Content Warning: Kidnapping, Imprisonment
My eyes open, but they might as well still be closed. Blackness surrounds me and seems to permeate my soul. Darkness like this leaves me depressed and longing for…anything…everything.
I have been in this hole for days or weeks or forever, I don’t know. Time in this place, like the darkness, seems endless. And my thoughts are always muddled and foggy. I don’t remember how I got here, or even what happened yesterday.
The only sound I hear is the occasional drip of water in the distance and the scurrying feet of rats. Constantly the scurrying of the rats.
If there were any other sounds, the sound of the rats might cause me to gag. But, seeing as it is the only break in the monotony of my existence, I have come to befriend it. To befriend the rats.
After wallowing in my self-pity for some time, I begin to crawl around. Every morning (for I can only assume it's morning), I find a loaf of bread and a small canteen of water on the floor near me. I have no idea when it arrives, or how they get it to me, but I soon find it again.
The first time this sustenance came, I ate so fast that I threw up the bread, and anything else is my stomach, right away. It wasn’t until the next day (I think) that more arrived and I was so hungry, I did it again. I soon learned to pace myself.
So, I sit here, listening to the rats chitter to one another while I munch on my bread and sip my water.
Sometime later, minutes, hours, I finish the bread and lay back, allowing my thoughts to wander. The food is helping to clear my head and my thoughts begin to form. The bread and the water, this is the key. If they are able to get that into me, there must be a way for me to get out.
No sooner do these thoughts begin to form, than I smell that familiar sickly, sweet smell that comes every evening, or at least soon after I finish my slow, methodical meal.
I know this smell means that I will soon drift off to sleep and I will not remember any…
My eyes open, blackness envelopes me again. I sit with my muddy thoughts for a few minutes, listening to my friends, the rats, as they carry out their dance across the stones. Something tickles at my mind. A thought, that should be so clear, but I cannot make it come into focus.
I sit for an hour, a minute, and the thought still eludes me. My grumbling stomach reminds me to search for food.
A short crawl around leads to my loaf of bread and canteen of water. This is familiar, and I begin the routine of the day. Small bite of bread, small sip of water, rest, repeat.
Shortly after finishing the bread and water, my thought from the day before begins to take focus again. Bread and water. The key to my salvation. Bread and water. Then, the sweet smell returns and I remember no more.
My eyes open, I see nothing but hear a drip and skittering claws. The rats are back at it. No other thoughts remain. Just the rats and their wanderings.
My hunger again drives me to find the bread and water. I start my daily routine again. Small bite of bread, small sip of water, rest, repeat.
When I am about three-fourths of the way through the bread, I feel a thought begin to take shape in my head. Just two words. Another small bite of bread, a small sip of water, rest, repeat.
Two words, gnawing at my thoughts. Soon, after another small bite of bread, small sip of water, rest, I can see clearly those two words. Bread. Water. Bread. Water. About two bites of the bread remain. I instinctively put it in the pocket of my gown. I finish off the water and wait. I wait until the sweetness arrives.
My eyes open, darkness again. My brain sits in a thick veil of fog until hunger drives me to crawl for food. As I begin to crawl, I notice something in my pocket. I reach in to find a small chunk of bread. I then discover my normal portion of bread and water.
I slip back into my daily rhythm, small bite of bread, small sip of water, rest, repeat. About three-fourths of the way through the loaf, I begin feeling a familiar tug at my thoughts.
Another bite, another sip and the thought clears up. Bread. Water. I realize I saved this bread from the day before. I eat the two bites from yesterday’s bread and store the remainder of my loaf in my pocket for tomorrow.
I finish off the water and lie down. Sweetness assails my nostrils and I remember no more.
My eyes open, the depth of the blackness is frightening. I lay still and wait until my heart stops racing. The sound of the rats is calming to me.
I roll over to begin my crawl for food and feel a lump in my pocket. Bread. I slowly eat this bread before crawling to find the new loaf and the water.
Today, when I am only halfway through the bread, I begin to feel my mind sharpen. Bread. Water. Salvation.
I have found a way to save bread, and it is doing me some good. But, now I must find a way to keep water. I tear off the end of the bread and dig out the inside. I try to pour a little water into this. Amazingly, the bread holds and the water stays.
I rest this cup against the wall, stuff my remaining bread in my pocket, and lay down to wait. Hope has begun to swell inside my chest, but I beat it back, not wanting the disappointment that always follows false hope.
Sweetness, no more.
My eyes open, pure and utter blackness. The rats go about their business and my foggy brain will not turn on.
When I move, I again find bread in my pocket. This chunk is nearly half a loaf. I slowly begin to eat it. Before I finish it, my brain is already beginning to clear and remember water. I crawl to find my daily allotment and hear a gush of water. My heart jumps into my throat, thinking I have spilled my water for the day.
Then I remember that the canteen always has a lid. Then, I remember my bread cup and crawl towards the wall to find it tipped over and empty. I still eat the crust and find the rest of my daily allotments.
With a clearer mind today, I am able to store even more bread. This time, I fill the butt of the loaf with water and prop it inside a dug out portion of the half of a loaf I am able to keep. Setting behind me near the wall, I pray that it will not spill this time.
Awaiting the sweetness today seems to be extra-long. But, it eventually comes and I am out.
My eyes open, darkness, complete and total. My fog seems a bit mistier today, not as heavy.
When I sit up and begin my crawl towards rations, I suddenly remember my bread cup. I feel for it along the wall and find it. The water has survived the night. I drink it down slowly and consume my half a loaf of bread.
When I find my daily supply, I am able to create a larger cup, store more water and more bread for the next day.
As I wait for the sweetness, my thoughts turn back to bread, water, and salvation. I focus all of my mental energy on solving the dilemma of the sweetness. I feel that an answer tickles the edge of my mind when the smell returns and my mind goes blank.
My eyes open, black upon black. But I have three words in my head right away. Bread. Water. Salvation.
These continue to roll around in my head as I find and consume my bread cup, reveling in the moistness of the edge of the cup.
As I finish the last bit of water in it, with my head tilted as far back as it will go, the cup covers my nose and mouth. The thought begins to crystalize.
Bread. Water. Salvation.
I quickly head to my daily provision and work to create a cup, big enough to cover my nose and mouth. I soak the bread with water, then eat and drink everything else. If this works, I want as much strength as I can have.
The sweet smell comes and I instantly cover my mouth and nose with the moist bread cup, holding it and praying. The smell of the sweetness goes away, almost completely. I lay still, not daring to move and hardly even daring to breathe.
I have not lost consciousness. I am still here.
It seems like hours, days even, that I continue to lay. I don’t want to risk removing the mask I have created for fear that the sweetness lingers in the air.
The first sound I hear that is not the familiar rats and their clickety clacking, I remove the bread mask and place it at my side, pretending to be unconscious.
All of a sudden, the solid stone wall is no longer solid and a sliver of light pierces my darkness.
Even with my eyes still closed, it is blinding. I don’t dare open my eyes, but try to crack them to see something.
It takes a moment for the light to stop hurting them, thankfully the beam of light does not hit my face directly. I can make out a dim outline of a person standing over me.
I act on instinct, mustering all the strength I have and standing as quickly as I can.
I feel my shoulder connect with something solid and I tumble forward on top of a large man. His head hits the ground hard and he doesn’t move. My shoulder must have hit his chin and knocked him out. Or, the contact with the ground finished the job.
I try to get up but pitch forward, sprawling into what appears to be a dimly lit hallway and I know no more.
My eyes open, light assaults them and they close quickly again. Light. Not darkness.
I begin to remember what happened and I force my eyes open despite the burning. I am able to make out the figure of the man, still unconscious next to me. I struggle to my feet and make my way down the hallway.
At the end, I find a ladder and begin to climb it. Thankful for my extra portion of bread, I rely on every bit of strength and concentration to stay on the ladder. At the top, I find a hatch and push it open.
Thankfully it is not too heavy, but when it opens my eyes are again bombarded by brightness that I did not think possible. The shock nearly causes me to lose my grip, but I shut my eyes and hang on.
I force myself out and onto the soft ground. I flop onto my back and the last thing I see before the darkness consumes me again is an image of branches and blue skies.
My eyes open, but only barely. I am bouncing along, still seeing the branches and leaves, with spurts of blue sky between.
I realize I am in the arms of a man, strong arms that convey protection and love. I hear snips of words spoken, to me, I think.
I slip back into the darkness, with a feeling of safety for the first time that I can remember.
My eyes open, and I don’t understand my surroundings. Lights and sounds of all kinds buzz through my mind, while people in white coats flutter around.
The word hospital, spoken by someone, sparks a distant memory of healing and help. I look in amazement at the machines I am connected to and the needles in my arms. My instinct is to rip them out, but I don’t for some reason.
Then I feel a strong hand, with that same love I felt while I was carried, squeezing my hand. I look into the bright, blue eyes of a man I know to be my father. I know I am safe. I know I am loved. I know that I will never again know darkness like that again. Light has filled my eyes, my heart, and my soul, and it will never again leave.
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