Zoë's wrist and shoulder hurt from lying on them.
Going by the darkness, she'd been out for hours. Normally, street light from the windows outlined the room; tonight the apartment was pitch black, the air dusty and metallic. The floor wasn't carpeted like it should have been. Was it wood or concrete?
She grunted as she picked herself up, bumping and toppling a stack of cardboard boxes.
There weren't any boxes in her flat.
Without being able to see, she wasn't able to keep herself from crashing to the floor with them.
This definitely wasn't her apartment.
"Ah!" she winced. The cartons split open, covering her in slippery — shrinkwrapped? — thin books or CDs. Digging herself out, she banged her elbow on a metal shelf.
"Don't lie to me!" a woman's muffled voice shouted from above. The accent was American.
"Me?" Zoë squeaked.
"I'm not—" a man said, also American. Metallic footsteps from above mixed with the voices until the man shouted a panicked, "Stop!"
Her heart hammered. The people weren't in the room with her, but above her.
More of the shrinkwrapped items slid to the floor, making noise she couldn't shush away.
Their feet shuffled, punctuated by heavy breaths until something hard banged on the metal roof.
"If I ever see you again," the man said, "I'll call the police,"
The people above moved around, and then everything went quiet.
"Hey!" Zoë called. Being left alone in the dark, echo-y room was suddenly more terrifying than attracting the arguing couple.
She rose to her feet with the aid of the metal shelves, trying not to knock anything else down, but failing. Something bigger, breakable, dropped with a plastic crunch by her feet.
"Shit," she whispered, jumping when it hit her feet. "Ow!"
Instead of moving out of the way, she banged her knee against something hard.
"Hello!" she cried.
After the faint whoosh of a passing car, soft footsteps approached.
"Hello?" It was the man from the argument.
Zoë shut her eyes, praying hard he wasn't evil. "Can you help me? I don't know where I am."
"Hang on, I— I can't find my keys."
There was something sickeningly familiar about this.
"How'd you get in there?" he asked.
A key clanked in the lock, and a metal door in the ceiling opened. The man and woman hadn't been walking on a roof, but a sidewalk — Zoë was in a basement.
Light from a street lamp shone around a shadowed human figure. When she shielded her eyes and blinked the shock away, the walls, the boxes, the man leaning into the opening, were all drawn in ink.
Stamped — typed — lines made up her trembling fingers, her arms, her hair over her shoulder. Though she tried to brush the marks away, to bring back reality, the lines stayed. Everything was drawn: the table she clung to, the overturned boxes of LPs and cassettes, the broken boom box she'd knocked off the shelf, the man descending the ladder from the ceiling. It was like animation, like rotoscope, like —
YOU ARE READING
Recent expat Zoë Benton stumbles upon a manuscript that takes her to a whole new world. Literally. After a marathon reading session and a wave of dizziness, she finds herself under a pile of boxes in a record store basement in 1986 - 30 years in the...