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The only sound was that of his breathing.
Frank Russell listened in the darkness, unable to see and unable to move. Hands bound in leather, mouth gagged, and eyes covered, he listened to the sound of his breath as it forced its way through his nostrils, in and out in a panicked rhythm. His fingers wiggled, trying to find something to grab onto besides the dirt. He twisted his mouth trying to get the gag out of his mouth. He tried, but in the end, all he could do was listen to his rushed breathing.
The air around him was dirty. The ground beneath him was powdery and dry and the air was full with particles of cement and dust.
He listened for any other sound besides himself, but all he could hear was his breathing. Frank was fairly sure he was in a building of some kind, although he wasn’t sure why there was dirt. He had tried to sit up but hit his head on a ceiling that was only a foot and a half above his head. When he rolled from side to side, he found only evenly spaced riser beams.
He imagined himself buried alive, his body thrown into a box, and buried deep in the woods somewhere. He thought about the prospect of being several feet beneath the earth, nobody able to hear him scream. Frank saw himself slowly dying of thirst or suffocating to death. The image caused his heart to race and his muscles to tense.
The rolling of fresh air over his body though made him convinced he wasn’t buried in the woods, although he was sure that wherever they had placed him was well out of the way of being found.
Blood was slowly flowing over his hands where the leather was rubbing his skin raw. He also felt where a bullet had nicked his left leg. The blood was starting to clot and he felt the dried blood pull at the hairs on his leg every time he tried to move.
His long hair, which used to reach down to the middle of his back had been cut off and placed under his head. He felt it stick to the sweat on his face as he had rolled around in the dirt. He thought about how many years it had taken him to grow it out, even at the resistance of his wife, who often complained about his hair needing more care than he gave to her. Perhaps it was true, but then he never really felt she wanted to be the high-maintenance wife, although sometimes she wanted to rise to that occasion.
Frank started to think of her and knew that she was not going to be impressed by any means. He had promised he would only be gone with the guys for a few hours. She was already angry - wait, no - she was furious with him for going out with his buddies. How she loathed his friends, saying they were nothing more than no-good hooligans.
He turned over in the dirt again, rolling over to his right side. His hands, behind his back, carried the weight of every rollover and he felt the fresh blood flow over his knuckles and fill the space between his fingers. Mixed with the dirt, the blood had become like razor blades against his flesh, allowing dirt particles to get into his wounds.
When he tried to remember what happened before he found himself here, in the dirt and in his own blood, he couldn’t. The memories were gone, as if they had never been real in the first place. He found himself tracking through regions of his memory again and again, but always coming up with a dead end. The one thing he could remember was noise - loud noise, perhaps gunfire. Yes, he realized, it was gunfire. His leg was wounded. His hands were cut up in a struggle - a struggle with a knife.
Frank started breathing faster as he remembered the emotions surrounding the event, but became frustrated when he couldn’t remember faces, names, places, or even why he had been taken to this place. He tried to remember beyond the knife, beyond the noise, but he hit the wall of darkness in his memory. He quickly thought back to his wife yelling at him as he walked out the door, beer in his hand and his buddies waiting for him in the truck, which had been badly parked on his front lawn. The wheels had torn up grass and dirt and left a mess that she was probably still screaming about.
Beyond the memory, everything was dark, like the space around him.
He realized that he needed to get out of this darkness. Frank knew that whatever had happened was bad, and that he had been put here to die, most possibly in a slow and painful way. He wondered if maybe he was bleeding elsewhere, but didn’t feel anything physically wrong beyond the cuts and bruises.
Slowly, he rolled back onto his left side as his right shoulder was hurting from small stones digging into his arm. The left side wasn’t much better, but it was a temporary relief. His hands throbbed with an almost unbearable pain as the cuts reopened again, letting fresh blood flow through and onto the ground beneath him.
He slowed his breathing down the best he could and tried to listen, but he soon realized the blindfold was covering his ears. Taking the side his head, he dragged it across the ground, trying to loosen the fold.
“Phuck,” he muttered through the gag as the blindfold slid off his eyes and up his forehead.
Shaking his head, he lost the blindfold and sent strands of his long hair flying all over the place. Most ended up stuck back to his face as his sweat turned to hair glue. He strained in the darkness, but could see no light.
He waited, hoping his eyes would adjust.
With small slices of revelation, beams of narrow light appeared. Blurry at first, these slices of hope were sparse and far away. He rolled to his right side again and tried to figure out where he was.
Immediately, he realized, he was in a building, and a large one at that. He also realized he was in the sub-floor and the raised floor was above him. Cables and wire were visible in the distance. Most of the wires were cut and were simply spooled in disorganized piles. Support beams were spaced evenly apart. The raised floor above him had no openings that he could see. Frank rolled onto his stomach and tried to move into a kneeling position.
His thighs had been bound, making any type of flexible body move very difficult to manoeuvre. Every time he rolled around, the wounds on his hands would protest. The pain though was slowly becoming more constant, and in that constant, he found that he could move beyond the sensation and focus on the moment instead.
After a few minutes of intense struggle, he found himself on his knees, with his head on the ground. He thought for a moment he was going to snap his neck as he used it to lift him to the kneeling position. He sat up with all his might, his back hitting the raised floor above him. His body trembled as he felt nothing give, except the muscles in his back. Once more, he thrust upwards, only to find that the floor directly above him was not going to be the way out.
The ground became his resting space once again. His left nostril was starting to plug up and he knew he needed to get the gag off and soon. The ground beneath him was very dirty - almost too dirty. Looking around, he tried to make out detail, but everything was still dark. The cement in the air was unusual as well. Something about this entire place was just wrong.
“Abahndund,” Frank sputtered through the gag. “Shit.”
Being proud he could at least pronounce once word, he gathered his thoughts for a moment while repeating the word over and over again. Thinking of how he could get out of this large and empty, single occupancy tomb, Frank soon stopped abusing his one accomplishment thus far.
He closed his eyes and listened to the quiet around him. He thought he heard the wind, although now that wasn’t so unusual. The building was empty and he imaged they had dumped his body far outside of town to a place where maybe only teenagers come to drink.
"Or people like you come to die," he thought to himself.
For a while, he heard birds and underneath that, the low noise of something else. He couldn’t place it, but in that noise was something louder, something evenly paced.
The birds and the wind were inconsistent, but the soft peddling of -
He quickly tried to right himself again. He felt a rock jab into his kneecap as he sat up again, this time rapidly bumping the floor above him, trying to make noise. He screamed through his gag and with every muscle in his being, tried to shake the building into crying out for him.
The sound of wood scraping to his left caught his attention. He turned his head and lost his balance, falling onto his right shoulder. Something went snap inside his body. The pain told him he probably broke a finger as he rolled onto his back. The sound was on his right now.
Blinding light filled the subfloor and he had to squint to block it out. Acting like razor blades, the brightness burned for a moment, but then turned into a fuzzy haze.
Feet descended into the light, followed by a torso and a head. The person stopped for a moment to look around, but shortly he knew that the person was staring right at him.
“Frank? You still here?”
Frank stopped his breathing.
The blood drained from his body and he broke out into a cold sweat.
He knew the voice.
He knew the tone of the voice.
He knew the person.
“You still breathing, Frank?” the voice chided him.
With his eyes adjusting to the bright, he saw John Patters only 6 feet from him.
John Patters was in the truck that tore up his lawn. John was one of his buddies, although the sight of him didn’t give him any relief at all. The sight gave him a feeling of dread and quickly brought back the memory that had hidden itself in the depths of his grey matter upstairs.
“Shoot him,” John yelled frantically as the large man lunged at Frank.
Frank, gun in his hand, raised the pistol in the direction of the hulking mass heading for him.
“Shoot! Shoot him!” John yelled again, his face red, his hands shaking.
Frank fired and missed by a foot. By the time he had his finger ready to go again, the man had sliced his hand with a large knife, sending the gun flying to John’s feet.
Another man, standing beside John, picked up the gun and rapidly put the large man down, sending blood and brain tissue raining down upon Frank.
“Fucking hell, Frank!” the third man shouted. “That’s the last fucking time you botched up a job for me!”
John was wearing a yellow and red construction vest and a hard hat. In his hand he held a knife that looked frighteningly familiar.
“I’m here to make sure you don’t walk away, Frank”, the man whispered as he crawled under the sub-floor towards him.
Frank shook his head in urgency, struggling with his bound body to writhe away from the approaching figure.
The air smelled of his own blood and his own sweat, the dirt beneath him ground at his flesh, the voice in his head telling him that everything about this situation had just become far, far worse.
John was only a foot away from him now. Frank tried to somehow use legs his to kick at the man, but his limited mobility led to a frustrating failure.
“You’re not walking away from this one Frank,” John said, taking the knife in his hand and raising it quickly above Frank’s bound legs.
The blade sliced into the calf of his left leg, separating muscle from bone. The knife came down twice. The second time, the knife stayed in his leg and John twisted it - but just a bit.
“Now, you stay here, and bleed, Frank. I’m not going to have you ruin this for all of us.”
John might have been smiling, but Frank couldn’t tell. His leg was shaking uncontrollably as the nerve endings told him something bad had happened. His eyes, closed in agony, couldn’t see John turn around and head for the hole in the sub-floor. All he could hear was the sound of someone scurrying away.
Moments fleeted rapidly. The pain was beyond what he could have imagined, but he also realized that the pain would go away for ever - and so would he - unless he got out of here.
He opened his eyes, his vision literally filled with stars. He wondered if maybe he was losing too much blood. In that moment, he put the worry aside, knowing that time and worry were luxuries not included in the package he had been given.
Putting the thoughts of his imminent death aside, he twisted his body to get a look at the knife stuck in his leg. With more strength than he had, he brought his legs closer to his body as he laid on his back, hands pinned under him. As he prepared to somehow jostle the knife lose, it fell to the ground with a simple clank, following by the sound of blood steadily dripping on the blade.
The stars in his vision weren’t going away, but he could also see the light from where John had come in. His mind pushed into overdrive and he simply starting wiggling his way over there as fast as he could, his bad leg still twitching badly. He felt his pants soaked in blood and the liquid seeped to his groin and he could feel the blood squishing between his legs and beneath his balls.
He rolled over several times, the pain of his hands and leg almost put to the back of his mind as he roared to his one single purpose: to get out of this place alive.
Being unable to judge distance, his main focus that the light that came through the opening in the floor. Slowly, with almost angelic beauty, that focal point became closer until the pain and determination placed him beneath the opening.
The sight above him was beautiful: a dirty ceiling that wasn’t the sub-floor and wasn’t his imagination. Light was everywhere and he could feel the warm breeze against the liquid coating his body, some of it sweat, most of it his blood.
But when it came to find that last bit of energy to lift himself out of the whole, he strained to right himself. His legs didn’t have the strength to hold him and he couldn’t find anything in his muscles that wasn’t to cooperate.
He held back a sob that had been rapidly welling in his throat. Realizing he had not gone through all this to start crying like a fucking baby, he focused his mind on a furious determination to get out of his tomb, get up on that floor, get back to his wife, and to beat the living shit out of John Patters.
Frank took a deep breath out of his one unplugged nostril and thrust his body over. He felt a muscle in his left leg pop loose as he righted himself into a kneeling position. Part of him didn’t care while another part of him started to panic. His chin rested on the floor above him. Before he had a time to even look around, he lifted his shoulder against the edge and used it to leverage him higher. With whatever strength was left in his good leg, he pushed up and his body came to rest - his upper body on the floor and his legs dangling in the dark.
The waves of unbearable pain rolled over him. His ears were ringing with a loud, unbearable noise.
He sputtered, but choked on his own spit.
The ringing in his ears continued and he looked around, his face covered in blood, sweat, dirt, hair, and now wood splinters.
Evidently, the building was definitely abandoned. All the windows had been punched out, the walls stripped bare, the floor covered in dirt and cement, and the pillars -
He stopped breathing.
He wasn’t sure if his lungs had given up on him at first or if he simply hadn’t registered what he was looking at.
The ringing noise stopped. Then it started started again, then stopped.
The last thing Frank saw was the explosives strapped to the cement pillars all around the hollowed out building, wires leading to an exit he couldn’t see, to a control box that belonged to the demolition company John worked for.
The warning siren of the demolition blast had ended.
As the pillars exploded, both Frank and the building itself heaved their last breath.
I'll say it loud here by your grave / those angels can't
ever take my place
somewhere where the the orchids grow / I can't find those church bells
that played when you died - 'Playboy Mommy', Tori Amos