He was trapped. It seemed impossible, surreal even, but the event was laid out before him in painful spurts of evidence. His chest ached, weighed down. He couldn't move his legs. He couldn't see. He could cough, and he did, every time he pulled in a raw, throat-scraping breath. Occasionally the coughs subsided to be replaced with bone weary agony.
He had no idea what happened. He had no idea where he was. If asked who he was, well, he'd have to think about that for a moment too. It definitely wasn't the best situation to be in. He inhaled cautiously, but only because he knew he had to take a breath. This caused him to choke, and start coughing again. He did manage to raise his head this time, which increased the pressure on his chest. It rested again with a thump on the hard ground, floor; whatever it was, it was hard. Too damn hard. Why couldn't he be trapped on a feather bed? Why weren't people trapped on feather beds, with a cup of water nearby, maybe a book . . . he coughed once more and decided that for the moment shallow breaths were best. Very shallow breaths. Realizing suddenly that he had more body than just his head, he gave an experimental tug at his leg, just to see if it was still attached. All he could feel was an agonizing rip that said no movement was good. No movement and shallow breaths. Okay.
He could do this.
He blinked. Nothing was visible above him, nothing below him, nothing to either side. It was worse than floating in limbo. He couldn't see what held him down, and was scared to move his hands. He closed his eyes, opened his eyes, closed them, opened them, always to the same scene. Finally he kept them closed, because straining to see hurt more than the throb in his chest. There wasn't anything to see anyway. It would only confirm what he already knew.
He decided the best thing to do at the moment was to pass out. He'd save the anger for later.
Okay. He still couldn't see, but his head was aching, so it was still there. Chest still hurt. Still stuck. It was ridiculous. At least the last time he'd been buried under something, whatever higher power was watching had the good grace to knock him completely unconscious by it. His memory triggered, and he could recall his name sounding in the crush of rocks that had covered him, just before he blacked out, "Daniel! Dammit . . . " Oh. Daniel. That was it. Good. Things were looking up. Funny how he could remember the feel of those rocks pounding in on his head, but until now he couldn't remember his own name. It wasn't like his toes could tell him, if they were still there.
Were his toes still there?
He took an experimental deep breath and held it. Better. Still increased the pressure, but he could breathe. He exhaled slowly, inhaled again, exhaled, much the same way as when he sat in front of those candles . . . he winced as another memory fought to break. Candles. The lights flickering against a dark wall, lots of lights flickering against lots of walls . . . the way he could relax, allow his body to melt, and that comforting presence that was always there to guide him back. Yes, that presence. He wanted that presence now. He needed that comfort. He reached into his memory, tried to remember why the lights danced before him. He concentrated on the image in his mind. And he used that to focus, to steady himself. He could hear the deep voice saying that he needs to relax, be still, stop talking! Concentrate. And he had, and it started many sessions that provided comfort when he couldn't wrap his mind around the problem in his head. Well, now he had a problem. Maybe he could levitate the beams off himself.
Beams. Some kind of structure; an old, abandoned building. He was in the lowest level, barely more than dirt held back by large wooden beams that stretched across the ceiling and walls like long arms. He'd been looking for something. He'd gone back in to look for something. Alone.
No one knew he was there.
They'd figure it out. They were smart. Right? Surely he had people who would look for him, surely he wasn't one of those strange loners that died forgotten, or worse, not known at all. Please, pleasepleaseplease let someone come for him, because getting out of this on his own didn't seem likely. That presence that he felt with the candles, in the yellow glow, that was a smart person. That person would come for him. How long had he been down there?
It was time to pass out again.
Okay, he had to stay awake longer this time. Blinking still did nothing. He still couldn't move. Joints were aching and he felt flattened. The weight had either shifted, or he was becoming used to it, or. . . . no, he wouldn't think of that. He slowly tried turning his head, there, just a little at a time, very little, god his neck was stiff, but soon he felt the cold soft dirt pressed against his cheek as he pressed his head as far as it would go. He slowly returned it to center, then pressed it in the other direction. It didn't go quite so far, but he could move it. His fingers splayed against the dirt. He stretched them as wide as they would go, then grabbed a fistful of cool powder. No wonder he was coughing. He could sense the dryness in the air, feel the light granules settling on him, in his lungs as he inhaled. He would suffocate before anyone found him, drowned in dust. He raised his head, then set it back down. Splayed his fingers. He wasn't sure where his other hand was, he couldn't find it. It was like his toes. Just gone.
His left hand, though, he knew where that was. He raised it carefully, held it before his unseeing eyes, wiped it on his shirt, just above the hard beam. He could feel that too, and he ran his fingers over it, the rough splinters catching his skin. It was right on his lower ribs and stomach at an angle that laid it across one thigh. Or that was another beam. He could just bend one knee, but the other leg was pinned. His other arm was pinned as well, oh yeah, he could feel that now, a persistent ache that climbed his limb and rested in his shoulder joint. So. That was it. One good hand, and he could move his head. Good, but not enough. A sigh escaped him, and he coughed, and groaned. How long had he lain there already? He knew that mere minutes could creep, fill the spaces like empty hours, and that prospect scared him. How long had he been unconscious this time? He ran his fingers blindly over the beam, taking measure, wondering if he could just nudge it a bit, and if that nudge would be enough to wiggle free. There was just enough room between the beam and the ground to slide his hand under, and right beside his body he could work it in up to his forearm, but no further. He tried to lift it, but there was no way. Two arms probably couldn't move it. He pulled it back and pushed at the upper edge of the beam, grunting his frustration, then pounded on the wood until he pulled his hand back with a sob. Immovable. He was so tired of just laying there, he wanted to see, he wanted out, he wanted out, he wanted out-iwantout-let me out, "out, want out," he blinked and yelled, "Hey! Can anyone hear me? Get me outta here! Get me . . . " and the yell was cut short by coughs that shook his body and tore his chest open. God, please. Just get me outta this.
Another memory poked at his brain as his sobs stilled. Crying was of no use anyway, no matter how badly he hurt or how frustrated he was. He was allowed a moment of weakness. He remembered another time, the unexplainable pain, pain so thick he wasn't allowed tears, because it took every breath he had just to survive, wrapped in bandages like the mummies he had studied. Fitting end, except he wasn't ready for the end, or was he? His body had given in slowly, painfully, violently. Escape came not in death, but in the form of an old acquaintance, a soul who looked out for him, a maternal vision of his past curiosity. If he hadn't sat with that monk, if he hadn't made everyone wait while he selfishly explored the meaning on the walls, he'd be dead. That day on Kehb he'd saved his own life. Was it merely to lose it again, here? Two good things came from that, no, scratch that, three. Memories suddenly flooded his mind as his recall sharpened. Ry'ac. He'd seen what was happening, and Teal'c was able to save his son, and his mentor. Teal'c, yes, Daniel smiled; that was the golden comfort. The candles. It was he.
He remembered a time when he had remained by Teal'c's side when he was so ill, pulled him back to reason, and to life, or so the Jaffa had told him. Would Teal'c have died had he not intervened? He had no idea. He was no god. But he had helped. So where was his help? Why were they not coming for him? He felt hot tears once again, and blinked furiously as he pushed against the beam, pounded it, cursed it, made no headway whatsoever. Nothing. He closed his eyes and weakened into yet another nap.
His mind wandered.
You can't keep sleeping. How am I supposed to talk to you?
Daniel's eyes opened. There was nothing to see.
Reach out. There's a wall near you.
Just do it!
Confused, Daniel tried to turn his head, but his neck was stiff. He reached out, as far as he could, raised his hand just a little, and felt a dirt wall.
"Are you crazy?"
Move your fingers. Dig.
He sighed and started to claw at the dirt. "This won't work," he said to the air, "I'm underground."
It never occurred to him to question too much, to ask who was there, or to care. He just started to dig, the dirt grinding underneath his nails. He grabbed fistfuls of dirt and tossed it away, coughing at the dust cloud he created. "It's gonna fall in on me."
Already has done. Keep digging.
Daniel cursed and clawed. After an eternity he could just put his hand in a little cave-like nook. He tried to shift and push his hand further. Nothing. "Dammit, what's the point of this?"
There's a small piece of wood near your hand. Use it.
Daniel felt around and found it, fumbled it into his sore hand, and poked at the hole, all the while uttering how useless it was, how futile, how wonderful that little burst of light was as the stick poked through. He blinked, winced, grinned, and widened the hole. "This isn't possible. I'm underground."
This time he recognized the voice, and turned his head sharply. Jack was there, casually sitting on a beam, wait, on the beam that lay across him. . . "What are you doing?"
"Get the hell off!"
Jack stood obediently and tucked his hands in his pockets. Daniel closed his eyes with a gasp, and tried to get his breath. "Good, better. Now get this thing off me."
Can't. Need more people.
I said . . .
"Then get more people!" he gritted, opening his eyes. There was no one to see. "Jack! Jack?" He was gone, the hole was gone, there was no light, and Daniel raised his head and rubbed at his eyes with a sand-covered hand. Oh, this was not good.