It was the 21st of September. Not that it really matters. All that matters is; they had hit the road that Saturday morning, had found a worn down small town where houses were few and far in between, and they were now exploring the lands. Who they are is irrelevant, and where these lands are located you don’t need to know. The only two things you really need to be aware of in this moment are that this September took place after the telephone but before the mobile one, and that the big property they were currently on had once belonged to a family of farmers that had very much enjoyed a wide variety of foods, long before Fred W. Wolf invented the domestic refridgerator.
“I’m dead serious. Stop laughing!”
He furrowed his brow in an attempt to look offended by her obvious disregard for how uncomfortable the whole situation had been for him, but he couldn’t fully wipe the smile off his face. He enjoyed her enjoying the story.
“I’m sorry, I can’t help it!” She made several attempts at composing herself but failed miserably.
“I just keep picturing the shock plastered on those stuck-up white-collar faces when you suddenly walk into the conference room with your batman pyjamas on and then you end up sealing the deal of the year. Don’t be surprised when you get to the office on Monday and find that you’ve completely revolutionized workplace attire. Now they’re all going to want to be like you, you know. You’re officially an inspiration to the economics of mankind.”
He let out a hearty belly laugh.
“Well, now that you say it like that it doesn’t sound bad at all. In reality, I don’t think I’ve sweated that much in my life. But what was I supposed to do? The meeting was just about to start and I couldn’t possibly walk in there with my shirt soaked in coffee. When having to choose between batman and going topless, that damn batman T- shirt still seemed like the better option.”
“You sure?” she said while teasingly poking him with an elbow, “without a shirt, you might have… wait… what’s that?”
His mind had completely drifted back to the office at this point, but now he reined it back in and tried to follow her eyes.
“That… hill, over there. With a door on it. Is it some sort of cellar?”
It was so well acclimated to it’s environment he had to look twice to separate it from the backdrop made up of more grass, leaves and trees but indeed, there it was.
“Ooh, I see it. Yeah, I think you’re right. Come on, let’s check it out!”
He went up and knocked on the old wooden door, and it sounded strangely hollow.
“Hellooo?”he said in the goofy voice that always made her smile, “Anybody home…?”
The door opened with a long, loud creak.
“Wooah. I have a feeling it’s been a while since they’ve had a visitor”, she said jokingly.
“Yeah, they just squealed from excitement.” That statement earned him another poke in the ribs.
“Oh don’t flatter yourself.”
“Hah. Well, you go then, ladies first”, he said and held open the door.
She slowly allowed her weight to rest on the first step and other than the expected creaking of old wood it seemed to hold just fine, so she proceeded down the stairs with him close behind. The air hit them thick and musty, as if the room had breathed it in over and over and was now in desperate need for a fresh dose of oxygen.
“Wow, it’s dark in here.” She squinted her eyes in an attempt to see what was at the bottom of the stairs. Just as she was beginning to make out shelves and barrels the door behind them let out another loud squeal, closed with a bang and then left them there in complete silence, swallowed up by darkness.
They’d both been going at it full force for the last 20 minutes, but it was no use. There was no way such a well weathered, sturdy opponent would give way to their desperate efforts. The latch must have slipped back into place when the door blew shut.
“Damn”, he thought to himself. Why hadn’t he thought to secure the door with something? When would they learn to not follow their curiousity underground? Once again, that aching hunger for adventure had gotten the best of them.
Her tired body was still franctically yanking at the handle, but it responded with nothing but the occasional aggravated creak. The ever increasing panic in the air made her breath tremble and he could see tears in her eyes on the verge of spilling over.
“Hey, hey. Come here.”
He gently but firmly took hold of her arm and pulled her close until she was safely tucked away in his embrace, and so they left the door to revel in its victory.
“Shhh… it’s okay, we’ll be okay.”
He didn’t feel quite this confident but he knew that right now, she needed him to be sure. To be a constant. In an hour the roles might be reversed but in this moment, she desperately needed to be able to grab hold of something familiar and here in this gloomy root cellar, his heartbeat was it. So, right now, he would be all heartbeat. They could worry about the practicalities later.
Her breath was beginning to steady so he took another deep one for her to mimic.
Then he remembered the lighter in his coat pocket and the tiny flickering flame pierced the dark like a furnace. He had been so disappointed in himself for not having been able to quit the smoking, but in this moment he gained a whole new appreciation for his nicotine addicted self.
He took a long look around the room, carefully inspecting every corner. What now?
Then it came to him.
“When you think about it, it really isn’t all bad”, he said. He could feel her questioning eyes resting on him, so he quickly continued.
“Haven’t we for the longest time said that we should just forget about it all and run away for a while? To some far-away, secluded place, leave the messiness of life behind and just be, just the two of us?”
At this she looked up at him and nodded, with a shadow of a smile sweeping across her face.
“Well this-” he looked around at the dirt walls “this is our getaway! Our very own private escape, right smack in the middle of the woods, with none of that busy city traffic and not another human in sight for miles. Just look at it!”
He went over to the faraway corner with the sacks of wheat and gave them a grand gesture. “This is our soft, luxurious bed, and this,” he tipped one of the sacks over so it layed on the ground “is our lovely living room area.”
He was in full tour guide-mode by now.
“This here,” he said, running his hand over the dusty shelves filled with a wide range of mysterious bottles and glass jars “is our very own private bar! It has anything you could ask for really…” he read a couple of labels. “Cranberry juice, homemade strawberry lemonade, pickled cherries, pickled beets, regular pickles… anything to satisfy those late night cravings.”
He spun around, hands outstretched.
“Can’t you see? We got the luxury suite!”
She could no longer help but laugh, and he couldn’t help but feel proud he had been able to unlock her.
“You’re crazy, you know that right?” she said, tenderly giving his hand a squeeze.
“Oh, I wasn’t aware… that does change things.” He looked so genuinely concerned she had a seriously hard time keeping a straight face.
He continued; “in that case, I really would be concerned if I was you.”
“I should be concerned??”
His eyes twinkled.
“Well, I’m not the one locked up in a root cellar with a crazy person.”
A couple of weeks ago my music production class got assigned to create a short audio book, with sound effects and ambiances. For that, I wanted to try and reinvent this old story of mine. I ended up adding the whole first scene with them walking in the forest, whereas before it started with them locked up.
I like how it let’s you get to know their dynamic a bit better, the way they find strenght and connection in humour and why it is so important for them to find their way back to that, even when the world is literally closing in on them.
We can’t control circumstances, but what we can do is try our very best to stay connected to ourselves and each other in the midst of them.