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Twenty

As the light faded to black, Maslow moved his arm for the first time and realized that he was not bound. Where he was lying, flat on his back, was damp and rocky, but the puddles he'd felt around him before were gone now. His mouth was dry and he was starving. He inhaled deeply, trying to get control of the weakness, the dizziness and pain in his head. He was like the old man with a brain tumor he'd seen in the hospital just a few days ago. Every exchange, every moment had taken ages. Ten minutes to raise his arm, to pick up a foot, answer a question. "Give me a minute," he'd say. Maslow was like that now.

He told himself in a few minutes he would explore his prison. When he was ready. Now he would try to think. He could trace the events of his last day. He remembered waking up and worrying about the date he'd had with Vivian last week, how much he'd liked her. He remembered how upset he'd been that they'd argued. He'd been worrying about it for a week, obsessing about whether he should call her back. After a week, he wondered if it was too late to call her. Would she be insulted that it had taken him so long? He wasn't sure he liked her anymore. But then, she called him and left a message. The message was she'd left her pen somewhere. It was a blue pen, a gift from her mother. She asked if he remembered it, if he'd seen it. He hadn't seen it, didn't remember it. He wondered if the call was just an excuse to talk to him. For two days he'd played the message over and over trying to figure it out. Did she like him, did he like her? What should he do about it in either case?

That day he'd had classes, had lunch, saw two psychiatric patients, and had his session with Allegra in his office-the one that upset her so much. He'd called Jason, gone home, and changed for jogging. He remembered the rain. It had been raining all afternoon. When he came out of his building, he'd seen Allegra. She was sitting on a bench outside the park. In that moment when she came up to him and didn't let him pass her by, he knew she really had been following him for some time.

That was all he remembered. Nothing after that. He'd been with Allegra and now he was here. He had an ache in his throat, as if he'd been punched there and lost his voice. His chest hurt, and it was hard to breathe. Maybe a collapsed lung, maybe cracked ribs. He couldn't tell. He realized he was shivering. He knew he had to get moving, drink, and eat something. He put his hand out and felt a crumbling surface, like the beach at low tide, inches from his face. At his sides the space widened a little, but only a little. Even if he were able to sit up, there was no room to do it.

Panicked, he felt for his chest and stomach. It was then that he realized the fanny pack he'd taken with him when he left home was still on him. Lying on his back, moaning with terror, he groped around in it for his cell phone. With the phone he could call someone and get out of there. He found the phone, felt the talk button, pushed it, and heard a beep. He moved it up his chest and raised it to his face. There was no flashing light to indicate how much life the battery had left. That's how he knew he'd been in his grave longer than eighteen hours. He didn't know how much longer he could last.


Nineteen | Tracking Time | Twenty-one