The Box

Thriller written by GHayward on Friday 12, August 2016

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This is my first piece that I'm submitting for others to read. Any comments, critique, or advice would be most welcome.

Overall Rating: Not Rated

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The Box It would be damn near impossible to explain the fear I felt in those first few moments.  The fear, the confusion, and the panic.  I don’t know how it started.  My mind was lingering in some dark place when suddenly I became aware; like I sort of floated back to consciousness. I mean one minute there was nothing, then suddenly there were just my thoughts, aware of the nothingness around me. In a fright I jerked upright, and my head smashed against something sharp, barely a foot above my face.  The pain shot through my head and my body went limp.  I felt myself drifting off again.  It must have been a few seconds before I realized that I was still awake. I opened my eyes; well, at least I thought I did.  I felt them open, but it was like they didn’t open at all.  I brought my hands up to my face and felt warm blood above my right eye, making its way down across my right temple.  I felt my eyes too.  Had I gone blind? Why couldn’t I see?  I continued to feel my way around with my hands; first my body, and then my surroundings.  I suddenly became aware that I was enclosed in a very small, dark space. Instantly the panic engulfed me! With no control over my limbs I started jerking and kicking about, desperate for something, but everything was constricted.  I couldn’t raise my hands or kick my feet out. My legs couldn’t straighten and my body was crammed at an obscure angle.  My arms were scratching against the rough surface, and my screams seemed dull and useless. Panic!  Through my screaming I suddenly became aware of my breath, and the pain in my throat.  How long had I been in this box?  Had I used up all the air?  Was this how I was going to die?  I began to gasp; desperate, painful gasps that got worse with each desperate painful breath.  My hands were up at my throat, frantically trying to free my breathing, somehow.  Instinctively I began clawing at my surroundings, unaware of the damage I was doing to my hands.  For some reason I pictured myself being pulled underwater by some beast, some predator, just waiting for my last breath to be done.  That last breath, I knew, was just moments away.  My lungs were burning and my screams, loud at first, became silent.  Soon the only sound was that of my final dying breath. I lay there, aware only of the agony in my chest and the scratching, fading sound of my laboured breathing, and it was in this moment of claustrophobic fear that I became aware of something else: a low vibrating hum.  Yes, beneath the sound of my frenzied and strained breathing there was an almost inaudible hum.  As I focused on the sound, it gradually seemed to become louder, until it was all I could hear.  I knew that sound, such a common sound to us all – it was the sound of a driving car!  I was in the trunk of a car!  I realized then that I was, in fact, not suffocating.  The panic of drowning, of my imminent death, subsided.  I felt the pain in my chest release, replaced by oxygen, and my lungs began to fill. At first I was sipping the air, large gulps at a time.  Breathing in, breathing out, I managed to get it under control.  Inhale.  Exhale. Slowly, the delirium withdrew, only to be replaced with an overwhelming sense of dread. I was in the trunk of a moving vehicle, in the dark, bleeding from my head, and I had no idea why. Confined spaces – sure, anyone who’s claustrophobic will tell you that’s their fear.  What I was going through, well, that was a whole new level of fear.  Akin to waking up in a coffin and realizing you’re being buried alive.  I tried to rack my brain.  What the hell was going on?  What happened before… before I woke up?  I couldn’t remember.  There was just nothing, nothing before the darkness.  I started feeling around, searching for something I could use: a tool maybe.  Squirming around, I tried to feel as much of the floor as I could.  The surface beneath me was wood:  rough, untreated beams of wood.  Without being able to bend over I couldn’t feel around near my feet.  I started feeling around the space near my head, and felt a puddle of liquid right by my face: blood from the gash in my head!  I touched the wound again; blood was flowing from it now, it was sensitive to touch and beginning to swell. The cut itself was deep; deep enough to put my finger in… Then came that shortness of breath again. I felt the surface above my head now.  I felt beams of wood stretching lengthwise from my head to my feet, and directly above my head was the exposed nail against which I had smashed my head.  I tried to press down on the gash but the blood wouldn’t stop.  I could feel it pumping beneath my fingertips, warm and terrifying.  Then the pressure started building in my chest again.  This wasn’t the trunk of a car!  I was in a vehicle, I was sure of that – I could still hear it, and feel the vibration and movement - but I was in a box made from wood and nails! My throat began to close and I grabbed at my chest again, panicking. Breath in, breath out. It was all I could do to control my breathing, but it wasn’t working.  I had to get out.  I had to get out now!  Frantically, I started searching around for something that could help me, but felt nothing.  All I could feel was my chest, the walls around me and the blood on my face.  And the dread, the overwhelming dread.  I couldn’t breathe!  An immense pressure was pushing down on my chest, and with every exhale, I drew in less and less.  I knew now that this was it; that this was how I was going to die.  I grabbed my left hand with my right, and squeezed my fingers around my wedding ring.  I thought about my wife and hoped she was okay. I felt suddenly empty, knowing that I would never see her again.  My gasps became shorter, and with my final breath I screamed one final, desperate, exhausting scream. It’s weird.  I felt myself pass out.  I felt my twitching hand on my chest, and I felt the blood dripping from my lobe. Although I couldn’t see, I felt my eyes close and all my muscles just release.  It was pure relaxation; bliss even. One moment I was dying to breathe, and the next moment I was a breath, whisping away from myself.  There, in the darkness, I saw myself.  I saw myself crying when we played hide-and-seek as children; I saw myself break down with anxiety when the other kids pulled me into the tunnel.  And I was happy because that anxiety was over now.  All the panic, all the dread and fear and suffocating madness was gone. Like I said, bliss. I don’t know how much time passed just then, but again I floated back to consciousness. My coffin was bouncing around, me with it.  It took me a couple seconds to remember the hell I was in, but amazingly I did not panic.  My first thought was to protect my head from that damn nail.  As for the bouncing around, the only explanation I could think of was that we were driving on a dirt road.  Again I tried to think of how I ended up in here, but I couldn’t.  I felt the gash on my head.  It was really swollen now. Blood was still trickling out, but not as much as earlier.  I felt the puddle beneath my ear.  There was a lot of blood; I must have been passed out for a while. I started pushing up as hard as I could.  Surely if I was actually in a box, then it must have been closed around me.  And if it could be closed, then it could be opened.  I could feel the lid budge, but only slightly.  I had no room to maneuver and couldn’t get any real strength behind my push.  I kept moving around, trying to get some force behind my push, but I couldn’t.  After what seemed like a long time, I gave up, and just lay back.  I thought about my wife and started fingering my wedding ring again.  At least she wasn’t in here with me and I could take some comfort in that. With creaking brakes the vehicle came to a stop, and the engine ceased.  I strained my hearing for any possible clue of what might be outside.  A few moments passed and I heard a car or truck door slam.  Then I heard muffled voices; I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I could tell that there were two of them, both men, and they sounded friendly to each other.  After a few minutes I heard the sound of steel rattling on steel and the creak of two large doors opening.  With this I saw specks of light coming into my box – the first light I’d seen since this all started - and I guessed that I was in the back of a small truck or delivery van. One of the men jumped up into the truck.  I could hear his footsteps coming towards me, and I froze.  Too afraid to breathe even, I was silent and still.  My heart was pounding in my chest, so hard I was afraid I’d be heard. His footsteps got louder, coming right at me.  This was it! He was going to open the box, see me awake inside, and kill me.  Or even worse!   He might… I didn’t even want to think of the alternatives.  I was defenseless and weak from blood loss. There was no way I’d be able to fight this man off, let alone two of them!   I waited with baited breath for the lid to swing open and for it all to end. There was wood scraping on wood.  My coffin shook as something moved on top of it.  From between the wood beams, thin streaks of light appeared in front of my face and stretched down towards my feet.  As they reached the end, there was a loud thud as the box above me was pulled off and hit the ground.  It was dragged away, and I heard the two men struggle to get it out of the truck. Silently, I tried to get my face up to a crack in the wood to see if I could see something.  But then those two large doors creaked, I heard that familiar rattling sound, and I was plunged into darkness once again.  The muffled voices spoke, a door slammed closed, the truck started up, and we were on our way again. Complete and utter helplessness – that’s what I felt.  I mean seriously, what the hell are you supposed to do when you wake up in a coffin? A small coffin at that! My body was bent awkwardly and hurting. I couldn’t see anything, I had lost a lot of blood from my head, and I was on the verge of having another panic attack at any moment.  We were bouncing around on that rough road again, so I was protecting my head from that damn nail. The puddle near my head was getting bigger, and as it did I was getting weaker.  If I panicked again I’d pass out for sure. Somehow, I had to stay calm and figure a way out of this mess. It occurred to me that a heavy box had been pulled off mine earlier, so I spread my hands and started pushing up again.  Needless to say, it didn’t open, but there was some upwards movement this time.  It lifted more near my head than near my shoulders.  I tried pushing with my hands in different positions, and I realized that there was a single point near my left shoulder where the lid wouldn’t raise at all.  A hinge!  This box had been sealed shut.  Right at that moment we hit a bump which knocked my head against that nail again.  I screamed out in pain and frustration.  I wasn’t ready to die, but I was powerless to do anything about it.  In anger I started grabbing at that bloody nail.  That was the third time it injured me.  If I could just… And then there it was: a faint, minute, glimmer of hope.  It wasn’t much of a plan, but considering my options, I had to try.  I slid my wedding ring off my finger and squeezed it between my thumb and index.  Then using my other hand as a pivot, I wedged the ring under the nail head and pushed.  I couldn’t quite get the right grip and angle, but I tried again, and again, each time from a slightly different angle.  My hands were hurting, bleeding soon, but after a few tries I felt the nail budge.  A few more attempts and it budged some more, until I could grab it directly with my fingertips.  With raw and bloody fingers I pulled the nail out.  Oh how I hated this nail!  Holding it in my fist I cursed the thing, then had to calm myself down again from fear of passing out. That was the first part of my lousy plan.  Now for the next:  My legs and body were bent in the tiny box.  I couldn’t reach far down, but with some effort and force I managed to get my fingertips to the back of my shoe.  I used one foot to help the shoe off the other, and pushed it up towards my hand. I tested the lid again to see where the hinge was.  Then I put the sharp edge of the nail into the gap, put the heel against the nail, and began hammering at the shoe with my fist.  It was working!  Every few moments I felt the nail, and it was going deeper with each hit.  Soon enough I was hammering directly at the hinge, and that too started giving way, though not easily.  It took all my strength to not give up, and finally, with tears and blood in my eyes, I felt the hinge give way. I pushed up against the lid again and this time it really did lift.  I was able to squeeze my fingers and hands through the gap, but it wasn’t budging any further than that.  Frustrated, I started pushing up again, testing for another point where it had been sealed.  This time I found it about halfway down the box on the right side.  It must have been the locking mechanism on the front side of the box.  Just like before, I put the nail in the gap, put the shoe up against it, and began hammering with the bottom of my right fist.  By the time I got that one out we were travelling on a smooth road again. This time it had to work.  I pushed with all the power I had left.  It lifted, but wouldn’t open.  Then I pushed it diagonally to the right, and forced it to pivot on the final hinge.  There was almost enough room for me to get out.  The outside edge of the lid was above me now, so I grabbed it with both hands and pushed with all my strength until it finally gave way.  Reaching out, I pulled myself awkwardly out of the box and fell onto the floor next to it, heaving with pain and exhaustion.  I tried to look around, but I had escaped my dark box into yet another, bigger dark box. I screamed at myself and thrashed my fists at the air.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was at least expecting to be able to see something. I felt the tears building up again and the hopelessness taking over, but I wouldn’t allow it.  Not now!  Earlier I had thought I was going to die and had given up.  But miraculously I had escaped my coffin, and I’d be dammed if I was going to give up now.  I pushed myself up into a sitting position, my back against the interior wall.  I wiped the blood and tears from my eyes, and took a few deep breaths.  I had no idea how much time I had left before the driver stopped, but I had to get out. With a clear head, I looked around again.  Obviously, having spent so much time in the dark, if there was anything to see, I’d have a better chance of seeing it.  I noticed some dim shades of light a few steps away.  Was that the door?  I doubted whether I had the strength or balance to stand, so staying low, I pulled myself towards it.  Yes, it was the door; I could see it now.  Two thin beams of vertical light on either side and one in the middle.  I made my way towards the center beam and started feeling around until I found the handle. I pulled down on the handle, expecting it to be locked when, to my surprise, it suddenly swung open. I swear I was almost blinded by the light, and the noise from the wind was deafening.  The rush of senses was intense, and I fell back in shock, landing right on top of another home-made coffin.  With my face against the wood I froze, and I just knew what was inside the box. I looked up and besides my open box I saw two more.  There were three more people in here!  Were they alive?  I started slamming my hands against the box, shouting for anyone inside.  I stumbled over to another, pleading for someone inside to say something, but there was nothing. I felt the truck was slowing down; the driver must have felt something had happened in the back.  I stumbled over towards the door and looked outside.  It looked like we were entering a town. I looked back at the coffins: three sealed coffins, each with their own victim, and mine, victimless.  And then without hesitation, I jumped. People who experience trauma sometimes say when they pass out, they get a sense of floating above themselves.  I experienced that earlier, and it was scary, but euphoric at the same time.  Thinking back on it I almost feel guilty for how good it felt to just acquiesce to the situation.  However, those nice feelings that people get sometimes, those are rare cases.  Other times, it just plain hurts!   This time when I passed out, it really hurt. *   *   *   *   * “Ma’am, are you okay?” Pain. “Hey, somebody call an ambulance!   This woman’s been hurt!” No, let me go back to sleep.  This hurts… “Hey lady. Are you okay?   I saw you fall from that truck.” What? My head was throbbing.  My body was throbbing.  I opened my eyes to see a blur of a person leaning over me. “Yeah, there you go.  Look at me, keep your eyes on me.  Listen, you’ve had an accident.  I don’t want you to move.  We’ve got an ambulance on the way.” It slowly came back to me, and all I could think of was those other three coffins.  “Police,” I managed to squeeze out my throat. “Yeah, don’t worry about the cops.  We’ve got an ambulance coming for you. “Police… truck… kidnap…” “Kidnap?   What?   Oh shit!   Hey, bring that phone here quick!” *   *   *   *   * And that was about it really.  The cops almost caught him afterwards.  When he saw I had jumped out and that people were around me, he drove off, but without closing the back of his truck.  One of the other coffins slid off the back, and pretty quickly it turned into a high speed chase.  They forced him off the road, and he crashed and died.  They identified the victims in the other coffins. They were all dead. They cops tried to link those women together, to establish some type of connection between them and myself, but the only connection they could make was that they, we, were lesbians. We never figured out why I was kept alive.  Did he forget to kill me?  Seems unlikely.  Maybe he had something else in store for me… And as for the other guy who took the other coffin; we still haven’t figured out who he is, yet.  And we haven’t found my wife’s body yet, either. But I’m still looking, and I’ll keep looking until I find him.

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    Okay, goods story. You overuse comma's. Comma's are to separate things. Don't make the common error of placing a comma where you take a breath. Look up the use of comma's.
    Thanks for pointing that out. I never realised I was over-using commas.
    I've gone through the passage and fixed up the comma problem. I hope it reads better now.
    It think it's great! The commas are all right now. In the beginning, I thought it will be too long for this concept, but it kept me interested. I like the description, it's realistic in my opinion, also I have to note the creativity of the main character.

    Honestly, I thought the main character is a man, it was surprising to see she is a woman. Although I don't see why see needs to be a lesbian and why we have to know so much about the kidnapper's fate and method. Keep it a mystery, more people will think about it in that way.

    Good job!

    Thanks for your comments. Much appreciated.
    When I started writing it, I had no idea where it was going or who the main character was. However, I thought keeping a victim alive was something a serial rapist/killer would do, so that's how she turned out to be a woman. But I wanted that to be a surprise at the end, so I gave her a wife to throw the reader off - that's how she became a lesbian. Smile
    The few people who've read this all seem to enjoy that fact that it turns out to be a woman. The first draft didn't have the part about the victims all being lesbians, and it confused the readers. They thought i had been making pronoun mistakes, so i felt i had to make that more clear.
    Finally, i thought it would be better to end on a melancholic note, instead of a creepy one, so I added in the bit about her looking for her wife's body. But im reconsidering that - perhaps that was a creative error on my part.
    I'm still trying to figure out the ending in particular, then I'll tackle it again for a Version 2.
    Thanks again for your comments.
    Ok, I really, really, really liked this story. I think it was great. I started the story doubting that I would ever enjoy a story about being stuck in a box. It turned out that I could. I think it was the perfect length. It was long enough to do some descriptive writing, yet short enough so the reader doesn't get sick of being in a box. Well done.

    I also liked the twist at the end. I particularly like that when you revealed that the main character was a woman and a lesbian, it didn't change any aspect of the story. The end seemed to open up an opportunity for more of an investigative story as well. If there was a chapter 2, I would be reading it right now.

    My only critique is that the phrase "pass out" or some variant occurs a lot. Near the end, I got tired of it. I think changing the phrasing in one or two places would help. Its a small suggestion, but there it is.

    Thanks for the good read.
    I also enjoyed the story and would be reading a chapter two, if one were available. My main issue with the current story is that the last paragraph seems rushed. The rapist just drives off, crashes, and dies. After all he put the protagonist through, that hardly seems a fitting end.

    Why did the rapist keep the protagonist alive? I'd like to know. Now, it could just be for some sadistic pleasure or other horrible scenario.
    As it stands, the story is very realistic. I mean, It's clearly set in the real world.

    Have you thought about taking a slight turn into the urban fantasy realm? This would open up a lot more options as to why the protagonist was spared, and what might happen next. If she has abilities she didn't know about, abilities that perhaps were awakened by the ordeal in the coffin?

    Just some thoughts. The story also stands very nicely as it is.
    "Instantly the panic engulfed me!" - Instantly panic engulfed me.

    Good story. You could easily build on this, and make it longer. Also, follow Don's advice.
    This damn story should come with a warning: If you are at all claustrophobic, read only in a large, open, well-lighted space with an EMT nearby with oxygen and a defibrillator at the ready. And I'm not even claustrophobic -- at least, I didn't use to be. I've been spelunking through passages with barely an inch to spare on any side and that didn't affect me half as much. I don't believe gender reassignment is often successful, but this might scare a few lesbians straight. Seriously, this was scary enough that I didn't even notice any errors that might be.