Suspense Speculative Fiction

This short story follows the square number series.

A square number is a number of the form n × n (n squared, or n to the power of 2) where n is any integer.

I will be using square numbers for the word count. So paragraph 1 will have 1 word, paragraph 2 will have 4 words, paragraph 3 will have 9 words, etc. I will follow this series up to paragraph 15, and then make my way back down to 1, for a total of 29 paragraphs. The longest paragraph will be paragraph 15 with 225 words. The total word count will be 2,255.


Trapped in a box.

There is no light, and there is no sound.

I am shrouded in thick darkness, trapped, cold and wet, with no one to be found.

I cannot remember entering the box, nor I remember what lay beyond. How do I know I am in a box? I do not know.

I cannot feel the walls around me. I stretch out my hands into the black abyss. All I feel is sticky darkness. Somehow, I know this is a box. How I am confident, I cannot say.

My only conclusion is that my knowledge comes from outside the box. Perhaps it was a voice that told me this truth, or perhaps I once resided outside. Either way, there is no sway in thought that this is a box, and in this box I am trapped alone.

I wonder how large this box can be. I move my feet, but I lack any evidence of progress. I stumble a few times, not due to obstacles, but due to lacking vision. I feel the ground with the palm of my hand. It’s cold, hard, damp, like a smoothly paved driveway after fresh rain, or a basement floor that preserves the moist air.

A basement… is that what this is? Or perhaps a large warehouse with no light seeping in? The thought seems plausible, but there’s no way to know. I am uncertain of all things. Even my existence is beyond my certitude. There is only one thing I know for sure. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I am trapped… trapped in a box. No light is seen; no sound is heard. I am alone in darkness, cold and wet. Salvation is unknown.

I stumble again, this time falling to my knees. A whimpering cry escapes my lips. Afraid of rising, I crawl. My body feels fatigued. My bones are equivalent to crumbling beams of an old foundation. My stomach is empty and my head is aching like a ringing siren coming and going, pulsing with every slight motion I make. Why do I feel this way? Have I been drugged? Have I been hurt? How long have I been in this box? These are the questions that fill my brain as I continue my crawl, hoping a wall will make itself known.

I begin to wonder if my existence is true. I feel my body. The flesh is physical, or at least as physical as I remember matter to be. I touch my clothes, I scratch my hair, I rub my eyes—they all appear to exist. They feel as real as the cold ground below me, as real as the thick darkness that grips me. I take a deep breath and scream loudly. The sound is hollow, but my ears do not fail me. Could it be that this is all a facade? I dig my nail into my forearm, drawing blood and bringing it to my lips. The metallic taste sits on my tongue. “I am alive,” I mutter. “I am real.”

I cannot decide if this is good or bad. Would I rather this be a figment of my imagination, a dream of darkness that I could only hope to wake from? Or would I rather this be the afterlife, a prison cell in an abyss of blackness? Had I not lived up to a standard worth more? No. I could not believe this to be true. No god would send me to an inescapable room of shadows. This must be man’s doing. This was a manmade box, a haunting room made to drive me crazy. I try to think of the life I lived, the life I led, but the darkness shadows more than my perception. A deep fog falls over my memory, causing my life to be forgotten. Was I a murderer, a liar, a thief? Is this a penalty I justly deserve?

I begin to wonder how much time has passed since I began my search for the wall. It feels like hours, but I know it is possible only minutes have transpired. I was counting my steps when I first began to move, but I lost count at 700 when I fell. I put my arms out around me once again, stretching them into the unknown. There is nothing to feel other than the cold floor. Perhaps I made a mistake. Perhaps the wall was just behind me from where I began. Maybe if I turn around now, it would be a shorter distance than continuing forward. But how am I to know? And how am I to be certain that I have not already been moving at an angle, slowly shifting to one side or the other? Is it possible that I made a turn? I cannot remember a turn, but there is very little I am certain of beyond the fact that I am trapped in a box.

Apart from being trapped, there is one thing that seems certain. I am alone in this box. Nothing but the sound of my breath and the slight rustling of crawling can be heard. I cry out, “Is anyone there?” but to no avail. I am alone in the inescapable box, only with my wavering conscience to keep company. Thoughts of despair flood to the surface; creeping doubt from the corners of my heart overwhelm me. Tears well up in my eyes as the end seems near. I wonder if this is it, if this is how my life will close. Perhaps I am bound to the box to crawl this cold floor until my last breath. Perhaps I was damned to this eternity where there is no escape. As my thoughts grow darker, the inky blackness grows thicker. It clenches my skin with moist, sticky hands, assuring me that there is no relief for my misery. My sorrow is great, and my pain is overwhelming. If this is not the end, then death is my only wish. For even death is greater than this pit of despair. Yes, death is greater than this life I live.

It is in this moment, during this thought of life and death, that the smallest flicker of hope presents itself. Yes, a speck of hope no larger than a grain of sand, but hope nonetheless, and for that, I rejoice. My head bumps into a hard wall. I put out my hand and feel the surface. I have reached an end. I found something solid other than the floor. I cannot see it, but it’s presence is physically known. My endeavoring pursuits in search of a wall were not in vain. My aimless wandering and trepidatious crawling through the seemingly endless void is paid in full. I stand to my feet and hug the cold surface, thankful for its existence. I do not know where it may lead me, nor if it will lead to anything worth its praise, but it brings closure to my thoughts and thanksgiving to my heart. No longer am I wallowing in a black sea of despair, drowning in fear and uncertainty. I have found something solid, something to steady me, something to lead my way. The wall, the edge of my prison cell—if there is a way to escape, a door, a switch, an opening, this could be my guide. My heart has quickened. My mind is at rest. My bones no longer mourn in pain. Amidst the darkness, hope is found, and I dare not let it go.

Feeling rejuvenated, I follow the wall. I spread my hands high and wide as I rub against its surface, ensuring that not a single crack within my reach goes unnoticed. Like a sponge seeking to absorb every detail, I slide my feet along the floor pressed firmly against its solid body. I cannot feel the top, for its height is uncertain. Though it is cold, the friction brings heat to my cheek and hands as they brush against every inch of its smooth landscape. I knock on the wall. It is solid, some type of stone, solid and strong, but of which I am not certain. I begin to wonder what is on the other side of this divide, what I will find if I can make an escape. Is this a dark room among many? Will I open a door to another abyss of solitude? Or is there freedom? Will liberty be found as I scrape my way along the smooth rock? I do not know, but I know I must try. This is my only hope to escape the box I am trapped in.

The shadows of darkness creep up my spine, tickle the hairs on the back of my neck, and enter the corner of my mind. What if this wall is no more than a wall? Is it a false guide, leading me to nothing but a lost sense of desperation? Will it go on for far longer than I know? Will my bones cripple and my body fail me before even reaching a corner of the box? Is it all just a part of the facade, a trick of the imagination? I become dizzy with the thought, stopping in place. I lay my head against the wall and whisper to it, as if it is alive, my only companion, my only hope. “Please… please, help me.” I look around me but nothing can be seen. I hold my breath and listen, but nothing can be heard. Are my endeavors of escaping the box fleeting? Should I give up now, knowing that this speck of hope will not fulfill my expectations?

No! I must refute these deceitful thoughts. The darkness is getting the best of me. The void is trying to ensnare me. I cannot, I will not allow the darkness to take hold of my mind. I may lack vision, but hope is all the sight I need. I press my stomach, my hands, my legs, and cheek against the wall, beginning my slide once again, making haste with confidence that hope will win. For it was hope that brought me out of the dark abyss to find the wall. It was hope that filled my heart with praise and rejuvenated my spirit. Therefore, it will be hope that pulls me from the depths of despair and helps escape the box that traps me. I will not give up; I will not tarry any longer. Where there is hope, there is life worth living.

The moment the thought escapes my conscience, my hand presses against another edge to the wall. A corner is found! The first edge discovered has been connected to the next. I raise my hands to the heavens in gladness and continue my trek along the edge. My confidence is in full bloom, and the hope of escape is a raging fire. The fact is still clear, a way out of the box is still uncertain, but making progress in discovery is just as exciting. I no longer concern myself with the worries of before, my failing energy, the loss of my memory, the fact I am trapped in a box. My focus is set on hope, and nothing stands against me.

The feeling of a prisoner has left me. I know this box's edges personally. They are no longer a wishful desire to meet, but now a close mentor to follow. I slide my hands along the edge. Though it is cold, its touch fills me with gratitude. Its presence brings certainty to my heart that this is not the end. Why? I do not know, for the box is still present, and escape is still uncertain. Somehow, I know it is true. Just like I was certain I was trapped in a box, I am now certain of an escape.

I reach the third corner, and I jump with jubilee. No longer is despair taking control of my mind. No longer is the encompassing darkness causing me to falter. I move confidently, without falling, sliding quickly along the wall, making way to the fourth and final corner that awaits my arrival. It’s the feeling of knowing something exists among the darkness, of knowing that the wall will lead me to that corner without fail— that is what keeps my hope alive!

I work up a pace, nearly a run, approaching the final corner of the room. My lips turn upward, knowing I must be close. And then… I see it. Yes, I can see! I see the corner! A glimmer of light, just a sliver, is peeking through where the two walls meet. The yellow hue is glowing vibrantly, almost blinding to my unprepared eyes.

I approach the light, allowing the warm ray to fall on my skin. I feel it with my hands. It’s warm, comforting. I try to wedge my hand in the crack, but my fingers don’t fit. I put my face between the walls, allowing my eye to peer through.

I see someone. It’s… me. It's as if I’m looking at myself from an aerial view. I lie in a bed, fast asleep. Wait… is this… a dream? No… it can’t be. This feels so… real.

But if that’s me, then who am I? Where am I? Is this my… mind? The box, the darkness, the walls— where are my memories?

I then awake. I am back in the comfort of my bed. The nightmare is over.

Or is it? Am I trapped in a box?

Then I must find…


-Michael Jaymes

February 25, 2023 04:43

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