Head Porter and I bang furiously on the boiler room door, yelling at the very capacity of our lungs. The fact that our lungs are quickly filling with sebaceous and smutty air is a drawback, certainly. I do not think anyone can here us.
Think. How can we get through this door?
We abandon our tactic of shouting loudly as we realise that oxygen should be used much more wisely in the current circumstances. We need to get through that door.
“We could unscrew the hinges off the door” I suggest breathlessly.
“Have you got a screwdriver?” wheezes Head Porter.
The boiler room is certainly living up to its name. Absurdly, I remember being in the kitchens earlier today and musing that it reminded me of Hell. That was a far, far less gritty version of Hell than the one I have before me now. The kitchens were like the cartoon Hell, with mischievous –looking red devils with pointy boots and a pitchfork, dancing around a few small, localised fires. This is something else entirely. The heat is becoming so intense that even breathing in and out results in searing pain.
Think. Think again.
They say that just before you die, your whole life flashes before your eyes. I suppose no one really knows, but there is a sensible-sounding explanation as to why this might happen. The theory goes that, in a desperate eleventh-hour attempt to save your life, your brain goes through each and every memory, trying to find information that might help you survive, based on the experiences you have gained from previous threats and so forth. Your mind becomes the survival encyclopaedia that your subconscious is hurriedly flicking through.
Well, my brain obviously hasn’t got quite that desperate yet, as although it has already reached for the encyclopaedia it at least knows what chapter it should be looking up. This should save some valuable time.
I become partially aware of a sound in the room. A very loud sound. I can hardly string a cohesive thought together in this state. It takes me a few moments to recognise it. The fire alarm.
You need to stop thinking about silly things and concentrate on getting out of this room.
“I need to stop talking to myself”
“I said the fire alarm’s going off!” says Head Porter “That’s got to be a good thing.” I admire his positive approach but I doubt anyone will hear it. Porter will hear the fire panel go off in The Lodge, but he’s single manned and will probably think it’s us trying to fix it anyway. How long before he comes to check on us?
“Get down, below the smoke” I say, grabbing Head Porter’s arm and pulling him down into a crouching position.
The way I see it is that we have several problems here. The room being on fire is the most obvious one. The other is that we cannot open the door, which is also a bit of an issue. The other sticky wicket is that we cannot summon help. Or…
“I’ve got an idea,” I say to Head Porter. Speaking is difficult now, every brief utterance sends tiny white hot daggers down my throat until they are stabbing at my lungs. “If we can break something down here, cause a drop in pressure or something – won’t an alarm go off in the Maintenance office?”
“Smashing things up could make things worse,” Head Porter points out. He notices the delicately-singed soles of his shoes, defiant little whirls of pale grey smoke spiralling into the fetid air. “Let’s give it a go.”
I am afraid to say I am little help to Head Porter. The smoke and limited oxygen have become so disorientating I have no idea where to begin. Head Porter is surprisingly focused, however. I watch as he fights his way through the gloom with distinct purpose.
Every inch of my flesh is screaming at me to lay down on the floor and close my eyes. Great bursts of white-hot explosions detonate behind my burning eyeballs as if my brain is going into supernova. The brilliance of the white light is blinding me from the optic nerve outwards
Don’t look at the light. Ignore the light.
I take a deep breath to clear my head but it turns out to be a very bad idea. My chest fills with choking blackness but the coughing fit that ensues as least thrusts me right back into the present…