Slow Drip

Makabe stood above me and let out a deep breath. “I am sorry to hear that you won’t accept my friendship, Wayne. I know the next few days will be difficult for you. I don’t condone the taking of any life, regardless of the crime. But if it’s any consolation, perhaps this death sentence—this terrible thing—will bring the last of us together and help us rebuild the world.”

I slowly got to my knees. I drew my hand under my nose, painting a broad, red streak of blood over my knuckles. I turned and leveled my eyes at him. “Get out.”

Makabe nodded and gathered his things. He closed the cell door, offered me a reluctant glance, then knocked on the outer door for the guard. The heavy, iron door swung open. An African guard dressed in dark-green fatigues looked in and glared at me. After Makabe was gone, the guard gave me the finger, spat on the floor, then slammed the door. A moment later the light flicked off and I was shrouded in darkness.

I stayed on my knees for a while, letting blood drip out of my nose, listening to the ship groan as it plowed through the waves toward the bottom of the world. My knees burned, but I stayed in that position, unmoving, somehow reveling in the discomfort.

Pain had become a constant companion in the past few months. I’d been beaten, experimented on, starved, drugged, frozen, dumped into frigid seas, infected, and had my thumb savagely ripped off. Short of being drawn and quartered, I doubted there was any kind of pain I could be subjected to that I wasn’t already intensely familiar with. But it wasn’t all bad. Starvation I could do without, but the beatings I’d grown accustomed to. Brutal, reoccurring pain really opens your eyes. It focuses the mind. If you feel good for too long, things start to lose their meaning. You get bored. You lose purpose.

Pain fixes that.

I let the pain from my jaw, my back, and my ribs wash over me. I welcomed it in, and let it go, time and time again. Blood continued its slow drip from my nose, softly tapping the floor. I counted the drips as they grew fewer and farther between. A steady tap every two seconds became somewhere between two and three. Then four seconds. Five….

I sat back on my hands and stared into the darkness. Wonderful, black nothingness. No shape, no color, no depth—just pure, caged absence… patiently waiting to get out and roll over everything.

I raised my hands in front of my chest and gave it a push.