For Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The Poor Poor Protagonist. Thanks, Chuck, for the inspiration.
My eyes open to supreme blackness. My leg hurts. My fingers feel wetness and something spongey. Then something like bone. My heart races.
I aim my eyes upward, but there is no light.
“Help!” I yell until my throat is raw.
I stand on my good leg and reach up as far as I can. Nothing but wall. I hop around and explore my cell. The walls are made of earth. The ground is covered with twigs and leaves. I’m in a hole. Circular, damp and taller than me. The pain is too great to put any pressure on my wounded leg. I fall into a screaming heap. Climbing is not an option.
It’s so dark in this earthen abyss my eyes can’t adjust. They feel like they are going to pop out of my skull.
Trying to be resourceful, I feel around for two twigs. Maybe if I start a fire I could get my bearings. I think back to those survival shows on cable that I barely paid attention to. It should be as simple as rubbing two sticks together.
It’s not. I try for what seems like hours. I break countless sticks in the process and have blisters on my fingers. Still no fire. No light.
My breathing is ragged. Will I run out of oxygen?
My leg is throbbing. Am I going to bleed to death?
I sit with my back against the wall. I think of my mom and dad. Of my sisters. I think of the loves lost and wonder if I’ll ever find happy love.
Something is tickling my calf. I try to just shake my leg to make it go away, but it doesn’t. Absently I reach down to scratch. And that’s when I feel it. A bug. And not just any bug, a hairy one. I do not like bugs.
My beating heart picks up speed again.
I try to calm down, trying not to use up precious air. As soon as I shoo Hairy away, his friend finds his way to my other leg. Another on my arm. I don’t know if I’m imagining all these roommates, but I don’t think I am. My hand makes contact with more than just my skin.
I stand up too fast and fall immediately back down into the brambles. Next time, I move with caution and get myself to standing. Not without squashing something beneath my hand when I touch the wall. Maybe if I keep moving the one piece of me touching the pit, nothing will crawl on me, I try rationalizing with myself.
As I hobble around on one leg, I try to get my mind out of the hole. I think of the ocean. Of mountains. Of anything with a wide open space. I imagine my family’s faces. My friends’. My dog’s furry little face and the way she bites her back when she gets excited.
Thinking about them enjoying fresh, bugless air starts to piss me off. My leg is getting very tired. Blood is drying on the banks of the river flowing from my wound.
I try to focus on me floating and that’s when I hear it. I pray it’s thunder. I have a quick second to react, but it’s not enough time. The noise is tumultuous. The earth starts to shake with me in it’s bowels. It knocks me to my ass. Instinctively I cover my head from any falling debris. Nothing but dust falls.
“GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE!” I scream when I’m sure the shaking is done.
Only the bugs hear my cry. The shaking has brought them out in droves. I’m swatting left and right. I stand again, but my leg is oh so tired. But it’s helping. Time goes by slowly when you can’t measure it. I want to sit so bad.
An hour, two, three go by. Maybe only twenty four minutes. I can’t be sure, but I can say feeling the first web makes my skin crawl. Only one creature can make a web. Eight legs. Creeps around. Always hunting. I hate spiders more than I hate bugs.
I can’t keep standing forever. I keep swatting at insects. I feel the desultory string of spider excrement. I want to sleep.
I see my mom, dad, baby sisters and my most recent ex. They are all laughing enjoying a day in the desert. Then suddenly, the sky grows dark. Thunder roars. I look to the sky to see black clouds. I look back to my family. Their flesh has fallen off. Empty eye sockets made of bone stare back at me. My skeletal ex says, “How’s that college degree working out for you down in your pit of hell?”
I wake screaming. Ever since I was little skeletons frighten me.
There are creepers crawling on me, in my hair. I feel strands of web every where I move. Some strands connect my arms to my shoulders. I try to stand, but my tired leg won’t allow it. The wound is covered by disgusting vermin that want to feast off exposed tissue. I vomit. I cry. I can’t breathe.
Please let me die.