The loud thud of nails entering the wood. The slow lowering of the casket underground. The pungent smell of the resin. She feels the narrow space around her, how much room between her arms and the oak panel? How much room above her? How long will she last? How much air before she slowly suffocates? And the stillness, the darkness, the blackness. Her eyes are wide open, orbits strained trying to see something, but it’s just too dark, she can’t make anything, hear anything.
The bed springs squeak as she jumps up, sweaty, flailing, gasping for air. Fear – real palpable fear – overtakes the morbid fantasy. She’s going to die. She is going to die – ultimately, she WILL die. The small box rattles furiously as her shaky hands struggle to extract the little white pills. Water. Head tilt to help them slide down. Easy. Easy. Deep breath. She walks a few paces up and down the small living room, her eyes darting around from object to object, small artefacts reminding her that she is not dead. The small watering can next to the plants, the remote control, the cosy slippers. When she dies, will she take her favourite things with her to her narrow casket? Maybe her early edition of Animal Farm, or maybe that small painting she bought from a street artist in Venice a long, long time ago? Easy, easy. Don’t think about it again. Deep breath, darling, deep breath.
The sound of her own voice soothes her. The pills are gently working their way through her veins and she feels better already. Not great, but better. Although her throat is a little scratchy. It’s been scratchy a long time actually, maybe 3 or 4 days. And it hasn’t improved. Maybe it’s something serious. Throat cancer? Oh no. No. Nonononononono. She flicks the laptop open. Google. Throat cancer symptoms. Well, aside from persistent sore throat. Heartburn. Has she had heartburn recently? She can’t remember. Maybe she did. Causes: smoking, oral sex. She hasn’t done either since 2006. Deep breath. Maybe it’s not throat cancer after all. Although it might be good to monitor any possible heartburn signs. Maybe it’s a common cold. Better treat it straight away. The pills squeak as she pops them out of the plastic wrapper. Water. Head tilt. Another deep breath. Hang on. How long had that medication been in the kitchen drawer? Oh no, maybe it’s past the date? Oh shitshitshitshit, that’s so dangerous; so, so dangerous. She opens the bin, frantically looking for the empty box, visions of herself swelling and slowly choking to death. Where did the fucking box go? She scatters the contents of the bin on the floor. Her hands are itchy. It’s already starting, she’s reacting to the out-of-date Day Nurse, she’s heading for anaphylactic shock. She should call an ambulance. The box suddenly emerges from underneath the discarded coffee filter. exp: 06/2017. Oh, phew. False alarm. Her hands are still itchy though. Maybe it’s hives? Google. Hives. Some unsavoury pictures. No, it doesn’t look like it’s hives. Maybe just a reaction to the new antibacterial hand soap. Or to the contents of the bin. Better pop an antihistamine. Water. Head tilt. OK.OK. All good.
7.20. Time to get ready otherwise she’ll be told off for being late and that’s not good for her nerves. And she’s already having a trying morning. She’s going to wear the black jumper, the one with the long flarey sleeves, her itchy hands look a bit swollen and it will hide them nicely. She hasn’t worn that in yonks. He’d bought it for her that time they went to Venice. A long time ago. A lifetime ago. Back before he left, back when she had good reasons to get throat cancer. I can’t deal with this anymore, he had said. And he’d walked out, leaving her and their budgie, Matilda. Matilda had died since. She’d forgotten to feed her in the middle of a plague scare. It hadn’t been her fault really. She’d felt so funny and she’d read that the plague was back and for the good of the nation had quarantined herself in her room for a few days. RIP little budgie. The jumper is a quite snug. She’s been bloated lately. Maybe she has food intolerances. Maybe she shouldn’t eat gluten. Google: food intolerance and bloating. There, she was right. She’s definitely intolerant to gluten. On the way back home she’ll go to a health store and get gluten-free products. And maybe some vitamins for her immune system. The probiotics and spirulina and goji berries and ground pumpkin seed supplements might not be enough.
7.45, she’s late. She spots the bus at the end of the street. She runs towards the bus stop, the pills in her handbag rattling to the rhythm of her footsteps. Panting, she climbs up to the top deck aiming for her favourite spot – the right-hand-side front seat. That was quite a sprint. She’s pretty out of breath. Should she be that out of breath? She’s a bit wheezy too. Could she be asthmatic? Her thorax hurts. Oh no. Maybe she collapsed a lung. Oh crap. iPhone Google. Collapsed lung symptoms: shooting pains radiating from the shoulder down the arm, reduced ability to breathe. No, the pain is more localised. Maybe she strained a muscle. Or cracked a rib. Google. Cracked rib: it will hurt when one coughs or laughs. She coughs discretely. Did it hurt? Not so much. Well maybe a little bit. It seems she strained a muscle. Might be best not to let it get inflamed. She pulls out a small bottle from her bag and a box of ibuprofen. Water. Head tilt. All good.
She makes it on time, barely. A small, quiet hello around before she settles down at her desk. She bends down to open her file drawer. Her head spins. Head rush. Probably from all the running. She might have low blood sugar. Maybe the onset of diabetes? She should go get a blood test, just to be sure.
You OK? Jason is in front of her. She hadn’t see him approach. You look a bit pale. Jason is nice. Her head is really spinning, nausea overcomes her. She feels funny. Black spots dance around. Oh god. She’s pretty sure she’s dying now. It’s OK if Jason is the last person she sees. Just a head rush, she says smiling feebly. I’ll get some water. She stands up but her legs are gone. Are her legs dead already? Is this what happens? Do you go in chunks, first your legs, then your torso, then your arms until everything is gone but your head? She’s crumpled to the floor, Jason sitting by her, stroking her hair. Hang in there sweetie, the paramedics are on the way. Jason likes her, she’s pretty and sweet. A damn shame she’s so fucking bonkers. What have we got here? 39-year-old female. Blood pressure dropping. Vomiting. Is she vomiting? Oh God, it could be food poisoning, or a parasite. She knew she shouldn’t have gone for sushi. And now she’s dying. And vomiting on Jason.
It’s dark. It’s terribly dark. It happened, she wasn’t dead after all and they’d buried her alive. Oh shit. Shitshitshitshitshit. She tries to scream but only a vague moan comes out of her parched lips. Her stomach hurts. It hurts so much. She’s never had that sort of pain before. Maybe she has a stomach ulcer? How could she have an ulcer if she’s dead? A light switches on, a nurse bends over her, her hand reassuring on her shoulder. She’s in hospital. You had an overdose of medication. We’ve pumped you. You’ll be feeling sore for a couple of days, but you’ll be fine, try to sleep.
They pumped her. How embarrassing. It was a couple of weeks ago, hopefully people will forget soon. Let it be a lesson. Stop taking so many meds. Unless it’s an emergency. She can still remember the unpleasantness of it all. The nausea, the fainting, the waking up in the dark with the gut wrenching pain. Does it still feel sore? It does a little bit. Is that normal? They said the pain would subside after a couple of days. But has it? She’s not sure. It does really feel a bit sore. Maybe it’s not normal. Maybe she should look it up. Just in case. Google. Water. Head tilt.
Barbara is French and moved to London in 2002 after studying for a BA in French literature and linguistics. She currently works as a digital content manager in the city and lives in Surrey with her husband and 4-year-old daughter. In her spare time she loves running, cooking, watching movies, reading and writing. Barbara has a few short stories on the go (She is trying her hand at a few different genres and styles). Panic Attack will be her second story published by Storgy, and for this she is very grateful! Barbara really appreciates your support and positive feedback as it helps to put her out there, and she can’t express how pleased she is to make an appearance alongside a community of such great writers.