When you’re trapped in a hole in the middle of the woods you have a lot of time to think about your life and all the stupid shit you did to put yourself there.
You might think a 15-year-old boy from the suburbs wouldn’t have much life to look back on but you’d be surprised how much of it floods in when you’re hungry, exhausted and sitting in the dark ten feet below ground level. Fifteen years is apparently more than enough time for Old Man Karma to show up and dump a truck-load of bad memories on you so you’re neck deep in regret. That’s right, just back it up, pal. You can dump ’em all right here in this hole. Don’t worry about the kid down there. Nobody’ll miss him.
I keep hearing rustling above me. There are things moving through the leaves. I know it’s probably just mice working overtime to keep themselves alive for another miserable day but each time I sense movement up there my heart jumps and adrenaline shoots through me like a bullet train. So, I can’t sleep. Probably for the best. They’ll be back soon and I want to be ready when they arrive. Awake at least.
I’ve been out here long enough to know that the sounds of the forest can play tricks on a tired mind. That the smallest sound, like a seed, can sprout fear in the mind of a listener in the dark, or conjure memories best left in the past. There’s a cool breeze tonight that sounds like whispers as I drift in and out of consciousness, as though the Ghost of Conversations Past has come to haunt me.
In particular, my father’s words of advice seem to be playing on a loop like the greatest hits collection of some washed-up band. “It doesn’t pay to be a pain in the ass, kid,” was usually how he started his set list.
My father was always full of fairly useless advice. Once I called him Daisy Duke for wearing cut-off jeans and he told me, “Nobody likes a comedian.” To this day, I can’t decipher the meaning of that old chestnut. As far as I can tell, everyone likes a comedian. I wanted to say, “Who the hell doesn’t like a comedian?” But instead I just laughed and said something typically teenaged like, “Whatever.”
Well, I’m not laughing now.
For all his advice, my father couldn’t keep from being a pain in the ass to me and my mother. He’s been splitsville for over a year now and besides the occasional phone call we barely speak anymore.
I remember when the dust settled on my parents’ divorce, my mother told me the judge said it would be better for me to live with her because she could provide a more “stable environment”. She squeezed my hand in a weird way like she was trying to make it seem like we’d won some sort of victory together, but I knew my father didn’t put up a fight. He wanted his freedom and that’s what he got. Now he lives in a three-story mansion with an overly tanned 28-year-old waitress named Marlee. And me? I ended up with a stressed out mother who works sixty hours a week just to give me an allowance that barely keeps me in Playstation games, high-tops and weed. Yep, real stable.
If I’d stopped being a little prick long enough to realize life for my mother was probably much worse than it was for me I bet our relationship would have been a lot different. I certainly never thanked her for anything as far as I can remember. Not sincerely anyway. Too late now, I guess.
So anyway, my parents didn’t make it. Big deal. I remember Elle told me her parents were on the rocks and thrived on therapy. She sent me a link that said fifty per cent of marriages end up in flames, so it’s not like having divorced parents makes me some kind of special case.
Elle. I think of you most of all. God, I hope you’re okay.
I’m drifting off again. A sound. I’m awake.
My mind is really confusing things. I can sense it shutting down. I know what Adam would say. He’d tell me to snap out of it and focus, look to my surroundings and prepare for every possible scenario. He’d say playing smart is the only way to beat the odds and avoid being another casualty of The Compound. Of course he’d be right but this time’s different. It didn’t take me long to assess my situation here in this 10x10 hole and realize I was in deep trouble.
The first thing I noticed when they threw me down here is that the walls are smooth, as though the hole was dug out by a machine. There are no roots to grab on to either, so there’s no real way to climb out. I carved a foothold with my fork but the dirt just crumbled apart when I stepped in it and I fell on my ass. (I’ve since stuck the utensil back into my underwear where I hope it continues to go unnoticed).
At least there’s water seeping up from the earth beneath me; an ironic benefit to being down so deep. I dug a trough to let the liquid pool before I sip at it though. Being dehydrated isn’t like in the movies. You can’t just wet your lips and recover by the next scene. You have to actually fill your belly, so I’ve learned to be patient. Of course, you can’t drink too much too quickly either or you get water-drunk and get a raging headache. Yeah, survival is that complicated.
Thankfully, I ate a squirrel yesterday so hunger’s not an issue right now. We learned in school that Gandhi went more than twenty days without eating and I remember thinking that didn’t sound like much time at all and probably anyone could do that if they really wanted to. Well, I didn’t eat for nearly two days when I first awoke in The Compound and, let me tell you, I was so hungry I thought I might eat my own arm off. I don’t remember what Gandhi was protesting about but, sitting in this hole now, it’s crazy to think he had a choice in the matter; that he could have given up, just ordered Chinese food and watched TV. If I had a choice that’s what I’d be doing right now. Noodles from China Magic and a Netflix binge sounds a hell of a lot better than eating worms and being lost.
But that’s the big joke, isn’t it? I did have a choice. Not one big choice but a lot of little choices that added up to me being here in a hole in the middle of nowhere with only a day (Christ, maybe less!) to live. No surprise then that my life is flashing before my eyes.
I’m drifting again.
A boy screams in the night.