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Hall of Stone

By Hannah Anderson All Rights Reserved ©



I am locked away in a hall of stone. At least I think it is stone. I am never quite sure.

I wake in a state of confusion, pre-programmed to reach for a non-existent alarm. Though it is seemingly eons since I set a clock to wake me, I still pop up at five in the morning, hands groping out desperately for clothes and books and bags and shoes. I am eaten alive with the fear of missing appointments that I do not have, arriving late at places I am no longer required to be. Bug eyed cameras watch me from the wall, roving in an endless motion over deep grey walls and cobbled floor. I keep my expressions neutral, for the most part; I do not like to give anything away, even now – especially now – that I live my life in a fish bowl. The constant surveillance is stressing, even if no one avidly watches; the only time I have seen physical evidence of another human being was the day I was marched down a hallway of flickering industrial light and sternly prodding me into a darkened cell.

The room is small and empty, but I create a regimen to fit the space, and am grateful for the distraction. Hours upon hours are allotted to pushing my own limits, doing push-ups repetitively and pulling myself up on a cold metal bar bolted to the wall, up and down, up and down. Sweat drips in quiet plinks to the floor. The music I memorized weaves itself into my ears, beats and lyrics only I can hear. My lips mouth the words of their own accord, a ritualistic chant of silent song.

The air is blue, shadows fading in cerulean and indigo in the corners of the room. In the morning and late evening, sunlight weakly trickles through the long, narrow windows along the top of two opposite walls. After I slip off the bar, I sit cross-legged on the floor and wait for the arrival of the hesitant, friendly light from the east. Even if nothing I care about still exists outside this cell, the shy greeting of radiance is infinitely comforting. Glints of gold gently sweep over my hardening arms, poking softly at my black sweatpants and the tight white tank top, standard issue uniform of my banishment. Cold seeps through the stone, but I stubbornly refuse to move until the formerly slate universe is awash with gold-leaf and gems of orange and flickering red. Basking in the glow of warmth, my eyes soak up every hue until the gold vanishes, turning to yellow, then green, and back to the familiar blue as the sun rises past the boundary of the window.

Breakfast appears outside a tiny opening at the bottom of my door, a single serving of plain oatmeal and a peeled orange. I get two meals a day: breakfast and supper. Summoning gratitude that my invisible captors feed me at all, I pull the flimsy plastic tray through the door and eat, uselessly trying to quench the pangs of craving for chocolate and sugar. It’s the same almost every day.

My fingers itch for paper, for pens, for a marker. I trace swirls and patterns with my fingertip on the smooth floor. I sit in the centre of the room and stare unblinking at the wall, imagine the dark shades overtaken and dripping with bright shades and circles, bright scorching wings spread in triumph over the stone, an intricate portrait of a family whose faces I can still recall clearly after all this time. Sobbing with grief, I curl up in a dejected ball in the corner of the room when I discover the last of bright pink ombré polish, cared for religiously for what seems like years, has chipped off my fingertips, the last bit of tangible, rosy connection to the little girl I might never see again. I scour the room for the shining particles of colour, but I find nothing.

I return to the metal bar, silently reciting every ballad, song, or passage I can recall, tears mingling with sweat and running in salty streams down my face as I suspend my body in the air with my eyes glued shut, bringing up picture after picture in my mind of those I have been taken from. Stretching my legs back to the floor, my ears prick up as I hear the clatter of another tray. Dinner; sadness makes the hours fly. Tiny cubes of beef, a small bed of rice, leaves of lettuce and slices of carrots, welcome pigments of mundane beauty. Muscles quivering, I lie spread-eagled on the floor and stare to the west, waiting for sunset. Grey is overpowered by bronze, vermillion and violet in an infinite moment before blackness creeps back and heralds the night. I steal back to the cot that I cannot call mine, settling under the thin blankets with feline calmness, tracing the jagged edges of half-hidden constellations with an outstretched hand.

In a place of forgetting so I can be forgotten; I spend my days in a haze of black and glinting gold. Completely alone, trapped in a never ending cycle of identical days, one piece of knowledge keeps me focused and sane: I am protecting the people I left behind.

I am locked away in a hall of stone. At least I think it is stone. I am never quite sure.

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