1. Last breath

Complete blackness surrounds me. As do the four walls that confine me here. Barely an inch away from me, all around. I can feel the walls physically preventing me from doing anything at all. Then the water begins.

I can feel it at the bottom of the box, just a few centimetres. Barely enough to cover my feet. There will be more. The box slowly fills with water. It’s at my ankles now. And my legs. Getting higher every second, but slowly, painfully slowly. My knees are now in the water. It’s covering me, swallowing me. All I can think about is how cold the water is, and how I wish they could have made it a little warmer if they intend to drown me in it. But those thoughts don’t slow the water, which still rises.

It creeps up again. My hands automatically reach out, for anything. they come into contact with nothing but the wall in front of me. And I already know from experience that hitting this wall repeatedly will do nothing to help me. Nor will my agonised screams as the water rises yet again, but I do so anyway.

It’s at my chin now. The water laps in an almost teasing way against me, and for one glorious second, I think that it has stopped, that they’ve changed their mind, that they think I would be of more use to them alive than dead. But no. The water continues to creep up. I prevent it from entering my mouth by lifting up my chin as high as I can, though I know it won’t help for longer than a few more seconds. I let out one last beg for help, which does nothing but let the water into my mouth.

Bizarre facts begin to flash through my mind. The human body can withstand extreme conditions without shelter for three hours. Three days without water. Three weeks without food. These are useless. I push these pointless facts to one side, struggling to sort through them to get at what I need right now. It’s three minutes, three minutes I can last without oxygen. Although the world record is 22 minutes, 22 seconds. With extensive training. I can’t last that long, I know it. Maybe five minutes, but once the adrenaline has left my system, I will have barely thirty seconds. I have to minimise the last few breaths I take.

The water is just under my nose by the time all these thoughts have been processed through my brain. I know there’s enough time left to take a couple of deep, precious few breaths of oxygen, and I take advantage of this, tilting my head back further. My screams, which I had not even noticed, cease as I take the last three, gasping breaths. Only three, before the water covers my mouth. Now I have to conserve the oxygen left in my body. Slow down my breathing. The most I can do at this stage is keep calm. Keeping calm will mean that my body will not crave the oxygen as much, I know that. Calm. Calm. Calm.

I am now confined not only by darkness and walls, but water too. Dark water. Cold water. My thoughts no longer make sense. Words go over and over in my head, words that I shouldn’t be thinking now, words that are of no relevance to my situation. Calm. Breathe. Air. Calm. Water. Oxygen. Breathe. Calm. Breathe. Calm. Calm. Calm. Calm. The water burns my eyes, and they instinctively shut, although there’s nothing to see anyway, so I don’t notice it once my sight is lost. Time is warped. Has it been a few seconds, or several minutes? How much longer do I have? How much more do I need to slow my breathing? Is it too fast? Am I already out of oxygen? Calm. I have to remind myself several times. Stay calm, or you will die.

I should be dead now. It’s been far too long, much longer than a human being could withstand. Even one that has undergone extensive training. Yet I’m not dead, I’m alive. Most certainly alive, and I can feel my chest heaving up and down as I breathe. As I breathe in water. How? How am I still breathing? I’m surrounded by liquid completely, and yet I can breathe completely normally. This is not possible. Unless I already am dead. Suspended in a kind of life after death, I must be dead. My mind begins to cloud over, like fog seeping into the cracks of the ground when it rains. With my last seconds of consciousness, one word comes to mind, and this time, I know why I’m thinking it. I know what it means.




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