The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife as the last lock was fastened and shackle applied before the tank began to fill around Joe.
When the water first began to flow, a susurration washed across the audience, as they realized that he was serious about this stunt. The water swiftly covered his ankles and the standard issue prison shackles attaching the together, along with the chain that ran from the shackle bar, through a loop in the floor, and off into the flies overhead. One link at a time, the water filled the tank. With each link, the seriousness of his predicament became clearer.
Once the water was a foot or so deep, a cloth screen began to rise. Initially the cloth was fairly opaque, but splashes of water had created translucent patches.
Joe remained still as the cold water continued to fill the phone booth-sized tank. Soon it had reached his knees, bound together by rope. As a small symbol of hope, there was a large knife clenched between his knees. The knife was placed handle down, making it nearly certain that it would fall to the tank bottom before he could get a grip on it.
Steadily the water flowed.
Soon it reached Joe’s wrists, shackled behind him.
Joe was in a pickle.
The water rose. Now it reached his elbows.
The audience could hardly breathe.
The curtain reached its full height moments after the water began to overflow the tank. Joe cast a distorted shadow on the cloth as he struggled. His shadow seemed to be getting the worst of the deal.