Not Me – Climbing Inside.
20 minutes free fall
‘It’s dark in here’ Christine said. Her voice was small and plaintive. Christine reached blindly for the door, but couldn’t figure out which way she was facing. Sound did nothing in the small closet. Her voice did not carry very far. It was like talking into a pillow. No echo, only dead air.
‘Shut up.” Christine’s mother said through the heavy wooden door. She was standing on the other side, holding the old iron key between her fingers. Christine’s mother waved it slightly back and forth in front of her face. Christine couldn’t see her. It was a good thing. Her mother’s face was contorted with sick delight as she planned what came next. Christine tried to turn herself around in the closet. It was packed with old boxes and a broom that was never used because it was too big for Christine to hold on to. Christine knew the end of the broom though. The sharp straw still poked into her arms and snagging her sweater.
“It’s hard to breathe. Momma, I want to come out.” Christine tried to be brave. She was crying but didn’t want Momma to know. Christine was starting to get hot. Sweat trickled down her back and from underneath her straight bangs down the side of her face. She struggled to take off her sweater. Her head got stuck as she pulled it over, then Christine realized her left arm was also stuck. Her heart pounded in her ears as she pulled again and again but nothing would come loose. She bumped against the walls. Plaster dust rained down on her, making her cough. Christine pulled hard one more time and finally the sweater came off. Christine took a deep breath and coughed again. She was relieved all the same.
“Don’t whine you little brat. You know what you did. This is your punishment. If you keep asking to come out I am going to leave you there all night.” She snapped. Christine’s mother turned and looked at the clock. She sucked on her teeth and clicked them with her tongue. She slammed the key down on the kitchen table and shouted at the closet door.
“You see, you little shit. You made me miss the beginning of my show. You sit there in the dark and think about what a bad girl you are. Think about how you much you deserve to be in there with the bugs and spiders. You’re only coming out when I say so.” Christine’s mother stomped into the living room and turned on the television. She turned the volume up loud so that she couldn’t hear Christine calling from the closet. She stepped around the coffee table and flopped down onto the threadbare sofa and stuffed a worn under stuffed pillow under her cubby head. Christine’s mother took out a cigarette and lit it. She inhaled deeply and with a sigh of relief let the smoke flow out her nostrils like a sick old dragon.
Christine hugged her knees tightly in the closet. She knew that her mother would not let her out for at least an hour, until her show was done. Maybe longer if she fell asleep on the sofa again. She had no choice but to wait. Christine closed her eyes. She could still picture her mother lying on the sofa, smoking. The ashes would crumble off the end of the cigarette and land on the old beige carpet. There were little black holes where the hot ashes had fallen and smouldered until her mother got up and smothered them with the heel of her yellow slippers.
The carpet had been a dusty rose colour at one time. Christine had discovered this while trying to hide from her mother behind the book case in the corner of the living room. Christine never remembered seeing the entire carpet looking like that. Like soft tongue of a kitten. It made her sad to realize it. She didn’t have time to think about it much longer that day. Seconds later, her mother found her and hauled her out from behind the bookcase by the arm. She dragged Christine to the kitchen and hit her back with the flat of her fat hand until Christine could no longer stand. Christine couldn’t remember what she had done that day to deserve it. Just like she couldn’t remember why her mother had shoved her in the closet today, but probably it was because she hadn’t folded the towels the right way, or she had played outside too long and didn’t get the coffee maker started in time for when Momma woke up. Christine didn’t know. She knew better though than to ask.
Christine sighed and listened to the muffled sounds from the television through the thin walls. She couldn’t tell the difference between the commercials and the story. The sounds blended together into a weird barely heard song. Christine closed her eyes and rested her head on her knees. Her eyes snapped open. Christine panicked at first because she didn’t know where she was. She was confused because it was still pitch black dark. Then it came back to her where she was. Her nostrils stung. They were filled with smoke. Christine scrambled to her knees, scraping them against the edge of something, a cardboard box probably. Christine didn’t understand what was going on. There was a crackling sound that was getting louder, fighting with Momma’s screams. Christine didn’t move. Smoke, sirens and her mother’s shrieking filled the darkness.