Chapter 12: Blood Soaked
AN: why I say, who's that you're introducing, Wizadora? Another canon character, is it? Planning on giving them a back story entirely of your own making, are you? I salute you, dear self. Now, after that Gollum-style self-discussion has been addressed may we proceed with the story. ONWARDS, GOOD STEED!
Two more days pass, eventless. Bane struggles to recover from his injury, receiving constant tellings off from Andri, filled with cries of 'Budalla!' every time he attempts to sit up or stand. Andri has taken food-gathering duties, and every time he's absent from the cell, Bane takes the opportunity to sit up. Bobby rolls his eyes, but doesn't tell Andri.
Now is one of those times. Around mid-day, according to the far-out sundial- Bobby, the old doctor, is sat picking at the threadbare fabric of the shirt he's wearing. Bane sits silently, upright on the edge of his bed, eyes closed and head tilted downwards and to the left in deep thought. He must be so bored, I think to myself. He's used to being able to go out, do his crunches and press ups- or even just rifle through the books. The stubble on his face is growing through thick now- give it a couple more days and it will have awarded itself the title of a beard. He can't even shave by himself- I can tell he hates not being independent. He must be bored sick, I reinforce in my head.
I know I am.
Andri appears at the cell door, humming to himself. I grab the keys to the cell and pass them through to him- he unlocks the door and comes through, one arm carrying a pot of oats, two cloves of garlic balanced on its steaming lid, the other equipped with a bundle of worn looking burlap-type fabric.
"What's that?" I ask, as Andri passes the things he'd been holding over to me, then goes to lock the door.
"Clothes," Andri answers, "well- they will be. Bane and I were talking-" Bane tilts his head in our direction, though his eyes remain closed- "and he says how a change of clothes will do you good- lie down, Bane! How many times, Budalla?!- anyway, you can use this and make something for yourself, yes?"
"Yeah- thank you, Andri! And- and you, Bane."
Bane grunts something, lying back down under duress of Andri's instruction and pouring a forearm over his arm to block out the light.
"Serve up the food," Andri says to me, and I oblige, handing a bowl over to the doctor first (something that Andri reminded me to do out of respect for the Arabian culture), then Andri himself, then set another aside Bane and finally one for myself. The smell of the garlic cloves is heaven after more than three days of nothing but plain oats, and strange as the taste may be, I halve each clove and crack a half over each of the bowls.
Andri has his usual battle with Bane- he attempts to help him eat, but Bane doesn't take well to the prospect of being spoon-fed; he welds himself into a half-slouched sitting position against Andri's rough cries of "Budalla!" (Which, by Andri's frequent use of it whenever Bane does something he disapproves of, I take to mean something along the lines of 'stupid'). Bane motions for me to hand him his portion of the porridge oats and I do so swiftly; he thanks me then tilts it to his face, not bothering to use the spatula at it's side.
I take to eating my own, as Bobby and Andri engage in a quick-paced Arabic conversation, in which I recognise the words 'hot' and 'no' only. My lack of grasp on the Arabic language is definitely something I'll have to improve, I've come to realise, if I mean to get by here. Yesterday I asked Bane to teach me a bit, and he managed to teach me 'do you speak English?', 'thank you' and 'I don't understand' before frowning and resolving to sleep in an attempt to ease the pain the wound has caused him. I've forgotten all three. You're hopeless, I tell myself.
Not long later, there's a raucous uproar from outside. I walk closer to the bars curiously, and can see the blur of figures which signifies a fight; one of the organised ones, like the one Bane was involved in. This is the third one in the last two days.
"Here we go again," I say, sitting back down and closing my eyes to try and shut out the noise of the complex.
"Oui?" Andri asks, forgetting himself and reverting to his national tongue before correcting himself and asking, "water?"
"Yes, please," I say, and he moves to the bathroom in the back, which, like Bane's cell upstairs, is where the water trough is kept; perhaps not the most sanitary of places, but preferred to having it in the warmth and dust of the main cell area.
"Where does it come from?" I ask as Andri offers me a wooden cup of the liquid, and he sloshes his own into a swirling pool before explaining, "there is a tap, around by where the food is cooked- it is fixed to an aqua-duct. One of the few benefits of being so deep rooted in the ground- the water is un-rationed and mineral abundant."
I nod in interest, then ask, "but won't it run out eventually? Aqua-ducts are big natural sources, but it can't last forever, surely; its gotta run out some time."
"You are right," Andri acknowledges. "And when that day comes, pray the occasional guards of this place are on watch and take pity, or we all wither from thirst, tongues dead to the root."
This thought terrifies me, and I remember to think more carefully before next rinsing my hair whilst washing in the wetroom-style restroom.
The fight which began before our conversation doesn't last long; soon enough the crowd which had gathered in order to witness the event, armed with bettings and catcalls and jeers, disperse in order to find other means of occupying their time, disappointment in their eyes at the fact that the day's only form of entertainment has been and gone. In their place are only the victor and his failed opponent; the winner takes whatever prize he has claimed from the defeated man, then leaves him slumped on the floor. As soon as the crowned man has left, a smaller individual scarpers into the scene, taking the slumped beaten soul up underneath his arms and helping him to his feet. An arm around the other, the two men drag themselves away from the centre of the pit. They head in the direction of our cell complex, and Andri suddenly drums himself into action.
"Hida," he calls to us three other cell inhabitants, "there is work to be done. You- he points to me- "over there, in my half of the cell."
"How come?" I ask, obeying the order all the same.
"We are having guests, by the looks of him," Andri says, flicking his gaze to the two approaching men. Now that they are closer, I recognise one of them- the smaller of the two, with his arm hoisting the other, is one of the two young Arabic boys who had been thrown down here after me. I realise that, underneath the blood and general raggedness of the seconds flesh, he must be the other.
The pair reach the gates, the more able-bodied of the two presumably asking to be let in. Andri obliges, helping the beaten one through and setting him down on the Doctors bed diagonally from Bane. Andri shoos the able-bodied boy back outside, and he protests before accepting his position and standing the other side. Bobby is up and rifling through the old scratched first aid kit, whilst Andri settles the boy and moves into the bathroom to collect some water. With a rag which is in good need of a wash or two, he begins to wipe the blood from the young man's face.
"Is he going to be okay?" I ask, a hand up round one of the bars to the adjoining cell as the young boy outside jabbers on in Arabic at Andri, who talks him down.
"Yes- he will be alright. He is just in shock, that's all- Budalla, lie!" I look over to the part of the cell which usually warrants cries of 'Budalla', and see for sure that Bane has once again tried to sit up, disturbed by the noise.
As he reluctantly lies back down, the bloodied young man returns to awareness; his bewildered eyes follow the inside of the cell, ignoring for a moment the calls of his companion from the other side of the bars.
"Barsad!" Shouts the boy outside, and the light seems to spark in his eyes again. He achily turns his head to his friend, and gives a blood-grizzled smile.
The two converse in Arabic, Andri occasionally giving his own input. As Andri smears away the damage, it becomes clear that the boy's shoulder is the real problem. He cries out in agony when Andri pulls down on the dislocated socket, expressing the need for it to be refounded. The cell tenses a moment as Andri counts down from three in Arabic, everyone preparing themselves for the resounding grinding of bone that is sure to follow. When it hits, the bellow of pain from its receiver almost echoes, his muscles jolting spasmodically, and it is easy to see the empathetic revulsion on everyone's cooed faces, including Bane's.
Tears of resolute pain prick in the corners of the eyes of the young man, though he upholds appearance and tames them into nothingness.
"Their names are Barsad and Firdos," Andri tells without prompting, tearing down the sleeve of the beaten young man, Barsad.
Bane turns his head and questions the two, and the boy outside, Firdos, answers him with the word "Dandachi."
"Dandachi?" I repeat, looking at Bane, "isn't that the guy you were going to fight?"
"Yes," Bane answers. "It seems he is able enough to fight now, though." He asks the beaten boy something in the foreign tongue and the boy shakes his head briskly in reply.
Bane nods in acknowledgement, but doesn't seem to feel a need to share his findings with me.
Twenty minutes later and Andri is preparing to send the boys away. My fingers are twisting the tails of twine imbedded in the fabric sourced for me by Andri, tugging and wiggling each strand in order to make it smooth. I can tell the fabric isn't going to be the most comfortable of things, but I'd rather this than to remain in the same clothes another day- they are stained and flat-out greasy, though I think the exposure to an oven of sweaty men, my own barely-washed body and the mild reek of badly-disposed of sewage for the past few days has helped my tolerance of the odorous quality which fills the soggy air.
Whilst Andri, the doctor and the two boys converse in an agitated manner, I can feel Bane's eyes on me. Even though I haven't looked up to consummate this, I can feel his stare piercing my skin, observant and mimical. A faint blush bubbles in my cheeks and I work to smooth it off, furrowing my fingers still through the well-worn twine.
"Andri, do you mind if I wash this first?" I ask, holding the fabric up to my nose and breathing in its stale smell. The man turns, startled by the rupture in his conversation, then twists his head to the left in an awkward motion before nodding stiffly.
"Yes, yes. Bring it out here- the water tankard- and do it by the bars. That way it will drain easier."
"Alright- thanks," I say.
"No problem with me," Andri responds, tightening the splint-like structure he has made for Barsad onto the boy's arm, "conserve the aqua duct, or have clean clothes- being a girl I am not surprised by your choice."
I am unsure as to the tone of his statement, but proceed with washing the clothes all the same.
Dragging the half-full metal basin out by the cell doors, I dunk in the handful of burlap-style fabric and sink my hands into its folds, making sure every fibre of it is sodden with the cool liquid. I wonder about soap, asking Andri whether or not there's any about the place. He laughs half-heartedly.
"You should be so lucky," he says, brushing his greying hair back with the heel of his hand. The boy outside the bars asks Andri something quickly, and the man replies; upon hearing the boys next speech, he widens his eyes and turns back to me.
"He says they have some in their cell," Andri tells me. "He says, if you wash their clothes also you can have it."
"Fine," I nod, glad of something productive to do. The boy outside the bars makes his excuse and goes off to get the soap; when he returns, he is shirtless, skinny dark frame blustered in the baked sun, skin agitated by the rough material of his shirt. He awkwardly pokes his hand, stuffed with fabric, through the bars, and I smile in a docile manner and sort through the fabrics, unfolding them to reveal the lump of soap. It's mangled and broken, more rubbery than soapy- made of lard, I assume- but good enough all the same. I only wish the water was hot in order to break down the oils and dirt in the fabrics easier. Maybe next time I could ask Andri to have some boiled over the small fire that clusters at night- the social gathering I am never permitted to enter- or ask for the residue from the cook's pot?
The injured lad is instructed to take his shirt off and manages to with great strain over his injured arm, and Andri gives me the blood-specked shirt- I resolve to wash it last.
I collect the bundle of Andri's worn clothes from the back corner of his room, the unpleasant stale smell lingering. I move through to the opposing cell and gather up Bobby's clothes as well. Bane, I realise, has nothing- I decide I'll make him something with the new fabric- there should be enough for a shirt or something. He's been designated without one the past few days, as the one he was wearing when he came down here had to be thrown because of the blood from the stabbing, and all the others are in the cell upstairs. He didn't have his back brace, either, something which Andri sees fit to constantly remind him of, and Bane is starting to suffer from it, the pain in his back no longer just the jolts from the stab wound.
As I work through the clothing, I feel oddly refreshed; having something to physically do, instead of just sitting meaninglessly, is invigorating; even if it is just washing smelly clothing. As the men chat away, I drizzle my hands through the worn fabrics, working with the soap to remove any stains, but mainly the smell. I glance up and catch the smaller of the two boys- Firdos, outside- looking at me. It's only for a split second, and he flits his eyes away instantly, but I notice all the same, instinctively pulling up the hem of my top. It seems the novelty of having a female on the premises has still not worn off.
The two boys leave, not long after, thanking Andri for his skills and arranging to pick up their freshly-washed clothing later in the week. The cell seems peacefully quiet again without them, and for a while it's refreshing, but then it becomes stagnant and unwelcome again. I try to start up a conversation about how nice it'll be for us all to have fresh clothes, a set to wash and another to wear, but it crumbles and disintegrates within minutes. Andri makes his excuses and evacuates, followed shortly by Bobby, who is off in search of something alcoholic.
Bane and I sit in the silence. I look at him; eyes closed, hands held in front of him. As usual, he sat up the second Andri left the twin cell, propped up on the edge of his bed.
I plunge the last of the wash items- Barsad's bloodied shirt- into the water, feeling a little sick as the liquid turns from greyish to pink as the crusted blood hydrates once more.
I try to take my mind off it by trying to crush the quietness of the cell again.
"You'll look like a caveman if you don't shave your face soon," I say with a smile.
Bane ever so slowly lifts his eyes, as though I've just distracted him from the formation of some revolutionary influential idea.
"And what do you suppose I do about that?" He says, though I can tell he doesn't really want to hear my answer, whatever it may be.
"I'm sure Andri and Bobby have got one somewhere- it must be in the bathroom, I guess."
"I can barely stay awake, I hardly think putting a cut-throat razor in my hand is a good idea," he mocks, closing his eyes again.
He's been so cold the last few days; granted, I don't really know him- after all, I've been here less than a month- but I feel like I do. And this behaviour- though I've already seen he has elements of a distant attitude- seems wrong. I try to think of what I've done to wrong him over these last few days.
What haven't I done would probably be a better question, what with all the trouble I've caused him. Guilt strides forwards within me and throws a damp cloth over my heart, weighing me down from the inside.
"I could do it for you," I say quietly.
He stays silent, as if I hadn't even spoken.
"Bane?" I say, in case he didn't hear me. "I can do it. I'll go find the razor- and we can use some of the new soap, yeah?"
"I'd rather you didn't," he says coldly.
"Don't be daft," I smile, trying to pass off the chill in his voice. I stand up, sweepingly dry my hands on one of the newly washed garments and approach him, motionless in his sitting position.
"You're starting to look uncared for," I half-joke in an attempt to lighten his dark mood, reaching my hand out to his cheek.
"It'll only take five minutes-"
Before it meets the side of his face, Bane snaps his forearm up and forcefully grips hold of my wrist in a death lock, clamping me to the spot. The strength in my arm caves in on itself, the limb going limp in his grasp from sheer surprise at his action. His eyes glare into mine, caverns of swirling burnished black which engulf with a charring fire. They speak to me like no words could.
Don't touch me.
I don't know how long we stay like that, but it's some time until I regain the strength to pull away. As I do, his grasp resists the pull a little, until he too awakens his consciousness and releases me. I turn away from him, abandoning my plans to collect the razor and stride, shaken, back to my place on the floor, facing out onto the prison complex.
I slip my hands quietly back into the cold wash water and massage the remaining fabric. I realise my hands are shaking, and my throat seems to have closed in on itself, breath caught somewhere below it. I try to control the trembling, refusing to let him see what a dramatic influence that simple gesture has had on me, thinking about the yellow ring of bruises which still eclipse my upper arm. I wonder if I might cry, if shock at my behaviour might overwhelm me, but luckily it seems that no tears are to stab my eyelids. A low sound comes from Bane, somewhere between an exhale and a grumble.
I return to scrubbing the blood from the clothes of Barsad, accepting the dimming silence of the metal cage as my fate.
AN: you have a decision to make, my pretties; there's going to be a little fast-forward to the future; I'm leaving it up to you how long you want it to be. Between two weeks to two months, just leave a comment in the reviews as to what timeframe you think would be best, feel free to leave a reason why if you wish to do so J
R n' R if you so please, and thank you all very much for your support :D
Love Wizadora xx