The first thing I remember on my own is the feel of a breeze. Perhaps it is because wind, true wind, cannot be stored, controlled, or stopped. It comes to me because the door opens and forces the air in as it closes.
The Dolor has made me forget who I used to be. I've slowly lost all memories of my past. Even my memories from when I first came here are becoming fuzzy.
When I couldn't recall that last man's face, it was different. I feel like I should have remembered; the Dolor was happy about it, but was the person friend or foe?
I hang my head back in exhaustion. I always feel drained after these sessions with the Dolor, but this time the sickly sweet poison he made me drink at the height of my excruciating pain still makes my throat dry and coarse. He used to try and assure me that the drink was to help me feel better, but I know, just as everyone else here with me, that it is the direct cause of my memory loss. Even if my past was as painful as one could possibly conceive, it couldn't have surpassed this torture. Physical, yes, I can handle it. But mental? It is agonizing not knowing who I am or where I came from.
I don't know how long time passes until a small draft of cool, fresh air pools into the room when a door opens-Dolor must be back now. I open my eyes from a light doze, and see an astounding sight. It isn't the Dolor or his measly young assistant, but a full-grown bearded man dressed in a dark cloak, it's hem dripping blood and in his hand, a bloodstained dagger.
Instead of nodding my head, I gape. A thousand different possibilities run through my mind at once as to why he is here with me. Is he a new helper meant to bring me more pain? Is he my executioner? My rescuer? The Dolor is aging, but he is still physically strong and able; I don't see why he would have to be replaced. And as for getting me out of here, I nearly laugh at the thought.
He walks toward me and kneels next to my chair. He looks up at me curiously and wipes the blood onto the fabric of his cloak, and puts it a few inches away from my throat. I squeeze my eyes shut; the release I have been waiting for years is finally in front of me. One little cut, and it is all over-every moment that was filled with pain for the length of my imprisonment. Death is a welcoming friend; it is life that destroys and truly kills the body and soul.
But instead of going for my throat, he slices part of my prisoner garb on my left shoulder, a baggy beige dress that has long become stained with blood, sweat and dirt. My eyes stutter open when he touches my back...my burn.
To make sure we were identified, The Dolor branded our prisoner numbers onto our left shoulder, and once finding the puckered flesh of the five numerals, the strange man spoke, "You are 164. The Blind Ones discovered your location and sent a rescue party here."
He has to be. What type of torture is this? To bring hope back into my life is to kill me. But my apparent ‘rescuer’ is working at the chains at my feet and wrists. As he throws them off of me, I can feel the absence of some of my skin when it rubbed off on the shackles. I purse my lips and breathe deeply. I ache all over, and the man isn’t helping; he keeps moving my limbs, which are bruised, or broken or something. All I know and recognize is the pain.
"Get the rest of them out." I demand hoarsely, thinking of my numerous prison mates going through the same torture. "There are so many others-"
"We have no time. Everything is on fire." The man starts to unlock and shake the chains from my feet and torso. Fire? How was there such a thing in a place as dusty as the main cell room?
"How?" He pulls me onto my feet, and I grip onto his forearm tightly; if I let go, I'll collapse.
"The manager of the prison torched everything, including the cells and everyone in it, when he heard we had breached."
"They're all dead." It's more of a statement than a question. I think of Cantor and his beautiful voice, and then The Hustler with her sad story.
"Yes." he nods, peering carefully at me. "They are all dead."
He tries to guide me to the door, but the pain makes me woozy. I can barely stay conscious after Dolor's frequent questionings, much less try to stand up immediately after the emotionally and physically draining experience.
"I can't," I mumble, and collapse like I'm a skeletal pile of bones. I can't...Not after learning that my...friends...are dead, that I've forgotten everything, and that someone has finally found me. It's too late, I think, as the rescuer lifts me like I weigh absolutely nothing. Whoever the Blind Ones are, they are rescuing a shell, someone without feelings, memories, or anything of value. I can hardly be of use to anyone, especially to the man holding me in his arms. He cradles me gently, as if I were a babe, and carries me through the door that Dolor used to come in and out of with numerous pointy instruments. I nearly nod off as he shuts the door, but the comforting stench of blood makes my eyes shoot open.
I see blood. And it is the most beautiful shade, too. Parchment soaked in blood covers the floor, as if they were uprooted and flew everywhere during a desperate struggle. A younger man lays hunched over in his seat, blood seeping from the wound in his chest. I shakily let go of my breath as I catch eyes with the dead eyes of the Dolor. It's his blood that has pooled everywhere. His body is prostrate on the floor, a shocked and panicked look still on his face.
The only thing I desire more (other than getting out of this prison) is to have seen the surprise in The Torturer’s face when the blade pierced him, when the light of life left his body. I never thought I would outlive this man and here his corpse in front of me. I wish I could take a trophy or mangle his body. After everything he did, I don’t think he deserves to be respected.The man holding me stops as he watches my reaction. I don't know if I'm supposed to cry from happiness, or scream in triumph. Seeing this gives me new freedom....a release from the threat of him ever hurting me again. Relief, yes, but something deeper, something that should not be felt after something so sacred as a human life ends.
I meet his gaze and mumble, "Was it painful?"
He swallows and nods before turning away. “Don’t worry; it was a quick and short end. But everyone experiences a small discomfort before it comes, from pain or the fear of it all; he just had it more gruesome than others.”
My lips twitch; he thinks that I’m worried about the pain the Torturer experienced. Yes, but I’m worried about the lack of pain, not an excess of it.
I peek at the body of the Dolor from over his shoulder. Maybe, I would have been squeamish before this dreadful experience, but I have since seen my own blood drawn and spilled like a slaughtered pig. Seeing this man's fateful end gives me the first shudder of joy and satisfaction since...well, before I can truly remember.
"Is it horrid of me to wish that I had been the one to hold the blade?"
My liberator glances at me but stays silent and pushes open another sticky door, more blood getting onto his cloak. It really is everywhere. With my desensitized feelings on darkness and blood, I only see that it makes sense that I am overly conscious to factors of life that are vital. To food, to exercise, to hope, and, as he walks into the sunshine, I realize, I cannot stand the light. I immediately sink into where I am comfortable-to the depths of darkness in my mind-as I stare up at a cerulean sky before it turns black again.
I've learned to stop dreaming in my time at the prison. The toxic drink Dolor gave me would create powerful images, ones that I'm sure I would remember if I could see them again. It soon seemed that the dreams had warped into an endless torture session with the Dolor. Sometimes, I saw faces of strange men threatening loved ones, people whom I have long forgotten by now, and seeing them go through the same torture if I rebelled.
Yes, I decided, dreaming…..just like hoping, would never ever help me there. Everything was always dark, in my dreams or when I was awake in my cell. All day, every day, for years, we would lay on our backs, with the ceiling so close we could almost see it through the enveloping darkness. If Cantor was asleep, if Hustler was not moaning about her children that she sorely missed, or I was too tired of trying to remember what I had forgotten, I would scratch my nails against the hard dirt, creating patterns, sometimes imagining swirls and curves, and then others: sharp, jagged and hard, so hard that the next time I would see them in the Red Room, my nails were torn and crusty with dried blood.
I subconsciously realize I’m asleep, since there is a glow where my eyes are shut. A light that is so radiant my eyes and brain can’t wrap around it just so soon. Even as I sleep, there is no darkness. It’s really quite odd. I’m not floating in darkness, drifting between empty sleep and painful, tired consciousness. I can’t lose hours and hours of the day without realizing what’s going on around me.
So I wake. I keep my eyes closed for the longest time, trying to hear and smell and feel everything without seeing. The air does not smell of musty iron, but of enticing fragrances that blows every so often as a breeze wafts itself into the room, or structure where I am resting. The surface I’m laying on is soft and so comfortable, my back aches. And I can hear very quiet noises in the distance. Non-human noises, but ones I recognize a little. They sing tunes and almost...chirp. Everything else is still and quiet. I can’t hear the Dolor’s patient breathing as he waits for me to emerge from the drugs’ effects. I can’t feel that there is another person next to me.
I decide it’s about time I opened my eyes to see the real world. Not a world where one night turns into a nightmare that never ends. I can feel warmth, I can hear it’s light, and I can almost picture the rest.