Ice cold air seeped through the slate gray stones of the cell membrane, infusing the darkness with a biting chill. But it wasn’t the frostbite taking root in Matt Brenton’s toes that held his attention. Nor the frost coated layer of bile clinging to his ten day old beard. He’d grown familiar with the corporate of pain and filth. With each rise and set of the sun—seen only as a mirrored image of sunshine through the cell door—Brenton’s mind slipped beyond reality and into a sort of hellish dream world. Pain numbed his mind. Time escaped him. But his captors had taken notice and were making an attempt to regain his full attention.
Brenton stared at the hand on the table. Skinny, frail and bloody, it didn’t look like his, but the pain pulsing up his arm and radiating through his body confirmed it with each whack of the blade. Brenton twitched because the dull fishing knife neared the third finger of his left. He wasn’t sure if the rusty odor filling his nostrils came from the blade or his blood, but it centered him enough to speak.
“Wait,” he said, his voice sort of a pitiful stranger’s. “Please, don’t.” The masked face of his torturer, a person without name who reeked of garlic…or body odour, lowered into view. “Tell me what i would like to understand,” said the voice with no accent. “No further harm will come to you. Just confirm on behalf of me what I already know to be truth and you’ll be let loose.”
The knife rested on the skin of his annualry, just above the spot where a wedding ring would soon rest. His mind, desperate for distraction, flashed back to his proposal and located perspective instead. It was raining. Not hard. But enough to form the ocean side view gray from top to bottom. Decidedly un-romantic. But this was the spot. That they had spent several long summer nights at this spot, watching lightning and talking about space travel, alternate dimensions and other geeky topics that interested him. He knew Mia was humoring him most of the time. But she listened. When he dropped to at least one knee, she listened harder than ever. He heard no cheer. No hoopla. Just a whispered, yes, and a decent embrace— the kind that says , i will be able to love you until death do us part.
Happily Ever After. Not quite. A year had passed since the proposal, eight months more since he’d been deployed, delaying the marriage. A minimum of ten days since he swerved off the road under a barrage of gunfire and a near death run-in with an IED in northern Afghanistan. The assailants took him from the ruined convoy and killed his team. Wounded and blindfolded, he spent subsequent few days delirious, hungry and in motion. Always in motion. Because the air grew colder he realized they were heading north. By the time they reached their destination, his wounds had just begun to fix, but his heart had broken. He knew he’d never see home or Mia again.