Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Imprisonment By Scarlett Belladonna

It’s been so long inside this tiny space. It’s been so long that I forget the taste of my favorite food, so long that I forget the feel of a comforting hand, so long that I begin to think I imagined a home and a family.

Was my life always within these narrow confines? I shout at the dawn, as it trickles through the courtyard. I shout when other prisoners come in or go out; when guards and visitors look at us or push a bowl of food under the door. I don’t know why I shout any more.

Once I shouted for freedom; for the taste of a winter morning on the tongue, sharp and crackling.

Once I shouted for love and belonging; for the gentle hand and kind eye, for someone who cared to find me.

Once I shouted for revenge; for the bleeding hand of the man who stole me away, the torn throats of those who imprisoned me.

I don’t know why I shout any more. I turn around, stand up, lie down. I dream.

Sunlight turning everything gold, thick with motes of dust and the haze of summer. Her face next to mine, curls of hair like sunbleached grass framing a smile warmer than the sun. She tickled me under the chin with a feather and I pretended to be offended. Her eyes went wide, the colour of storm-swept skies. “I won’t ever leave you” she whispered. Was she real?

I sink back into the dream. If this isn’t real, then it is better than the ugly ghosts that come at night, promising red pain. Cornered in a pit fighting for my life, for my freedom. His eyes glare into mine and I feel the hot burning blood pour out over my shoulder. Was it real? Did I really fight? I flex, and feel the scar along my shoulder twist. This, I didn’t dream.

We shout, us prisoners. I don’t know why I shout any more. A man rattles the gate, opens up the courtyard. He has a visitor, a woman. Sometimes after these visits a prisoner goes - we never see them again. Sometimes they take them then and there, crying out. Other times it’s a day or two later.

They come to me. The woman bends down, her face coming closer to the bars. She smells of soap and bottled flowers, and the curls of hair escaping her hat are pale gold, like bleached grasses. She smells familiar, but was it just a dream? I don’t shout this time. I walk closer, and she hold her hand out to me through the bars. The guard starts to protest, but she shushes him. I hesitate… do I trust her? I rest my nose on her hand, and her face breaks into an old familiar smile. “It’s him! It’s our dog, our Charlie. At last! I knew I’d find him.” Tears slide down her nose, and I lick her hand. It tastes like memories.

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