The following was my submission for NYCMidnight.com‘s #FlashFictionChallenge for 2017. I left it as is (even though I now want to change multiple things!) just to see how far the pressure of deadline’s and editor-less hours get me! If you have a NYCMidnight account and participated in the challenge you can read my reviews from the other participants: Here
*My Prompts: Suspense/Crawlspace/Stethoscope
Taste of Dirt
When darkness and dust are your only company, fire and fear may be your only friend.
The deep aroma of pine with hints of cedar filled his lungs as he took another deep breath; he couldn’t scream without it. The darkness was thick making his movements feel fuzzy, or maybe that was from the hyperventilating. Either way, the Obsidian colored atmosphere reminded him of the thick dark molasses his mother used to cook with, a black so absolute around him that it was almost viscous. He took another deep intake of air, dust rushed into his throat and threw him into a coughing fit, his throat raw with the copper taste of blood at the back of his tongue. Inches above his forehead wooden planks restricted his movement. He could hardly bring his knees up, nor could he turn to his side. He lay there on his back and closed his eyes, marveling at not being able to tell the difference between the back of his eyelids and his confined space. He could taste dirt and earth as it gritted his teeth. His moods swung from anger, fear, panic, depression, and anger all in the span of a few seconds as he tried again with bloodied fists to force his way through the relentless timber that confined him.
Misery threatened to overwhelm him as he tried another deep breath that once more proved to be fruitless as it turned into another racking set of coughs that made him crack his head against the boards as dirt coated his insides. He lay there feeling the trickle of blood make its way to his temple and into his ear. He didn’t even care; he hurt too much to care. Reaching his arms out to the sides he felt the empty air in each direction, he had tried to scoot along the ground through the crawl space, but with no idea which direction to go each wall, he ran into were just like all the rest. He moved again, this time to his left for no particular reason. The rocks in the dirt below him dug deep into his back as he grasped the bottom of a floor joist to pull himself through the darkness. He had to exhale to squeeze through and under the joist to get to another section of confined space that seemed just like all the rest. He closed his eyes hard, trying to get the dust from them as he felt around. Bones, he felt bones in the dirt. He knew deep down he would join the nameless soul soon enough. He ran his fingers across what must have been a skull, smooth and round. He could make out the mandible and jawline, too. Something metal in the dirt, metal and circular with rubber tubes attached to it. He felt along the tubing to where it separated into two sections that led to what felt a bit like headphones. “A stethoscope?” He wondered for a moment how in the hell the device found its way into the dirt as he awkwardly reached up to put the headphone part in his ears.
He could feel the blood in his ear even more now as he placed the metal end of the stethoscope on his chest. The beat of his heart sounded like thunder to the throbbing of his head. “Still works apparently,” he said as he pushed the metal end of the device to the floorboards above him. Deafening silence and the throb of his heartbeat in his ears was all he could hear. There was something in the distance though. A mumbling of voices, perhaps? He thought. Footsteps, he heard footsteps! His heart began to beat faster, which made his head hurt more, he heard voices with the sound, three of them, and he pushed his shoulders together to drive the headphones deeper into his ears; the sounds were getting closer still, close enough to make out words even.
“Where is he?” He heard loud enough to make him jump. That was a new voice.
“Down in the hole like you wanted,” a voice further off answered.
“Burn it down. We need to make sure this one disappears,” the louder voice replied.
Only moments later he could hear the sounds of what resembled water splashing above him. “Definitely. Not. Water,” he thought, his heart beginning to pound. A loud whoosh of air filled his eardrums along with the slightest pinpoint of light on the opposite side of a nearby joist. A cold sweat covered him as he dropped the stethoscope and turned as hard as he could. He felt as if he would break his ribs as he turned his body to the side as hard as he could to try and flip to his stomach. His ribs popped and refused, but with a last ditch effort and a loud ‘crack!’ he was able to complete the maneuver. Adrenaline pushed past the pain of a broken rib as he crawled in the dirt and over the now visible skull beside him. He lurched forward hard under the joist he tore to the other side where the light showed through the floor. Ash rained down through the burgeoning hole in the wood. He made his way under the weakened floorboards and leaned his back into the floor and pushed as hard as he could as he brought his knees underneath him. The floorboards flexed, but they didn’t break. With his knees under him he was stuck but could push harder, and he did. Flames licked his back, but he ignored them and pushed. The crack this time wasn’t his ribs, but the boards. Heat enveloped him as he stood up on the floor. He had only a moment to see where to run, but that was all that he needed as his body took over and he ran through the open door.