Sounds mingled in the distance impossible to interpret or distinguish in pitch, one
form the other, had the will to do so existed there. Sound had no relevance to the
Slowly consciousness crept over him like a shroud being pulled from foot to head; with
the coming of it the blackness changed to grey.
In stages he became aware of himself, that he existed. With this awareness came a dull
familiar fear that his mind knew but could not name. He opened his eyes and the light
assaulted him loudly. He closed his eyes but the light was still there, behind the lids.
He wondered where he was.
The sounds became voices, some very near, some farther away, others still father,
as though in a row. One of the nearer voices said, “He moved!” He opened his eyes again,
dreading the light but it was gone. There was semi-darkness.
As his eyes adjusted, at first it seemed as though the ceiling was only a foot or so
above his face. But looking around, moving only his eyes, he found himself to be
lying on a bottom bunk in a large jail cell.
The smell, the bars, the commode in the far corner all seemed familiar. Even the
four men sitting around the long metal table in the center of the cell, playing spades,
though he was sure he had never seen any of them before, seemed not to be strangers.
As he tried to remember how he had come to be there he realized with sudden
terra incognita, he didn’t know who he was. He desperately searched his memory but
found no name. He raise his hands so he could see them. They were dark, the knuckles swollen and bruised.
Suddenly a face, large with red eyes and a toothless mouth, hovered over him. A
harsh voice from somewhere behind it shouted, “Git away from him!” The face vanished.
As the thought of swinging out of the bunk onto the floor entered his mind a sharp pain
shot through his left hip. Slowly, with great effort, he swung around and pulled himself
to a sitting position. He raised his hands and looked at them. The blood on them was
old and crusted.
The spade players were about four feet away but no one looked at him. The toothless
face sat on a bunk across the cell watching him, till he looked in that direction, then the
bloodshot eyes darted quickly to the floor.
There was the sound of a heavy cart or wagon and shortly a guard was sliding trays of food through a slit in the bars to the spade players lined up. Reluctantly he fell in at the rear,
for he realized he was hungry. When he got to the bars he ask the guard, “Why am I here.
What did I do?” But the look of disgust the guard gave him was so genuine it caused
him to shrink away without getting a tray.
He limped back to the bunk and sat on it.
The spade players sat at the table eating silently.
The toothless face sat on his bunk across the cell, tray on knees, scoffing greedily.
no one looked at him either.
Somehow he knew it wasn’t safe to address anyone in the cell. He sat on his bunk all that
day trying to remember something about the past, his name… anything. The spade
players payed spades, the toothless face collected their discarded cigarette butts and stole
glances at him.
Once he thought of going over to the large steel mirror which was screwed to the wall near the commode, but decided against it when he moved and the pain in his hip gave him a choice.
At dark, as he lay on his back, wide awake, a hand touched him. He startled but a voice said, “Shhhhh!” He sat up slowly, the pain in his hip coming alive. It was the toothless face,” Got a ‘moke?” Someone in one of the other bunks stirred in their sleep. The face was gone.He lay back down.
After a time, how long he had no idea, he dozed. Suddenly he was wrenched awake
by the sound of dull thuds in rapid succession. He tried to move but he was held immobile.
A blanket had been thrown over him. The thuds were blows. He struggled silently, out
of instinct, for he felt no pain from the blows. Somewhere in the back of his mind he
welcomed the blows.
When he gain consciousness the smell told him he was in a hospital, though he could
not remember ever being in a hospital before. He sensed fear in the eyes that moved
about the white room, and he knew it was he that was the source of it, though he didn’t
know why. He became aware of the pain bathing his body; he escaped into unconsciousness.
When next he awoke he was lying on his back on a bunk in a small cell. alone. After a
time, to occupy himself, he stripped and counted the dots on his undershorts, multiplied by
ten, and rounded off to the nearest hundred. He found that he was very good at this,
though he couldn’t be sure of his accuracy, for he had neither pen or paper. Then
he masturbated till he put himself to sleep. He defended himself thus, from the minutes,
and hours, and days that were, indistinguishable one from the other as they melted into
At the end of a hallway on the other side of a large steel door a guard sits at a desk
nodding. The sound of footsteps arouse him. A man in a suite and tie walks up to the
desk extends a white sheet of paper and says, “This is a release for the prisoner in
“What?” asks the guard, taking the paper.
“Somebody else confessed,” replies the man in the suite and tie.
The guard gets up reluctantly, opens the steel door and starts down the hallway.
Before he reaches the cell, we see on the wall across form it, a shadow, suspended
from the ceiling, swinging peacefully.