Behind The Door

His eyes were burning and the heat was coming off him in the small, close room. There was one window and it was high up. He could not see through it and it admitted only a very weak light. The sound beyond the door was the sniffing and snorting of an animal of some kind. When excited it growled. He could hear it scratching at the floorboards with its long claws and sometimes the noises would come very near, as if they were being made just on the other side of the door.

Now and then a distant voice could be heard: the gruff monosyllables of a man giving orders, expecting to be heard and obeyed. It was the kind of voice which is often answered by grumbling of the mildest sort, lest it be heard by the owner of the authoritative voice and punishments ensue.

When his hearing became clearer he realised that a low rumble was all about him, constantly in his ears, pervading the scene. Louder, jolting, percussive noises occurred with a kind of syncopated regularity beyond the walls of his cell, outside, and he realised that these were explosions, and he remembered that there was an attack. It was an attack he had been part of, and it was growing more intense, and it was getting closer, closer to his captors but also closer to him. He smiled to think of being blown up by the men on his own side, his friends, some of them, and it seemed to illustrate the futility of the situation nicely that a brave man who had advanced faster than the rest and made more ground should be captured and then killed accidentally by his own side when they eventually caught up. But that’s exactly what was happening – or seemed to be – and he really wished it wasn’t.

There was no point protesting of course. Who would he tell? Everybody was trying to kill him now – the enemy and his friends and the impersonal ordinance devices, and this animal, whatever it was, on the other side of the door would probably like to have had a go at killing him too. He wondered what it was.

The ground shook. Explosions very loud now, the rumble dying away, and the distant voices sounding more panicked, more urgent, more distant. Could that be right? Were they moving away? It seemed so. They were leaving. He really hoped they were leaving. He hoped they were leaving the way you hope you won’t die when you know you’re too young to die and you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time and there’s a good chance you’ll die, partially because you are a good soldier and made more ground than your mates, and it doesn’t seem fair that you should be here, like this, locked up and merely waiting for the end: that’s how much he hoped they were leaving.

His ears rang with a noise so loud he thought he had been hit by a mine. Everything was dark and the dust from the floor kicked up and swirled and filled his mouth, and he coughed and couldn’t breathe. The cell had seemed to jump and then fall, and there was something on him. He had thought there was. The heavy door had blown in and had fallen, slab-like, on top of him. He squirmed to free himself from this burden and he tried to see what was going on. The scratching became closer and louder and he realised it was a dog. The enemy guards had kept a dog, and they had departed in such haste that the dog was left behind, and now here it was, sniffing, frightened, pleased to see another man. It was only a small thing, crusty with debris, but it wagged its tail when it saw him. The sound it made had evidently become amplified on the wooden floor beyond the cell and the man smiled again to think that the animal had seemed a real threat to his captive imagination ten minutes ago.

He grabbed the dog and jammed it under one arm and picked his way beyond the collapsed doorway. Just as he saw sunlight streaming through a hole in the wall he heard a recognisable voice and he knew it would be alright.

Published in: on November 1, 2012 at 7:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: