Anne is the winner for Part 2 of A Man Fell Into a Well.
We’re busy writing installment #3 for Friday.
Anne is the winner for Part 2 of A Man Fell Into a Well.
We’re busy writing installment #3 for Friday.
To read the beginning A Man Fell Into a Well Part 1b
I started to panic. My breaths were coming in short pants. My chin was pressed against my chest. My back and legs pressed against the walls of the well. I knew that I couldn’t support myself in this position much longer. Unless help arrived from above, I was going to be going down. Toward the voices.
How long had I been in here? Had it been hours? Perhaps the voices were hallucinations caused by pain. Maybe they weren’t really coming from below me and the closeness of the walls just made it sound like it.
“We are waiting for you.” They said again. This time they were more familiar. Growing up in these hills, I had heard stories from the miners that were old before their time. They always began the same way their voices raspy with the “miner’s asthma” that claims too many of them and frequently interrupted by coughing spells. “I was down in the heart of the mine. I could hear the walls starting to shake. In the rumbling, I could hear voices…”
There are stories from all over the world about the ghosts in the mines. The Shubin in Russia, the Seven Whistlers in Wales. I had heard all of these stories from my grandfather. He often told stories as he whittled. As he talked, I watched the wood take the shape of ghostly figures. Not all of the ghosts were evil, he explained. Some ghosts appeared to give warning before the mine caved in. Other miners, he said, reported seeing a ghost just after the mine had collapsed. The mines were a dangerous place.
I tried to push those thoughts out of my head. I wasn’t in a mine, I was in a well.
“Well, well, well…” echoed in my head. Scolding me and mocking me. I wished I could raise my arms to cover my ears and drown out the noise. The pressure of the words not said built up inside me. My chest started to feel tight. The stone against my back made me ache. I needed to move. I closed my eyes against the pain in my leg. But the words just kept pounding inside me. I had to release the pressure. It was just too much. I could feel my jaws opening to scream again, when the voices returned.
“We are here.” They said this time.
Where? These voices didn’t sound like they were coming from below me. My scream stopped in my throat. I attempted once again to look up. The movement of my head caused a small rock to dislodge itself. I heard it fall and counted. Waiting to hear the splash, waiting for the voices to come again. Waiting for the answer that I hoped would come.
1…2…3…there was a soft pop as the rock landed. It did not hit water. I could hear the movement of something beneath me. A sort of shuffling.
I still could see nothing above me, so I decided to look below. It was hard to see around myself wedged in the way I was. I rolled my head slightly to the left. Underneath me I saw a flash of white. It was perhaps 15 or 20 feet down. I weighed my risks. I was stuck. There was no way I was going to be able to get up the well. I could perhaps maneuver myself into a position that would let me fall deeper into it. My leg screamed with pain and my muscles were fatigued from holding this position for so long. I realized that it just didn’t matter.
There was no way I was going to be rescued. If I was going to move, the only way was down.
I heard a shuffling noise above me. Wait. Was it above me? I opened my mouth and called out. “HELP!”
I heard the noise again. A rock tumbled down onto me. A light shone on me. A voice. ”Hold on! I’m going to get some rope.”
The noises above faded. The noises below increased. There was cavernous roaring now. It was growing louder, I could feel the noise coming from under me. I could feel movement and wind beneath me.
“You don’t want to do that.” the voices warned. “We have been waiting a long time.”
There was a part of me that longed to just fall. To end the relentless waiting. How long would be before the top voices came back? I wanted to know what fate awaited me at the bottom. What were those voices?
I heard scuffling above me again. I could hear the old wood creak. “Hey! Are you still there?” the voice called down to me, as the light hit me again.
“Yes! Help!” I cried. My leg throbbed with the effort.
“I’m going to throw you a rope.” Said the voice. I was able to identify the voice as a man. “I’ve called for help. Are you hurt?”
As I was about to answer as the rope hit me in the chest. “Tie that around yourself.” the man said.
I started trying to move my arms to grab the rope. I could feel the excitement building below me. The rumblings started again. “Do you hear that?” I shouted up to the man.
“Hear what?” he called down.
The noises were nearly deafening now. They were bouncing around the cavern. Despite all of that, I heard the man take a step backward. I heard the splintering of the old wood. I knew he had heard it too. As I was finally able to grab the rope, I felt it go slack. My body started to slip further down. I knew there was no way I could brace myself this time.
“We told you.” The voices said.
To read the beginning A Man Fell Into a Well Part 1b
I strained to hear again.
That couldn’t be right.
I strained my eyes to look into the deep darkness.
A glimmer of light.
A set of eyes.
Shifted and fell a few more inches.
Then I started hyperventilating.
And that was the last thing I remembered.
I don’t know how long I was out, but it must not have been very long. It was the flashlight that did it. Any sounds, anyone calling to me, I’m certain I would have blocked out. But a sudden light, where so far there had only been vague darkness, was enough to bring me around.
“I saw him move! He moved!” called out a young voice. I slowly craned my neck to look up at the top of the well. There, towering above me, was some young guy. I couldn’t really see him, but I could sort of see him waving his arms, sort of make out the silhouette of his sloppy hair. His voice was young, and too excited to be very old. He called out to me “Hang in there, man. Help is coming.” Then he turned and looked to the side, “He’s alive! He’s moving!”
If I thought about it, telling someone that they’re alive is not as uplifting as it sounds. Obviously they’re alive if they can hear you. But I can only imagine what kind of state I was in if someone needed to be told as much.
“She’s coming, man.” he said breathlessly, and then stepped away. In his place, a new person emerged. Her voice was much more calm, much more reassuring. “Sir, are you okay?” It was a stupid question.
I craned my neck away from her, looking to the bottom of the well. I held still for a moment, waiting to see movement. I had seen so many horror movies that I half expected a hand to reach out of the darkness and grab me. But I saw no sign of anything below. There was a little more light than before. But there was nothing else.
“Sir, are you okay?” she repeated, louder. “I’m alive”, I said, not even trying to hide the bundle of feelings: anger, pain, hostility, fear. “But I’m stuck in a damn well. And I think my leg is broken.”
“Okay. We have an emergency team on the way, but they won’t be here for a while.” She sounded like she was sorry. “I do have a rope up here – we can try and pull you up if you think you can handle it.”
I honestly didn’t know if I could or not, but I was willing to find out. “I just want to get the hell out of here.” I must have mumbled it, because she responded with a depressing “What?”. “Just get me the hell out of here!” I yelled. She was a better person than I was. If an asshole talked to me like I talked to her, I’d have left him down there. But after a few seconds, a rope slowly descended toward me. Again, if I was tossing help to an asshole, I probably would have chucked it as hard as I could.
“I think I broke my leg,” I said, then remembered that I had already said that. I grabbed the rope and contemplated how best to use it. I was in no position to try and wrap it around my waist, and the last thing I wanted to do was risk dropping further. So I wrapped the rope around my arm several times, grabbed it with every bit of strength I could force myself to use, and braced for the worst. “Pull!” I yelled.
I’m not going to even pretend that my arm didn’t hurt like hell. The shoulder felt like it could come apart at any second, as the forces from above tugged at it, testing every ligament and muscle that kept it attached. But the worst of all was my leg, which clearly did not want to move. I used my right leg to push, forcing my foot into whatever little nooks I could find. But I was careful not to scream; I did not want to run the risk of them deciding to wait until the emergency people got there.
“We’re getting there, buddy” called out sloppy-hair. “Just hang on.” And within a few seconds, I had moved up a couple more inches. I carefully reached my other arm around to grab the rope, maybe try and even out the strain on my left arm. As my body started to rise further, the pain eased up on my left leg. It was the first time I hadn’t had pressure on it in hours, but it only lasted until my right foot lost it’s nook, and both feet dropped below me, hanging.
The weight of gravity, it turns out, was worse than the wall.
My right hand lost some grip and slid down a few inches. My left arm stayed wound up tight in the rope. But at that moment, I was moving. For the first time, I was almost certain that whatever had been below me was out of reach. I could hear sloppy-hair and the girl talking back and forth, along with some other guy, with words that made no sense to me. She was directing, “Grab here,” “hold on.” But whatever she was doing was working.
The stench of the well started to dissipate, slowly being replaced by the fresh air from above. My arm hurt like hell, but I was holding on as much as I possibly could. My mind started racing, imaging the rope snapping. The well collapsing. My arm unravelling. I closed my eyes, tight as they could get, and gritted my teeth through the pain.
That’s when I felt the hand grab me.
Congratulations to John for getting the most votes!
We’ll be back on Friday with the next installment.
With the little glimmer of light, I could see the blood pool on my jeans spread outward, creeping toward the pocket. When I wasn’t thinking about the pain in my knees, I swear I could feel the blood pooling in my shoes. And I could definitely hear the soft drops way down below, as a slow trickle of blood dripped into water.
The rangers had clearly marked the “No Trespassers” signs. And obviously the well had seen better days, and I knew it wasn’t as stable as it should be, but I hadn’t realized the full implications. So when I used my cell to shine a light to the bottom and felt it slip, well that’s how I ended up here.
I assumed my leg was broken, but I refused to move it and find out. When I was younger, I had broken my arm, and though I remember the pain vividly, I can only assume the pain I felt now was the same, with slight changes based on age and experience. Certainly I knew enough now to recognize that even if I could force it free, there would be nothing else keeping me from dropping; and I assumed the bottom of the well was further away than the open air. At any rate, should help arrive, I would be closer to them here. And at this rate, every second I wasn’t stuck here was sure to be worth it.
I checked my right leg to see that I could shake my foot. I could. But the slight movements sent a lightning streak of pain coursing through the other leg. I screamed, but it was as much out of frustration as pain. I wanted to believe that someone would walk by and hear me. But they hadn’t before. Or any time before that. Time plays tricks on the mind, but I couldn’t tell if I had been down here for an hour, or five. The trees overhead made recognizing the subtle differences in the sun and its movement impossible. It’s one of those things you don’t even realize, don’t even think about, until you’re jammed in a hole several feet below the ground.
The lightning of pain struck again, deeper, meaner. It ran through my leg and into my lower back, stopping just below my rib cage. Like a tear in every muscle, or a rip through the skin. I cringed my back to avoid the sensation, and slid. Probably only a inch or so, halted by a quick wrench of my back, leaving me slightly askew. I screamed. Anyone within a hundred feet would have heard it. But no one would be stupid enough to go behind the hedges. No one else cared so little about their own safety to walk through the threat of poison ivy. Poison oak. Snakes. Bears. Avalanches. Every stupid danger the park pretended may be back here. In reality, just saying there was a damn well back here, with rotting bricks, and no chance of escape, probably would make most sane people think about their plans.
The smell certainly didn’t help. I could imagine that underground water smells stale, but add the dirt, animal crap, probably the rotting carcass of other stupid animals wafting up the well. Add to it my own sweat and the smell of the blood. I’m sure that vomit and piss won’t be far…
A stone the size of my fist dropped from somewhere above and hit my leg as it went by. The pain was beyond what I could even manage, as I threw my arms out, knocking myself askew, and sending more bolts through my femur and slamming my head against the wall.
Stop. Breathe, I told myself. Ignore the pain. Gather yourself. Think about anything. Concentrate on the echoes. Breathe. Let the air fill your lungs. Your head is fine. Just breathe. Relax. Listen. Someone will walk by. Someone knows you’re missing. Remember to breathe. Listen. Wait. Know that a direct hit would have been worse. Maybe even snapped the leg. Let you find out what’s down there. Face first. Could have been worse.
Could have been worse.
The thought occurs suddenly that maybe the rock came from someone at the top of the well. I painfully crane my neck to look up, convincing myself that maybe it was a person, a person who just wasn’t saying anything. Wasn’t paying attention to the person below them. Maybe they were just taking a look. Like the stupid ass before them.
Still nobody. Still nothing. Just me. And the throbbing pain. And the blood. And the rotting animal carcass. The smell encourages me not to stop. This is not where my story goes. No. No more. I gave another loud scream. This time, I was only calling for help. I knew the pain was holding me back. No pained screams. Just a call for help.
Then deep breaths. Just listen. Calm down and listen hard.
I hear something. It sounds like quiet, calm voices. A small echo bounced off the walls around me. I called again. Help.
By the time my echo dissipated, the new echo was there to take over. Soft and slow. But slightly louder.
I let it all out. I called out as loud as I could. Six times. Seven times. Help. I’m here. Get help.
Craned my neck slightly. Fought the pain that came with it. Looked at the top of the well. Saw nobody. Heard my echo die. Heard a new echo take over louder still.
Muttering? Talking? Did they hear me? Couldn’t not hear that. I’m so loud. Or is it just the echo?
Weird. They must have heard, but tricky echos. It must be louder here. At this spot. Things reverb.
Someone is there. It’s not me. I can hear them.
I hold my breath. Don’t make a sound.
And I hear.
Slow and quiet.
And it’s coming from below me.