THE CAPTIVE

I heard her scratching again.

She’d been at it for weeks – dragging her fingernails against the cold stone walls of her cell. But her cries were like music to me. I slunk into the adjacent cell, pressed my ear against the cold wall – just to hear her better. When she let out a long, sorrowful moan. I giggled. It was all entertaining, really. They’ve all cried. They’ve all pleadedIn the end, they either got with the program, or they were gone. My rules were simple. The alarm from of my watch sounded its jingling chime, which invited more screaming from the captive.

I turned off my alarm, left the adjacent cell. When I walked out, she grasped the metal bars of her cell window. I moved to the long table. Picked up a can of tuna. I could feel her staring at me as I opened it as slowly as possible. After the can was open, I dumped the contents onto a paper plate, threw a few crackers on top. I put the plate on a plastic tray, along with a water bottle then carried it to the cell door. My captive licked her lips as I opened the slot under the window and slid the tray inside. She snatched the tray from my hands, shoved her face into the plate of food. It was a disgusting sight, but at least she was finally quiet.

The food I give them is never enough to keep their hunger sated. It’s only enough to survive on. One can of tuna per day, three crackers, two bottles of water. That’s all they get from me. In exchange, I expect them to behave. They may cry and scream – and beg, all that doesn’t bother me. It’s the ones that lash out, bite the hand that feeds them, hurt the only person trying to help them – those captives leave quickly. Most of my captives last about a month before I free them. Then, there’s always another willing to take their place.

Patiently, I waited outside the cell until my captive finished her food and gulped down the bottled water. Then I instructed her to push the tray back through the slot. Once I received the tray, I scraped the trash into a nearby waste basket, then returned the tray to the table, next to where I had rows of tuna-cans and boxes of crackers neatly stacked. After I returned the tray to the table, I was surprised when I turned and found her still grasping the bars, licking her lips.

“What?” I asked.

“More,” she said. It came out raspy, and weak – just like she was.

I raised my eyebrows.

“More?”

She didn’t respond, just continued to lick her lips and stare at the food. I turned back to the table, pulled a cracker from its box, held it out to her.

“More?” I said.

“Please!” she said.

I smiled, shoved the cracker into my mouth. She screamed, pulled at the bars, and banged against the door as I chewed that vile, dry thing.

She left the window in a spray of tears and snot.  I heard her flop down on her cot. I returned to my usual place at my desk, picked up my notebook. I’d been keeping a diary of my adventures with my captives – all the funny things that they’ve said and done. One even offered me sex. That specific captive wasn’t the best behaved I’ve had – but she wasn’t the worst either.

A few hours later, while deep in the throes of writing, my alarm sounded again. The Captive heard it too, and magically appeared at the window of her cell. I sighed, set down my notebook, grabbed a bottle of water from the table. The Captive took a step back when I opened the slot and slid the through. Then, when she reached for the water, she overshot it, snatched my wrist instead. Before I could react, she had both hands wrapped around my wrist, pulling my arm through the slot. I struggled to get free, but when the pit of my arm slammed against the slot, I knew she had me. I stopped struggling immediately. She would’ve broken my arm if I didn’t. I peered through the cell window; saw she’d propped her foot against the door. I cursed out loud.

“Shit!”

The look on her face scared me. Her eyes gleamed with insanity. Her tongue poked out the side of her mouth.

“You don’t want to do this,” I said.

“Open the door or I’ll rip it off!” She screamed. “I’ll fucking tear it right off, asshole!”

To validate her threat, she pulled my arm to the right. My shoulder popped in its socket.

“Okay…okay…okay!” I shouted.

She relaxed my arm a bit, but just enough so I could unlock the cell door. I put my fingers around the edges of the lock, then paused.

“You know what this means, right?” I said.

“Yes!” She said.  “It means you’re done with me. And you know what?” She twisted my arm again. “I don’t care, you fucking piece of shit!”

I yelped out loud from the pain. Struggled to unlatch the door, pulled it open. The captive kept hold of my arm, swung me around until I was caught between the door and the outer wall of the cell. She didn’t release my arm right away though, and I began to worry that she’d decided to break it.

“I’m not going back in there,” she said, twisting my arm a bit, just to make her point clear.

“No,” I screamed. Fire danced down the backside of my shoulder and kissed my spine.  “We’re…we’re done!”

“Good.” She said. Then, she released my arm, stepped back from the door. I pulled my sore, tender arm out of the slot. Rubbed my sore shoulder. Then I stood, took a step towards her. She shuddered – scared out of her mind. She looked as if she were about to bolt. I held up my hands.

“Whoa,” I said. I’m on your side; remember? Don’t forget why you’re here. I nodded towards the scale by the stairwell. “Besides; aren’t you curious?”

She looked from me, to the scale. Then slowly limped to it – stepped onto the cold platform. The needle spun, landed half-way between 115 and 116 pounds. When she saw her weight, my prior Captive pressed her forehead against the wall, banged it a few times, then began to sob.

“Wow!” I shouted.  “That’s fucking great! You’ve lost another twenty-two pounds just since last week!”

“I should’ve stayed another week,” she said.  “I would’ve dropped below a hundred.”

She stepped down from the scale, began limping to the staircase. I grabbed her arm gently, pointed to the food table.

“You should eat something before you leave.” I said.

“Thanks,” she said, pulling her arm away from me like I had fungus-fingers or something. “But I’ll be fine.”

She grabbed hold of the handrail, stepped onto the first step. Then she paused again, looked back at me.

“I have a friend,” she said.

“Say no more,” I said, smiling. Just send her over. If she comes in the next two days, I’ll give her half off.”

She gave me a weak little smile of her own.

“It’s a him,” she said. Then she continued up the stairs and out of my life. I really hope she made it home okay.

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