I woke at the bottom of a deep well. It’s cold, damp and dark. I can’t be bothered to look up though I believe there’s daylight up there somewhere.

The ground is hard with sharp broken edges that stick into me, burrowing deep beneath the skin. They puncture and tear. I feel around in the grey swamped air walking my fingers through mud, comfortably soft in my nails. I squeeze my grip in, down further till the mud sneaks and pushes through my hands. I’m making a fist for no reason while my nails hurt my palms. Nothing crawls down here, not that I can see. Maybe they’re here but waiting. I don’t fear them, they can’t do me any harm, not now. I wait for sounds, soft underbelly dragging through slime but even that’s gone.

I shuffle backwards to the wall and hug my ankles. My ears are aching, I rest the side of my head on my knee and listen to the sound of my grief. Moss dripping, oozing green, taps my forehead, lost any sense of time. I’ve been down here forever, this is where I exist, where I was born. There is no passage of time although things drip onto me, appearing to shift, yet I don’t. I am static, part of this place. If I breathe long enough it may stop. Something will change. My feet are cold, my sluggishness persists. The only movement I allow is the rise and fall of my chest. Why is the air so heavy? I don’t want to move my hands through it. It’s too much effort to lift my head. With each breath I try to take up a smaller and smaller space. If I reduce my size maybe it will turn down the feelings? Willing, trying to shrink myself into the soil. I try to push myself into the bricks behind me, leaving an imprint on my back but they resist me, they won’t let me fade. I wonder how tall the structure is but still can’t look up. I imagine a pinpoint of light somewhere. It might be nearer than I know, might be bigger, but that’s irrelevant with slimy steeped walls. They’re back now, things that crawl and wrap themselves around me. Let them come to bite and slither, I won’t feel it. How many breaths will it take before the air thins, before I loosen my grip? I listen to the dankness, the steady trickle drip seep wait of space you can cut. Maybe further down is an option, what if I dig, can I tunnel underneath and out, are my hands strong enough ?

I scratch gouge into the soil. A place to nurture and sustain, but down here it waits redundant, waits for me? I force deeper, hand caked in mud. I sit up and crawl round, kneeling leaning forward, I scrabble around in the dirt. I can get my hands down further and pull up chunks of earth. It smells fusty, fresher than where I’d curled, freed worms wriggle at me. I ignore them and keep digging. It comes easier now, softer, less resistant, crumbles to my touch. It opens up, caving in to my pressure. It concedes a gap, just big enough. I’m so small now I can squeeze myself through.

And down.

Its tight and dangerous but I don’t care. The soil pushes around me, I taste it, spit out and protest, but keep going. The air smells bitter, rancid, earth and air weigh me down, hold me back, but I keep crawling. There is only blackness, mouldering at me, calling me in further. My knees hurt, my back goes into spasm but there’s no room to stretch. I feel it tighten, just one more constriction. I breathe through the pain till it passes. Feeling my way, exhausted.

Why am I even bothering, why don’t I stop to rest, let the soft earth blanket me? Teasing oblivion, playing with it. Somehow compelled to keep moving. I’ve come this far. I hate the blackness, the pressure, the panic. It moves over and through me, I can’t move backwards, I can’t stop, I can’t go on, I can’t ache anymore, I can’t wait anymore, I can’t be anymore, I can’t hurt anymore, I can’t fight anymore, I can’t give, I can’t dig, I can’t move, I can’t move, I must move, I must go, I must keep going, must get out, get out, need to dig out, can’t give up, won’t give up, don’t let me stop, don’t stop, won’t stop, push claw and fumble, then the soil is in my eyes, in my ears, I want to scream but my mouth fills with earth. I force outwards. Panic. I burst my terror out into the ground. The earth fills my mouth and nose as my limbs lurch forward. My hand grapples for air, feels air, it’s cold. Its different. I heave against it, smash stumble grasp. I breathe in the air and poke the soil from my mouth. Gagging, coughing out the traces. Before the energy leaves me I bash through the last barricade of soil and clamber and drag, withered, out and up. I pull myself free, up onto the soft ledge. And lie there for a while till my breathing settles. I ache everywhere. I’m battered and broken – but out. I blink the last of the dirt from my eyes and open them.

It’s dark

I look up

I’m in a dank deep well.