The Man in the Box, Chapter 4
January 24, 2014 2 Comments
My debut novel, The Man in the Box will be coming out in its second edition soon. Please enjoy these sample chapters until then (scroll down in “Book Recs” above for previous chapters). And be sure to Like The Man in the Box on Facebook for your chance to win a free autographed copy. More details here.
Before Robbie had a chance to collapse from claustrophobia, he heard footsteps splashing in the water down one of the corridors. Feeling soiled in his wet clothes, and in need of answers, he ran after the echoes and called out, “Hello! Who’s there?”
The pattering footsteps was the only response he received. With the intensity of a bloodhound he followed the sound down the corridor.
The light from above did not reach Robbie that far into the cave, so he paused to let his eyes adjust to the darkness. Finally, he 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 of most things in the darkness, the young child was a girl (or else a boy with long hair), and she was glaring at him.
“Can you tell me where I am?” he asked as he inched closer to the little girl. “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 like a fierce cat, warning him to stay back.
He immediately pulled his hand back, still in one piece to his relief. As he studied her in the darkness, he realized she probably didn’t speak English. So he tried the only other way he knew to communicate, by gesturing 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, and against his instincts, Robbie stood his ground. She took another step and another, and gradually closed the gap between them. He could see her more clearly now as some of the blue light touched her. 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, like a burlap potato bag.
Now just feet away from each other, she moved her arm behind her back as if to scratch an itch. Robbie wondered what kinds of lice she might be carrying and cringed a little.
Even nanoseconds before she pulled her hand back in front of her bearing a dagger, he began to feel increasingly uneasy. Her eyes narrowed at him and she bared her teeth like a wolf. Robbie turned and sprinted in the opposite direction, all pretense of friendly grown-up behavior tossed aside as soon as he saw that threatening blade.
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 in case he 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 as he ran.
But somehow, before that happened, 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 and 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, as he twisted and twirled in the air, and pray that he wouldn’t feel it.
Suddenly he was submerged under lukewarm water and his body spiraled out of control as he plunged into the depths, feeling his limbs be torn apart in all directions. 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 and 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, satisfying his lungs to no end.
As he breathed in the delicious air he heard a loud shriek coming from above, followed by a splash close enough to spray his face. The girl was in the water now. 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 holding them both together. Her strength was inhuman. The situation was quickly escalating into a full-on fight for his life as she 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 an 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. However, he was freed, so he quickly made his way up to the surface and again refilled his lungs with air, swirling blood all around him that gushed from his hand. His head spun wildly from lack of oxygen and too much pain.
Treading in the warm 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 wading as he worked to stay afloat.
Panic grew in his chest as he started to realize that he was a murderer. It was self-defense! he assured the cynic voices screaming out in his head. 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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