Chapter 26: Death Wish
I sit beside Barsad for the next few hours, watching as he drifts in and out of sleep. When he wakes, he cries, stifled shrieks of human despair that ring through the cell- Andri grows angry with him the third time it happens, roaring some obceinity or other in his home tongue before taking up the key to the cell's enterance and abruptly leaving me alone in the cell with the inconsolable boy.
I watch Bobby for a while, his thinning head of dark silver hair made radiant by the glow of the peppered eastern sun. He has his legs pulled up beneath him on his chair, and seems, as always, to be simply watching the prison pass by; I don't believe I have ever met a person so content in all my life, and doubt I ever will; after all, tradition would have it said that I am to die down here, and there are a very limited number of people here to manifest an interest in. The thought of living the rest of my life out down here is one I try ruthlessly hard to supress, as every time I so much as consider it I suddenly feel as though the world is caving in around me, asthough the dirt floor beneath me is eroding suddenly beneath my feet.
Then the howls of the tormented boy beside me bring me back to the solid earth beneath my feet and I feel I have some purpose returned.
Barsad says something quietly, so quietly I don't catch it at first. I ask him to repeat it, and he says to me in his home tongue,
My breath catches somewhere in my chest and I feel a jolt similar to the falling feeling when you wake too suddenly. I raise a wet cloth to his clammy forehead and press it there, attempting comfort.
"I want to die."
"Don't say that," I attempt, though i'm not sure if I've said it correctly. Barsad shakes his head wearily, defiantly, and brings one of his bandaged wrists up to where i have laid the cloth. he moves my hand away from him, and squeezes it a little.
"Please. I want to go now."
I don't know how to respond to that; I feel nothing but pity for him. He really does want to die, I see that now- Firdos was his last thread of hope, and watching his friend mercilessly slaughtered, holding his red body in his own hands, had destroyed him. But perhaps, with time, he will start to heal- maybe there are fragments which can still be resurrected.
"Drink," I say to him, dribbling water over his swollen lips. He lets the liquid run down his throat with little enthuse, eyes closed and swollen red with anguish.
"You must rest," I try, and he makes no sign of even hearing me. He lies back heavily, the energy seemingly zapped from his bones.
I stand up in a vain effort to clear my head, and move through to the opposing side of the cell, taking Andri and Bobby's knives with me as a precaution. I place them on the bunk of the first cot and sit down besides the small bundle of clothing which still needs to be washed, my head in my hands.
I haven't seen Bane since he retreated out of the cell this morning once Barsad was bandaged and moderately settled. He has disappeared again, and it is not until I hear someone passing by the cell mention his name as they talk to another inmate about a fight this morning that I realize that's where he's been- out fighting, somewhere in the higher levels of the prison. Annoyance splurges inside me, and I pull hard on the fabric in my hands, misshaping it's neckline a little; I curse myself, hoping it's owner won't notice, and throw it to the side of the room, muttering to myself under my breath.
If he has been fighting again- which I'm pretty certain of- it's the first time since his fight with Dandachi. The thin line of scabbing is still imprinted on his hard face, I remember, and the skin around his stab wound is still tender and flushed permanently pink. Andri will know about it by now for sure, and I have little doubt he'd have already scolded Bane on the issue. He can't be hurt- if he was, he'd have appeared outside our cell in search of medical assistance. People seemed to be more willing to accept Andri and Bobby's help since learning of the cause of Dandachi's death, and more were appearing at the bars when sliced and grazed in fights; no one wanted to die of infection. Dandachi's death, if anything good had been achieved from it, had at least learnt the other fighters a lesson- Dandachi was powerful and perhaps the strongest of the men locked down here, and his death at the hands of bacteria had proved to them that even the mighty can fall. No man down here wanted that; If they were to die, let it be in battle.
I start folding up the dry clothes, assembling them into piles according to who they belong to; I find a shirt of Firdos' there, and fold it away sadly, placing it at the end of the bed where Barsad resides; the the boy is now asleep. Perhaps it ought to have been burnt along with his body; fearing it might be triggering, I pick the shirt back up and place it underneath Bane's cot out of sight.
"Hello," A voice says in Arabic from behind me, and I turn to look out of the bars.
There stands the man who delivered his clothes earlier this morning- No rest for the wicked, I think to myself with a raised brow, glad that the clothes are already dry. he seems uneasy being out, and the dark fist-shaped bruise beneath his dark eye seems more irritated than it was earlier. I smile politely at him as I gather up his clothing, re-folding it to be sure it is presentable.
With thanks he takes the garments, and rifles through them.
"I think there was another shirt," He says unsurely, counting through the fabrics. I frown, moving to collect my records; I read down them and find what I assume is his name- "Hadi?" I ask, and he nods in affirmation.
"You're right," I say with a frown, reading what I've recorded- three shirts and a pair of bottoms. I rifle through the other clothes in the pile, seeing if I have forgotten it, but it is no where to be found. Apologizing profusely and a little flustered through annoyance at myself, I continue to search the cell. He is patient and suffers the charade with a smile on his smart features, but the silence is awkward.
"How is the boy?" He asks, and I struggle with a moment to find the appropriate phrase to return- my ability to understand Arabic has increased dramatically compared with my ability to speak it.
"Better," I manage eventually, though this hardly seems in depth enough a response. "His pain is less," I conclude, my repertoire of Arabic still too limited to come up with anything more substantial.
"But he still suffers," the costumer points out; though he fakes halcyon, it is clear that he is becoming more and more weary of his surroundings, face lowered and pressed close to the bars as though he fears someone might notice him.
"Are you alright?" I ask with genuine concern, remembering how Andri had treated him earlier- what could be so terrible about this small individual to render such a hatred amongst the other prisoners?
The man nods, his fingers clutched around the hem of his dark oiled braid. His nails dig deep into the threads of hair and he smiles up at me again.
"I can't find it," I say, slipping back into English for a moment. Hopeless though it is, I can't afford to refund this man- it just so happens that Andri has already drunk away his payment, a quart of hooch alcohol. I wonder how someone so slight came to be in possession of something so precious down here- alcohol and meat were the gold of the pit, and I doubt he's secured it by fighting.
"Perhaps… perhaps you ought come back tomorrow? Sorry about this- I'll look around again, and if I can't find it…"The man and he nods quickly, clearly in a hurry just to get out of here. He claps me a quick smile and turns sharply, slinking down through the corridor- on the way he dashes straight into Bane, who is coming up the corridor with a hard expression. Bane looks down coldly at the slight man, who jabbles a stream of apologies as he slips past with his head bowed, scuffling up an isle of stairs and away down one of the curved higher corridors. Bane spits on the ground with a look of disgust, and clears back up to the outside of our cells.
"What was that?" I ask, confused again by the prisons reactions to the slender young man who seems to tiptoe around in fear of his own shadow.
"What was what?"
"That, there," I say, "you looked at him like he was the devil. Andri was like it with him earlier… what has he done?"
"It's not what he's done, It's what he does," Bane growls thickly; it is then that I notice the cut on his shoulder.
"You've started fighting again, then, so I've heard."
Bane averts my gaze, his eyes on the bandages around his wrists which he is now unwrapping.
"Jesus, Bane," I scold, seeing the blood which is glazed upon his dark knuckles. I grab hold of his hand like a mother whose child has scuffed his knee and inspecting it.
"Sit down," I direct him, and he dismisses me, but I'm having none of it. I push him down by the shoulders so that he sits on the end of the bunk closest to the door and move through to the cell where Barsad sleeps, taking up the bowl of water beside him and bringing it through to Bane, along with the disgarded cloth.
"Why have you even started again?" I say, displacing the fabric of his shirt to get a proper look at the cut there, "haven't you had enough after what happened with Dandachi? He ended up dead. All that because the two of you-"
"He stabbed me," Bane says with a blunt finality, as though that alone meant he ought to die. I remember the scarring up Dandachi's body from the fire that Bane started years ago in his ignorance, remember that the feud shared between the two was not one sided or without cause, and shake my head.
"And he saved me," I say. "You expect me to hate him as much as you did, but how could I? He saved me, Bane. We both know what would have happened if he hadn't been there-"
"Don't talk like that-"
"But it's true, Bane, listen to me. If Dandachi hadn't been there Nas would have- he would have raped me. Maybe killed me, too."
"And you are blaming me, for not being there?!"
"No," I say, horrified, "No, of course I'm not! You- you were sick, you couldn't possibly have…"
I look at his face, and see he has averted his eyes, hard gaze now on the compact dirt floor, and realize something. He blames himself.
"Oh God, Bane. Don't feel guilty about it. Please don't blame yourself."
I can see by his face that all the words in the world could stir him from what he has convinced himself of- that it should have been him in there that snapped Nas' neck, that he should have been the one to come to my rescue. Again.
I press the cold water against Bane's bloodied knuckles and watch it run between his large fingers, making glistening trails over his taught skin.
"I should have saved you," he tells me, and the words fall from his mouth raw and with anguish.
"You did save me," I tell him gently, and place a hand over his own wet paw.
I look up at him, and in that moment we are the only people in the world.
"Andri told me why," I say him, as another person intrudes on our silent moment. Bane looks at me, confused, eyebrows lowered on his intense face above those dark, weary eyes.
"He told me about Molina," I say, and Bane's whole body physically writhes, his shoulders rolling back in what I can only describe as horror; the name seems to have done something to him, awakening a past he has tried so intensely to suppress. His eyes are wide, filled with something I cannot recognize, and although he looks at me I doubt he sees anything but his own reflection in the glaze of my lenses.
"It's alright," I say comfortingly, seeing how much it has affected him; It scares me a little, seeing him like this. I imagine his life flashing before his eyes, every regret and hidden emotion, and remember Andri's words;
You are his redemption.
I squeeze tighter to his hand and tentatively ask,
"...Did you love her?"
Bane lowers his head. My muscles clench in my chest and for a heartbreaking moment I feel empty.
"I didn't... know that woman," he says, and shakes his heavy head. "She was just a whore."
I watch him carefully, waiting for him to speak.
"But I let her die. They tore her apart, that woman." He seems unable to say her name.
I take a sharp breath in, keeping my grip firm on his hand, avoiding his bloody knuckles. I take my other hand up to the side of his face and hold my fingers against his skin gently. He closes his eyes, exhaling audibly, and brings his unclean hand over my own, holding it there like some sort of talisman.
"Molina," he breathes in a choked, pale voice, like the word is new to his tongue. I stroke his face, an ache in my chest and tears in my eyes at seeing him this way, in so much pain that I cannot soothe.
I sit in silence as he shudders a cold breath.
AN: Hi guys, hope you enjoyed this chapter of 'Condemned'! Hello to all the new followers, and a big thank you to those of you who left reviews, it means the world, really brightens up my day :)
A couple of questions for you delightful little (or big) readers:
1) I'd REALLY appreciate it if you could let me know on this one- I was discussing the fact that our girl doesn't have a name- which do you guys prefer- with or without a name? (Personally I like the ambiguity, but then again, I am a self confessed weirdo XD)
2) and who is you're favorite character/s in this story so far, and why (excluding Bane, because we all love Bane- why else would we be here? XD)? Be they dead or alive, good or bad... who's your fave/s?
And to our reviewer Tamar (if you're reading, fingers crossed) thank you SO MUCH for your offer! I would absolutely love to get in touch with you over proof reading- i bow down to your kindness :')
And so, my sweets, Arrivederci until chapter 26! If anyone has any questions, etc, please feel free to ask- If you're a guest or it's a topic I feel I should clear up with everyone (wink wink Crimsin Butterfly ;D) I'll answer it in the next Authors Note, if not, I'll PM you :)
All the best,