It was dark.
He blinked, confirming that his eyes were indeed open, but the man did not perceive any difference. All he saw was blackness.
He attempted to wave his hand in front of his face, only to discover that he could not, in fact, move either of his hands. They appeared to be pinned beneath him. Now that the man thought about it, he was having difficulty moving any part of his body.
A sense of panic began to take root inside of his brain, but he ruthlessly cut if off before it could overwhelm him. He needed a clear head if he was going to get out of this.
What, exactly, ‘this’ was, was something he had yet to discover.
Slowly, methodically, the man tested every muscle in his body, beginning with his head and moving downward, analyzing which parts of him were capable of movement. It wasn’t very many.
He was lying on his back. His eyes and mouth could move, but he was unable to turn his head. His arms and chest were immobilized, and his hands were underneath his buttocks, allowing his fingers to move only slightly by pressing into his own flesh. His legs felt pinned, but just as he got to his ankles, he realized that his feet seemed to be free.
Carefully assessing the degree of movement of which he was capable, the man began to rock his ankles back and forth, and then flex his feet at the heel. Slowly, but surely, whatever was holding him down gave way, and after some time he found that he was able to move his legs enough to touch them together.
A sense of urgency possessed him, although the man was not certain why this was. He did his best to restrain it, in order to prevent the panic from returning. But he let just enough of that impatience through to keep himself motivated; to force himself to keep going, even when his muscles ached and begged for respite.
Soon, he was able to wiggle his hips, and it was then that he worked on freeing his hands. Once he had accomplished that, the man’s attempt at freedom progressed much faster; his arms and hands working in concert with his legs and feet.
The moment his fingers were freed and he was able to touch his surroundings, the man realized that he was encased in some kind of dirt… earth… sand…?
Had he been buried alive?
The thought caused the man to hyperventilate, and he nearly passed out again, but he forced himself away from that natural reaction, and toward his escape, once again.
It didn’t matter why he was here.
It only mattered whether or not he could get out.
The man had no awareness of the passage of time, but he forced himself to remain aware of the progress he had made, centimeter by centimeter, pushing away the earth surrounding his body. Eventually, he was able to wiggle his upper body, and it was then that the man began scooting forward: pushing his body in the direction of his feet. He hoped that since his feet had originally been capable of movement, that there was something there: a small space, a room, a path… anything…
Anything other than this sense that the weight of an entire mountain was about to come crashing down on his body, snuffing out the life within him in a single instant.
The man did not know much about his current situation, but the one thing he was certain of was that he wanted to survive. It was a primal instinct: an urge to reach for life, rather than accept the seemingly inevitable and give in to death.
Deep in his heart, the man understood that this was something he could never do. The need to survive seemed to resonate through to his very bones.
His heart leapt as he realized that he was, indeed, moving forward. In excruciatingly small increments, his entire body was headed in a direction… hopefully the direction of freedom.
The man knew a moment of pure joy as he suddenly felt his knees rising, with no resistance above them to force them down. But he did not pause for celebration. He continued at his task with renewed vigor, freeing his legs, his hips, his waist and hands, his chest… and finally, his head.
The man nearly wept as he felt a cool breeze cross his face, and looking upward he saw pinpricks of light that he quickly recognized as stars.
He couldn’t have felt more free if he had been up in the sky amongst those stars, soaring like a bird.
As his eyes adjusted to the faint moonlight, the man came to realize that he was outside. Though he was loathe to think about where he had just been, he forced himself to look behind him, only to see a towering pile of dirt and rubble.
He had been buried alive.
At least, this appeared as if it had been an accident. The rubble suggested that a large structure had been demolished, and he had likely been caught unawares, although how such a thing had happened, the man did not know.
He scanned the area, spying a tiny point of light in the distance. Having no better destination, he pulled himself up on unsteady legs, and he began to walk.
The first few steps he had taken had been quite wobbly, but by the time the false dawn appeared on the horizon, the man had been walking normally for quite some time. In fact, he seemed to be walking better than normal; his body pushing itself to the limit, then asking more of him, and suddenly finding itself capable of going on.
The dim illumination in the East was like a spotlight to the man, who had known only darkness, and he could clearly see the outline of a small building ahead of him. A residence of some sort? Encouraged by the thought of seeing another human, the man continued onward.
As the sun began to rise some time later, the man was close enough to the structure to see that it was, indeed, a farmhouse. In the distance, the man was able to hear the deep lowing of cattle, wakened by the crow of a rooster, and this was soon accompanied by the clucking of chickens.
Despite the exhaustion now washing over him, the man continued onward, forcing one foot in front of the other, step after step, each movement bringing him closer and closer to his destination. And when the sun was two fingers high in the sky, he arrived.
A few chickens ran around a dusty farmyard, and the bark of a dog told the man that his arrival had been noted. The man did not slow, but continued making his way to the farmhouse even as the dog rounded the corner of the small structure, coming into his view.
The man only had time to blink at the animal before the woman accompanying the canine appeared as well. She took one look at the man and nearly dropped her basket of eggs in surprise.
“Hurry up!” she hissed. “Get inside! You can’t stay out here!”