Excerpt From The Man in the Box
July 9, 2012 6 Comments
Here is an excerpt from my novel, The Man in the Box. Robbie Lake is a 30-something year old man who is having a hard time dealing with his wife and two kids. To top it off, he gets fired from his job after serving faithfully for eleven years. For the full synopsis click here. This excerpt is taken from chapters 3 and 4:
Before he crawled out of the box he sat upright on his rear and laid his back against the back of the cardboard while he waited. He realized he hadn’t been inside a box since he was a kid.
As he exhaled, he closed his eyes.
Instantly Robbie felt a cool breeze that sent a shiver up his spine. His knees were pulled up to his chest and his hands were at his sides and they were wet. He lifted them, dripping droplets of cool water all over his suit.
When he opened his eyes he saw that he was crouching in a giant puddle of crystal-blue phosphorescent water. The water glowed brightly enough to reveal a vast cavern surrounding him. A ray of light shone through a hole at several hundred feet above his head.
Robbie shivered as he stood up to observe his surroundings. It was chilly in the cave, especially with little gusts of wind wisping past him. He had no idea where he was, or where he had come from. But somehow, he didn’t really care. He was just simply … there.
He could hear tiny waves lapping against the cavern’s rugged walls. The only other sound came from the echoes of leaking water trickling off the walls. The only way out had to be down one of the many corridors surrounding him.
Before Robbie had a chance to collapse into a paranoid state of claustrophobia, he heard footsteps splashing in the water. Someone was running down one of the corridors. Robbie, feeling soiled in his wet clothes, ran after the sound of the footsteps and called out, “Who’s there?”
He was desperately in need of answers.
He heard the pattering of footsteps in response to his query. With the intensity of a bloodhound he followed the sound down the corridor.
The light did not reach this far into the cave, so he paused to let his eyes adjust to the darkness. Finally, Robbie could just barely see the figure of a child about ten feet ahead. He walked slowly forward, not wanting to scare the kid off.
“My name is Robbie,” he said cautiously. “I just need to know how to get out of here.”
Although he couldn’t be certain in the darkness, this young child, a girl, was glaring at him.
“Can you tell me where I am?” asked Robbie as he inched closer to the child. “I promise I’m not going to hurt you.”
He took a few steps closer, reaching out his hand toward her as if trying to feed a frightened fawn. The girl remained motionless, her arms down at her sides and her bare feet spread slightly apart.
“What’s your name?” asked Robbie.
Then without so much as a warning the girl broke her scowl and hissed at him, warning him to stay back. He pulled his hand back in surprise. The fawn just snapped at him.
“I’m sorry,” he said instinctively. Then he realized she probably didn’t speak English. So he tried the only other way he knew to communicate. He gestured with his hands.
“I’m,” Robbie said, pointing at his chest, “nice.” He said nice while smiling really wide and pressing his fingers into his cheeks. “I’m a friend,” he clarified.
Then he waved his arm around in a big circle followed by an exaggerated shrug: “Where are we?”
The girl took a step toward him. Against his instincts, he stood his ground. She took another step and another, and gradually closed the gap between them. He could see her more clearly now. She looked like she was about eight or nine. She had long dark hair that dropped down her back in straight greasy lines. She wore a plain dirty beige cloak that hung down to her knees.
Now just feet away from each other, she slowly moved her arm behind her back to scratch. Robbie wondered briefly what kinds of lice she might be carrying.
Robbie felt uneasy.
As she pulled her hand back out bearing a dagger, her eyes narrowed at him and she bared her teeth like an animal. Robbie turned and sprinted in the opposite direction, all pretense of ‘friendly grown up’ behavior tossed aside as soon as he saw the dagger in the girl’s hand.
He heard her hissing and screaming from behind as he tried not to fall over anything in the darkness. He had to run with his arms stretched out in front of him so he wouldn’t hit a wall. After a few uncertain feet, he saw light ahead. Robbie set his tracks on the faint beam that shined through the dark cavern.
He feared that the little girl was more an expert in running in the dark through ankle-deep water than he was. His wet shoes and socks were weighing him down. He tried not to imagine the little girl’s knife stabbing him in the lower back. She was close enough now to do just that.
Somehow, he made it to the light. The sudden brightness blinded him temporarily and all went black.
Next thing he knew, the ground gave way under him. He was falling.
It all happened so fast that he didn’t even think to scream. All he could do was wait for the impact and pray that he wouldn’t feel it, as he twisted and twirled in the air.
Suddenly he was submerged under cold water and his body spiraled out of control as he plunged into the depths. He choked on the water splashing down his throat. When at last the current stopped thrashing him about he opened his eyes to determine which way he needed to swim for air. They had finally adjusted to the light and he was able to see the surface of the water.
He swam toward the sun.
Just as he thought the water would never stop rising against him his head broke through the surface and he gulped in a huge breath of air. This was the greatest satisfaction his lungs had ever felt.
As he breathed in the delicious air he heard a loud shriek coming from above, followed by a splash nearby. The girl had jumped into the water. She grabbed his foot and, with surprising strength, pulled him back under.
He tried kicking his foot to shake her off, but she grabbed onto his other foot. He couldn’t believe how strong she was. The situation was quickly escalating into a full-on fight for his life as the girl began clawing at Robbie’s legs. She climbed all over him, pulling him further underwater. She then let go of a foot to grab his right hand, and she bit down where his thumb joined his palm. Robbie screamed in agonizing pain, sending the rest of his air up in bubbles. He tried to tear his hand away, but the girl would not release her bite.
Finally, in a final act of desperation he swung at the girl with his one free foot, kicking her square in the stomach. The sudden release of her bite let forth a torrent of pain coursing through his hand. Now freed, he quickly made his way up to the surface and, again refilled his lungs with air, swirling blood around him that gushed from his hand. His head spun wildly from lack of oxygen and too much pain.
As he treaded in the cool water, he began to grow nervous that he may have actually killed the girl, which of course was not his intent. He waited and watched the water, but she never surfaced. The only movement came from his own feet as he worked to stay afloat.
Panic grew in his chest as he started to believe he was a murderer. It was self-defense! he assured himself. If he hadn’t kicked her, she would have drowned him for sure. He ducked his head back under the water, but couldn’t see any sign of her. The lake was an empty abyss.
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