Head Over Heart

I’m in a hospital eating ice-cream, cookies and cream flavor. I tingle as the coldness sweeps down my throat and spreads until it incapacitates the furthest reaches of my body. At least, that is what my head is telling me. Yet, when do you trust your head, is it not your heart that tells the truth? I search for the heart but find only an empty abyss, filled with coldness. Not the effects of ice-cream, but of fear. My head lied. Traitor.

Slowly at first, I begin to pick up new sensations. My fingertips break into frenzy, aggravated by the stinging sensation of the digits, I open my eyes. What on Earth! If it really is Earth I’m still on! The cold which I’d suspected to be ice-cream was none other than a shallow watery grave for the resident rats. I lifted my head, just slightly, so that my neck had freedom to move. With an echoing crack I swung my head over to my left and then back to my right. Darkness spread along the expanse of the sewer, blocking my vision within arm’s reach. Gradually I got to my feet, lingering for a moment as my cold riddled legs gasped in agony as my weight fell onto them.

Running my hands up the slimy bricks that I was to assume were part of a wall, I corrected myself. Straightening up, but not too straight, for then someone would be bound to see me. What?! What a ridiculous theory! My head has certainly frizzled. Firstly, no-one could see in this darkness. Secondly, another 10cm of height won’t mean life and death. And finally! Who wanders around in a sewer during their spare time! In fact, the only people that would know this even existed would be me, the council guys who work on it – considering they actually DO their job, and of course, the people who dumped me here! Thump . . . it was if I had been running full pelt and hit a big, fat, solid, metal pole. Now my head was truly useless. I had to do something, something mindless. And so I walked. With one hand to the wall and the other outstretched, I made my way along the sewer.

How I could have joyfully skipped over the most important information was behind me. Now I was simply trying to piece the puzzle together. You would think it would be easy, and no doubt it would be if only I could remember. It seems to be a continual habit of mine to forget important things. Just last week, or at least I think it was last week, I forgot my Biology excursion note. We were going fungi sampling on the West edge of Lake Tabbouli, right where the . . . oh great. Right where the sewer line opens up. Mrs G was walking around collecting everyone’s notes – which everyone had – except me. I remember backing off into the sewer line, just out of sight. It all seems really harebrained now that I’d do such a thing to actually GO to a fungi excursion. However, I am still unaware of how I became an upturned mass half way down the sewer. After that I and a few friends had wandered into the sewer, a bit further than everyone else – collecting fungi of course. Sarah was gossiping about how Tiff’s hair had been braided off center yesterday. We all laughed in the absence of knowledgeable speech. By that time we were so far from the entrance to the sewer, our headlamps had to be on high-beam. Obviously my heart had been saying “don’t go on the fungi excursion, don’t keep walking down the disgusting dark sewer”, but like always, I listened to the ever terrorizing head.

Suddenly the present flooded my senses. I could smell a stench so bad that I clasped my hand over my mouth and held my nose between 2 fingers. Of course it stinks, it is after all a sewer. I continued on my way, one hand on the wall the other protecting my delicate breathing pattern. My feet scraped through the now ankle deep water. The edge of my right shoe suddenly becoming caught, the lace pulled free. I tapped the obstruction with my foot. It moved in the water but then became still. I took another step forward, prepared to be on my way again. However I stood on something with a slightly squishy covering and it cracked. It was as if a dozen or so fireworks had exploded in the surrounding tunnel, piercing the darkness. I squealed and had to clamp my mouth shut as I came to a realization with what I was standing next to. For that was indeed the crack of bone.

I got moving now, always keeping an eye, nose and hand out for something that might signal the way out. Keeping as close to the edge as possible, I scampered along the wall, stumbling in my haste. When I did reach a change I stopped. It seemed to be a crossroads. One way would lead out and one would no doubt lead to the others and whatever their fates have been. There was no light to give away the entrance so I sniffed. Bingo. The faint waft of smoke issued from the left tunnel. My head told me all of the logical reasons for choosing that path. And so, I turned towards and raced down it. Surprisingly, the floor dried out. That shouldn’t happen, it always at least trickles into the lake. The smoke became heavier and I heard voices. While my heart was telling me that loud, burly voices don’t belong in the sewer, my head was intrigued. I crept forward, there were men here alright. Two distinctive voices at least. Mean voices.
The heart took over.

I backfired, running back the way I had come, praying that they had not heard me. Praying that I would get out and praying that I wouldn’t run into something. The water splashed up my legs, singeing them as I thought about what had been wallowing in the very same water.
I saw light, breaking into the darkness. I could hear voices calling my name. Friendly voices; worried voices. I slowed and took a leap into the light. Mrs G screeched my name, bustling over to where I stood, shocked. The whole Biology class was there, it was still the same day.
“You’re very lucky that your friends came back and told me that you came today.” Mrs G stated. “They said that you, they and Sarah were in the sewer collecting fungi when they smelt smoke and heard something. They ran one way and you two ran the other.”
“So . . . so Sarah’s not back yet.” I focused my eyes on the ground, hoping.
“No she’s not, she’s the last one we are waiting for too. You didn’t happen to see her did you?”
What was I supposed to say, I’m 99.9% sure that she’s NOT coming back. But I can’t leave her, it’s simply inhuman! Now’s just not the time, think logically, a search would be better for a new day.
“No . . . I didn’t see her”
And there goes the mean and nasty head of mine again. Traitor.

Head Over Heart

Maggie Cooper

Brundee, Australia

  • Artist

Artist's Description

Quite a dark story written a few years ago for a school assessment during our crime writing study. I didn’t want to do the obvious policeman or criminal perspective so I went out on a limb …. and different is what I got.

Take note of my awesome inspiration for place names – such as Lake Tabbouli …. a popular food!

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