Grave Deeds – Flash Fiction Piece
Another Chuck Wendig flash fiction challenge! I must admit, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the last one. I struggled to think of anything to write for any of the titles. This is my final product, not quite up to my usual standard.
How far will a sane man go to die?
It was a question I asked myself as I crawled prone through the narrow dirt tunnel, conscious of how little oxygen there was down here, worried about ploughing over random worms and giving myself a shit-load of negative karma.
At the time, it had seemed like such a good idea. In life I had been too big, too powerful, too successful. I had three prices on my head, each one of them larger than the last, and no idea which gangs had put them there. There’s only so long a chief of police can operate under those conditions. The solution had been simple; I’d needed to die.
The corruption within the government ran so deep that I could trust nobody with my plan. First had been the problem of death itself. For that I’d hired the services of a coroner willing to sign a death certificate with my name on it. Then I’d paid a chemist in Baltimore a princely sum for a substance that would put me in a state so close to death that only God himself would be able to tell the difference—or so he assured me. That had been the easy part.
Clearly, only my persona could stay dead. I myself had to come back, to continue my work. Unfortunately, being buried alive in a coffin is not exactly conducive to living. Even if I’d managed to bust my way out of it and crawl up into open air, I could see the headlines in my mind’s eye; “Recently deceased chief of police returns as zombie: mass panic ensues!”
No, crawling up from my grave was a terrible idea. But what if I could crawl underneath it? Inspired by Steve “Hilts” McQueen in ‘The Great Escape’ I decided to create a tunnel. Only, it wasn’t Nazis I was escaping from, but the prison of my own success.
I’d paid the undertaker handsomely to reserve me a plot. I’d hired a couple of local men to spend weeks digging an escape tunnel from beneath the grave to the tree line some distance away. They masked the entrance to the tunnel using thin dirt-covered sheets of chipboard. Then I paid for new lives for them on the other side of the country.
My coffin had needed to be unique. I’d bought it from a stage-set production company, claiming to be the director of some indie horror film. A small lever hidden within the velvet of the coffin lining allowed the bottom to open. My weight would cause the chip-board to break, and I’d land in the tunnel ready and raring to go.
The plan, of course, was best-case scenario. I hadn’t counted on waking from my near-death experience to darkness and a panic attack. How was I supposed to know I had an irrational fear of pitch-black coffin interiors? It’s not as if I’d ever been buried alive before.
After I’d finally calmed down, I remembered the lever. Finding it wasn’t easy, because my muscles were all stiff and my fingers didn’t want to work immediately. A little voice in my head told me I was rapidly running out of oxygen. I had another panic attack before I found the lever.
The door opened, I fell through, landed on the chipboard which quickly broke, and then I was in the tunnel, landing badly and choking on a mouthful of dirt that I’d somehow scooped up on the way down.
Another thing I hadn’t been expecting was the smell. I had no idea why I stank of formaldehyde, and I didn’t particularly care to think on it too much. In addition, the tunnel smelled of old, mulchy, musty earth, like soil, only more… soily. So there I was, lying aching and bruised in a tunnel, retching at the smell of formaldehyde and dank earth, panicked almost out of my wits because I was convinced I had only minutes’ worth of oxygen left, and in complete darkness.
In hindsight, I realise I should have requested to be buried with a torch. But I’d never had to plan my own death before, much less my own resurrection. Live and learn; next time I’d know better.
I’ll tell you honestly; I have no idea how far a sane man will go to die. But then again, sanity was never one of my strongest points. And perhaps, if I ever make it out of this tunnel, I’ll be able to give you an answer.