I Blame Mrs. Wyatt
HE TOLD ME I’d be safe in here.
He said this was the one place in the city that I could be if I wanted to stay the way I wanted to stay.
This was my only hope for a last chance.
He called it my last chance at death.
Whatever it was I thought he meant at the time, I’m sure I’d seen it the other way around. But as the air slowly diminishes and the darkness seems to turn back to light, I’m beginning to rethink my original point of view.
I feel around me again just to make sure there’s no crease of a door that I’ve missed. Or an overlooked latch. A loose floorboard to crawl under and make my escape. Maybe even an emergency axe or a doorknob.
But still I find nothing.
There’s a chill in the air that seems to become colder with every frightened breath I take. My left arm is killing me. There’s a pain in my lower back that I didn’t feel before. I want to check for a bruise, but I know it wouldn’t matter even if I could see anything.
This can’t be where I’m going to die. I haven’t lived all this life of mine only to have it come to a sudden, shadowy end.
Life? That’s a funny word for it, now that I think about it. An odd choice, since I feel as though I‘ve barely even lived yet.
My memory skips back to the time when that fortuneteller had told me I would die one day. That old wrinkly French woman had asked me if I’d like to know the details; if I’d like to know how my end would come. Who wouldn’t? So like any curiously anxious teenager would say in that same situation, I was stupid and told her yes. I said, “Yes, tell me everything.” And the old woman proceeded to tell me that I would die somewhere up higher than I’d ever think was possible. Higher than any mountain I’d ever know. So high I may as well have been in Heaven. I would be able to see the clouds below me.
There were no crystal balls, tarot decks, tealeaves or lifelines. I was instructed to stand on the obituary section of the ‘Ville Constance Weekend Edition’ beneath the blue-and-gold track lighting as the gypsy ran her thin, shriveled finger along a crack in the wall of her small apartment. I thought it was all a bit strange, but my best friend, Cindey Fellowes, had recommended her to me. As I stood there, shaky and sweating and contemplating my ultimate demise, the fortuneteller told me not to worry about it because, more than anything else, my death would be something important.
“Aren’t they all important?” I asked, as one of her twenty-seven cats started to claw at my leg warmers.
She just winked and held out her wrinkled hand. I gave her a ten and didn’t think much at all about that entire experience until now.
Now it’s sixteen years later and I’m trapped inside this airless deathtrap. Part of me is thankful that I’m not high up in the mountains right now, while another part is wondering what possessed me to ever wear those leg warmers.
I slump back down to the floor. I can’t hear a thing outside of these heavy walls. I can only hear what’s inside; it’s my heartbeat trying to give up on me. But I won’t let it. Not when there’s still a chance.
I’ve seen this vault before, but from the outside, so I know there’s a door here somewhere. The trouble is I have no idea which direction I’m facing, and I’m sure that the complete lack of light will make it far easier for me to find myself going crazy in here before I find a way out. I don’t even know how long I’ve been inside this thing; I’ve been conscious for what seems like twenty minutes, but it could just as easily be an hour or more. As I worry about how much time I might have left, I’m still finding myself a bit envious of how much space is in this vault. Considering the size of my one-bedroom apartment, that is.
“Forty-five hundred cubic feet would allow for about five-and-a-half hours of air,” is what he told me when I had inquired about this metal box. But did he mean five-and-a-half hours for the both of us, or just one? I hate myself for even worrying about details I don’t understand. I find myself hoping that an end might come sooner, rather than later.
How will I know when the end is coming? I guess my ability to form coherent thoughts will be a good basis. The less of this perverse tale I can recollect, the closer I’ll be to not having to worry about it anymore.
I stop myself for a second and wonder, is this a good thing?
The last I can remember, I was trying to prevent a disaster. The details of which are still a little unclear to me, but I know for sure this wasn’t some ‘spill-the-grape-juice-on-Mom’s-new-sofa’ kind of disaster. This was an ‘end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-and-I-don’t-feel-particularly-good-about-it’ kind of disaster. Those ones usually don’t go over too well with anybody, and I’m positive this would be no different.
I feel the cold metal floor once again with the sweaty palm of my hand. It’s hard to explain, but some strange appreciation for this floor comes over me. Like something that’s been taken for granted. The sharp pain in my back stings as I take a seat on the hard surface. But it’s too much to take, so I stand up again. I stretch my back and pace the room, trying not to walk face-first into any unseen walls.
So what exactly has happened out there since I’ve been unconscious? One of two things I imagine:
Either, A) nothing. Or, B) I’m the last person in this godforsaken city that can still appreciate cold metal floors. What I mean by that is fairly easy to comprehend if your mind can shut off its ability to use any sort of reasonable logic. My mind was finally starting to, and that’s why I’m in here now. Of course, at the time it didn’t seem as though I would be getting in quite as deep as I’ve gotten, but that’s how trouble usually comes about; when it’s the last thing you’re expecting.
If I hadn’t believed his lies.
I reach my arm out to get a sense of where the wall is, and that’s when I feel it. The slight crease of a well-sealed door. I wonder how I had ever missed it before as I run my fingernail along the indentation. The nail breaks off, yet I barely even notice because of how much pain I’m already in. I use another finger only to break another nail. I stretch up as high as I can, but I can’t feel where the top of the door might be. Almost entirely beyond my reach is some kind of control panel, perhaps an emergency lock. It’s too high to feel any buttons, if indeed there are any. Frustrated, I bang on the wall with my fist, and I try my best to curse the man responsible for all of this. That no-good twit.
As aggravated as I am about this whole unbelievably rotten situation, that someone so awful could ever do something so selfish and perfectly immoral, I’m more annoyed by the fact that I just referred to him a ‘twit.’ He laughed at me whenever I attempted to insult someone, claiming my choice of words were always ‘charmingly derogative.’ Well, I can’t help the fact that I was raised properly. He even asked me one time to make my last words the most appalling words I could think of at the moment, and to scream these profanities as loud as I could the instant before I died.
“I’ll try to remember that when it happens,” was what I told him.
It’s a good thing I thought of that just now, since I might get my big break before long.
If I hadn’t been so lonely.
I jump up a few times and stab at the panel with my hand, but I can’t feel anything within my reach. I’ve been told a number of times that I’m a really bad jumper. A bad jumper? How can anyone be a bad jumper? Mrs. Wyatt, my high school gym teacher, informed me that I was the worst jumper she’d ever seen. I was the only girl to ever be rejected from the basketball team. I wasn’t even cut; I was flat-out rejected. She insisted that I wasn’t too short, but that I simply couldn’t jump.
“I guess my feet don’t like leaving the ground very much,” is what I told her.
It’s strange how many times an excuse as ambiguous as that can occur in one lifetime; I think I said it again just a few days ago.
I use up what feels like the remainder of my strength to bang on the door, generating barely even an echo. But I can’t tell if it’s simply because my hearing is off, if this ringing in my head is making the whole world seem smaller than it is. What the stink is going on out there? My left arm is really hurting now. I think I might have done some serious damage to it.
I crash back to the floor, this time lying on my side. I want to blame someone other than myself for being stuck where I am now. So I blame Mrs. Wyatt. This is what I always do; it’s kind of my thing. I link chains of events in my life to one another in order to find exactly where the critical point lies. Let me explain: I wouldn’t be here now if I hadn’t been hit by that car. I wouldn’t have been hit by that car if I hadn’t come back to Boston. I wouldn’t have returned to Boston if I hadn’t ever slept with one of my students. I wouldn’t have met this particular student if I wasn’t teaching at the university. I wouldn’t hold my position at Hawthorne University if I hadn’t been involved with Professor Nickwelter. I never would have met Nickwelter if I hadn’t been accepted to Hawthorne. I wouldn’t have been at Hawthorne if I hadn’t joined the high school science club. I wouldn’t have joined the science club if I had never met Cindey Fellowes. And I doubt I would have ever met Cindey Fellowes if Mrs. Wyatt had just let me join the basketball team in the first place.
And that’s how I can blame her for my being here right now.
With one ear to the floor, I listen carefully for any signs of life.
There isn’t anything I want more right now than to get out of this deathtrap, but even if I could snap my fingers and appear on the other side of the door, I don’t know I’d really want to see what’s out there. What is out there, I wonder?
Am I willing to take that chance? Am I willing to face him again? The only alternative here is starting to sound reasonable: death over life. It’s a much harder decision to make when you’re actually given the ability to make it.
But did I already make the choice?
Or am I still waiting for one final opportunity?