This story is by Jenna Lynn and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The moment we are born, the countdowns start. The first one, usually, is for our first words. The second one, our first steps. Each one more important than the last. Yet, as we grow, hardly ever do we realize that the countdowns seem to become fewer and far more between and, eventually, we seem to forget that we even have any left. Even still, they are there and are no less important than the ones from when we were babies.
Most of us, I’m sure, most likely don’t even realize that even though one milestone is complete and that countdown has finished, the cycle continues. There will always be one thing or another that we have been destined for; one thing or another that has been waiting for us from the moment we were born. And honestly, with what we’ve learned and what we’ve experienced personally, we should always see the next big event coming; after all, we’ve been counting down for it. But we never do. Because no matter what, even with the knowledge and experience, we’ll never see the next big thing coming.
This is when my most important countdown started; when I no longer realized how controlled my life is and always will be.
Panic fights me for my breath as I open my eyes to nothing: there is no light, there are no sounds, there is nothing. My chest rattles as I release a piercing sound, my lungs screeching at me as I cannot control my breaths.
I throw my hands up, reaching out for something, anything in this darkness, but almost immediately, my hands bang against a hard, smooth surface. I shake as I run my hands across the smooth surface of what feels like glass, really thick glass. My breath catches in my throat as I continue up up up. There is nothing else but the glass, cold and wide.
My fingers splay out across the width of the plane, but they do not make it very far. Before long, the pads of my fingers reach a finely creased edge. It’s a glass box. I’m in a glass box. Panic surges forth once more, fiercer this time around, and I cry out, banging hard against the box, my prison.
“H-Help!” I croak out, my voice broken and raw, from what, I do not know. My throat feels torn as if I had been screaming for hours on end. I lay there, on the hard and unforgiving glass, and wait for anything, anyone. Any sign that someone heard me.
There is nothing.
I bang again harder, this time, faster. When still there is no response, I continue with my ever increasing panicked blows, banging harder and harder each time.
“Please!” I cry. The panic is wearing me down, draining me. I drop my hands and let out a sob.
My right hand connects with cool glass, my left hand connects with plastic. Holding my breath, I close my trembling fingers around the small piece of plastic and bring it to my face. The closer it gets, the clearer it becomes. It is a stopwatch.
My twitching hands feel around the device, searching for a button of some kind. There is one button, small and smooth off towards the side of the stopwatch. I press it slowly as my breaths finally begin to even out, slowing and shortening as my heart remains quick and sudden, bursting painfully in my chest.
The light flickers on. It is not bright, but having been in the dark so long, my eyes burn as I stare at it, but I refuse to turn away.
The screen is blank with nothing else for me to press. I feel my chest rise and fall quicker as my breaths pick up once more, renewed panic making itself known.
Something is happening in soon, I can tell, but I refuse to lay here. I turn the small stopwatch around and use the scarce light to my advantage. The glass prevents me from sitting up but I lift my head as high as I can and try my best to look around my limited space. There is nothing that I can see but I stretch my hand down anyways, feeling blindly in the dark.
My hand has just reached down towards my right knee when it starts; a small trickle of ice cold numbness starts around my feet and I jerk strongly, banging my head against the glass above me.
Pain radiates from my forehead but I ignore it in favour of kicking my legs out and flailing, trying hard to see what is happening. I cannot see but I can feel; it is water, ice cold and moving quickly, spreading throughout my small coffin steadily.
The water pounds harshly against me with an unforgiving speed as the coffin fills. That is when I notice; the stopwatch has started, counting down from an insane number. I can only guess this is how long it will take to fill this glass tomb. I have mere minutes until I will be submerged.
This, this right here, is my countdown, the one that has been prepared for me since the day I was brought into this indifferent world.
I am seized with fear and outrage as I watch the numbers tick by quickly. I am only minutes away from being submerged by ice cold water in a glass coffin and I do not know why. Nothing in my life has at all hinted towards something as extreme as this. I work in a spacious office surrounded by the world’s elite, I have done nothing wrong or unjust. I have followed orders; I have in no personal manner done something wrong to another.
My blood boils as I sweat with fear, my hands clam up, and my heart races wildly and painfully. This has to be a mistake. This coffin cannot have been put in place for me.
I should not be here.
“Help!” I screech painfully as I feel the water tickle my ribs, as my ears clog with the water. I writhe fruitfully in my glass box, trying and failing to flail away from the harsh and unforgiving water. I accomplish nothing except a large and dangerous splash: the water flies everywhere, flying up and around me, getting into my eyes and mouth, choking and blinding me even further.
Water is teasing the corners of my temples, my whole body already covered, and a pitiful noise escapes past my lips as I swing my hand up from the heavy water. “Please! Help!”
Despite my earlier attempts, I bang again on the glass. The water is almost fullying hiding me now and I crane my neck up painfully to pull my mouth from the water that is trying to force its way inside. Some manage anyway and I cough, expelling the water from its trapped position in my throat.
Seconds are left and my scream catches in my throat as I pull my lips taut against the water that has now fully covered my mouth. My mouth and lungs burn as I fight to keep both closed against the water.
Oh lord, please, no.
The water sprinkles the center of my eyelids.
My forehead presses against the glass as I pray the water does not submerge my head.
My lungs burn against the pressure and panic.
Please. Someone, anyone.
My body submerges. My lungs burst.