Kadamba was back in his cell. He looked at the bruises on his legs and wondered if the ones on his back appeared as black and blue as these. While they had only kicked him for a minute or two, they had done some damage. The doctor at the prison clinic said that he was lucky that he didn’t suffer any broken bones or permanent injuries. However, he would be tender for a few days.
None of the guards carried any type of weapon in the playpen or in the cell buildings. Kadamba had seen that outside the playpen, guards carried assault rifles and sidearms, but wherever there were prisoners, weapons were not allowed. To manage them, each of the guards could electrically shock all prisoners within a small radius of the guard. The guards’ uniforms had controls integrated into them that sent a signal to the prisoners’ uniforms. If prisoners happened to be within the radius, they were shocked. That explained why Kadamba, the men beating him, and a couple of other nearby prisoners were all on the ground in the playpen.
Kadamba lay down and pulled the blanket over himself. Every part of his body hurt. The doctor had given him a mild sedative, and he quickly drifted into unconsciousness.
He realized that there was color all around him – trees, grass, and shrubs. He was all alone on Schmarlo’s Landing. Again, it was totally silent. Kadamba looked for the bruises and the branding; they were gone. Time seemed to slowly crawl as he walked around. There was no one near the food vendors and no food either, just the carts and kiosks.
Then he heard the sound again – a child sniffling or coughing. He couldn’t place from where the sound emanated, but he began jogging, then running, desperate to find the child. Suddenly, he found himself in the playground. Only a few feet away was Alorus – standing, looking at Kadamba, with panic in his eyes. He was holding his throat as if he were choking. Foam slowly seep from the corners of his mouth.
Kadamba ran to him to try and help, but the moment that he reached the child, Alorus fell to the ground. Kadamba dropped to his knees, scared and unsure of what to do. He had to help. Panic and dread flooded through every vein in Kadamba’s body. He screamed, “HELP!” as loudly as he could, but no one came. He screamed again and looked around, hoping for someone, anyone, who could do anything. Then he looked down, and Alorus was gone.
Terror began to set in. He jumped up and ran all around the Landing, desperately trying to find the boy. He had to be there, somewhere. There had to be something that he could do to help the child. Suddenly, he thought that he heard him again, and Kadamba ran as fast as he could back to the playground.
Alorus was standing in the same place as before, looking at Kadamba with an expression of fear and helplessness on his face. This time, the foam pouring out of his mouth was tinted red with blood.
As Kadamba stepped towards Alorus, the boy collapsed to the ground. Kadamba screamed again for help, rushing to the boy. He dropped down and scooped Alorus into his arms. “Please stay with me! Please don’t die! I am so sorry. Please stay with me!” When Alorus looked up at him, his body began to convulse. Kadamba could see the fear and alarm in the boy’s eyes. “Please don’t go! Please don’t die!”
A buzzing sound ripped Kadamba back into consciousness. He was covered in sweat and breathing very hard. Ka realized that he was shaking and tried to control it but just couldn’t seem to get it to stop. Feeling his face, he wiped away the tears that were falling from his eyes. Alorus’ image was stuck in his mind. There was nothing he could do. Ka knew that he was the lowest of the low, the scum, and he began to think that all the bad things happening to him, and those about to happen, were all things that he deserved.
He pulled himself out of bed, showered, and when the buzzing sound began again, he stepped onto the walkway. All of the prisoners were coming out of their cells, heading to breakfast. He marched along with them, afraid at every step that he would again be knocked to the ground and beaten mercilessly.
For part of the morning, the prisoners were allowed to mill about the building. There were a few guards around, and Kadamba stayed close to one of them as he tried to learn his new world and attempting to keep the panic at bay. He wasn’t sure how he would survive. He did learn that there were more than just cells in the building. The bottom floor had a room with a monitor in it and places to sit and watch movies or news, or whatever was playing on the monitor. There was another room with old-fashioned paper books and places to sit and read.
A cold dread began moving across Ka’s mind. Looking around, he realized that no guards were anywhere near him. He felt a huge hand cover his eyes, as a massive arm wrapped around his throat quickly and tightly. He knew it was Jackos the Giant. He felt himself being picked up and carried somewhere. He wanted to scream but couldn’t get any air to come out of his lungs.
Within a few moments, the Giant’s grip loosened, and Ka dropped onto the floor. He opened his eyes to find that he was in another room. He knew that it had to be in the building, but he had no idea where he was. Scrambling to his feet, he saw that there were several other prisoners in the room with him, eyeing him with cruelty and hatred. Jackos was smiling viciously at him.
“You ready to start working off your debt, little flower?” asked the massive Jackos.
“No, not like this, I won’t. NO!” screamed Kadamba, not sure if he was panicking or getting angry. Jackos simply began to laugh. Kadamba knew that he wasn’t getting out of this, but he wasn’t ready to give up. “I’ll scream if you don’t let me out of here. I’ll scream so loud every guard in every building will hear me!”
“Little flower, you can scream, but ain’t no one coming to help you, even if they hear you,” explained Jackos, snickering.
Kadamba knew that the situation was hopeless. Adrenaline began flooding his system. He couldn’t run. There was nowhere to run. This room had a real door, not a force field, and the room was full of prisoners glaring at him and laughing at him. Instinct seemed to take over, and he felt his hand tighten into a fist as he began to swing at Jackos.
Everything moved in slow motion. One of Jackos’ enormous hands caught his fist before it got even close to landing. The Giant’s other massive hand quickly wrapped tightly around Kadamba’s throat, lifting him into the air. As hard as he could, Kadamba kicked a leg up and brought it back down as hard as he could, slamming his heel into Jackos’ thigh. Jackos barely grunted and then emitted a sarcastic, “Ouch.”
The hand that had grabbed Kadamba’s fist was now coming at Kadamba’s face. The pain was excruciating. Kadamba flew backward, landing on the ground. Jackos stood there, peering at him, as a wicked smile spread across his huge face.
“Training time, my little flower,” Jackos informed Kadamba and then looked around the room, “Okay, boys, time for him to start paying off his debt.”
Kadamba fought back, kicking and thrashing, as hard as he could, as the men attacked him. They managed to rip his prison uniform off, but he wouldn’t yield. The harder he fought, the harder they hit and kicked him. Eventually, they got the better of him, held him down, and subjected him to what they wanted. Ka was barely conscious when they were all done with him.
What happened next was almost more humiliating and degrading than the attack itself. The medical staff at the prison’s clinic was utterly devoid of any compassion. There was no acknowledgment that he had been victimized. He was treated as if he had been a willing participant in his own gang rape.
Back in his cell that evening, Kadamba was trembling. He couldn’t control it. His world was spinning even more out of control. A darkness was beginning to grip him, with icy claws. He could almost visualize the emotions that were working to overwhelm him. It was like standing alone in a dimly lit forest. The black mist of self-hatred, mixed with depression and anxiety, moved of its own accord through the trees, coming for him, trying to find its way to surround him. Each direction that he moved to avoid the blackness, allowed it to get closer, until finally, it overtook him, pushing itself into his lungs to stifle his breathing, blinding and burning his eyes, and wrapping him in a panic and pain that he simply couldn’t escape.
“Little Flower,” whispered a voice that he recognized and feared.
Kadamba opened his eyes to see Jackos the Giant’s enormous shape filling the opening of the doorway to his cell. His eyes peered into Kadamba, making him feel naked and exposed. “Go away!”
“You did good today, Little Flower,” Jackos asserted.
“Get away from me!”
“You and me, we partners … and you have a debt to pay,” the giant told him.
Kadamba pulled his knees to his chest, as he sat on the bed, alternating between glaring at Jackos and looking away in fear. Pulling his legs tight made many of the bruises hurt even more. The inside of his arms still burned from the branding. Jackos chuckled as he watched Kadamba struggle. He just stood there, staring with a wicked smile on his face. “Business was good today. You knocked seven Konnary off what you owe me. Heal up. I give you a few days. Next time, maybe you decide not to fight so much.”
“Fuck you,” replied Kadamba.
Jackos began to chuckle. “I’m not the one getting fucked.”
“I’m not an animal! You can’t do this!” cried Kadamba.
Jackos stepped into his cell and dropped to one knee in front of Kadamba. His eyes were full of malice and hatred. Before Kadamba could react, one of those huge hands caught Kadamba’s neck, twisting him and forcing his head to the mattress. Jackos brought his face close to Kadamba’s. The stench of his breath was rancid, and Kadamba could feel the air hitting his cheek each time Jackos exhaled. “If you was an animal, I’d treat you better.”
Long after Jackos left, Kadamba didn’t move. He just remained motionless, lying on the bed. The darkness began seeping back into his mind, pushing itself into the few corners that Kadamba tried to protect. He eventually stopped struggling. He deserved this. He probably wouldn’t make it long and figured the misery of his life was not going to stop. Even with the physical pain and darkness creeping through his mind, he could still feel one emotion more than any other – guilt. Here, in this prison, he would die, and then his soul would descend into an even worse hell. He deserved it all.
The lights in the prison went dim. Night had come, but Kadamba still barely moved. Eventually, he pulled the blanket over himself and curled into a ball. It hurt. Everything hurt. As the hours ticked on, sleep was not his friend.
The next day was a fog. He knew he was walking from place to place. The cafeteria. The Playpen. His cell. Nothing was real. The few bites of food he put into his mouth didn’t have any taste. The words people said to him didn’t make any sense. Reality was there, but it seemed just out of reach. As night came again, he waited. The darkness invaded deeper and deeper. He could feel it flow through his veins, invading every inch of his body.
His eyes were still open when the morning buzzer shrilled. The fog was deeper. Kadamba could see those around him, but they seemed to be far away as if he was peering down a tunnel. He knew that he had left his cell but didn’t know where he had gone. Or had he even left his cell? He looked at the bruises and branding. He knew that they hurt, but was it him that hurt, or merely a vision of him that hurt? He wasn’t sure, but it didn’t matter. Night came again.
Once again, Kadamba realized that there was color all around him. There were trees, grass, and shrubs. Was this reality? Was all this real? He was all alone again in Schmarlo’s Landing. He knew he had been here before. Where was the creeping darkness?
Suddenly, he heard the cry. He broke into a sprint and ran straight to the playground. Alorus was standing there, but there was no foam coming from his mouth. He just stared at Kadamba.
“Do you know what you did to me?” asked the boy.
Kadamba took a few steps towards the boy and fell to his knees, sobbing and trying to get the words to form.
“Why did you kill me, Ka?”
“I’m so sorry,” Kadamba cried out, “Please don’t die! Please stay with me. I am so sorry! Forgive me. Please, please forgive me.”
The child simply looked at Kadamba. He wasn’t saying anything, as a trickle of blood began flowing from his mouth.
“No!” Kadamba cried out, “Please no! Don’t die again. I’m sorry!” He dropped his face into his hands. He kept crying. His hands became wet from the tears that flowed. He begged for forgiveness again and looked up, but the boy was gone. He could feel the tears forming again and began to drop his face to his hands but stopped in horror. His hands were covered in blood.
The shrill morning buzzer ripped him back to consciousness in his cell. He was shaking again. A guard was standing in the doorway. “You have to come out of your cell today. You have to eat.”
Kadamba followed him to the cafeteria and managed to eat a little bit. It was flavorless, but he ate anyway. The guard walked him back to the open, three-level area that served as a common area and put Kadamba in a chair.
Kadamba looked at the cells. He looked at the men. He knew he was alive but wondered if this wasn’t actually hell. His body hurt, but he ignored the physical pain. It hurt more inside, deep inside. He couldn’t take it. He looked at his hands again. He wasn’t sure, but maybe there were bloodstains on them. He looked up, and not that far away stood the Giant. A strange clarity came into Kadamba’s mind. It was like he was having a vision. Jackos was holding him high above his head, like a weightlifter who had snatched up a heavy barbell. Rage was painted across the Giant’s face, and he yelled as he forcefully pulled the body of Kadamba from its height, dropping one of his knees out to slam into Kadamba’s body.
Kadamba understood the vision. Jackos was here to help him end his own misery. Jackos could take his life, with almost no effort. He was a beast. He was a monster. All Kadamba had to do was to enrage the beast, and then he could die. It would all be over soon.
He felt himself come out of the chair and break into a sprint. The Giant’s back was turned. Kadamba focused on the small of his back, leaping into the air, and landing both feet as hard as he could into Jackos’ spine. Jackos fell forward, stumbling to keep his feet. He bellowed a mighty roar into the air, as he spun around, his eyes on fire with rage and hate.
Kadamba bounced back onto his feet and charged at the beast, diving to tackle him as hard as he could. He stopped in midair, as the Giant simply caught him with one hand on his shoulder and one around his neck. With every ounce of strength that he had, Kadamba pulled both legs upward and struck out as hard as he could into Jackos’ groin. The beast bellowed again as pain washed across his face, but was rapidly followed by a rage Kadamba had never seen. Suddenly he found himself above Jackos. His vision was true. Jackos would break him across his knee, and everything would be over.
The air went rushing past Kadamba’s face, but he wasn’t moving downward. As his body spun through the air, he realized that Jackos had thrown him. He saw the chairs stacked like dominos against the wall, where he knew was going to hit. The stack erupted and scattered as Kadamba slammed into them.
Jackos took two steps toward Kadamba but fell to the floor before reaching him. Jackos and the men around him convulsed and shook on the floor as the current flowed through them. Current flowed through Kadamba too, but he didn’t feel it. He didn’t feel a thing.
• • •
|Chapter 11||Chapter 13|