Time ticked by and she (Harlee) grew weary. Her elbow, evidently skinned during the fall, joined the dull ache in her head, and her knees begged her to sit. The blue sky above darkened with the approaching nighttime, and Harlee sagged into the water letting it lap to her chin while she rested against the stony interior. Why hadn’t someone come to look for her? Especially her impatient little sister?
Despite her discomfort, Harlee slept and woke with a crick in her neck and fingers wrinkled from being under water. She glanced up, praying to see someone peering back, but strangely, no longer saw the sky. Could it still be nighttime? Straining her eyes, she noted light leaking around what appeared to be a cover. Her mind whirred. Was this all a bad dream? The fact that she sat in water, confined in a stone prison confirmed the truth. But why hadn’t someone missed her, and why did they cover the well unless her family thought her dead?
With a hoarse voice, she shouted as loud as she could, but still no one responded. Trying to find a bright spot, she remembered the circling vultures. “At least I cheated those gluttonous birds out of a meal,” she muttered as tears plunked into the water, barely making a ripple. Death would surely claim her anyhow. Maybe the grim reaper already had and she didn’t realize she’d passed. Resting a hand on her bosom, she searched for a heartbeat.
* * *
By Harlee’s estimation and the glimpses of light around whatever covered the well, she’d been imprisoned for at least three days. Her head still hurt and she shivered, although the shallow water wasn’t cold. She wasn’t dead…at least not yet, but with each passing moment, she grew weaker and weaker. For part of the day, she forced herself to run in place, splashing around in what little water remained, fighting the numbness in her legs from continued wetness. Now, after having no food, hunger rumbled her stomach. She stopped sloshing around and grasped the rocky wall, intending to try once again to climb out. Between weakness and the slipperiness of each stone, she made only small progress before she crashed back to the bottom further jarring her insides and scraping her hands and legs.
Her soaked dress cloaked her like a second skin, and the slime from the well’s bottom coated her skinned palms. She crinkled her nose at the musty smell and kept assuring herself help would come, but her weak cries bounced off the walls and went unanswered.
Harlee’s strength waned more and more by the morning of the fourth day, and she prepared to die. Her measure of time came by means of daylight filtering around the well’s sealed edges, and she no longer had hope of rescue. After wanting water so badly, she hadn’t even sated her thirst, and now dreamed of Ma’s buttermilk biscuits. An imaginary aroma masked the musk and hung teasingly in the air.
|Cover by Charlene Raddon|
Available on my Amazon page. This is my first self-published novel.