The air is thick and heavy, resisting as I inhale and getting worse by minute. I can hardly breathe, and the panic that’s coming on, slowly setting in, is like ice in the way that it makes everything else seem numb. All I can think is ‘get out, get out, get out’. How did I even get here? The memories are foggy; they’re wispy and hazy, dancing like smoke in the back of my mind. I pound against the wall, my fists aching from the steady staccato rhythm being beat out on the plastic. I can’t get out.
The hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention as the sudden burn of being watched from behind makes my panic bubble higher. I’m a hamster in a ball, but unable to roll away. My mouth opens without my consent and a scream tears itself from my throat. Did I really make that noise? That high, piercing note that sliced through the darkness, echoing around me as it reverberated off the walls that encased me in my tiny, plastic prison.
I stop smashing my fists into the wall, breathing heavily and feeling the dull throb of my heartbeat in my aching hands. They’re probably bruised, but I can’t care about that. I’m stuck; I can’t get out. I turn around, rushing forward to press against the opposite wall as my eyes widen. A whimper of relief escapes my lips and my legs give out under me as a tiny pinprick of soft, yellow light appears in the distance, slowly growing larger as its carrier grows closer, a tiny speck of hope against all of the odds.
For a moment, the terror I’m feeling recedes, and I press myself harder against the edges of my cell, daring to hope for release, but as the holder of that tiny, golden lantern comes into view, I can’t help the screech that escapes me as I scrabble as far away was possible.
The pale, gaunt face of my captor is grinning terribly at me, dark eyes bearing soullessly down into my own. The broken, yellow teeth and greying, wrinkled skin are reminiscent of someone who had no care for their own personal hygiene, and the man was slightly stooped, leaning heavily on the wooden post his lantern was hung on.
In a sudden burst of courage, I threw myself forward, launching my body towards the monstrosity grinning down at me.
"Let me OUT!" I screamed, resuming my pounding. My breath was misting the clear casing of my container, and he was so close - so unbearably, incredibly close - that he couldn't have not heard me. Water ran down my face, and I realised that I was sobbing almost hysterically as I begged to be let go. The grin on his face only widened, and I hung my head as I slid back to the far side once more.
"Please," I whispered, drawing my legs up and wrapping my aching arms around them. He threw his head back and cackled, mouth open wide, but, thankfully, no sound entered my ears.
I was nothing but entertainment.
Done with his laughter, he turned and hobbled away. I buried my face in my knees, tears leaking slower than before from my eyes. I can’t get out; I can never be free. I’m stuck here, nothing more than a bug in a jar for a sick old man, to be poked and prodded at his whims.
I'm stuck here, nothing more than a scared little girl inside a small, plastic box.