When I open my eyes it's pitch black. Not nighttime "pitch black," where there is the hint of moonlight or a far off firefly or faint headlights on a lonely road. No, this is two-hundred-feet-below-the-surface-in-a-coal-mine/did-I-really-open-my-eyes black.
I feel like I've slept for a long time, yet I don't feel the least bit rested. As if I've had a fever that finally broke.
Still, it's dark and I feel tired, so it must be the middle of the night.
Why then is it so quiet?
I don't hear Kate's breathing, or the dreamy murmuring of my daughters from their room down the hall. Even the thunderous, congested snores of Moose, our German Shepherd who sleeps at the foot of our bed, are strangely absent.
No air conditioner hum.
I sit up in alarm and smash my face against something hard.
"Jesus!" I reach up instinctively to clasp my crushed nose but my hands strike something, bruising my knuckles. "Damn it!" Those will ache for a while.
My face is wet, and I taste blood on my lips.
I run my hands up along my torso to my face and gingerly touch my already swelling lips and aching nose. I've never had a broken nose, or any broken bones for that matter, so I have no point of comparison, but based on the new crook in the bridge of my nose I'm pretty certain that streak is over.
"Kate? Honey?" The barrier in front of me throws the word back in my face with a harsh, echoing note of desperation I don't recognize.
"Jenny? Margaret?" I yell my daughters' names, though what eight and ten year old girls can do to help me I have no idea.
I run my palms across the barrier in front of me. It is cool and hard and feels like wood. Or stone. Maybe cement. But definitely not metal. I don't know if that is good or bad.
I press against the barrier, like I'm trying to perform a bench press at the gym I pretended to attend last year before letting the membership lapse. There isn't even the slightest movement.
I cannot bend my knees without striking the barrier and kicking my feet just sends a resounding thud reverberating around the container. Or box, really. Moving my legs to the side I discern that the base is narrower than where my shoulders rest.
It seems to be getting hotter, and though I am wearing shorts and a t-shirt, clothes I do not remember putting on, I find myself sweating and gulping air.
Because there is only one type of box I can think of that is made out of wood and is narrower at the foot than the shoulder.
But that doesn't explain the running shorts. Hell, I don't run anywhere.
"Is this a joke?" I ask out loud, so that whoever is observing knows I've caught on.
"Very funny, Kate," I say, even though such a prank would be so far out of character I can't imagine the circumstances under which she would conceive it.
"Is this a reality show?" I ask. "If it is, you have ten seconds to open this thing before I sue your asses!"
I dredge up old friends and college buddies. "Bobby?" I don't even know if Bob is still alive. I can't remember his last name.
"Jack?" My brother. The only person less likely than Kate to pull a stunt like this.
"This isn't funny anymore. Let me out!"
I slam my fists halfheartedly against the lid. Then again, harder. And again. And again.
Someone is screaming so loud it hurts my ears and of course it is me and somewhere in the reptile part of my brain I know this and I will be quiet as soon as I can but first I have to stop my fists because I felt something crack but worse, the real reason I need everything to stop is the smell.
I smell, dirt.
Wet, muddy, dirt. The odor that greets me when I dig up night crawlers in the backyard to take fishing.
I stop pounding my fists. And I stop screaming.
There are tears on my cheeks. I haven't cried since watching Dumbo on Netflix with my girls. That scene with the momma elephant in the jail car means I have to excuse myself because I "have something in my eye."
The last thing I remember is going to bed. I had an early call with China.
This doesn't make any sense. People do not get trapped in boxes and (dare I think it) buried alive.
Not in the real world. A freaky slasher film yes. A crime drama with an alcoholic detective pursuing a deranged, chameleon like psychopath, sure.
And even then there would be a note. An explanation. A rationale.
Because no one dies alone in a box without knowing why.
What sort of world would that be?
THE END copyright 2014 John Lance