Vick was cold and damp and sick with pain. Icy electric tremors passed through his body. He had been vomiting. He was lying on his left side in six inches of thick muddy water, with no feeling below his waist. His breathing was shallow and rapid, a sharp pain prohibiting deep breaths. With convulsive force, he held his head to the right to keep his mouth and nose above water. Stay conscious, he thought. Judy is on her way. She will find me.
Vick and Judy had driven from the city for the day. They were fixing up an old farmhouse, trying to make it livable before moving in. Vick had been trying to make sense of the old fuse boxes in the basement when he discovered a narrow crawl space. It led to the root cellar behind the kitchen, above which stood a defunct windmill. Had he not been so excited to find the perfect place to prank Judy, he might have remembered that, quite often, under a windmill sits a well.
Vick and Judy shared the perverse desire to scare the hell out of each other. Each thought the other was most attractive in the afterglow of morbid panic. In the first few months that Vick and Judy were dating, they exchanged practical jokes—they hid behind doors, they short-sheeted beds, they shut the hot water off while the other showered. Then one night, Judy came home to find their apartment trashed. She was expecting Vick’s roasted chicken, but instead found a man with a stocking over his head. Through the bathroom door, she saw Vick’s bloody legs and a knife on the tiles. To save the hired intruder from Judy, who had grabbed the knife, Vick jumped to his feet and darted after her. She came close to stabbing Vick in the neck. She packed a bag and left. Vick became depressed. He had crossed a line he didn’t know existed. Two weeks later, he got a call from a hospital in Buffalo. His parents were involved in a head-on collision while visiting Niagara Falls. His father had been killed instantly, and his mother died shortly after, in the ambulance. His threw the phone. He paced the floor. He went limp. He went rigid. He went numb. He grabbed his coat and ran for the door. In the hall stood Judy, offering a sympathy card and a wry smile. Vick was blank. When feeling and thought crawled back to him, he realized that the two-week disappearance was part of this vile hoax. They were engaged that night.
The crawl space would be as irresistible to Judy as it was to Vick. She would feel her way in the dark as he had. An excitement rose in him. His pain was subsiding. He was beginning to feel warm, comfortable even. He knew she would find him. She will be terrified, he thought. She will be lovely.