hit her?”

“I don’t have a fucking clue what you’re talking about. Now just unlock the door. I appreciate that you’ve had it rough, alright. Let’s just leave it at that and no one needs to take it any further.”

“I don’t think you understand the point of today Timothy McCulloch. I wanted to know whether you actually felt guilty about it. Maybe you always turn away from your car because her death weighs on your mind or maybe you just know you can’t get away with it twice. Maybe you sit at that spot because you can’t believe what happened and you wish you could take it away. Or maybe you blame her for walking in front of you. I’ve never been able to tell. I just wanted you to confess and show some signs of remorse, I would have let you go then. You understand? There is nothing a prison can do to you that a guilty mind wouldn’t do worse. That would have been enough, but you don’t feel guilty do you?”

“Look, Dave. You’ve got the wrong person. You’ve got to believe me, alright. I don’t drink and drive because I don’t want to hit someone. I sometimes think I can just drive, because it’s a short drive but a long walk. I always choose the walk. I sit at some corner, because it’s a long walk. You know what it’s like, being drunk.”

“I’m going to leave you here now. You show no guilt. I’ve written out a confession letter upstairs. There should be enough water here to survive a few days if you don’t waste it someone will eventually find my body and letter. It’s up to the law then to decide what to do next.”

Dave let go of the bottle letting it tumble to its side and stood up. Reaching into his back pocket he pulled out a key and walked over to the door. Tim gets up close to him.

“Come on then, open the door and we can all just go home.”

“You’re not leaving. If you make the water last them someone will find you.”

“You’re not leaving me here.”

Dave curled up his fist, hiding the key and turned around to face Tim straight on.

“No, I don’t think you understand. You don’t have a say in this. Just like my daughter didn’t have a say in it on that night. You left her there dying in the street. She wasn’t dead when the doctors got there, but there wasn’t enough time. If you had just stopped and called for help, she wouldn’t have died. How’s that for justice. So, make your water last, there won’t be anymore. Let’s see how long you can hold out for.”

Tim leaned on the door with one hand, and tried to stretch his height over Dave, looking down on him with wide eyes, breathing heavily. Dave stood in his shadow, making eye contact.

“Open the fucking door, now,” Tim said.

“You aren’t coming out. Not at the moment.”

Tim moved quickly and thumped Dave in the neck with the side of his fist, making him fall slightly, but still he held tightly onto the key. In return, he elbowed Tim straight in the chest, which probably hurt him more than Tim, who didn’t need time to recover. He stepped back and then shoved Dave against the wall. He then wound up a punch, which Dave stepped away from just in time.

“Leave it,” Dave shouted. “You’re not getting out of here.”

They circled each other, Tim ready to pounce at any moment and Dave trying to guess his moves first. Not wanting to give Tim another chance, Dave charged at him shoulder first and rammed Tim against the wall. His body bounced off and he swung at Dave with full force, connecting on the side of his head. Dave fell straight down to the floor as if the blow had been a bullet to the back of the head. He let go of the key. They both saw this and scrambled over to get it. Dave reached it first and brought his closed fist close to his chest, laying on top of it. Tim jumped on him, bouncing off his back and screaming like a wild animal. Dave cried out but held his position. Tim jumped again and when that didn’t work, he climbed on top of Dave and tried to wrestle the key out from underneath him.

“Give it here you freak,” he shouted.

Dave didn’t give up, instead he squirmed underneath Tim’s weight trying to shake him off and be free. Nothing would work. Tim was too determined and wanted the key. He was completely on top of Dave, his arms stretched under Dave’s body, trying to find his curled-up fist with the key inside. They both squirmed around. Dave wasn’t sure how long he could keep it up, his lungs struggling to get any air. When Tim finally decided that Dave wasn’t going to give up, he head-butted the back of his head, which bounced off the floor with a dull thud.

Tim had momentarily forgotten about his head wound from the night before and when their heads connected, the pain moved through him like a wave. He tumbled off Dave and rolled onto his back next to him, dazed and with hazy vision. Dave didn’t waste time, he got to his knees and straddled his captive, still holding the key with a half curled up wrist he strangled Tim as hard as he could. Holding his body down with his weight and driving his neck into the ground with as much force as he could. This brought Tim out of his daze and his vision cleared. The pain in his head was still pounding, but there was something more important pulsing through him. He could feel the pain in his eyes as they strained, trying to escape his skull. He flailed about underneath his captor, feeling the end creeping in. Feebly he smacked at Dave, with no effect. He couldn’t pull the hands away from his neck. All he could do was hold on to Dave’s arms and wait for it to be all over. His body was stronger than that, this wouldn’t be the end he told himself. He reached up and tried to grab Dave’s neck, with no success. His captor moved out of his reach, but his head still hung low. Tim moved his hands as high as he could, and with his little finger in Dave’s mouth, he pushed his forefinger into Dave’s eye, pushing as hard as he could. It worked, the grip around his neck loosened and freedom was in reach.

They both heard the clatter of the key dropping to the floor once more and then there were no hands around Tim’s neck. He shot up, knocking Dave back a little and bit into his cheek, it was a move of desperation that had surprised Tim just as much as his captor. He felt the flesh tear under his teeth and the taste of blood run freely into his mouth. Dave recoiled in agony; a chunk of his face was missing. He pulled back; his vision faded to black. No control over his body. With both fists he pummelled down on Tim’s face, bouncing his head off the ground. Tim’s head wound echoed throughout his body, his nerves in pure overdrive. Everything went pure white in his eyes and he couldn’t control his body anymore. Dave just carried on thumping and punching his captive until the body underneath him was limp.

Dave fell to the side and breathed heavily. Slowly his vision returned and the adrenaline rushing through him started to steady. His legs shook and his arms vibrated with pain from attacking Tim. It took him a few moments to get his breath back, laying on the floor panting. With each breath he was more in control. He pulled himself up and looked over at the body next to him. His face bloody, nose broken. His chest was barely moving, if it was at all and it wasn’t just his desire not to have killed someone. It doesn’t change the plan though. Dave pulled himself to his feet, grabbed the dropped key along the way and walked over to the door. He gave one more look to the body and was satisfied he was still alive for now. He left the room and locked it again. The note was already written, his only question was whether he should call the police before he did it or let fate decide Timothy McCulloch’s fate.

About ashleymanningwriter

Young Adult Fiction writer. Horror and fantasy blended together.
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