Marvelous! Abso-fucking-lutely marvelous! I was drifting in and out of consciousness. Out was preferable. When I became more aware, I started a survey of my body. The back of my head felt like it went fifteen rounds with the sidewalk. My left shoulder throbbed. My left pinkie was almost certainly dislocated. Both knees were skinned. There was an indistinct rumbling in my gut. My right hand was unhurt. Small mercies.
I tried to draw a deep breath, and was stopped by a sharp pain radiating out from my left ribs. My eyes opened slowly. The view didn’t change. Either it was very dark, or I was hurt worse than I thought. My right hand lifted and hit something about four inches above my chest. Feeling along to my left the hand came to a corner and a wall that came down to the floor I was lying on. A quick examination to my right revealed more of the same. Two inches above my head was another wall. As I swung my foot down I could tap another wall with the toe of my shoe. What I could feel was rough wood. A packing crate, perhaps. Or a homemade coffin.
I took a moment to try to think. On my best day I couldn’t muscle my way out of this box, and today was not looking like one of my better days. I needed a plan. Maybe with a paperclip, a wad of chewing gum and small pile of pencil shavings I could build a… Oh, I had hit my head hard.
My eyes were closed again. The box felt less claustrophobic that way. I tried to breathe as deep as the pain in my ribs would allow, in hopes of getting enough oxygen to clear my head. After the third breath, the sound of an engine starting knocked me up a level of consciousness The exhaust rumbled down the length of me. A manual transmission was forced into gear against its will, the engine was revved and the clutch engaged. The truck(?) lurched forward and quickly turned right. For the next few minutes the ride was stop and go, never more than second gear. Then, a rapid acceleration, up through four gears and everything was a constant roar. I faded in and out of a state of awareness. When I next awoke, the truck was speeding up and slowing down, taking curves at a high speed, and going over rises in the road fast enough to leave me suspended off of the floor of the box as we began our descents. We must have left the highway and were now on some county roads out of the city. A pointless observation, taking valuable resources from the task at hand. I needed to concentrate on escape.
The problem was I did not know anything about my own predicament. Was this an evil plot or just a horrible accident? Was the driver alone? Did he even know I was in the box? A little authorial prescience would help here. My dilemma could be resolved by simply calling out to the unwitting courier at the wheel, having him open the crate and release me. On the other hand, calling out might alert the cold-blooded murderer driving the truck to the fact that I was conscious, and I already knew how he felt about that. I wasn’t volunteering for a second performance. Lying still and doing nothing was the option that seemed most prudent, at least until something changed. If pressed later to explain my decision I could always say that I was gathering intelligence. I would trade a boatload of intelligence for a gun right about now.
As this is circling my brain, the truck slows abruptly and makes a sharp right turn onto a rough, pot-holed path. I am thrown around in the crate just enough to remind me of the extent of my injuries. The truck stops, and after a few tries, the driver finds reverse. We back up a few yards and when we stop the truck is turned off. One door opens and then another, They slam almost simultaneously. The driver has a friend. I hear a tail gate being let down at my head. Neither man has spoken a word. They seem to know their mission. The crate is dragged out of the truck bed head first and dropped a few inches. It lands with a thud on some kind of platform, like a loading dock. My hope rises, if they think I am already dead, maybe I am just going to be left here. Time is my ally at this point, because a don’t have a friggin’ clue about how I am going to get out of this box.
Suddenly, there is the high-pitched whine of an electric motor, which slows as it strains. A diesel engine roars to life next to my head. The cold diesel knocks like a thousand hammers on dry wood. The throttle is revved a couple of times and the engine is set at high idle. There is a squeal and grinding of gears engaging. The crate lurches and then continues moving in fits and starts, never quite stopping. A horrible grinding, gnashing sound above my head is drawing closer and closer. So much for Plan ”A”. The adrenaline rush kicks in, I’ll get out of this damn box or die trying. Literally. I wedge my arms against the sides of the crate, pull my legs up as for as possible and drive my feet into the far end of the crate. Again. Again. The wood begins to yield to the assault. Twice more I slam against the end of the box and the wall flies off. I wiggle down the length of the crate and emerge onto a moving conveyor belt. In one motion, I am off the belt and lying face down on the ground. Two yards in front of me are two pairs of beaten work boots topped with dirty blue denim. I slowly drew myself up and stood face to face with two men in blue overalls. And identical red plaid work shirts. Topped with identical moon faces. They are staring back at me with their eyes open wide and jaws down to their chests. As I prepare to defend myself I realize that they are not menacing. In fact, they appear to be in shock.. As we stand facing each other, no one speaking or moving, I feel a chill. The slight breeze raising goose pimples on my arms and legs seems exceptionally sharp. I steal a quick glance downward and whip my eyes back to fix the two desperadoes in my gaze. The picture forming in my mind just isn’t right. I look again in disbelief. I am not wearing shoes. Or socks. Or pants. In fact, as I check more closely, I find that I am stark, raving nude. Standing in an open yard. In December. Facing the two men who brought me here. Really a red letter day. Lacking any practical options, I took the easy out. I fainted.