Out of the Cell pt. 2

October 25, 2017

Out of the cell part 2


     The days were nearly sweltering after spending so long in a dark cave, and there were moments where I could feel my heart beating so fervently in my chest it almost brought me to the ground, but the nights were unbearable.


     Somewhere between seven and eight in the evening, the sun would set and we knew the temperature would drop soon because the birds, the squirrels, and even the bugs would hide away in warm crevices we never managed to find. It was a three days’ walk that somehow stretched to six, and every sound caused a riot in my stomach. Sometimes it ended in whatever I managed to eat that day being lost on the ground. I feared nothing more than being brought back to the prison, not when they needed me. Not when my father and sister may very well be starved to death in our lonely house.


     It’s not like they would be waiting for me, though. Not when I was given life in prison.


     Eli was given three life sentences. One for each life he took that day.


     After so many nights together scavenging for food – more like rotted berries and whatever dead animal we managed to find, wash, and heat – and shivering next to fires together, we hadn’t grown any closer. His name was all I found out about him, and all I really cared to find out.


     He was odd. His gait and the way he held himself, it was like he had some manner of arrogance to uphold, but he wasn’t quite sure why. He was handsome as well, behind his growing beard. They shaved the men a month ago, head and face, but his hair was already shaggy and his face scruffy. In another life, I would have envisioned myself with him, getting married and having six children. But this wasn’t another life and I had my father and sister and he was a murderer and I was a murderer and some things can never change.


     Then one night I woke with a shuddering breath, the stars still bright between tree branches. Eli was still sitting next to the fire with his back to me and his shoulders shaking. “Eli?”


     “Go back to sleep,” he said. I had never heard him speak so forcefully, not since we left the cells.


     I moved as soundless as possible to put my hand on his shoulder, wincing at what I imagined he might do. When he didn’t shrug it away, I inched closer. I often thought of what he told me in the cells, about staying for me and keeping me safe. I wasn’t scared of him like I knew I should have been, like I would’ve been if this were yet another life.


     “I’ve killed four men now,” he whispered. “She won’t even want to see me. I bet she’ll scream and cry when she sees me because I’ll be a monster to her now. She saw all of it, she saw me kill them.


     “I’m a monster.”


     I have seen people broken and on the verge of ending everything they have ever worked for, I have seen people stare out a single window for months, only rising to use the restroom and sometimes not even then. This was a different kind of heartache that I have never witnessed – this was the loss of someone who never even left. I have only seen loss of those who left this Earth.


     “You’re not that,” was all I could say.


     “No, you didn’t see her cry and shake when I touched her – tried to. I tried to carry her home, but she just ran. And then they took me away. I don’t even know if she made it home.”


     “You were protecting her, I’m sure she’ll forgive you. She’s probably…”


     “We live in our old abandoned house with no money, Jane. We don’t have parents. Elora was only nine, and how could I expect her to wait for me to find a way out when I had three life sentences. She would be fourteen - she probably has her own family by now. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself the last five years.”


     He glanced at me then, his eyes rimmed with red under his bushy eyebrows. My heart stung for an instant.


     “Goodnight,” he said before turning on his side and drifting asleep as his shoulders still shook.


     I put out the fire before lying down as well. Knowing my own sister was tucked away in a small farm-house with my father was the only thing that let me sleep at night. Knowing that they were both there, needing me, kept me breathing.



. . . .



I thought the stars were the most beautiful thing I could’ve seen when we left the cells, but nothing compared to the sight of my village as we strode up the hill. I wanted to run. They were just on the opposite side of town and down the road.


     Eli yanked my arm, pulling me out of my quickening stride. “What are you doing?”


     “I’m trying to go home!” I ripped my arm from his grip, but he stood firm.


     “You’re a murderer, Jane,” Eli seethed under his breath. My heart clogged my throat. “You can’t just walk around town like nothing happened.”


     I knew that. It was stupid, and stupid would send me straight back to my cell - or worse at this point. Especially with who I killed. I’m surprised they didn’t have my head on the block the instant they caught me. I committed pure treason.


     “Come here.”


     With nothing except the sound of our boots, we descended. The overgrown brush masked our blackened skin, and the shade of the trees led us right to the edge of town.


     Then an arrow lodged in the tree next to me.


     In a single breath, Eli had gripped my arm and pulled me down into a bush with him. My face dragged against the twigs and rocks. His hand slapped down on top of my head and held my mouth closed. Grunts of pain leaked from my lips and he pushed my face harder into the dirt.


     Then the forest hushed with the whiz of another arrow.


     Closer.


     Stomping footsteps now and snapping branches.


     My chest was empty, and I could feel the blood draining from my veins. “Dammit,” Eli cursed under his breath.


     “Damn deer,” hollered a man’s voice with a thick village accent.


     Eli seethed under his breath as he clenched his hand around my face. I twisted my head just barely enough under his grasp to see the red streak and grow down the side of his shirt where the arrow had grazed him.


     Then the footsteps retreated, but Eli never slackened. I could feel the dirt smearing into my cuts and the splashing of a hot tear on the ridge of my nose. Squeaky whimpers escaped me as my body shook. Burning seared in my chest and throat.


     “Are you ok?” I croaked.


     Eli pulled me against him, and the blood dripped down my cheek as my head lifted from the ground. He groaned with the effort, but refused to let me go. “Just a hunter,” he whispered, maybe more to himself than me. “Just a hunter.”


     When the footsteps had long disappeared, and the sun rose higher, we marched. Every snap of every twig and every crunch of dirt sent sparks through my skin. Guards filled my vision every time I turned around, but it was always a deer and its young or a squirrel gathering nuts. My sister. She was there with my father, in need of me, possibly starving and so skinny she cannot draw a breath.


     “Don’t speak,” said Eli.


     I shuddered out of my thoughts as I peered up at the rotten door attached to the sloping brick building standing before me. Mold grew between each crack, making the red walls almost green – it was familiar. My father had told me to stay away from here, from the woman inside. This is the building my mother had gone to birth my sister, and is the last place she saw on this world.


     Three knocks rasped on the door before it creaked open and Eli slid into the dark inside.


     “Darling,” drawled the woman from inside. I shivered.


     Eli’s voice came out in deep mumbles as I waited in anticipation, every other second checking over my shoulder for the approach of the hunter looking for a bounty, or worse.


     As I looked back at the woods that seemed to crawl closer every minute, a gust of wind blew the door open and heaved me to my stomach on the ragged wood floor. Her stare weighed on me.


     “Now, who is this?”

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2 comments

  1. Your writing is fantastic. I love the vivid imagery and the flow of it. I can’t wait to read the rest.

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  2. Thank you so much! That really means a lot to me, and if you could see how wide my smile is right now you would probably laugh lol <3

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