The darkness was more than hindering her sight. It was all-consuming. Conspiring with this numbing helplessness, Angie’s normally chipper demeanour had given up its normally firm hand on the wheel and given the darkness complete control.
She started to sob uncontrollably, huge wracking heaves of tears that were alien to the silence which was all around.
It was only a few weeks ago that she was at school, celebrating her victory over that bitch Selena. Every school had one, that girl that forces trends through, the first to every social breakthrough, the lead in the school play, throwing the best parties.
This time though, Angie had topped her, and the euphoria that flowed through her body when Selena gave her that icy – but crucially, envious – glare was powerful.
It was the last few months of term in their last year of school, and each student had to obtain a week of work experience. The normal mix of fast food joints were interspersed with the occasional interesting post, but Selena thought she had it won when she declared to all that she would be working in the local shopping centre as a Customer Services Assistant. She would be in the epicentre of where all vital social interactions took place, the eye of the social storm so to speak and Selena would be able to continue to control her clique. It was perfect, and it was what everyone expected from her.
So when Angie told her teacher that she had acquired an actual paid position, the silence which followed was nothing compared to the daggers that Selena sent Angie’s way.
Angie’s Uncle Kev ran a logistics business at the docks. It was a rather large operation, with transactions involving all corners of the globe. Uncle Kev told Angie that he needed an Admin Assistant in the office, and he would give her an actual weekend position – with proper wages and everything! She would be on the books, and the cash would give her the freedom to spend as she pleased.
The high from Selena’s jealousy may have worn off, but her first few days at the office gave Angie a far more fulfilling feeling.
She was finding her independence, and at 15, it couldn’t have come too soon. She didn’t merely act as office furniture, she was flying through the work she was given.
She only had one other person in the office during her shifts, as the main workforce had the weekends off. Her sole colleague was a 60 year lump of a woman called Hettie, and from her levels of effort, you could tell Uncle Kev kept her on for sympathy. Hettie didn’t have much going on, but give her a sheaf of paper to input into the grubby computer and like a willful tortoise, she would get through it. She reminded Angie of those overweight dogs you see on video’s on Facebook, where they’re tempted by treats, but ultimately succumb to comfort and sloth.
Uncle Kev was impressed with Angie, and her paypacket reflected it. It wasn’t so much her inflated bank balance that had put a spring in her Converse though, it was the trust that had been invested in her. She wasn’t a bad kid by any means, but Uncle Kev left her to her own devices and he knew that the work would be done. He trusted her just like he did the rest of his employees, and it was so refreshing.
Imagine that, a teenager being trusted in a position of responsibility!
This Sunday, she had flown through the usual mix of data input and correspondence, and she had called Uncle Kev to tell him she was willing to stay on if he needed her to. School was non-existent tomorrow as she was on study leave for the impending exams, but she knew that she was well placed for her GCSE’s. She could put in a few hours in the office, plus, she was saving up for a new laptop and she was nearly there.
Uncle Kev duly obliged, and told her of what he wanted done. She lifted the stack of fax printouts from the filing cabinet and slapped it onto her desk. There was a fair amount to get through, but thanks to the coffee machine and her enthusiasm, she would eviscerate this task – and get that laptop.
Lines upon lines of numbers and letters, these different combinations correlating to the large gathering of huge metal containers on the docks outside the portakabin in which she sat now. Staring at these amalgamations for long enough gave the blocks of language a different appearance, and soon enough, she was noticing patterns sprinkled inside the columns.
DB-23 popped up every fourth line, and it always went to New York. DB leapt from the pages as her brother was called David and he was 23. There was FRK-12 and it was always on the second line of every new paragraph – and it went to Copenhagen.
There were others, but there was one that really pricked her proverbial ears. There was no pattern, no rhyme or reason to it, but XK-11 and its rarity always grabbed her eyes. She continued to input the data, but she couldn’t silence that questioning part of her brain.
Why did it not list the destination for XK-11? It was the only container that did not declare it, so why not? Was it an error? She quickly answered that herself, there were errors throughout the pages – Hettie wasn’t exactly the model employee – but never an error that reoccurred. Hettie didn’t make the same mistake twice, just lots of differing ones.
On her computer, such was the large scale of the ground that Uncle Kev’s business took up on the docks, there was a rudimentary listing of all containers and where they could be found. It looked like it had been crafted on a Sinclair ZX from the eighties, but it was easy enough to use. Angie decided that she would get through the rest of the work in front of her, and then if this XK-11 was still scratching away in her mind, she would find it on the computer.
It only took her another half hour to fly through the job, and she had been fuelled by that bloody container. She couldn’t drop it, and all the while she hammered at the keys of the computer, she was picturing what could be inside XK-11.
Uncle Kev was a normal guy, and he never gave off a whiff of a criminal. He had made this company work simply through hard work and he was the pride of the family. She found it hard to believe he could be doing anything underhand – but she was mulling it over nonetheless.
Stolen cars? Drugs? Uncle Kev was part of the local Neighbourhood Watch, he volunteered at the school for fuck sake! There was no way he was involved in anything like that!
Then what the hell was in XK-11?
Scratch, scratch, scratch. Her focus was shifted completely now. She simply had to know.
She tapped in the container on the computer, and the well-thumbed monitor plinked up with the location, which was right at the mouth of the container lift which grabbed these massive metal boxes and placed them on the resting ships.
“Hettie, I’m just going to check something, I’ll be back in five minutes, OK?”
Hettie snapped awake, her head raising from her chest and her mouth slapping shut.
“Oh, no problem Angie. I’ll finish up here and we’ll lock up together.”
Angie had already grabbed her jacket and a torch and had closed the door.
As she entered the rows and rows of metal containers stacked high into the inky sky, she started to recognise the alien language that was stamped on every single box. That one was full of medical supplies and was headed to France. This one was going to Morocco and it had footwear inside.
The long walkways created by these stacks of steel rectangles started to become narrow – or was it just her imagination? Either way, the high level of these metal borders were quite imposing.
She came to where XK-11 was meant to be, but she couldn’t find it. She had been walking for about ten minutes, and with each passing second, her curiosity grew fiercer and harder to ignore. She shone the torch up to the top and worked the beam down, and the red writing on the third one up gave her what she was looking for.
The end of this particular stack gave Angie an ideal way up to XK-11, as the first and second levels were staggered. She hoisted her way up quite lithely, and she was now standing in front of the doors of XK-11.
She took a deep breath, her stomach murmuring with nerves. There was noise in the distance from dock workers further down but out of sight, so she leaned her head against the cold metal of the doors and cupped a hand to help her ears pick up any sound.
The freezing cold metal against the side of her face amped up her senses, sure she had downed three coffees but every cell in her body felt completely on edge and ready.
She couldn’t be sure, but she could swear she heard something shifting in there. It was difficult to really hear anything and single out one noise, so she intently pressed the side of her head hard against the doors. She had to be sure.
Something had dropped on the floor inside the container.
Full of trepidation, but knowing that she had to find out what was inside, she grabbed the levers which formed a lock on the doors. She wrenched them up, and the skreek of metal grinding on metal cut through the air – and gave Angie goosebumps.
She swung these heavy doors open, but the only thing that greeted her hungry eyes was darkness. She couldn’t see a thing. She instinctively took a step inside, and then remembered she had the torch.
She pressed the on button and directed the bulb to the interior of the container.
Eyes. All of differing heights, but the light shone on eyes. The shock of the discovery waived the beam a little, but the eyes didn’t move. Save for the odd blink, these eyes never left Angie.
Angie got a hold of herself quickly. She realised this was highly illegal, and she would have to help these people – unless they had been using this container as a shelter. Then again, how would they lock themselve…..
Angie hurtled forward and fell to the grimy ground, thanks to a large hand shoving her in the centre of her back.
She quickly wheeled around and the entrance to this metal box was now silhouetted with the frame of someone. They had their hands on their hips.
“You shouldn’t have done this Angie, this is really bad.”
It was Uncle Kev’s voice.
“Hettie called me, she said you were snooping. I’ve got no choice here Angie. They won’t let me stop this. I’m sorry.”
She reached out an arm and could only offer one pleading vowel, before the doors slammed shut coldly.
Then, that silence and darkness. The eyes that her torch had found didn’t make a sound.
She started to sob as the container was lifted onto the large transport ship……