Wednesday, June 8, 2022

THE BODY IN THE WELL BESIDE ME

Kwei--Wed 

One

I woke to find myself wet and twisted in the dark. I was shivering, and my head was throbbing. I squinted at the light coming from the end of a long, brick tunnel. I could also see trees, and bushes, and sky.


 I sat up slowly, my entire body bruised and aching. Oriented now, I realized I wasn’t in a horizontal tunnel at all. I was at the bottom of a well. What am I doing here? Had I fallen in? I couldn’t remember. I shifted my position gingerly. Nothing seemed to be broken, but when I touched the back of my head, I could feel congealed blood over a deep cut.  

Something was weighing down my legs and preventing me from moving very far. I leaned over and pushed, but then snapped my hand back as it touched what felt like someone's  head. I leaned forward and blinkered the glare from the top of the well, which helped me make out the hulking form of a crumpled lifeless body draped over me.

I retched and scrambled away, kicking violently to get the body off me. I staggered up and immediately had an attack of vertigo, the well seemingly spinning around me. I kept still for a few moments and the sensation passed. I was standing in about six inches of water, my chest heaving as I stared at the corpse. Who is that? And why was I down here with him?

 I looked up at the top of the well, took a deep breath and shouted, “Hello? Hello? Is anyone there?” The words echoed hollowly against the walls. I waited a while before beginning again, this time shouting, “Help!” repeatedly until I was hoarse and panting from the effort.

What was I going to do? Was there a way to climb out? In the gloom, I strained to see some kind of  ladder from bottom to top, or metal rungs fixed into the brickwork, or perhaps indentations in the wall where one could plant one’s feet and hands to climb slowly up. I thought I spotted something like that, but they were beyond reach. Spent and exhausted, I leaned against the wall, put my head back, and closed my eyes. 

 Someone’s got to come. I refuse to die in here

Is that what had happened to the dead man beside me? He fell into the well, and no one ever came to get him? I shuddered. 

                                                                            ***

 I had dozed off while still on my feet. I jerked awake to the harsh sound of metal coming from above me and continuing down through the echo chamber to me like a funnel.

Then, a man spoke. “They shoulda capped this damn well a long time ago. Nothing in this town gets done in a hurry.”

Another man said, “No shit. That’s cuz there’s some red-tape bullshitter for every tiny little thing. Come on, let’s do this and get to the next location.”

I shouted, “Hey! Hey!” But my voice was drowned out by the clattering metal. As the men pulled a cover over the well, my only light source began to close off, like a full moon transitioning to a crescent. 

    No! Stop!” I screamed hysterically. "I’m in here--don’t leave me!” 

    The light was all gone. It was pitch dark now. I began to sob. I can’t die here.

    Seconds later, the well cover was pulled back again, and light flooded in.

    One man said, “Larry, you hearing voices again?”

    “I coulda sworn I heard something, Pat. What if there’s someone down there?”

    I’m down here!” I shouted, surprisingly irate.

    “Holy shit,” Pat said.

    “What did I tell you?” Larry said.

    Two heads appeared at the well top.


    They shined flashlight beams down at me, blinding me for a moment.

         “What the fuck are you doing down there?” one of them--Pat, I think--called out. “Did you fall in?"

          “I . . . I guess so,” I stammered. “I don’t remember."

          “Are you okay?”

         “Mostly, but I think I hit my head.”

        The two men were silent a moment.

        “Who’s that beside you?” Larry asked.

        “I don’t know,” I said disconsolately. “He’s dead. He was there when I woke up.”

        The two men pulled back out of sight and held a muted discussion I couldn’t make out clearly. 

        “Okay, hold tight, man,” Pat said, coming back into view. "We’re calling nine-one-one now, so the firefighters should be here in less than five minutes."

I didn’t understand what “nine-one-one” meant, or what it had to do with firemen, but at that moment, I didn’t care. I just wanted out of there. 

In the few minutes that followed, a small crowd began to collect above me, everyone peeping down at me and the dead guy. Some seemed like officials, others appeared to be random people. Then the firemen arrived and made everyone stand back before calling down to me to tell me to stay calm. 

        “What’s your name?” they asked me.

        “Marcus.”

        “We’re going to get you out, Marcus. It’s just gonna take a little time, that’s all. But trust us and be patient. I know it’s hard, but we want to do this right, okay?”

                                                                          ***

Using a complicated rope system I didn’t bother to try to decipher, the firemen got me out after what seemed like a very long time. Now, I was on safe ground. Apart from the firemen, there was a bunch of policemen hanging around.

Two young uniformed guys put me on a wheeled stretcher and slid me into the ambulance. I tried to figure out what kind of machinery I was looking at. The ambulance started up and moved forward more smoothly than even my dad’s car. A young guy in a dark uniform sat down beside me, facing me. He put on a plastic mask which blew air into my nose and mouth. The guy put a blood pressure cuff around my left upper arm. 

There was a machine with buttons and lights, and it made a whirring sound as the cuff tightened on my arm. There wasn’t the usual thing with that bulb you squeeze and pump while you watch the mercury go up and down. This machine had the pressure written on the screen. I stared at it. How did it do that?

           “Pressure’s great, Marcus,” the young guy said. “You comfortable?”

            “Yes, I’m good,” I replied, but I really wasn’t. Something was wrong, out of place.

            "I’m John, by the way,” the young man said. "Just need to get some of your particulars.” 

   John picked up an oblong object about the size of a small, framed painting. “Name?” 

            “Marcus Price.

             John tapped the screen of the device. It made little clicking noises.

            “What’s that?” I asked.

           “What? Oh, the tablet? It’s a Samsung. Race or ethnic identity?”

           “White.”

            John paused and gave me an odd look. “White?

            “Yeah,” I said frowning. “What’s the matter?"

            “No worries, Marcus. It’s all good. How old are you?

            “Twenty.

            “Date of birth?

            “December 24th, 1960.

            John looked up from the tablet. “What year did you say?

            “Nineteen-sixty.

            “Well, that couldn’t be. No problem, we can come back to that. Could be the head trauma making you misremember.

            “Why should I misremember?” I asked, irritated. "December 24th, 1960. It’s 1980, so do the math. I’m twenty.

            John was staring at me, appearing more concerned. “Do you know where you are right now?

            “Happenstance. Happenstance, Ohio, where nothing ever happens.

             John chortled. “Yes, that’s right. Where nothing ever happens. I guess everyone’s heard that about Happenstance."

 But he quickly grew serious and I could see he was worried now. He pulled from his pocket a more-or-less flat object which he looked at and tapped with his finger, then held to his ear. He started to talk in a low tone and I assumed he was dictating his report, only some of which I could hear clearly.

        “Yes, twenty year old, um, mixed-race male,” John was saying, "found injured at the bottom of an uncapped well--could have fallen in or something. Head trauma to right parieto-occipital skull. Oriented to place, but not to time, and maybe not to person either. So, yeah--CT scan and all that good stuff.”

 What had he meant by ’not oriented to time and maybe not to person?' 

Where am I? In a sudden panic, I swept my gaze around the vehicle until it fell upon a small calendar on the wall with pictures of the world’s largest breed dogs. Below the photo was the month of September laid out, and then the year. It said 2022. 

    

    

    

    



7 comments:

  1. And now I have to wait for 2 weeks?

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  2. Don't tell me, at one chapter every 2 weeks, this will finish in September 2022? You're killing me.

    In other news (this morning's), this in from yesterday's California primaries: " Former state assembly member Christy Smith beat out fellow Democrat Quaye Quartey to advance to the general election against Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) in California’s 27th District."

    I'm sorry to hear of your defeat. But, hey, at least you didn't fall down a well...

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    Replies
    1. Hahaha: I didn’t hear about that! Sometimes I do spell my name phonetically as “Quay” to make it easier for people in the US. Of course, in the UK and elsewhere, this would cause even more confusion because “quay” is pronounced “key."

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  3. Umm...Kwei, I think you could at least let your blogmates in on the next chapter ahead of time. Right?

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  4. What next chapter? šŸ˜‚

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  5. Good grief. The suspense is killing ne. Obviously we are ALL hooked good and proper. Standing by!!!! Annamaria

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  6. WELL, WELL, WELL! WOW WOW WON!! It's more suspenseful than than January 6th hearings!

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