The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes
Two years and still counting. A tick for each day etched into the inside of the bars that hold me captive. I have counted them every day. Yesterday there were 711, today there are 712. Two years.
It has been two years to the day, and I keep ticking them off and I keep counting them, the visual record of my punishment. With my head resting in between the bars I run my hands up and down the days and feel each tick slide across my palm. I move slowly so I can feel each one and remember the days I have spent here.
The first day I spend in my cell, the first day of my punishment was the hardest, even harder than the 712th. Never ate any food. Never spoke to anyone, although the prisoners don’t get to do much talking here. I sat on my bed surrounded by nothing familiar or comforting, just metal and cement. I felt so alone that I looked at myself in the mirror for company, it didn’t work. I just sat. Sometimes I listened. Shouting, clanging, boots on cement, sounds I would eventually hear a million times more and would become the familiar.
I was a screaming mess inside myself. I was terrified and angry and ashamed. I shouldn’t be here; it was all I kept thinking. Nobody deserves to end up like this. I sat with my hands in prayer, but I was not praying, I forgot how to do it. When the lights went out, the new signal for bedtime and the end to freedom, I made myself lie down. My body was grateful for the change in position. I tried to relax.
I stretched my arms above my head and felt the rung of the bed; I moved my hands along it and felt comforted by its coolness. My hands moved all along those rungs over and over, feeling the dents and paint chips, feeling the screws. I turned myself over to get a better look at one jutting out; it was a long screw. It was holding one of the legs of the bed in place; if I took it out the bed would probably not hold my weight any more. I searched around my cell for two things, something to take out the screw with and something to replace the screw with. I knew this would be the bed I’d die in. I didn’t want to destroy it, at least not on my first night.
It was hard to see in the dark so I let my hands look for me. I went to the sink and felt all around it, the knobs, inside the bowl, the mirror above it. Nothing. I moved to the toilet and did the same. I got on my knees and felt the floor around it, and I even stuck my hand inside the toilet bowl. It seemed that everything in my cell was bolted into cement. I began to feel around the floor. It was dirty and this gave me hope. Who knows when was the last time this floor was swept. I could barely see but I could feel and hear my hands scrap along the cement.
The sound of metal is unmistakeable even if it makes the faintest of noise as it did for me that night. I moved my hand back and forth over the same spot and until I heard it again. I scraped my nails along the cement trying to pick it up, and I did. A small, flat piece of metal. I ran my fingers over my new tool; with a little work it would be able to remove the screw. I set to work right away. The screw was slotted; I would need something that worked like a flat head screw driver. Although small, my new tool was too wide to fit in the screw. I scraped that piece of metal along the cement, slowly working it down, being careful not to snap it.
I have no idea how long I sat there, as I had no watch or clock by which to tell time, but I am sure it was a while. I would scrape the metal along the floor, checking it with the tips of my fingers and then checking it with the screw in my bed. My hands felt dirty and cramped, it hurt to use them, and it hurt to turn the screw, but it was worth it. When the screw was loose enough to pull out I was so excited I forgot myself and sat on the bed. It creaked loudly and then sunk to rest on the floor. I ignored the sound it made as well as the threatening shouts of my prison mates. I pulled the blanket off my bed and laid it on the floor to sleep on.
The next morning I saw the damage the previous night’s work had done to my hands. They were filthy and they were bloody. There was a deep gash inside my palm from where my tool had pushed against my hand while I scraped it along the cement. I was so obsessed over getting that screw that I must not have noticed. I can still see the scar from that night on my hand; I often rub my thumb over it and remember that night. I still cannot explain exactly why getting that screw was so important to me. Maybe I knew then what I was going to use it for. Or maybe I just needed something to do before I lost my mind completely.
I have been working on that screw every night since, trying to get it just right. It has saved me in more ways than one. It gave me a purpose and a comfort.
Now it is going to do one last thing for me.
More life stories
© Lacy Lalonde September 2011
She decided to make a cup of tea before she hung herself, as if it was any other day. She wanted to think it through, make sure she was making the right decision.
It is still early in the morning when the old man steps out his front door. He can feel the cool morning air and wishes he wore a coat. He can hear the vendors setting up shop, putting their goods on display. Soon this street will be noisy and full of people, but now it is calm and roomy.