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The dogs press their teeth deeper into my ankles. They clench their jaws, dragging me out. It is both a dull and sharp agony as they penetrate my skin through my pants. It is impossible to kick since there is a dog at each ankle fighting my resistance. As they tug and pull, my hands scramble to grasp for leverage but there is nothing to hold onto.
Then I hear voices. The dogs are scolded and called off. Releasing my ankles, they squirm backwards out of the tunnel. I want to hear what the voices are saying but there’s no time to wait around. By the new headlights that are able to reach and shine in from outside, and the cessation of pursuit, I gather that new people have arrived and they may be determining what to do with me. They have me trapped, they assume. But I begin to dig.
Straight ahead the ground is paved on the other side of the wall. I begin to dig right, beneath the wall, to follow under it. I consider closing the tunnel behind me so they don’t know where I’ve gone, but it would be a waste of time since the dogs could easily figure it out. If I thought I had a fighting chance I’d have probably crawled out. But they had guns with the mercury bullets and they were planning to shoot me on sight without even an explanation.
My lungs feel like they are filled with soil. It’s a painful congestion and when I cough, mud is expectorated into my mouth. I can no longer breathe through my nose as it is filled with chunks of dirt. Earth has been forced deeply beneath my fingernails and is being buried yet deeper as I continue to dig voraciously. The throbbing and stinging in my ankles makes me wonder about their condition and how badly I am bleeding. If I have the ability to heal myself or to regenerate, how does that work, how long does it take, and what the hell does that even really mean?
I’ve dug far enough that I don’t hear the voices or dogs anymore and I did so with a speed and endurance that surpasses human capabilities. I reach a distance that feels good to me. At first I consider digging right, which would bring me back into the woods from under the wall, on the same side as the men and the dogs, but perhaps far enough away to escape without detection. Intuition tells me to attempt left again, that perhaps I may actually reach natural ground and not pavement.
I dig left and it doesn’t take long before I feel the absence of the wall’s pressure above me. My hands scrape and scoop mounds of earth pushing it behind me alongside my haunches. I begin to dig up, becoming desperate for air. I held on so long, and now, as I may be able to reach open air, a sense of urgency overtakes me and a claustrophobic panic sets in. I need air. I need out of this confined tunnel, I can’t think clearly anymore. I don’t even care if I crawl out of the earth directly to their feet and they shoot me on the spot. I need air. I need out. I can’t breathe. I respire rapidly and my heart is beating faster. The more I gasp for air, the more soil gets inhaled. I’m burying myself alive.
I stop digging because I’m tired and I just want to close my eyes. As I lie here, closed in, with no room to move, no air to breathe, and dirt crumbling on me from above, I begin to wonder if this is really happening. How do I know if this is actually occurring or if this is more of the demented false memory being fabricated within my mind. It feels real, as did all the rest of it. One thing I learned, I think this is valid, is that although most of my memories are fake, some symbolic variation truly took place. I know this because it was a twisted translation within my psyche, whatever emotions and thoughts and physical experiences took place during the actual circumstances, paralleled the emotions, thoughts, and physical experiences of the true events.
I begin to drift off until alertness slaps me awake and I decide to imagine this is real, it feels real, and if I don’t get out of this tunnel now I will die. I dig up. The pressure of the landscape becomes less and less until it begins to cave in where my one hand digs further up. I just want to break through, then I’ll tunnel out. The earth caves and I know that means the soil is looser and closer to the surface. It also means that there is no pavement.
My hand breaks through the surface and I begin to pull the earth in and down below me. More and more open space gets created and I feel the air on my face but I almost can’t breathe it. Finally I am able to squirm my torso through, pulling out my legs, and I collapse onto my back, coughing up mud and grain. I blow the soil out of my nose into my hand several times, and wipe it on the grass. It is such a luxury to be lying upon the grass as my lungs and sinuses clear out slowly enough for me to take in the fresh air. Above me the sky is vast and dark like royal blue velvet. The stars create infinite depth and I slip into the vast realm.
I want to close my eyes and sleep. Exhaustion overtakes me. I’m so tired. The moment consumes me and I can’t think of anything else but lying here, it feels so good, so free…