I really love Christmas time. I love the lights, the classic carols, the cinnamon and nutmeg coffee, the eggnog, and the ritual of putting up a Christmas tree in our house. It fills me with a deep joy every year as I look forward to taking a break from my job and being around my friends and family. It’s probably the one cultural tradition that I really connect with on an emotional level. It taps into so many pleasant nostalgic memories of Christmases past. And I cannot express how wonderful it is to simply disconnect from the daily concerns of my job (even though I rather enjoy my job on most days).
It was dark.
That much was clear when he found himself stirring, his head aching, and his eyes searching for something to fix on in the formless, muddy shades of black and grey. Except for the soft sound of water dripping somewhere in the distance, a cold silence filled each breath he took and the gradually the sound of his heartbeat faded into his consciousness.
His hands were fastened securely behind his back with two rough pieces of rope wound tightly across his wrists. As he found himself becoming more alert, he became increasingly aware of the painful scrapes where the rope bit into his skin. Whereas before he had possessed no sense of up or down, he now realized that his chin rested on some hard surface and that he lay uncomfortably face down with his belly pressed against a cold, wet stone floor. He tasted iron and smelled a heady mix of cinnamon and burning leaves mixed with the subtle trace of damp, earthy mold. His legs felt heavy and clumsy, but he could sense no restraints and felt as though he might be able to stand if he could manage to position his shoulders properly so as to gain leverage over his torso’s weight.
With a short, sharp grunt he braced himself against the floor and sprung up to his feet, instinctively straining against the rope that bound his hands together trying without success to find a center of balance. While his momentum carried him upwards, his legs failed him giving way to weakness and before he could gasp or cry out in surprise, he found himself sinking down painfully onto his knees with a dull thud. Mercifully, he had managed to lean back to avoid falling forward with the impact and in doing so had spared himself the experience of falling face forward onto the hard floor. He sucked in a few short breaths and tried to stand again, this time successfully gaining his feet. Once there, he stood still for several seconds listening and striving to penetrate the silence to find some familiar sound other than the ceaseless slow drip, drip, drip.
That was when he felt the sticky, warm breath slick upon the skin of his neck. He was only half surprised to find that the high, shrill sound piercing his ears was being ripped from somewhere deep inside his own throat.
It was unbarely wet and warm.