I woke. As I opened my eyes, my head pounded and vision blurred. My clothes smelled of dirt and I felt a large, recently formed bruise on my right leg. The last thing I can remember is sitting down in my car in the parking garage to leave work. I was staring at the steering wheel and felt my concentration start to fade and my vision go. The next thing I knew I was here, wherever here was. One thing is for sure, I did not get here on my own. I sat up, letting my body fall backwards against the slightly curved wall behind me. I looked up through a cylindrical opening as moon beams fell down upon my face. It seems I was in a well. I paused and listened, but heard nothing from the surface - no traffic, no people, only the distant sounds of nocturnal insects. The well must have been in disuse for quite some time as the dry ground gave no indication of the water that had previously occupied it. My confusion and the pain in my head and leg had so far suppressed my panic of the situation, until I focused my eyes across from me at the darkest section of the well. There was movement and I realized that I was not alone.
My entire body tensed, no part of me moving except for my studying eyes. I was sizing up the other entity, trying to decide if I was going to have to fight for my life. I heard a low groan, the being in the well was another man. Trembling, I managed a choked, “Who are you?” No reply. My eyes were acquainted with the dark now and I could see the figure was analyzing me as well. “Who are you?” I asked again, my voice a bit more demanding in tone.
“Rick Darger,” the man said. “Who are you?”
“Alex Gram,” I replied. In the dim moonlight, I could see Rick was in his mid-30′s, around the same age as me, possibly a little older. He was slightly taller and heavier than me and spoke in a gravelly tone. I asked him how he had ended up down here, still suspicious that he may have had something to do with my own predicament. He claimed to work in the same office building as me, and his story closely paralleled with mine. We were both sitting in our cars, ready to begin our drive back home when our vision blurred and we lost consciousness. We concluded that there had to be some kind of chemical either sprayed or applied to the inside of our vehicles to cause our condition. I told him that I couldn’t think of anyone who would possibly do this, or have any reason to, and he replied the same. After more mutual interrogating, we reluctantly accepted each other’s story.
We began to examine our surroundings. The well was circular and grew wider from the top down towards the bottom, a length of about sixty feet. It was constructed of large stone bricks which were quite smooth. Aside from that, there was not much else of note except for a patch of moss growing in between some of the stones. There looked to be no means of escape - no ladder, no rope, and no convenient footing as to scale ones way back up to the surface. We were trapped, that I am certain.
Moments later, we heard footsteps closing in on the surface of the well. My heart gradually grew to outpace the footsteps as they closed in on the opening. With heightened senses, Rick and I looked at each other anxiously. There was a pause, and we heard nothing. Then Rick shouted towards the surface, “Down here! We’re down here!” Again, silence. We looked at each other once more, when at that moment we heard a noise from above us. We looked up to see something at the top of the well. As it came closer, we saw that it was a wooden bucket attached to a rope. The stop-starting motion at which the bucket dropped caused me to picture the stranger’s hands lowering it down to us. A smell overwhelmed us, it was the properly cooked flesh of animal. Our stranger was lowering us steaks. As the smell filled my nostrils, it made me realize how hungry I was. This brought no relief however as I indicated to Rick, “This must be the person who brought us down here.” The bucket finally reached us and we quickly grabbed the steaks, one for each of us. As our stranger holding the rope at the surface felt the contents of the bucket disappear, they quickly pulled the bucket back up to the opening of the well and then over the side. Then we heard the footsteps from before, only this time growing fainter instead of nearer. “Hey asshole, come back! Help us!!” Rick shouted in desperation. The footsteps continued on their way growing ever softer. Judging from the hunger I was feeling, we must have been unconscious for well over a day. We hesitantly devoured our meals and after several hours of shouting for help, overwhelmed with distress and exhaustion, we decided it was best to try and get some sleep. We would try to figure a way out in the morning when we would have greater visibility. As I lay on my back, I watched the moon slowly move out of view of the well’s opening, engulfing us in darkness.
The next morning I woke to the banging of the bucket against the side of the well as it lowered down to us. Rick was already standing, waiting for the bucket to come in arms reach. The slightly irritated look on his face seemed to indicate that he intended for me to sleep through this delivery from our stranger on the surface, as to keep all of the contents for himself. “Breakfast?” I said to him. He shrugged his shoulders, his eyes completely fixated on the bucket. Then, a familiar smell came rushing back over me as the bucket grew closer. Our captor was again dropping us freshly-cooked steak. As the bucket came closer, our slight relief for more food turned to an unsettling dismay, there was less this time. When the bucket dropped within reach, Rick pulled it close to him and shouted towards the surface.
“Hey you fucker, where is the other steak?” He pulled the one steak from the bucket and also a canteen with a handwritten note attached to it. The note read, “Finish And Put Back”. We complied, too thirsty to care if there was anything other than water in the canteen and then proceeded to devour the steak. Rick ate his portion first then gave me the rest. He took noticeably more than half of the steak, but in the interest of preserving our alliance I made no mention of it. Once every bit of muscle and fat was consumed, we saw the bucket start to rise. We both watched as it gradually made its way to the surface and was pulled over the side. The smaller portion of food during this delivery set upon me an uneasiness that I could not shake, and I could tell by his quicker mannerisms that Rick was having the same reaction. As we listened to the footsteps above us slowly fade, we decided that we needed to figure a way out, now. We examined the bricks that lay around us making up the walls and floor of the well. The sturdy construction made us quickly rule out any attempts to tunnel our way out, especially with a lack of tools at our disposal. “Here,” Rick said, “I’ll lift you up. See if you can find any spot that we can use as footing.” The well was still quite dark even asthe sun rose in the sky. I felt the wall, the smooth brick sides did not seem conducive to scaling. I moved my hand across the clammy wall until I found an area that was slightly weathered.
“Hold still,” I told Rick. I reached my fingers around a decaying brick to pull myself up slightly. Rick pushed the bottom of my feet up just enough so that I was able to reach a second area of decaying bricks above the first I had found. I dug one of my shoes into the first section of climbable brick and pulled myself further, no longer with the aid of Rick. I continued my slow ascent about 20 or so feet before I noticed that there were no longer any eroded wall sections to dig my hands into. “Damnit,” I shouted. Looking down to Rick I shook my head. I then directed my attention behind me and saw that at this height, the circumference of the well was small enough that I may be able to lean backwards and do a sort of vertical walk with my back pressed against the other side. I let my body fall back against the other side to test this maneuver out, when at that moment I heard the loud scraping sound of wood across brick coming from above me. Our captor on the surface was covering the hole of the well with a large board. The sudden noise startled me, jostling me from my elevated position. I lunged forward towards the decayed bricks I had climbed up from. I was able to slow my fall significantly but the footing was not adequate enough to stop it completely. I hurdled towards the ground repeatedly gashing my hands on the decayed bricks. The light in the well above me faded out completely as I hit the ground, twisting my right leg horribly. I let out an anguished cry as the awful sensations rushed to me from my limbs. I writhed on the ground in intense pain. Although I could not see in the darkness, the pulsing of my sliced open hands made me realize that I must have been bleeding pretty significantly. I quickly ripped off part of the left leg of my office pants to try and soak up the blood, wrapping some around each hand.
“Fuck!! Oh my God, are you okay?!” Rick shouted kneeling down next to me. I felt my eyes beginning to shut.
I don’t know whether I passed out from the pain, or a combination of stress and exhaustion, but I awoke many hours later feeling a terrible sense of déjà vu. I had a gnawing hunger growing in my stomach and felt extremely weak. Lifting my body up to a sitting position and staring into the darkness, I asked Rick how long I had been out. “Awhile,” he said. “I didn’t think you were going to wake up, you missed a drop.”
“What? Did you save me anything?” I shot back.
“No, well, like I said, I thought you might have been dead or in a coma or something, it was hardly any food anyway, just one lousy chicken leg.” I was furious, he knew I was still alive. If not for the darkness of the well there was nothing to hide the rage on my face. Being used to three meals a day, this experience was taking its toll on us both. I would do anything to satisfy the hunger growing in my stomach, making itself ever harder to ignore.
With growing desperation we had made one more attempt to scale the side of the well. I stood up and helped Rick reach the section of decayed bricks. Merely standing put an immense strain on my leg and lifting him created such a soaring agony that I collapsed back to the ground as he pulled himself up. In the darkness, Rick was unsure of his footing which made the ascension incredibly difficult. I quickly lost hope for the endeavor as I soon heard Rick swearing under his breath at a height nowhere close where I had made it to. He abandoned the climb fearing a potentially fatal fall to the ground below. I was able to slow my drop when I had lost my footing but Rick may have not been able to with the added detriment of attempting his climb in the dark. Feeling completely helpless, Rick re-assumed his spot on the floor of the well across from me.
The hours stretched on, days stretched on. Rick and I spoke little now. The drops from the surface became less frequent and now consisted only of water. With each delivery, as our captor removed the board to lower us the bucket, each of us could see how gaunt the other was beginning to look. I could see the sunken, hollow look in Rick’s eyes as they slowly looked upwards at each descending bucket. His cheekbones were now protruding and he had adopted a hunched over posture. The husky person who I first met down here was wasting away before my eyes. We had even taken to fighting over a bug which I had found and eventually devoured. I had also secretly eaten the moss which was growing on some of the stones with no idea if it was even edible. The final meal we received was a pear which we split. I normally dislike fruit but I must say, due to the primal craving for food that was consuming me, it was the most delicious thing I have ever eaten.
One morning, or afternoon, it’s nearly impossible to tell with the small amount of light coming in between the board and the stone brick at the top of the well, and my now erratic sleep schedule which it has induced, I was forced to listen as Rick’s sanity slowly escaped him. He started laughing uncontrollably, at what I’m not exactly sure. Delirium had probably set in from hunger. Sitting silently in my section and not saying a word, I listened as he paced back and forth. Then in a half crying, half screaming shout he leaped towards the stone brick wall in a mad fury, jumping and hitting the ground only to pick himself up again. Although I could not see, my eyes were wide open, heart racing. I listened as his nails scratched against the wall of the well, convinced he had ripped them off in his manic clawing at the underground masonry. He jumped up five or six more times, continuing his incoherent shouting before finally slumping back to the ground defeated. Still not saying a word, I listened to the sobbing of a broken human being. Sensing his now unpredictability I grew even more worried. Then, I heard the familiar sound of footsteps coming closer. I lifted my head upward as the board was being lifted and the afternoon sun fell on my face. I looked at Rick, confirming my suspicion. He had indeed tore most of his fingernails off, his hands bleeding and trembling. Both of our eyes were fixated on the bucket now. As it came to just about seven feet above the bottom of the well, Rick stood up and jumped to grab it. Swinging from it he hit the side of the well and fell to the ground, splintering a triangular piece of wood off the bucket. As the dust rose from where Rick had fallen, so too did the bucket. It was pulled up faster than any time previous, and up with it went our water delivery. “You idiot, there goes our water for the day.” I shouted fuming at Rick. I was furious and wondered how long we could go on without more food and water. I listened as Rick continued to sob, his body turned facing the wall, and turned my head upward to watch the bucket go over the side. Then a sight I was well accustomed to, the board sliding across the circular opening of the well, and the waning of the daylight.
What seemed like a day had passed since our last encounter with the monster who dragged us to this eclipsed underground prison. The hunger I was now feeling was unbearable. It was as if my own stomach was consuming me for not satisfying its demand for food. With every movement I made I felt my stomach bend in a new direction of pain, each as intense as the last. I had constant dreams of backyard barbecues, delicious greasy hamburgers, and racks of ribs. I never wanted to leave those dreams because when I awoke I was back here, in this awful place. The well had remained silent since the last delivery incident with the exception of some shuffling and pacing back and forth by Rick, though at this moment the well was completely silent. Rick must be sleeping. I picked my body up feeling very frail and exhausted, even though I’m sure I had just slept for a good ten hours. I leaned backwards against the well wall. Giving up, I just waited for starvation or dehydration to take me, tears streaming down my face in the darkness. Then I heard the distant rhythm of footsteps. They were coming closer, but I didn’t care. Even if we received some water I knew we would be dead soon anyway. I waited as the footsteps stopped at the top of the well, and sighed waiting for my temporary relief of thirst. But nothing happened. I waited for another five minutes or so before yelling, “Hello?” Still nothing. I shouted a few more times and finally the board covering the well was removed, moonlight beaming down, down upon me and upon what I could only call a man who had now turned feral from intense hunger.
The eyes that stared at me from across the well were not from the same person that was down here with me several days ago. Rick stared at me unblinking, and I didn’t have to guess very hard at what he was thinking. I heard the clang of the bucket against the side of the well as it made its descent. “Rick, are you ok?” I asked raspily. No reply, and still no blinking, just staring at me with deathly cold eyes so sunken into his head that if I had not saw him breathing I would have assumed him dead. Then, the bucket hit the floor in front of us with its contents gleaming in the moonlight; a butcher’s knife. My heart sank and adrenaline started to flow. My eyes widened as Rick’s breathing became heavier. “Now h-hold on Ri-ick, we can figure so-,” but before I could finish he jumped up from his position against the wall and made a dash for the knife. I pushed myself up but with my leg still not fully healed, I stumbled awkwardly towards the center of the well, falling upon an already empty bucket. I looked up to see Rick breathing maniacally, his bony frame barely looking like it could support itself. I inched backwards as he stood in the center of the well, immersed in the light of the moon. I backed myself to a corner of the well with no anticipation of mercy. Rick stepped forward towards my position, his face now in shadow. All I could see was the reflection of eyes, teeth, and knife. Edging to one side I began to plead with him but it was no use. He inched closer, drawing the blade upwards. My voice was choked by fear. I watched the silhouette of this figure quickly sink the knife downward, catching my calf as I tried to move out of its path. I let out a cry of agony and terror flooded my body. He struck again but I was able to crawl out of range, the knife clanging against the stone brick. On all fours I crawled backwards a couple feet before I felt something on the ground behind me. Rick quickly caught up with me and drew the knife over his head with both hands. With every bit of power I had left in my exhausted body I thrust the object I had in my hand at Rick piercing him through one of his eyes and with my heel kicked it with full force.
He stumbled backwards dropping the knife, before finally collapsing in the center of the well. The moonlight illuminating his now unmoving body. And sticking out of his left eye, the pointed triangular piece of wood that had broken off the bucket.
The energy expelled during that altercation left me barely able to move. I was again stuck with the unrelenting feeling of hunger and threat of starvation. The stranger on the outside left the well uncovered, but I knew there was no hope of anyone hearing my cries for help. I lasted another day and a half before I did what I most dreaded I would have to do to stay alive. I dare not go into too many details, but if anyone should find us now, they would find me, a bloody butcher’s knife, and a dead man missing half a calf muscle. Blurry eyed against the cool stone brick wall, I looked up delirious in the afternoon sun contemplating suicide for what I had done. Then in the distance, I heard the footsteps of whoever it was that brought me to this hellish prison in the earth. I knew the rhythm of their footsteps from hearing it so many times before, knowing it was never help that had arrived. Then without a sound, a rope dropped down before me. Was I hallucinating? Was this some kind of trick? I stood up, still extremely weak. Tugging on the rope I found it to be sturdy. Nobody was holding on to it at the top of the well as had been the case with the bucket deliveries, it must have been fastened to something. I grasped it in both hands and pulled myself up as hard as I could. Though I was horribly weakened from the lack of food, my body weight was reduced enough that I required less strength to pull myself upward. Pain shot through my hands as they were still not healed completely from my fall several days prior, but I could hardly care. The urge to be free from this pit was all I needed to reach the first layer of decayed bricks. I dug my feet into them to aid my climb upward. Slowly, I managed to make it to the point I was at many days ago, where the well circumference was small enough to lean my back against the wall behind me. This also helped in my ascent as I made my way up to the surface, and finally reaching the top, out and over the side of the well’s opening, I collapsed on the ground in the heat of the afternoon sun.
Weeks later, I am here at my apartment back in the city. The authorities have found nothing. The abandoned well was located several towns away in the deep countryside, far away from anyone hearing our cries for help. I walked about an hour to the closest road and hitchhiked to the hospital. They told me I’m very lucky to be alive, but how can one go back to living a normal life after all I had endured? I had eaten a human being, and that will stay with me until the day I die. As will what I found once I crawled out of that hellhole. The rope which I climbed was tied to a large rock on the side of the well. And fastened to the rock by the rope was a note, handwritten, reading— “Thanks for the thrill Alex”.