I considered another spike deathtrap, perhaps a fixed spike, with me somehow suspended over it and struggling to avoid being lowered onto it. But this sounded frankly painful, and potentially messy. Being shot, stabbed or impaled were too mundane, too real-world. No romance there, no seduction.
At about that time, I saw an old movie on TV, in which a character played by James Colburn was killed by suffocation. His killer tied his hands together, and his ankles together, and then stretched him out on the floor so that he could not reach his head. Then they secured a dry-cleaning bag over his head. Before he died, he had the time to write a message in the nap of the carpet on which he lay, helpless to escape his fate.
There was real possibility here. Real danger, but slow enough to luxuriate in it before succumbing. Gentle, yet inexorable. And easy – materials were stashed under the sink upstairs.
I needed a way to bind myself so that I could not easily escape, but that would not be impossible to escape – I was interested in the struggle, after all, not in going all the way. But the danger had to be real so that I could “test” myself – if I could not escape, how long could I hold out before giving in to my escape hatch?
My solution was to tie my hands behind my back. It’s simple and elegant. I tied a soft rope to a ceiling joist in my closet (my dad had never gotten around to finishing that part of my room), with a noose at the end. By standing on a chair and putting my hands through the noose, and then stepping off, I could tighten the loop around my wrists with my body weight. This tended to pull my arms up painfully, but this became part of the trap. (Eventually I learned to insert my hands from either side of the noose – this caused my hands to be pulled up between my shoulder blades rather than out behind my back. No less painful, but the posture was better). By fixing the bag over my head and then stepping off my chair, I could place myself in an instant deathtrap: a limited time to escape before death descended; real consequences, necessitating real struggle; and a fall-back – I could always step back on the chair should my struggle prove ineffectual, relieve the tension on my wrists, and free myself in the nick of time.
We didn’t have dry-cleaning bags, so I had to settle for kitchen garbage bags. My bathrobe tie sufficed to secure the bag around my neck. It was time.
I was shaking as I stood on my desk chair, plastic bag in hand. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go, but it felt real, consequential; a deathtrap in the truest sense of the word. James Coburn had shown me that.
I took a deep breath, placed the bag over my head, and tied the soft sash around my throat. I could see my room through the bag, blurry and white. I slipped my hands through the noose and stepped off the chair. The chair wobbled, nearly tipping; inspired, I kicked it so it fell over. One more element of danger added.
Need I mention my heart was pounding like a trip-hammer? The noose fastened itself tight around my wrists, pulling my hands up high over my head and torqueing my shoulders. The chair lay on its side at my feet.
I exhaled into the bag. My room blurred more as the inside of the bag instantly fogged.
I inhaled, breathing in the smell of plastic which remains an erotic signal to me to this day. The bag “breathed” in with me, collapsing just a little.
Holding my breath, I worked my bonds – I was supposed to escape this deathtrap, after all. To my satisfaction, I discovered I could not escape the noose; my body’s weight had pulled it tight in a deathgrip around my wrists.
Satisfaction turned to concern as I regarded the chair, on its side. I tugged at my wrists, toying with the idea of picturesque panic, but deciding against it.
I exhaled again. It felt like my head was in a sauna now. When I inhaled, the bag pressed itself against my head on all sides, a gentle, cloying embrace. A deadly embrace. So soft, seductive almost, but the consummation of this seduction would be a dark surprise; best not to be lulled by its sensuous touch.
Exhale, quickly. Inhale, harder. The bag reacted with lightning speed, adhering to me, grasping me as if trying actively to smother me. Now my heart was pounding with more than fear; she (yes, I had always known death was a woman) was becoming aggressive, feeling her prey falling into her embrace.
It was time to get out. I didn’t want unconsciousness to sneak up on me. I reached out with my foot, trying to hook the chair. I fumbled in my haste, exhaled, inhaled. Nothing there but the smell of latex, the perfume of cat’s-feet suffocation. The smell of gentle death.
The bag lay on my face, a second skin, a deathmask. I opened my mouth, inhaled again, my lungs screaming now, cramped; I pulled enough plastic into my mouth to catch it between my teeth.
I chewed. Vigorously. In seconds I had shredded an area of the bag large enough to blow through. I blew through the hole, sucking in again just as quickly, cool, clear air. I had saved myself, improvising my way to safety against real, deadly peril. I was my own superhero, my own sidekick.
With the luxury of time, I righted the chair with my foot, climbed shakily onto it, and squirmed my hands free. The noose had pulled so tightly around my wrists in my struggles that freeing myself took some doing. What if I had not kicked over the chair? Knowing my fail-safe was assured, I may not have chewed through the bag. I may have climbed onto the chair, then discovered I could not free my hands without more struggle. It would have been ironic to have fallen prey while standing, safe, on my fall-back.
The super-villain part of me, the deathtrap-designer, pondered this even as I removed all evidence of my adventure and returned to my normal life. . .