Have you ever dug your own grave? I don’t mean when you say something wrong and instead of correcting your mistake, you keep making it worse and worse. No, I am talking about literally digging your own grave.
Chances are if you are reading this you haven’t dug a 6 feet deep hole in the ground for yourself. Let me ask you: if you had to dig your own grave, would you do it wide and long enough to comfortably fit or would you be okay to be squeezed and bent a bit to fit? Of course you wouldn’t worry about doing an amazing job. What’s the point, after all? You’ll be dead. Why would you care, right?
Let me tell you why. There is a better than average chance, if you find yourself in the process of digging your own grave, someone is making you do it. Rarely we just wake up one day just, itching to dig for hours on end and then lay in that hole until we rot away. No, someone is forcing you and once you are done digging, they will want to make sure you’re not crawling out of there anytime soon.
Let me tell you, digging a grave is a daunting task. After the first few hours you’ll be sore and your hands will bleed, because you lack the callous. In that moment, some part of you will wish for an untimely death, just so you don’t have to keep digging. Maybe that is part of the plan: Let the victim dig its own grave and then they will be too tired and worn out to put up much of a fight.
But we tend to cling to our fragile lives, so if digging with bleeding hands will keep you alive, you will dig the grave as big as it could be, hoping that the longer you keep this up, the more likely something will save you from your doom. At least that was my thinking, when I had been digging for quite some time in the brutal Arizona sun.
My captors had been kind enough to bring water, otherwise I would have probably died within an hour, leaving them to shovel away at the sandy soil themselves. Judging by the state the shovel and pickaxe were in, I was not the first person to dig a grave with these tools. Judging by the looks of the two men who had forced me at gunpoint into their car early this morning, this wasn’t their first rodeo, either.
The dynamic duo was sitting in the shade of their car, observing me. The larger of the two was cleanly shaven and completely bald. He was also quite rotund, sweating almost as much as me in the brutal heat. Wearing a black, ill-fitted suit was an awful choice as well. Let’s call him Mr. Magoo. And no, I am not that old. I just like old cartoons.
Let’s call the smaller of the two Schnauzer. Because he looked like one. He was the opposite of clean-shaven and, just like the Schnauzer my parents used to own, he was missing a few of his teeth. He looked as old and almost as dessicated as a mummy, which would explain why, unlike his partner, he was barely sweating.
I couldn’t tell how long I had been digging, but I was and almost two feet down when they let me have a break. If I would not get killed by them, the sunburn would probably take care of that.
“You know you don’t have to do any of this this, right?” I said, between gulps from a gallon jug of warm water.
Mr. Magoo huffed, “Is that your way of trying to weasel out of this?”
“Fair enough,” I said taking another deep gulp. “That wasn’t my best foot forward, but I can be quite persuasive when I need to be.”
“You’re not going to talk yourself out of this one.” Schnauzer said.
“What if I bought myself out of it?” I said.
“We’re professionals, Clint.” Schnauzer said “You’re wasting your breath.”
“Well what are you going to do?” the heat and my impending death were getting to me. “Report me to the police?”
Schnauzer chuckled at that.
“Could you at least explain to me why you are doing this to me?”
“That’s not for us to disclose.”
“But what if you’ve mistaken me for someone else?”
Mr. Magoo chimed in “Unless there is another man named Clint Beacon, who also lives in 84 Upper Westwood Street, and looks just like you, we are pretty confident you’re the right guy.”
“Okay, enough water cooler chit-chat,” Mr. Schnauzer pointed his revolver at my face. “Lets get back to work.”
I grabbed the shovel from the ground and went back to my half-dug grave. “I know you plan to shoot me anyway, but would you mind not waving that thing in my face?”
Mr. Magoo chuckled at that “Sorry, force of habit.”
The sun was setting and my hands had long-since passed the blister-stage. I was about four feet deep and I worried that Mr. Magoo and Schnauzer would decide that this was sufficient and just put a bullet in my head. Time was running out for me and I needed to make a move. I couldn’t just run. Even on a day where I had a nutritious breakfast and didn’t have to dig my own grave, I wouldn’t be able to outrun anyone, much less bullets. Using the shovel as a weapon seemed similarly pointless. Even if I knocked out one of the two, the other would happily shoot me. I could always try begging, but I had a feeling that I wouldn’t be able to sway these two, and even I had my principles.
I had an idea. If I could get Schnauzer to come close to the grave, I might be able to drag him down here with me, maybe even get my hands on his gun. I didn’t say it was a good idea, but when you’ve been digging for the past few hours and you are about to be shot, your brain doesn’t necessarily on all cylinders.
I dropped the shovel and grabbed my leg, loudly groaning in pain. I let myself fall onto the ground, out of sight.
“Cut it out,” Schnauzer called over.
I pressed myself against the side of the grave facing away from them, ready to grab for Schnauzer’s leg when he leaned over to look into the grave.
“Go check on him,” Schnauzer said to Mr. Magoo.
Okay, this was less than ideal, but I wouldn’t describe any of this as desirable. If this is what I had to work it, so be it.
I could hear the footsteps getting closer. My heart felt like it was ready to leap out of my chest and I got ready to leap myself.
As I stared up into the orange sky, I saw movement in the corner of my eye and my heart dropped. I hadn’t realized that Mr. Magoo had walked around onto the other side and was now pointing his gun at my hunched form. I clenched my teeth, expecting to be shot, but what I heard instead was a guttural laugh.
“You think we’re amateurs?” he chuckled. “Did you really think this was going to work?”
At least he didn’t seem to take it personally.
“Actually yes, I thought it might.” I said, still crouched against the grave’s wall.
Schnauzer appeared next to Mr. Magoo. “Well, I don’t really blame you, at least you didn’t try to run.”
“I guess could still try that.” I said.
“Do you think that’d be a good idea?”
“No, I don’t,” I said, “but I’m open to suggestions.”
“What do you think?” Schnauzer turned to Mr. Magoo. “Looks deep enough to me.”
I slumped against the wall. I didn’t see a way out of this, but I wouldn’t sink as low as to beg for my life. I was too tired for that, anyway. I closed my eyes, hoping they’d get it over with quick. Then to my surprise, the next thing I heard were the car doors, followed by the engine sputtering alive. I slowly stood up, half-expecting to meet the barrel of one of their guns, but instead I saw the red rear lights of their rust bucket drive slowly disappear into the distance.
I stood there in my grave for another minute until I carefully climbed out. Where they had parked their car, they had left something behind.
The last red of the sun behind the horizon melted into the dark sky, revealing the first bright stars of the night. What had just happened?
I felt I was missing an important piece of information. Why had they just driven off? Had they suddenly grown a conscience? Was my attempt at tricking them so pathetic they had pity on me and let me go? Neither of these seemed likely. Perhaps they were just playing a cruel joke on me?
I walked up to the thing they had left behind. It was a red backpack. I slowly opened it, somehow expecting it to blow up.
Once I felt confident that the backpack would not blow me to pieces, I decided I should probably check its contents. The first thing that caught my attention was a closed envelope. Inside it was a letter, but it was already too dark to read it.
I pulled out a canteen with water, a box with energy bars, a set of fresh clothes, and a sleeping bag. In the front pocket I found a compass, a small flashlight and a box of bandaids.
I shivered. My clothes were sweat-soaked, and the temperature quickly dropped. I turned on the flashlight and held it in my mouth as I changed my clothes as quickly as I could. Every single muscles hurt and my raw palms stung with every move. I unrolled the sleeping back and crawled inside, hoping it would keep me warm enough. I knew the night would get cold.
I was starving, so I ate a few energy bars before I read the letter. I didn’t think it would make a difference, unless, of course, the letter would tell me that the energy bars were poisoned. Then again, I was so hungry, I would have probably still eaten them. Once I had shoved enough energy bars into me, I unfolded the letter and read.
Note: This First Draft was part of NaNoWriMo 2021 – 30 First Drafts in 30 Days