As the door slammed shut, my entire world went black. I froze; paralysing fear shot up my spine almost immediately. I blinked repeatedly hoping to catch a tiny ray of light from the gap between the wall and floor. At dusk, there was none. My heart started pounding harder and louder until it was all I could hear. Small quick breaths through the nose, I recalled. Only then, I realised that I was holding my breath.
That, and I could hardly breathe.
The additional goggles on top of my glasses weighed heavily on the bridge of my nose, pinching hard on the nostrils. Instinctively, I pushed both eyepieces up only to have it swiftly slide down the second after.
Damn you flat oily nose, I muttered a curse.
I blinked again, only to be greeted by the darkness and the faint voices. I wasn’t alone, I realised, as the faint voices calling out instructions and making head count began to surface.
“No. 5, check?”
I must have answered but I could not remember. There was a way out, I convinced myself. Crawling on all fours, I moved along with the team towards the designated exit. Little did I know, the position was doing more harm than good. I had direct contact with the smoke; a lot of them entered my airway as I began to sweat and pant. Sweat started to trickle down my forehead and I could feel the imaginary monsters edging closer.
The team started moving through doors after doors. There was a way out, I convinced myself as I made sure that I could feel the boot of the guy right ahead of me. We had to cross a few doors and a caged tunnel before we reached the exit. Right in the middle of the caged tunnel, we halted.
“No. 1, where are you?”
We called out to our captain but there was no response. I was stuck in the caged tunnel, unable to move forward or backward because I was in the middle of the team. My fear escalated as my head started spinning. I had never outgrown my fear of the dark, and I made a bad decision – I opened my eyes. To stare into the pitch black surrounded and to be partially suffocated from the heat and smoke. The pattering rain on the zinc roofing and lighting strikes earlier just added to the anxiety.
“No. 1, where are you?” No response yet again.
We were all confused with nobody to guide. Were we supposed to follow the captain – so who do we follow when there was no leader? Time ticked by real slowly, we must had been stuck since forever, it felt. I started to curl up myself in a fetal position as I closed my eyes and thought, “Somebody save me… is this how it felt like to die?”
And all I wanted to do was see light again…
To be continued.