Chapter 11: The Physician's Cell
The Physician's Cell
AN: apparently light switches don't work in dreams- so go and try it, Lucid people. Just an interesting' factoid to start of today's chunk of 'condemned'. Hope you'll enjoy, leave a review if you wish! :D
"Is he okay out there?" I ask Andri, digging up another spatula of oats from the bowl in my lap. I refer to the retired doctor, who is sat cross-legged on a wooden crate outside of the cell, eyes closed, enjoying the heat of the new day. Bane still sleeps- something I find strange, as he is usually awake at the crack of dawn- but his recent injury seems to have taken its toll.
"Yes, he is," Andri affirms, "he spends many hours each day out there. It is a quiet life- I think just watching the prison move by- being able to see that things here do still actually change- it is soothing to him. Keeps his mind at ease, I believe."
I nod. It has been difficult to shove off Andri's comment about considering selling the key to the cage I was trapped in, but I've managed it, even if it does slightly tether like the sword of Damocles over our interactions.
"Is he okay with the others?" I ask. "I mean- none of them give him any trouble, do they?"
Andri does not quite catch the meaning of what I said, so I rephrase it in a clearer tone and he nods and gives answer.
"They will not bring any harm upon the doctor, no no. He has served the men here well over the years- dressed the wounds of most, saved the lives of many, especially in his younger years. None here would care to dishonour him."
I smile in the direction of the old doctor- his head is leant back, the corners of his mouth creased into a smile as he absorbs the heat and vibrancy of the day.
"Is this your Koran?" I ask Andri, and he nods.
"Technically it is bobby's," he says, motioning to the older man sat outside, "but we share, as there is only one. Though I cannot say it has been used often lately."
"So you're both Muslim," I confer, wiggling my feet in the straw again.
"Yes," Andri concedes. "Though more so in spirit than action... It is hard to keep the faith in a place like this. Do you agree?"
I think a moment, then answer carefully.
"Yeah... Bane said I shouldn't focus on that kind of stuff, anyway."
"He said that it makes it worse- being locked down here, I mean. Isn't good in a place like this. "
"You will find that Bane struggles to see the good in most things."
I look over to his sleeping figure, hard expression and still as stone.
"Do not let him dictate your life," Andri reminds me, and I frown.
"I wouldn't," I say, "he wouldn't do that."
My feet tangle in the yellow straw, twiny and brittle; it clings to my rough sandals and I concentrate on trying to twist it off.
"You will tire quickly, being amongst us old men," says Andri.
I scoff, then applaud, "don't be stupid, you're not old."
There's a somewhat sad pause, then Andri looks right at me.
"I feel it," he frowns seriously. "As deep as the marrow in my bones. Next to you, I am ancient; I envy that of you, miss. You are young; young enough to carry the glow youthfulness brings... what a waste that you should be forced to spend it away down here."
"You're not old," I establish again. "Neither is the doctor- he can't be that old- sixty?"
Andri smiles, barely lifting his eyes.
"He is barely past 50."
I'm shocked, and look out to watch the ancient-looking doctor, weathering in the sun- perhaps it is the mans semi-blindness which makes him seem so frail. Or maybe the way Andri behaves so protectively of him; or perhaps that he is so quiet and private.
"The years have not been kind to Bobby," Andri confirms. "To any of us. Even Bane- with all his youth and valour- you can see it. Can you not? Behind his eyes. Those eyes carry the burdens of men a thousand times over." He pauses, seemingly dwelling on his own words.
"And another thousand times, with Bobby, I fear."
"...'Bobby?'" I ask, trying to steer the conversation into less tremulous waters. It is not a very Arabic-sounding name, after all, and is deserving of some questioning.
"Oh," Andri starts, seeming to have forgotten himself, "it is a term for 'father' in the language of my people. Affectionate, you might say. It has stuck with most others now, also."
"Bobby," I mime, rolling the appointed name around on my tongue. Bobby still sits peaceful, even undeterred by a nearby fight which sounds as though it has broken out on the second level.
"Even them," says Andri, pointing at two figures huddled together near the Doctor- I recognise them as the two young boys who were sent down not too many days ago- "you'll see it on their faces, soon. In their movements and their entire demeanour- something just- goes. Poof, gone. It is sad, to see something full of life fall apart. You will understand, soon."
It's sad to think about things like this, but I suppose they must be true. He's right about Bane being older than his looks and years would deceive- and right about everything else, as well.
"How long?" I ask, "until it happens to me, do you think?"
Andri smiles. "Oh, I think you've spark enough to last you yet. You'll outlive all of us in spirit, mark me."
Bane awakes then like a jutting car engine, starting bolt upright with a thick growl then slamming back down again as the pain from his injury takes hold. Clutching his side, he bites into the fabric on his sleeve, presumably to stop himself from screaming out. I notice he still wears his sandals, as though making himself prepared to spring up into a sudden sprint if needed.
He doesn't look like he'll be sprinting anywhere for a long time.
"Are you alright?" I ask in horror, sweeping over to his side. He's still biting away the pain, but when he finally seems to recover and look over to me, his eyes say, stupid question.
It is only now that the one-sided argument I had with him comes into place, and I feel ashamed of my outburst. I want to apologise, I really do, but the words can't seem to find their way past my lips, held back by some sticky sense of self-pride.
Instead of doing the morally right thing and apologising, I sit back opposite him on the edge of the doctor's bed in silence.
"So," says Andri, fending off the impending silence, "what are we going to do about this impending boredom I have warned you of?"
I roll my shoulders, not having an answer. I look around the room uncomfortably, then catch sight of the television monitor drilled to the high left of the outside cell area.
"Well, is there anything good on TV?" I suggest with a half-smile.
"Why yes, if your idea of good is two overtly pompous Arabian newsreaders recounting the dog-bone conditions of their country in a language you have little grasp of."
"Give her some sandstone and a wall," Bane mutters heavily, "let her draw. It will pass the time, if nothing else."
"Jo jo jo, she is not defiling my walls. This place is unpleasant enough without her scrawlings making it look like a children's nursery. She can find something else- something useful."
"Who's 'She,' the Cat's mother?!" I exclaim indignantly, one hand grazing my hip. Both Bane and Andri stare at me, Bane's face hard and tired, Andri's confused. I realise he hasn't understood the saying.
"Never mind," I huff, burying the side of my face in my hand.
"Think of something," Andri says a few minutes later, "while I-" he stands- "go for a walk. Fresh air will do me good, I think."
Andri walks out, throwing me the cell key behind him, and I lock it as he moves over to the older doctor, Bobby, and pats him on the shoulder. The two talk a moment before Andri continues his walk, and I turn back to the cell. Awkward in the silence, I walk through the mid-section door to Andri's room where I sleep, and meaninglessly tidy things- straightening the make-shift furniture and gathering the eating utensils- just for something to keep my hands busy with. Just so it looks like I've got something to do.
"Stop that," Bane says through the silence, and I do for a moment. Then I continue, collecting up the spatulas and laying them neatly beside the empty bowls.
"Stop what?" I say innocently, and he huffs before answering,
"That menial shuffling. It irritates me; there's no need for it, so don't do it. Sit."
Imposed upon by his tone, I move back through to his and Bobby's room of the cell and do as he says. Sat diagonally from him, feeling brave enough to remind him of something that's been bothering me since last night.
" You still haven't told me who it was," I say, referring to the stabbing.
Bane doesn't answer for a long while. I decide he must have opted to ignore me, and just as I go to prompt him further he does speak. But not with an answer; with a question.
"Does it matter?"
I stare at him. He's lying flat now, eyes closed, head tilted towards the ceiling. Expression one of pain and general discomfort.
"Of course it matters," I say, almost disbelieving of his attitude towards the whole situation. "You could have died."
More silence. A shivery breath from Bane's chest as he convulses against a rush of pain, then more nothingness.
"Just tell me."
He loosens the tightness of his muscles and opens his eyes, their dark iris' staring up towards the cobwebbed ceiling. It's a miracle I haven't seen any spiders yet, I think gladly. Things with more than four legs tend to bode ill in my company.
"It was Dandachi," Bane says, blunt as a worn hammer.
"...Who?" I ask, completely unaware of the name.
"See? You asks questions you know you can't understand the answers to."
I hate it when he belittles me; but I try not to show it.
"Just explain. Please." My words sound harsher than I meant them.
"I planned to fight him," Bane says. "Yesterday, in fact. It was all arranged."
"Fight him?!" I say in outrage, "Bane, why, you can't- couldn't! After what happened the other day-! You're still bloodied from the last fight, and your jaw- I can't believe you were going to go and fight! And after all Andri said, he warned you about-"
"Do not preach to me," Bane says with a venomous frown imbedded on his face, waving one hand out.
"It's Just I can't believe-!"
I pause, take a deep breath. Think before you go mouthing off, I tell myself.
"So... what was it about?" I question tactically, veering off the dangerous path I seem to have been heading for.
"I think it to be Dandachi's way of backing out from the fight," Bane proclaims. I shake my head in disbelief, rubbing my temples with my fingertips.
"But there were two of them," I remember. "Who was the other one?"
"Oh, I doubt Dandachi would have done the job himself- could have been anybody. You can hire anyone down here for anything if you have something they think they need."
"But why would he have backed out in the first place?" I ask inquisitively.
"He probably drank away his wares," Bane explains. "We were betting- if I won, he'd give me the alcohol he had."
"That's what the fight was about? Booze?!" I say in disappointment; care-free as he was when he was last intoxicated, it is not an experience I- or himself, I assume by his reaction- would like to go through again.
"I was going to sell it," he justifies.
"For what?" I ask, wondering what down here could be that worthy of risking fatal damage.
"Well, do you want to live off nothing but oats until the next drop off?" Bane says, bringing a hand round by his wound. "And maybe some fabric; that way you could fix yourself a change of clothes."
I sigh that it's all come back to me. Fighting, to get things for me. Being stabbed as a result. Always me- my fault.
"You wouldn't have to do that," I say, shaking my head.
"Actually," he says, eyes closed and now smirking, "I was thinking more for my own benefit. In all honesty, you are starting to stink."
"Well, thanks," I say sarcastically, a little offended even though I know it's true.
"You hardly smell of cheese and biscuits yourself."
"God, what I would do for cheese and biscuits," Bane exclaims, eyes closed at the thought of the food. I start to desperately crave it myself, despairing as I think of the bowl of withered oats that await me later, as they will for every meal.
A sudden horrible thought comes over me, and I try to choke it back but it passes my lips before I can catch it. Are you sure it was this Dandachi?" I ask, trying to be subtle.
"Quite," he answers- but somehow he knows there's more to my inquisitiveness than just confirmation. "Why do you ask?"
I find it difficult to say. "I was just thinking- maybe- that guy. The one who I- tricked into letting me out. You don't think-?"
"The whole world does not revolve solely around you," Bane says firmly- though not unkindly.
"I know," I affirm, "It just seems... Odd, don't you think. I mean, he was loitering around the cell for a few days, and suddenly you get stabbed and he's there almost instantly- he said-"
"It does not matter what he said," Bane utters with a shake of his head, "I know it was Dandachi."
I let it go, but the skinny prisoner's words still stay burned in my mind;
Now that Bane is- uh- out of the picture.
It just seems suspicious to me," I say.
Bane shrugs slightly and closes his eyes.
I stand a minute or two later with an exhausted sigh, and ask him if he needs anything. He says no, then, with extraordinary effort, drags his dead-weight torso into an upright position and begins lifting himself from the bed.
"What are you doing?!" I shriek, suddenly sick with worry, "you can't just get up and start strolling about-!"
"I'm not strolling anywhere," he says, putting his arm across me as I rush to make him sit back down, "I'm going to the bathroom; leave me alone, woman."
Hesitantly I step back, but keep near him as he makes his way to the room in the back of the Doctor's cell.
"Let me help you-"
"I'm fine, just- sit down."
I move the wooden panel acting as a door from the room's doorway and he thanks me and steps through, and I pull it back.
"If you need anything-"
"I'm quite sure I'll be alright," he says, and I can imagine the roll in his eyes even though I cannot see his face.
A minute or so later; "are you alright in there?"
"For God's sake, moment's privacy wouldn't go amiss!"
He lurches back into Bobby's room in a slumberous way- at which point I've flung myself down onto his bunk- which is stained with dark blood- and drawn my knees up in horror, squirming. I actually feel a little sick, and pinch my eyes tight.
"What's wrong?" Bane asks in a weary tone, clearly reading my distress. I point a finger to the floor, where a huge, wispy spider stands, his tiny black body perched upon his vast spindle-like legs.
Bane stares first at the large arachnid below him, then at my obviously distressed face. He seems unable to link the two together, unable to comprehend how the first could possibly lead to the latter. When he does connect the two, I see it in his eyes and he says, "stand up."
"No no," I say testily, itching all over and in a state of almost panic, "no way. Get it out, Bane, please-"
"An insect," Bane says, voice almost stern, "nothing more than that. Stand up, and stop being so pathetic. There are far worse things down here than that thing. It fears you more than you fear it."
"Just get it out- I hate them, Bane, it's making me actually feel sick, please just get rid of it, please."
It makes a jittering movement upon one of its legs, and I physically jolt, squeezing my eyes shut and rubbing the skin of my upper arms frantically.
Bane seems to reluctantly accept my fear, coming to terms with the fact that I am in genuine distress, and steps with difficulty over to the creature, which remains frozen. I sit in the same state of paralysis, body pulled in as close to me as I can manage, attempting to cover every inch of bare skin in my paranoia that the spider will touch me. Bane raises his sandaled foot.
"No," I cry out quickly, "don't kill it!"
Bane, foot still in mid-air, glares his eyes over to me and they hold absolute disbelief.
"You despise its existence," he says with a shake of the head, "yet you do not want to eradicate it from here."
I get that uncomfortable feeling he's imposed upon me so many times; feeling small and idiotic just through the tone of his voice.
"You can't kill it-! even if it is just a spider, it's still a life- and it hasn't done anything, just- get it out of the cell, put it somewhere else," I say, trying to justify my reasoning.
"That is not the way to get rid of your problems," Bane says.
I look down reluctantly, to see the spindle-legged black creature quiver under the looming shadow of Bane's shoe.
With a resounding crack, Bane slams his foot down on top of the frozen creature, smacking the life from it in an instant. He slowly raises it back up, wiping a smear of royal blood into the straw beside the flattened carcass. Bane turns his back with a creakingly slow hobble and fashions himself back onto his bed, shooing me from it.
I return to Andri's half of the cell, feeling more solemn now than I thought I ever could feel over a simple- grotesque, even- spider.
"You have to stamp out your problems, to save them haunting your future," he explains through his pain-hardened logic.
"By whatever means necessary."
I wrap one of Andri's blankets around my weathered shoulders and shiver, even through the Arabian heat.
Thank you so much for the faves, reviews and follows! If I could kiss you all, I would, but alas...! And a big
shout-out to guest D, Banelover, livinitup2012 and anyone else who had left a review on a guest visit, much love to you all. If any guests have any questions, just leave them in the reviews section and I'll answer them there :)
Hope you're enjoying so far and continue following the story guys!
One more thing, someone messaged me a couple o' days back saying 'you cant use that picture of Bane for the story ID because you don't own it', something along those lines… just so we don't get this confusion, its from my deviant art gallery, under 'Gotham's Reckoning' by Shazammize. Take a gander. im not gonna steal someone elses work- I have my own brain ideas to use :p message me your DA links and i'll gander at your galleries ;)
Keep on being amazing, peeps, and remember to turn on a lightswitch in your sleep!
kiss kiss :*