Chapter 6: Grasping Reality
Time drifted away from me. Every day became hazier and the conversations I had with him drifted in in a hazy past. I think I could forget it all again if I wanted to. I could make everything fresh and new again. Life would be more interesting then. All my conversations would be interesting again without my memory.
He is sitting there so peaceful right now, his eyes closed and his legs crossed. His face holding no expression, no regret. But what is seen on the surface is a lie. He is trying so hard to follow my way of life to let go, but here and there he does strange things, like throwing his arms around me and holding me tightly, sticky water dripping onto my shoulder. Or the time he pressed his lips to my forehead. He was intriguing then, and would it be fair to him to just erase my memories? No, I wanted to know more about him, to see what strange thing he would do next in the monotony of this cell.
You’re smiling now, I guess you want me to remember him also? But why? Why do you want me to hold onto these memories? Why can’t I just let them slip away behind the barrier. Life would be easier if I never remembered the day before. Of course, everyday would seem to last so long, as that first day lasted…
Now days are blips of time interspersed with nothingness. His voice cutting through the haze, “Hope, have you ever wondered what it’s like outside? Do people still play in the streets, does life go on, forgetting we were there?”
I feel like the words he is saying should have some meaning, but I cannot grasp what this is. “Outside?” I whisper.
He frowns, his brown eyebrows closing in on the bridge of his nose. “You know, outside. Outside the door to this cell. Outside the walls of this prison where a city of fifteen million fights for the scraps thrown to them each day…”
“I know nothing of this outside.” I interrupt him. There is no world except this cell.
He stops staring at me, and then throws his arms around me. I cannot understand why, but it calms my racing heart.
“It’s… It’s what is beyond that door. Could I – that’s not right – Do you want me to tell you stories of it? It would help the time…” He drifts off, his words fading away as he releases me from his embrace.
What could it hurt? Stories. I wanted something interesting. I wanted conversation. He could give me a place to travel away to. Those blue eyes plead for me to let him break the boredom. I can’t turn him down. “I think that would be, interesting.”
He lips turn up, mimicking a smile, but his eyes have become glassy again, and I wrap my arms around him in turn for just a moment before releasing him. It feels right, to offer the same comfort in return.
He scoots over next to me and leans back against the wall. “I’ve tried to not think about it too much, but there are people beyond this cell. This cell, it is in a building called Ralton Prison. A prison meant to hold 50,000 prisoners.”
He pauses as if expecting some reaction, but ten thousand is just words. Words that I know are a number and should mean something, but I cannot conceive this number in my mind. It is simply words to mean greater that the number of people in this cell.
He shrugs when I don’t say anything. “Well anyway, this prison is overpopulated, as are most prisons now days. Other countries call us the prison state.”
“Countries?” I can’t help interrupting.
“Well, yes.” He stopes, his frown come s back for a moment before he shakes his head and continues, “We are in cell, in a prison that hold many cells. This prison is one building in a city that has many building. This city is in a state that has many cities, and this state is in a country with many states. Does that make more sense?”
No, but I nod my head up and down anyway. Maybe if he talks about it he will be able to let the memories go.
“So yeah, our country incarcerates a lot of people. Oh shoot, what was I going to say…? Oh, yes. All the buildings around here are super tall and so clumped together they are almost one building. Except Ralton prison. This is the only building in the city that is separated from the conglomeration of buildings, and the only one you have to enter from ground level.”
For a moment his words called up and image in my mind of seeing an image that was looking up at a giant gray wall that seemed to go up until it merged with the light. It felt strange, as if I was looking at someone else’s memory through… through a door? No. A door wasn’t the right to describe what I just saw. The only word that came to mind is window, but I don’t even know what that is.
He is still speaking.
“…Only time I ever rode in one of the shuttles was on my way to prison. A street rat like me couldn’t ever afford a shuttle ride otherwise.”
“Sorry, what was a shuttle again?” He gave me an odd look. I wonder if he had already tried to describe this to me when I wasn’t paying attention.
“A shuttle is a thing to carry people that uses the metal in the buildings of the city to move through the air. You’ll see them when we escape.”
“Oh, ok.” I pretend to understand.
He raises his eyebrows slightly, and I know he doesn’t believe me.
My head feels heavy, so I lean against his shoulder and he wraps his arm around me, holding me close.
“Do you want me to continue?” I can feel the rumble of his voice.
He continues, but instead of really listening to the words, I listen to the sound of his deep voice and feel the vibration of it as I lean against him.
I don’t want him to be taken away. I don’t want to be on my own again. I might not remember him anymore when they take him away, but I can’t imagine living without his company.
“Nathan?” I interrupt him.
“Hmm?” He responds, turning his head slightly to look at me.
“Can you help me straighten my legs?” If they come for him, if there is an outside; I want to be able to go with him and for that, I need to stand.
“Umm, the only way to straighten them would be to break them again.”
“Ok, let’s do that,” I respond. His eyes widen. He looks shocked by my response. “Please, if we are to leave here for your outside…”
“O-ok.” His voice shakes. Is he frightened?
“Could you,” He takes a deep breath, “Straighten your left leg so that your turned foot is above the ground?”
He helps me move my leg to the position he wants, and then he stands up, and steps on my foot.
There is a snapping noise, and a sharp sensation that I push behind my barrier. I stare at my foot, seeing it pressed against the ground.
Nathan is kneeling next to it. “Shit. We shouldn’t have done this. I’m not a doctor Hope! Why did I agree to this? He fiddles with my leg causing a strange grinding noise. He pulls up my black pant leg to above the area where the turn in my leg was.
There is blood leaking out from that area, and a glint of white showing through. How fascinating. I feel as if I am floating, staring down at a strange scene.
Nathan pulls on my leg and shifts it so the white disappears, but more blood is flowing out. Everything is getting splotchy. I can’t quite see him clearly anymore. He yanks off his shirt…
Everything is dark. My vision is gone. What happened?
He is holding me, staring down at me with a worried look on his face.
“You passed out. Let’s not fix the other leg.” He moves away towards the door, and I realize that he is shirtless. I look down at my leg, and see that his shirt is tied around the break.
“Thank you.” He doesn’t respond, but picks up something over by the door.
He comes back toward me with two bowls. Is it dinner time already?