|Publisher:||Baker Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)|
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The day was born in darkness.
Michael opened his eyes and saw nothing.
The motes in his eyes drifted across the void.
His mouth was sealed with what felt like tape. Michael tried to lift himself and felt the hard knock of wood against his forehead. A light sprinkle of sand fell on his face, but he was blind to its source, he could only feel it as it dusted his lashes, scratching at his pupils. He raised his head slowly again until he felt the board press against his skin. He lay back down. His shoulders ached, his back. He tried to move his hands up to his eyes to rub the grit out of them but found they were bound together. He started breathing faster, nostrils flaring in the dark.
He was as a newborn cast out into the vacuum of space.
He could feel his heart beat faster as his mind raced to keep up with this discovery of himself. Michael could feel his nerves begin to fire in all his limbs as electric panic coursed through his body. He lifted his head again and hit the boards, a few inches above him.
Banging his head against the darkness with the dirt washing his face.
He tugged at his arms. They were bound at the wrist and the tape dug into him with each movement. His feet were fastened together at the ankles as he tried to kick at the darkness. His knees found the roof of his coffin and sent a spark of pain up his thighs. The motion caused more dirt to fall into his open eyes. They felt thoroughly encrusted with grime.
Michael tried to force breath out of his mouth, but the tape's seal held. His nostrils felt too small to supply the air he needed as he kicked around in his confined cell. Sweat started to form on his body as he lurched back and forth.
Suddenly, he stilled. His mind slowly calming, moving from the rapid chaos of panic to the quiet, disembodied trance of a hopeless man.
Breathe, he thought.
The sound of his lungs echoed in his head as he worked to slow himself down, his breathing easing to long, deliberate exhales. He closed his eyes to shut out the blackness and felt the sand in his eyelids grind his corneas with fire.
Michael could feel his pulse dissipate from the thunderous bass drum to a softer beat. His mind began to clear and assess his situation. Flailing around was not an option. If he wanted it all to end, as he had wished many times, then he could just go on doing what he was doing until the air ran out or the sand from above buried him in an hourglass of his own making. But his thoughts focused on hope, as illogical as it was to do so, and he willed his body to soften, to cooperate with his mind.
He focused on his hands. One by one he touched fingertip to fingertip, thumb to thumb, index to index, until he was assured they were all there. They were. For some reason this brought him a sense of comfort.
He tried to bring his hands to his face and failed several times. The box wouldn't allow him to move his elbows from his sides, and when he kept them tucked in, his hands would press against the ceiling before he could bring them up to his chest.
Slowly and methodically, he started to rotate his wrists back and forth, attempting to loosen the binding. It felt like duct tape. It was impossible for him to guess how many times it might have been wrapped around his wrists. He concentrated on his breathing and the rhythmic turns of his hands.
Inhale, twist. Exhale, twist.
The hairs on his arms pulled with each turn until Michael was assured that none were left. He told himself he had all the time in the world, or at the least, all the time he had left, to get his hands free.
He kept twisting his wrists until the skin burned. In the dark, he felt as if it had rubbed down to the bone. The dirt sifting from above him got under the tape, and though it worked as an antidote to the adhesive, it also added to the grinding down of flesh he felt with each twist.
Eventually he loosened the tape enough to turn his hands and grab onto each wrist. The tape had rolled in spots, and he could feel the stickiness of it mixed with warm fluid. It felt like raw skin and blood. In this position, and keeping his elbows in, he was able to force his hands up to his face, where he instantly grabbed the strip across his mouth and pulled it free.
Like a skin diver resurfacing from a deep descent, Michael gulped in the stale, moldy air around him. The dirty and confined area flooded his senses, but he did not care at the moment. With his mouth free, he bit into the binding at his wrists, yanking and pulling with his teeth at tape and skin. His hands came free with ripping fire and he screamed.
Now unbound, Michael was able to feel around his confinement. He was, as he had figured, in a box. He could feel the rough-hewn pine all around him. The cheapness of the wood and the fact that it was still holding up meant that he was not buried too deep. He assumed that too much earth would have come crashing in already. True or not, it added weight to a sliver of hope.
Michael had never been buried alive, but his mind offered up the blueprint of escape as if it had been programmed with the script for survival. Up. Up was the way to freedom. Scratch, claw upward. He had to get to the surface quickly — that or he would suffocate or be crushed before he knew it.
In the dark, he beat against the boards until his hands shot white-hot pains up his forearms. The dirt dropped onto his face as one of the boards cracked, filling his mouth and absorbing the air from his lungs. He spewed out the earth as he beat and dug and scraped upward.
The ground came down heavy around him, threatening to replace the wooden coffin with an earthen one. His fingers gripped the soil and pulled.
He was a rhythmic engine of adrenaline, pushing up against the world, and then shoving the incoming dirt down to the end of the box. Over and over again until the lid started to give more and more.
As the dirt flowed in, Michael worked to push it to the corners of the box. It was damp and clumpy but not tightly packed, two things incredibly in his favor. He worked furiously, his muscles screaming. His pulse pounding in his ears, stifled by the packed ground.
Then he felt it. His hand punched through to the cool air of the living world. With one last colossal effort, he got his feet under him and drove up through the loosening soil, breaking out to his waist into the majestic air of night.
Michael pulled himself out of the grave.
His whole body screamed for oxygen and the open air embraced his constricted muscles. He lay on the ground and looked skyward, but his scratched and swollen eyes were packed in a gritty embalmer's salve, obscuring his vision into a watery blur. His breath formed small wisps of vapor in the dark and then dissipated.
He was in a forest. He dragged himself away from the entrance of his tomb and braced himself against a tree. This was the closest to death that he had ever been, but he knew it would not end here. They would not let this rest. They would never let it rest until he was buried for good.
Excerpted from "Coldwater"
Copyright © 2018 Samuel Parker.
Excerpted by permission of Baker Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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