by  S.

[This is a repost of a story (with slight differences) I put on another list]
[Second in a series of four - Together, Alone, Quest, Paying the Debt]


Most people don't know what it truly is to be alone. They think of it as spending an hour or two without friends or relatives about, but that's only temporary. Alone is not seeing a human face for days on end. Alone is not hearing any voice but your own for endless weeks. Alone is talking, whispering, shouting just to make sure your ears can still hear and that your vocal cords still resonate. Alone is crying until your heart breaks and not one living soul gives a damn.

Scott Lancer was definitely alone.

Covered in grime and barely recognizable, the once-dapper young man sat in his allotted cell. The unbearable heat and stench made his plight even more miserable. Truthfully, he didn't even notice the smells anymore. In fact, there were times when he just lay there curled up, oblivious to everything.

Some days, usually when it rained, he would sit up so the drops of moisture could strike his face. If it were a hard rain, he would try to collect some of the precious liquid in his cup.

The blond hair was now quite long and itched due to the little varmints, which feasted on his thin body. Sometimes the scratching was almost unendurable. He would then scream his misery to an unseen force that would deliver relief in the form of soap and water--cold water in a drenching downpour to rinse off the soap. Scott was never sure why his jailer helped him in this manner. Perhaps it was some type of reverse torture. He didn't think about it too much. The soap and water did help for a while until new varmints would take up residence in his beard or hair or other more private areas of his body.

It was at one such time that he thought he might have seen his jailer. Unfortunately, soap-filled eyes did not focus well and the image was gone before he could rinse. It did give him hope.

Of course, he knew there was someone up there. The occasional offering of food and water made that clear. He had tried to stay awake to catch the jailer, but it was no good. His body would not allow him to stay awake for long periods. His body seemed to need to protect itself against reality by spending many hours in sleep.

At first he had hated the jailer--a pure white-hot hate. But now a curious apathy had set in. The elusive specter was his only contact with anyone--with anything. If the jailer disappeared, Scott would have nothing.

One day, weeks after his torment had commenced, the young man had tried to end his existence. He had sharpened the end of the spoon he ate with. The jagged gashes on his wrists bled freely, but when he awoke he had found them bandaged. Ripping off the bandages did no good as they were always replaced--unlike the spoon--he now ate with his fingers.

In the early time he had tied to keep track of the days, weeks months, seasons. Now he knew when it was winter only because a few errant snowflakes would invade his prison through the overhead grate. Seeing one of the delicate lace patterns floating down, he would remember sledding from dawn until dusk in the cold Boston weather.

Sometimes he imagined what it would be like to stand up straight and walk out that iron door. The trouble was that every time the door swung open, teasing him with the taste of freedom, the door would then slam shut just before he could take that step.

Really, he might as well take the risk. What was there to be afraid?

The jailer could only take away his life. Hadn't he already taken everything else long ago?

No, that wasn't quite true. He did have something remaining to him—a memory he valued much more than his own life. The only question was how long could a man alone survive on just a memory?

Then, just when he thought the answer was not much longer, a voice called down  through the grating, "This is for Johnny Madrid."



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