8 months ago all the DWWP writers posted based on a wiring exercise. We were given a title and then we had to write the first and last page of that book. I published mine as a short story and was floored by the response. The title was “I Know Why the Caged Girl Screams.” I now offer you the second installment, in this series of short stories. Fair warning, to get the most out of this story you may need to read the first “Caged Girl,” provided in the link above. Enjoy.
Time is not constant. Even in this world, we measure time in standard units; minutes, days, weeks, yet we all feel time drag or race based on our activities. Time is not constant scientifically, either. Time passes differently on earth and in space. Time may not even exist in a black hole. Time is relative to where one is standing. Time is reflected in the gravity of ones situation.
Weeks passed before she moved again. Weeks or hours or minutes. It felt like weeks, but how could she tell. She lay on the floor as still as the grimy black water pooled on the floor next to her. Her thousand-yard-stare fixed on the dusty bream of light coming through the wall three feet from her. How could have she been so stupid to believe the light lead to hope.
He imposed darkness upon her, which any human soul valiantly attempts to resist, but he also imposed his will on her light. Without control of ones own light the soul crumbles and fails. He took all of her and left her in a barren room with a thick layer of filth on every surface, and her soul mirrored her surroundings.
By now, she could remain thoughtless in a blank stare for hours. Some call a state like this, nirvana, however the positive connotation does not fit in this context. Her mindless stare broke when she saw the tiny body of an ant crawling through the hole in the wall. Her instinct was to warn the ant about the perils of her cell but then she realized that the ant could fit through the hole and thus was not a prisoner like her. She watched as it freely, willfully, and possibly even joyfully joined her in the cell. The ant had no reason to fear because it possessed the capacity to leave. In or out, either direction could be an escape for the ant.
With this thought, epiphany struck. She realized she simply limited her conception of escape. She only imagined escape as outward. For the first time she realized escape could also be achieved inward. Although conceptually different, she could still escape her situation, not by getting out of her cell but by ending her existence in it.
The slot in the door opened and plate of food slid across the black slime of the floor and hit her in the lower back. She rolled over and saw the tin plate covered in mush. Her solution. It was so simple now. If she simply refused to eat, it couldn’t take long for her malnourished body to fail. A hunger strike to liberate her soul from the tyranny of his will.
When her hunger strike began, his visits stopped. The only thing that broke up per day, or week, or month was a plate of food sliding into the room. She assumed it was a daily routine but she had no other reference to mark the time. By the number of food filled plates collecting in the corner, she estimated she hadn’t eaten in four days.
Curled in her normal position, a plate struck her back. It didn’t carry the same mass as most of the plates. She figured he accepted her fate and decided to waste less mush on her. Aside from the singular thought, she did not react. A second tray slid into the room, but this time she was almost certain only a few minutes had passed. Then a third.
She didn’t know why she rolled over to examine the trays but she did. Maybe it was the incredible power of continuous monotony. Maybe it was the power of the human spirit to notice a change in patterns. Or maybe, he was just that good. When she examined the food she wished she had kept her eyes on the beam of light through the hole in the wall reminding her that she had no control.
The third plate carried the least mush. She could see the bottom of the tin plate but it did not have the same scuffed grey color as the rest of the dish, she saw the color blonde. The snowball of her interest had already started rolling and she couldn’t stop herself. She grabbed the plate with the little strength she had and dumped the contents on the floor revealing a picture crudely pasted to the tin. Feverishly she began dumping the contents of every plate from first to last.
She found a picture at the bottom of each tin. And her brain was off and running but due to the malnutrition it felt like running through a swamp in waders. She could not yet make sense of what she was seeing.
A street lined with parked cars and trees.
A house with a red door and tire swing hanging from an oak tree.
A hallway with a configuration of framed pictures on the wall in a long arc.
And then three pictures of the most beautiful little blonde thing she had ever seen. Three different pictures of her hair arranged in a crown around her head as she slept. Each one closer to the subject than the previous.
In an instant, it all made sense to her. The series of pictures, the time stamp on each one, one picture per day. Closer and closer. One picture per meal. She knew the house. She knew the girl.
It was a threat.
And just then with mush and overturned tins littering the floor around her, the slot opened and one more tin slid across the floor to her feet.
This time she let out a low wail, instead of a high scream. This would please him. She crumbled to the floor and began to eat. She never heard the threat but it was now loud and clear. Keep eating this or your sister runs out of time.