Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tight Spaces (A Gravedigger Story)

 Genre: Horror/Suspense


Daniel Skye

          The last earthly sounds Amelia Walsh heard were the shovels of dirt being spilled over her coffin. The dead silence that ensued caused a chill to spread deep through her body.
          Her head was still pulsing, the end result of being hit with a blunt object. She didn’t see the object that struck her, but it wasn’t heavy enough to be a shovel. It felt more like a club or a mini baseball bat. Whatever it was, it was enough to knock her cold.
          She couldn’t recall much. One minute she was in a parked car with her boyfriend. A few seconds later, she was begging for her life as she was dragged from the vehicle. The knock to the head had scrambled her circuits. She couldn’t piece the rest together.
          What an awful thing to wake up and realize you’re being buried alive. And worse is that you don’t even understand why.
          Amelia was a modern day saint. She organized the Westlake Meals on Wheels program. She was an afterschool tutor and donated her allowance to charity. She cried once after accidently stepping on a ladybug. For three hours. She never harmed a soul. So why was she being punished?
          She didn’t scream for fear of running out of breath. She needed all the oxygen she could get if she was going to hold out hope.
The Gravedigger. That named was etched in her mind from the local papers. The media loved to hype things, loved to stir up fear. But the Gravedigger was no hype, no media frenzy. He was flesh and blood and he was wreaking havoc in the town of Westlake.
          The name sent more chills rushing down to the base of her spine. Walter Smith, a state correctional officer, was discovered three days after he was buried in an unmarked grave.
          Jesse Oldman, a local DJ, was found four days after the gruesome discovery of Smith. Both showed signs of blunt force trauma to the head. Though, this didn’t play any factor in their deaths. They had simply suffocated, ran out of air. And Amelia knew if she couldn’t find a way of escape, she would just end up another statistic. Another notch in the belt of the Gravedigger.
          She scratched and clawed at the lid until the tips of her fingers were raw and bloody. There was no escaping this airtight entrapment. Deep down she knew this fact, but her naïve mind refused to accept it. She thought escape was imminent. If she kicked, pounded, and clawed hard enough, she would inevitably claw her way to the surface. This is what she told herself, but this was just the bitter stage of denial. A way to avoid facing the harsh realities that were lying in wait.
          Her cellular phone was tucked in her pocket, which she promptly removed when she realized it was still in her possession. The phone had full battery and was her only source of light inside this narrow death box. She had no service, no reception, no way to call for help. It was torture. She could see what time it was–9:15 PM at that moment–and she could count down each minute of her demise, but she couldn’t alert anyone of her dilemma.
          Then it dawned on her. You can make emergency calls to 911 even if you don’t have reception. Her fingers–sore as they were–moved at lightning speed as she dialed those three magic digits.
          It rang once before a polite southern accent came across the line. The operator was female. “911, what’s your emergency?”
          “I need help,” Amelia cried. “I’ve been locked inside a coffin and buried underground."
          “Ma'am, stay calm,” the operator pleaded. “Do you know your location?”
          “No I blacked out. He—he hit me on the head. I went down. That’s the only thing I remember.”
          “Just stay calm,” the operator repeated, her sweet southern voice filling with grave concern. “We can trace the call. Just stay on the line, please.”
          “Okay,” Amelia said, waiting, hoping, silently praying. A few moments later, the operator returned to the line.
          “Ma'am, we’re having difficulties with tracing your location. I urge you to stay on the line while we continue to try.”
          Try. Amelia hated that word at this moment, loathed it. What she needed most was reassurance. Forget trying, Amelia thought. How about you actually DO something before I run out of air!
          After ten minutes of waiting and wasting precious battery life, she abandoned hope and pushed the end call button.
          The phone rang back immediately; she looked expecting to see 911 plastered across the screen. Instead, the name on the caller ID said Todd.
          Todd Brennan was Amelia’s boyfriend, this she recalled. She couldn’t remember for how long though. She couldn’t even remember how they met.
          She pressed the receive button and lifted the phone to her ear. Todd’s familiar voice flowed out from the other end. “Amelia, can you hear me?”
          “Yes,” she cried, but this was a cry of joy. With this call, her hope had been reborn. “Where are you? Are you alright?"
          “I’m trapped, babe,” he said frankly. “I can’t really see or hear anything. So if I didn’t know any better, I’d say I’ve been buried alive.”
          “The Gravedigger,” she said with exasperation. Of all the things she could remember, she had to remember that damn name.
          “Are you okay, babe?”
          “My head hurts,” she moaned into the phone. “I don’t know how long I’ll last in here.” More than anything else she just wanted to go home, take a bath, and put this nightmare behind her.
          “I don’t know how long I have either,” Todd said. “But you have to be strong. Someone will find us. 911 will find a way to trace your call.”
          “Wait, I never mentioned 911,” she said, perplexed.
          “Sure you did. You said they had problems tracing the call.”
          “I did?” she asked. She couldn’t tell if her memory was shot or Todd was simply playing mind games with her. “How are you calling me?”
          “I’m using my Motorola,” he said.
          “But I don’t have reception…”
          “Well for some reason, I do. Check your bars. Maybe your phone is working again.”
          Amelia didn’t bother checking the screen. She had more questions on her mind. “If you have reception, why don’t you call for help?”
          “What good would that do? I don’t even know where I am.”
They talked for an hour, and not one of his stories seemed to jog her memory. But his words still brought her that reassurance she desperately needed. That was until the call was disconnected. She tried again and again to call him back, but her reception was gone.
Four hours passed before the phone rang again.
“Todd!” she exclaimed. But the caller ID read 911 instead. She answered the call and that pleasant southern voice chimed in over the line again.
“Ma'am,” the operator said urgently. “We’ve been trying to reach you for hours. We haven’t been able to get a fix on your location, but local police have been dispatched and are searching for you as we speak. We’re doing everything in our power to find you. Just hang in there.”
Amelia ended the call abruptly. The word police had jostled her brain.
          The memories of that night flooded back in unpleasant waves. The headlights of Todd’s car beaming off a metal police badge. The whooshing sound the baton made as it cut through the air and struck the back of her skull. The way her eyes flickered before everything went dark. She remembered everything.
Before it all went black, she remembered seeing the officer slice Todd Brennan’s throat from ear to ear. She remembered this sight vividly, as it was the last thing she would see before she lost consciousness.
Her boyfriend was dead, surely buried six feet under just like her. She deduced that the voice on the phone was either that of a ghost or it was just a figment of her imagination. Neither thought brought her much comfort.
The man who did this was Patrick Downey, a local police officer. And that bastard was probably going to get away with it. Probably would go on to do it again. And that thought not only distressed her but made her want to retch.
But one day, old Patrick Downey would slip up. Leave evidence behind. Get spotted by a witness. It was guaranteed. Even the most elusive killers make mistakes. Otherwise they wouldn’t get caught. And this thought was the only thing that humored her in this fragile state.

Six hours inside that box and her iPhone buzzed again. This time it was Todd.
“Prove to me your Todd Brennan,” she said as she answered the phone.
“How can I–”
“Prove it.” She tried to scream the words. But her throat was too sore, too dry, and the air too thin to produce anything louder than a soft whimper.
“Remember that time you stepped on a ladybug,” he chuckled. “You cried for three hours. I couldn’t say anything to make you feel better. You were inconsolable. That was on our first date. I never thought I had a chance with you after that day.”
Amelia clutched the phone to her ear, laughing, smiling as she sucked in her final breath.

No comments:

Post a Comment