Not being able to see your hand in front of your face is a surreal feeling. I should know, since I can't remember the last time I saw mine. A thin chink of light is all that we're permitted, as they force the scraps of bread and a bowl of water through the flap at the base of the door; I'm never quick enough to rouse myself from a delirious slumber and see the outline of my fingers, slumping down disappointed after each attempt.
You begin to get used to finding the food on the floor after a while, despite the pitch black. Running those invisible hands on the coarse stone floor, feeling each crack or burr as an unseen friend until the dry, stale bread brushes the tips of my fingers and I ravenously devour the crumbs. As an act of defiance, I used to leave the bread on the floor, shouting and screaming to come in and fight, to show some honour; that soon changed as it sank in that the meagre portions just began to go mouldy, and silence was their only response to my rambling.
These days I stay quiet, sitting still and conserving my energy, moving only to wriggle some feeling back in to my numb buttocks and cramped legs. My companions either side of me learnt the same lessons fairly quickly, choosing even to ignore me as I attempt to keep their spirits up. We were brothers in arms once, all ten of us. Now we're husks of men, most of my comrades either dead or taken out of these disgusting cells for some form of work or another. Probably the mines, hearing that particular voice gave all of us the shudders - we knew we weren't making it out alive if the got miners chains on us, worked until the death digging in the bottomless pits to feed the endless machine that is the empire. They took the loud ones for that, the ones they judged to still have strength. So keeping quiet has probably kept me alive.
Lack of sunlight and human interaction is enough to drive anyone insane, even singing only sustains you for so long. So coming up with my miraculous plan was a stroke of genius, and actually getting the willpower to execute it was an act of heroism braver than any in battle. This time, when the chink of light came through the door, I made damn sure I was awake. A feeling of elation and triumph lanced through my bones as my eyes quickly adjusted and I caught a tiny glimpse of those elusive fingers, before the light was extinguished yet again. A small victory, but it set the wheels in motion.
I began to save the rations, choosing to gorge myself instead on the foul water and the hot feeling of hatred building in my chest. Darkness became my closest friend, as I used the cell walls to judge distances I could move without crashing; using forms engrained into me from a young age to bring my withered body slowly back in to the deadly weapon it should have always been, nibbling sparingly at the bread on these days to give me energy. Snapping my hand out repeatedly, I perfected my strikes, grazing my knuckles constantly until I could stop mere millimetres from the walls. When I heard that voice again, I was ready.
He always came in the dark, taunting and assuming the blackness sent shivers down our spines as he picked us out like cattle at the market. Which I'll be honest, it actually used to send me cowering to the corner of my cell, praying profusely and silently, hoping to go unnoticed. This time, I tried a different option.
"Oh gods PLEASE! Not again, not one of us! No no no..." I wailed, pretending to shrink back against those now comforting walls. A cruel laugh echoed around the darkness, causing genuine whimpers to erupt from the other cells, fuelling that ever-growing hatred in my breast.
"Seems we have an energetic one here, just what my master ordered" the oily voice cackled, jangling his keys mockingly. I could hear the whispering of his padded shoes as they swept across the cold stone, finally stopping as the rare rattle of the lock reverberated around my prison. Anticipation built up inside me, ripping and tearing to escape my skin and eradicate the vermin I knew was scuttling around outside. When the rusty hinges squealed their acceptance to the key and creaked open, I moved faster than I'd moved in the last... I've actually lost track of how long I've been here, but a long time.
Suffocating darkness had become enveloping arms to my lean body, telling me the secrets hidden to my eyes but visible to my other senses, alert and poised. I clamped my eyes shut as a slit of light appeared, lunging and knocking the lantern out of the slaver's hand and plunging us in to that blessed darkness, where I was king. A startled cry was all that escape his mouth before my elbow crushed his throat, dropping him to the floor wheezing and taking his last breaths. Tingling crept across the back of my neck, standing hairs on end and purring it's warning to me of another at my back. I dove to the ground and heard a whistle followed by a sharp metallic clang, indicating a swinging of a sword just missing my head.
"C'mere you mangy little..." the assailant began, being interrupted with a grunt as my foot lashed out and cracked his knee, dropping him to the ground. His bellow was sure to bring more, so I acted fast, pouncing on to him and pummelling his head until he lost consciousness, stilling his noise. It was there I waited, straddling the twitching body of the guard, ears pricked for anyone alerted in the area. The hushed silence was deafening, broken slightly by sharp intakes of breath of my other cellmates, my comrades.
The thought jolted me out of my reverie and I imitated my earlier technique of finding the bread, dragging my hands around the floor until I found the keyring, rushing to unlock the neighbouring door.
Frantic movements dissolved my earlier friendship with the dark, and I fervently wished I had the lantern at that time. Finally, the satisfying click announced my efforts being rewarded; I wrenched the door open in my eagerness.
"Who's there? It's me, Cole" I murmur into the void.
"Cole? How the..." a voice I recognised rasped. Sett. Relief flooded through me and I thanked the gods it was him.
"No time, can you stand?" I hiss. A mutter of assent followed by a groan as unused limbs were forced in to action was all that told me my friend was up. But so was my time. I couldn't afford to search each cell.
"Brothers, it's Cole! Are any of you in here?" I shout, risking attention in favour of speed. The only reply was the cacophony of crickets outside, so I made my decision.
"Time to go" I say, quieter this time. No use in being stupid when we were inches from freedom. Grasping on the floor for the sword, I heft the welcome weight in my hand and move to the exit, indicated by the cool breeze. I cautiously open the prison door, thanking the gods when it didn't creak, and peer in to my first real vision of moonlight in a long time. Despite myself, I lose valuable time by glancing at hands I never thought I'd see again in this lifetime. A feeling of emotion threaded it's way through me and I fought it down. No time for that.
We step through the door of confinement, leaving my old friend Darkness behind, and finally emerged in to the light.
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Hey Ben! I really liked this - it was really action-packed and I love a good action-adventure, but it wasn't also 'throw you into the plot and figure it out for yourself' kind of story, you did a nice job with the worldbuilding too!
Hey! Thanks so much, really appreciate the comment. Glad you liked it :D
:D my pleasure!
Reading your latest ones right now,been rather inactive lately. Life in the way I guess:D
This had me hooked from the beginning! It was really well written. I liked the theme of how Cole wasn’t able to see his hands at the beginning, but then can at the end. Great job!
Thanks, it means a lot!
Wow. This was exciting! Full of action and balanced with Cole's internal struggles, you managed to begin by placing the reader into his immediate despair and hopelessness but then transforming his situation to one of possibility. He was so desperate for freedom I could feel it from here! There was such elevated language in this...it was quite compelling! Super well done! Thank you for sharing :)
Wow thanks so much! Really appreciate it :)