Cages Made of Gold

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Chapter 2

Mark kept falling asleep.

Any other day, he’d be really fucking glad. Next to winning the lottery, getting more than an hour of sleep was where he hoped luck would be on his side.

Of course, he didn’t usually believe in that shit. He didn’t believe in reading tea leaves or watching for black cats. He’d always told Lady Luck to go screw herself.

And landed at Carrison House, earning twelve dollars an hour for watching the freaks as they slept. It seemed ideal; stay awake for twelve hours, something he could never avoid in the first place.

Isolated, too. The prisoners already had a shit reputation; it’d be easy to do what he needed to do.

Tonight, he’d kill himself.

It didn’t feel like he’d thought it would, the hours before. Like every minute of his life had narrowed down to this point. As though he was standing on the edge of something massive, so close to tipping over. As though every choice had led him here, to the build-up and climax and end of his story.

He unlocked the doors. Re-locked them. Took one last sip of store-bought Vodka.

The plan was in place. Step One: Open all doors. Step Two: Leave the security room. Step Three: Walk through the halls, and wait.

Two fingers on his pulse, both his own. Relaxed. Fearless.

There was something very, very wrong with him, to be so calm. This is the answer, he thought. And said it out loud, if only to believe it. This is the only way.

His heartbeat was now audible. He turned the key, opened the door. The halls were peculiar; white and cold, perfumed with bleach.

Now.

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“This girl’s an open page...”

The beat was faint, the chorus humming along. Her heart sped up.

Someone was playing music.

“Temptation. Frustration. So bad it makes him cry…”

They came to life, all around her. Taps on glass, banging against cages. Howls and screams and well-noted whistles as someone walked by. She could see his shadow as he crept through the halls, completely and utterly dauntless.

“Don’t stand, don’t stand, don’t stand so close to me…”

Her hand moved under the mattress, closing around cold, sharp steel.

She turned her dagger over, gripping the hilt.

“To hurt they try and try…”

She moved, throwing open the door as she sped towards him, heart in her throat, feet pounding against the cold floor as she ran towards him, her knife pointed and ready.

The music stopped. He turned, hands closed and shaking. His lips moved; he may have been praying.

Beautiful.

Maybe that’s what happened, though, after you’d been locked up for so long - you saw every mundane person as angelic. And he was mundane, even if he had cinnamon hair and hazel eyes, staring right through her, his gaze trained on her very soul. The knife had almost slipped through her fingers.

And for a solid minute, there was whole, unbroken silence.

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