This story is by Lyn Blair and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
It’s been years, and I still don’t know if I have the right words, but I have to talk about it, even if you don’t believe me.
Suddenly I was conscious, floating gently, surrounded by warm water, bobbing, turning, and bumping against the dark supple, padded walls. Crammed into this small cave of night, I was the only one there, tethered to the wall, yet I heard a faint and rhythmic thumping from somewhere nearby. It was a muffled noise; the way sound waves scatter underwater and reach you sort of garbled, leaving you grappling to make sense of them.
More than any other, a particular thought left a lingering impression, and it was: I’d never felt so completely alone. I was alone, but not lonely, and I didn’t mind, at least not at first.
My sight was limited as well, and I could barely make out a dim, diffused reddish wall appearing in front of me. Even so, the cave was darkly comforting. I was aware of my arms and legs, though more through feel than sight. And when I drank the water I was floating in, it left the sweetest taste in my nose and mouth. Delightful.
The cavern wasn’t at all a bad place to be. In fact, I felt quite serene despite being utterly alone. I leaned back and rested, allowing the waves to soothe and rock me to sleep.
Yet, gradually, the more I got used to my surroundings, recurring thoughts came to me. My curiosity grew and in my waking moments, niggling thoughts started pestering me.
How did I get here? Where was I? Had I done something wrong? Was this my prison cell? It must be my cell because I was naked, and naked prisoners were less likely to escape, weren’t they? Thing was, I had no idea of my crime, yet why else would they put me in solitary confinement? My mind was a blank. Memory wiped clean.
At the same time, it felt like déjà vu, although I couldn’t place what made it seem that way. The familiarity felt distant, like another lifetime.
From time to time, a barely audible cooing sound, soft and soothing filtered in. It wrapped me in a feeling of comfort, as though I were nestled and protected under the wings of a soft-feathered bird. Perhaps someone was humming or singing; notes lilted and flowed in harmony, but too far away to tell where it came from, and all I could sense was this padded cell around me.
“Is anybody out there?” I asked, but no one answered.
I had the sense I might have been here a while, but my sudden awareness signaled an important moment. Something was about to change.
And change it did. The walls closed in on me, collapsing on all sides. I reacted, wadding myself into a tight ball of arms, legs, chest and head, all pressed tightly together. Duck, cover and hold. Was the cell crumbling? Were these earthquake tremors? Building demolition? What was going on?
Then the motion stopped, at least momentarily, and my trembling fear subsided. Oh how I hoped the architect of this dark cell had made it strong and flexible, sturdy enough to endure natural catastrophes.
Buoyed by the gently rocking water, I surveyed the space around me. I couldn’t stretch out like before. The walls were closer now, not as much wiggle room, and it seemed like I’d been crammed in the direction of a tunnel. Definitely not as comfortable as before, but I could still live with it.
Another jolt sent me slamming against the wall, and the sides of my cell closed in even more. “No!” I screamed. “Let me out of here!” This time I stretched out, extending my legs against the wall in hopes I could push it hard enough to stop the enclosure, but no such luck.
I had to get out. I peered into the tunnel. It had a little more light than the rest of the cell. In fact, light appeared at the very end, but the tunnel was a tight fit, too cramped.
Should I try to leave? Or wait it out? I might not survive another tremor like the last one. I shuddered at the thought and edged closer to the tunnel.
Whoosh. A mighty gush of water flooded out of the cell, spinning me around and sweeping me into the narrow passageway. It was as though someone had pulled the plug, sucking me out, so I let myself ride with it. Being a salmon leaping upstream when raging water was rushing against me might be valiant but would serve me no purpose.
The tunnel remained my only avenue of escape, and as much as I hated closed spaces, I was determined to leave. A flicker of dim light shone in the distance, and besides, the forces of the universe ushered me in that direction, so I tucked my arms in tight and pulled my legs straight, stretching out, making myself as long and thin as I possibly could. I became an earthworm tunneling through the moist, slippery warm ground, working my way to the surface. Almost there.
Wham. Crushed again by overwhelming pressure. The walls squeezed the life out me with the force of a boa constricting its prey. Yelling in protest, I cried and cried, but it made no difference. My consciousness waned. I clung to the tiniest thread of awareness, sensing light at the tunnel’s end, gradually drawing closer.
Yet, nothing could’ve prepared me for the shock of cold air. As I popped out of the cave, the freezing atmosphere hit me like an ice storm on a hot summer day. I shivered, sputtered and shouted, and soon realized the wailing howl clawing at my ears had come from my own mouth.
My head pounded from pressure and bright light pierced my eyes with a blinding intensity, but adding to my frenzy, a rough scratchy cloth rubbed across my skin. If that numbskull rubbed any harder, I’d have no skin left. “Stop!” I bellowed, but it sounded more like “Waaa!” I swung my arms and kicked my legs, but their hands flattened me into a prone position, pinning me down.
Well, I wasn’t alone any longer. And what I wouldn’t have given to have my nice warm cave back. I raised my fists, spewing expletives at them. “I’ll go back to jail! Just leave me alone.” But they wouldn’t listen, kept rubbing and continued to ignore me. Squeezing my eyes shut, I wailed, and as my breath ran out, I paused, sucking in air.
It was then I heard the soft sweet melodious sound I’d heard in my cave. Her voice was much clearer now, wrapping me in her kind and caring words.
“Please give him to me.”
Her arms draped all over me and her soft face touched my cheek as she cooed. I pried open my eyes and my muscles relaxed. A beautiful woman and a smiling man sat watching me. I basked in the moment.
Her eyes sparkled as she said, “It’s a boy.”