Darkness. That is all Mauro sees when he opens his eyes. He is lying down on what feels like a wood floor. His hands grip the damp, splintery panels as he tries to restore some movement and feeling in his body. Am I paralyzed? he wonders as he fails to pick his head up off the ground. No matter how much he struggles, he cannot get up. Mauro tries to remember how he got here. The harder he thinks, the less he remembers. The combination of hot air and feeling of a lack of oxygen make him feel light-headed, causing him to further lose his train of thought. Everything continues to turn into one big blur. He attempts to stay sane and calm by focusing on his surroundings and figuring out where he could possibly be. He shuts his eyes extra tight and then reopens them, expecting his vision to miraculously penetrate the darkness. But unfortunately, his surroundings still appears pitch black with not even a hint of light breaking through. Come on, Mauro. What do you hear? he asks himself. With that, he notices a muffled voice coming from behind the wall to his right. Since he cannot move his body, he tilts his head toward the sound in hopes that he could understand what is being said. “Mauro?” he hears the voice ask. His heart starts to beat a mile a minute as a result of either his fear of the voice or the immediate relief it brings him. “Y-yes?” Mauro responds, reluctantly. He genuinely does not know what to expect. “It’s really you?!” the voice exclaims, relieved and ecstatic. It has a familiar tough Brooklyn accent. “Who are you?” “It’s Giudas!” “Giudas? What’s going on?” “I’m not really sure Mauro. I thought maybe you’d know…” “I’ve no idea.” “Mannaggia l’ America!” “Chill! What’s the last thing you remember?” “I don’t know man but I’m freakin’ out!” “Well stop, you coglione!” Mauro yells, annoyed that he is starting to lose the calmness he had established before. He knows that the moment he starts to hyperventilate, he will lose all rational thought. “Mauro, all I can remember is that we were talkin’ at the diner. I don’t know what happened after or how we got here.” “Come on, Giudas. What were we talkin’ about?” “I told you, I can’t think of anythin’ else!” “Giudas! The sooner we figure out what happened, the sooner we can figure out where we are. Okay?” There is no response. “Giudas?” Mauro says. No response. “Giudas!” Still nothing. Mauro starts to panic. He manages to pick his head up, except he feels an instant pang of pain in his forehead as he does so. Suddenly, he realizes that his foot is killing him and his body is sore. I can move and I can feel pain, so I can’t be paralyzed, he realizes. Mauro wants to recall what had happened after the diner, but he feels himself start to lose consciousness. And then – just as he stops fighting the urge to fall asleep – it all comes back to him: They were at the Vegas Diner on a Friday afternoon. They sat across from one another on cheap leather seats, separated by one of those plastic tables meant to give the appearance of wood. Mauro ordered the usual, a burger and fries. All Giudas ordered was black coffee, even though it was a sweltering August day. Mauro noticed that Giudas’ dark hair was slicked back more neatly than usual, and his tan skin seemed to glow bronze from the sun’s incoming rays. His suit was especially polished, and his golden cufflinks glimmered bright. He remembers how uncomfortably hot he was, wearing his stiff suit in this cramped and crowded diner in Bensonhurst. The combination of fluorescent lighting and horrible vertical wood paneling on the walls made for an unpleasant atmosphere. Tensions were high, and for good reason. Giudas was finally going to become a made man. In other words, he would be a fully initiated member of the Italian-American Mafia. Such a privilege is only granted to men with 100% Sicilian blood, but even then, Sicilian heritage alone does not automatically guarantee this status. Therefore, it is a big deal to be made. Unfortunately, his affiliation with Mauro hindered him from becoming made. Mauro had been known by the Mafia as a rat. Thus, Giudas needed to have a chat with him regarding breaking all ties with one another. Mauro remembers that Giudas was acting peculiarly nervous, and very cold toward him the whole time. They had been sitting in silence for what felt like an eternity – but in reality was only about two minutes – when Mauro suddenly felt an excruciating pain in his right foot. Giudas had shot him from under the table. He literally pumped him full of lead. He got out of the booth, but stumbled and fell to the floor, hitting his head on something hard on the way down. This was when he blacked out. * * * Now Mauro is present again, aware of what his senses are telling him about his surroundings. Other than feeling dazed and distant, he is ok. He feels a sense of peace and sees a slowly growing glimmer of light. He knows his time is up. Within moments, he will go from being buried alive, to being a buried corpse.