The man stirred slowly, his head pounding. He opened his eyes in the darkness. There was a single needle of light coming from between a pair of curtains across the room. He got up slowly, his body sore. His feet rested on the rough wooden floorboards, the kind that gave nasty splinters. He reached the pair of dark curtains and pulled them open. It took a moment for his foggy brain to process what was going on. There was no more light in the room.

He panicked slightly, tapping on the glass. Behind the glass were bricks that were hastily laid on the windowsill with what looked like barely enough mortar to hold them together. The light came from a cavity in the centre of the obviously new brickwork that the mortar hadn’t filled. His eyes darted around the room and closed on a door. His heart leapt and he ran to the door, franticly grabbing the handle and shaking it vigorously. It refused to budge. The man was locked in.

His eyes settled on a metal bedframe with a dirty brown mattress that clearly used to be white. He tore the mattress from the metal frame and in the limited light looked for how the bed was put together. He could see numerous screws but they were too far in for him to twist out and he didn’t have a screwdriver. He quickly realised, he didn’t know what he had. He quickly took a brief inventory; he had his shirt, shoes, and pants so at least he was dressed. He quickly rammed his hands into his pockets but they were empty. His wallet, his phone all gone!

His heart thudded. He tried to think but he didn’t even know who he was, his head was still sore. The man frantically looked around the room and he found a cupboard built into the wall. He opened it; it was large enough to fit inside but only just. It was too dark, he couldn’t see very much. He fumbled around and his fingers found a switch, he flicked it in the hope for some light but nothing happened. His heart sank as the panic began to rise again. He patted the floor, hoping to find a nail, a knife, anything that could have helped him.

There was a pinging sound as his finger brushed something metal and it bounced along the cupboard floor. It was a toy soldier. He somehow felt he should remember this but his head was fuzzy and his memories refused to surface. He rubbed his temple and forehead, straining to remember why this small thing was so important. His fingers caressed the inch tall figurine, feeling its base. It was thin and because of his stance, rather narrow. His heart leapt once more as he scurried over to the bed.

Adrenaline pumped which made his fingers clumsy; he fit the base of the toy soldier into the groove on the screw and twisted. It came loose a little and sheer elation overtook him. He twisted hard and fast until it stuck out a little and yanked it out with his fingers. He tried the other screw but it was harder, the toy soldier slipped and he could feel how the metal at the base of the figurine had warped. He put it into the groove again and twisted slower and not as hard, hoping the constant pressure would cause it to come out. There was a squeal from the screw as it grated against the metal before it too finally came loose.

He grabbed the leg he was trying to remove and with a sharp tug, it came free. He now had a means to escape. He ran to the door and smashed one of the four thinner panels, knowing that they would be the same on the opposite side and thus, break easily and require less work. He was right, the panel broke. There was a sound of splintering wood as he delved his fingers into the hole he had made and tore away the panel.

He could see something on the other side but he wasn’t sure, they looked like squares but he put it from his mind. He put his metal bed leg into the hole, using it as a lever to break the inch thick wood. He could hear it splintering but it refused to break. Becoming desperate, He repeatedly swung as hard as he could at the door, hoping for something to give. Nothing did. The man stopped, dropping the bed leg as he collapsed in front of the door, panting hard. Sweat accumulated on his brow and formed rivulets that ran down his flushed face. His heart beat hard and he thought hard about his predicament.

It was obvious the door was strong but he had to think tactically. The weakest part of the door is usually the hinges but had nothing to exploit this weakness but a metal pole. He got up, noticing he had several splinters already. He aimed a well-placed stomp where the hinge ought to be and he heard a satisfying snap of metal. The door was hanging a lot looser than it was before. He had hope and shoulder charged the door.

There was another snap but the door didn’t fall despite it being knocked from its hinges. The initial confusion wore off and his heart thudded harder. He pulled the door from the door-frame with difficulty and ran his hands over what blocked his way. He felt a cold rough surface beneath his fingertips blocking his exit. He pounded on the bricks, pounded so hard on the unyielding wall that his hands bled. He let out a choked cry as the panic of being walled in overwhelmed him. Tears sprang free of the man’s eyes and ran down his face to disappear into his clothes. He shook with fear.

He was never going to get out. He was going to die here and this room, his tomb. He sat with his back against the wall, looking at the hastily bricked up doorway that sealed him in here, wallowing in self-pity. He thought for another way out and he turned his head to look at the window. The brickwork was a lot less well done than the door and it gave him an idea. He grabbed the bed-leg and smashed the window as it wouldn’t open. He ran his hands over the brickwork, looking for weak or wobbly bricks. He didn’t find any, the mortar was too fresh.

He cursed, going over to the bed and yanking one of the thin, metal slats that the mattress rested on, off the bed-frame.  If it was sturdy enough to hold a person, it should be able to handle what he was about to put it through. He wedged it between two of the bricks so it stayed there without assistance and swung the bed-leg with all his might at it. There was a deafening clang that caused his head immense pain and he rubbed his temple with one hand as he opened his eyes. The slat was completely bent and the brickwork, however shoddy, held firm.

The person who trapped him here, definitely didn’t want him getting out. He tried again, ripping another metal slat from the bed and wedging it into the brickwork and hitting it as hard as he could to dislodge the bricks. There was another clang that he braced for and the metal fell from the bricks, bent and buckled as the first. It was only then he realised why it was happening. While the slats held people, there were twenty of them that shared the workload.

He took a few steps back and crumpled into a heap, once again starting to panic. The shivers were back only this time it was a mixture of the cold and sheer terror that he will never see the outside world again. He was trapped. His hands were wrapped around his knees as he buried his face in his knees to ward off the cold and make him feel more secure. He slowly calmed back down and as he went to lie down, his fingers brushed the toy soldier again.

He shuffled over to the needle of light to get a better look at it. It was an unpainted pewter metal soldier with a slightly warped base from where he had used it as a screwdriver.  As his fingers rubbed over the figurine, his memory flashed and in his mind he saw a small boy playing with toy soldiers. It was a fuzzy memory but he knew he was that boy. He remembered the soldiers and he had given this one a name. He was Stephano, the soldier who took on armies of other toy soldiers. He smiled a little as his mind cleared allowing him to remember a simpler time.

Something niggled at the back of his mind, and as he took a look around the room, he realised it looked very familiar. It was the very bedroom he grew up in, the same wallpaper, the same imperfections, even the exact same drawing on the wall he did with a crayon. He remembered how furious his father was at him because of that. He remembered sitting at the window in summer, watching the people relax, have barbecues, mow the lawn, do some weeding. He scrambled over to the window, his knees cracking the broken glass.

He pressed his eyes to the hole in the brickwork, expecting to see remnants of those times but instead all he saw was overgrown gardens, rusted barbecues and what felt like an unnatural greyness to it all, even with the sunshine. He sighed, a depression setting in. Nothing will be the same as it once was, everything changes leaving behind nothing but memories which fade with us. He remembered back on the parts of his life that he remembered, treasuring them as he knew he would soon die of starvation or dehydration.

As he thought back, he suddenly remembered making a hole in the side of his cupboard that was set into the wall so that he could hide in there and spy on his parents as they climbed the stairs, hoping to scare them when they looked in and couldn’t see him. He gave a small sad smile. The man got up, blood trickling down his leg from the glass and got in the cupboard, finding where he used to spy. He could see the stairs and how both of the doors at the top of the stairs had been bricked up. He wondered if anyone else was in the building.

He pushed the thought from his mind and punched the plaster as hard as he could. He could hear it crack and he decided to shift slightly so that he could use his powerful legs. He strained hard against the brick wall behind him and the plaster started to give. His heart leapt for joy; finally he was going to be free! The plaster caved into the staircase and with the sudden resistance gone, he slipped, falling forward and rotating faster than he would have liked. He didn’t even have time to raise his arms to brace for an impact.

Time seemed to slow in those seconds; the last thought going through his mind was “Oh fuck!” He fell; his legs swinging him inadvertently face-first into the steps, his nose breaking, his skull fracturing, his brain smashing to the front of his skull, his teeth flying out as his jaw and his neck broke, severing the spinal cord. His body collided with the rest of the steps, his ribs breaking, piercing his lungs which slowly filled up with blood. His femur fractured on impact and his body just lay there slumped against the stairs awaiting discovery.

It seemed unlikely given how the area now looked and it did indeed take some months but his body was finally discovered. They hauled him to a mortuary where they performed an autopsy on him. The medical examiner looked at the clipboard and sighed. “It was difficult to say what the cause of death was, contrecoup contusion looks most likely buts difficult to say if the spinal cord was severed by the fractured vertebrae first. In my honest opinion, I would go with the contusion but either way, he was dead before all his body hit the floor.” He stopped the recording of the autopsy and turned to the window where there were three policemen waiting.

They nodded to each other. “So we finally know what happened to the killer who liked to wall people up and kill them slowly, he became a victim of his own crime. Poetic justice I call that.” The others nodded and all three left the viewing area. The man on the slab was washed down and transported to a funeral director. He was embalmed and placed in the cheapest coffin which was nailed shut. There was a small funeral service held for him but the only people to turn up were the bearers, the gravedigger and the priest. His coffin was lowered and his grave filled as the priest preached to a non-existent crowd. The grave was being filled and the priest and bearers left the gravedigger to his task.

A headstone was erected but it wasn’t for a long while that anybody visited the grave.  A young woman strolled through the grave-yard, stopping here and there as she looked at the headstones, clearly not seeing the one she was looking for. She stopped in front of his and smiled. She sat in front of the headstone, leaning forward as if to whisper. “I know you killed my mother so I gave you a taste of your own medicine. I hope you rot in hell.” She snorted and coughed up a lump of phlegm and spat on his headstone which read; “Here lies Liam Maguire may he rest in peace.”