I wake in the dark. I smell pine and earth. I hear the chatter of teeth. My stiff fingers feel nothing but wood—no room to move.
Panic engulfs me. The animal in me takes control; I hear it scratch and wail. My nails break and chip, splinters burrow into my skin. Suddenly, the tinkle of a bell. I force myself to stay still and listen. I only hear my heart.
I thrash as I drown in Stygian waters. The chime resumes; realization strikes. Raw fingertips trace furrowed wood in desperate hope. A thread hangs in the dark. It’s fine and delicate, but to me, it is a lifeline.
What if it’s night, everyone having nightmares of their own? The keeper! He would hear the bell and free me.
I grab the string, pull, again and again, hear the bell’s muffled chime, like an angel singing. I listen for calls, shouts, or even shovels breaching the earth.
My pulls become frantic; the bell a demon’s cackle.
Then, footsteps. My heart is ready to burst. I call for help, my cries turn into screams, into wild sobbing pleas, my fists bang against the wood until I am spent, and my wails turn to hoarse whispers. Something delicate falls onto my chest. I clasp the loose string as the footfalls slowly disappear.
Sven Camrath is a German expat living with his wife, dogs, and chicken in Maryland. He works steadily on improving his writing, while being puppeteered by his Green Cheek Conure Wheatley.