The Cell

By Mason Longenberger

A droplet soared through the thick, chilling air, piercing its way as if diving with a will of its own. Faster and faster it descended on its trek. Time around it stood still, waiting, watching for the inevitable fate of the daredevilish drop. The stone surrounding stood still, indifferent to the mingling of gravity. The drop burst against the lathered slab beneath, erupting in every direction it was allowed. As if with no time to warn of the impending doom, splat, splat, splat followed the first. Each growing louder and more reverberant than the last, echoing throughout the narrow room I only found myself now.

A slit of thin light shone from the upper wall. It illuminated the wall opposite to it, and very little else, revealing a solid steel door, welded with stray scraps before me. Some of the pieces were bolted with what looked to be railroad spikes, bending and mangling the burn-marked metal in all sorts of directions. It twisted in unordinary organic fashions, pushed on itself and poking out in intertwined pikes. This monolithic door reached to the ceiling.

My eyes trailed up the door as I rose. My legs shot with a fiery surge that crawled quickly throughout, until it reached every part of my body. I slumped back down to the unforgiving ground, writhing in what seemed like unnatural directions. I felt my back arch and my knees retreat to my chest. I lay there, curled, warding off the unholy threats I did not yet understand. A wail forced its way from my quivering jaw. I did not recognize the sound, and yet it would not end. The cries continued. My head hit the firm wall as my thin figure began to rock. My arms, shaking with the difficulty to move them, crept towards my shoulders. My fingers spread, extending desperately to reach their destination even mere seconds before their decrepit vessel could allow.

As my hand passed through the dim light, I saw the yellowing skin that stretched atop protruding bone, like beaten leather wrapped around brittle twigs. My hand drew back to my chest with painful haste. The same pain from trying to stand a wildfire taking more trees, crackling with sadistic satisfaction as it climbed down my rattling arm. I felt no shirt as my emaciated fingers flew onto my evident ribs, even slipping between, stopping only by the tight skin that wrinkled its way around every bone.

Footsteps approached from the hall just beyond the door. At least, I thought they were footsteps. I couldn’t remember what they were supposed to sound like anymore. Nevertheless, pound after pound pattered down the corridor. Murmurs seemed to bounce about. I couldn’t tell if they were from outside, mumbles of my captor or just in my head. Whispers trailed into my mind, too garbled, too piercing, too quiet, too loud.

The noises stopped. The door screeched against the stone ceiling and floor as it pushed in toward me, closing the room further than I thought possible. My body pressed against the wall, instinctively. White streaks grew on the ground, preceded by sparks from the labored entrance. Light flooded the room like crashing waves blasting into the cabin of a toppling boat cabin. Shapes were too unclear to make out. I could tell only that a figure stood before me, surrounded by a light so intense I felt it through the lids of my eyes.

The silhouette slid forward, showing no stutter in its step. As it reached nearer and nearer, I called out to it, screaming, begging.

“Why are you keeping me here? Tell me what’s going on!” I remember waking up here. Nothing else.

The figure moved from the doorway, leaving only light. Blinding, splitting light.

“As I told you last month, you’re free to leave whenever you like.” The voice projected from an indistinguishable source.

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