Martin Bailey

The Underground

Mathew Spencer opened his eyes, or at least he thought he had. Absolute darkness in its most inherent state, forced him to distrust his lack of vision. He held his hands up to his face before running them across his cheekbone and resting at the sockets. Not a single movement, silhouette, shadow or light source was evident. There was sound, in as much as, he could hear himself breathing. His clothes rustled as he moved in the confined space in which he lay, other than that, complete and deadened silence.

Reaching out to determine the shape and size of his enclosure, Mathew discovered that he was inside a rectangular, wooden box, the dimensions roughly being three feet wide by six feet long and no more than eighteen inches in depth. The dull, heavy thud as he banged suggested that the box was encased in something else. Tracing his finger across the wooden panels he hoped to discover a small crack that would reveal a flicker of light, but deep down he knew that was impossible. In his mind, the something else that the box was encased in was six feet of soil. Ever since watching classic Hitchcock tales as a teenager, his greatest fear was to be buried alive. The memories flooded back to the story of a convict planning his escape in a coffin, only to have the scheme backfire. He had become that convict.

Mathew had no idea how long he had been inside the box or why he was there, in fact he could not remember his last moment outside it. Mathew said to his wife on countless occasions that panicking was a fruitless exercise. Trying to control his breathing as a heavily pregnant woman would during childbirth; he chanted his mantra, ‘Panicking is a fruitless exercise.’ It was no good. The urge to panic was more powerful than the need to remain calm and his body convulsed as though attached to a million volts.

Kicking, punching and attempting to force the lid only tired Mathew and soon a film of sweat appeared on his forehead. Or least it was would have appeared had there been light. This idea became a source of amusement for Mathew as he was overcome by drowsiness. Was he in absolute darkness or did he no longer exist? Was he just a soul drifting in a state of Limbo? Was he able to use his senses of touch and hearing or were they memories from the past? He rambled through these delusional questions for a short while sounding like a gurgling baby forming new words.

Licking dry lips was no longer satisfactory, his throat was dry and the air in the box was dry. Oxygen was slowly draining from his tomb with every breath and replaced with carbon dioxide. He guessed that his eyes were closing due to the heavy feeling of the lids, but he couldn’t be sure.

The audience knew. They could see it all; they had done for the past hour. For them this was great entertainment. Five angles of close up and personal, night vision all from the comfort of their encrypted cable link. How would he die? Would it be suffocation through lack of oxygen or asphyxiation due to drowning in the soil that was slowly beginning to fill the box? The highest bidder would control his fate, but the remaining spectators were pumping money into the funds and loving every minute.

A Russian billionaire had pledged a large sum. His desire was to supply a small oxygen feed to the box in order to keep Mathew alive. He enjoyed prolonging the suffering of Westerners. He was however outbid by a professional footballer who had recently been banned for an highly aggressive tackle and was now sitting in an Underground booth with a couple of half-naked dancers. The Underground was the hub of all the action – an exclusive club for the elite, the extremely rich and bored. Anything was possible at The Underground if you had the money.

Mathew could feel the soil at his feet and around his shoulders. With every fibre in his body he attacked the lid. Blood and layers of skin stuck to the wooden interior as he pounded, he continued until the soil restricted his movement. Eventually Mathew lay perfectly still, unable to move.

The screens were now black except one, focussing on his face – a pair of lips and a nose surrounded by soil. The footballer raised his drink to the referee that gave him his red card, ‘To Mathew Spencer.’

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