CLAUSTROPHOBIA

He opened his eyes but the world was still black. It had happened again. He choked back his tears of frustration and forced himself to be positive. Perhaps this would be the time. Maybe he'd get to breathe fresh air again. He'd give anything for a single breath of air once more.

Still, he told himself. Even if he was to fail – again - it would only be for four minutes.

FOUR MINUTES!

That was an eternity. Even four seconds was the distant future.

He pushed upwards with his arms and his palms met solid oak, just a foot or so above his head. He pushed as hard as he could and kicked out convulsively with his left leg. It slammed against the roof with a muffled thump. Couldn't anyone hear that? Anyone?

He could hear his heart pounding in his head. He imagined his tired old skull must be expanding with each excruciating beat. Sweat poured down his face and his body tingled with the heat – or was it cold? His skin was sore and his feet and knuckles were bruised, although he scarcely noticed. His main concern was breathing. He could feel himself drifting but shook his head vigorously. He would not give in this time. This time he would be free. The thought drove him on and he spent a further fifteen seconds or so kicking, thumping and fighting for air – but always in vain. He wanted to scream but couldn't fill his lungs to do so. Most people could fully inhale and exhale and most people took it for granted. He had once taken it for granted, though he wouldn't now. He'd savour each and every breath. It would be all he'd ever ask for, but God couldn't even give him that. Maybe this was hell. Forget fiery furnaces. Forget places of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Just give him a six by two wooden cell. An eternity of rising from the dead, just to be smothered back into it.

WAIT!

Was that voices? This was his chance. In desperation he kicked and thumped until his toes and fists bled. He then pushed downwards with his elbows and felt himself rise to a thirty degree angle before he was knocked back violently by the roof. His head spun but he continued to kick up with his foot. After what seemed like a century he heard the earth being pressed down six feet above. His moment had come. God was merciful.

The small boy looked down curiously at the earth beneath him. He was sure he could hear some sort of knocking coming from the ground, he lay on his belly, pressing his ear against the baking soil. His six year old brain was still puzzling over it when a rough hand grabbed him under the arm and yanked him up. His mother looked at him crossly.

'Jonathon, what on earth do you think you are doing?'

'I heard a sound, Mummy. I could hear someone knocking on the door down there.'

'Don't be ridiculous,' the woman said tersely. 'The man's been dead for over two hundred years. Now come along this instant or you shall not have any tea.'

With that Jonathon forgot all about strange sounds in the ground and skipped along home to his tea.