The Mysterious Black Bag

One of his most often thought about nightmare situations, after being buried alive, (which was actually thought about less in overall time, because it did not bear thinking about for more than a second) was finding himself stranded in the middle of a jungle at night and alone.

As he lies in bed, Richard, whose eyes are becoming tired, tries to imagine how he would react to this situation – thousands of square miles of spiders, disease, insects, beasts and swamps. What if it happened one day? The jungle Did exist so it Could happen.
He pictured the detailed green stretching forever in every direction and his mind moved to the idea of infinity and his place in it, he shuddered in an unplanned way to himself and was wide awake again.
After getting a drink, Richard returned to his bed. Now in a calmer mood he concentrated on one of his favourite imaginary events…
Richard mostly feels next to nothing but hatred for the English city he lives in: trendy cars, concrete scenes, crowds of ‘fools’, restless noises, insurance and most other things that are part of the comfort of the modern world are detested by Richard. One place which summed it up for Richard is ‘The Big Shopping Centre’ which has just been built near him and is proving very popular.
… He saw in his imagination the giant car park full of ridiculous polluting vehicles, he saw the ‘fools’ browsing and shopping in their crowding hundreds. He saw the ‘fools’ wearing their fashion clothes and he could almost hear them chatting mindlessly to each other. He saw their fat bodies and he saw burgers getting shoved into their ugly mouths by dirty, tubby fingers. Now Richard’s eyes are wide and lonely as the familiar feeling of anger and frustration grips him. But he uses that feeling to add to the event commencing in his head – Richard is running into ‘The Big Shopping Centre’ guns are in his hands, he starts killing and laughing, the ‘fools’ start dieing.
After another three and a half hours Richard is asleep.
He tells himself that he could never do anything like this fantasy of his in real life, but he would often think of others who did similar things. This would make him ask himself questions such as whether some of these people believed they had permission from God. He feels as if he knows more that he does. He wants to know more.

That night one of Richard’s dreams went like this – He got on the London Underground. It was overcrowded. People were sweating. Someone poured a can of Coke down the back of his wool jumper. He could not move or turn around. He stared out of the window over a wigged man. The train raced through a station called DEATHSLEEP. He could not even move his arms. The train did not slow down. They raced through another station. Richard watched for the sign. It read DEATHSLEEP. The train did not stop. Richard could not get out. Richard wanted the train to stop. Is he meeting her on DEATHSLEEP platform? What is he meant to do? He wanted the train to stop. The train did not stop, it thundered on. Richard could not move in the punishing heat. Another station – DEATHSLEEP. The train did not stop. Eventually the feeling of repetition shrank and Richard’s body became still, his bed began to dry off around him.

The blackbird in the tree outside woke Richard up as it often did at around 6:15 AM. He knew others disliked the birds loud squeaks but he liked them and an empty smile appears on his face as he swings his feet round onto the carpet, avoiding wrappers, socks and plates. He vaguely remembered the dream but he did not know if he was alone in experiencing it. Or remembering it. Before standing up he twists his weak back round and switches on his fighter jet lamp. He carries on smiling unhappily to himself and no one else when he thinks of what he plans to do that day. First he will watch the rest of his rented video then he will go to WH Smith and read some magazines and then he will go and rent another film out the video shop when he takes the old one back. But first he has to get a few more hours sleep.
A few minutes later the smile has completely disappeared. Richard is staring out of his window at a leaf with sky behind it. His palms are sweating and his toes are bending up and down. His mind is turning and then going upside down. ‘What the Hell is going on? Is this permission from God?’ At this last thought Richard turns and stares, once again, at what he had just found in the bathroom sink.
The bag was one of those big sports bags and it was black. On one side of it, in white letters was printed ‘The Big Shopping Centre’. Richard had laid out the contents of the bag. The contents were as follows: seven grenades, a machine gun and seven ammo magazines. Richard takes a step and picks up the machine gun, it feels dead heavy and cold.
Richard knew he had a decision to make, but he thought that he did not know how decisions actually got made. He asked himself ‘This situation… what is it!?’ The gun now felt warm in his hands as he tilted it round making light shine off it in a dramatic way. He could feel its power, it felt good.

The bus journey was just a normal bus journey, except Richard knew it could be his last one ever. This did not fill him with a great sadness only another nervous stutter.
He started planning again how he would carry out this mission: Would he end up shooting himself? Would he try and escape? Would he be caught by news men and others? Would he be shot? He did not know and so he decides to graffiti the bus with his black marker. He drew a shape that made no sense and then dropped the marker. He grinned after that, but he was terrified. He looked down at the mysterious black bag which was on the seat next to him, he did not grin.
Richard usually said “Cheers” to the bus driver when getting off a bus but today he did not. He stepped down onto the dry pavement, put his head down and began striding towards “The Big Shopping Centre”.
The bag is in his left hand, hanging by his side as he moves through the enormous car park. Past the pay and display machines, past a couple of ‘foolish’ families loading holiday supplies into their cars, getting closer to the entrance.
He goes through the revolving doors and on the other side he flashes a security guard a nervous smile. But then he thinks ‘Come on!’ and ‘This is it!’.
Rising up the escalator towards the ‘East corridor shopping area’, his mind becomes focussed, he puts the long strap of the bag across his shoulder and unzips the zip.
His right hand produces a grenade, the pin comes out and in an instant the grenade is launched into the crowd to his right. Even before it lands the machine gun is unleashed on the shoppers. Deaths. The grenade goes off, peoples blood, bones, brains and other organs are mixed together in mid air, glass shatters into peoples faces, alarms sound. Everyone is screaming. Richard keeps his finger on the trigger. People are falling over each other as they try to get away from Richard, people are falling over dead. Richard shoots some more people behind him including the running security guard, reloads and then more ‘fools’ are blown away at random, this time mainly in the small dead end area of the corridor to his left.

“FOOLS!” he keeps shouting with rage as he makes his way to where the grenade went off. Blood is everywhere, a pushchair is in smithereens, body parts are kicked out of the way. Another grenade is hurled at the retreating crowd and Richard watches as a group of them is blown apart in every direction, but the terrified screaming is already as loud as possible.
A number of killings and maimings (four reloads and three grenades) later, Richard reaches the McDonalds which is set into the left hand wall. He shoves open the door and leaps inside pointing the gun all around. But to his relief or disappointment or something else, everyone has escaped out the back fire exit which is the source of one of the many alarms wailing. Richard walks slowly round the disgusting restaurant, breathing in deep and fast through his nose, and expelling the air through his teeth. For a few seconds Richard watches his arms shiver like never before. Then he steps back out the metal door.
He looks around for more intact people to destroy but the fire exits have served the ‘fools’ well and he is almost alone in being stood up. One escaping person remains: and old grey man who is struggling along with his Zimmer frame. Richard floats miserably up behind him. The old fool is wearing a shirt tucked into his trousers – the grenade slides nicely down his back and can be seen as a bulge in the small of the petrified man’s back. The man does not turn round but continues to hobble away drooling noisily all the time. But in a second he is turned into mince by a devastating fireball.
Richard does not feel satisfaction as he surveys the carnage. Countless dead and dieing bodies, bits of wall etc and pools of blood stretch some hundred metres back along the corridor to the dead end where it turns off towards the escalator. All of the shops on his right have had their windows shattered and there are more lifeless bodies and people who are not quite dead yet slumped inside the shops.
Richard sees a man who is lying on the floor on his back just to his left raise up his left arm. The man has had both of his legs blown off and his chest looks half open. The man turns his head and looks over Richard’s shoulder with a terrible expression of confusion. Still with his arm raised, the man says in a despairing voice

“Did I do this?!” then the man dies. Panic enters Richard’s system and he reacts to this by running back the way he came, towards the escalator.
Jumping over a carcass he slips and falls on his back with a painful thud. On impact with red tiles he drops the bag but keeps hold of the gun. He sits up after a few seconds and immediately his face twists and his body churns at the sight ahead of him.
The two policemen are just ten metres in front of him having come up through a fire exit and they are armed, but in the scene of corpses and ruin before them take a moment to focus on Richard who’s angry weapon is aimed and fired in a second. One last bullet leaves the barrel of the machine gun and enters the taller policeman’s head through one of his eyebrows, the policeman goes down and is motionless. Meanwhile Richard’s gun clicks and clicks and clicks, Richard squeezes the trigger tighter and tighter and tighter in a state of complete disbelief, fear and sorrow. Finally he screws his eyes up very tight, drops the weapon and at the same time hears the other’s pistol open fire. He feels massive pains that seem to begin in his eyeball and then involve every nerve in his entire body.
Everything goes silent and negative for an unknown time as if Richard’s mind detaches itself from his body and gets shrunk into a black hole. The only thing that remains is the feeling that has always been there, the sense of being denied lasting completeness, unity and peace.
Then he begins to feel as if he is falling upwards, upside down and growing very fast. Then he opens his eyes and at the same time as this he says

“I exist,” in a positive voice.
He sees that it is nearly pitch black, but where? Was he not in ‘The Big Shopping Centre’? Had he not just been shot by a short policeman?

The ground is soft and wet. The smell of decay is powerful causing Richard to cough and wretch. He sees that he is only wearing his Argentina football shorts and is covered in mud and slime. He is on his back and now he slowly raises himself up by his elbows to stare around.
All around alien silhouettes loom in the silver yellow darkness, becoming a solid black immensely tall wall the further into them Richard frantically peers. He sees the way the shapes sway in the humid breeze and he then knows they are plants and trees. A large insect crawls confidently over his right hand and a stunned Richard feels its legs grip on his skin. A monkey screams high above, Richard hears it above the continuous background noises (which he associates with the equator) and knows it is a monkey. He throws his head up instinctively but he sees nothing but the massive moon reflecting down diagonally behind and above, everywhere else is darkness. Richard’s outer mind slowly and automatically starts to guess and realise where it is and although Richard cannot see the densely packed spiders, diseases, insects, beasts and swamps that stretch for almost supernatural distances all around him, he is beginning to picture them in his skull.
Now more than ever, Richard feels as if he knows more than he does…but the information cannot be reached.

*

Some time later – the creatures of the jungle in and around the plants near Richard, and the animals in the sandy mud of the dry stream bed around him see him get slowly and awkwardly to his feet, some of them look around at each other and as they turn their attentions back to their usual routines and understanding has passed between them all.
Richard’s bare feet sink into the decaying, wet, Alive ground and he cringes as if receiving a small electric shock. He grinds his teeth together as a seven foot long snake slides knowingly between his legs and disappears somewhere ahead of him. New levels of terror and confusion are being experienced by Richard, these feelings increase as they mix with each other in his brain. He is in a jungle in the middle of the night, alone!?
Turning to face the other way a light catches Richard’s eyes. The light is about twenty metres away through the looming plants and is yellow and dull. The light fills Richard with a strange feeling of impatient joy as he begins to edge towards it. What could it be? Richard can only imagine.
As he clambers over a fallen tree, Richard coughs and laughs then slips and blubbers.
He is convinced the patch of dark ground he landed on, seeing it for a split second as he fell, contains a giant tarantula. Branches slash at his arms as he stumbles away from the crash site, sharp rocks slice his tense feet.
Reaching the source of the light, Richard stops almost exhausted, his pathetic, un-toned, totally unfit body has approached peak performance in the few seconds of effort in the soft ground.
The light is coming from a tunnel which leads into the side of a hill. Rocks the size of melons circle the tunnel which is two metres across. The tunnel seems to be lit as far down as Richard can see.
Stepping down into the tunnel Richard feels the smooth, marble like hard floor beneath his feet – a reassuringly familiar feeling. The tunnel descends at a slight angle and as he steps further in Richard sees the source of the light. Above his head, installed in holes in the ceiling, a few metres between each one, are ordinary light bulbs! Richard stops and looks back out into the jungle, his shoulders shake a couple of times, then he turns back round again with the intention of going further into the tunnel. He puts his right hand out against the side of the tunnel and as he walks down the slope the noise of the jungle behind him decreases. He feels something good is bound to be awaiting his discovery.
Fifty metres later Richard steps down into a small, silent, square room. The room, which is about the size of a small box room in a normal English house is illuminated by a single light bulb in the cream marble ceiling above. The floor and the walls are made of cream marble as well. There is nothing noticeable inside the room except Richard. On the right hand side of the wall opposite Richard there is a rectangular tunnel which is easily big enough for him to walk into. This tunnel, unlike the one behind him, is dark.
Richard, whose optimism is being slowly replaced by another uncomfortable feeling, spots something else after staring dumbly at the dark rectangle tunnel for a few seconds; there is another tunnel on the far wall, this time on the left. It is at floor level, dark and small – it looks like a cartoon mouse hole.
Richard folds his blue arms and stares up at the light bulb in the ceiling. He is freezing here underground and he wishes for a warm coat as he closes his eyes. He begins to think of his nice warm bed, he gradually begins to think of the rest of the city he lives in.
Normally this train of thought concentrates on things like bank queues, planes flying above his head, battery chicken farms, canned meat with chemicals, exhaust pipes, the Sun newspaper and many other terrible (in Richard’s opinion) things. Now though, as he stands in the small, silent, square underground room Richard is thinking of – bikes, allotments, football in the park, friendly library assistants talking to old women, books, innocent determined ducks in polluted ponds, and more.

‘I want to go home…make the most of my life…try to help make the city how it can and should be.’
Suddenly, causing Richard to become fully alert again, all the light bulbs in the tunnel behind him and the one above his head simultaneously blow out. Richard is in total darkness now except for a dim white light coming from the two tunnels ahead of him…
After glancing sceptically down at the small tunnel, Richard takes a few cautious but decisive steps towards the other light, then he is edging down the larger tunnel.
The white light seems to be coming from a small hole further down the dim tunnel. He is moving with his arms out to his sides running his fingertips along the smooth walls but after just three steps he notices that the tunnel is definitely getting narrower above and on both sides. Very soon the only way that Richard can advance is by getting on his hands and knees and crawling. The tunnel gets narrower and narrower and it also loses its rectangular shape on the walls and ceiling, these become rounded while the floor remains flat. The tunnel gets so narrow that Richard has to stop.
The light is coming through the end of the tunnel ahead of Richard by a couple of metres. He sees that the shape of the tunnel exit resembles a cartoon mouse hole in size and shape. It is out reach to Richard and he is making no attempt to squeeze down further as he focuses on and stares at the impossible sight through the end of the tunnel: his bed is exactly how he left it before leaving for ’The Big Shopping Centre’. He can desperately see his fighter jet lamp on the pillow where it had fallen after he half tripped on the power cord while getting dressed. The scene is lit up by light which must be coming from the sky outside his window. Nothing else can be seen. A wave of memory and love crashes down on Richard as he lowers his head.
A time later the silence is sent away by a wonderful noise – the blackbird in the tree outside Richard’s window! Richard listens with almost content passion and remembers the last time he had heard the orange beaked bird. ‘Things were normal then’. Richard feels another wave looming and as the bird flies away being chased by a bigger bird, the wave crashes down.

“I don’t want this, I don’t want this,” he says.
Back in the square room Richard carries on crawling towards the smaller tunnel. An almost feverish perspiration covers his filthy aching body. He lies flat on the floor in front of the tunnel and opens his eyes wide to the light.
The other end of this tunnel seems to be about parallel with the other one, however it is clearly big enough for Richard to stand up in, and is rectangular – the tunnel must get wider above and on both sides the further into the Earth it goes, it must change its shape as well, just like the other one but the other way round.
Richard sees all this and he also sees, through the end of the tunnel: his TV, his Nintendo, his CD player, his pile of clothes, his carpet, his table, the edge of his bed and more stuff which is all exactly how he had left them before leaving for ’The Big Shopping Centre’ with the mysterious black bag and its contents. But he cannot fit through the beginning of the tunnel to get to them.
Richard closes his eyes in submission and slumps against the wall. For the next few minutes his brain is totally paralysed.
Richard stays in this state until water starts to gather round his toes. Suddenly ready for whatever was next he looks at where the two tunnels with their white light should be but they are no longer there, the room is black. The sound of rushing water echoes around the small, square, underground room and so without any further hesitation Richard starts to scramble towards the original tunnel.
The rushing water is full of leaves and insects, it is becoming noticeably stronger as it races down the centre of the tunnel. Richard meanwhile, using all four limbs, clambers in the opposite direction.
Back out into the jungle and the view is real rainforest. Massive leaves bounce up and down under the force of the downpour, channels of water rush under strange tree roots mixing together to form fast flowing rapids. Thunder rumbles for longer than Richard has ever heard it rumble for before.
The situation hits Richard’s mind with great power. All around is beautifully frightening and unforgiven.
Deciding that the least pointless thing to do is keep moving, Richard starts moving away from the tunnel in the hill.
After ten minutes of walking Richard mumbles

“I’m over here… where are you?” to himself.

Richard walked for the equivalent of three days, resting but never sleeping. The sun did not rise and the moon did not set. No sign of human life was seen.
Richard thought a million questions. Richard could find no answers.
Lying down on his back to ease the incredible pain of an infected left leg, Richard stares up at the moon. Questions which he feels he thinks of as fresh and questions which he feels he thinks of as old attack his shattered mind. Pain shoots through his body and letting out a primal shriek, he clenches every muscle possible.
Richard is woken from being agonisingly close to sleep by a very strange feeling. It feels as if the ground around his body is being moved away. Richard tries to sit up but a jaguar pins him back down by his shoulders from behind. Now he cannot get away.
Thousands of spiders, ants, beetles and other small creatures are carrying bits of earth away from around Richard’s trunk any way they can, they seem to be working together. Frogs, snakes, lizards and tortoises are digging the ground away from around his legs at a frantic pace. Richard attempts some sort of scream as he tries to crush as many ants and spiders as he can with his rigid hands but a parrot drops a clump of soil into his gaping mouth and the jaguar moves forward and pins Richard down by his elbows. Richard starts to choke – he is choking and sinking! The animals of the jungle are burying him alive! HORRORS! Richard’s legs start flailing around wildly but are brought under control by a family of monkeys and soon they are underground with the rest of his body. The animals start to make a lot of noise. The noise is muffled to Richard as even more ground piles on top of him. He cannot move, he cannot breathe and very soon he feels massive pains that seem to begin in his lungs and then involve every nerve in his entire body.
Everything goes silent and negative for an unknown time as if Richard’s mind detaches itself from his body and gets shrunk into a black hole. The only thing that remains is the feeling that has always been there, the sense of being denied lasting completeness, unity and peace.
Then he begins to feel as if he is falling upwards, upside down and growing very fast. Then he opens his eyes and at the same time as this he says

“I exist,” in a positive voice.
He sees that it is nearly pitch black, but where? Was he not in ‘The Big Shopping Centre’? Had he not just been shot by a short policeman?
The ground is soft and wet. The smell of decay is powerful causing Richard to cough and wretch. He sees that he is only wearing his Argentina football shorts and is covered in mud and slime. He is on his back and now he slowly raises himself up by his elbows to stare around.
All around alien silhouettes loom in the silver yellow darkness, becoming a solid black immensely tall wall the further into them Richard frantically peers. He sees the way the shapes sway in the humid breeze and he then knows they are plants and trees. A large insect crawls confidently over his right hand and a stunned Richard feels its legs grip on his skin. A monkey screams high above, Richard hears it above the continuous background noises (which he associates with the equator) and knows it is a monkey. He throws his head up instinctively but he sees nothing but the massive moon reflecting down diagonally behind and above, everywhere else is darkness. Richard’s outer mind slowly and automatically start to guess and realise where it is and although Richard cannot see the densely packed spiders, diseases, insects, beasts and swamps that stretch for almost supernatural distances all around him, he is beginning to picture them in his skull.
Now more than ever, Richard feels as if he knows more than he does… but the information cannot be reached.

THE END

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