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A Breath of Fresh Air
It was 2:00 AM when I heard the noise.
It was an odd noise, half gurgling, half crunching, and all loud. I jumped out of bed still quite disoriented. I was thinking half in dream, half in reality, and all in crazy. I could see the rusty old pump we had had to resort to, before we got a new one. It was the obvious source of the noise.
Once I thought I had my bearings, I stumbled sleepily down the stairs. The back door was unlocked, strange. I stepped out and looked around, no one to be seen. How did the pump start then?
How did it even work? There was more duct tape than visible than metal, it was threatening to shake itself apart, and it was emitting the awful racket.
I didn't plan to be out long, so I left the door open as I went in for a closer look.
I immediately noticed two things. The first was the pool, which had been empty only yesterday, but was now full. I could have sworn the sound of the pump had only started a few minutes ago, but the pool was full as if it had been hours. The second thing I noticed was the undisturbed ground. It was mud season, and the mud in the backyard was several inches thick, but I didn't see any footprints except my own.
I looked in the pool. Plenty of water, but I wasn't interested in that for the moment.
As I turned around, I saw my bedroom window go dark. But if it went dark it had to have been light... and I turned the lights off on my way out... so that meant—
I ran inside.
I was out of breath when I got there. Upon entering, I noticed that everything looked aggressively normal. Darkness clung to all the surfaces like a family of coal-black koalas. The window was letting in a gentle breeze like a yawning mouth. The noise had stopped, so the only thing I heard was the party music of the cricket's late night raves. I was even in the bed, sleeping hard like someone had hit me with a chair.
I nearly gave myself whiplash from double-taking so hard. I looked down at me. I looked back at the bed. I looked down at me. I looked back up—and started breathing heavy: it was still me. I slapped myself. Yup, I was real. I slapped my other self. He was just as real. I reached out to poke my nose.
Then I suddenly opened my eyes. I tried to pull back before I noticed, but I grabbed my hand. I tried to break free, but I was too strong. I realized that if I was holding my hand, I could just let go. So I did.
The whole room started to move, so I ran, but I knew I was chasing myself, I could hear my feet. The room tried to bite me on the way out. I was so far behind myself though, that it bit me instead of me. I shuddered at my screams. Then the mouth came after me, my blood on its wooden lips. It chased me down the hall, dragging my room behind it. Normally, I would have wondered how that was possible, but I was rather busy running and screaming the stairs at the end of the hall seemed further away with each step I took. Contrarily, the man-eating door behind me seemed closer.
Needless to say, I skipped most of the stairs on the way down.
Out back, another set of footprints now accompanied the ones I had left earlier. I traced them as far as I could. Then noticed a pattern: I was following my own footsteps in a circle. So that meant that whoever was out there was right behi—
THWACK — The sound of skull on metal from behind. It was more than a sound though, because I more than heard it. I tasted, smelled, felt, and saw it too. But then it all just faded to darkness. But it was more than darkness, because I more than saw it.
The first non-darkness thing I sensed was the grinding sound: it was back. Next was the smell—sweat, fried chicken, and motor oil. Next was taste, and if I ever thought I was tasting blood, it was then. It was right about then that feeling kicked in. I screamed.
“Oh good, you're awake.” I heard a less than enthusiastic voice say. It was rough and gravely, but muffled like someone with their mouth full. This guy was probably the source of the smell.
I realized that sight hadn't yet returned. I wiggled a bit, and found that I was gagged, blindfolded, and bound—wrist to wrist, ankle to ankle.
“Well, shall we get this over with, or do you want to drag it on a little longer, enjoy your last few living moments, say your prayers and all that?”
I wiggled harder in response.
“no? Okay then, in you go!” I felt two large hands pick me up roughly, one around the back, and the other behind my knees. The world twisted around me, and my stomach practiced its uneven bar act as he swung me through the air.
It wasn't until that moment that I thought, “into what?” You can think of a lot of places in a moment. I was scared of all of them: a truck, a ravine, a river, a dump, a chipper—the horrific possibilities were endless.
I probably could have thought of more, but—SPLASH, GLUB, THUMP—and I was in the pool.
When people talk about “near death” situations, they generally talk about their life flashing before their eyes. That didn't happen for me. It was more like my death flashing before my eyes.
I saw the look on my mother's face as my father pulled my corpse from the pool, felt the slap of dead flesh on thick mud as I slipped from his hands. I could feel the bloated sogginess of my limbs, but I could not move them. I saw the inside of the coffin, heard my own funeral, smelled the pine at the graveyard. I tasted the small amount of cool, earth air buried with me. I even felt the slow burn of decay for what felt like an eternity. Constantly aware, unable to react. Unable to sleep, unable to even close my eyes, unable to ignore, unable... I was trapped.
My coffin began to crack under the stress of time. A few preemptive drops, then the cover broke, allowing mud and water to flood in. I was floating again. Was this my fate? To experience water's deadly side till the world's end? I screamed in rage.
It occurred to me that to scream, I had to be in control. I screamed again, just to be sure. I WAS back in control, but by the looks of things (and the burning in my lungs) I was back in the pool as well. I began my struggle again: I was not going to experience the curse of liquid three times in one day, not without a fight.
The water had loosened up the knots, and I was able to quickly work the gag loose. I spit it out and began to thrash and scream. Whoever this mysterious murderer was, he didn't like that. He put his hands on my shoulders and held me down. I bit his hand and tasted blood (for the second time that evening). He jerked away that hand, but clamped harder with the other. I leaned back and kicked at where I hoped his face was. I felt a slight crunch upon collision.
He didn't like that either. He drew a knife from his belt and buried it in my gut, then left me to drown in quickly clouding water—red with my own blood.
I didn't want to give up, I just felt I had to. My energy seemed to sap away with my blood, leaving my limbs lifeless and the water tingly and energetic. Then, the whole world started to drain, as if reality itself were trickling from the knife wound in just below my ribs. I suddenly felt peace...
… then a door opened up in the ground and an invisible force that sounded like a buzzer pulled me through—
It was my alarm clock. It was time to get ready for school.