Friday, October 17, 2014

TIGHT SPACES (Revised Version)

Genre: Horror

By Daniel Skye

          The last earthly sounds Amelia Walsh heard were the shovels of dirt being deposited on the lid of her coffin. The chilling silence that ensued after her burial had concluded sent shivers down her spine.
          The back of her head was still pulsing; the end result of being struck with a blunt object. She didn’t see the object that had hit her. But judging by the weight, it was too light and too small to be the shovel her captor used to bury her. Whatever the object was, the blow was strong enough to render her unconscious.
She couldn’t recall much. One minute, she was parked in a blue convertible, making out with her boyfriend. A few seconds later, she was begging for her life as she was being dragged from the vehicle. She couldn’t remember anything else that had transpired. The crack to the skull really scrambled Amelia’s circuits. It would take a little while for her to piece the rest of the night 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 helped organize the Westlake Meals on Wheels program. She was an afterschool tutor, teaching both math and science. And she donated half her weekly allowance to charity.
The worst thing she ever did was wear her sister’s jeans without permission or stay out past her curfew with Todd.
She had cried once after accidently stepping on a ladybug. For three hours.
She never harmed a soul. So why was she being punished so cruelly?
Amelia 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. And she didn’t know just how deep she was buried. It could’ve been six feet, could’ve been two feet for all she knew. She was lapsing in and out of consciousness through most of it. There was no way to be certain how long it had been.
The Gravedigger. That name was etched in the back of Amelia’s 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 small fishing town of Westlake.
The name instantly made her shudder and sent more chills scurrying down her back, prickling her spine.
Walter Smith, a state correctional officer, was discovered three days after he was knocked unconscious and buried in an unmarked grave. They estimated it took him all of four hours to run out of air in the shallow grave he’d been abandoned in.
Jesse Goldman, a local DJ, was found four days after the gruesome discovery of Smith. Both showed signs of blunt force trauma. Though, this didn’t play any factor in their deaths. They had simply suffocated, ran out of oxygen. 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 chose to believe that 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 waiting to be accepted.
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.
Not that phone reception made much of a difference. Amelia’s parents had turned her phone off temporarily as punishment for breaking her curfew. Her phone could receive incoming calls, but she could not make outgoing calls.
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 minutes on your phone or are restricted from making outgoing calls. It even works without reception.
Her fingers–sore as they were–moved at lightning speed as she dialed those three magic numbers.
It rang once before a polite southern accent came across the line. The operator was female, much older than Amelia. “911, what’s your emergency?”
“Please, 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 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 thirty plus minutes of waiting and wasting precious battery life, she abandoned hope and pushed the end call button.
The phone rang back immediately and she looked at the screen, expecting to see 911 in the caller ID box. 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 first met. That bash to the noggin did more damage than she had suspected.
She pressed the receive button and lifted the phone to her ear. Todd’s familiar voice flowed out from the speakers. “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,” 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,” Amelia said with exasperation. Of all the things she could recall, she had to remember that damn name. "He did this to us."
“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, Amelia just wanted to go home, take a bath, hug her parents and sister, 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, bemused.
“Sure you did. You said they had problems tracing your call.”
“I did?” she asked. She couldn’t tell if her memory was shot or if 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 suddenly disconnected. And she had no way of calling him back without service or the ability to make outgoing calls. She could only hope and pray for him to call her back.
An hour 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 again.
“Ma'am,” the operator said urgently. “We’ve been trying to reach you. 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 nasty 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 nearly bashed her head in. 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 in an unmarked grave beside 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 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 of defeat.

Four hours passed inside that unescapable box and Amelia struggled to retain her breath. Her chest was tight, her lungs weak. She was wheezing as she tried to take in the air.
Her Samsung buzzed again. This time it was Todd’s name flashing in the caller ID box.
“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 straight. I couldn’t say or do 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.

One of the officers dispatched to search for Todd and Amelia drove down to Westlake Cemetery to take a look. He pulled his patrol car up to the wrought iron bars and walked through the unlocked gates.
He stopped when his flashlight beamed over two squares of fresh dirt that had smoothed out with the back of a shovel. Officer Patrick Downey nodded, admiring his handiwork. He glanced at his wristwatch. It had been five hours since he buried Amelia Walsh.
He’d wait another hour before calling this grim discovery in.

Note To Readers: This is a revised version of one of the first stories I published to my blog. The reason I decided to return to The Gravedigger series is because Patrick Downey AKA Charles Gein AKA Sid Hodder will be returning in a new series featuring homicide detective Wes Archer. If you search through the posts of my blog, you can find the original Gravedigger story and all the subsequent sequels.

No comments:

Post a Comment