May 5, 2017 by Philip Fracassi
I thought it would be fun to publish a small excerpt from my novella, FRAGILE DREAMS, currently available through JournalStone and all online retailers.
Hope you enjoy it.
The shaking stopped.
He could barely breathe, the pain unbearable. He groaned, gritted his teeth. There was a loud cracking sound, loud but muffled, down in the belly of the ruins beneath him, a monster’s belch.
There were a few more splintering snaps, as if two-by-fours were breaking in half – SNAP – SNAP – CRACK-SNAP – and then everything beneath him sagged a few inches, and Matthew’s body sank along with the debris. Mercifully, the slab ramming itself into his spine did not lower, and the pressure released itself from his spine, guts and groin as his body leveled out. Breath leapt into his lungs.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he whispered in a hushed, torn voice, breathing in more easily now as the incredible pressure, threatening to break him, ebbed. He could feel the blood in his body racing to his legs and chest, free once more to flow without obstruction.
After a few moments of nervous gratitude, waiting for another aftershock, praying his body was not too badly damaged, Matthew took a deep breath and made an attempt to once again assess his position. He was still unable to turn, or twist his body at all, the weight of the slab still resting on top of him heavily, if not with the deadly force of a few moments prior. He imagined it was as if the Thing, that rock monstrosity from the Fantastic Four comics and movies, was resting his bony ass on Matthew’s spine, waiting for backup to arrive, and Matthew could do nothing but squirm and try to keep breathing beneath Thing’s bulk – a trapped, feeble villain.
For the moment, at least, the ground had ceased its final vibrations, and Matthew was still alive. With the release of the sharp fear came cold despair, an icy blanket that wrapped around him, filled him, and he sobbed like a child. Tears ran down his face and into the concrete. He realized, with no small sense of shame, he had pissed himself, whether from terror or the immense pressure on his bladder he did not know, but he could feel the urine cooling along his hip and thighs. He wiped his face with one dirty hand, and then cried some more. The sobs became louder, more ragged, soon pitched into the air as panicked screams. The weeping and cries of hysteria, of terror, of a person slowly, and quite painfully, dying.
Am I going to die? he wondered. He desperately wished he could see what was around him. I’m so goddamn sick of the dark! he thought, straining to make out anything, any shapes. He wondered how deeply he was buried, how precariously. Was he ten feet above-ground, or twenty-feet below? If above, would he collapse downward with the next aftershock? Sliding down and down into the bowels of the earth? And if below, what if the rescue teams because surely there were rescuers they always showed them on TV always always always brought in heavy machinery and accidentally drove over the rubble sitting on top of him, squashing him beneath like a bug?
He felt panic rising again and wanted so desperately to be able to just turn over and look above him. Would he see light? A pin-prick, perhaps? The proverbial ray of hope?
Or would there be nothing but more darkness? The total inky black submersion that did not let you see the hand in front of your face. The kind that muffled the sounds you made as if your body was trapped in warm outer space, wedged between dimensions like a dead rat between walls in a rickety old house.
Matthew began to hyperventilate. He had to get out. He had to get out. He had to get out.
With a fresh surge of mindless panic, he started to push and twist, crying out in pain as the edge of the slab on top of him dug into his flesh. He felt skin tear and a warm gush of blood spill down his side, seep into the waistband of his boxers.
He stopped. He was making things worse. “Damn it!” he screamed, feeling more helpless and alone by the moment. He tried to slow his breathing, tried to calm himself.
He was slowing his heart-rate, regaining some of his composure, when something – something behind him in the dark – pulled at his foot.
His head snapped up, eyes wide.
He had time to think, did something… when he felt another quick, sharp tug. Not his foot. His toe. Or, more accurately, the sock of his toe. It felt as if two tiny fingers were pulling at the very tip of his sock, teasingly trying to pull… it… off.