The Hook And The Loop

It was inventory time at the shop. Frank was in the basement, clipboard in hand, counting boxes of parts that were piled high on the wire racks. Every year he got stuck with this task. He had no choice. He was the low man on the totem pole seniority-wise, and since no one volunteered, he was stuck with it.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it was anywhere else. Being claustrophobic didn’t help matters. Especially when where you work is in an earthquake-prone region. He had experienced tremors before and had run from the building in terror. The worse things were the nightmares he would have from time to time. They were vivid and realistic and would wake him up screaming and drenched with sweat. They were always about the same thing, being trapped in a dark, tight place where he couldn’t get out.

He was almost done. He had one set of racks to count. They were in the far corner of the basement. While he was counting the racks began rattling and then banging together. It could only be one thing. An earthquake!

“Gotta get out of here!” he muttered as he turned to run for the stairs. He knew the freight elevator wasn’t safe during a quake. He had taken a handful of steps when it hit hard. The lights went out, the ceiling began to cave in, and the racks fell over, dumping their contents on the basement floor. It was so violent it knocked him off his feet. That was the only thing that saved him. A floor joist had broken free and landed on the rack in front of him. If he had been on his feet it would have hit him in the head.

As the darkness enveloped him he began to tremble. He had always been afraid of the dark and being trapped. It had all begun as a child. His father, thinking it was funny, would roll him up in a blanket and leave him. Screaming would do absolutely nothing to help him. His father would laugh and walk away. More than once he had been confined for more than an hour. He had hated it and resented his father because of it.

Now, as he lay on the floor, he began to freak out. He couldn’t help it. It was how he was and he didn’t know how to fix it. He began screaming for help. He could hear the building moan as if it was under a lot of stress. “Was it going to collapse on him?” The thought terrified him. He had to get out of there!

He had a small flashlight with him. The “Dungeon,” as they called the basement, was so dark in a few areas anybody going down there always took a light. Taking it from his pocket, he frantically looked for a way out. In front of him were piles of spilled parts, wire racks, and the collapsed ceiling. By the outside wall, he noticed that some of the racks were still standing. Crawling over the spilled parts, he made his way there.

“How am I gonna get out of here?” he sobbed.

Taking the flashlight, he bent down and searched for any opening that might lead to safety. On his hands and knees, he looked at the rack. Between the floor and the bottom shelf, there were about sixteen inches of space. He could see that it was basically clear for quite a way. He stared at it for a few minutes.

“Can I do this?” he thought. His terrified mind told him yes and no. Yes, he had to get out of there. No, because it was too tight. He didn’t know what to do. What he heard in the darkness made his decision for him. He could hear water trickling somewhere close. He knew there had to be downed electrical wiring among the debris. He didn’t want to be near it if the water reached it.

He was afraid. As scared as he had ever been. What if he couldn’t do this? Would he die down here? Trying to clear his mind was almost impossible.

He put the small flashlight in his mouth, laid flat on the floor, and stuck his head under the rack. His arms were fully extended ahead of him as he began. He was able to grab a rack leg, shelf, or box to help him pull himself forward. He was able to use his feet to help push himself ahead.

It was tight, incredibly tight. he could feel his back rub against the bottom shelf. Keeping a tight grip on the flashlight, he was able to see where he was going. It was a slow process. It didn’t help matters that the building was making terrible sounds. It creaked and moaned as it shifted over him.

He was under the third rack when it happened. One moment he was moving, and the next he was caught. He couldn’t go forward or back up.

“What in the world happened?” he cried.

Panic, sheer panic set in. He jerked, pulled as hard as he could. He couldn’t move. The crawl space was too tight for him to rotate his arms backward to see what was holding him.

“Oh no! What am I gonna do?” he cried.

Unbeknownst to him, his belt loop had gotten caught on a piece of metal protruding between the wire rack's shelf slats. As he pulled it had poked a hole in his pants and had become firmly impaled. He could feel its sharp edge against his back. It would take a knife to cut it free.

Frank was in trouble. His heart rate jumped to heart attack proportions, and he began hyperventilating. Sweat dripped off the end of his nose, and he lost control of his bowels. His skin became clammy and he tried not to pass out. He began to cry.

As he lay there, he could feel his stomach and legs getting wet. Lowering his face to the floor, he tentatively stuck out his tongue and tasted the liquid. To his relief, it was water instead of gas or oil. The longer he lay there he came to the realization that he was in big trouble. The water level kept slowly rising. Ever so slowly it crept up his body, covering his pants and sides. When it reached his shoulders he had to turn his head sideways and try to tilt it upwards. Slowly it came up his neck, then his chin, until he was gasping for air and blowing bubbles. By the time it reached his eyes Frank was dead, his lifeless eyes staring off into oblivion.

Now he was confined in a place far worse. Again it was total darkness and he was burning in an invisible flame. He had traded his place, from under that rack, for eternal confinement in Hell. Claustrophobic he was and would be for eternity. 

February 11, 2021

Photo courtesy of Pixabay