Mystery and Crime Fiction posted March 13, 2016

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The tide rises

Lemmie -- Pt.6 of 6

by jpduck

Phyllis woke with a jolt. As reality crashed in, she was amazed she had slept at all. Something woke me. What was it? She noticed the noise. It was the sea — sounding very close. She fumbled for the torch, which she had secured under her bra strap last night to stop it falling on the floor.
She shone the torch towards the passage. She was horrified to see water lapping into the cave at the entrance. That’s ridiculous, she thought. How can the tide come into the cellar of a house twice a day, every day. Surely the house would have fallen down years ago. But then she reflected, it wasn’t a cellar at all; it was a cave. Shining the torch at the ceiling, she could see it sloped down in all directions from the hatch through which she had been lowered. Probably the upper surface of the rock was flat, so the house was really built on solid rock, and the hatch could have been cut out later. Maybe the house was owned by smugglers.
She pointed the torch down at the floor again. The water was almost at her feet. In horror, she shuffled back into what seemed like the highest point, in the corner behind her.
Surely they must have caught those evil creatures by now. They’d get the truth out of them. Help could arrive at any moment. She shrieked, “Help!” at the top of her voice, over and over. She stopped and listened. Nothing.
Probably she wouldn’t even get her feet wet. She shone the torch along the base of the walls, searching for a high water mark. She looked higher and higher until she reached a very clear, smudgy, green line about twelve inches below the ceiling. She stood up and reached her head as high as she could with the chair tied to her. She looked up. She was six inches short of the green line. Her mouth pulled out in a rictus of fear.
She sat again, tears welling in her eyes. Angrily, she lifted her hands to brush away the tears. Why was all this happening? That was fairly obvious; those animals would be demanding a ransom from poor Eric. She wondered how much she was worth. What was their price?
She chastised herself for thinking about that. It wasn’t happening; she was certain they had been caught. She hoped they were being tortured — in terrible pain — until they gave way and told the police where they had left her. But no, she supposed, the Brits didn’t do that sort of thing.
The water had reached Phyllis and was now lapping round her feet. Think, Phyllis, think! If she could only escape the chair, she could swim or tread water until the tide went down. She was a strong swimmer. If she could swing her body round repeatedly so the chair would crash into the cave wall again and again, it would eventually break up and release her.
On the other hand, if she could somehow sever the ropes, then she would be able to stand on the chair. If she did that, at high tide her head would be clear of the water.
She reckoned cutting the ropes would be the best option. But how could she do it? With the torch, she carefully searched along the cave walls to see if she could find any sharp edges; but, if there had ever been any, they had long since been eroded and rounded by the tides.
Close to despair, she realised the water was now up to her knees. If she was going to smash the chair she needed to do it now. Once the water had risen another few inches, the chair would be in the water, and she would be quite unable to swing it against the wall with sufficient force to do it any damage.
She stood with her right shoulder close to the cave wall. She twisted her body right, then left, again and again, crashing the chair into the wall each time. She kept this up for ten or fifteen minutes. Finally exhausted, she sank back on to the chair — which felt horribly sturdy. But at least the exercise had warmed her up a little, she thought, with sour amusement.
Sitting, the water now reached the top rope.
 Soon I will have to stand for the last few minutes of my life. What will it be like to drown? I suppose I will hold my breath at the last. But then I will have to gasp and breathe in water . . . and choke? What will it be like to feel my lungs filling with water?
Dear God, make it quick.
After what seemed like an eternity, she was standing, stretching as tall as she could, with her mouth tightly shut and the water lapping her upper lip . . . when she heard voices and footsteps overhead. She threw back her head to bring her mouth above water and shrieked and screamed, “Help! I’m under the floor. Be quick, for God’s sake.”
Almost immediately the trap door sprang open and two policemen jumped into the water. They swam to Phyllis. As they lifted her and her chair, she fainted.

The golden, fat chrysalid split open. The joyful new butterfly spread his glorious wings to dry in the sun. His new life in the marshes had begun.

The End.

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