I woke up dead
I awoke to an inky black nothingness inside a claustrophobic space. My breath came as a gruff rasp, my lungs stiff as I drew in the shaky breath. A thought came to mind, how long had I been asleep for? I brushed the thought aside and uncurled my clenched, cramped fingers. The tension released with a satisfying cracking of joints.
My bones creaked and groaned, as I attempted to stretch out my arms above my head with difficulty. Thud. That was odd. Perplexed, I took a different approach, extending my cramped limbs like that of a bird with its wings spread in flight. Thud. Confused, I ran my fingers across the invisible surface that obstructed me. The surface was rough to the touch, reminding me of crudely cut wood. Panic flared in my mind as realization took root.
I was trapped within a box.
A multitude of thoughts screamed at me in a cacophonous din, making it difficult to think clearly. Had I been kidnapped? Who would go so far as to trap me within a box? The deafening thoughts continued their assault upon my fragile mind. It did not take long for the clamorous ringing to prove too great, and my mind spiraled out of control. My primal instincts awakened. I had to escape this box somehow, or it would truly become my coffin.
With that single thought as my anchor, I yelled and banged upon my wooden tomb. Perhaps someone was near, and they would hear my cry and take pity on me, releasing me from my prison. I kicked out in desperation and felt a string go taut around my toe. I heard the chiming of a distant bell coming from far above.
The thought struck me like a kick of a mule. This was no simple box. It was a coffin.
Time dragged on, and my voice grew hoarse. My throat burned as if it had been scrubbed raw with sand. After a while, all that I could muster was a feeble moaning. I must rest and conserve what little air was left within the coffin. I ceased my attempts at escape. No one was coming for me.
In my silence, I tried to recall the final moments before I had awoken to find myself in my current situation. My mind was hazy, and my memories were shattered and disjointed, making little sense.
I closed my eyes. It made no difference to my sight, but the action calmed me. I saw myself in the common room of an inn, the thrum of its evening patrons as familiar to me as the warmth of my wife’s gentle touch. The memory faded, replaced by another. I stumbled down a narrow alley in a drunken stupor, babbling on as I went. The jarring clacking of my boots upon the cobbled stone echoed back at me with each shaky step, as if somebody was following me. A shattering of glass, from what I could only presume was a bottle being smashed against the wall behind, caused my pace to quicken. The crunch of heavy boots upon fallen shards and the scraping of glass across the wall followed close behind. I ran, drawing deep gulps of air as the beating of my heart pounded against my eardrums. Then... then nothing. Had I passed out?
I was drawn from my ruminating by the briefest sound coming from somewhere above me. So fleeting that I almost thought nothing of it, but the chance that it was something was too good to pass up. It had sounded like the earth that encapsulated my prison was being scratched away. I quietened my ragged breathing and strained to hear the sound once more.
The following silence was palpable.
Perhaps it was simply my mind playing tricks on me?
I heard it again, this time closer. My breath quickened. Something was scratching at the earth! Had somebody found me? Or was it some sort of carrion beast come to dig me up? I continued to listen with bated breath, relishing the thought of freedom as the scratching came closer, growing louder with each interval. It was right on top of me when I heard a loud thud and the sound of metal scraping across earth and wood. There was a pause, followed by several more scrapes across the lid of my coffin.
My spirits soared as I heard nails being torn from the wood that held me prisoner, followed by the creaks and groans of the wooden lid taking strain before it too was torn away. The cold, blinding light of a full moon washed over my now exposed body as an orchestra of the night’s creatures greeted me. I felt a rush of jubilation flow through me. I was free. I had been saved!
The silhouette of a man blotted out the full moon a moment later. I felt his eyes examining me, and then he drew back, allowing the pale moonlight to wash over his features. A smile crawled across his gaunt face, pulling taut paper-thin lips that revealed two rows of crooked and yellow stained teeth.
“Looks like I found myself a fresh one,” The man said with a maddening cackle. “And in good condition, too, hardly any signs of decomposition.” A blackened tongue slid across his lips. “Yes, you’ll serve nicely indeed.”
Horror dawned across my face as I watched the man scramble out of the pit. Standing above me like a towering god, he rose to his full height, arms outstretched. It cannot be. Please let it not be true!
“Rise, my thrall!” The man screamed in giddy glee.
I could do naught but obey.