****

The sadness returns as well, but this time it’s accompanied by an incredible hunger. I manage to let out a slow, almost painful groan. I attempt to take in a breath, but there is no air. An Immense panic washes over me as I begin to thrash about this claustrophobic ossuary.

Why can’t I feel the beating in my chest? Why is my body so numb to the touch? I’m able to once again move, but my skin is so cold I can’t even feel my own fingers wrapped around my opposite wrist. I need to escape this. I refuse to let this be my fate.

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The anger rises inside me as evil thoughts dance through my mind. Thoughts of all those who’ve forsaken me to this awful place. They’ve abandoned me—left me to die in such a horrible way. I will get out. I will find those who let this happen to me. I will leave this place!

I pound my fist into the soft padding above me. There’s no feeling in my hands—even as the shock from the impact vibrates through my whole arm. I hit it again with even more aggression, more hate. I will not stay locked in here to die—like I’m a rabid dog tied to a tree on its last days. A feverish fury takes over me. Each blow connects harder than the last. I lose myself in the wrath of my assault against this prison.

I go blind with rage as the echo of my fist hitting wood becomes deafening. I start to feel something pepper my face, but I’m too far gone with anger to figure out what it could be. I’m aware of my actions, but I’m unable to think. I can only focus on instinct, on the primal urge to break loose from my confines. Most of all, though, it’s the growing hunger deep within myself that’s driving me to freedom.

My arm breaks through wood. Then it becomes submerged into something soft, cool. Some sensation returns to my hands and I can feel the texture of what my fist has plunged into. I squish the substance in my palm and roll it into a small ball between my fingers. Could it be the Earth itself I’m feeling? Suddenly, the pieces to the puzzle fall in place. Have I been mistakenly buried alive?

My rage subsides as I contemplate what had happened. It all starts to make sense now. I must have been hallucinating from lack of oxygen. That could also attribute to why I couldn’t hear my heartbeat or breathing. How could I have been buried alive, though? The thought of it fills me with such—dread.

There must have been a mistake. I need to get out of here to show everyone I’m still alive. But I need to hurry. The dirt is beginning to fill the box. I don’t have much time left. I need to get out of here before I succumb to asphyxiation.

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I frantically paw at the opening with my free hand—desperately trying to widen the gap in the wood. More and more of the rich soil is pouring in as the hole grows larger. My face is almost covered and the panic sets in once more. Why am I subjected to such an awful fate? I’ve lived my life with high moral integrity guiding my every decision. I’ve never done anything to cause harm to others. What could I have done to deserve this?

I lie still for many moments, and the dirt pushes harder against my body. The thought of giving up comes to me. For digging out seems impossible. My arm is still plugging the hole, but the soil has filled more than half of the box already.

I can smell the freshness of the dirt, but the scent is dull—as if something has hampered my ability to smell. My face is almost covered now, but I don’t struggle for breath. This might not be such a bad way to go after all.

Then, thoughts of abandonment burst forth. The sadness, the anguish, they return tenfold. Why would my family let this happen to me? How could they not know I was still alive? Or they did know. They knew and this was all a scheme to get rid of me. That has to be it. There’s no way to mistake the living for the dead. They wanted me gone!

The rage returns more powerful than ever, and I start slamming my fist into the jagged hole above me. Chunks of flesh rip from my hand, but there’s no pain. I direct all my emotion to the single goal of escaping. I keep hammering at the hole as thoughts of vengeance consume me. I will find those who did this to me. I will make them pay!

Cool dirt pushes me down from all sides, but my body surges through the unending cascade of fresh soil. Finally, I manage to tear my legs free from the casket—from my prison. They thought they would be rid of me forever. They underestimated my determination to live.

I continue to fight upwards against the unrelenting Earth. The suffocating nature of my position is almost unendurable. But I’m so close now—this nightmare is almost over. My determination pays off as an unbelievable rush of icy wind tickles my fingertips. I thrust my open hand through the rest of the topsoil and grab onto a big clump of grass. I push through the breach with my other hand and try to pull myself up. Not far now.

Time creeps by as if centuries have passed, but all this effort will not be in vain. I’ve finally broken my head and upper chest out into the welcoming midnight air. I take in a much-needed breath of the fresh night sky, but I don’t feel anything when my lungs inflate. A deep sigh escapes my lips. I’m going to take a break. I hope someone will see me and help me the rest of the way out. I lay my head upon a mound of moist grass and let my eyelids close shut. I’ve done all I can right now.

I’m not sure how much time passed, but when I come to the tiniest sliver of warm, orange light glows from under the horizon. I look around and to my horror, I’m surrounded by the tombstones of past lives long since extinguished. I know I should be completely exhausted, but the only feeling I have is that of hunger. How long has it been since I’ve last eaten? By now I must be near death from starvation.

An incredible urge for food takes over and I claw at the ground—pulling myself from the earth inch by inch. My feet finally slide out from the pit of dirt as I flip over onto my back. I stare into the early morning sky and the pale light of twinkling stars begin to fade with the rising sun. The sadness returns once more—but why? I’m free. I have survived. I should be ecstatic.

With great effort, I sit up. My back is wet from the morning dew. I look down at myself and examine the mud covered suit I’m wearing. I recognize it as one matching my father’s. We used to wear identical suits to church as a tradition.

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I notice a tombstone behind the grave I climbed out of. I try getting to my feet so I can read it, but I stumble and fall face first onto the ground. I crawl over instead, then kneel in front of the tombstone. I can make out the name Solomon, but the rest of the letters look very strange. I go over it again meticulously, but this time I can’t even make out the first letters. My head is throbbing and I’m having trouble seeing.

Solomon. The tombstone said Solomon. That’s my name. I try reading it once more, but the letters only look like random lines to me now. The anger builds up again. My frustration is starting to take over. Why is all this happening to me? I begin to crash my shoulder against the tombstone trying to topple it. I’m not dead! What fools they were for putting me in the ground.

I slam into the stone a few more times, then give up. My shoulder feels tight and knotted up, but it doesn’t hurt. Why is there no pain? Did hey pump me full of drugs before putting me in the ground? Was my family behind this? Does my mother know what has happened to me? She would often tell me she loved me more than anything else in this world. She wouldn’t let this happen.

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