Why oh why did they leave a clock in here.

Tick tick tick tick tick…

This thought owns a place in my head and it will not pick up and leave the corridors of my mind. No, it stays to taunt me with the fact that, though I wish it to be otherwise, the placement of their goddamn clock will never go above the stairs to where freedom lies. Wouldn't that be fitting though? To have time sit in freedom's arms? Or ironic really. Yes, it would be ironic; that is why they keep the clock down here—time is just another prisoner.

Time is a prisoner that sits alongside me in this dark dampness that refuses to dry. Time is a prisoner that will not reveal itself, won't even make itself useful.

If they insist on keeping that godforsaken clock down here for me to listen to relentlessly, why not let me see it just so I could tell what time of day it is? Well, my thoughts whisper. Why would they go and do that? No fraternizing with the other prisoners; you might find a way to escape. This thought makes no sense but I let it comfort me regardless. A way to escape. Escape if only I could see that damn clock.

I hear above me—hear over the drip drip dripping of a leaky pipe and scuttling of fat rats over in the corners—the stomps of heavy army boots on wooden slate floors, a pause at the top of the stairs (stairs to freedom) and the turn of a key clicking the lock free. Light is emitted from the top of those stairs, mocking me with how close and yet so far they are from my reach. I absentmindedly try to stand from my eternal sitting position on the floor, foot chained to the pillar against my back, only to find (rediscover?) that I cannot move. I close my eyes, defeated, and wait for whatever it is they're down here for this time.

His voice suddenly comes up right next to my ear, making me gasp. I was so caught up in my misery of ensnarement that I didn't hear him walk down the stairs. Strange really, considering the army boots he never seems to take off. "Chow time," is what he has spoken, so close in my ear that I can tell what he ate for his own meal—take out Chinese. I highly doubt if my own meal is as mouthwatering and my doubts are confirmed when he places yet another serving of stale bread, old applesauce and tap water at my feet. "Enjoy." His daily taunt. He knows that I cannot enjoy anything anymore.

He robbed me of that the day he robbed me of my life.

I watch him climb the stairs again, hopelessly wishing that, somehow, he misses a step, loses his balance, and falls down the stairs, breaking his neck and causing the key he perpetually keeps in his oversized pocket to clamber out and fall at the tips of my fingers, finally granting me release.

It is no use, and I have learned that long ago, but there's no hurt in wishing.

How long ago it was that I learned is the question that eats away at me, maggots in the rotting fruits of my being. That is the core meaning to my hatred of the clock. The clock is another way to taunt me, I am sure; it is there to show me that time goes by and by, never truly ending and life has gone on without me, has gone on even though I don't know how much I've missed. The ultimate display of cruelty: the doubt. How old am I now? I believe I was twelve when I first felt those hands on me, but the blackness I now see before me—always blackness, in waves and rushes, gushes of blackness—has fogged the visions of my former life. What color are my eyes? Black it seems, just black for surely another color down here would find some way to live. Have I grown at all? Last I had checked on the wall of our kitchen (what does a kitchen look like?) I was about six inches over four feet. These questions are quite pointless though, for I am myself and I am still here, still alive though this barely counts as living. No, the questions that must be answered about the Before are the questions that scare me. Scare me not because of what I must ask but because I am unsure of the answers.

Scary questions, if only because the answer I fear is sure to be the truth. I don't want to think about those questions. Another time, I tell myself (just as I always do), another few thousand ticks of clock and I will ask and seek the answers. For now, I realize I have forgotten about my foot. My hand reaches halfheartedly into the darkness, fingering the cold concrete floors for the tray that holds my nutrition for the day. Eventually, I touch the gritty plastic, the kind of tray I would have found in the middle school should I had actually gotten to attend. Gratefully, I eat the applesauce first, letting the coolness and wetness and realness of it dribble down my chin as I aim to get most of it in my maw. It feels good on my dry mouth which is why I have eaten it first. The stale bread will come next, depriving me of the moistness again, which I then replenish with the vile water—water that I have come to view as the elixir of life for the way I would not be so full of (as much) vitality that I am now.

Although, this is something that I have become very adept at hiding. I appear weak and mousy whenever one of them comes down the stairs— for even though it goes against what everyone tells you to do if you get kidnapped—I know that I should not appear as if I can fight them. I need to stay quiet, stay small and unassuming so that, if they believe I do not pose a threat, they will make a mistake, just one small mistake that will cause an opening to appear, an opening I can use to escape. It's a long shot, but that doesn't mean it can't happen.

I'm banking on it.

The meal is gone now, dissolving in the anxious fluids of my stomach and large intestine. Somewhere to the left of me, always to the left and unattainable and unable to be reached by the prospect of lights streaming from the doorway on top of the stairs, sits that clock, my fellow prisoner, their inside torture expert, my alley and my greatest enemy.

Tick tick tick.

Always going, but how much longer can I?