Kati was dying, She was sure of it. She had been screaming and screaming for help and no one, not her mom, not Jonathan, no one had rushed to her aid. The trunk lid had closed with a definite and, to her 12 year old mind, irreversible thud. The old family chest lid proved to heavy for her to push up and now she waited, helpless.
She hadn’t been afraid at first. Fear had never been a useful or common emotion to Katherine, not even at that age. At first she had even laughed, a little uneasy perhaps, but laughed nonetheless. She was pretty sure Jonathan had closed it and she knew he would open it soon. Quietly she waited but it was impossible to know how much time had passed in the dark. The darkness. It was unnatural.
Surely there should be some light, a crack on the seal of the lid somewhere, a glimmer, a spark, anything but the impenetrable darkness.
And if there were no light, was there air?
Katherine called out quietly for her playmate Jonathan and then, when there was no answer, louder and louder. Then she pleaded for her father, even her mother, but no one came; no one helped. She lost track of her screaming. For a period she felt nothing but the screams and the panic.
Then slowly her brain began to pull loose from the rest of her. She found herself watching the screaming sobbing panicked person as if it were someone else. She pitied herself, the hopeless useless movements, the strange futility… and that was when she saw it, more in her memory, the part of her not panicked, the part of her watching. She saw it; either her eyes had accustomed somewhat to the dark or she remembered rather than saw. She was never sure afterwards.
Whichever it was, it saved her, that she knew. The seeing. It saved her. The latch. There was a latch on the inside of the trunk, more of a rope, jerry-rigged by her father perhaps. Be that as it may, pulling on it released the latch on the outside and the trunk opened easily.
Kati sat in the dark of the mine remembering this moment. Feeling the same stifling heat, the same temptation to panic, but remembering also how no one had come because there was no one to come.
Everyone, Jonathan included had been completely unaware she was in the trunk; had in truth been completed unaware of Kati altogether at that moment. No one had been there to hear.
Furthermore there was no one even to be angry at. Kati had been forgotten with good reason. Her father had suffered an accident while fixing the roof of their house and everyone had been involved in trying unsuccessfully to save him, while Kati was screaming for help. By the time Kati climbed out of the trunk her father was dead and Kati had learned that no one will ever care for you as much as you need to care for yourself. That this was necessary and right. That the universe was neither fair nor unfair. It just was. Everyone took care of themselves and trusted in no one else’s efforts for the big stuff. There would have been two deaths that day if Kati had waited and trusted anyone else for help.
So Kati remembered now in this other dark place and almost immediately began to dig, to claw to scramble and lift and work to remove every piece of rock she could from the mine entrance. She wasted neither breath nor time in calling for help. Se relied on her memory which had served her so well all those years ago, trying to remember the fleeting glimpses of falling rock she had seen in those few terrifying moments.
Soon she began to realize though…she just wasn’t strong enough. She couldn’t do it. The rocks wouldn’t move, wouldn’t budge.
Slowly, painfully, she stopped scrambling. There was no point in conserving energy. Either she got out or she didn’t. She was just out of strength.
Perhaps Jonathan would try, but surely Walter, poor helpless Walter, who would no doubt blame himself for her death, would do nothing, afraid to even try. But just like all those years ago, maybe Jonathan wasn’t even trying, maybe someone else was claiming first place in his attention. Maybe even Walter himself had suffered some horribly timed attack of epilepsy or plague. (She was pretty sure plague didn’t work that way, but it hardly mattered now, did it?). They were possibly not even thinking about her, resuscitating Walter, or maybe just going out for drinks at the nearest bar.
Slowly she sank to her knees, lowering her head, beginning to cry despite her best efforts. A sad lonely weeping, not a cry for help, just despair.
Kati was dying. She was sure of it. She had screamed for no one, uttered no cry for help and no one had come to her aid.
And that’s when she heard it. A scraping sound coming from behind her, away from the cave-in. Rodents?
It hardly mattered, she lowered her head. It was so unfair. She had so much more to do.
When the light broke in on her she looked up in confusion. The light, like the noise was behind her. When strong arms lifted her to her feet her confusion deepened, for he was coming from behind as well. In a rush of understanding and shock she realized she had been digging her way into the mine, not out!
“Jonathan” whispered Kati turning to face her rescuer. Jonathan was there, just coming in the entrance; but her rescuer, his face inches from hers, concern and care in every line was not Jonathan but Walter. Walter hugged Kati, whispering words she could barely comprehend, feeling the wetness of his tears, the passion of his embrace as if he could hold her tight enough to never let this happen again. Emotions in a cascade of chaos, she looked into his eyes, bright beautiful aquamarine alive eyes,
Katherine kissed Walter.