The backpack was new. I hadn't worn it before. As I hefted it over my shoulders, I realized that the straps were far too small, so small that I couldn't pull it on all the way. No problem, I reversed course and tried to take it off. It wouldn't budge. I couldn't get it on, I couldn't get it off. I stood there like a deformed chicken with my scrawny, ineffectual wings contorted behind my back, unable to move.
Some physicists postulate that every time two possibilities arise, the universe splits, and both things do happen in alternate realities. In this world, I struggled, shook, and danced for a few harrowing minutes and managed to free myself. But my mind watched in horrified bemusement as the other universe's tragedy played out.
I'm stuck. No matter how I squirm, pull, or stretch, I am stuck. My right arm is too weak to be of much assistance. Both shoulders are inflexible and unyielding. I simply cannot move the backpack. My left hand fingers fumble with the clasp, trying desperately to release the tension, but they're too uncoordinated. The angle is too awkward. After exhausting every Houdini-esque maneuver I can muster, I stop trying and lean against the car.
I analyze my options. My cane is in the car. Even if it were within reach, I couldn't use it with my arms behind my back. I could stand here for a while, 20 minutes, maybe an hour, but then what? I'd be in the same position but more tired. I could sit partway in the car, but I doubt I could get back up. I could take my chances walking and try to get help from a neighbor.
I settle on the last choice and attempt to shuffle out of the garage. The first few steps are easy as I lean against the car for support. Daylight and the possibility of freedom are just feet away. I tentatively step away from the car and... tumble to the ground. If my balance is usually bad, and it is, it's positively horrible with 10 pounds of home cooking strapped precariously to my back.
All I can manage is to wobble from my back to my side like a cruelly inverted turtle. I wobble and I call out. "Help!" I resist the urge to add, "I've fallen and I can't get up!" I yell and yell as best I can, but no one hears.
The end comes quickly. I can't drink my own urine like a survivalist dying of thirst. I can't cut off my arm like a trapped mountain climber. All I can do is yell when I have the strength and lie there and wait, lie there and hope. But nobody comes; no neighbors, no mail carriers, no curious passers-by. This cold, oily concrete will be my grave.
Then I see the headlines, "AREA MAN KILLED IN FREAK BACKPACK INCIDENT". I hear the news reports, "We go now live on the scene where the 39-year-old man was found dead just hours ago, trapped in the straps of a cruel backpack." At least I get my 15 minutes of fame in this alternate universe. And every backpack gets a new warning label, "DANGER: Keep out of reach of small children and cripples."
Back in this reality, I lengthened the backpack's straps. I lengthened them as far as they would go. Then I put them over my shoulders, grabbed my cane, and limped into the house.
--Photo by ToastyKen - http://flic.kr/p/3eyDGz