Prompt: 15th May 2021 – Solid vs Liquid
There was a fine layer of dust on the surface of the sun-hardened ground. Even at night, the heat could still be felt rising from it. The clouds were doing their utmost to hide any star or moonlight from the earth, and the animals were silent, seeming to know what was about to happen here.
He had no tools with him, but he had no choice. He fell to his knees and, in a blind panic, began to claw at the dirt. He scratched and picked, and felt for sharp stones that he could use to leverage the ground open. The dust rose up and rushed into his panting mouth, choking him, but he couldn’t stop. He pleaded and begged the dirt to move aside and let him in.
With broken nails and aching hands, he managed to form a small basin. Once the top layer had been removed, the earth gave way more easily. His digging became more frantic and his fingers started to bleed as they caught on unfriendly edges. His mind was set on his only goal and he dug as if his life depended on it.
The night was getting colder but he was warm from his efforts. And still, the hairs stood up on the back of his neck. He dug deeper and deeper, becoming more manic and desperate the further he went. Every now and again a whimper escaped from him as he tunneled his way down. His eyes wide, trying to see through the dark and the mud. His hands were covered in clay and blood. The ground, he was pulling out in clumps now, was tacky and moist. Flecks jumped up and splattered his face but any attempt he made to brush them away just pushed them further into his eyes.
Down and down, he went, and the soil got wetter and wetter. The mud began slipping through his fingers as he scraped it up the walls and out into the night. Then his jeans were soaked through and his boots began filling with water. His hands were washed clean every time he reached down for more.
Relentlessly, hand over hand, he scooped out the masses of mud. The water level rose with every scoop. Before long, he had to submerge his head to reach the floor, and still, he kept on digging. It took longer and longer breaths, and he began to spatter and cough every time he came up for air. Finally, he lost his footing and had to dive down to the never ending task, then tread water as he tried to catch his breath.
Time and time again he dove, dug, and rose. He had long lost reach of the top of the hole, so had resorted to sticking the mud to the sides of the walls to stop it from undoing his hard work. The air became dense around him as the hole above his head narrowed. He returned to the base, pulling it free then sticking it to the roof he’d now created above himself. The fear and exhaustion had taken over his senses and all he could do was all he had been doing. His small pocket of air shrunk as he committed himself to his endless task.
* * *
He floated with his back brushing against the ceiling on the tomb he had created for himself. All around him was finally still. His broken hands drifted, weightless. He blinked and the tide took him out to the ocean.