Coaldust (prologue)

How long I’d been in here I couldn’t exactly say but if I were to measure time in discomfort then think 50 years, give or take a year.

I could no longer feel my toes – actually I could no longer feel anything below my hips.  I viciously jabbed the sharp nail of my left index finger into my right thigh.  A dull pressure flowed into the nailbed but my thigh was insensitive.

The inside of the trunk was lined in some sort of velvet fabric.  If I tilted my head I could rub my nose over the soft pelt.

It mattered not whether I had my eyes open or closed; it was dark as sin.  The density of the blackness surrounding me I had only ever experienced once when I had gone to stay at my brother-in-laws in the country.  The sky had been overcast that moonless night, heavy thick curtains drawn across the windows, and I had stumbled out of bed to go to the toilet.  At home there was always a faint glimmer from somewhere but that night it was as though I were blind.  I’d stupidly stepped away from the bed and turned around, disorientating myself, unable in my half-sleep state to work out where I was.  In the end I’d dropped to all fours and crawled around until I felt the skirting of a wall and followed it around the room until I chanced upon the bedside table and the lamp.

It was as dark again in my tiny trunk.  There wasn’t the tiniest chink of light.  I kept my eyes closed.  It was more comforting.

I was amazed that I was still conscious.  When the door had swung shut it had been one of my biggest fears – that the air would run out and I would suffocate.  But the box, thankfully, was not airtight.  I could breathe.  I sucked in a deep breath just because I could.  The musty tang of mothballs, dust and – I took another draught – newly shaved pencils stirred something in me.  I recalled the smell from my school days.  Odd.  Why should a trunk smell of pencil shavings?  Or maybe it was wood shavings?

I sighed and wished, once again, for sleep; but I was too uncomfortable to sleep.  Not only was I curled over like a pretzel, I was not lying horizontally.  A vertical pretzel.  It made sleeping even more difficult.  Why was that?  Why was it so hard to sleep upright?   I was wedged in so tight there was no need to keep the control of balance.  Was it conditioning?  From birth I had always lain on my front, would flip over if I was on my back.  Normalcy was an ingredient composed of many different spices, each one of which was missing.

My brain was tired, my mind exhausted.  My limbs quivered with fatigue, the numbness disorientating, but I was stuck until…

I wouldn’t think about that.  I didn’t know how much time had passed but already I had a semblance of the feeling that long-term prisoners must feel on being released into an unknown world, every trace of familiarity erased away by time.  Their comfort zones defined by three walls and a set of bars.

The complete panic of my claustrophobia had passed a while ago.  I suppose it’s a matter of willpower in the end.  Either you completely break down or your mind overcomes the fear, accepts the irrationality, especially when a greater danger awaits you beyond the confinement.

Beyond the confinement was an experience far more frightening than my trunk.

It used to annoy me when my father would tell me to snap out of it on the days he playfully captured me under the duvet and I’d scream to be let out, scared out of my wits that I was trapped.  I used to think:  what if he had a heart attack and collapsed on top of me? I’d suffocate!

But what is irrational about claustrophobia?  I was scared of being entombed, and where was I currently?  Curled up, foetus-like, in a thick wooden trunk – entombed!  My fear was realised.

Actually, with the velvet it was more like enwombed.  Did that made a difference?  A regression to a primal state?  Curled like a foetus in a velvet-lined womb.  A good alleviator of stress is to curl into a  foetal ball and rock away the fears.  Maybe my subconscious found my situation comforting.

Strange, I would never have considered that.  Was it possible that I, as a result, would think more fondly of my gaoler?  Would my subconscious impress maternal traits upon his character?

My mind was going to strangle my common-sense!

I had heard of sensory deprivation chambers sending the brain into all sorts of wild and wonderful worlds, but this situation was completely different.  I had not the sense of security to comfort me; the luxury of knowing my time in here was finite was unavailable; even the hope of a warm, welcoming someone outside of my confinement was not something I could look forward to.  Now my mind was trying to fool me into believing that – Aaagghhhhh!

Okay, let’s get one thing straight here.  I am NOT an idiot.  Not usually anyway.  I did not lock myself into the box.  Put myself there, yes, lock myself in – No.  Okay, maybe that does make me sound a little idiotic but let me explain…

2 Responses to Coaldust (prologue)

  1. Sheryl Brown says:

    I like this! 🙂

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