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The Night in Coober Peddy

I was in the box, waiting to get out, hoping for someone to save me. I wanted to bang at the top but I felt too weak. My head was fuzzy due to the lack of oxygen. My body was so constricted that it became numb.

I’m going to die, I thought. Slowly and surely I take my last breath.

“NO” I scream. The moon shines brightly in the night sky, but I didn’t need its light. I had a beside lamp right beside me.

It’s only a dream. It’s only a dream.

I switch all the room lights on and go back to sleep.

You see, I’m petrified of the dark. I need at least a little light at all times. When I’m too scared I switch them all on.

You may think that being afraid of the dark isn’t a big deal. So many people are, right? Unfortunately I have lost two boyfriends this way. They thought they could protect me from the dark so that I wouldn’t be scared, but we always ended up sleeping with the light on. They couldn’t “cure” my “disease.”

The worst part is these nightmares. They have been recurring more frequently in the past few weeks. I wake up at least two to three times in the Middle of the night. Sometimes I don’t ever go back to sleep.

I live in Sydney, in a quaint little suburb called the Sydney Olympic Park. Most of the major concerts happen out here. My birthday was coming in a week and there was no special concert for me to go to. My family doesn’t really care much for celebrations. My older sister is basically married and living in the city and my parents like to laze around in front of the TV.

Just when I was wondering what to do with my life during my birthday, I got a call from my best friend Robert.

“Hey there Nutty. I have a surprise for you. We are going to Uluru on your birthday.”

Rob is my one and only best friend in this entire world. We met during our first year of college and talk about anything and everything under the sun. Our relationship has been purely platonic. Nutty is short for Natasha.

“Uluru? How are we supposed to afford this? We’re still fourth year college students mate.”

“You never trust me Nutster. One of mom’s clients is a travel agent. They are giving us major discounts. It’s not like you would have any other plans in any case. Just shush and come along.”

And so it was decided. Rob and I would be seeing Uluru or Ayers rock, the most sacred rock to the Aborigines in Australia. I’m going to turn twenty-two yet I haven’t even ventured out of New South Wales all that much. Just occasional family trips to India to meet my cousins.

We take a flight to Alice Springs. Since we reach at night we book sleep at a backpackers. I ask for a night lamp in my room. My excuse is that I have night blindness.

The next day we board a bus which is supposed to head out to Uluru.

Except it doesn’t.

“Welcome aboard the bus to Coober Pedy. It’s going to be a long journey so get comfortable.” The tour guide announces.

I glare at Rob. “You said Uluru you liar.”

“Yeah well. You wouldn’t agree for Coober Pedy otherwise.”

“Oh my god. Why are you always such an asshole?” I ask

“That’s why we’re friends.” He says, while winking at me.

The journey lasts for five hours during which time I sleep.

When I open my eyes we’re literally in the middle of nowhere. There are desert and rocks and several open mines.

“Welcome to Coober Pedy, mining capital of Australia.” Rob says.

As I get off, I can feel the heat scorching my bones. I check my phone to see the temperature. 45 degrees Celsius. Wow.

Coober Pedy’s USP is that it’s completely underground. All the inhabitants in this town live in houses built underground. They live like this because it is way too hot to live above. The inhabitants own the mines out here.

We get a tour of one of the mines. Thankfully there is light. This mine is set up as a museum. We see where the rooms where the miners used to sleep fifty years ago and how they extracted jewels.

I’m so surprised at how cool it is down below. Special vents are built through which oxygen gets passed around. I would guess the temperature here to be around 23 degrees Celsius. After watching an hour-and-a-half documentary on Opals, the main gem extracted from here, we are lead into a gemstone shop. Everything is so beautiful. I pick up a keychain that depicts the miners’ arduous lives.

After the tour, Rob and I go to the underground church. It’s tiny, but full. We pray and head to our bunkers to turn in for the night.

I put in my usual request for a night lamp.

“I’m sorry we don’t have night lamps.” They say.

“No lamps? Are you kidding me?” I ask. I look at Rob. “Did you know about this?”

“Kind of.”

“Oh my god. No way. I can’t sleep.”

“Nutty it’s about time you got over this. You’re going to be an adult. How will you sleep next to your future husband if you behave like this?”

The lights abruptly go out. I can’t even see my own hands. It’s so weird. I can’t see any part of myself. How can I be so sure about my own existence?

Suddenly I see blackness. The memories come rushing back.

“She’s dead. I’m sorry” The doctor said.

My mother cried her eyes out. My father was trying to be strong.

They made the funeral arrangements.

They put me inside a tiny box that fits a four year old girl. I opened my eyes when I was in the box.

The doctor was obviously wrong.

I banged at the top of the box, trying to scream, to say something. My voice wasn’t coming out.

The darkness was the worst part of it all.

I felt the box being put down somewhere. And then the mud started coming on top.

I eventually found my voice and screamed.

I screamed for an entire week.

“Nutty! Nutty! Wake-up.” I hear Rob’s faint voice in the distance. “I’m so sorry. Wake up!”

I open my eyes. “What the hell happened?”

“You passed out. We brought you outside where there is light. I’m so sorry Nutty!”

“It’s okay. I found out somethings about myself. Stuff that I stowed away in the deepest recesses of my memory.”

“Okay. They have a special hotel with light an hour away. Let’s go there.”

“Yeah cool.”

For the first time in weeks I fall asleep properly. The light is on but I feel I can sleep without it in the future.

Maybe I can actually be free of my fear of the dark. Get over the fact that an incompetent doctor declared me dead. That I was trapped in a coffin.

Maybe.

Source of keychain: Gemstone shop in Coober Pedy

This is a work of fiction.

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