The Prisonmate

We are alone here, the two of us. Dying, withering, but yet still hopeful for escape, and to see the light once more.

There are two of us here,
Encased in sweat, dirt and bars,
Shackled and chained
While we await what fate may bring.
It’s too dark to see the other,
My companion, whose name I don’t yet know.
I’ve never cared to ask;
He’s never cared to tell.
What I do know is he’s nearby,
Close enough to hear when he shifts,
And to feel his hand when he has strength to touch my arm.
That isn’t very often, these days.
Days, months, or years—I don’t know.
I’ve been here too long;
So minutes now dress themselves as hours,
The years as fleeting moments,
Ticking by silently,
And slinking away in lumbering gaits before I can catch them.
I associate knowing time with my freedom.
If I have one, then I also have the other,
And the world, once I do, will revolve once more.
Until then, I sit here in abyss,
While the world yet waits for me.
At least, I hope it does.
My companion assures me so.
“In fact,” he heaves with each fading, wheezing breath, “It’s improves for you.
And it’s going to continue getting better,
Inventing new conveniences,
Discovering new wonders,
Just to impress you upon your return.”
To that, I smile, impressed by his thoughtfulness. “Thank you, old friend.”
It is on those days, he seems old and weary,
But once in a while, his youth shines through.
So I wonder—
Is he as old as he sounds?
Or is he dying just like the rest?
He assures me he’s okay,
But I doubt him each time.
“Are you all right?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not. Let me ask for water.”
“I’m fine, I’m fine. Your focus must remain—you will get out.”
He is the kindest man I’ve known.
He never once asks for a commodity for himself.
It is always Friend this, Friend that,
His priority composes my escape.
He instructs me to pull on my chains each day,
Says it will weaken them.
Says that one day, my hard, patient work will earn me a
Snap, a cling, and then a thousand tiny
Rattles as the fragments of my shackles clatter to the stone floor.
He gives me something to dream about.
But each day I pull, each day he grows weaker.
His voice fades in equal time with his strength.
And while my freedom grows ever pending,
My fear and apprehension course strong and persistent by its side.
“You’re not going to die, are you?”
“Haha. You think so little of me?”
“I just…I can’t help but think that if I were to leave
And I left you behind, it’d be an even larger crime
Than the one I committed to earn me my mark and chains.”
His voice grows fond, knowing every inch of my soul
From the vast amount of blackness we’ve so far together spent.
“Trust me, little Adulterer. If you are freed, the last thing I want
Is to be in your way. Consider it my joy to be left behind.”
“Joy? But what joy is there in this darkness?”
A quiet, mysterious hum. “I found you, did I not?”
A dry sob chokes itself into the air from my parched throat.
My fingers crawl blindly forward, to the side,
Reaching and grasping,
Hoping to find his face if just to touch it with the
Same amount of mercy he’s touched my soul.
But I can’t find him, and instead only murmur,
“You were my joy, too.”
He’s quiet, but I understand the raw emotion pulsing in the dusty air.
Finally, the day of my freedom suddenly arrives with a snap,
And rattle as the pieces of my chains clatter to the floor.
I can hardly breathe,
The shock overwhelms me.
Yet where elated happiness should be,
There is only belated numbness.
My old friend has been quiet lately,
And he is the first thing I, unbound, reach for,
With phantom pains jerking my wrists back,
Only for me to remind myself,
I’m free, I’m free,
Nothing can bridle you now.
“Old Friend,” I whisper,
Urgency lining my voice as I hear the footsteps
Rushing, rushing,
Clack, clack
“Old Friend, old Friend!”
Too late, they are here.
I hear the gate whine open,
And nearly scream as a handlight flashes on,
Piercing my through my eyes and diving for my brain.
“Murder! Murder!” they cry. “There’s been a murder!
Bring the warden!”
Murder? Where? Who? How?
But by the light I see the deed—
My friend, surely it’s he!
Dead, dead—choked—cold
And it’s my chains that stole his breath.
Chilly ice burdens my limbs,
Quickens my heartbeat,
Makes me scream.
And when the warden returns, he is alone.
His steps are cautious, uncertain.
Surely I appear as frightened and wild as I feel.
He speaks low with guarded care,
“I know the law as well as you.
Your chains are broken,
The gods have deemed you free.
By their law, I cannot stop your leave.”
No, no—what a folly, what a lie.
The gods’ hands were not my saving;
My real liberator lies lifeless at my side.
I want to scream—I feel it coming—but stuff it before it can rise.
Instead, my body shifts as if under foreign hands.
And I lift, I stand,
As tall as I can,
Straighten my shoulders as I shake out my wrists.
I step by him, and the warden calls out,
“A change of clothes will be by the doors,
Clean, fresh, unmarked,
And ready for you to wear.”
Yet with more tranquility than I’ve ever known before,
I turn and stare at the absurdity of his offer.
“No. I’ll keep my mark, thank you. I think it will serve me well.”
He starts with a jerk, and stares at me back.
“But that mark—everyone will know—your crimes—what should have been—
And tradition states—“
“—Tradition states what people want it to state.
The gods have never cared either way.
So I will forego what’s been done before me;
From now on, I chose my own way.
I repeat, this mark I will keep,
So people see who I am.
I want them to know what I did,
To let them know of my sin.
Let them know I am wretched,
Awful, wicked, and soul charred-black.
Let them know so when I tell them what He’s done—
He will be known for the great man he was.”
It is, after all,
The only gift I can give.
So as I step into the light—
And time resumes its course—
I hear the ticks of the clock again.
With the hours of life that still remain,
What will I do? What can I say?
The world now waits for you, old Friend.
And I won’t make it wait as long as I did.

The End

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