Condemned

Chapter 21: Mind Games

Chapter Twenty-One: Mind Games

AN: ohrrmerh, 20,000 views? dead. actually almost dead. I love you people. here, take an imaginary cookie. Or a real one, y'know, but you won't be getting it from me.

I stare at his body, crumpled and broken. The blade in my hand glitters as it falls to the floor, and I watch it lie beside the mass of dead body. I look up slowly, unable to confront Nas' executioner.

"Bane..." I whisper, finally ready to raise my hooded eyes.

Dandachi looks me for a split second then walks out of the room.

My head rests against the heel of the sink. I have been sat here for all eternity, trapped in some chasm of time. My eyes are unsure of whether they should be open or closed, and only pick up fragments of my surroundings; colour and blurred outlines. As time hauls itself slowly forwards like a sluggish man burdened with a yolk, the lines begin to sharpen and the colors even out; shiny objects. Two keys, flung into a deserted corner. Broken shards of glass which throw my own face back at me. A discarded shaving razor, gleaming and winking in the tailored moonlight.

And still more things; a bar of soap, fallen from a shelf. Blood, battered across the palms of hands. Are those my hands? I flex the muscles and see that they are.

There is a rancid smell lingering in the air, not typical of what you'd expect from a bathroom. I glance down to find my other hand slicked with what would appear to be vomit. Is that mine, too?

Well, it must be.

The only other guy in here's stone-cold dead.

I scuff my feet a little further away from the twisted body as reality soothes back to me.

Flashes of the events snap into my frontal lobe;

A hand in the darkness. Glass, broken. A belt buckle. A thick arm, wrenched around his throat. Dandachi's pale eyes.

And then this.

I assume I blacked out at some point; my conscious mind seemed unable to cope with the pain and shortness of breath brought about by- what was it now?- a memory of my head being smashed against glass resurfaces in my mind; I raise my blood-dried hand to the place where it impacted, but find that the bruises tether around my neck. I remember the shelf. I swallow, and the pain comes back.

Nas' corpse lies crumpled on the deserted floor, neck twisted like a broken china doll. He lies face down, knees still a little buckled. I wonder if his eyes are closed. Should I be the one to close them?

I- I've never seen a dead body before. Apart from the clammy skin and distorted pose, it seems oddly... natural. A thought comes to mind that I might use the warmth of Nas' skin as some sort of indication of how long I've been out, and I recoil at my own idea.

Shock renews itself as something evolved and more vulgar- guilt.

But why should I feel guilty? It's not my fault. Nas brought it on himself, didn't he? But then I look at his withered body, twisted around itself in such an inhumane way that I wretch and have to drag myself to the rim of the latrine to vomit. I stay there a few minutes, vaguely aware of the shaky sobs rattling my rib cage and bruising my insides.

After some time I find myself on my feet, and realize that my body is taking me to the door of the room. I pick up the fallen key on my way and tell myself not to look down as I cross the floor, quivering across it with my eyes steadily focused on my destination. The old curtained construct gives way with a heavy creek, and I shy my way back into the main cell, back into the noise of the prison, deafened by the cold of night. Crickets can be heard from the world above, their croaking songs teasing we trapped in this pit like the wail of a siren. It seems somehow ironic that I should be the only one to succumb to the call.

And so the chasm of night churns on, searing its moans through creaks of metal and the grinding of dirt under long-oppressed campfire feet. I slump with my back against the connecting pewter-grey bars; alone and cold, I hear the warm breathing behind me. I allow my fingers, white as carved bone and shivering, to pass blindly through the cleft in-between two of the metal slits that divide my view of the world into hot, void strips of light and occasional colour.

I find the warm fingers of a thick hand and clutch gently to them like some kind of ethereal talisman. And here I sit, by myself on the edge of the world, at what seems to be both the beginning and the end locked behind bars of misogynistic values as I wait, needlessly, for the blur of night into the burnt day.

Of course, being so low down, midday is the only real time you could call this place 'bright', but the subtle changes in light as night dances through to morning suddenly seem profane, carrying with them a slow vulgarity which makes me wish the night had bled through to day a little slower than physics would allow.

I lie with my head against the soft down of my flat cot. Bobby must have returned from the campfire in the mid level some time after all that happened, during one of the rare bursts through which I was able to sleep, and now lies in slumber across his own bed adjacent to Bane's. Bane sleeps. Dandachi sleeps. I shudder.

The lock screams a few minutes later as Andri returns. He tries for the key and fails. He whispers me awake, and with jittering fingers I find the key I brought back through with me from the hunch where Nas' void corpse lies and brush it across the floor and out of the door to the cell.

"You look rough," he says passively pushing past the creaking bars and locking them shut. He places them in their usual place and stare blankly at them, glinting early silver in the dull morning. I rest my head back against the bars with a grave expression as Andri briefly checks on the welfare of my savior before slinking towards the bathroom door. I hear him enter and, with a startling thud, the door closes shut again.

Andri states, with well-veiled shock,

"There is a dead man in the bathroom."

I nod.

"A very dead man. Neck broken, it would seem."

I nod again.

"A Mr. Nas, I believe."

"Yes," I reply.

Andri comes and sits opposite the place where the keys rest, on the edge of his bunk which is now mostly taken up by Dandachi. The stagnancy of the conversation clogs the air around us, and I feel my chest tighten in a dull fashion.

"He has not moved the body," Andri rumbles.

"It wasn't Bane."

Andri looks at me then, the surprise vague on his face.

"Ah. How did you-"

I point at Dandachi, his heavy chest conceiving and convexing steadily.

Andri seems for a moment asthough he might give out in confusion as he registers what I mean, but a glaze of composure drifts over his features and he gives a slow, well-practiced nod of the head.

Time drools by as we both stare into space, streamed by thought creating a thin, tangible membrane between the two of us.

"He deserved it," I say after the longest time, asthough to speak the words might affirm them in my own mind.

Andri just nods, that familiar gesture which lies abundant in so many of my countenances nowadays. As light lifts into the room, the dry gears of cogency yearn themselves back into some sort of life and I measure my way to my feet. I can't bare to look at anyone, living or dead, so I simply stand at the bars. Andri and I struggle as hard as possible to ignore the elephant striding through the room.

"Has Bane woken up yet?" Andri asked. I shake my head, and he says, "I think he's getting worse. He has been asleep more, I think. Talking less, too. He had an odd moment; I thought at first he was simply talking in his sleep, but now that I think of it, perhaps it was hallucinations which brought on his speaking."

"You think he's got the infection?"

"Perhaps. Not that it matters- his actual wounds are a lot better equipped to deal with such things now, anyway. Have you noticed anything strange recently?"

I let my mind wonder back over the past few days; he has been a little quieter than usual, I suppose.

"There was one thing," I tell Andri, "a couple of days ago..."

Bane had his eyes closed, head scratching against his cot as his skin baked in the gutted sun. I pushed my hands deeper into the stagnant waters of the pool, massaging and coaxing away the impurities buried in the fabrics. Bane leaned to the side a little, blinking his eyes, then his mouth began to shudder. He had been quieter than usual, and I reached forward a little, trying to hear what he was saying.

"Can't fall yet, son," he murmured gently, eyes half-closed, "can't... fall yet..."

" ... And then he was quiet again, asthough he hadn't even realized he'd said it. I thought it might have been some of that herb and salt stuff you've been burning for him, but I guess..."

"Hmm."

The prison is moving properly now, old gears twisting and locking in dusty corners, equally old men struggling with the scorched sun. Firdos approaches the bars, clothes in his arms, and hands them through to me with a smile. I stare at him in shock a moment, and his smile falters, but then I straighten my head and take them with a returned grin. He walks away, back to his and Barsad's cell, and I find myself laughing at the absurdity of it. I sit down on the floor, my face pressed between the bars, laughing hysterically. The clothes in my lap find their way to the floor and I feel a hand at my back, rubbing my shoulder-blades in an uneven, awkward moment. My body shakes and I begin to understand it is because I'm sobbing now, not laughing. I don't know how long I stay in this state, but there's a tiny whisper of my name and I find my brain clearing the fog in my mind away. The voice calls my name, a little louder this time, and I find my bowed feet again and turn. Bane's forehead is drenched with sweat and his eyes are closed. I fumble for the key a second, then push it through into the lock his side of the cell. Bobby, a bundle of starchy blankets and dripping memories, stirs a little, deep eyes glancing up at me. Bane says my name again, barley louder this time but sounding almost scared, and I sweep through to his side, bludgeoning the bastard lock until it screams open, and I kneel beside him and take his large, wet hand in both of my own. I squeeze hard, whispering to him under my breath but it's like I'm not even there. He says my name again, voice torn, and I put a hand on the side of his face and stroke the side of his hair in a motherly way.

"It's alright, Bane," I say, though I know he's completely delusional at the moment- obviously Andri was right about the oncoming infection and the effects it would have.

"He'll calm down by this afternoon," Andri says, "it's always worse for Dandachi in the morning-"

"This afternoon?!" I cry, "look at him! He needs- he needs-"

"He needs you. Just sit with him for now, until he's calm. He'll sleep and then he'll be alright when he wakes up. I need to go and see a man about-" Andri gestures absent-minded to the bathroom door, then pulls the key from the lock where I left it jammed and leaves.

Bane gives a pained groan and I gasp, brain buzzing. I pull myself away from him for a second, Bobby, reading my mind, grabs for a glass, and I take it into the-

Oh.

I feel myself wretch as I witness again the murdered body of Nas, but have to push myself past it to fetch some water from the systern at the back of the room. Trying to steady my breathing, I plunge the cup beneath the pale water and draw up a cup of it. From behind me, there's a terrible succession of clicking noises and, heart stopped I turn my head.

"Fucking... bitch," Nas' corpse wheezes, slumped into a kneeling position like a broken puppet, shattered neck resting on his jaunted shoulder.

I feel my body scream and drop the cup; it rolls for a second then stops against a shard of broken mirror rested by Nas' feet.

"Your… fault…"

Stunned, I blink my eyes and everything stops- Nas' body is still crumpled up on the floor, lifeless as ever, making no accusations or insults. My heart races in my chest and I quake, eyes wide, as I reach for the cup. Carefully I pick it up and sweep it back through the water, eyes not leaving the now still corpse.

Bobby appears in the doorway, expression faltering as his eyes fall on Nas' dead body. He stares at it, eyes bulging from his small skull, then gulps and comes over to help me up. I take his hand and allow him to lead me over the body, hideously shaken and allowing a trickle of water to gasp its way over the rim of the cup.

Bane says my name again in an almost childish way, straightening out the threads of my thought as it has the last few times he's called; I push my own hallucinations to the back of my mind and focus on him- nothing else.

He refuses the water, too out of it to even recognize what it is; his eyes pinch shut and for a few minutes he just holds my arm, so tight I know it will leave bruises when he lets go, and I have to pinch back tears from the pain it's causing. Bobby sits on Andri's bed, looking through into the bathroom, eyes clearly locked on the corpse of a man he's probably never even seen down here before. Bane practically growls, his other hand now pushing against his forehead to shield his eyes from whatever he's experiencing; sick with worry, I hold on to him as tightly as he holds me and simply repeat over and over,

"It's alright, Bane… it's- it's alright…"

...

AN: so yeah... those awkward moments when there's a dead body in your bathroom. we've all been there... haven't we? 0_0

with regards to the alternate of the way this was going, i was gonna kill of Dandachi instead. BAD PERSON, BAD PERSON! because i hated him, and i hated the fact that i'd written him to be hated, but then i decided i would change my affections for him and make him more wuvvable. aww. i kinda liked Nas, but now he's dead. not much of a loss there, methinks.

ooh, hallucinations everywhere. i'd actually written a segment for introducing bane's a few chapters previous, but i must have uploaded the unedited version because i am an eegit, which is why it seems so sudden. i would go back and re-install it, but... i'm lazy. NOW... DOWN TO BUISNESS!

Q's: how old is dis girl tho?

A: girl/woman- she can be however old you want her to be. Unspecified reader-does-their-own-characterization ftw

any q's/etc, you know where to find me- visit my page-thing or send me a message/leave it in the reviews. And again, thanks for the views- seeing that counter hit 20,000 nearly blew the heart out of my chest (eww, nasty)

And i would have got away with it too, if it wasn't for you meddling kids!

R&R, pweeease? :3

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