Saturday, March 5, 2011

Fear To Tread

         "I can't believe she’s making me do this," mumbled Ashley as she kicked the hundredth rock off the side of the road. "She could have just hopped in the car and drove down here.  I mean, it would've only taken her 30 seconds.  And, what about me?  It's gonna take me a half hour.  Just because she’s a mother doesn't give her special privileges.  She knows how to drive.  And it's just the mail, so what's the big deal?  It can't wait until tomorrow?  And there's that dog again, that dumb pit bull that’s always guarding the mailbox.  Mom knows I’m scared of dogs.
“It's like a punishment, but I didn't do anything, did I? Lets see, uh, I took out the garbage, did the dishes, swept the floors.  I did everything I was asked to do. Maybe she’s expecting something big...something awesome...something for..."  Ashley took a deep breath, smiled huge, and at last yelled, "...ME!"
She started running as fast as possible for the mailbox. Suddenly she saw a flash of something black and shiny out of the corner of her eye. She stopped dead in her tracks, sliding across the gravel and nearly tumbling into the ditch.
           “Nice dog,” she said, though not sounding very convincing.  The neighbor’s black pit bull was staring at her from across the ditch growling low.  Ashley backed away  as slowly as she could into the middle of the street.  The dog inched forward with every step.  She froze in place hoping it would go away, but as the dog slowly lowered its head as if it was about to spring, she ran for her life.
    Crossing the street, she ran across the nearest yard and in between two houses desperately hoping someone would see what was going on and come help her.  Not seeing anyone around, she screamed between gasps of air as she continued to run.  Spotting an opening in the back fence, she dove through it into the wooded area behind it.  Strangely, the dog stopped short on the other side and then backed away several steps as if there were something that was about to attack from the other side.
Ashley looked wildly around wondering what could have scared the dog as she rose quickly back to her feet.  Nothing moved.  There was no sound.  Nothing seemed to be there at all.  But the dog stayed back, clearly uneasy at something.  Not wanting to find out what it could be, she turned and headed back toward her own house trying to find some kind of trail through the trees.  Stepping over a broken limb laying in front of her, Ashley screamed as a large section of ground around her suddenly crumbled into a gaping hole and she fell into endless nothingness.

= = = = = = = =

    A stabbing pain in the side of her head, brought Ashley all too quickly back to consciousness.  That’s when the cold seamed to hit her, almost burning in its  intensity. She sat up trying to figure out what was going on and managed to dig her elbow into sharp gravel sending her sprawling painfully onto her back again.  The ground was hard, covered with rocks, gravel, and rough dirt.  And it was pitch black...wherever she was.
    “Help!” she cried out as she sat up more carefully this time.  The echo of her voice showed her far more than her eyes could see in the darkness.  She was in an enclosed area that apparently went on for some distance in front of and behind her.  She reached her hand out to touch the wall she now knew was close beside her.  It was solid, freezing cold, and apparently covered in slime.
“Yuck!” she yelled, yanking her hand back quickly and wiping it on her pant leg.   
“What’s going on?” she mumbled to herself, as the memory of her fall slowly came back to her.
“How long was I out?” she said, wondering if perhaps it could be night now and overcast.  Looking up, she expected to see the sky, but to her dismay there was only more blackness.
“Hello!” she yelled toward the sky, figuring that the hole must be right over her head.  She had just decided to stay where she was and call out until help came when something suddenly landed on her face from above...and moved.
She screamed, brushing at her face wildly as she scrambled backwards.  As she turned her head, something moved on her shoulder.  She immediately yanked it off, screaming out in pain as she realized it was her own hair.  Slowly calming down, Ashley began to notice that stuff was falling all around her.  Some of it sounded like dirt, but here and there, she heard larger objects like rocks hit the ground.  Wherever she was, it didn’t seem too stable.
As she listened more carefully, she heard a strange buzzing sound in the distance.  Checking her shirt pocket for her cell phone, she found that it was missing.  She began crawling toward the sound, hoping it was someone, preferably her mom wondering where in the world she could be.  Drawing closer to the sound, she noticed that something was wrong about it.  It wasn’t the sound of a cell phone on vibrate.  It was continuous...and moving...toward her.
“Bees!” she yelled, crawling backwards, but all too quickly reaching the slimy, disgusting wall she had encountered earlier.  Trying to claw her way up to stand and run, she fell onto a familiar box.
“My Hello Kitty phone case,” she said, recognizing the feel of it even in total darkness.  She pulled her phone out as fast as possible, hoping there was enough battery to use the light and get out of this wretched place.  After a long struggle with freezing, shaking fingers, Ashley finally opened the phone and saw that there was only a fourth of the battery left and no signal.  So, wanting to use it as a light source, she would have to act fast.
She pointed the phone outward and looked all around.  What she had begun to suspect was a cave, turned out to be a long crack in the ground about five feet deep and four feet wide in the middle where she had fallen.  It tapered off to a sort of point in the distance at either end looking like a lot of water had run through it at some point.  Looking up, she saw a tree laying over the hole she had fallen through.  On the ground was the bees nest that she had apparently taken down with her.  Apparently the bees were more interested in finding their way out of the hole through the tree then they were in coming after her.
Following their example, she began looking for a way up.  Grabbing a lower branch, she tried pulling on it only to see the whole tree shift suddenly.  She let go immediately, closing her eyes and cringing while she waited to see if the tree would fall in on her.  When it didn’t, she opened her her eyes again and examined the opening above more carefully.
Choosing one point that seemed farthest from the trunk and the most shallow, she propped the phone open on the other side facing toward her and began digging the loose dirt at the top of the wall with her hands as best she could.  She used loose rocks from the floor to knock harder materials loose, accidentally creating mini-avalanches of rock and dirt falling in her face and all over her.  She didn’t care.  She just wanted out of this slimy, bee infested, dark, creepy, four-by-four, miniature cell.  As the cell phone began giving its all too familiar, annoying, bleep warning of the battery dying, Ashley began digging more and more furiously.
“Don’t you dare!” she yelled at the phone as she shoved dirt and rock from the wall in every direction she could.  “I swear I’ll bury you here myself if you abandon me in this place.”  Deciding to ignore her threats, the phone mocked her with a happy little tone as it shut down anyway plunging her back into darkness.
"AAAAIIIIEEEEE!!!" she screamed out in frustration hitting the wall and realizing yet again how bad her head was hurting.  She was too angry to cry, though for a moment she really wanted to.  As she stood there trying to force herself to get back to digging, she was surprised to notice that her eyes were adjusting to the dark this time.  She could see the top of the wall where she had been digging.  Looking closer, she found that there was actually some light coming in there.  With renewed hope, she turned back to her digging.
Eventually she had enough of an opening and a kind of step dug into the wall to try climbing.  It took her several attempts to finally get a good foothold and push herself up into the tree branches above.  Trying to hug the ground and move between the branches without grabbing the tree again, she wriggled steadily forward until she was clear.  Rolling onto her back in exhaustion, shivering with cold, and covered in dirt and grime, she laughed out loud when she saw the night sky dotted with stars above.
A sudden bark ended her moment of happiness.  The crazy mutt from across the street was charging straight at her.  Ashley screamed, jumping up as fast as she could and trying to run.  The dog easily tackled her back to the ground.
“No!” she yelled out, curling into a ball and trying to protect her face.  The dog attacked.  It was the nastiest...smelliest...slimiest..tongue licking it had ever been her displeasure to experience.  “Stop,” she said, laughing again in relief.
“Over here,” someone yelled out.  “She’s over here.”  Suddenly there were                                                                                                                                     flashlights coming out of the darkness all around her.
“Look, old Buck found her,” someone else yelled.  “Good boy.”
“I’m never checking the mail ag
“Traitor,” she said, as she turned back and started walking away. ain,” Ashley said to no one at all.  She turned back to the hole for a moment trying to decide what she should do about her phone.

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