Andrew Maunder

Jail

by Andrew Maunder

I'm a fairly tolerant person.I don't go looking for trouble and I tend to keep my opinions to myself. Some regard me as a complicated sort but I dispute that, for on most topics my principles are clear and my manner straightforward. I cannot fathom therefore, what it was that has brought me to this place and why I only have my thoughts for company. I want to leave and get back to my life, to my aspirations, to the world that should be my oyster. I hate feeling so detached, remote and alone. The flavour of blandness is all around me here. There is no colour, just graduated shades of grey and even my meals have a repetitive, soggy and wholly tasteless consistency that I can only imagine would compare to chewing wet cardboard. I have no fresh air to breathe and the constant humidity provided by the slit-like air-conditioning vents set high in the wall leaves my body permanently covered in a greasy film whose sheen neither constant washing nor wiping will remove.
In contrast, the light is so hard and penetrating; I imagine its relentless glare pricking at my exposed flesh, stinging me with its vibrant tentacles, scorching my very soul. I huddle beneath my sheet but there is no escape - until the solitude of darkness that renders my space as lonely as a tomb! Then my inner fears awake to control and taunt me, invading my remaining senses with sounds and smells that prevent any possibility of undisturbed slumber, not least the pungent odour of detergent which I find reminiscent of vomit.

I yearn for sweet things, for music, for moving images. This monotony is forcing my mind to fold in on itself and I wonder how long before, like a sheet of paper, it cannot fold in half any further and I am left with a brain so condensed it will barely be able to support my eyelids, let alone a normal existence! I am getting angry! I can feel it rising from the pit of my stomach and soon it will explode from me in a frenzy of self-hatred and cold fury. I mustn't let it happen again, I mustn't! I wonder what the time is?  I have no idea; my life is governed not by hours and minutes but light and dark, forced upon me regardless my mood or need to sleep. I've not seen the Sun or Moon for days, weeks, years... how would I know anyway?

It's no good, try as I might, I'm still getting angry. It's so unfair!

It wasn't my fault, none of this was. I know others would disagree but then only I am beholding of the full facts so I don't expect anyone to understand. It was as though I were being suppressed, my body taken over by some external force that exuded a power far greater than I could defend. The pain was incredible, a torment of pure agony. A boiling torrent of molten rage that coursed through my veins, anger so great, crimson mists clouding my vision, an evil that burned my heart to a smouldering husk. It had seemed an eternity, but was over in seconds, the fury abated, the demons gone. There are rules to obey but they were broken, shattered the instant steel met flesh, gouging an ugly tear through tissue and bone, carving my place in the annals of history. It would never have happened but for the provocation, extreme as it was. I was humiliated, ridiculed, insulted.

They say I went too far. They called me appalling names; hideous, despicable, loathsome. I replied it was justice! A rightful revenge! I expected cheers, a wave of support but received silence, stony and cold. My body re-ignited and I cursed the hypocrites about me, expressionless and pale they were as my tongue lashed at their bloated self-righteousness. I was weakened, exhausted, a sleep through eternity almost welcome. I knew it was coming, the inevitable! Hell! I'd been amongst the millions voting for its return though I never once thought I'd be adding myself to the executioners tally. I want it to be over, for the sleep to begin. My existence is futile, my life so hollow as to rattle, I can feel the electric shaking my bones, my eyes revolving, my hair alight! I hear myself scream, a muted gurgle rising to a wailing crescendo, then abrupt silence, darkness!

I'm floating, gasping for air, clawing my throat, retching my guts. Its hot, I'm soaked in perspiration. My chest is heaving but slowly subsiding, my eyes adjusting, my fingers relaxing. Familiar shadows bring relief and the luminous glow, an instant recognition! The digital read-out says a quarter past four and I breathe in deeply, tasting the air as a connoisseur would savour a fine wine, rejoicing in my freedom, luxuriating in the soft sheets that embrace me. A dream, that's all! Just an awful nightmare! A seemingly distant memory is still tugging at my thoughts but I pinch myself and it hurts so I laugh aloud, intoxicated by my own delirium, overjoyed to be awake, alive and liberated!

I banish the bad thought, satisfied to have expelled it from my mind forever. It's still dark and upon awakening my mouth is dry, a condition bred from restless sleep no doubt! I arise and stretch, my body arching as my muscles tense. The Bathroom is my obvious choice, to cup my hands and collect a stream of cold water. I reject the notion, I don't know why. I need something stronger perhaps? I'm annoyed. That bad thought is still lurking, creeping about in the outer recesses of my brain, looking for a way in! I've ignored its existence, denied it a hearing, rejected the prospect of remembering but its still there, nagging and aggravating my nerve endings, determined to be heard. Once again I push it aside but it already has a hold of me. I walk past the Bathroom, I would have made do with water! Its gaining strength, making me fight. I want to forget that badness, that nightmare. Its over, I'm awake, I'm free, I'm in control. I've reached the bottom stair, only the hall and a door that separates me from the Kitchen. I think of a Coke, straight from the fridge, slipping down my throat with the burn that only those sugary bubbles can produce.

I know already what I really want, for the nightmare to be over, yet its only just beginning! I turn the handle and the door swings inwards. The room is as I left it just a few, short hours ago. The table and chairs, the formica work-top, the enamel sink. And he is just as I left him, his round doughy face staring directly at me, staring but sightless, his arms outstretched over the table, chin resting in a pool of blood that has congealed and gone dark as night. I look about the unusually dishevelled room - I normally like everything to be just so. I see the stacked pans (scrubbed religiously after every meal), the little display shelf with the posy of Silk flowers and the knife rack by the cooker with one empty slot. It upsets me to see the empty slot. There is a place for everything and everything should be in its place.I look again at my dead husband, at the missing knife sticking proudly out of his back between the shoulder blades and realise everything, for the first time in a long while, is exactly where I want it.