In the dark, I listened for any sign that I wasn’t alone. “Come on, give me a raspy breath or a wheezing cough. Anything to let me know I’m not alone in this dump.” There is no sound in the dark. I am all alone, the only company in this tiny cage are my thoughts. “Yeah, let’s not go there tonight.” My vision gradually cleared enough for me to make out different parts of my new home. There is nothing in my cell but me.
I strained my ears hoping against hope that a sound would be made. Fear crept into my heart as I realized, I may have stepped into something I wouldn’t be able to scrape off. To keep from freaking out, I focused on my breathing technique. Breathe in, breathe out. Taking small breathes to keep my heart rate steady, I began to feel a bit better. “At least I’m not chained to the wall.” In the distance, I glanced a solitary beam of light cut through the darkness.
“Help! I’m down here. Hey! Don’t leave me here!”
The beam of light was switched off and I am alone in the dark once again. The silence seemed to encroach on my presence. “I know someone was here. Why would they leave me here?” Hours passed, and still no sound is heard besides the thundering of my heart. I turned to my left and my shoulder collided with the wall. Shifting to the right, I collided with the wall again. “Fine, I’ll stand up and stretch.” I pushed myself to my full height and my head banged against the ceiling. My head and shoulders ached from their collision with the wall, so I shrunk down and leaned against the wall.
Another beam of light cut through the darkness. This time, I didn’t yell. I watched. The beam moved left and then right, up then down. “Someone is searching for something.” As the beam moved through the darkness, I listened for any sound which might give me an inkling of what is going on.
In the distance, I heard a cough. It’s faint, but it’s a cough. The soft hiss of an inhaler being used follows the cough. “Somebody has asthma.” The light shuts off and silence builds in the darkness. I dozed off to sleep. My head lolled to the right as eyes twitched in REM sleep. Suddenly, there was a loud bang. I leapt to my feet, only to nearly split my head open when I banged it off the ceiling. Pain caused me to shut my eyes and when I opened them the entire cell was flooded with light.
I threw my hands up to shield my eyes when the Muslim call to prayer crashed through loudspeakers placed around my cell. Blinded by intense light, my head ached as sound crashed through my ears and entered my brain. In the hellish light, I screamed.
Days passed or maybe it was hours before I recovered from the torment of being swallowed up by the light. Silence once again was my new norm. I laid on the floor, curled into a ball and prayed for death. My voice raw, in my heart I asked God to kill me.
“Please, I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this type of treatment. I can’t take it anymore.”
My thoughts turned to my wife and children. Jewel is a great spouse but in the dark, I realized that I could have been a better husband. There were plenty of times when I could have done more to show her how much I cared, but I couldn’t be bothered to make the extra effort. Work came first, the wife and kids came last. A lone tear slid down my cheek as I realized how little I did to make our marriage work.
Some parents make an effort to be at every ballgame and photo op. My children, all three of them, are honor roll students. Each one an academic all-star. My eldest child is an unequaled artist. She has created thousands, upon thousands of characters. Each one of her characters are designed by the power of her mind. My middle child, the only boy, is a science whiz. From the age of three, he walked around the house with my old Popular Mechanic magazines and a hard hat. Lastly, my youngest daughter is an MMA fighter and a child-prodigy in human anatomy. Currently, she is undefeated in the teenage bracket in our state. I’m proud of each one of them, but I couldn’t be bothered to be a good dad. Work called, and I answered the phone.
My realization of my failures was only compounded by my mistake. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The remembrance of it caused me to shiver.
“Jewel, I’m sorry.” My apology croaked out of a voice strained by screaming. The silence is broken by a switch being thrown. Darkness fled from the intense light which flooded my cell. Loudspeakers screeched Jewel’s voice as she screamed at me. My mind can’t take it, I screamed until I passed out from fatigue.
When I came to, I was chained to a wall. My tormentors sat in front of me, each one wore a mask. Donald Duck, Goofy, and Daisy waited for me to regain my senses. Donald came over and passed the smelling salt under my nose. I shook my head to clear it. The cobwebs lingered in my mind, but I batted my eyes and tried to clear my vision.
Daisy brought a glass of water over to me. With one hand she tilted my head back and with the other she let me gulp water like a thirsty dog. She dropped my head and walked back to her seat. Goofy walked over and patted my head, as to say, “good dog.” My head was heavy, and it descended toward my chest, only to be driven back by the uppercut. The teeth in my mouth clanged together and blood flew from my busted lips. A right to my ribs was followed by a heel kick to the solar plexus. My legs crumbled as my beating continued.
Donald stopped Goofy from killing me. Bloody, beaten and broken, I waited for death to take me. My tormentors removed their masks. I stared into the faces of my children. Shocked, I slumped to the ground.
“Hello, daddy. Do you know what the significance of today is?”
“Well, don’t keep us waiting. Enlighten us.”
“Your mom killed herself ten years ago, today.”
“And why did mom kill herself? Was she depressed?”
My youngest child grabbed me by my sideburns and snatched them downward. My eyes flooded with tears.
“You what, daddy? Did you tell her you were going to divorce her? Were you going to take us away from her?”
“I slept with her sister. She waited until I got home to confront me, and then she took her own life.”
“That’s right, daddy. She killed herself in the kitchen and what did you do? You sent us off to boarding school so you wouldn’t have to parent us anymore.”
Somewhere in all the pain, I broke. I sobbed and wailed at my missed opportunities to be a better man. My children watched dispassionately as I succumbed to the horror of my decisions.
The children gathered around me and I looked up at them with fear in my eyes.
“It’s okay, dad. We aren’t going to kill you. Instead, we are going to leave you here to think about what you have done to your family. While you sit here and think, you can watch a movie.”
Without another word, they pushed in a television on a cart. My son hooked up the DVD player, and inserted the disc. In the movie, I stood at the altar and watched Jewel walk down the aisle arm in arm with her father.
The lights switched off, and silence builds in the darkness. Alone in the darkness, my failures are presented to me in HD and my mind breaks.