I will not divulge what crimes I am supposed to have committed, for your judgement means nothing to me; there are greater things at play. No, if I were to quench your thirst for such information, you would not be able to see beyond it, and I would be reduced to a sentence. A word. My bones would be boiled down to stock, served in the halls, splashed onto trays with a chunk of doorstop bread. You would cease to care for the finer details, the explanations, and, at the end of it all, me.
3,666. That’s how many lines there were on the walls. A tally. A countdown. Something, at least, anything, a memorial to sanity. I had dreamt of someone finding it in years to come, standing in the doorway with sadness in their eyes, remembering through those lines upon the wall. It took a while for me to start; at first I would squat upon the tombstone of the bed until my knees screamed, pushing my ear into the stone, moist, cold, listening. That was all there was to do, before the lines anyway. I was lucky once; I heard a shout, and then a noise that I replay within my head. Sometimes I decide it was the crack of a whip, then change my mind to a gunshot. One day I even thought it was both.
3,667. That’s what it should have been, but that morning didn’t give me time. My fingernail, a chisel, bloodied but tough, was just about to start the line, hovering. Then the noise. At first I shuffled to the door, an iron slab, slot for food, nothing else, waiting for the leather serpent of a whip to hiss or the short anger of a bullet. Nothing. The same fingernail scratched my head. I remember before I bled for my country I went to watch a pantomime. He’s behind you! I called, and the man in make-up spun on his heels, never catching the villain, nor wanting to. I chased the noise like this.
A howl? It had grown to torment me, a wolf. Hungry, they called, eager for flesh, famished for as long as I, but their claws were slightly longer. The wall trembled. If only you’d seen my hands when they came for me; I shook like that! I pushed against it, ear turning to ice. It was colder than usual. The howling grew louder. I had gone mad. One last line for the memorial; show them when I broke! The lines were on the cold wall, neat in order, regiments like the old days. I looked handsome in uniform, ask anyone. I always kept my boots polished, big and black and shining. I once trampled my own path, now look at me! I laughed.
My ears had once been deafened by the pound of guns. That’s what Hell sounds like. Artillery big as anything, raping the divine silence of night. I heard that for years, with my polished boots. That’s what it sounded like, when the cold wall ripped off. My fingernail was about to declare the last day I could trust my thoughts, then everything came all at once. The stone vibrated, violent, and I jumped back on my screaming knees; my memorial crumbled, chalk, and I saw the world.
You have seen the way that man can ravage the land. Drilling, dumping, burning, shelling, all nothing, boring in comparison to her. Mother. Look how she goes! 3,667 days of four walls, one bed, one bucket. Now I watch the world end; the island flooded, holy, wind that could strip skin like paint. Grey skies, grey water, grey Earth. I was deaf again. Hot piss ran down my leg. I have run into death in polished boots, taunted the tips of bayonets in my handsome uniform, never felt a thing. Here I am scared. Here I have pissed myself. My legs collapsed, forced me to crawl to what’s left of the room, quivering, shut my eyes, plug my ears. Spat on by the blades of rain. Everything feels like it’s on the precipice, balancing, about to slide into the waves. It’s coming for me! Stop looking, shut my eyes.
Without my tally, I don’t know how long I cowered. I’m not ashamed, either. You would have died or done the same. The wolves had eaten, although they howled, it sounded satisfied not hungry. I heard and saw again. Water up to my screaming knees! I waded to the wall; you’ve not seen anything like it, because I haven’t. Watchtower snapped, a twig under my boot, lying on the rocks in pieces. Everything flooded as if the ocean had bowed to its own greed. I walk, soaked to the bone. Everyone is dead. I pull at some hair in the rubble. Bodies float, face down, the guards don’t look handsome in their uniform. Ask anyone.
0,001. That’s what it is now. First day of freedom, but I’m even more trapped. I found the kitchens; I’d not eaten for a week or so, I was as hungry as the wolves. I served myself, please and thank you for the doorstop bread. There’s a room where the guards played cards. They’re scattered now, I watched the Queen drown and wash away, but that’s my new wall. I still use my fingernail, even though I’ve found a blade. I wonder how long until they send them all.
I’ve found a gun. I’ll wait.