Bogleech.com's 2014 Horror Write-off:
" Pressed "
"Ninety days." She says, looking down at me. Her collar is high, her hands are folded and her eyes are cold. "If you are still alive after ninety days, I will let you go home."
This room has no doors or windows. It has a hole in the ceiling large enough to accommodate the steamer trunk she's lowering down to me. The trunk is large, and it must be heavy as she's using a rope and pulley.
"There is food and water there to last, if you are careful with it."
"Please---" I begin, but the moment my mouth opens she slams the lid, and I'm left in darkness again.
I reach out until I feel the edge of the trunk and I fumble with the latch. Inside, I feel stacks of smooth, plastic pouches. I rip open a corner of one and the smell of protein and sugar hits me. Some kind of ready-to-eat rations, bricks of food that retain the shape of the pouch they come from. Other packages have drinking water.
I feel my way around the room. It's not particularly small or big. It's cold enough that I wish I had something warmer than a blouse and skirt on, but not so cold that I can't fall asleep.
When I wake she's watching me from the hole. She tosses me a book. It's about the size and shape of a large brick, bound with leather and gilt with gold, like a bible. But there's a symbol on the front I've never seen before.
"Every day, I will give you something. You will have to make room for it. If you are still alive after ninety days, I will let you go. Eat less." She advises me. "Drink less. Breathe less. You'll take up less space."
I open my mouth to speak, and as before, she closes the lid. The sudden, loud noise reverberates through the walls and makes the silence that follows it more oppressive.
I eat from the trunk and use the corner as a toilet as the days pass. There's nothing consistent about the things she pushes through the hole, nothing regular about their size or shape. One day she passes down a broken heater. The next day, a birdcage. The next, a soft, stuffed rabbit.
After a week, I'm resigned and conditioned enough to stand when I hear the lid open, to reach up and take the objects as they're passed to me. The object she passes down on day eleven is heavy and hard to support. It's a coffin. She makes eye contact with me as I lower it to the ground. My hands slip a little on the polished wood and it falls, and I swear she looks satisfied at my little failure. For a moment, she just stands there, watching. I lift the lid of the coffin and look inside. The coffin is full. The darkness returns before I can close it back up again.
For five days everything is uncomfortably large. A heavy wood chair. A clock the size of a large dog. The crumbling marble statue of a saint. When I feel my way around the room I trip and stumble. If I walk too quickly, my knee bangs into a sharp wooden corner, or smashes into a panel. But pacing in this small circle of space is the only movement I get, and sitting still is maddening. How much room will be left after ninety days?
After object twenty-nine, there is no longer room to pace. I rock back and forth instead. Stand up and sit down. Navigating by feel, I try to clear as much ground as I can by stacking and arranging things in piles.
Thirty. Thirty-five. I pack as much of the food and water as I can into a sack I make from my jacket and fill the steamer trunk with the smaller things. Every motion is harder than it was when I came down here. My muscles are beginning to atrophy.
Forty. Forty Five. By day fifty I notice that I've dropped some weight. My clothes slip down away from my shrinking ass when I get up. Some of my food and water falls and gets trapped behind the growing piles of junk, and I can't dig it out. There's just too much to move, and no space to move it to. I'll stretch what food is left as much as possible, but my body is getting weaker.
"Fifty." I say out loud to myself. "Fifty, fifty, fifty, fifty." ...Saying the number out loud is the only way I can remember it. In my head it's too easy to lose track. Too easy to convince myself I'm on the wrong day.
She opens the lid and looks down. Her nose wrinkles. I doubt I look or smell very nice.
"Fifty." I say. Not as a request, but because I can't think of any other words. I reach my hands up over my head and she passes down a heavy cardboard box.
"Discipline yourself." She says. The box is full of jarred kittens. She slams the lid closed again.
Fifty five. Sixty. Seventy. There is no more floor and the piled junk is pushing me towards the ceiling. I walk on the tops of big wooden music boxes, piles of books, sewing machines. I sleep curled around a prosthetic leg. When I do move, I move slowly and carefully. I can't take a full stride in any direction anymore. I have to bend or my head scrapes the ceiling. There is nothing soft. There is nothing warm.
Often, I have to shift the junk around to find room for the next object. My arms are weak and everything is heavy. My clothes hang loosely and snag on anything sharp. Sometimes when I'm rearranging things in the dark I'll feel something shift and hear something crash and spill, and even without seeing I know that there will be less room than before. I have to work carefully.
Ninety days, and she'll let me go. I've made it through eighty and the ceiling presses into me. Eighty three and I'm out of food. Eighty-six and I can no longer stretch my arms out. Eighty eight and I can no longer move.
Day eighty nine and I'm curled in a space smaller than a camp bed. She opens the lid. I'm near enough to the hole now to smell her perfume. Without saying a word, she tosses a pearl necklace down to me and slams the lid shut. The towers of trash that surround me quiver and shake. For a moment, metal edges and panes of glass threaten to crush me, and I hold my breath. It passes.
In the dark I kiss the necklace, blessing it for its smallness. My arms don't have much room to navigate but I manage to slip it around my neck. There is still a little space left. I just need to find room for one more thing.
One more thing. I fall in and out of sleep. Even in the dark, even in my sleep I feel the piles sag around and under me. I rest as much as I can and wait for the lid to open. Even if it's something big, it will only be one thing.
The lid opens on day ninety.
The light blinds me for a moment, and then it dims. Has she closed the lid? No...no, she hasn't closed it. She's pushing something through and it's blocking the light.
I see the front of a car being pushed towards me, and I start to cry.