I left the bathroom to double check the sign on the door. The silhouette of a man and a one-legged woman. It was a unisex toilet. I went back inside. There was a row of four sinks directly in front of me partitioned by soap dispensers, a hand drier at either end and a large mirror on the wall. I looked left. The room curved round and back in on itself. The women’s toilets. Or was it the mens? I looked right and saw the same. Then I looked up, desperately searching for a sign or symbol or some sort of clue as to which direction I should turn. What if I walk in on a woman? What if a woman were to walk in on me? What if I walk in on a man and a woman taking advantage of their right to both be in the same toilet? Fuck it, I’ll live. I set off for the toilets on the left and was immediately overcome with a feeling of self-doubt. I stopped, turned right, walked and then stopped again.
“Is anybody in here?” I shouted. I waited, but there was no reply. Right. I had made up my mind. Go right. As I walked across the room I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I had short, slicked back light brown hair and green eyes. I was average height, average build and average. I passed the entranceway to the righthand toilets. The mini-corridor swerved immediately left then right again. Shit what if I was wrong? I wasn’t. Unless women can piss standing up now. I wouldn’t know. I went to the urinal and did my business.
The tap water was cold, or at least the droplets I managed to get on my hands were. I pressed the button on the top with the side of my wrist and rushed my hands underneath, but the mechanism only allowed for half a seconds amount of water to rush through, if that. I pressed the soap dispensers and the pink liquid squirted into my palms with a satisfying force, then I repeated the tap procedure and stepped to the right to dry my hands on the drier.
Whirrrr. The drier kicked into life with the usual drone, activated by a motion sensor that detected my soaking hands. I looked around the room, making a mental note to remember to go right next time and feeling quite happy with my little triumph of choice. Then I noticed my hands gravitating towards the mouth of the drier. They were almost dry and I was surprised with the efficiency and speed of the machine, but it was as if my hands were becoming slowly magnetised towards it, the strength of the magnetic field growing until my hands were pressed against the bottom. I looked down, the little hairs on my arm were standing upright and leaning towards the drier. My hands were fully dry and I pulled them away, except that I couldn’t. I yanked them down but they were stuck. Then it occurred to me. The reason why the drier was so speedy? It was sucking the water right off my hands instead of just blowing the droplets around in circles. All very well and good, but I couldn’t remove my hands.
I pulled and strained and twisted and yanked but I couldn’t break free. I started to lean backwards until eventually my whole weight was supported by the suction of the machine. Who the fuck designed this piece of shit? I stood back up and looked at the drier. There was no brand name or writing of any kind at all. I twisted round the right but stopped as I felt the skin on the back of my hands start to tear. There was nothing written on the side of the drier either, no instructions or off switch. I twisted slowly back round to face the drier front on then I just stood there. Maybe it was on a timer and would switch off in a moment. I waited for a minute. A minute seemed like a good time to wait, so I counted in my head being sure to leave the correct space in between “one, elephant, two, elephant”, speeding up would only add more frustration when, inevitably, the drier didn’t fucking stop.
That’s when I noticed the sound. In my initial panic my brain had blocked out what was now an incessant and irritating, droning sound of death. Why was it so loud? It sounded much louder than any normal hand drier and my head was beginning to hurt. Then it suddenly hit me. My phone was in my right trouser pocket. I was past the embarrassment stage now and just wanted rescue so I stepped closer to the drier and up onto my tip toes, pressing my body up against the machine. I used both my elbows to push the phone up my pocket but it wasn’t working, the phone was just slipping back down again. I turned to sit on the surface to my left where the sinks were and tried to bend down and use my chin to push it up, but it didn’t work. I really hope someone doesn’t walk in right now. I got off and turned to face the line of sinks and, aligning the phone with the edge of the surface, rubbed my leg down the side to push the phone up and out. It worked. My arms were beginning to ache now but I turned around as far as I could and bent over to place my face directly over the phone on the surface. Imagine a baseball player just before he swings with his bat and hits the ball, his arms are together, swung right round over his right shoulder. I was like that, but bent over. I pulled the phone closer to me with my face and used the tip of my nose to type in Ryan’s number. I was talking to him ten minutes ago so he should be able to come help me. Or was it ten minutes ago? How long had I been like this? As I entered the number I felt myself being pulled away from the phone. I looked back to see the tip of my hands beginning to disappear inside the drier. I had to ignore it and press on. I turned back to the phone just as the whirring peaked and a sudden burst of suction caused my hands to be violently yanked upwards. I slipped and knocked the phone into the nearest sink, narrowly missing hitting my head on the side of the surface. My arms weren’t long enough and I felt them both dislocate as I fell and swung against the back wall. A burning sensation rushed from my shoulders and down my spine. I screamed out in pain. I was hovering a good two inches off the floor, suspended by my arms.
I looked up and saw my hands disappearing into the machine. What the hell was happening? Where there should have been a grate or wire mesh there was a gaping hole straight into the drier. Both of my hands were well inside the machine now and my wrists were squished together. The pain was almost unbearable. I tried to feel around inside but there was nothing. Just cold air brushing up past my hands.
The door to the bathroom opened. A girl who looked about twelve walked inside. She didn’t notice me at first then stopped as she saw the seventeen year old sat on the floor with his hands in the drier. She stared, but didn’t say anything. And neither did I. My eyes were watering with the pain. She went left and into the toilet. The little shit. She didn’t have any problems knowing where to go! What was I doing with my life? I screamed out in pain but it was hard to speak. After a few moments she came back and headed for the door then I finally managed to squeeze out a word.
“Hey!” I shouted after her. She almost didn’t hear from the sound of the drier.
“Oh, sorry. I always forget!”
She walked over to the sink next to me and pushed the tap to wash her hands.
“No, can you help me? I’m stuck.” I said. It felt bad. Embarrassing. I was cringing. But the pain was worse.
“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers really.”
“We don’t need to talk, just run and get some help please. Can you get your mum to come in here?” You little shit. Just go get help.
She smiled at me then headed for the other drier.
“No!” I screamed after her but now she really couldn’t hear. I watched in despair as she began to dry her hands. Not only did she not save me, but now I’ll be stuck here with her. I have nothing against children, but they can be annoying at the best of times.
She finished drying her hands and walked away from the machine. What? I looked at her with sheer anger. What had I done today to deserve this? She headed for the door.
But she had gone.
I sat for a while just taking in my situation. The pain had dulled a little but as soon as I tried to move it started again. I wasn’t sure what to do next. Then the drier starting whirring louder and louder and I began to rise up, like a passenger in a slow moving and very surreal elevator. My wrists were engulfed in a matter of seconds and the drier was now slowly but surely beginning to eat my arms. I tried to stand up with the suction of the drier. If only I could try and reach for my phone I could call the police or someone. Then it dawned on me. Oh no, please no. As the drier pulled me higher and higher I strained to see over the surface to the right. As my elbows were at the mouth of the drier I leant over the side of the surface to peer inside the sink. The little shit. She had washed her hands in the sink my phone had fallen into. Shit. The little shit.
“You little shit!” I shouted.
I looked round. There was a young man, maybe nineteen, short black hair, Rebok top and a little fluffy mustache. He was staring into my eyes. He looked as if he was going to punch me. I must’ve missed him coming in. I just looked at him as if I hadn’t heard what he had said. I did a friendly nod and smile.
“You what?” He repeated.
“Sorry, what? I can’t hear you!” I lied, turning my head as if I was trying to hear him better. It was a trick I’d learnt to use if someone had said something you didn’t know how to respond to, or if they had said something you didn’t like. Pretend you didn’t hear them. He came right up to my ear.
“What the fuck did you just say?” I shook my head and laughed a laugh that conveyed the following: oh dear that dang drier means I can’t hear what you’re saying young sir, you’ll have to speak louder. I was surprised that I still had the ability to lie to this calibre whilst in such pain. The man took a step even closer to me then noticed my situation. He returned to staring into my eyes then finally walked away with a look of disgust on his face.
My arms were almost completely engulfed. I was standing on my tiptoes now. I felt like Natalie Portman in Black Swan. Wait, no. I felt like James Franco in 127 Hours. That was a pretty boring film, but didn’t that guy have to cut his own arm off?
I looked at my phone again. It was completely fucked. I had to pluck up the courage to ask the murderous looking chav for help. After a minute or so he came back from the toilet and looked surprised to see me still standing there.
“What the fuck you doing?” He asked. What the fuck does it look like?
“I’m stuck.” It took a second for him to comprehend. He bent down and looked at the drier from underneath then tried yanking at my shoulders. I screamed out in pain. He smiled and felt my arse. Oh no. He was checking my back pockets. Within seconds he found my wallet and took it out. He took my keys, my bus pass and my sunglasses. My £60 sunglasses.
“Please.” I was begging. “Please, I don’t know what’s happening. Can you - Can you just go and get help?” He smiled, returned my nod from earlier and left.
I was being pulled down now, my shoulders were entering the bottom of the drier. These were moderately busy toilets, someone nice will be along any second. I waited. The drier continued suck. I started to wonder what exactly was inside. It felt vast and cold, like putting your hands right into a freezer. I wiggled my arms about but I couldn’t feel anything. It was like the wall behind was hollow. I swung my arms forward expecting to feel the front of the drier, but there was nothing, my arms kept going and only stopped because of the limits of my joints. This was fucked up. I started to panic. I screamed out for help but the drier was louder than ever before. My voice hurt. My shoulder was inside and head was tilting left. I was hunched over and my foot was just off the floor. I tried to pull against the suction but it was way too strong. I could only keep my head still for a second or two before I became too tired. Thomp. My right ear was pushed against the mouth of the drier creating an air tight seal. It was strangely silent inside. Calm almost. I could hear a faint ringing but that was it. Pressure was mounting. I wouldn’t stay like this for long. Then it occurred to me that my arms weren’t hurting anymore either. In fact, I couldn’t even feel them. My eyes darted desperately around in their sockets as I prayed for one last person to come and save me. But nothing. How is anyone going to find me inside? What if no one ever does and I starve to death? I’ll never see my girlfriend ever again. Her name was Vicky. Is Vicky. Silence. An unbearable pain in my head then it stopped. What about our future? We were both going to the same University. I fell through. My parents will miss me. How will they cope? A circle of light, creeping in from the mouth of the drier started to grow smaller and smaller. I hope my friends from college realise I’ve gone. I was alone. They might just think I’m ill or something. In darkness. We were going out next weekend for my birthday. I could not feel anything. Why didn’t I enjoy life more?
That’s the last thought I had before the bathroom, and everything else, slipped away from me and I was removed from tangible existence.