Brain fog swirled through his head like cream poured into coffee. Virgil raised his hand to turn on his helmet lamp only to thread his fingers through dirt encrusted hair. It was dark, dusty and he was pinned. Lowering his hand, he hung in suspended animation not being able to think clearly yet. In search of light, he reached for his side pockets finding them blocked by something solid. With full consciousness still eluding him, panic bubbled up. Movement was limited to his upper body and visibility was non-existent. Before succumbing to the explosive adrenaline building up, he felt his breast pocket. A shaky hand followed with a flood of relief. He found the sought after glow stick. A quick shake lit up the claustrophobic enclosure.
Due to the pitch dark, he at first thought he had been in a caving accident. But with the new illumination, he saw that he was entombed in broken pieces of a building.
An uncomprehending blink broke his stare. Varying sizes of concrete chunks surrounded him. A miniscule sand waterfall trickled in the farthest corner. He stood waist deep in jagged debris, with a large block directly behind him, making him unable to straighten. He felt the dust coating his lungs with every breath.
As the mist started to lift, Virgil recalled the events that lead up to this dilemma. 'I'm in the basement of a prison.' His mind went blank for a fraction of a moment before recalling more detail.
As a member of the elite rescue group, GRNI, he was called in for duty at an earthquake ravaged prison. Looking around, he remembered he'd been in one of the two damaged buildings left standing.
He started to full consciousness as memories flooded in. 'He was here.' Virg's laugh echoed oddly in the confined space. 'He got what he wanted after all. My death.'
"My death," he said out loud. "No, I'm not going to let you win." And with a burst of adrenaline, his focus changed from victim to rescuer. He studied his tomb, wishing he had his helmet, which in addition to a light, contained a video camera and communications. 'Damn, it could be buried anywhere in this mess.'
Carefully and tentatively moving pieces from around his waist, he froze when a shower of dust and rock rained down. "So much for Plan A." He coughed out a laugh. "Plan A? I need an actual plan before I can name the damned thing." He shook his head again as he felt his mind drifting into the Twilight Zone. "Never mind naming the plan, just do something."
He knew his team had highly sensitive equipment capable of picking up a heartbeat through ten feet of concrete. He yelled out. The sound morphed into a spasm of coughing and died in a moan of pain.
"Oh, that was not a good idea," he groaned. "You're batting 0-2, V. Want to try another plan? Oh there we go with the plans, again. So where were we? I think we were up to D. Or was it C?"
He pinched the bridge of his nose and blinked back the developing miasma so that he could assess other options. Digging out was no good in this unstable environment. The noise idea could work, but not with voice. He carefully picked his way through the most elementary of thought. Thoughts that normally formed in his mind in a nanosecond. He stared at a fist size chunk of cement for a while, then picked it up. Starting with a little energy and determination, he pounded out the old Morse Code for S.O.S.
As he hoped his team would find him, he worried about them. Who else was caught in the aftershock? The basement search was the final sweep of the entire prison, everyone should have been out. In fact, he should have been out, too.
Virgil lost track of time as he continued pounding the distress signal. Had he been doing it an hour? He couldn't tell. Time seemed to have left the building. He found himself beating randomly several times and tried to concentrate on the code. But the tapping, which began strong and regular, slowed and eventually trickled to a stop. Virgil slipped back into the abyss.