By Richard Bleil
The vat is very large, and very deep. With a radius of maybe ten feet, it has to be another thirty feet high. As he peers up, he sees the coned top has a circular opening, and what appears to be an open pipe above it, presumably to pump something into it. Whoever put him in here removed most of his clothing beforehand, leaving him only in his boxers.
The walls are some kind of metal, smooth except for where the sheet metal was sealed. The floor is flat, and seems to have been attached separately. With the little light, it’s hard to tell much about the top except its general shape.
He runs his hand over the wall, and pounds on it. It seems too thick. He shouts for help, but knows whoever put him here did so deliberately. No doubt, there will be no help. He looks at the riveted seal, and tries to pick at it, but it doesn’t take long for him to realize that it would be to no avail.
There seems to be some kind of granular substance coating the walls and floor. He scrapes his fingertip along the wall to look at it. It seems to be a square crystal shape, very small, glittering granules. Gingerly, he touches his tongue to it, and instantly recognizes the taste of salt. Already, the bottom of his feet are beginning to feel irritated and itchy.
He wonders who his captors might be, or what they might want from him. He starts going through lists in his head of who he might have wronged, or what he owns that somebody might want, but nobody comes to mind, and certainly nobody with this kind of equipment.
He sits on the ground, and leans back against the wall. And waits.
He wonders how long it has been, and what is happening. He moved away from the wall, as his skin is becoming red and itches where exposed to the salt for too long. A thump startles him, and the sound of some kind of machine fills the air. He looks up, and sees the pipe begin to sway and jerk, and within moments, the white salt pours rapidly into the room, and begins to fill it. He barely looks down in time, but the salt dust still irritates his eyes. He cannot breathe in the dust cloud forming, and his feet are quickly covered. He knows he must move quickly, or the salt pouring onto him will cover him completely.
He begins shouting, “I’m in here!” His feet are sluggish, as he must clear a foot before taking a step of the salt on top of it. He’s not sure which direction he is going, but it doesn’t really matter; he seeks to find a wall away from the influx.
With each step, he moves slowly closer to a wall, and more or less on top of the piling, but he is losing ground. He anticipates he will be buried alive.
Finally, unable to see, desperately trying to cover his nose and mouth with one arm, his outstretched hand feels the wall. The salt is pouring in causing a choking cloud of salt, but he is far enough away from the epicenter of the influx that he can open his eyes just enough to be able to see. He knows he’s no longer on the floor of the container, but it’s a long way before he can get to the opening, and that’s assuming he can stay on top of the salt. His skin begins burning and itching to the point of pain. He begins making his way around the edge of the container moving towards the opening, and struggling to stay on top until, just as suddenly as it began, the salt influx stopped.
A few more thumping noises, and the machinery sound comes to a halt. Only about five feet or so of salt came in.
He looks up at the opening, and wonders.
His skin is in full rash. He can’t help but scratch as it begins to crack and bleed. His thirst is unlike anything he has felt before.
He thinks about a friend he know who brought him a salt-cured sausage from Hungary. Never cooked, never heated, this raw pork was simply buried in salt and cured. Similar to the process of pickling using brine, a very high salt content liquid, the salt simply drew out every trace of moisture from the sausage, until eventually there was not even enough moisture in it for bacteria to survive. The sausage was mummified; dried to jerky, cooked without heat.
Was this to be his fate? Mummified to jerky. He tries to yell out again, but his tongue has swelled nearly to the point of blocking his ability to breathe. His eyes have swollen, nearly to the point of being shut. He tries to reach up, but lacks the strength to even do that for long. He feels his airways closing, his skin burning as if he has been on fire. He sees his arm, and notes its shriveled appearance, as if it aged sixty years in the little time he has been in the salt.
Darkness covers him like a much welcome shroud…