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A Thin Line

By:Emma Hillman

Chapter One: A Dark Place

Just as she was bending down to check how much longer the dryer would take, the laundry room’s door banged shut and the lights died. She blinked in the sudden darkness, her fingers tightening around the edge of the machine as she heard shuffling in the not-far-enough distance. “Hello?”

“Who’s there?”

Oh hell. There was a man in the room! “My name is Kate. I live on the second floor.”

“Oh, I’m Jace. Third floor, apartment B. Do you know where the switch is?”

“Outside the door on your right.”

“Outside?” he repeated just before grunting as if in pain.

“What’s wrong?”

“I can’t open the door.”

Her eyes widened. “You can’t open the door? Are you kidding me?”

“No, I wish I was.” He sounded disgruntled. “Fuck, someone must have locked us in.”

“It’s the middle of the night!”

“Yeah, probably a kid playing a prank or something.”

“Bang on the door! I need to get out of here!”

“And I don’t?” he muttered before doing as she’d asked. He banged on it, his palms aching after a while but nothing happened. No click announcing the lock’s opening. No laughter ringing outside. No sudden flash of the overhead lights. Nothing but darkness and silence. “I don’t think they’re coming back,” he said minutes later.

“Shit,” Kate said before biting her lower lip. She couldn’t believe this. Her mother had warned her not to use this laundry room late at night, scared that something would happen to her daughter, all alone in the big city. But she hadn’t had a choice. She had a job interview the next day and she’d needed to clean her one white shirt and black pants. She couldn’t afford getting them dry-cleaned after all. But here she was, stuck in this Godforsaken room with someone she didn’t even know. And her clothes weren’t even dry yet!

“You can say that again. Do you have your cell on you? Maybe we could call for help.”

“Oh. Good idea!” She grabbed her phone and slid it open, light hitting her face and making her gasp in relief. That didn’t last long however. “No coverage.”

The man sighed. “I was wondering if that was going to be the case but we had to try at least.”

Kate was chewing on her lip now, wondering if she could try calling 911 anyway. Weren’t cell phones supposed to work in emergencies? Because this sure as hell was one! But no, even as she dialled the three digits and waited, nothing happened. A beep rang in her ear, reminding her she was underground and she could kiss being rescued goodbye. All she, they, could do was wait and hope someone would need to use the machines soon.

Yeah right, her mind countered bleakly. It was nearly three in the morning and she was the only stupid person who washed her clothes at such a time. She blinked when she realized there was another person who was just as stupid as her. And he was talking to her.

“Are you okay over there?”

“I’m fine.”

“Okay. Well, guess there’s nothing to be done but to sit around and wait.”


That was the last thing they told each other.

It was only when the cold started seeping into her thin-soled canvas shoes nearly an hour later that Kate realized she wouldn’t be able to last the night like this. She was propped up against the machine now thankfully quiet, her clothes somewhere inside, all soft and warm. Except she couldn’t see enough to find the right button to unlatch the door. She’d played with her cell phone for too long and the battery had died. And yes, thank you very much, she knew that had been one stupid move. But it’d been that or talk to the smooth-voiced stranger currently singing to himself in the corner.

She stood up and groaned as her muscles protested. Her hands stretched in front of her, she took a few steps, knowing she needed to move before cramps made themselves known in her calves. She bumped into something hard and metallic, biting back a gasp of pain as her knee took the brunt of the impact. “Ouch!”

“You okay, Katie?”

“My name is Kate.”

He ignored her answer as he asked, “So?”

“I’m fine. Just bumped my knee.”

“Why don’t you sit down again?” He clearly thought she was going to kill herself, walking around like this in the dark.

“I’m cold.”

“Oh. Can I help?”

“Not sure how you can, no.” Leave me alone. I don’t know you! She didn’t say those but they were clearly implied.

“Do I know you?” he asked suddenly as she wondered where the door was and if she could reach it.